Sunday, March 14, 2010

In praise of the ordinary

Planning is overrated. I had plans to go out this weekend with my new little audio recorder to try to capture the sound of spring: the first Red-winged Blackbird that has returned to Milford harbor and has been down there in the reeds calling, calling, calling. He'd come back to crystal blue skies and gradually warming days, and his calls had filled me with such joy because they mean change and growth and color will be here any day now.

So of course when I planned to go out and try to record him, we were slammed with a wall of weather: 36 hours of unrelenting rain and brutal gales that left a few people dead, their cars crushed by trees. I would give you a listen to what the tempest sounded like from my porch, except that I can't get this damn thing to upload the file. Imagine the inside of Mawson's hut in Antarctica.

I finally ventured out this afternoon when it had calmed, but all the birds had very wisely cleared out. Except a pair of Mallards--there's always a pair of Mallards. Oh, and a shrubful of House Sparrows--there'll be House Sparrows at Armageddon.

Bored after being cooped up so long, I went for a drive to West Haven--and there they were, the birds. (Suddenly the name of the place made sense.) It wasn't the kind of birding that takes your breath away because you see something rare. It was just all the usual suspects there, as far as I could tell.

Except for a funny-looking goose. My point-and-shoot camera doesn't do this lovely goose justice. It was just majestic looking, to my eye. I watched it for ages, mesmerized by the soft caramel-colored patterns on its neck, the white blush on its face and rings around its eyes. This was no goose I had seen before . . . but no, it wasn't some rare find. It was a hybrid. A mishmash. A mixture of a Canada goose (they mostly inspire a yawn or a curse but little else) and just a plain old domestic goose, I'm guessing.

But to me it was just gorgeous, as astounding as any rare or noteworthy goose I might have hoped to find with my binoculars. Just the product of ordinary goose genes. Just an ordinary goose. Long live the ordinary!


  1. Hi Vanessa,

    I saw a Canada Goose like this in Farmington last week (early April) - my heart stopped at first, thinking I had found a rarity, but a look at Sibley's showed that there is some variation in the amount of white on a Canada's cheek. It doesn't matter -- as you say, it's a lovely bird. I watched 'mine' for a long while, too.

  2. Lovely, indeed! And seeing the slightly different bird made me look more closely at the other Canadas for the first time in a long time. And they are exquisite, really.