New Year’s Eve 2020

With the dawning of a New Year, I am always drawn back to Thomas Hardy’s (1840-1928) poem “The Darkling Thrush.” Written in December of 1900 this atmospheric work heralds a new century – a new year. 

Deep winter and a frosty suspension of time and movement isolates everyone behind their heavy doors. Like at our farm and in this poem each year on December 31st– all landscapes are touched by clinging hoarfrost and quiet musing.   A New Year, in Hardy’s poem, is announced by the frail singing thrush.  Its joyful song cuts through the gloomy air and banishes specters from the previous year. 

December 31steach year also marks the day when we do the Christmas Bird Count at the farm. And, to my absolute delight—I saw a new species this morning – a Varied Thrush. A solitary black and orange thrush emitting its buzzy police whistle. “Wake up, Wake Up.” Must be Thomas Hardy’s bird come to visit!

The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
      The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.
Varied Thrush
Photo by Nicole Beaulac Varied Thrush

By A-Woven-Basket

9 replies on “New Year’s Eve 2020”

I was going to ask whether you have Varied Thrush on your yard list. There is a road about 30 minutes away that I saw 70-80 Evening Grosbeaks (EVGR) yesterday. They have become a more rare visitor with climate change but this has been our winter of EVGR sightings in the area but alas not in my yard. Wrong habitat…


Hi Bob– I would have been thrilled to see a group or even a single Evening Grosbeak as they are such striking birds. My stepson has them in his yard a canyon west of us, but I have never seen one here. Varied Thrush is listed as possibly being in my area, but until yesterday I had never seen one here at the farm. Such a treat. p.s. I am toying with embarking on Ebird’s daily challenge for 2021. I am also looking at entering some Nest Watch programs: American Kestral, and perhaps some others…


A great way to start the New Year! I am wondering whether you have read a new book by Helen Macdonald, “Vesper Flights,” which is a collection of essays about her observations of nature, most often birds. It is lovely and sensitive, perceptive, and, occasionally jarring. The author is British, an expert on falconry, and also a poet. I am reading this now! –Barbara


Hello Barb: Yes, I have heard of _Vesper Flights_. It was a recommended to me by a poet friend who lives in Tennessee. I have it on my list to read soon. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it so much. Nice to hear from you!


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