Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager photo credit: Cornell Labs

It’s always exciting for a birder to add a new species to a life list. At my breakfast table today, I heard a call that was new to me. I pulled out my trusty Merlin Bird app, and it immediately and repeatedly identified the call as a Summer Tanager.

I searched the dense foliage behind my deck with binoculars but was unable to spot the bird. Now that I know one is in the area, I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

The Summer Tanager is a member of the Cardinal family, so it would be easy to see one from a distance and assume it’s a Cardinal. The call, however, was very distinctive and unmistakable. I may try putting out some orange halves since they are attracted to them, similar to Orioles.

Thought In Memory Of Thomas Brown

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

John Lubbock

Happy Dance

Natural food is abundant, so I haven’t been feeding the birds for the past few weeks. When I put the feeder up after a lapse like that, it often takes a while for the birds to rediscover it and get the word out. Not so today. A Cardinal jumped right in, did a little happy dance, and flew off to tell others.

A few months ago, a man arrived on the scene and bought up a few hundred acres nearby. His “dream” was an outdoor gun range two doors down from my home. He didn’t ask his neighbors. He just decided, on his own, that two or three thousand shotgun blasts a day should not cause us a problem. 

It turned out that hundreds of us saw it as a problem, and we decided to fight. We were united in the belief that we had something special here. We had invested our money and our family’s lives in this little piece of heaven, and we knew it was threatened. In other places, people might have just shrugged it off, and the noisemaker would have his way. But here, my neighbors and I sounded the alarm. We knew what was at stake. We knew what we could lose. The shared recognition of the beauty and peace of our environment brought together a diverse group of people from miles around to raise their hands and say “No!”

Looming in our minds is the possibility that the wealthy noisemaker might re-file his proposal and spread enough of his money around to get his way. He could also appeal the decision in court. Or, perhaps he’ll find another obnoxious use for his land as some of the moronic internet trolls wish. Those are worries for another day. Today is victory day. My neighbors and I are elated and relieved. 

The sound of the chairman of the Oldham County Board of Adjustments dropping his gavel with the word “Rejected!” was beautiful. But today’s sound of late summer cicadas, blending with birdsong and the sacred quiet, are the fruits of our victory.

Thought In Memory Of Thomas Brown

“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Hickory Eulogy

It is always a sad day when one of our trees has to be removed.

This majestic, healthy Hickory was growing into a danger to our home through no fault of its own. It was our mistake. In our desire to preserve as many trees as we could, we built too close to it, and it had to go.

This tree was a favorite of the squirrels. From late August through October, the squirrels would disappear high into the dense foliage about fifty feet up and chew through the husks of the Hickory nuts to the heart. Their gnawing rained down husk debris almost continuously. There are still plenty of food sources for the squirrels in our forest, but they’ll surely miss this one.

This tree spoke loudly, as all trees do, through the rustling of its leaves in the breeze. But it also dropped large, heavy Hickory nuts onto our deck and our metal roof. The startling, gunshot-like sound guaranteed we were aware of this tree’s presence.

I enjoyed watching it leaf out in the spring and studied the shape and color of its foliage in that meditative, out-of-time way that drawing or painting a subject provides.

Hickory leaves by Allen Brown

There is discussion these days about whether trees are sentient. I am reading Suzanne Simard’s book “Finding The Mother Tree” which explores the relationship trees have with one another and with other living things in the forest – including us. This subject is also explored by German forester Peter Wohlleben. Both Simard and Wohlleben are criticized by other scientists for anthropomorphizing trees. There’s an exploration of both sides of the issue in this article from Smithsonian Magazine, “Do Trees Talk To Each Other?”

Living among trees, I know I have developed a bond with them, and I mourn when one has to go. I always plant one or more to replace any we lose. I haven’t decided yet what to plant to replace this one, but whatever it is it will be placed in a safe spot. I’m partial to Linden trees. Or maybe another Hickory. Our felled “Mother Tree” has left many children from which to choose.