Chapter Twenty-Two: Things Looking Up

NOTE: "Semi-Rough: A North Country Journal," is now available as a complete book, that includes these on-line essays and more. If you'd like a free pdf to download to your computer, send me a note at and I'll email you a copy.

Friday 27 June 1997 - "One odd observation: During breakfast, we heard a call that was obviously that of a loon. I went outside and scanned the skies, and finally saw the loon circling extremely high in the sky, calling as it circled. It isn't the first time we've had loons fly over, but I've never had one circle and call out here in the forest."

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If you could look around from about 100 feet over our Camp, you would see our house, our little field, and lots of forest. You wouldn't see any water. Yet, our Camp bird list includes common loons, great blue herons, double-crested cormorants, snow geese, Canada geese, and some unidentified (probably black) ducks. We see ospreys regularly, occasionally with large fish clutched in their talons. How can that be, out here in the big woods?

Circle up another 100 feet or so, and you'd start to see the answer. To the east over the hills and through the trees, but only a couple miles from us as the birds fly, is Pontook Reservoir, nesting area for ospreys, bald eagles, loons, herons and other waterbirds. But to the north, west and south, you can still only see forestland. Why fly over us?

Take it up to 1000 feet, and it all becomes clear. Only a few miles south of us is Cedar Pond. The same distance north are the Dummer Ponds. West are Christine Lake, the Upper Ammonoosuc River, and several other ponds. Pontook Reservoir, which barely showed through the trees at 200 feet, now reveals itself as a vast wetland, fed by and discharging into the Androscoggin River. Our hillside Camp is surrounded by water, and it's right on the flight line for birds coming from and going to the various rivers, ponds and marshes within a few miles of us.

When people hear about our property, they always want to know if there is water on it. Except for the little trickle of Cedar Brook running through the deepest part of our woods, and a couple of wonderful springs in the forest above the field, we have to say no. But even if we can't swim, fish or boat on our land, we still get some of the wildlife benefits of nearby water.

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Sanford Wilbur 2022