It’s New Year’s Eve and time for the Christmas Bird Count at Mule Springs Farm. It was hard getting outside today, because I’ve been feeling a bit under- the- weather. It’s twenty degrees and sunny. I’m wearing a black face mask to tone down the bitter air’s assault on my nasal passages, and a hat, and layers of clothes beneath my down work coat. And, because I’ve lost some weight I am comfortably wearing long johns under my work pants.
The donkeys are out munching on frozen grass. Chippo lifts and shakes his burnt red head; he snorts steam, and his thick chestnut coat glints rich auburn spikes into the lustrous winter sun.
Brewer’s Blackbirds dominate the Count this year. Across the farm—sprinkled on the pastures, plastered in the trees, sipping from the ponds, and clinging to the bird feeders. The blackbirds make a clicking and snapping sound that’s heard farm-wide. Though the females are rather drab brown, the males are best appreciated on a sunny day like this where their color could be described as an “almost liquid combination of black, midnight blue, and metallic green.” And, their blazing, raptor-wild, yellow eyes distinguish them from other blackbirds.
My favorite poem to read on New Year’s Eve is Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush.” The past three years it’s been easy to see and feel “The Darkling Thrush” on New Year’s Eve, because the farm has been entangled in ice fog. The poem tells of a murky winter ramble where only “tangled bine-stems” outline the sky. The close of the old year weighs heavily on the gloomy English landscape, and all normal folks are inside around the hearth. Yet a lone walker is about. And later the frail thrush that stands up and sings through the fog to herald in the New Year.
But the activity of this New Year’s Eve is full of bluster. Juncos, blackbirds, White Crowned Sparrows, and House Finch bustle about in an eating frenzy so they may get enough nourishment to last the long, cold night ahead. Blue Western Scrub Jay shoot straight and powerfully across pastures. Nothing is lazy or subdued. Everyone exudes vigor –as though the New Year is already here.
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/brewers_blackbird/lifehistory–source for Brewer’s Blackbird quote.