Mother’s Day Special Edition

Happy Mother’s Day. We are enjoying the day in the Ohio countryside. Over the years we’ve spent many Mother’s Days in New Jersey. If Mom was on top of her game she’d have a list of things for us to do, ranging from changing the kitchen curtains to cleaning the gutters. Other years we’d create our own tasks, buying and planting shrubs and flowers.
This year we are in Ohio, at Gary’s childhome home. Sitting in the shade of the large maple tree we were discussing the need to trim the hedges. Donna commented how her grandsons are all busy with “paying” jobs. After a few minutes I offered her a present – we’d trim the hedges and she could supervise. It didn’t take much to convince her.

When we finished she fired up the riding mower to mulch the clippings. Happy Mother’s Day.

Spring Migration is Underway

Eight new “year birds” added to our list and tickets to a Lyle Lovett and his Large Band concert added to our calendar. Spring Migration trip is off to a good start.

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The Hats are on the road! Caesars Head overlook, South Carolina

Our first stop was to look for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, aka the Jail Bird. His alias is attributed to his usual location, just about a 1/2 mile from a prison in Greer, SC.  The Flycatcher was a no-show, but the Grasshopper and Field Sparrows entertained us during a pleasant lunch break.

Continuing on the scenic route we travelled to Brevard, NC, via Caesars Head State Park. We took a short hike and were pleased to spot several warbler species, including the Blackpoll Warbler. The Blackpoll Warbler is famous for making a nearly 1800 mile non-stop(!), over-water, winter migration

It breeds in northern North America and winters in the Greater Antilles and the Northeastern coasts of South America. These incredible feats, accomplished by such small creatures (they weigh less than one ounce), are part of the fascination that draws us to bird watching. 

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Sunset at the Key Falls Inn, Brevard, NC


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First year male Indigo Bunting, practicing his call

We spent the night at the Key Falls Inn, a lovely B&B on the outskirts of Brevard, NC. Upon arrival we noted the schedule for the upcoming concerts at the Brevard Music Center, and before the night was over we had tickets to the Lyle Lovett concert. We have barely started this trip and new plans are on the calendar!

 

 

What’s next? The New River Birding and Nature Festival.

101 Birds

We didn’t start with a specific number in mind. Just go see birds. So we left home at around 0500 for our first stop, the Edisto Nature Trail in Jacksonboro SC. Our wish list for this spot included the Swainson’s, Prothonotary, Kentucky, and Hooded Warblers. They did not disappoint us. We spent time with each of them, watching them singing their unique songs. And although they tried, the mosquitos did not carry us away. (Swainson’s Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, nymph lubber grasshopper (Romalea Microptera), Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica).

Next stop, south on Rt. 17 to Bear Island Wildlife Management Area. On Bennetts Point Road approaching the WMA two young male turkeys appeared on the verge. We stopped to let them pass, and added them to our day list. At the WMA the water level was higher than we expected, and parts of the area were closed. Nevertheless, we added a nice diversity of waders and shorebirds to the list, including American Avocets, Black Necked Stilts, and a Black-bellied (aka Grey) Plover who was getting quite into summer plumage.

Now mid-day, we decided to go to Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It wasn’t originally on our list, but we were sure glad we went! Before we even got started on the loop we walked around the large Live Oak trees and checked the field behind them. To our surprise there was a large “chain” of Bobolinks! Never have either of us seen so many, and so relatively close. We tucked our pants into our socks, sprayed down, and waded into the tall grass for a better look, chiggers be damned!

The drive around the loop proved equally filled with nice surprises. Not one, not two, but four Purple Gallinules. All walking on lily pads right out in the open. Six Black-bellied Whistling Ducks amused us for quite some time. A Least Tern made a brief appearance, and Nighthawks circled over the refuge throughout our visit, making their distinctive buzzy pent call. I learned from our friend Tom that they are called Bull Bats here in the South. They do have that skittery sort of flight, but with long pointed wings crossed near the tip with a white bar, these are not bats. Bobolinks continued to make their presence known all along the loop. (Bobolinks, Alligator – can’t visit SNWR w/o seeing one – , Purple Gallinule, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks)

Luck was with us for our last stop – Fish Haul Creek on Hilton Head Island. The tide was low, making it possible to walk along the marsh to the Port Royal Sound. This is a favorite spot for the birds, and people who don’t mind walking. On the way to the water we had good looks at a stunning Painted Bunting, the Crayola Crayon bird. As exotic as any tropical bird we’ve ever seen. It was at this point we realized we were within grasp of 100 species. Happy to have a spotting scope we put it to good use. We were able to get good looks at Whimbrels (love their long down-turned bill) and Piping Plovers and the usual array of shorebirds. Gary spotted a distant Brown Pelican, and then I spotted a flock of small birds bobbing on the waves. After some debate and closer examination, we identified them as Black Scoters – birds that would typically be farther north by now. But they were young and I guess the party scene at HHI kept them in town 😉

Species 101 was a trio of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. In full summer plumage with a dazzling red eye, these birds were stunning. A perfect way to end the day.P1090745

How did I get here!

Today is the first day of my fifth year of retirement. Somewhere around 1994 I set my retirement date for January 2013.  I only missed it by a couple of months. The plan was to sell our house in Gaithersburg, buy an RV, and hit the road.  Then life happened and we moved to Aiken, South Carolina.

Life happened again when, upon my retirement, the opportunity arose to do some part-time work for the International Atomic Energy Agency. For the first three-and-a-half years I traveled numerous times to Vienna, Austria, where I greatly enjoyed working with people from all around the world. Gary joined me most of the time and we explored Europe.

While I hope to work again for IAEA, I find myself now truly retired. The RV idea has passed, largely helped by the realization that we could spend lots of nights in hotels for the cost of an RV and its fuel. Although we sometimes look longingly at Airstreams…

So what’s next?  First up, a quick trip to the SC coast to support the Silver Bluff Audubon Center. It’s a Bird-A-Thon, raising money based on the number of species we identify. One hundred species isn’t impossible!