Tuesday, May 05, 2009

New River Birding & Nature Festival: My Intro

A week in the Farmhouse with the Flock was my privilege and pleasure. Nina at Nature Remains, Lynne at Hasty Brook, Laura at Somewhere in NJ, Jane (Wren) at Wrenaissance Reflections, Kathie at Sycamore Canyon, Susan at Susan Gets Native, Kathi at Katdoc’s World, and TR at From the Faraway, Nearby. Dear Tim resided in a cabin nearby – precious part of the Flock, nonetheless.

I have a Blogger Life List now. I loved them via cyberspace but this meeting was real. Being with good friends previously unseen was heaven.


Thank you for the buttons, Jayne! We wished you were with us. Ruthie and Delia sent wine and we missed them, too.

There were other funny and loveable nature bloggers who attended. I’ll try to name them all in upcoming posts. Be patient? I’m still tired.


Homeward bound on Sunday, driving through dark clouds, fog and rain in West Virginia and Virginia, remembering the week that passed too quickly, I crossed the North Carolina border into sunny skies. At home, I found pond flowers, leafed out oaks and Crepe Myrtles, and roses ready to bloom. My black & white girlfriends were too happy to have their playmate home again.


All of that beauty paled in comparison to the buttercups in the side yard at the Farmhouse. Oh… Sigh…


We shared here. Our personalities blended smoothly for a very short seven days and nights. Lots of laughter echoes in that house…


We investigated the property right away. Hot tubbing was appealing but the creek was a highlight for most of us.


Snapping turtles, newts…



The mountain beauty left me speechless many times


as did the rivers…ahhhh.


Group birding cramps my style of bird stalking for good photos. If I need bins to see a bird, I don’t bother the camera. There will be only a few decent bird photos to share here so check out the other blogs for the best bird shots. Jeff Gordon’s Northern Parula here – wow. Jeff took time to link the bloggers on his post so check it out.

For list lovers, I recorded thirty-eight life birds including indescribably gorgeous warblers! More on that later.


Keith and Connie on the Bobolink field.
I spent a few days with leaders Keith and Connie. When the Flock’s frivolity reached a certain level, they were able to calm us down in a good way. I hope we weren’t too challenging for them. We were happy folk.

On Day Three, the rains came and it continued to rain for the next five days. On our last trip of the Festival we sat in the van, packed in it like sardines, and listened to the rain tapping the windshield and roof. Connie and Keith exited the van to listen for us… We were silent – only hearing our own heartbeats, stomach sounds, and breathing.


No Golden-winged Warbler out there, so she talked about Eastern Box Turtles. Connie’s energy and enthusiasm is amazing. Keith is downright cool.

I think after six days of non-stop birding, you lose it.

When you are rain-drenched and feel cold trickles soak the back of your neck, roll down your back and up your sleeves; when your hair resembles a bad 1920’s doo plastered to your skull and applying lipstick doesn’t make you look any better; when you are cold and weary; when you are irritated to dry your eyeglasses, bins, and camera lens every ten minutes for days on end; when you are sick of hearing mud suctioning under your feet, you become delirious enough to laugh at everything and anything. At that point, life is a freaking riot.

It was suggested, on that last day in the van, late in the afternoon, under the rain, to make one last effort to see a Swainson’s Warbler - a bird that many have heard but not seen for years. Ok. An eager man in the back of the van exclaimed, “Yes! It would be great to see a Swainson’s!” Well, honey, didn’t we already wait for that bird for an hour three days ago?

I wanted to stay in the van and dry off as it was time to be back at the Farmhouse for a hot shower but off we went, ISO a Swainson’s Warbler - an elusive bird that makes fools of us. Many hear the bird but do not seen one in years! I leaned over to Lynne’s ear and whispered (stifling side-splitting laughter), F the Swainson’s. Susan and Beth thought it a great motto for a t-shirt. Yeah. F the Swainson’s! :o)


Side yard of the Farmhouse. How I miss that place and those wonderful faces.

Much more to come!
By the way, my good Fuji is perfect. There is nothing wrong. The operator unknowingly switched a setting, is all...


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Drat the rain. It sounds like you had a good time anyway. 38 lifers, wow. What a great trip. I can't wait to hear more details.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Love this post! Swainson's warbler is truly the escargot of gourmet birding. They can be maddeningly hard to see (unless you're Bill of the Birds). After craning our necks at one for well over an hour without seeing it, B. and I decided they're saying F--you! F--the world!
which is a pretty darned accurate rendition of their syncopated, emphatic song.

I am tired to my bones, having struggled for two days to get something--anything--out about the festival. It was much, much more fun just living it. Such a burden we bloggers bear...

sound of a tiny violin..

The Quacks of Life said...

great to read you had a good time and that the camera is well :D

KGMom said...

Oh you poor dears--having to put up with. . .what? Buttons, wine, friends new and old, laughter, singing (I hear tell), and birds.
Oh, right--you all really really suffered.
Now, if it's suffering you want--while you are were frivoling away the time, I was grading papers. Do you hear my righteous sniff as I pull my glasses down my nose, and sharpen my marking pen?
Just don't forget us earthbound types who stayed home!

Susan Gets Native said...

"F*&% the SWAINSON'S!!!"

Did you proudly display your "Most Lifers" magnet on your fridge?

Anonymous said...

I've been waiting impatiently for this and WOW! wasn't disappointed. What great color! Hope attendance at thse isn't required to make your list of life bloggers. I was thinking, "Maybe I..." until I got to the part about the 5 days of rain. Nah. I'll birdwatch via your blog. Except for bluebirds...even in the rain.

MaineBirder said...

Congrats on the lifers! Wonderful series of photos.

Even with the rain, it sounds like you had a great time.

Barbie ♥ said...

Hi Mary! Your post was really neat! Jalynn and I searched high and low for that darn Farmhouse...we are 'directionally challenged'! Lucky to find our Cabin #3 each day ;-)
Enjoyed your wonderful pictures. I would have LOVED to be a fly on the wall in that Farmhouse each night ;-)A wild bunch of 'flockers' haha!

Jeffrey A. Gordon said...

Beautiful post & great photos. So nice to finally meet you. Looking forward to more (blog posts & birding).

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Oh Lord May! I can just hear your laugh and I get helpless laughing myself just at the thought.

F the Swainson's!!!!!

We don't need no stinking Swainson's!!!

Dawn Fine said...

Great Fun! sounds like you all had a lovely time...Welcome home.

gretchen said...

Yippee! You did it! (and with your fuji 14xzoom too!) Can't wait to read/see more of your adventures; I did a similar thing last year and you will be amazed at what a life changing event this will become for you- right now everything is still so new and fresh that your mind has yet to process all that you just experienced. This past week will continue work deep into your soul and enrich you for the rest of your life. Just wait and see!!
hugs, gretchen

Mary said...

Gretchen, your comment is right on. Thanks :o)

Q said...

So happy you are home safe and sound with memories to last a lifetime!
Wonderful you saw so many lifers, even more wonderful you made many best of Birding friends!

Beth said...

We were wet, cold, bedraggled, but giggling up a storm! I will always remember how you looked incredulously out the window at Connie and Keith while whispering "F$%#@ the Swainson's!".

(ROFLMAO at the memory)

Mel said...

Hola Mary,
is good to know that you had fun! Too bad about the rain :(
CONGRATS on the lifers! I'll join you some time ;)

NCmountainwoman said...

Welcome home, Mary. I am really enjoying reading about the birding trip. What fun that must have been.

Of course, all is lost if you didn't actually see a f***ing Swainson's Warbler!!!

Kathi said...

You know, I saw the Swainson's in 2007, and really, I don't get what the fuss is all about. Give me a bluebird or a yellow-throated vireo, a hummingbird or an Indigo Bunting, a Scarlet Tanager or a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, give me a Wood Thrush or even a sweet little sparrow any day of the week. F*** the Swainson's is right.

BirdGirl: Sorry you couldn't find us. "If you are SOUTH of the bridge, CROSS the bridge and turn left on Milroy-Grose Rd. If you are coming from Country Cabins or anywhere north of the bridge ...." Actually, it was probably quieter in Cabin #3 than in the rowdy Farmhouse.

~Kathi, proud to have been there for some of Mary's 38 Lifers (Can you remember any of them, May?)

Mary said...


God help me if I need to correctly ID them on the blog here. I need to refer to my handwritten list, but there are no pictures! And yes, I don't remember!


Mary C said...

Mary, I'm so glad you had such a wonderful time. Despite all that rain it sounds like you and everyone else saw many birds. Way to go!

Bill of the Birds said...

Mary: My fave thing about meeting you and the other Crazy Blogging Flockers was hearin' yore Baldimore aksint, hon!

Great to finally meet you in person. Hope we get to do it all again somewhere else soon. Maybe the Midwest Birding Symposium this fall???

Jayne said...

So glad to hear that you all had such a good time Mary, and that the buttons were enjoyed. :c)

Tina said...

Sooo glad you found your way, love meeting all your blogger friends and enjoyed your time in West Virginia!!
You sounded like you really needed that break!!
Rain or no rain you sound like you had a wonderful time and I'm looking forward to seeing all your on the road pics!
Bet your pooches were so excited to see you!!!

NCmountainwoman said...

Mary...y'all still speak Baldimore?

Anonymous said...

Have missed new entries for the past week. So glad you had a wonderful time. Looking forward to reading about the adventure.

Tommy said...

Stunning amount of lifers!

Nice to hear you all enjoyed it :)

NatureWoman said...

Those buttons are cool! And your photos, I don't care if they don't have birds, you took great photos of the people and place, and I enjoy them immensely!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Girls. Girls. I really, really must put in a word for the Swainson's warbler here. He's a big, beefy, very cool and anomalous warbler, with understated plumage and a fabulous icterid-like bill. He's hard to see, and that's how he likes it. He's got an emphatic, distinctive song, and a weird, limited, disjunct range: rhododendron thickets in Appalachia, and canebrakes (of all things) farther south. Both his habitats have one thing in common: impenetrability. So you see, it would be very hard to **** the Swainson's, hon!

Mary said...

Thanks, Julie! I needed a punch line like that tonight :o) However, I'd settle for a picture of a Swainson's, hon.

Unknown said...

Beautiful post, it shows what a wonderful time you folks had out there. It should have been a lot of fun.

Kathleen said...

What a fun post and comments! It was a joy to meet you, Mary. It did turn out to be a vacation of a lifetime!

Anonymous said...

Just saw two pictures of you dancing away on Julie Z's blog. You go girl.

Donna said...

Hi Mary,
Haven't been around for awhile. Looks like you had a good time. How fun! Great photos too.

Heidi said...

A belated welcome back to you Mary! What fun you and the flock must have had :) If I had that much fun with Ruthie for just a couple hours, it must have been incalculable with so many of you in one cabin for 6 days!

JeanMac said...

Sounds like a great time - too bad you were rained out.

Annie in Austin said...

Will "F the Swainson's" be the secret password from now on, Mary? I can see people throwing it into conversations to discern the birdy cognoscenti.

You sound so glad you went!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Kathie Brown said...

Mary, you are a hoot as always. You made me laugh and cry and miss you already!

Anonymous said...