Sunday, May 03, 2009

Bird faster....I hear banjo music!

We are back!
When I got back, the kids nearly knocked me over, Geoff looked really tired, the dogs turned themselves inside out and the cats barely looked up.

The next few...oh, years or so...The Flock's blogs will be chock-a-bock full of fun times from our trip to New River Bird and Nature Festival.

I told everyone as they walked out the door (I was last to leave...all alone in the house, pouting like a 5-year old) to have a safe trip home and to BLOG as SOON as they WALKED in their DOORS.
I hope all of our readers can keep up. It's gonna be dirty.

I don't even know where to begin.
The New River Bird and Nature Festival is 6 days of heavy birding. Breakfast is at 6 am, in the vans by 7. You go to your designated area (a different place every day) and bird your butt off.
Trips are over by 2-4 pm, (with lunch in the middle). You then have a few hours to shower, sleep, bird some more....then it's dinner at 6 pm with a presentation afterward.
Just to give you an idea as to the physical damage I am suffering....the last trip on Saturday gave me bruises on the bottom of my feet.
How that happened, I don't know. But it hurts.
But it's also a physical reminder of the absolute freakin' BLAST I had.

I've been to a few birding festivals in my day and I have to say that I haven't seen a better one than this. You are fed way too well, the bird action is hot hot hot, and the guides, drivers and staff are the best.
Maybe we will start in the middle? Maybe with a few of the wonderful people who made this festival so special?

Connie Toops
Connie is Super Woman. I'm convinced of it.
Retired from a 28-year run with the National Park Service, Connie is a veritable cornucopia of nature lore and has the ears of a bat. (Not literally of course, but I think you know what I mean)
It wasn't all about birds with Connie. Though she bagged plenty of life birds for our group, she was also more than happy to traipse down a slippery, muddy hillside to show us a beautiful trillium or Christmas Fern or weird little fruiting body of a really interesting fungus.

Connie on the hillside
(I wish I had taken more pictures of Connie.)

Add Keith Richardson to the mix, and you have the Dream Team.
(I can't link to Keith's blog, because he doesn't have one. What a sad, sad dope.)

Connie and Keith
Keith and Connie
My favorite guides at the festival. (I got to go out with them twice!)

Here's how awesome they were....when our spirits were lagging and our raincoats full, they would get out of the van themselves and listen for target birds.
Shhh...we are wistening for burdies
Aren't they CUTE???
(Note: if you cup your ears with your hands and open your mouth, you can hear way better. It's true!)

Keith was instrumental in getting all of us on a lot of birds.
Here, Lynne is all squishy because Keith just got her a lifer. Lynne will have to tell us which one...I could hardly keep track of my own.
Lynne and Keith
Keith was always ready with a grin, played along with the Flock's massive amount of hilarity and came up with a few zingers on his own.
(More on how we infected the Festival with a heavy bolus of new-way-to-perceive-birders on another post)

And was Johnny-On-The-Spot when I wanted to go do something dangerous and fun:
While at Babcock State Park, I was looking out on the roaring waterfall below the grist mill. I wanted desperately to climb out onto the wet boulders to stand over the rush of the river. Keith became aware of my pining and coaxed me into going out there.
He offered to take pictures and told me the official "Red-neck Last Words"...
"Y'all hold my beer while I go try this!"

After a day of rain, the boulders were wet. I was wearing stOOOOpid sneakers, but I threw caution to the wind and ventured out. Some of the wet boulders were ventured on my BUTT.
Going over the wet rock
Sacrificing my only pair of clean jeans to the River Gods.

At the edge
Finally, out on the edge. And it was worth risking a fall into a rushing waterfall and wet pants. The water was a wall of sound, and the fall of it was a physical manifestation of power.
My heart was a galloping horse.

Please ignore my obvious dishevelment (Hey! It rained all DAY!) and focus on my happiness:
Happy to be at the edge

I had lots of moments like this one during the week, which are for another post if I can summon the words.

And speaking of happiness....
Bobolinks have a friend in a local business owner. He waits to mow his hay field so that bobolinks (ground-nesting birds) can raise their family without the worry of being chopped up by a tractor. We were treated to a field of precious bobolinks singing their R2-D2 vocalizations (they DO sound like R2-D2! Really!)

As we left the field, we paused and posed for a group photo.
Look at the happiness.
Group at the Bobolink Field
(photo by Keith Richardson)
One of my favorite photos of the week. See those smiles? Our shoes were soaked and the wind was cold. And we are happy. I'm still soaking in all that joy.


Anonymous said...

Ooooh, it is finally good to get to hear a story of the trip. Us unadventurous lurkers have missed all of your blogs this week.

Yes, you do look SO HAPPY. Let's hear some more about lifers, bloggers, and some of the shenanogans.

Wayne, PA

Lynne said...

Grinning from ear to ear, sighing, wiping my eyes.

Mary said...

What a sad, sad dope.


Paco said...

Alright, I'm not sure I like the sad dope thing at all

Susan Gets Native said...

So many stories to tell. Some of which are not suitable for a public blog!
Tee hee.

Me too, sweetheart. Me too.

Yes, he is a sad, sad dope.

Paco (aka Sad Sad Dope):
Blogs are where it's at, baby. We can't help it that you are a Sad Sad Dope with No blog.
; )

LauraHinNJ said...

You're gushing just a bit too much, I think.


Laura (who's oddly missing her makeshift bed in the middle of it all)

KatDoc said...

Loving this post, and the title made me giggle. The excitement and energy just bubbles over and makes me feel like I never left. (Although I was glad for some actual sleep last night.)

I am so, SO glad I wasn't at Babcock with you - I would have peed my pants to watch you out on that slippery rock. WE didn't get beer on our trip, tho. ("Ya'll hold my beer while I try this" is the best line of the week!)

To Paco, aka Keith, aka Sad Sad Dope: Get a blog, dude! Then, you can post photos of Fayette County every week and we can "virtual bird" from home.

~Kathi, who will be talking about this trip for a long, long time

NatureWoman said...

It's the ones not suitable for the public blog I wanna hear about! Of course, I want to hear all of your stories!

Heather said...

Susan, I LOVE the happiness on your face in that photo! I'm excited just looking at the picture. I can't wait to hear more about your New River birding adventures! (Isn't that grist mill at Babcock the greatest?)

littleorangeguy said...

You don't look disheveled. You look full of joy and amazement.

dguzman said...

Okay, so maybe you blogged immediately, but I want more! More!

The Swami said...

It looks like a good time was had by all.
Is that last picture the movie poster for "Maniacs in the Mist?"

NCmountainwoman said...

Welcome home! You look so happy on that boulder, surrounded by the rushing water. Must have been a great experience. "Y'all hold my beer while I try this" is a common expression around here.

I'm sure the girls are loving the stories about your week...well that is, the ones you can tell them.

RuthieJ said...

Finally, someone posted something from this festival! I've been waiting for ages.....
I'm glad you all had such a great time and have those big smiles in spite of the rainy weather. Keep the stories and pics coming.
Did you get to smooch that adorable Chet Baker??

Susan Gets Native said...

Just enough, I think.
You had the bed in the middle of everything, but I had to crawl up to the ceiling to sleep! And climb back down at 5 am!
: )

I know, right? I'm still high from it all.

If I can get them into G-rate format, I will try to tell more stories!

I want to move to WV. And live in the grist mill.

My heart nearly exploded out of my chest. It was so thrilling!

Okay, okay!!!!

Yes, that's it. Maniacs, to be sure.

I'm just glad I didn't really have a beer...I would have fallen in!

Yep. Still wiping the Chet drool off my face.
: ) We missed you!

disa said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.