First Birds

photograph, text, and haiku by Kristen Lindquist

Ducktrap River from the Backcountry Ski Trail

At the start of each new year, I like to keep track of the first birds I see. When I got up, a crow flew through the backyard, sweeping past like a shadow against the snow. Nothing new there. Later, on a long snowshoe hike at the Ducktrap River Preserve, through sheltering hemlocks whose snowy boughs filtered sunlight onto snow patterned with snowshoe hare tracks, we only had one new species: Black-capped Chickadee. Back home, a swirl of Herring Gulls. And one goldfinch singing unseen in the neighbor’s arbor vitae. And that was all. (It probably didn’t help that my little window feeders were soaking in the sink, awaiting a cleaning and refill.)

If I’d really been trying, I’d have headed for the harbor or some other open water. Several birders posted observations of ducks on the Maine birding list-serv today. But I like to see what comes to me for the first day of the year, as some kind of portent. To see/hear those familiar birds might be auspicious for a year ahead full of good friends, for example. Or perhaps sustained pleasure of what I enjoyed in the year newly past.

Year’s first birds appear
in stark black and white:
crows against snow, chickadees.