So I haven’t taken a vacation in a while. Like, in a long, long while. I was about to lose a ton of vacation through work because I didn’t take it earlier in the year. Well I am now finally on vacation for more than just a long weekend and it is amazing. In just two days I am feeling a whole lot better, and much much less stressed. As much as I dread the piles of crap that are waiting for me when I get back, I needed this so I’m glad I did it. Plus it gives me a chance to bond with my mom as we embark on the road trip which is fun too.
This trip was of course designed around the idea of going to a birding hotspot, with the goal of adding to my life list. So far we haven’t had a whole lot of luck adding species but I did get to see a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker a lot closer than I had previously which totally made my day. Quite a few white-tailed deer made an appearance a well which was a treat. The deer did not seem to mind humans and were very matter-of-fact as they grazed on the side of the road.
I was not able to get any good bird pictures today, but the scenery was spectacular so here are some of my favorite scenic shots from the day.
This morning was absolutely gorgeous – low 60’s with a light breeze to keep off the bugs. I couldn’t resist going out for some birding since the last week has been continuously rainy and unpleasant. There were a few other people around but not so many as to be a distraction or otherwise scare away my quarry. I got to add four more species to my life list which always seems to make a trip worthwhile. 🙂 New species included Yellow Warbler, Pine Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker and Chipping Sparrow. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the excursion:
I went on a recent off road birding excursion near a small pond where essentially you were tromping through scrub and grassland to get close enough for proper bird viewing. Me in my stupidity didn’t think to bring any sort of bug spray or insect repellant along for the trip. My birding compatriot and I spent the better part of the hour out there determined to find either the Eared Grebes that were reported to be hanging out there, the Horned Grebes that had eluded my companion the other day, or both. Plus any new waterfowl species we found that we could add to our lifelists which is always a good thing. We didn’t find the Horned Grebes but did get to see a magnificient pair of the Eared Grebes which are very uncommon for our area.
After what I considered a very successful birding outing I went home getting ready to try and force myself to actually do homework and not procrastinate like I always want to do. Instead I get a phone call from my birding companion with a neighborhood-friendly heads up that ‘by the way April/May is tick breeding season so you’d better check yourself to see if any of ’em got on you.’ And then they also regaled me with a story about how a family member found ticks in their underwear after being out in the field all day. omg.
O M G. I started phantom itching instantly which still flairs up every time I start thinking about ticks again *itch itch itch*. So naturally I freaked out and instantly had to check myself all over to make sure I didn’t have what I presumed to be an entire army of the biting parasites on my body. Luckily though, none were found. I of course am going to hose myself down with Deep Woods Off! or whatever it’s called next time I go out wandering off path.
Still, despite the tick itch-isode the outing was a lot of fun. We couldn’t get as close as I would have liked for the greatest pics without an epic zoom lens, but I still got a few shots that I enjoy.
I stumbled across this story about an injured swan who seemed to realize that the rescuer was not a threat and trying to help it, and the bird ended up snuggled around the rescuer’s neck, resulting in the picture below. I just thought it was really cool because the swan was able to understand that the rescuer was there to help it, not hurt it. Sometimes animals just know which is pretty amazing considering the rescuer has no way of telling the swan that ‘I’m here to help.’ I really love this picture – what an amazing moment to capture on camera!
This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, which for those of you who don’t know is a yearly event designed to take a real-time snapshot of current bird populations using observations submitted by birders all over the world. Myself and my birding buddy went out today to participate. Holy crap was it cold out today, and windy too. Once we got into a nice wooded area out of the wind we had a bunch of luck, and even saw some new species! Well, new species for my birds life-list anyways. I only really started birding and tracking my birding last May so I have a ways to go and a lot to learn. The whole process is fun though and I enjoy learning about the different bird species and their behaviors. My new species of the day was Pine Siskin; hers was Tufted Titmouse.
Today’s excursion produced a wonderful encounter with a thoroughly metropolitan Down Woodpecker. We were headed back after being out for almost two hours when we saw a Down Woodpecker not six feet from us. He didn’t seem to care at all that we were there. He also didn’t care at all when the cell phone rang. And he still didn’t care when we started laughing and talking about how nonchalant he was being. I was appreciative because, since he was so close to us, I managed to get a couple of nice clear pictures on my camera. You can tell that this Downy is a boy by the little red hat on the back of his head. ^_^