Sunday, June 28, 2009

A walk in the woods...with a complete stranger

I take chances in my life...but I'm not stupid.
When I "Friended" this guy on Facebook, I knew that he had once volunteered at RAPTOR and he was a bird bander. That alone would have made him okay in my book, but in a conversation with my husband, I also found out that Geoff had interviewed this bander for a Cincinnati Post story about 10 years ago.
A sign at a church I passed yesterday gave me my new motto (okay, so it's always been my motto):

Well, I like it.

When Les Peyton asked me if I would like to come out during one of his M.A.P.S. banding sessions, I jumped on it.
I made the mistake of telling my Mother that I was going out into the woods with a strange man for a whole day.
BIG MISTAKE. I may never hear the end of it.

Today dawned very early...why is the prettiest part of the day the time when I least want to be conscious?
I knew the day would be good when I encountered a fox (Yard Mammal!) as I backed out of the driveway:

foxy lady!
I accidently came between her and her breakfast of yard bunny, so I apologized and headed out.

Here's Camp Les, in the middle of Miami-Whitewater Forest:
Camp Les

Les has been working this site for 11 years...with 10 nets spread out over 20 acres.
That didn't sound like a big deal...

The tools of the trade...Peter Pyle's Identification Guide to North American Birds, ruler and banding pliers:
Tools of the trade
I whispered to him, "Raptor banding pliers are bigger..."

We headed out to check the nets, and the walk was okay, even pleasant...until Les told me the last leg would be "challenging".

Hurrumph. What am I? A SISSY??
Les crossing the Tree of Despair
That thought stopped in its tracks when I saw the large tree we had to walk over...oh, and did I mention the deep ravine that is under the tree? Or that the tree had no branches to hold onto in the middle of it?

Crap.....deep breath. You can do this.
Halfway across, Les took my camera and got a shot of me doing the tightrope thing:
Me crossing the Tree of Despair
I did okay until Les made me laugh and I almost went over.
Me: "Stop making me laugh! I am GONNA FALL!!!!!"
Les: (hee hee hee)...."Sorry!!!"

So here's the maybe-lunatic that I spent the day with:
Les net

He's very fierce.
(And he actually has a blog...The Lamest Birder...but there is NOTHING on it. If we work at him, he might get it started...So now you are going to get blog traffic, Les. Time to start writing!)

woth in net

He went out a few more times to check nets, but after sweating every drop of water out of me and crossing the Tree of Despair, I bailed on the net checks.
There was plenty for me to photograph and enjoy while I waited for Les to return with bags full of birds:
mayapple apple
Mayapple, with huge fruits just waiting for a box turtle to come along...

jack in the pulpit fruits
Jack-In-The-Pulpit fruits...

Jewelweed...I have seen this plant on plenty of nature walks, but I never knew what it was.

(Les is also pretty darn knowledgeable about botany, so he was very helpful in identifying all the greenery. He showed me how jewelweed seeds will actually explode from their pods when you touch them, so I collected some to scatter in the yard. Good food plant {NATIVE!} for hummingbirds)

The birds caught were common species, but fun to see up close. Cardinals, lots of robins, chickadees, titmice, wood thrushes:
Is that gorgeous or what? "Oh-la-leeee...oh-la-laaaay..."

This was the "highlight" bird of the day:
acadian flycatcher
An Acadian Flycatcher! If it was countable, that would have been a lifer for me. Oh well.

A beautiful little bird...
acadian whiskers
Look at those cute little rictal bristles around the bill!

And they aren't just cute...they think they are ten feet tall:
Fear  me!
"Fear me! For I am the Big, Bad, Frightening Acadian FLYCATCHER! Roarrrr....???"

So I may never hear the end of it from my Mother, but a trip to the woods with some strange man...was worth it.
Thanks, Les! Take me out there again!
But could you build a rope ladder for that ravine?


Anonymous said...

You are braver than I. That log would have been the end of the road for me. No way. Nuh-unh. No go.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Can you imagine ME trying to cross that log? I break out in a sweat just thinking about it...
Sounds like a fun day though.

jemkagily said...

What a day! Can't believe you didn't know about jewelweed, it's a great way to get kids involved/interested in nature ( not that YOUR girls need any help in that department). A flower toy! A botanical firecracker! And if you catch one of the seeds and carefully scrape off the green covering with your fingernail, underneath it is the most delicate turquoise....

KatDoc said...

I would have loved that day, except the log crossing the ravine. Did you notice it was covered with slippery moss? And you, with the bridge phobia ...

Nice pics of the Acadian. Did you know jewelweed is a natural treatment for poison ivy?


Beth in NYC said...

The hummers love jewelweed. We've got a stand of it in Central Park and, somehow, the hummers invariably find it every year. They're amazing...

NatureWoman said...

What a great day, Susan! Why in heck did you tell your Mother? I love your motto!!

KGMom said...

I'm with Kathi--first thing I noticed was the MOSS. Slippery. Yikes.

Love the fierce bird.

And I am glad to have an explanationn for the series of mysterious updates on FB.

MObugs said...

I love it!! I see myself in the woods, facing that BIG log over the ravine, and me eloquently doing the BUTT CRAWL to reach the other side!Looks like you had a great adventure, and some of my closest friends started out as strangers. Remember: "Strangers are just friends we haven't met yet"

Susan Gets Native said...

You know everyone? I was fully expecting SOMEONE to yell at me for traipsing off to the woods with some random guy. Thanks for seeing the broader picture!

*I seriously thought I might have to do the Butt Crawl...but I maintained my dignity and walked across with at least a small amount of grace.*

Mary said...

Definitely the Butt Crawl for me. No doubt.

I'm proud of you in several ways.

Lester Peyton said...

You wouldn't want to butt crawl that log, unless you don't mind raccoon poop. I prefer to step over it : ) I had a great time that day too. Susan was a 'trip' she is the first one to ever say "this isn't hiking, it is more like mountaineering". I cracked up! I was laughing out loud the whole day while doing net checks ALONE. If anyone would have been out there to here me they would have thought I was a little crazy. Thanks for a fun day Susan, and yes I will try to blog on a regular promises though : )

Susan Gets Native said...

Easy for you to laugh at crossed that tree like a freakin' GAZELLE.
Show off. Go roll in some jewelweed.

DJB's Photo Adventures said...

I spent my early younger years in Oregon. Land of large logs over ravines. My dad would take us hiking and we would have to cross those logs by ourselves. Dad was there to help but his confidence in us helped to get over the drag the butt over to walking over!
I love bird banding!

dAwN said...

Awesome post..Love that u were brave and went alone with a strange man into the woods..LOL

Kathiesbirds said...

What fun! I would definatley need that rope ladder! Why can't you count the flycatcher? Is there some rule about not counting banded birds I don't know of? I know you can't count dead ones or birds in zoos, but why not in a net? It was in the wild and he let it go again.