friday at black marsh and environs

Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Little Blue Heron at Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Little Blue Heron at Black Marsh Wildlands Area, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Box Turtle at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Box Turtle at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Rose Pink (Sabatia angularis) at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Rose Pink (Sabatia angularis) at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Spicebush Swallowtail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Spicebush Swallowtail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Cottontail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Cottontail at North Point State Park, Edgemere, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Not depicted: (1) the Eastern Ratsnake that beat a hasty retreat from the trail it was attempting to cross when it sensed my approach; (2) the White-tailed Deer fawn that bolted from its hiding spot adjacent to the trail as I came upon it; (3) the 30+ other species of birds I saw and/or heard.

friday birds (with bonus turtles)

 

Fox Sparrow (Red), © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Fox Sparrow (Red) – my favorite sparrow

 

Wood Duck, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Wood Duck

 

Hermit Thrush, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Hermit Thrush

 

Eastern Painted Turtles, © 2016 S. D. Stewart

Eastern Painted Turtles taking the sun at Black Marsh.

field report: woodpecker redux

Recent intelligence gathering indicated the presence of a group of likely overwintering red-headed woodpeckers, including two adults, at another park in the area so I went to investigate. Again I found them immediately, as they were actively foraging and calling frequently. Their ‘rattle’ call is quite distinctive and often precedes a visual ID. Lighting was more favorable today, so here are a few photos accompanying a report on my findings.

Adult Red-headed Woodpecker at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Adult Red-headed Woodpecker strikes the classic woodpecker pose at Black Marsh, North Point State Park.

Adult Red-headed Woodpecker at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Adult Red-headed Woodpecker at Black Marsh, North Point State Park.

Adult Red-headed Woodpecker at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Adult Red-headed Woodpecker at Black Marsh, North Point State Park.

Red-headed Woodpecker at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

An immature Red-headed Woodpecker glares at the photographer, North Point State Park.

After spending way too much time attempting to photograph the woodpeckers I continued on from the Black Marsh Wildlands into the rest of the park. First I took the Powerhouse Trail.

Powerhouse Trail at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Powerhouse Trail at North Point State Park.

Rising up out of the woods before me came the trail’s namesake…

Powerhouse at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Powerhouse at North Point State Park.

Powerhouse at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Powerhouse at North Point State Park.

The property that is now North Point State Park was formerly a local attraction known as the Bay Shore Amusement Park during the first half of the 20th Century, and there was streetcar service extending to the park from the city (extremely hard to imagine today in this rabidly car-centric region). This concrete monolith provided power to the streetcars. Now it serves as an informal art gallery for graffiti artists:

Powerhouse at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Inside the powerhouse at North Point State Park: ‘Find the roots of everything.’

After leaving the powerhouse I took a spur trail to gaze upon the Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake Bay from North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Chesapeake Bay from overlook at North Point State Park.

Friendly people had left sand art on the beach.

Sand art at North Point State Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Friendly people were here…

After scanning the Bay for waterfowl and only finding a few bufflehead and a single double-crested cormorant, I left the park and drove farther down the peninsula to where it dead ends at Fort Howard, the former coastal artillery headquarters for Baltimore. Fort Howard has a rich military history, which I will not go into here but you can certainly read about it to your heart’s content elsewhere on the internet. The park is rather bedraggled and largely unused, likely due to its remote location. But there are some nice spots. Of course I only photographed the horrible ones because that’s just how I am.

Brandon Shores Generating Station, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

The Brandon Shores Generating Station, viewed from Fort Howard. A 2011 NRDC report based on EPA data described it as releasing the second highest amount of toxic air pollutants annually in the U.S.

Despite the glaring lack of visitors, there are more picnic tables and trash cans at Fort Howard than I’ve seen at any other park. I was curious about the trailer in the photo below but simultaneously afraid so I chose not to get any closer. I thought if I called the number someone might be willing to divulge the contents but then this person would have my phone number. So I didn’t call. I find that life is an ongoing process of weighing the pros and cons of situations like this.

Fort Howard Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Scenic picnic area where I chose not to consume my lunch. (Note: if you call the number please leave a comment below.)

After passing the scenic picnic area I came upon this:

Fort Howard Park, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Menacing…

Again, I wasn’t sure what to do here. Were they keeping women locked inside or barring them from entry. I couldn’t tell, but I didn’t hear any cries for help and without bolt cutters there was not much I could have done. So I left. No doubt this decision will haunt me for quite some time…

ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

field report iv

A middle-aged man stands at a bus stop wearing a shirt proclaiming ‘I Speak Furbish’ with a large image of a Furby. Strong temptation to stop and engage in Furbish. Instead, laugh out loud and move on.

A police helicopter circles above the neighborhood all afternoon, a high octane metal mosquito perpetually out of swatting range. Nervous system on verge of imploding.

A child cries.

A dubious silence follows…

another day in the woods

So I had a photo to post from my outing yesterday, but wouldn’t you know it, my camera’s USB cord is MIA.  I’ve scoured the house to no avail.  So all I’ve got once again tonight is my stream of words.  Let’s see if I can hydrate this barren electronic soil with them enough to grow some trees.

The oppressive heat continues, and as I’d had a late night on Thursday, I left the house later yesterday morning than I would’ve liked.  By the time I spun my wheels down the final leg of my journey to Lake Roland, I was near soaked in sweat.  Locking up my bike to a No Parking sign, I listened to woods devoid of birdsong.  I didn’t really care, though.  What I needed first and foremost was a restorative walk in the woods, and if there were some birds around, even the better.  But if they were laying low, I certainly couldn’t blame them.  The day was still a ways off from reaching high noon, and yet the heavy air already steamed with the essence of warm bath water.  I knew once I stepped from pavement to soil, though, that the temperature would cease to register as a discomfort to me.

As I walked down the dead end road to the entrance to the park, I opened my ears and my eyes, and set the pace for the day.  Today was a day to practice slow birding, where I often stop for long periods of time, standing still, and wait for the birds to come to me.  Sometimes it works better than other times, but it’s always a worthwhile venture.  It reminds me of the reason I truly love birding; it’s not the feeling I get from ticking off a new lifer (although that’s always nice), but the wonder I experience when watching a bird close-up, by really observing its behavior.

Once in the park, I picked up on a few birds here and there.  I started out on the path down toward the lake, thinking I’d start there and then backtrack.  But as I reached the first crossroads in the trail, I heard the soft hooting of a Barred Owl.  I decided to backtrack and see if I could find it.  I’d found one before in the general area where the hooting was coming from.  I crossed over another trail and entered the shade of the pines, but had no luck in locating the owl.  As I moved in slow increments down the path, I did find some pockets of bird activity, though. There were many cardinals and catbirds present, and a few singing White-eyed Vireos.

I soon encountered what would be my slow birding highlight of the day: ten minutes or so of close proximity to an Eastern Wood-Pewee as it practiced its trade, swiftly and efficiently hawking insects from a tree branch.  Flying out in a swooping circle, it would snatch an insect and then return to the same branch to eat it, all in one fluid motion.  I hear pewees often, as they are one of the few persistent forest singers in the deep heat of mid to late summer when many birds have long since clammed up for the season, but rarely have I had a chance to be this close to one for so long.  As I peered at it through my bins, I could see its eyes darting back and forth as it followed the insect paths through the air.  This bird was a true master of its craft.

Eventually I left the pewee behind, and made my way down toward the feeder stream heading to the lake.  On my way, I found a Monarch butterfly and watched it feeding on nectar for a few minutes.  This monarch’s colors looked fresh, and I marveled at how nature could fashion such a beautiful creature.  The monarchs have begun their epic journey to Mexico, and this particular one may already have been en route.  Monarchs are the only butterflies to make such a long two-way migration.  The ones that emerge from the pupal stage in late summer and early fall know by instinct to head straight for their ancestral wintering grounds in Mexico.  Then in spring, they return north to reproduce and finish their life cycle.  So when you see monarchs in the fall, they are performing one of the more amazing feats in the natural world.  I find it surprising enough that such a small creature as a hummingbird can migrate such a great distance, crossing the entire Gulf of Mexico and beyond.  But to think that a butterfly, so seemingly fragile and ephemeral, can travel for thousands of miles, survive an entire winter in Mexico, and then travel thousands more miles to its breeding grounds…well, it just seems so unlikely, so absurd!  And yet it happens every year, whether we notice it or not.

Once at the stream, I disrupted some crows roosting in the muddy bottomlands alongside it, a favorite afternoon spot of theirs.  A couple of individuals scolded me vigorously for at least ten minutes, but I was too absorbed in some movement way up high in the treetops to pay them much mind.  I was about to give up on IDing whatever it was because it was so far up there and mostly obscured by leaves as it hunted insects.  But then it flew to another tree and I saw what it was:  an American Redstart, an immature male or a female, my first “fall warbler” of the year.

As I followed the stream I encountered many robins and catbirds, with a sprinkling of chickadees, titmice, and goldfinches.  On the other side of the stream I spotted a hummingbird feeding from some yellow trumpet-shaped flowers (haven’t been able to ID them yet).  I heard and briefly saw a Great Crested Flycatcher.  When I reached the lake, many Chimney Swifts suddenly flew out from the trees out over the water.  I walked down the wooden steps to the water and sat for a while, eating an apple.  I felt at peace, and I knew then that it was okay to leave.

friday morning

I throw open the windows to let in a surprisingly cool mid-August breeze.  I sit close to hear the cottonwood leaves rustle as they tell their stories.  A crow calls, soon he will be joined here by his brethren on their winter roosting grounds.  A cardinal chips, probably while out there eating the grapes growing on my neighbor’s arbor.  I’ve been finding them on the deck railing lately, pierced through and emptied of their insides.  Out through the sun porch windows I see a hummingbird pass by, lingering first at the crape myrtle blossoms.  On the stereo now, Walker and Jay play their twisted and gnarled mountain music; the sad soulful notes swirl around this round table where I sit and soar up through the window screens to the grey skies above. I have two doors to paint today and that is something.

furthest

I’ve made it to the end of another of my work weeks.  There’s something that seems not quite right about this drive to “make it through another week.” Shouldn’t we be treating every day as an amazing gift, not something to slog our way to the end of?  People say, oh, if I can just make it to Friday.  Yeah, well, you made it…so what are you going to do now?  Get drunk for the next two days?  Try to forget your crappy job and live your “real” life for a brief moment?  What a sick system we’ve built for ourselves here.  I generally try to spend Fridays in the woods, away from people, but the blizzards and general crappy weather have hampered that often in recent weeks.  I guess you could say I’m ready for Spring. 

Back when we had our work retreat, during one meal I was eating at the same table as our facilitator.  Someone commented on how this one guy had hardly been seen at all outside of the work sessions.  Well, the facilitator said, some people are introverts and it’s hard for them…they need to be by themselves and recharge.  She said that actually she herself was an introvert, and, in fact, that she would probably opt out of the scheduled “social time” after dinner that night (so she could recharge, I suppose).  [I wrote more about this night in an earlier entry].  Anyone who knows me is, I’m sure, well aware of my introverted status.  Sometimes I feel like I never recharge, though.  I often can’t spend enough time by myself.  But other times it feels unhealthy, and I get to the point of craving companionship.  I spend so much time alone that I can drive myself to the breaking point, where I just generally feel crazy and by then it’s too late to be around people because I would just feel and act too weird.  I often find it much easier to connect to sounds, smells, and textures, than to carry on a conversation with a person.  Music is an important interface for me to explore emotions and just generally function in the world.  And clearly nature is integral to my life.  Even though technology surrounds me and I use it every day, I would always choose the natural world over the manufactured world.  Every single time.  So…that’s where I’m at right now, here nearing the end of this week.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.  I’m supposed to go look at the stars tomorrow night.  Peering out into the night sky at those celestial bodies so far away.  It sounds pretty perfect, actually, and the forecast looks mostly clear.

wind watch

 

We are under a Wind Watch. So this morning I watched the wind. It was snowing and the world outside looked like a snow globe shaken by a vicious god. The relentless wind blew the flakes in every direction, hardly ever allowing them to touch the ground. The vent on the skylight rattled, and I found a feather that had blown in through it and landed on the bathroom floor.

I listened to Fahey’s “America” and watched the frenetic flakes dance outside the window to the rich, odd twanging of steel strings. The coffee went down smooth, as did Heinrich’s ruminations on a winter spent in Maine’s woods. There was a certain synchronicity to my morning that doesn’t often visit.

I fed the birds and repotted a few plants. I recorded my dreams of the night before. Everything seems to be in order, for the moment.

Empty nest syndrome

Beehive stencil under the bridge near the post office

Mysterious “4” stencil

Evidence of stenciling activity

More “4” stencil action

No loitering under the bridge! Two weird mysteries noted under the bridge: 1) a bike had obviously been ridden through the mud (there were fresh tracks), and at the end of the bike tracks lay the bike itself (a crappy Pacific mountain bike); and 2) an entire swingset was set up under the bridge, not looking abandoned but like it was intentionally set up to be used. No other evidence of life forms.

That’s all I’ve got, except to say that this website is hilarious! I love it!

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