Friday, May 29, 2009

May Slipped Away

Where did it go? May, one of the best months of my year, slipped right through my fingers. I didn't even get to hold it.


Only seven dry May days. Unusual and nicely saturated, but I still complain.


Under clouds for many days and weeks affects my spirit.

And life is tiring, complicated
when most of it goes on inside a windowless office.

There’s much to tell but it will have to wait.


Until August, eleven-hour work days away from home will be a way of life. The wait is too long so I spend my short lunch break driving home to allow them a business trip. Old Chloe appreciates it. We’ll adjust to our prize at the end of the week - Fridays off.


There’s a bit of hummer action to cheer me up. When I’m ready to call it a day, they remind me to bring out the camera.


The occasional male or two I see are busy with courtship rituals and guarding nectar. I love that 180 loop.


Visited the large pond to find a Belted Kingfisher, but no


Growing. Been busy planting between rain showers.




Backyard and pond are very alive.


All of the above saves me. Every day.

Looking forward to June!

Perhaps I’ll find time to slow down and sit on the porch.


Iced tea.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bobolink in the Mist

As I write this, it’s raining. Misty, thick, humid, wet. A four-day weekend away from work would have been nicer under the sun. Been walking in the rain, planting garden flowers in the rain… Sort of feeling all dressed up with nowhere to go. Been cursing the rain gods at times but I always take it back quickly because living in severe drought conditions is a recent memory.

Today’s weather reminds me of the rain in West Virginia. While I wait for the skies to clear, I’ll share my final thoughts on the New River Birding and Nature Festival and the day I met a Bobolink.


Bobolink in the mist

The bird display was fabulous in the New River Gorge area. They were a far cry from what I’m seeing today. They were exciting, noteworthy birds that owned fabulous color and sound, unlike what I visited in the mist a few minutes ago – grackles, starlings, house sparrows, squirrels, squabbling mockingbirds, and a chiptymunk running for cover in my backyard. No matter what I say or how I say it, they’re mine, in a way… Noteworthy? Yes. They too have a story, and one I’ll continue to tell over time.

My last field trip of the week, High Country, began with a visit to see Bobolinks. The owner of the property kindly allowed us to visit their field that’s suitable for Bobolink’s young to fledge successfully. Nesting on the ground, they were perhaps the most intriguing birds I saw and heard during the entire week.


We had lunch here, at Babcock State Park. What was better than the view of rushing waterfalls? The view of flushing toilets inside the park building and sinks with running hot water.


Scenes like this cause me to dream of packing it up at the office and hitting the road for two or three days – just me and my camera. In the mountains of West Virginia, every season must offer something as spectacular as this.


Everyone I met during the trip was inspirational to me in their own way. I will not elaborate on each individual as it would take a month of Sundays to do so…


The Flock, our group leaders and organizers, and everyone I met were delightful. Generally, they are all compassionate, smart, hilarious, adventurous, and downright beautiful people.


I allowed myself a few minutes to break away from the High Country group and stalk a Bobolink. All week I had been fighting a strong urge to stalk…


Have you heard a Bobolink’s song? Those small, high-pitched electronic sounds it emits? If you are old enough to remember Star Wars' R2 D2, that’s it.


Getting closer, stepping softly, a few feet at a time…


And the bird vanished! All of that for another crappy bird photo!

There is a nerdy, geeky generalization made about folks who are passionate about birds and nature. Dispel that notion.


On our final night of the week together, the Swinging Orangutangs rocked the house with Julie Zickefoose, Bill Thompson III and the band. They were so generous to entertain.


Let’s not forget about the drummer!

We danced with our hands in the air like we didn’t care. Very cool.

Until next year, I'll hold these memories close.

Thanks to all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Birding without the Boat


Still dark and wet in West Virginia.

Only a post or two still cooking on the New River Birding & Nature Festival, dear readers. Bear with me?

Our Friday excursion, Birding by Boat, excited me but the stormy weather forecast called for revising the agenda a tad. Our genius trip leaders, Geoff Heeter and Jeff Gordon, put their minds together and came up with a dynamite plan. Instead of boarding a boat


we boarded an official, colorful Songer Whitewater Bus and I liked it. It was a great bus. Roomy.


When weather wrecks your plans, what are the chances of the day being much better than originally expected?


It was. We stopped for fancy coffee in the middle of the day, thank you.


Dear Nina, ever vigilant.


Swallows, Common Loons and Terns… I counted ten additional life birds on Friday.

It was all wet and breathtakingly beautiful, to me.


In the pouring rain


we smiled

and enjoyed Kathie’s Arizona rain gear. Her poncho was the best gear of all.


Waterfalls are uplifting in any weather, on any day.


I was constantly amazed at the Jeff and Geoff team. Two of my target birds were a Baltimore Oriole and Pileated Woodpecker and within twenty minutes, I saw both. Jeff and Geoff knew how and when to call the Pileated but that wasn’t enough. Jeff predicted precisely where the woodpecker would break through a wooded area and soar towards us to perch in a tree directly above our heads. That put me in shock, actually; therefore, no pictures. A good view of a Baltimore Oriole followed; again, no pictures. Funny, ey? By Thursday, I was functioning on half a brain and suffering from life bird overload. That's not a joke.




Late afternoon, the sun began to shine. They were focused on a bird. I was not :o)
We headed to the Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville for dinner.


If you want to see great bird photos that I didn’t get that day (or all week), please visit Lynne at Hasty Brook or Jane, the one with the camera. You'll be so pleased!


The evening’s excitement grew as we anticipated hearing Julie speak.


Prior to Julie’s talk, our Kathi recited a witty and very kind poem she wrote in honor of Bill Thompson III. She named it “Birding with Bill”.


I think he liked it! Good job, Kathi.


About Julie’s presentation?
Absolutely enchanting.


I was thrilled to finally meet Julie and her family.

Our washed out Friday was a keeper.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hairpin Turns, Oh My


Through fog or clear skies, mountain views are spectacular at 2-4,000 feet when you arrive there - somehow.


All of the wonderful details of Muddlety have been told so I will be brief and say Muddlety Strips was dreamy and captivating in the rain.


I had some alone time at this Muddlety pond. Here, just me and the hush of a gentle rainfall, mud suctioning under foot, and the songs of a dozen species of birds that were all foreign to me. I’ll never forget this spot and how rudely the hush was broken by what I heard a half mile up from behind where I stood. At this tranquil place, powerful buzz saws continued to fell trees – I sadly imagined the immediate loss of habitat at the first, in a series of cracks, echoing, the crashing fall, then silence. It’s a disaster and I hate it.


Susan’s find. Her eyes are as sharp as her raptors’.



To the mountains of West Virginia I brought my fear of heights. It’s only a minor phobia, I thought, and didn’t become unnerved until we set out on our Sugar Creek trip, ascending a mountain, in a van, on mud and gravel.


The road pictured above is a good road, wide and paved. Not like the dinky ones I saw... One look to my left through the window and I knew the van’s wheels were about five feet from a 2,000 foot drop. Yes, we were eye-to-eye with warblers and the treetops that held them! My imagination is way too overactive in situations like this and I held back my desire to scream, “Oh, let me drive, please, or we’re all gonna die!”

From behind I heard a very kind person say, “The trees will stop us from falling too far.”

Well, thanks a lot.

No one else seemed to be concerned and I wondered why school buses were allowed to carry children up and down a mountainside.


I would have preferred to sit on the floor of the van and stare at everyone’s muddy feet but instead I focused my wandering eyes on the seat in front of me or the backpack on my lap. Head low, I sang a song lead by Kathy,

"...The other day I met a bear, out in the woods, a way out there..."

Thank you, Kathy. We saw a black bear that day and poor Susan was thrilled beyond words.

Lynne, who sat beside me on our short bus trips, kept me giggling and I do believe she and Susan were laughing at the long, wet, vertical cowlick on the back of my head one day. It’s alright. They all helped me through to the end of the week and got me through those scary hairpin turns. For that, I'm thankful!




Hawk’s Nest Overlook


Muddlety and Sugar Creek were speckled with great birds, however, this is the way I see it.


We all gathered at New River for the birds and nature


but it soon became very apparent that we were most significant.


Sunset at Smokey’s on the Gorge, where I won birdJam software. I need all the help I can get!

For me, the birds during this trip were secondary – albeit an exquisite, colorful sideshow. We held center stage.


And, I kissed Chet Baker. The real Bacon. Dreamy.
Chloe & Bella are very jealous and they should be.