Birder's Eye View

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quoth the Raven

In light (or dark?) of All Hallow's Eve, I'm posting my all-time favorite Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Raven. I always think of Halloween when I read it, so I thought it would be appropriate to share on this special spooky day.


The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe, 1845

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door-
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my sour within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
'Tis the wind and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if its soul in that one word he did outpour
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered: "Other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never--nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee--by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite--respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!--
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by Horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore-
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting-
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted--nevermore!


Happy birding and Happy Halloween!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One more hike

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." - George Eliot

Alas, Fall Break is ending today, and I'll be heading back to the busy college life once more this afternoon. I try not to wish I was at home, while I'm at school (what good does it do to yearn for somewhere else when you could be enjoying where you are now?) but fall always makes me think of home anyway.

Florida fall is nothing like it is up north, but live here long enough and you'll come to know and love the signs of the changing season.

This morning, I wanted to go birding one more time before I head back to the coast. The park my sister and I wanted to go to was closed, so we headed down the road a little further to another trail in the same nature preserve.

It had changed a lot since I had last been there, over a year ago. The once grassy marsh area had been completely flooded and grown in. A doe and fawn sprung over the trail in front of us on our way to the observation deck, but there weren't as many birds as I had hope to see. Regardless, we managed to see some Great Egrets, Red-shouldered Hawks, American Crows, and an Eastern Phoebe.

Beyond the marsh area, we followed the little-used trail back into the woods, through forest, pine flatwoods, and finally to the creek. By this time, it was around 10am, and most of the morning activity had settled down.

We turned around and headed back the way we came, enjoying the warm breeze and subtle fall colors. At one point, we came across a large flock of Pine Warblers and Tufted Titmice. I tried to get some pictures with my sister's camera (since I still haven't replaced my poor Olympus), but they didn't come out well enough to post.

Back passed the marsh again, the Eastern Phoebe was sitting closer this time, so I managed to get a just-barely-adequate picture of the little bird. There was also a large flock of Ibis across the clearing, and a couple Cardinals seep-seeping their warning calls to us as we walked by.

It was a lovely morning, and I only wish it could have lasted a little longer. :-)
Until next time,
Happy birding!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Back on the trail

"In wilderness is the preservation of the world."
- Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday was fantastic. True, it was overcast, breezy, threatening to rain, and I didn't get out of the house until mid-afternoon, but it was one of the most wonderful days I've had in a long time -- it was the first time I've been able to go birding since school started at the end of August.

My sister and I took off in the afternoon for our favorite local park, and embarked on a 2 1/2 mile hike around the lake. The temperature was a perfect 75ish degrees; it was a little windy for birding, but I couldn't have been happier. Everything becomes so much clearer and simpler and peaceful when you spend a little time outside.

Fall migration seems to be taking its time this year. There was a greater variety of birds than I saw over the summer, but not nearly as many of the passerines I would expect to be seeing this time of year.

Nonetheless, I managed to see/hear a fair number of resident species, including Catbirds, Cardinals, Blue Jays, a Sandhill Crane, a Great Egret (pictured above), a Red-bellied Woodpecker (pictured below), a Common Tern, and a little Pied-billed Grebe.

Along our hike, my sister and I had fun looking for different signs of wildlife. We found the sun-bleached remains of a huge turtle shell, different kinds of animal scat, and signs of wild boar and armadillos.

I didn't get many birds out of the hike, but it was quite the enjoyable experience. I still have 2 more days of Fall Break, so hopefully I can scrounge up a couple year birds before I have to go back to school.

Until next time,

Happy birding!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recent sightings

This semester has been a total killer so far -- I'm busier than I've ever been in my entire life, it seems (as you can probably tell by my infrequent blog postings). Nonetheless, in between running to classes, work, meetings, doing homework and studying, I've managed to watch the slow progression of fall migration creeping in.

Saturday temperatures dropped into the 60s, so I took some time to hike a little, but not much had showed up yet. There were a ton of Cormorants and Anhingas around the ponds, but little else besides the resident species. After Sunday though, I started seeing more passerines show up. Today I got my first-of-the-season Yellow-throated Warbler, along with a Palm Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher outside my window.

Fall break starts this coming weekend, so I plan on taking some time to go birding for at least a couple days while I'm home and see what else the season is bringing in.

Yesterday my roommate and I observed a gorgeous Bald Eagle flying really low over campus on our way to class. We got a fantastic, although brief, view of the bird. I haven't seen a Bald Eagle in our area in a long time, so it was a nice surprise. I've been keeping my eye out for it again, in the hopes that it may be living in the area.

Well, enough procrastination for now -- better get back to homework.

Happy birding!

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