Wu-men’s words meet Little Crum Creek — what then?

This is the best season of your life.”

This is the season…

This is…

This

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*Quoted verse from Wu-men Huikai, “[Ten thousand flowers in spring]”.

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Each morning, first thing:  canopy over Little Crum Creek.
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awake–                                felled trees–                          the clarity of our time
….snowfall                           ….spaces that shape
……..traced limbs

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 Still and cold …

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 Little Crum Creek flows on

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a white-breasted nuthatch

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stashing seeds in furrows

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for a long snowy winter.

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 a downy woodpecker up and faces the new year’s winter

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Summer’s dense foliage makes it tough to spot a kingfisher
as it rattles along the Little Crum corridor sounding the creek loudly for prey.

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But the constant call of a female, tracing low flights over the water,
recently made like a beacon through the bare limbs of a bright January day.

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Canon Pics 033cropBSuddenly snow & a sprinkle of seed
Canon Pics 034cropAdraw the white-throated sparrow
Canon Pics 030cropAcloser than usual by Little Crum Creek. 

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Though its autumn leaves are yellow and not the commonly cited red, and though it never fruits the hallmark crimson keys we’d call “helicopters,” I can finally pin a name to the indifferent subject of my long but casual scrutiny:

a red maple tree.

Other identifying characteristics have been evident throughout the year…

I’ve gathered three-lobed leaves fallen from their opposite arrangement on summer branches, accidentally peeled plated bark from the trunk when tugging climbing ivy, collected many brittle branches dropped to the woodland floor, and patiently watched wine-red twigs and buds endure a long winter.

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But it’s a small flower that finally proves the name.

In early spring, a single red maple can flower a marriage of male and female blooms, a union that will likely produce a bunch of winged seeds.

Other individuals might present exclusively male or female flowers.

The female kind may be pollinated by male neighbors and thereby fruit seeded helicopters.

But this particular red maple has revealed its own dispositon along Little Crum Creek:  a naturally confirmed bachelorhood of total male florescence that won’t be going to seed.100_9467edcropC100_9522edcropC                                                                                                      .

100_9543edcropANow, why its leaves turn yellow in fall, and not red, I can’t yet say.

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 Back in November,
when autumn’s trees unveiled winter’s bare-limbed vistas,
new hawk patterns appeared over Little Crum Creek.

Which hawk, then, was daily greeting sunrise above a nearby field: 
the customary Cooper’s or the newly suspected Red-tailed?

One day I watched one bolt from its branch for a mid-air strike,
but hawk and prey suddenly vanished in a snowy cloud of feathers.

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While the Cooper’s Hawk seemed to preside over spring and summer,
the Red-tailed’s claim began to mount in fall.

I’d frequently spot one abandoning a perch,
its namesake tail fanned in flight.

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Another soared,
intermittently flapping,
in high wide circles above the field.

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Soon closer visits permitted better scrutiny. 

Based on the belly’s vested coloration
and relatively short tail feathers,
these two, above & below, look like Red-tailed Hawks.

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For contrast,
consider the thinly-streaked belly & breast coloration
plus the long, thickly-banded tail feathers
of a mid-December Cooper’s Hawk
in the following two photos.

(Its tail feathers seem too rounded for the lookalike Sharp-shinned Hawk.)

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In January, and now February,
this accipiter has seemed scarce. 

But count on seeing a Red-tailed just about any day.

Since December’s late snowfall, this buteo’s been our most prominent raptor.

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