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Hello October!

October 4, 2013

Oh Birders, even wondrous things must come to an end. September was Birthday Month, here at Birds and Words, and we did our best to celebrate at full capacity. It also helped that David Sibley chose the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) as my Birthday Bird (sure beats the Canada Goose from a few years back — he must have (telepathically) registered my sincere horror):

David Sibley's WILD TURKEY that graced my calendar throughout September and inspired some wild birthday celebrating of my own.

David Sibley’s WILD TURKEY that graced my calendar throughout September and inspired some wild birthday celebrating of my own. Image from the 2013 Sibley Bird Calendar. Not a sight to be missed.

The actual Birth Day included some early morning scribing at the Tommy Thompson Bird Research Station, where I held a (MALE!) Black-throated Blue Warbler in my little hands for the first time ever! I would post photographic evidence, but my hair was doing awful things that particular morning, and I’ll spare you the devastating sight. Suffice it to say that the Black-throated Blue looked a whole lot more charming and sophisticated than I did! I also saw my first Brown Creeper up close and marveled at the disproportionate length of the miniscule bird’s bill! I don’t feel so badly about never being able to spot that bird in the field — it’s miniscule! and quick! and camouflages perfectly with tree-bark. Good thing I held it in my hand, or I might never even believe they existed! It’s always been an elusive “huh? where? what are you talking about?” kind of bird for me.

After a morning of diligent scribing, I had brunch with my parents, went for a walk along the boardwalk in the Beaches, and finished off the perfect day by watching ENOUGH SAID, Nicole Holofcener’s masterpiece of a movie in spite of the fact that there are no birds involved. The movie made me realize how rarely viewers are treated to brilliant screenplays! The movie is hilarious, and also strikes a raw nerve — especially about how prone we often are to self-sabotage, whether it be out of fear, helplessness, denial. I especially loved that all of the characters were flawed (deeply!) and yet loveable anyhow. So very much like life.

And there was a nice party, a new novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, a new Marimekko bag, Richard Crossley’s guide to Raptors (like sparrows, I’m belatedly realizing that a hawk isn’t just a hawk!), a new teapot, and a trip to bird watching camp on Hog Island, Maine, with Scott Weidensaul (among other fabulous & knowledgeable birders). I’ll be writing about the whole experience shortly. But for those of you wondering about bird camp — it exceeded my expectations! (And don’t get me started on the food — I ate so much I felt vaguely ill every evening, and it was so completely worth it!) I fell in love with Northern Flickers all over again (and learned to distinguish them from hawks! oops!), stood face-to-face with a juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, watched a Virginia Rail shimmy past me near a swamp, saw my first Surf Scoter, which looked so much like a puffin I thought they were related, caught a glimpse of a Parasitic Jaeger (such a rarity that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology lacks an info page devoted to the bird!). AND THE WARBLERS! Just over 20 species in total.

I had been terrified of fall warblers, because my memory from last year was that they all seemed uniformly greenish-brown and impossible to distinguish. Well, it turns out reality isn’t quite so grim! Most of my favorites — Black and white, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s — are still completely recognizable, even in fall plumage! (The Vireos, on the other hand, remain a different story. Greyish-greyish-greenish-white. Thanks a lot, Vireos!)

Hog Island, Maine

Hog Island, Maine


Full moon rising over Muscongus Bay, Maine

Full moon rising over Muscongus Bay, Maine

Birds are notoriously hard to photograph. But I did catch this gem of a rooster in action on Monhegan Island, Maine.

Birds are notoriously hard to photograph. But I did catch this gem of a rooster in action on Monhegan Island, Maine.

And that’s it, folks! We’ve aged a year, here at Birds and Words, but the Birthday month was a success. Birdy, wordy, full of great food, and generally lovely. It even included some fabulous craft beer (Monhegan Island Brewery), hearing Janet Cardiff’s 40-part Motet at the Cloisters, an Edmund de Waal show at the Gagosian, a Le Corbusier exhibit at MOMA, a walk on the High Line, and getting to meet my cousin’s new baby.

And now, Hello October!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. olga permalink
    October 4, 2013 10:18 pm

    Your pics from Maine are awesome. And that surf scoter dude seems stunning. I wanna meet one…

  2. October 5, 2013 5:51 pm

    When you see your first Blue-headed Vireo, you will realize that they don’t all look the same, and that they are really awesome! I had at least three today, so you should have some around your neck of the woods now, too. They don’t move as fast as warbler, so you should be able to get a decent look at one. Good luck!

    • October 5, 2013 6:57 pm

      Thanks for the heads up, Gillian! I look forward to seeing a Blue-headed Vireo — there were a number of them in Maine, and I missed every single one. I do look forward to getting to know these Vireos!

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