On Frost’s Edge

A.V. Walters

It’s been cool here, in the valley. Not cold, mind you, but cool in a protracted way. Nights in the low forties, combined with damp, daytime temperatures in the fifties to low sixties. They’ve conspired, over the last few days, to lower the interior of the house to the low sixties. Now, we’re flirting with our threshold temperature where, were it winter, we’d be lighting a fire. But, a fire in May? This is not some northern latitude, were talking about. We stopped with the fires weeks ago. Now we’re debating whether to light one up tonight, or wait until tomorrow morning. By then the projected temperatures will have dropped the house into the fifties. It seems like a seasonal defeat, to start burning again. After all, we’ve already done the spring cleaning–that vacuum-every-surface and launder-every-linen event that marks the end of seasonal ash and muss. We’ve shrugged off the grey dusting that accompanies a regularly fired, wood stove. Still, especially working at a computer all day, 62 or 63 feels right chilly. The walk out to the mailbox (about a half mile) is a welcome break when it’s actually warmer out, than in. We’re torn. Fire up the wood stove and enjoy a last, lovely game of scrabble before the summer season, or bundle up and rally on, regardless?

Nights in the low forties remind us that it’s not yet time to plant. We’re getting some buckets dug in, but we’re still at risk for frost, so we don’t dare plant. This lull gives us the opportunity to turn our attentions to other things in the environment. For the past few days we’ve been trying to identify a new bird in the neighborhood. We’ve never seen him before. He’s some kind of a raptor, but not any of the ones we typically see around here. He sits tall, like an eagle, but (while we initially suspected am immature bald eagle) his beak just isn’t that distinctive, long-hooked eagle beak. It’s short. He’s pale grey with darker wings or wing banding, and a long tail. His belly is very light and his head’s light but a tad more grey than the belly. He has a yellow beak and dark bands to the eyes. It makes him look sophisticated, unless you watch too long. Oh, and he’s clumsy. We gather that he (or she) is an immature whatever, because he hasn’t yet figured out the mechanics of a graceful landing. He approaches it from afar, with his legs in a stiff, outstretched position. It makes us think that maybe he’s an osprey. He practices touch-and-goes all day, in the tall, near-dead tree next door at the dairy. Since he showed up, all the littler birds have made themselves scarce. Sometimes he lands (though not well) in a taller evergreen near the near-dead tree. We were watching just a few minutes ago as he faltered in the tree again, and then—-again. But, wait a minute! Now there are two of these clumsy critters! They’re fledglings and that tall evergreen must have a nest! Oh, my. This is going to be more interesting than I thought. Any birders out there with suggestions on what we’re actually looking at?

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