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 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.
(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.)
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.
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.
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.
Sacrificing my only pair of clean jeans to the River Gods.
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:
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.
(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.