Sunday, October 04, 2009

Ohio Young Birder's Club Weekend

2:00 am, Sunday

I'm in my tent, shivering so hard my teeth are clanging together.
Woefully ill-prepared for sleeping outside during temperatures down in the low 40's. It sounds like something is killing a Canada Goose near the banks of the lake.
Knowing that I won't be falling asleep anytime soon, I turn my thoughts to the day before.

A weekend with the Ohio Young Birder's Club, Cincinnati chapter at Hueston Woods.

The kids got up close looks at some birds banded by Dave Russell:
OYBC banding

Magnolia warber OYBC banding

While the young birders learn some interesting information about the birds, I learn something too... to tell a Swainson's thrush from a Gray-cheeked thrush:
Swainsons and gray-cheeked
A mnemonic I came up with: Swainson's have Spectacles and a Squash-wash on their cheek.

3:00 am
Eyes full of tears from the cold, I stumble out of the tent to pee.
Socks get full of mud. I don't have any clean dry ones to replace them with. Sliding back between the once-again ice cold blankets, I try not to think about my toes.

Remembering the warmth I felt all around me while sitting at the camp fire....

I listen to a great horned owl off in the distance...

The young birders got a special tour of the raptor center at the park:
We got to watch feeding time with the golden eagle...
Hueston's golden eagle lunchtime

...and the bald eagle.
Hueston's bald eagle

Their great horned owl was unbelievably vocal, hooting at anyone walking by.
(He also likes to attack people through the wire of his mew.)
Hueston's GHOW

Almost as cool as the eagles, their resident turkey vulture was allowed to wander among us, sort of like a pet dog.

5 am.
Thankful that my night of icy torture is almost over. Coyotes are yipping and howling nearby.
One of the Cub Scouts in the next camp is having night terrors and screaming his head off.

I wondered if any of the kids who attended would become an ornithologist....
Dave and young birders
...or discover a new species of bird.
Young birder scope

Some volunteers from the Cincinnati Museum Center's Museum of Natural History came with some bird bodies to demonstrate how they prepare bird skins for the museum's treasure trove of specimens.
Bird skinning demo OYBC
Information is collected from each bird body as it is being prepared. Weight, length, skull thickness, age, etc.
The only way to sex a bird that is not sexually dimorphic is to check the inside of the bird for the sex organs.
Here, Donald looks for testes:
Donald checks for testes

Later, I lead a group through the wooded campground for an Owl Walk. And easily called in a gray morph screech owl for everyone to see. Very proud of myself for being able to bring in an owl on my first time leading a search for owls.

5:45 am.
I guess it's safe to get up now. I put on my shoes, cringing at the frigid wet shoes pushed against my feet. I get in my car, fantastically grateful for the heat. As I drive to the restrooms, I think that although this night has been Hell for me, I am so glad I came.
I change my clothes and turn on the water to wash my face and brush my teeth.


Dave said...

Sounds like you had a great time!

Beth said...

Aww, Susan! It sounds so terrible. But think of the young minds you have touched.


nina said...

I think it sounds wonderful, to hear those night sounds and be out in the midst of it all--but you need to get some gear that will make that chilly fall or spring night bearable.
A closed-cell foam sleeping mat will keep the cold from coming up through the ground, and be sure your bag is rated for lower temps temps.
I struggle with summer camping--can't stand the heat that hangs in the ceiling of the tent, mosquitoes, black flies,...
spring and fall are the best!

NCmountainwoman said...

Definitely five stars for you! It's the cold feet that do me in.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I'm sorry you were so cold. I am admittedly a camper camper (not a tent camper) I can't handle sleeping on the ground. Better gear would have helped you out. It's tough to get warm once your feet go cold.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I'll send you some hand warmers for the next camp-out.

NatureWoman said...

I *hate* being cold when I sleep outside. If I were to sleep out I'd get a -40 degree F sleeping bag and an air mattress. And hope I don't get claustrophobic.
Your day with the children sounds wonderful!!

Kimberly Kaufman said...

Susan, I'm sorry the conditions were so rough last weekend! But, thank you so much for taking part and helping make the weekend a success! I was so bummed that I couldn't go (although your post makes me feel a little bit better about missing the camping part!) : )

Some of the most rewarding and amazing outdoor experiences I've ever had have been on OYBC field trips. The energy and enthusiasm of a kid in nature is a powerful thing!

Thanks for all that you do to teach people about just how fabulous birds really are! Programs like yours help to--not only inspire wonder--but to INSTILL a deeper sense of caring. That's the BEST way to build support for bird conservation.


Susan Gets Native said...

Thanks to the people who had sympathy for my plight. And the rest of ya can take a leap.
Thanks. I was just not prepared. I did have an air mattress, but we don't camp ever and I didn't have all the gizmos and gadgets everyone else had.
It was a blast, hanging with the kids this weekend. The Cincinnati chapter will be seeing a lot of me from now on!

dguzman said...

You're my hero, man. I would've slept in the car. Well, hell, I HAVE slept in the car.

Susan Gets Native said...

I thought about sleeping in the car, but there were campers right next to where my car was parked and I didn't want to wake them up.
I took one for the team. :)

Mary said...

OMG I was not expecting the last line... Fantastic post that made me shiver and frown as I hate being cold.

I'd love to see the GHO attack through his mew. What a sight that must be.


kanishk said...

Susan! It sounds so terrible. But think of the young minds you have touched. Work From Home