Thursday, May 12, 2016

Both ends of the candle

my first peonies :: eastern towhee in song :: blue ridge parkway :: last year's nest :: mayapple
Baltimore oriole from below :: eastern phoebe in a run-down shack :: cliff swallows

This is Julian's bridge week where classes are over but he still needs to stick around. Graduation is on Saturday and he will be turned out in full regalia, but until then this week is feeling much more like "break" and nothing like the "new normal" that June and July with both of us home will become.

Julian and I are both creatures of excess - in eating, in sleeping, in being awake, in going and going and going until we drop. We just happened to end up planning two birding field trips and one vacation during the month of May. Crazed birders sometimes do this thing they call "A Big Year" for which they plan and save for many years and then spend the entire designated year devoted completely to some insane bird goal - number of species seen, high counts on all continents, etc. In jest, we said we would have "A Big Month" and it has gathered momentum and taken on a life of its own.

Our birding goal for the year of 2015 was one we felt was ambitious: 150 species seen. For Julian who was wrapping up his PhD, me selling a house, buying a house, both of us leaving jobs, Julian starting a new job, it was a bit intense to reach that benchmark.  Now, we can potentially blast through last year's goal in a single month.

We've been on the shore of the lake all week, with friends and with birds. The house chores are undone, the rain has been growing the weeds at breakneck speed. We've been hitting the sack at 1:30am and waking at 6:30am, listening to bird song recordings, pacing the yard with binoculars, and have tallied 98 species this month with trips to Highland Co. and Chincoteague still remaining.

My new (and also birdy) friend Joann asked me this week how I got into birding. I told her that I had always enjoyed the birds but really took notice after Julian bought me my first Peterson Guide for my 24th birthday. The following year, we were married and living in Blacksburg and spotted a "rare" bird on the duckpond that we had seen in flocks and flocks when we honeymooned in Maine. Seeing this bird - what we know now was a double crested cormorant - made me want to attend the local bird club meeting to talk to other people who shared this interest. We went that month and the program just happened to be on pelagic birds, or rather, on being seasick on a boat and attempting to ID birds that are mere shadows on the horizon using the angles of their observable wing beats. Um. No. We we didn't even stay for cookies afterward. Those folks were crazy. They weren't our type. We were never going to be that kind of person who schedules a vacation of misery just to say they could check a bird off a list.

Never say never.


  1. I love your bird loving interests and reading about them. My husband is officially in the summer session (chair of dept and teaching a course) but that one week off was wonderful! we went and saw our daughter :)

  2. I am not a bird person but I have so much fun reading about your bird adventures, it's funny!