Bobolink Fields Forever

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see… [J. Lennon].

It was an overcast afternoon and I wanted to do something different. I wanted to open my eyes a little wider than accustomed recently on the trout stream. Rather than chasing trout in the crystalline waters of the foothill paradise, I would drive uphill and toss flies at bluegills in a spring fed pond. Sacrilege, you say? Well, maybe. But I like to live my life as fully as possible, keeping things various while keeping them focused. If a change of pace meant casting flies at bass and bluegills in a pond way up on the Chesapeake watershed divide, so be it. I could do a whole lot worse.

I chose a nine-foot rod, a four-weight, for my casting, the rod long and powerful enough to lift the line over cattails yet light enough to feel the spring energies of these warm-water fish. Pond fishing isn’t my favorite activity. I much prefer walking along with moving water, but today I also wanted to key in on some sights and sounds and smells I usually caught mere snatches of while driving by en route to the trout streams. I wanted to encounter birds I hadn’t heard or seen in a while– the aptly named bobolink, the rose-breasted grosbeak, the Baltimore oriole, the yellow warbler. I found these and more while fishing at the pond, along with a barking fox, a squealing woodchuck, a croaking frog, a droning plane, a passing truck, and a muffler-challenged muscle car. In fact, I often paused from my pastoral activity to simply listen, to smell the fresh water mints, and to take an inventory of the sounds and silences. Why an inventory? It’s very possible that much of this rivertop region, particularly old farmlands to my south, would be subject to an influx of hydrofracking wells in the next year or so, and I just wanted to be awake now to the natural quietude before the trucks began to roll.

While the bass and sunnies struck hungrily at various flies I presented– at Woolly Buggers, at a surface popper, and even at a Green Drake dry fly that I gave them on a whim– I got a kick out of the newly arrived bobolinks that chased each other around the nearby hayfield while the males sang their loud, liquid, bubbly phrases and established nesting territories over the May-green earth. Bobolinks nest in the northeastern U.S. and Canada but spend the greater part of their year in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. During migration they are capable of traveling hundreds of miles per day. Their numbers are declining over much of their range because of habitat loss (hayfields in North America and rice fields in South America, where they’re often shot as agricultural pests). In addition to the male’s distinctive bobolink phrasing while in flight, the bird’s visual aspect is striking, as well. This member of the blackbird group is white on its back, coal-colored underneath, and its head is buffy yellow.

I enjoyed the bird’s noisy presence while I fired long casts across the spring-fed pond. I thought of all the little journeys going on around me. Pond water slowly coursing downhill to eventually join the Chesapeake Bay. Bobolinks setting up camp for a summer sojourn in the uplands. Bass and sunfish doing family chores inside the pond. Every now and then somebody driving quickly over the hilltop on his or her way home from work. The energies of earth were everywhere present. “Energy is eternal delight!” exclaimed the poet William Blake. One might hope that it shines untarnished and undiminished for many springs to come.

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About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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2 Responses to Bobolink Fields Forever

  1. wwbjr1 says:

    Who says sacrilege? Certainly not the male bobolinks song of “irrepressible glee”. Excuses unnecessary. Thank you, yet again.

    • �I can’t remember who first coined “irrepressible glee” (E.D.?) but it certainly could describe this bird’s
      May pronouncements, even if it means, “hey bud, keep the hell away from my honey!” Thanks!

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