Evening porch

A chipmunk on top of the rock wall hears nuthatches scolding a predator 100 feet away and freezes. Only the powerful can afford to be monolingual.

*

A mature tree can have half a million leaves or more. Little dramas are unfolding on, under or within every leaf. Now multiply that by the number of trees in the forest…

I like thinking about this more than I like actually scrabbling about with a sheet and a magnifying glass, if I’m honest. I’ll leave that to the real naturalists. I’m more what you might call a dilettante naturalist.

*

The groundhog who lives under my house came up to sit on the stone recently vacated by the chipmunk — quite an upgrade in marmot size. And, to be clear, not an upgrade I specifically requested, though I’m sure I qualify for endless frequent flyer miles here on the porch. It seemed to be just taking in the cool night air and listening to trains until I leaned forward and disturbed it.

*

The ravens are certainly vocal this evening. They’ve divided forces for some reason and are keeping in touch.

*

A squirrel has evaded three, widely spaced sorties from a winged predator—probably an accipiter, because I’d see it if it were anything larger. They’re right inside the woods at canopy height.

*

Why do squirrels keep scolding so long after whatever they had been scolding has fucked off? It feels as if they just need to work the fear and stress out.

*

I’m glad such a regular singer of a wood thrush is defending a territory right next to my house. About 15 years ago, that stopped being routine. Now it’s infrequent enough to make this seem a lucky year. But the reality is they’re running out of luck. As are we.

I used to share the general view of wood thrush song—that it was melancholy. Tonight it sounds full of exuberance. It helps I’m sure that he has a rival over by the powerline—his real audience. And it sure doesn’t sound like they’re having a sad-off.

I think this one has figured out that if he comes right to the edge of the yard and sings loudly toward the house, he can get a bit of an echo. Top that, you powerline-loving bastard!

*

The small hawk, or whatever it was, just broke cover, sending the squirrels into a brief panic before they retreat to their dreys for the night.

Maybe THAT’S why they kept on scolding—they knew it hadn’t really left! And me presuming I understand the situation better than they do is sheer anthropocentric arrogance.

*

It’s funny, I thought by sitting on my porch I’d be less of a nuisance to wildlife than if I were sitting up in the woods, but I’m not sure that’s true now. First a groundhog and now a Carolina wren also have given strong signals that I am interrupting their evening rituals. And the wrens are not subtle about expressing displeasure, loudly, from several feet away.

*

One squirrel is still scolding in a half-hearted fashion as the fireflies start up. The whippoorwill calls from its usual spot just inside the woods. Random small explosions of fireworks start up in the farm valley to our east. Soon the other valley joins in.

Now it sounds like war. But the whippoorwill has worked up a good head of steam and will not be dissuaded. The squirrel still makes an occasional, querulous whine.

*

The 9:30ish twin-prop cargo plane goes over. I remember how Dad calculated its flight path years ago and decided it went from Johnstown to State College or something. He was nerdy like that. Curious about the world around him.

*

I hear the siren call of sleep. But also fireworks, I hear fireworks. And a motorcycle roaring through the gap. It’s summer in America. Nights and penises are short.

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