Friday, March 30, 2012


As I watch the webcam of eagles and eaglets (see yesterday's post), I think back to the bird watching we did from our kitchen in Danvers. I'll never forget the day we saw wild ducklings for the first time.  We didn't have a webcam -- just binoculars at our kitchen window.   Here's the story as I wrote it in a column called "Taxis, Buses, and Wild Ducks" (published May 3, 2007):

My mother was fond of birds and had posted bird feeders and nesting boxes around our yard, including a big box on a pole in the pond south of our kitchen windows.  We called it the “wood duck box” and in fact wood ducks did nest in it every year.  We loved to see the colorful feathers on the male wood duck. 

One school morning during breakfast we heard persistent calls from the pond. A female wood duck was swimming back and forth at the base of that pole, calling and calling, looking up towards the hole on the front of the box high above her.  We grabbed binoculars and looked at the hole. A little yellow something was appearing in the hole, and then disappearing!  Ducklings?  We had NEVER seen wild ducklings before.  As we watched in astonishment, one little ball of yellow leaned out of the hole and fell into the water far below, sinking below the surface, and then bobbing up.  The first duckling!  We were beside ourselves with excitement!  The mother duck was also excited, and continued calling and swimming back and forth. Soon a second duckling took the plunge!  And then a third!   Ohhhh!  Such joy!

But I was about to miss my bus to school. My mother gave clear orders: RUN to the bus stop, tell the driver what’s happening, and invite the whole busload to come see the ducklings!  I did as I was told, and soon the bus was parked in front of our little house and the children were at our windows.  We lost count of ducklings somewhere after 14 or 15. The fast movements of ducklings swimming around their mother created a chaotic blur of yellow.  What a thrill to see this sight! How wonderful to have a bus driver who understood the importance of an educational moment!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Today I'm sitting at my desk contemplating what I will write for the next column.  Something about springtime... snowdrops and skunk cabbage and other wonders of early spring... that's what I'm thinking. I've been collecting ideas and making notes for at least a week.  Soon, very soon, I should begin to write. On my computer screen, distracting me, is a website that contains a live video:

I have just watched in amazement as a nesting bald eagle stood up and revealed two fluffy eaglets and a not-yet-hatched egg beneath her!  Then she fed scraps of meat to one of the eaglets. Yesterday I had caught a glimpse of one tiny eaglet beside two eggs. The night before I observed three eggs. Today the adult fed scraps of meat to one of the eaglets.

I can see from the website that over 50,000 viewers are currently connected to this webcam in Illinois.  So I am not the only one who is distracted by this miracle of nature, and the miracle of the webcam technology that brings it to us.

P.S. On March 30 I discovered an even more widely watched webcam focused on another eagles' nest (in Iowa) -- over 600,000 viewers while the eggs hatched there March 19-24. You can now watch the eaglets grow:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Maple season

The first day of March!  I think of maple trees and the sweet smell of boiling down the sap to make maple syrup.

This old photo (1947?) isn't very clear, but I instantly recognize the pointed hood (and furry trim) of my little snow jacket, the metal cans we used to collect sap, the steam rising from the pan, and the location. We were in the rubble-strewn foundation of the old Locust Lawn mansion that had been torn down in 1944. This spot later was transformed into my mother's sunken garden, but for most of my childhood it was the place where Mommy boiled down the maple sap and made our syrup.  In March 2008 I wrote a column about Making Our Own Maple Syrup;  I'm pleased to see that it is still accessible on the newspaper's website.

Speaking of March and earlier columns, today is the 5th anniversary of publication of my very first "Remembering Danvers" column in the Danvers Herald.  That column is still accessible online:  Skating Backwards.  

[2015 update: the links to my older columns on the newspaper's website no longer work. Their indexing/archiving has changed, or perhaps the older content has been deleted. I am now incorporating copies of my previous columns into this blog to replace the broken links. You may use the search box, above left, to find the topic, e.g., "skating backwards" or "syrup."  Or you may look into the blog chronologically, e.g., select the year 2008 from the menu on right, and open March to select the maple syrup entry.]