Entries in Susan Fox Rogers (80)


Back on the water, 2014

I woke to fog. To a duck perched in a tree. It was beautiful and felt out of place., the tree high on a ridge in my front yard. Still, this seemed a good omen: wonders for the day.

Four of us carted our kayaks down the wooden stairs at the North Tivoli Bay launch at noon. Sun, blue sky, a light breeze had taken over. We eased our wetsuit-cloaked bodies into our sleek boats and pushed off. It seemed so normal. And yet but two months ago we were walking this same spot on ice, hefting through snow that reached to our thighs. Now it was all liquid and freedom. To paddle out, under the railroad trestle onto the Hudson River, cold and brown, wide and empty. We skirted the eastern shore, trailing the rip rap, and the still bare trees; the wake of a tug and barge knocked us around a bit. Then we popped back into the bay through a southern passage.

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A Birdy Day

Snow Geese in flightThrough the winter on the east coast, I’m happy when I see and hear a few birds in the day. There are house finches at my feeder, the goldfinch, and a black-capped chickadee or two.  And, of course, the reliable woodpeckers, the sapsucker letting out its little mew sound, the pileated cackling in the woods. But these birds are like finding little diamonds in a vast landscape.

So when, on Sunday, my friend Bruce Robertson and I went out to see what ducks were coming through the valley, I was stunned by the masses of birds. Hundreds of Canada Geese congregated on the fields at Greig Farm and a flock of over 100 Snow Geese with their black tipped wings skittishly took off, circled and landed. In every direction I looked there were birds coming in or taking off. A puddle of ducks—the puddle just freshly melted ice from this interminable winter—brought me a Pintail with its elegant neck and an American Wigeon.

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Morning on the River

Juvenile Bald EagleFall migration is underway. Lots of intriguing birds will pass through—although less brightly colored and less tuneful than in spring. What I hope for here in the Hudson Valley is the chance of seeing shorebirds. A few have been appearing—last weekend Black Bellied Plovers at Greig Farm. So as I headed onto the river this Sunday morning I had high hopes for what might be flying or floating through.

The weather report claimed rain and the sky over the Catskills loomed gray, but electric. I stroked to the Western shore of the river and wove through the water chestnut mat. A Spotted Sandpiper bobbed about and a dozen Great Blue Herons posed in the shallow water.


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Little Blue

Mature Little Blue--seen in KansasI was birding the South Tivoli Bay with my friend, the biologist and ornithologist, Bruce Robertson. Birding with Bruce added another dimension to birding as he is filled with excellent bird information, which he gleefully transmits as we walk through the woods. He was describing shifts in gender roles for the Spotted Sandpiper, which we had just seen bobbing along the muddy edges of the bay. The females fight for territory, and to win the males. Once she lays her eggs, she leaves them for the male to incubate and to raise the young.

“Cool,” I said. I love it when nature confounds what is expected (and in the process confounds the biologists as well).

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Odette's barnWhen I am in Estampes, I can time my days to Odette’s movement: 8 in the morning she lets out the chickens, and the sheep, gives water to the rabbits. 7 At night and she’s back again, watering, feeding, bringing in her creatures for the night. On this evening as I follow her through the routine, I’m paying particular attention. I’m in charge of all of this the next morning as Odette has an early doctor’s appointment. Odette has rarely left her animals to anyone so I want to get it right. Water for the rabbits; don’t forget to shut the barn door behind the sheep. It’s all very simple, but I feel like I’m being entrusted with the most important job.

As we step into the barn to put down hay for the sheep, a barn swallow swoops through the open door. Swallows, with their white bellies and long forked tails are obvious all day long as they wing about chattering in elegant loops and dives. Inside the dark barn a dozen mud-formed nests cling to the wooden rafters. Strings of straw dangle from cobwebs nearby in this nearly abandoned barn. The space between nest and the ceiling is narrow—just enough for a swallow head.

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