may 17/RUN

4 miles
river road trail, south/north/Winchell Trail, north/edmund, north
66 degrees

Took 2 days off to rest my left knee/IT Band. No big deal. Warm and sunny this morning. Calm, beautiful. As I started, I heard a bird with three long tweets then a trill of 4 or 5 shorter notes, then repeated. Looked it up–checking the chart I posted on May 3rd + allaboutbirds.org + birds of the mississippi river gorge pdf–and I think it might be a yellow-rumped warbler which migrates through the gorge in the spring. Looks like a yellow-rumped warbler is one of the May, “wave of warblers” that I wrote about last week. Nice.

Running down on the part of the trail just past the double bridge, where the walking path dips down below the road and then up again, I encountered my nemesis: the spazzy squirrel that darts across the path in front of me, forcing me to stop or stutter step to avoid it. For the first time ever, this particular dipshit ran right into my foot. No damage done, at least not to me. Why do squirrels do this? Googled it and couldn’t find a “field-tested” answer. One hypothesis: over the years they have evolved to evade predatory birds by zig-zagging; they have not yet evolved to account for the behavior of cars or running Saras. In one of the articles I consulted, they wrote: “squirrels devote much of their life to not-dying.” How much time do humans devote to it?

Very early this morning, before sunrise, I heard a bird right outside my window. It woke me up then kept me up until I got up and closed the window. I was curious about what bird it might have been–not that I can remember what it sounded like now, hours later and after coffee–so I googled early bird and found the delightful phrase “dawn chorus” and this poem:

Dawn Chorus/ SASHA DUGDALE

March 29, 2010

Every morning since the time changed
I have woken to the dawn chorus
And even before it sounded, I dreamed of it
Loud, unbelievably loud, shameless, raucous

And once I rose and twitched the curtains apart
Expecting the birds to be pressing in fright
Against the pane like passengers
But the garden was empty and it was night

Not a slither of light at the horizon
Still the birds were bawling through the mists
Terrible, invisible
A million small evangelists

How they sing: as if each had pecked up a smoldering coal
Their throats singed and swollen with song
In dissonance as befits the dark world
Where only travelers and the sleepless belong

The insistent chirping of an early bird also brought to mind a poem by ED that I encountered sometime in the last year:

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —/ Emily Dickinson

The Birds begun at Four o’clock —
Their period for Dawn —
A Music numerous as space —
But neighboring as Noon —

I could not count their Force —
Their Voices did expend
As Brook by Brook bestows itself
To multiply the Pond.

The Listener – was not —
Except occasional man —
In homely industry arrayed —
To overtake the Morn —

Nor was it for applause —
That I could ascertain —
But independent Ecstasy
Of Universe, and Men –  

By Six, the Flood had done —
No Tumult there had been
Of Dressing, or Departure —
And yet the Band – was gone —

The Sun engrossed the East —
The Day Resumed the World —  controlled
The Miracle that introduced
Forgotten, as fulfilled.

Of course, I’m pretty sure I only heard one bird and not an entire chorus of them.

may 16/WALK

My second day off from running. My IT band is tight and I don’t want to risk making it worse, so I’m taking a 2 day break. It is hard not to run when you want to, especially when I could be doing the franklin loop with STA, but I did it and I’m glad. Walked with Delia the dog over the Dogwood Coffee for the first time in a year and a half? 2 years? for an iced coffee. As we waited outside while STA got the coffees, I noticed some crows on the roof of a house across the street. They were fighting, I think. Cawing, and swooping down, and crashing into each other as they circled around the roof. I’m pretty sure they were crows and not ravens or rooks–when in doubt, I always think a cawing, big, all-black bird is a crow. Were they fighting or playing or something else? Watching one crow circling then flying away, I noticed how huge their wing span is and how much bigger they look while flying than when perched on the point of a roof. I thought about how ungraceful their flapping wings looked, more bat than bird.

After writing this sentence about their lack of grace I decided to google it and found this interesting discussion of the difference between ravens and crows:

In flight, crows flap their way across the landscape while ravens skim along in a far more graceful manner.

The dead giveaway, however, is the fact that crows “caw” and ravens “cronk.” Once you learn to detect their ringing “cronk, cronk, cronks,” you’ll never be in doubt about which species you’re observing.

Ravens should not be confused with Crows

So, ravens are more graceful than crows, and they “cronk” instead of “caw.” Do I ever see or hear ravens?