Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Of Woods and Other Things," quotes by Emma Pitcher

I just started re-reading Emma Pitcher’s book, “Of Woods and Other Things” (Beech Leaf Press, Kalamazoo, 1996), and already there are quotes that must be shared. It’s a small collection of essays written for the layman and submitted to a local newspaper in conjunction with The Kalamazoo Nature Center. "Bickie" Pitcher was a renowned naturalist in the Indiana Dunes region before moving to Michigan.

Emma Pitcher Quotes:

“Nature writing of necessity involves two delightful occupations: roaming around wild places observing flora and fauna and later poring over relevant books attempting to learn more. In such pleasant ways do naturalists grope toward understanding. Questions always remain – leading to the next foray. Fortunately, the learning never ends.”

“… the nostalgic, somewhat dreamy whistle of an unseen migrating white-throated sparrow on a misty spring morning, a sound that sets blood a stirring in birdwatchers everywhere.”

“…when the flute-like ee oh lay of the wood thrush sounds through the woods, I drop everything to treasure each crystalline note.”

“One of the most astonishing all-time banding records is that of an Arctic tern found dead on the same Maine island where he had been banded thirty-four years earlier. At 25,000 migratory miles flown in a year, this tern weighing four ounces flew 850,000 in its lifetime.”

“A white-throated sparrow, that bird of haunting, ethereal whistles…”

[Ah, yes, my favorite quote of all time from any author]: "...pale satiny yellow breasts and dark velvety smudges around eyes are apparent." [I'm basking in the beauty of the image this evokes... of Cedar Waxwings].

“In winter, tough, scaly fringes grow on toe edges of the feet of ruffed grouse, serving as unique snow shoes. These drop off in spring…. Like willow ptarmigan, these grouse will spend cold winter nights in a snow bank.”

“A family of barred owls lived near me and one often hooted from the big pine just outside my bedroom window. It was a scary but delightful experience to be wakened by that call of the wild just ten feet from my bed.”

[Re: barred owls]: “Invisible ears are cavities in lower sides of the head covered with loose-ribbed feathers that can spread to form funnels.”

[Re: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird]: “… when a thumb-sized ruby-throated leaves for South America in fall, this wee being makes an extraordinary 500-mile nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico from the tip of Florida to the coast of Yucatan. Miracle? Yes.”

[Re: Blue Jays]: “When they do migrate, they move by day. On April28, 1981, 2,210 were observed flying eastward along the Lake Michigan shore east of Gary, Indiana.”

[Re: Blue Jays]: “Edward H. Forbush tells of jays not only feeding and guarding an old, partly blind jay, but also leading it to water. Who would have expected compassion from this often aggressive intruder?”

[Re: Black-Capped Chickadees]: In cold weather they become totally round, fluffing feathers to almost twice their normal size, thereby trapping air as insulation. One morning at twenty-five degrees below zero, I saw inflated chickadees covered with hoarfrost crystals, dazzling in the sunlight.”

[Re: Cedar Waxwings]: “Sometimes wing tips contain a bright red wax-like substance visible only at close range. The function of those waxy droplets is unknown.”

The botany section of the book is fast approaching...

3 comments:

Scott said...

Fun quotes, Keith. Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

Keith, so glad you enjoy my Grandmother's book. She is nearing the end of her forays right now and it is wonderful to see how many other lives she has touched.

Keith said...

I have enjoyed everything I've read that was written by the legendary Emma Pitcher. I was fortunate in getting to hike and botanize with her a few times before she left the Indiana Dunes region. Her enthusiasm for everything outdoors is contagious, and her reputation as a superb naturalist will live in perpetuity. She has touched many, many lives! May the days of her senescence all be halcyon days of peace and tranquility, and may she spend them as near as possible to the birds and plants she loves so dearly.