Friday, April 9, 1999
The Most Boring Town Meeting
It ran like clockwork. By 7:07 p.m., a quorum was reached. By 8 p.m., the vote was taken353 in favor of the library's plans, 8 against. Only three questions were asked. It was, as moderator Marshall Simonds pointed out, "the most boring Town Meeting in 30 years." It was also a testament to a job well and thoroughly done. Years of pounding away at a tedious grant and design process, hours upon hours of meetings, the same questions answered over and over again, have all led up to this: a resoundingly successful outcome at the special Town Meeting. The library building committee is to be congratulated.
Now, if the project can gain the town's approval at next Tuesday's election, it will be on to step two: packing up the library and moving it to its new home here at 872 Westford Street. We look forward to welcoming our new neighbors.
It's that time again, in case you hadn't noticed. Birds are going around in pairs and singing bubbly serenades or whistling monotones.
At Towle field two bluebirds have moved into a birdhouse. Each time I see a male bluebird singing from the top of his house, his back bluer than the sky on any day, I recall my childhood, when our faithful nesting bluebirds disappeared. One spring they stopped coming back. We heard that bluebirds were seriously declining. My family mourned them. I knew that song: "The Bluebird of Happiness." At ten I believed I would not be happy again until the bluebirds returned.
Years later, bluebirds are coming back and it always brings me joy to see one. But the lesson went deep: birds are vulnerable.
At our home in Carlisle, springtime means thinking up new strategies to help birds nest. This year we put up the bat house again under the overhanging roof, knowing no bats will use it but hoping its gently sloping roof will entice a pair of phoebes, the small gray flycatchers that nest on horizontal surfaces on buildings near water. For several years phoebes built nests in various places around our house (including the bat house), but gave up after a while when cowbirds began laying eggs in their nest. We hope they will come back to nest this year, with or without their troublesome freeloaders.
Recently, we cleaned out birdhouses in our few acres of woods, evicting a mouse from the chickadee home. We have plans to put up a wood duck house. I have vivid memories from last spring: muffled wing-beats in the chimney, our fascinated cats staring at the fireplace, the startledlooking white eyering of a female wood duck staring back, the grayish bird (grayer than ever) rocketing out of the open fireplace towards the door, rebounding off the glass and away to safety. We hope the duck learned her lesson not to mistake a chimney for a nest hole. But there might be others who don't know yet.
Living at the edge of a Carlisle woods, the birds I've come to love the most are the ones that don't nest in houses. They are the vulnerable ones, treenesters and groundnesters that require more than a few acres of forest, the ones that vanish when woods are cut down even partially. red-shouldered and broadwinged hawks, barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, wood pewees, wood thrushes, hermit thrushes, veeries, ovenbirds, blackthroated green warblers, and scarlet tanagers are the birds I'd like to stay around. Those bluebird relatives, the thrushes, have taken the bluebirds' place in my affections. But in a few springs I fear their music will be gone from the neighborhood, as it is already gone from many places. Development brings "silent springs" for those of us who remember the birds that were there. But maybe there are springs beyond the predictable future when birds and forests will thrive again.
In our woods last fall, I found something that appeared to be a jumble of plant debris, but on closer inspection proved to be a delicate little circle of woven pine needles and hemlock twigs, decorated with lichen along the rim. It was the fallen nest of a pewee, a small woodland flycatcher. In summer I'd heard the male's plaintive whistled song, "Peeahwee," as if he were the last little bird of his kind. I didn't notice the quiet, secretive "she" who must have made that exquisite nest, sat on it, perhaps incubating eggs to hatching. They taught me another lesson: never underestimate birds and their mysterious ways.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito