Monday, May 17, 2010

So sweet, you'll need a root canal

We interrupt my albeit lackadaisical New River posting to bring you the newest star in the Cute Universe.
Kathi caught the Puppy Fever recently, after saying goodbye to wonderful and special Grace.
Seven weeks ago, Kathi found and claimed a Boston Terrier puppy. And just met her yesterday.

The result is just a great big pile of Adorable wrapped in white and black fur named Panda.
Very few words in this post. I mean, really...the photos say enough.
Don't forget to brush your teeth after seeing them.

The need to lick faces, whether they are within reach or not, seems to be a genetic trait among Boston Terriers:

"I'm nowhere near your face, but...I...must...lick..."



So yeah, we're swimming in cute puppiness, but that doesn't mean Mama won't chastise you if you try to eat the carpet:
chewing carpet

"Must shake and kill this hippo...."

"I did it! Hippo no more!"

She has a perfect bottom. As Julie puts it, a tail like "a chocolate chip".

And she runs like a bunny:

Not to exclude Holly, Kathi's older and larger dog....She had a good romp with Isabelle around the pond:

Puppies wear out quickly...

Can you see her?


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zip it good!

Even while having the time of your life at the New River Birding and Nature Festival, it can happen. Bird-Burn-Out (or BBO).

Bird songs, birdjams, (Hi, Jay!) bird photos, birds birds birds. There is a point that I think many people reach at this festival, where they just have sensory overload and can't handle any more birds.

The promoters realize this, and one of the ways they have chosen to deal with BBO is to offer some unconventional trips that aren't really about the birds, like Birding by Boat, a gentle float trip down the New River (that's for another post).

Another way, and frankly a zippy way, to deal with it is the Canopy Tour, aka "the Zipline".
This was offered on two different days of the festival at two separate companies.
(Ours was Ace Adventure Resort)

I was digging the idea of flying through the trees yelling like a kamikaze, so I signed up.
Nina also signed up, but was on another trip. Here's our adorable Nina, getting suited up and ready to zip:

nina zip
(Photo by Geoff Heeter)

I was pleasantly surprised that only four women, including me, had signed up for this day of zipping. I was the youngest of the four...that rocks.
We did some low-impact birding before suiting up.
Jeff Gordon acted like a very sexy female turkey and called in not only a male turkey, but a red-shouldered hawk:

Yes. That's JEFF making that sexy turkey noise.

my zip troup
Devo makes a comeback.
(Photo by Geoff Heeter)

jeff me zip
Why we look like we don't want to touch each other, I don't know.
I'm usually all over Jeff like a bad suit.
(Photo by Geoff Heeter)

The very competent young woman who was our leader made me feel quite safe.
And she reminded the men, as they geared up in their harnesses, "Make sure all of the furniture is in the same room."

"Jeff and Geoff, is all of your furniture in the same room?"

I am usually happy to not be a man, but this day, I was especially thankful.
Even without "furniture", that harness really should have bought me dinner first.
My bra did end up around my neck.

It was so fun, zipping from platform to platform, and platform up to tree, across ravines...
Since this was a free-style zip, your momentum usually makes you spin around a few times.

Here's a quick video of one of my zips, when I don't quite take off hard enough to reach the platform, necessitating pulling myself hand over hand on the safety line, hence the silly cackling at the end of the video.

(This video achieved by turning the camera on right before I zip,
and balancing said camera on my right boob):

The women were great...and the one that I will remember for the rest of my life was Dot.
Dot is a 70-something grandmother who, as she did the last and most terrifying zip (where instead of running off a platform, you scooted off on your rear end and basically did a free fall) went flying through the air yelling "Whoop! WHOOP! WHOOP!".

She had a plan for the photos that were taking of her zips.
"I'm giving them to my grandbabies, so when their friends show off pictures of their grandmas in a rocking chair on the porch, my grandbabies can show a picture of their grandma ziplining."
That's just awesome.

Here's Dot, on her Blackberry, no less:
Dot the rockin grandma

And in conclusion, Jeff Gordon: KAMAKAZE:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Keeping up with the Peterson's

At a point right before the New River Birding and Nature Festival, I realized that of the seven other people staying at the Farmhouse, I had never met ANY of them in person.
This wasn't a totally new concept for me...jetting around the country meeting strangers is old hat.
A few of the people sleeping under the same roof, I hadn't even spoken to over email. And one of them was a MAN.

Murr: "Hey! Can my friend Linda come along?"
Me: "Sure! The more the merrier!"
Molly: "Hey! Can my friends Lee and Courtney come along?"
Me: "Sure! The more the merrier!"
Everyone seemed to be coming in on a different day, and even that changed daily.

As they drifted in, I did my best to be a good host (since I was the nut who implored them to attend this festival in the first place).
I had no preconceived notions of anyone, so it was nice to meet each new face.

Some of us liked each other so completely and so quickly, we began to use each others mannerisms:

(Photo by Mary Ferracci)

Lee and Courtney Peterson arrived, and I adored them immediately.

(I'm going to let you click on their links so you can appreciate the shock I had when I found out who they were. )

Famous surnames didn't matter around the kitchen table and we found other things to discuss.
We didn't make a big deal out of them, they were just another couple of birders who found themselves staying in a house on a hillside in West Virginia.

Though they were only able to stay for a few days of the festival, it was a pleasure to extend that famous Flock hospitality to such nice people. I think they had a fine time, and I'm sure they were happy to attend a festival just for the birds.

Lee and Courtney, we were thrilled to have you...and hope to see you again soon!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

We put the "ha" in Kanawha

"What trip are you going on today?"
"Kanhaw....Kanawawa...Kan...awww, dammit, the Falls trip."

I was never sure how to pronounce it (I heard someone call it "Kanaw" so I'm sticking with that) but Kanawha Falls is a trip to take if you decide to take the plunge and go to the New River Birding and Nature Festival.

If we rewind to last year's festival: The "Birding by Boat" trip was called off because of some sissy thunderstorm warning, so at the last minute the guides threw together a trip right off the cuff.
To Kanawha Falls. And I hear it was glorious.

I missed this trip last year because Laura kept me up until 1 am, jawing on the front porch, and then I was too wired to sleep until about 4, so when Nina gently said at 5 a.m., "Susan? Are you getting up?" I whispered, "I got an hour's sleep. And I'm hungover. And I can't move. Leave me behind."

And they ended up having a great time and I was jealous.

It went so well last year, the promoters added it as a real trip this time around.
Kanawha Falls is located at the town of Gauley Bridge and is a tributary of the Ohio River. And it really reminded me of the Ohio...wide and flat. Well, until you get to the waterfall.


It's a constant roar in the background that you can't ignore, no matter how hard you strain to hear the birds overhead.

This was my best day of the trip. Very close to being a "verklempt" sort of day.
Long-time readers of this blog might remember how enamored I was of the Dream Team from last year. Well, they are still just great, but Wil and Paul are my new favorites. Sorry, Paco. You've been replaced. My birding heart is a fickle thing.

It was fine that we got to experience the fiery orange of a Hoary Puccoon*:
Hoary Puccoon

*That is my new swear word. "Dat beotch ain't nuthin' but a hoary puccoon."

It was nice to finally get a decent, albeit backlit look at a warbling vireo.
digiscoped warbling vireo
Shot with my mad digi-scoping skills. Yeah.

And the hooded warbler was fun to watch, right out in the open.
Hooded warbler

We've decided that "Hooded" isn't a good enough name for this warbler. We are going to petition to change the name to "Balaclava Warbler". And of course they will listen to us.

The immature bald eagle was cool, even if it was a mile up.
Bald eagle from FAR away

The tiny town surrounding the falls was quiet except for a barooing hound dog.
The post office doesn't look like it gets much mail anymore.
Kanawha Falls PO

There was a bus. On a rock. In the river.
bus on a rock

I laughed out loud as Larry (more about him in another post) helped the bus driver fix the bus.
Larry and Gerald fix the bus

My breath was swept away by Cathedral Falls.
Cathedral Falls
I hear we are lucky that it had rained the day before, because the water isn't usually a big deal.

So all these things were nice. And I'm laying the credit at the feet of Wil Hershberger and Paul Shaw. (Paul doesn't have a blog, that I know of. I don't think he's even on Facebook. Dude is really UN-connected. And since he doesn't have a blog, that makes him yet another poor dope.)
Wil Paul Cathedral Falls

They worked really well together. Wil always with a smile when one of us (me) asked a stupid question. In fact, I came to Wil whenever I had a question about anything, just to watch him be oh-so-polite and charming.

And Paul worked hard to show us a good time.
A man and his scope

Can't see the bird? Well, Paul will get up behind you and make sure to get you on the bird.

Wil and Paul

And they were such good sports, even with Vickie and me on the trip. I was a bit of a pest, and some of my behavior started to rub off on Vickie. I'm so sorry, Vickie.

The two climaxes of the day:
1. Finally, a GOOD look at a Cerulean Warbler.
the top of a ceruleans head!
The darling little guy bounced right down the tree just as Wil said he would, as if Wil had him on a string. Not a life bird, but definitely a life LOOK.

Climax number 2:
On a hillside lush with rhododendrons, a SWAINSON'S Warbler sat out in the open. For five minutes.
Swainson's warbler
Usually an extremely difficult bird to see, this one was maybe dazed from migration, because it. Just. Sat. There.

Both Wil and Paul got big squeezy hugs for those two birds. Ossum.

And birding aside, I got to enjoy a little silliness with Paul.
The bus was loaded and waiting for us.
We looked at the swing set with longing, then looked at each other.

"Let's SWING!"
And so we did.
Swinging with Paul

Thanks, guys. A great day with a couple of great guides.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Did I contract mono at the NRBNF?

I've been home from the NRBNF for just about four days, and those days have been a fog.

The old bod is still set to West Virginia mountain time, i.e. Get up at 4:30 a.m., breakfast at 6, bus at 7, bird my ass off until mid-afternoon, drink, sleep and shower off the mud, drink, dinner, drink, presentation, drink, laugh and sleep.
Rinse and repeat 6 days in a row.

All birding festivals are tiring. It's not like the birds come to you....they make you work for that flash of butt they give you.
"Really! That's a Swainson's warbler! I know, it's a bird butt. But trust me!"

I will say that even though the big meanies at the NRBNF make you get up at zero:dark thirty, they make up for it with a good hot protein-packed (bacon!) breakfast and killer dinners.

Lunch is alfresco, cold cuts on a rock on the side of the road. And you don't care that you are sitting on a cold rock with cold meat. You'll eat it and you'll like it!

The ride home from each trip is much quieter than the trip out. So many birds, so many plants, so much fun. I was nearly the youngest participant at this particular festival and I frankly don't know how the older folks were able to hang on as long as they did.


I stayed awake long enough to capture the quickly slouching postures of those around me...

Awwww.....Vickie and Debbie. Don't they look like little angels?

It's a Flock Thing...

I really don't think I can explain this one. Just chalk it up to the Flock, booze and sleep deprivation.

Monday, May 03, 2010

New River: Bacon

It's not really Julie that everyone wants to meet and greet.
It's always about the dog.

Chet, along with Bill and Julie, is a staple of the New River Birding and Nature Festival. If you attend this week of fun, you will be greeted at some point by this bundle of love and springs.

When I know I will be seeing Chet, I make sure I have good and chewy treats to feed him so that he will be extra gassy, and he also gets a toy.
Since most dog toys don't last more than a few seconds with Chet, this time I just made him one from fleece scraps that I had left over from projects. I added orange "flagella" and voila. An amoeba.

He always goes right for the seam. Since I had sewn the stitches, I knew this amoeba wasn't long for this world.

"Ack. Polyester stuck in my teeth."

Chet can turn any Blogger into a silly and goofy kid...

Somehow, Chet flipped Sara onto her back....

...and even got Laura (yes, quiet and ladylike Laura) to run around like a goofball trying to play keep-away:

We all become ridiculous around this dog.


And I love him for that. Well, for lots of things.


And during all this fawning over the dog, poor Julie tries to get attention by wearing another dog toy.
Delish JZraccoon stole
Sorry, Zick.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

West Virginia, Take 2

Almost heaven

The dust is settling, the bags are being unpacked and the photos are uploading. It's the end of another unforgettable New River Birding and Nature Festival. For past blog posts on this festival, click HERE.

I'm not going to force poetic words tonight, because the week I just had deserves thought and processing to do it justice. But know that I came back a different woman. Again.

Come back tomorrow to read the first installment of "New River 2010".