FIELD NOTES: AUTUMN 2017 – November 2017

By Jack McShane

As I was writing this, the last issue of the Gazette arrived, and after reading Jane Tompkins’ review of Surfing with Sartre by Aaron James, I could not hold off ordering a copy through Amazon. My piece, with some take on a couple of my own surfing experiences, and Jane’s excellent review were not planned but entirely coincidental. There was no collusion, I swear. The author’s description of surfing and its relationship with various philosophies: adaptive freedom and transcendence, are things I have not, until now, ever thought of. Although I have not yet read the book, it does, from Jane’s review, appear to make valid connections. Surfing for me was great relief from the often horrible things observed and endured as part of the duty as a police officer on the upper west side of Manhattan in the ‘60s and ‘70s. One of my best methods of retaining my sanity after a really bad 4×12 tour was at 2 am to grab my surfboard. (My bachelor pad was right on the ocean.) I could paddle out into the waves. If there were no waves to ride, I could sit and contemplate and connect with the natural world for an hour or so. Was this self-transcendence? I guess it was. It was, according to Aaron James, adaptive attunement; to me, just a sanity saver. Thank you, Jane, for connecting me to this book. I plan to read it and attempt to understand the intense philosophical part of it. If I don’t, if you don’t mind, I will contact you for interpretation.

It is that time of year when our game animals should take great caution as they amble about in our forested lands, as the top predator, which is us, is out and about with bow and gun seeking challenge and, for many, sustenance. It has been my keen observation over my lifetime of being in the hunting mode (and sometimes a casual observer) that both deer and bear seem to take heed when the first shots resound on opening day of gun season. So far, as I write this, my trail cams show that the two sow bears with cubs (one with two, the other with three), have survived the early open season back in September. This is as it should be, since it is not legal to shoot a sow with cubs or her cubs, no matter the season. My own personal feeling is not that there are too many bears, but that we have too many bear complaints. These are the result of a human misconception and foolhardy acts. Of course this discounts the reality and valid problems of our local farmers, who find their corn fields ravaged by Macwa.

Once, upon a return from my thrice-weekly trip to Margaretville for a workout, Nancy exclaimed that someone has been hammering something just a short way up on our hill. This caught me off guard momentarily, but I came to my senses quickly and replied that there was no one up there and what you heard was a pileated woodpecker doing an excavation into a dead tree. I was proved right when one flew overhead to the other side of the road. Pileateds are our largest and loudest woodpeckers, both when pecking and verbalizing. Intrigued by very hard hammering, many have questioned how the woodpecker’s brain is able to withstand the new invention might be used to protect our football players. Not such a bird-brained idea.

Speaking of birds, I actually saw a robin chasing a blue jay, very unusual considering my own observations that consign the blue jay to top bully. I guess not always so. Go robin!

Recently I have watched multiple migrating warblers invade a crabapple tree that has borne much fruit and holds its leaves into late Fall. The tree, which is adjacent to our porch, gives me an opportunity to watch their feeding habits really close up. They ignore the apples, but inspect and peck at the leaves, especially the curled ones for what must be microscopic insects or their larvae. These so-called confusing Fall warblers are a multiple of species that pass through in the Fall on their way south and are very hard to distinguish as they look very much alike. Two, I think, I got the right ID on: the blackburnian and cerulean, but I would not bet much on either.

Now, rather than figuring out how much wood a woodchuck would chuck, how about how many red oak acorns can a chipmunk collect and carry to his or her hidden cache at one time? Well, sitting still and silently under an oak as it shed many acorns, I watched one of these intrepid creatures do its Fall collection duties. This one, after chasing off a competitor, proceeded to collect five, stuffed two in each cheek pouch with one in its mouth, then hustled off to its lair looking like a little puffed-up clown.

Our wild turkey population may be tapering off:  Two hens I observed in the Spring, one, with twelve poults and the other with six, now are down to one poult apiece. This could be the result of the very long rainy season we had, which can be devastating when it occurs before the young grow out their feathers. The other negative observation is a flock of seven mature hens with no young at all mixed in. I do hope not too many are taken this turkey season.

Sadly, we do seem to be having a rising tick population which pass on Lyme and other diseases. Two friends have suffered Lyme this past summer, but with quick diagnoses and antibiotics have recovered well. The tick only needs to be imbedded in you a very short time to pass on the Lyme-bearing spirochete. Check yourself if you have been out and about enjoying our fields and woodlands.~