Our Mission: The Mattabeseck Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon
Society, is committed to environmental leadership and education for
the benefit of the community and the earth's biodiversity.
deKoven House, 27 Washington Street, Middletown, Connecticut 06457
Nothing to report: Excerpts from a naturalist’s log
Spring: A native black walnut, arms akimbo, begins to open its eyes. Tiny leaves like green, palpable tear drops emerging. Rain washes the furrowed bark; sun and wind dry it. Mixed flock of male redwing blackbirds, epaulets flashing and coal black grackles bespeckle the walnut’s limbs; then off they fly in a smoky cloud. The walnut left alone, not yet fleshed out. Nothing to report.
Summer: The pinnated leaves of the walnut begin to break the sun into pieces upon the lawn. The goldenrod rises beside the trunk (impertinent perennials; to rise to the height of the Plantagenete? Never!). Green and fuzzy swell the fruit of the pregnant walnut flowers. The gray squirrels gather to inspect the crop. But there, a photon of light, of cosmic energy, red and bristling, compact, yet expansive. A different breed comes hither from the copse of fir and spruce. The red squirrel, chittering, claims the walnut for his own.
Autumn: The walnut has tired of its fruit. Arms descend achingly. Lime-colored Christmas ornaments succumb to gravity, carpet the drip line of the tree. “Lightning”(so unprofessionally is the red squirrel given the moniker) delights in his acrobatics. So agilely he trips from limb to limb. The open space between the nearby maple a mere opaque highway easily traversed with one release of tension. It reveled in pinching, should any grey and disowned cousin venture too close. The 70 foot spread of the walnut tree is Lightning’s kingdom inviolate.
Thence begins the cache building while the yellow leaves of the walnut dance to the wind’s orchestration. Frosts cling to the crotch where the walnut’s brawny limbs fork and separate. Lightning persists, always present in the morning sheen, perched on a broken protuberance chewing at a brown husk (even when all is lost, he still retrieves, as if by magic, one more nut), or contemplatively looking out upon the dying landscape with folded paws.
Winter: Cold descends in earnest. A dapple of sleet; snow. Two bird houses nailed side to side on the walnut’s flank. There does Lightning keep company with his cache. Descending occasionally to pick at the sunflower seeds from the feeders, he peremptorily chases and pinches at the grey vagabonds, not nearly as concerned, the crop having been long harvested. Then, whether for joy or for training, leap, leap like the Theory of Relativity from adjacent trees and limbs and back again!
One morning came the Invader: a sharp shin hawk; a resident, fatalistic presence. A victim on the ground. Through the looking glass, (a pair of binoculars) vaguely seen, the coat of the unfortunate. Was it red? Feathers or fur? Alarm arises like icy bathwater. To the yard, and the inevitable. Lightening transformed. Chagrin; yet admiration at the skill of the assassin, to have feted at its table one so agile and adroit.
Morning flees, afternoon trips heavily into evening. A quarter-round moon arises. Jupiter winks brightly and indifferently in a blue-black heaven. The skeletal outline of the walnut tree, unadorned of movement.
The following day returns cold and sharp as broken glass. The walnut alone and static. Nothing to report.