Stalking the Orange-Vested HatchMotts

I am lucky witness each morning to that miracle moment when darkness turns to day.

Here it is, only March 3, and yet huge flocks of fat, red-breasted robins have been feasting for weeks. I hear them each morning even before it is light enough to make out their robust shapes. I was working at my desk two days ago when I heard the loud “BAM!” sound of something hitting one of the sliding glass doors. “Bird,” I thought. Sure enough, I arrived at the back slider in time to see a chaotic swirl of soft gray feathers floating from eye level down to the concrete patio. The violent appearance of the sudden detachment of feathers from bird led me to expect a small gray body on the ground, but I underestimated the resilience and luck of this particular bird. He was long gone, probably down at the local bird tavern, downing fermented nectar and toasting his near-death experience.

Ferns and iris shoots are greening up the dead leaf, rotting wood brownness of the stream bed. I’ve even seen sunbeams shoot darts into the murky water, showering bright yellow sparks near my feet on morning runs from house to gate. I have to be my own good dog these days, and fetch the paper before coffee. Wild blueberry bushes are transforming from dry sticks to gauzy bowers covered in tiny bell-shaped, lavender-tinged blooms.

The fertile land welcomes all, even non-native invaders like the Orange-Vested HatchMotts, deceptively mild-mannered sorts who travel in pairs. They arrive in a white utility van with an engineering company logo discreetly painted on the side. They park in the shade of the big spreading oak out front, then emerge to set up tripods and other land surveying equipment. Polite workers, walled off from the big picture for their own protection, gifted by job assignment with tunnel vision. Their task is narrow, but deep. All they do is put lines on paper.

The Orange-Vested HatchMotts are easy to track. They intentionally leave a path for others to follow. They are measuring, flag-taping creatures.

They determine where a line should go, then chop their way between Point A and Point B.

The small scraps of orange or white fabric are marked with numbers. Sometimes they are pinned into the ground; others times nailed into a tree.

I emerge from the tree tunnel into a clearing just under the big oak. I see tire tracks, but no vehicle. The HatchMotts have gone for the day.

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