Birding with Enthusiasm

Tuesday night, I set up the coffee maker and set the timer so it would start brewing at 5:15AM.  I put out the clothes I would wear for rowing.  Everything I needed was ready to go so that when the alarm went off at 5:30AM and I was stumbling around disoriented and wondering why in god’s name I continue to get up at 5:30AM, I wouldn’t have to think.

Wednesday morning, hot coffee in hand, I looked at my schedule for the day and there, low and behold, was a bird walk on my calendar for 7:00AM.  As in a bird walk I was leading!

Startled by my oversight in planning, I shifted gears, pulling together my bird walk backpack and gathering binoculars and my camera.  I pulled up the flashlight app on my iPhone and went searching in the darkness for a different outfit.

I admit I was feeling slightly resentful about giving up my rowing time as I imagined sitting alone in the park waiting for others who never show up.

At 6:50AM, it wasn’t even the crack of dawn yet.  I sat in darkness until I was surprised by a silhouette that turned out to be the Audubon property manager.  Next, a father with 4 enthusiastic children arrived.  Then, a regular from the condos arrived.  I stopped feeling bad about missing rowing.

I started my lesson about birding during fall migration.  I talked slowly and told more stories, hoping the sun would rise.  Every time a shadow went by, one of the children would turn, point, and shout, “What was that bird?”  I need to find out what kind of coffee they drink in the morning!

The amazing thing was how much the kids knew about birds.  They knew which birds were locals and which birds would not be found in Tennessee (even during migration).  The girl immediately recognized a Brown Thrasher she had barely seen for a split second.  Her older brother told me all about the birds he sees at his feeder at home.  Their father told me the interest in birds was the kids passion.  I thought that was pretty cool–also an advantage of home schooling.

I didn’t do so well on photography that morning.  First there wasn’t enough light.  Then I was just a bit flustered by all the questions and exclamations (LOOK!!!  THERE’S A CARDINAL!!!  LOOK!!! THERE’S A TURTLE!!!  LOOK THERE’S A BLUE HERON!!!  LOOK!!! THERE’S A SQUIRREL!!!).

As much fun as it is to be surrounded by little people who think everything is fascinating, it does make it a little more challenging to take a moment to shoot.  I’ve filled in the photos a bit with some leftovers from the previous walk and one shot of Cody, an unreleasable Red-tailed Hawk who has appeared in this blog several times as part of the S.O.A.R. raptor program.  I saw Cody again over the weekend, but that’s another blog post.

Down Came the Rain

There’s been an interesting development in the weather of late.  We went from ridiculous heat and drought to rain, rain, rain.

When at last the rain came, I went from relief to disappointment to worry.  The first day, when the rain drops started, I felt myself exhale.  Finally, rain!  But, it lasted only a half an hour or so and rained so hard it seemed like of it bounced off the dry earth and rolled away in the gutters.  The steam rising off the asphalt left us in a steam bath and the temperature barely dropped.

The next day, it rained more.  The temperature dropped dramatically and the sky took on an ominous tone.  The 10-day forecast was predicting rain for all of the next 10 days.  The relief in the temperature was welcome, but when the skies unleashed a torrent of rain that caused our roof to leak and the streets to flood, I started to worry. Coincidentally, I had volunteered to lead a bird walk for beginning birders before work Wednesday morning.  I scheduled it “rain or shine”.

This meant taking Tisen for a walk before the bird walk.  I tried to get him out of bed at 6AM.  He heard the rain on the roof and just rolled his eyes at me and stuck his nose under his blanket.  Tisen is not fond of rain.  Fortunately, his dad was home and volunteered to take Tisen out later while I was on my walk.

It did rain during the walk.  In fact, it started raining about the time we started walking and then kept raining harder and harder.  No one seemed to mind except the birds–they were suspiciously absent.  Although, we did see a couple of Osprey soaring over the river.

It rained like it was never going to stop from then on out.

The following afternoon, I managed to take a break for lunch.  I looked out the window and saw it was only sprinkling, so I thought I’d better take Tisen out right away.  He grabbed Blue Dog and off we went.  By the time we got downstairs, it was pouring.  I figured we might as well go for our walk in the rain, but Tisen had to be convinced.  He took two steps out from under the overhang and turned back around and started running for the door.  I managed to get him headed back out with much coaxing.

When at last we returned home, all three of us were soaked.  As soon as I let Tisen off his leash, he went running into the house with Blue Dog in his mouth.  He carefully laid Blue Dog on a towel left on the floor from drying Tisen earlier.  I had to laugh.  Since Tisen gave the big towel to Blue Dog, I had to use the only dry dog towel left in the house, which was an old hand towel.  Poor Tisen was still wet hours later.