, Newburyport, MA

May 2, 2014

Sounds of spring can be deafening

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Well, here we are on the second of May ending a week with more clouds and rain than sunshine. It is not a surprise, but one wishes for better, the long winter having been as old-fashioned as one could hope.

I find this opening of spring considerably improved over more recent ones because my new hearing aids have been broadcasting bird arrivals in outbursts fit to make me turn the volume down to rock bottom.

I don’t pretend to be a bird watcher. If anything, I am a bird listener who once had a songbird guidebook in anticipation of what I might learn over time.

Alas. Good intentions were overwhelmed by too much time spent inside and not enough outside..

Haven’t a clue as to what happened to the guide, but the hearing aids have helped me recognize the red- winged blackbirds mainly because they swarmed on both sides of Hay Street beyond Green and down to Quill’s pond.

It was so robust, I turned the hearing aids down to rock bottom.

As for pond visitors, there were four wild ducks apparently settling in on Quill’s pond and what appeared to be the ghost of a swan behind some bush growth downstream.

Those, having been provided by Alberta Nutile as she had for many years, didn’t survive the winter, so this one had to have been a visitor.

Alberta left us at winter’s ending. That had been expected for some time, but I knew not of her having left for a warmer climate in Pittsboro, S.C., until a letter from her a few weeks past arrived.

She has not only settled in, but has volunteered to help at Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro.

Those interested can look it up on Google Earth.

Pittsboro appears to be a modern, small town adjacent to highways.

All things considered, among them being her feeding of tigers instead of swans, I’d say she’s very much with us still, and well.

She didn’t mention birds, but birding is just about everywhere there are birds.

I never pass a group of birders without appreciation of their patience and the quietude of their presence no matter their number or the excitement of their discoveries.

Plum Island’s offerings are a well-regarded bonanza of riches, but I don’t recall a year when so many cars have been parked spontaneously at the arrival of a new bird or two.

We have come a working lifetime’s away from when bird hunting had more to do with what would be on the table for dinner than what we could add to a list of bird sightings.

I am sometimes reminded of that when I have to wait for the passing of a dozen or so not-so-wild turkeys crossing a road from one front yard to another, clucking along as they go.

And I have a treasured photograph of my father pointing aloft to a treetop for me to appreciate a bird finding when I was 4 years old.

I find it unsurprising to learn from Alberta that there is a wild tiger refuge near her new home in South Carolina, or that she would find an opportunity to help as a part or her settling in.

Settling in is the good part of what nature is about. Broadcasting it is for the birds.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is