Monday, July 16, 2012

Cicadas and Raccoons on A Summer Evening

I find that one of the great pleasures of being outdoors is that the the more time I spend in nature, the more I begin to experience and appreciate the subtle changes that come over the landscape between seasons and at different times of day. The past few days in eastern massachusetts have been uncomfortably hot and humid, but I did manage to get outside for a little while this evening and to take in the sights and sounds of dusk as it settled over a park in Newton, MA. One of the first sights that greeted me were several Chimney Swifts flying high overhead - in fact I heard them before I saw them, but they soon made appeared, wings beating at a breathless pace as they hunted for insects on the wing. Chimney Swifts may not be brightly colored or make a strong initial impression, but they are a bird I have come to associate with summer evenings, their high-pitched chattering call an integral part of the warm weather chorus.

The Chimney Swifts were joined by American Robbins, some searching for food on the grass, others perched in trees, their squeaky calls (reminiscent of dog toys, in my opinion) came from all quarters in the lengthening shadows. Soon a Killdeer caught my eye, foraging on the grass and then taking off in two short bursts of flight, before disappearing into the darkness. As I made my way over a stone footbridge I stopped to inspect the wetlands below, near a place where I have seen many ducks and not a few muskrat in the past, and was surprised to see a raccoon amble out of some tall grass, slowly cross a muddy stream of water and melt into the vegetation on the other side. Meanwhile the cicadas had begun to sing, filling the humid air with their own unique music.

As it got darker I made my way around to another footbridge and came across a small rabbit at the edge of a line of short trees and shrubs. Above it, an Eastern Kingbird dashed out of the thick, green canopy, catching what looked like a dragonfly, in the air, before returning to an exposed peach where it swallowed its prey. As I scanned the sky for signs of bats I noticed large steel-gray splashes of cloud moving in the darkened sky, and watched as birds and insects continued their elaborate rituals and dance, receding from the human eye.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

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