When You Are Back In Contact With The Skin Of The Actual Earth, You Know Why You Worked So Hard To Get There. Going To Bed Hungry Was Worth It. And Now I Was Slowing Into The Forest Again. I Sat To Listen To The Bird-Song And Look Up Into The Tall Hemlock Canopy. The Vibrations Of A Hummingbird In Flight Rewarded My Stillness. I Watched It Pluck Something, Perhaps An Insect, From The Hemlock Needles.
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Researchers In The Great Smoky Mountains Discovered A Small, Green Spider Found Only Among Hemlock Needles. I Wondered If This Hummingbird Might Be Eating Those Spiders. I Couldn’T Tell From Where I Sat, Way Down Below On The Forest Floor.
One Way To Find Out Would Be To Capture The Bird In A Mist Net And Dissect It To Identify Its Stomach Contents. For One Study On Avian Diets, Researchers Did Just That, Capturing 826 Birds In A Forty-Acre Forest During The Summers Of 1949 And 1950. They Dissected All The Birds And Examined Their Stomach Contents. The List Of Birds Almost Made Me Lose My Stomach Contents. Forty-Five Different Species Were Captured, None Spared. They Even Killed Woodpeckers, Thrush, And A Dozen Different Types Of Warbler. I’M Sure They Killed Some Birds I Have Never Even Seen. Biologists Usually Excuse Their Methods As Necessary And Disparage Those Who Criticize Them, But I Doubt Any Biologist Would Conduct Such A Study Today. That Tells Me There Is Room To Be Wrong And Room To Improve In The Biological Sciences. Robert T. Mitchell, Author Of That Bird Study, I Wonder Where You Are Today. I Wonder If You Are Still Alive, And If You Have Reconsidered What You Did.
A Good Thing About Being Alone Is That It Is Easy To Get Very Quiet. While Watching The Hummingbird, I Noticed Other Little Birds Beginning To Move In Close To Me. I Am Not An Expert At Identifying Birds: This One Was Small, Black And White With Some Yellow On The Head And Neck And White Under The Tail Perhaps A Blackburnian Warbler? One Study Comparing Old-Growth Forests And Younger Forests Found Forty-Five Times More Blackburnian Warblers In The Old Growth.
A Naturalist Friend Of Mine Used This Information To Get A Tax Break To Protect Future Old-Growth Forest On His Property. In Order For It To Qualify As Agricultural Property, Which Carries A Lower Tax Rate, The State Required A Forest Management Plan Done By A Registered Forester. During This Part Of The Process, Landowners Are Often Encouraged To Manage For Forest Products, Primarily Timber. The Foresters Often Assume Owners Want To Manage Their Land For Profit. Some Do, Of Course, But Some Don’T, And The Options Aren’T Always Fully Explained. Many Owners Don’T Realize They Are In Control And Can Manage For Anything They Want. My Well-Educated Friend Cleverly Declared That He Wanted To Manage For Blackburnian Warblers, And Because These Birds Prefer Old, Unmanaged Forest, My Friend’S Management Plan Prescribed Simply Leaving The Forest Alone To Be A Beautiful And Ecologically Complex Place Filled With Birdsong.
No One Understands Exactly Why Blackburnian Warblers Are More Common In Old-Growth Forests. A Famous Warbler Ecology Study Published By Robert Macarthur In 1958 Observed That, Out Of Five Species Of Warblers Studied, The Blackburnians Were Most Frequently Found At The Top Of The Canopy. They Seem To Prefer Feeding And Nesting In The Loftiest Spots, Hopping Along The Highest Branches Looking For Beetles And Other Insects To Eat.
While The Little Warblers And I Were Checking Each Other Out, I Heard In The Distance A Musical Melody From Another Bird. I Had No Idea What Species It Was, So I Tried Memorizing The Tune. I Decided It Sounded Like A Waterfall Played On A Flute, With The Water Falling Up Instead Of Down. When I Got Home, I Played Through Bird Recordings And Recognized It At Once As The Song Of A Swainson’S Thrush, Possibly The Loveliest Birdsong There Is. The Same Study I Mentioned Earlier Found That Swainson’S Thrush Were Twenty Times More Abundant In Old-Growth Forests Than In Younger Forests. So, In Addition To Looking More Beautiful And Smelling More Wonderful, Old-Growth Forests Also Sound Better.
I Try To Travel Light, But Perhaps I Should Start Carrying A Bird Identification Guide. I Had To Look Up Yet Another Bird When I Got Home. For A Few Days, I Spent More Time And Had A Closer Relationship With This Bird Than With Any Human. She Behaved Somewhat Like The Swallows I Was Used To Seeing At Home, But Her Tail Was Not Forked And Her Colors Were Duller Brownish On Top And Tan On Her Belly. She Had Built A Nest Out Of Mud, Like The Swallows Do, Attached To The Wall Of The Outdoor Kitchen Where A Little Overhang From The Roof Protected It. The Nest’S Edge Was Trimmed In Moss, Still Alive And Green. I Thought This Was A Nice Touch, As The Baby Birds Could Rest Their Chins Against Moss Instead Of Mud. Inside The Perfect Cup Of The Nest Were Three Perfect Baby Birds.
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