i woke up at 5am to go birdwatching at the mount auburn cemetery. it was still dark, sunrise not until 5:30am. i try to go at least once every spring. not that i don't want to go more often, but i just can't get up that early. i picked today because it was a warm day. i left by 5:35am, biking the 1.8 miles via brattle street, arriving in 12 minutes, to meet the other birdwatchers. i wore a waffle crew neck because there was still a slight morning chill but now it felt too warm, though i kept it on. there was a small group of people when i arrived, but soon grew to nearly 4 dozen birdwatchers, the largest group i've ever seen. most were senior citizens, i didn't see anyone younger than me until later, when a few latecomers joined up. some people - those who've been here before and had like-minded friends - formed smaller groups and left on their own. there were so many people we didn't bother with the usual intros. when we finally started moving, it was like an army of seniors, each armed with a pair of binoculars.
the large crowd make seeing a little difficult. the sheer size of the group meant not everyone was looking at the same angle, so while a section might be spotting some bird, a different section farther away wouldn't be able to see anything. but everyone was still enthusiastic, a lot of "what is it?" going through the group, as word of the latest bird would be carried from one watcher to another like a game of telephone.
the holy grail was cerulean warblers, some of which were spotted yesterday; we did not see any today. i vaguely remember spotting them once in years past. there were yellow-rump warblers, but i didn't get any good looks. i saw a male black & white warbler, and several orioles singing from treetops. i got a really good look at a parula warbler (when everyone else was spotting a warbling vireo - i saw that too - my first - but not very distinctive). a great blue heron arrived at halcyon lake, waiting for the daily catch. i saw a flicker - didn't know if it was a male or female - but spotted the distinctive red triangle at the back of its neck as it flew away after pecking on the lawn grass with some mourning doves. some little bird flittered into the trees, which turned out to be goldfinches. someone said there was a red-bellied woodpecker and i waited with a bunch of folks trying to see it, but it when inside a perfectly-sized hole up on a tree and never came out. there were a few song sparrows, and red-winged blackbirds around the ponds. the most common were robins, followed by grackles. a mob of grackles chased off a red-tailed hawk which flew right through the group. finally, i saw a single turkey ambling around. turkeys are so common these days, they're almost not worth registering (i saw a group earlier this week on observatory hill).
there were a few photographers in the cemetery armed with massive telephoto lenses, but none were in the group. there seems to be a democratization of telephotography: anyone can get into the game as long as you have $1000 to spend on a white canon telephoto lens. i didn't get good looks but most of them seem to be 70-200 f/4L, a good lens, but doesn't have a great reach. one lady in our group was taking photos but she was using a P&S with a long lens (i didn't have my panasonic lumix, otherwise i would've brought that). i disbanded around willow pond, by that point it was close to 8am. i took out my camera mounted with the 70-300mm to possibly take some bird photos, but more for the flowers. already a few weeks into the flowering season, a lot of early pink cherries had shed their blossoms, with magnolias following behind them. forsythias also are close to finishing, though a few yellow bushes still remain. weeping cherries are still around, and likewise with pear blossoms. dogwoods are now emerging, and soon crabapples will join them. flowers are easier to photograph then birds since they don't move around, but their stationary nature presents new problems, as now the concern is with framing and lighting and deciding which aperture to use; with birds, the fact that you're able to capture something clearly is reward enough.
i left mt.auburn by 8:45am. instead of going to the cafe, i went home first, took a shower, then grabbed a few things. i was dropping off my diffuser (which i hardly use) for the essential oils that arrived yesterday. i checked the industrial freezer: my father had already put items inside. fortunately the smell was gone. after a week offline left to manually defrost, he's hoping the freezer will be back to normal. otherwise if he can't get it repaired, he'll need to throw it out. being an old industrial freezer with the capacity of two large refrigerators, naturally it uses up a lot of electricity. with the compressor running, it uses 556W with an amperage of 12A. in a single 24-hour day, it uses 13kWh of energy.
after i returned home, my father came by to drop off my grand uncle's 27" samsung HDTV, a bag of frozen chinese dumplings, and a large plastic lidded box to store my kimchi. he forgot the remote so i can't use the tv for the time being. ever since i cut the cord, i don't watch that much television. shows i used to get on cable i either watching through streaming or download. the only other TV in the house is the old-style tube set in my bedroom, and i only use that to grab the occasional screenshot with the DTA adapter box (which has the ability to record) or if i'm folding laundry and want to catch the news.
i went with my father to market basket to get 2 packs of seltzer. when i got back it was still 10:50am, but i'd already been up for 6 hours. as a night person, it's a strange feeling waking up so early and getting so much done before a typical day would even start. i consolidated all my tongbaechu kimchi, putting them together might help with the fermentation, which so far - day 2 - hasn't happened yet despite the warm conditions inside the house.
i had cereal and a smoothie for lunch. by afternoon i felt extremely tired. there was a dull ache all over my joints. could it be allergies? but most likely i was just tired from waking up so early. the hot weather did help either, and it was slightly more humid than it was yesterday. by 2:30pm i fell asleep on the couch. i ended up sleeping until 4pm. an alert on my phone reminded me there was a new england apples lecture at the harvard natural history museum, followed by a free cider taste testing.
i went to the lecture, bringing my umbrella just in case it rained. this was a 21+ event that required prior registration due to the alcoholic nature of the cider taste testing. that's why there was a line to get into the lecture hall, as they checked every person through their guest list. i brought my "ticket" which turned out to be unnecessary as they were just going by name alone, no id required. it wasn't that crowded when i got inside, but soon it began to fill up to capacity. i had an empty seat to my left, which i used for my bag, and an empty seat to my right, where a girl had put her bag. only later did i realize that a few latecomers who couldn't find seats actually had to sit on the ground in the back of the room.
the lecture was interesting, and i learned a lot about heirloom new england apples, like the roxbury russet or the baldwin (a monument in wilmington honors the spot where the original tree first grew). i learned that all apple varieties are clones from a single original stock, as apple seeds always produce hybridized varieties. early new england apples were mostly used for animal feed or alcoholic cider, until they discovered new varieties that were palatable as-is for human consumption. in the late 1800's a lot of apple varieties were nearly wiped out - not due to disease, but rather to the emerging temperance movement, which went out to cut down cide apple trees since they were used to produce alcohol. after hearing the lecture, i wonder if we should grow some apples in my parents' backyard, as they both flower but also produce edible fruits.
after the lecture the crowd of a few hundred people slowly meandered our way upstairs to the museum, where there were tasting stations to try some different hard apple ciders. the drinks were courtesy of eden specialty ciders of vermont. prior to the lecture, everyone was given a booklet of tickets to redeem various samples: cinderella's slipper (estate grown variety dry still cider), ezekiel (kingston black variety bottled dry cider), and heirloom blend ice cider (sweet cider). the first two tasted similar, and more wine than cider, which i didn't like. the third was very sweet, almost like a cough syrup. for my money, i still prefer the woodchunk amber, the right blend of apple flavor with the perfect amount of sweetness. there was also a snack table with cheeses and crackers, that was mostly empty by the time i got there (and i was pretty ahead in line). i took some cheese and crackers and walked around to the rest of the museum, where it was opened but empty. i left soon afterwards, before 8pm.
a sharp production drop in the afternoon but still managed to make 32.54kWh. tomorrow seems to be a continuation of the clouds. not until next tuesday and wednesday will there be another cloud-free day and we'll try another run at breaking the record.
i was hungry before i went to the lecture and snapped on some emergency candy bars i had in my bag. so i was excited to cook up some chinese dumplings for dinner. the bag had 20 but i wasn't sure if could finish it all so ended up just boiling 10. next time: finish the whole bag! i could've easily eaten all 20. i ate while streaming the latest episode of the expanse through roku. hopefully this will contribute to the overall rating for the show and it will get renewed for another season.