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Two Birthday Limericks for Amy April 10, 2018

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An English professor–slash-writer
laughs loudly at things that delight her.
Her mirth is contagious—
guffaws so outrageous
we deliberately strive to incite her.

A woman wed ’midst the saguaros
bet wisely on happy tomorrows.
At fifty, still gorgeous,
Amy’s  heart  is enormous
and Ken never glances at bar hos.

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7BY1: Quarterly Report April 1, 2018

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Of course, as soon as the calendar turns to January 1 and my annual list turns to zero, species begin to elude me. That kestrel that is always on Route 30 on the wire goes into hiding. Snow buntings play at the corners of my vision while I am driving and can’t stop and get my 99% certainty to 100. I hear a raven but forget to write it down, then decide to wait til I hear one again, and they remain quiet.

Still, I’m doing all right (for me, not for a serious birder), because I’m two species ahead of my best first quarter (all those trips to Maryland and one to Maine). Here they are:

Dark-eyed junco, hairy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker, American goldfinch, red-bellied woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, house finch, Carolina wren, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, American crow, European starling, rock pigeon, mourning dove, northern cardinal, purple finch, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, Canada goose, turkey vulture, herring gull, wild turkey, pileated woodpecker, eastern bluebird, snowy owl, mallard, American robin, northern harrier, short-eared owl, red-breasted merganser, common loon, surf scoter, house sparrow, common eider, northern mockingbird, common goldeneye, bufflehead, great black-backed gull, merlin, song sparrow, red-winged blackbird, cedar waxwing, fish crow, bald eagle, common grackle, greater scaup, lesser scaup, common merganser, American wigeon, ring-billed gull, hooded merganser, snow goose, American kestrel, brown creeper, black vulture, great blue heron, northern shoveler.

I got the northern shoveler in Central Park.

Year-to-date count: 58. (2012: 40. 2013: 53. 2014: 40. 2015: 43. 2016: 56. 2017: 50.)

24: An Explanation March 28, 2018

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Today is the eighty-seventh day of the year, and I have spent twenty-four nights away from home.

I know that it is the eighty-seventh day of the year because (along with several of you) I’ve been doing another 365 project, writing allegedly daily this year. But because of all those nights away (and really, because of all the days), I have only written eighty-two things, and it’s a miracle that I’m not more behind than that.

I know that I have spent twenty-four nights away from home because I have spent twelve of those nights in my old hometown dealing with ailing/aging parents. I have spent five of those nights en route to and from that hometown. I have spent five nights in Portland with Tim on business. And I just spent two nights with a friend to go see a concert in the city—an actual treat to myself after all the working trips.

I am so far behind.

But there, for those of you not reading me elsewhere, is an explanation.

Stay tuned for the quarterly bird list.

153 in the Checkout Line February 25, 2018

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yesterday. I’m sure the woman whose groceries were just below the magazine rack was a bit concerned about what I might be up to.

A Birthday Limerick for Yesterday’s Fiftieth February 8, 2018

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Lamont, master of the deflection,
is at once mischief and pure convention.
His vast generosity
and jaunty jocosity
are proof that he’s paying attention.

153s: Screen Shots January 23, 2018

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153 views.

 

153 e-mails.

155/2018 January 8, 2018

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For the first time ever, I’m ahead of the average needed per day to get rid of the same number of things in a year as the year itself. I mention it because (a) it happened and (b) Mali mentioned that she’s taking up this challenge too.

I have this large three-ring binder filled with printed-out and handed-to-me recipes (including Mali’s fried rice!). It was overflowing. Tim and I successfully culled 144 of them this weekend. And that binder is still plenty full. Mali’s fried rice remains.

It doesn’t give me any extra physical room in the house, but it’s a step.

Don’t worry. I’ll be behind again in no time.

Deep Cold January 2, 2018

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At night, it’s been double digits below zero (F). Now, at 8 a.m., it still is.

My sweet neighbor’s pipes have frozen. Or the well pump has a problem. Or the holding tank. Or something. No water. No water is the worst, and I ache for her. And I hear other neighbors are also dealing with frozen pipes. And I’m shocked that so far, so good here. We’ve had to deal with it before (once from afar, away in Arizona). It’s awful. The longer this cold goes on, the more likely it is to happen.

Since Friday, after a quick round-trip to New York to visit a 95-year-old from Toronto, I have gone outside maybe twice: once to the post office, once to bring in the trash cans and to shovel.

Last night we had invited a friend over for New Year’s pork/sauerkraut/mashed potatoes. His car battery, about to die, had given up the ghost in the cold. He was already in possession of the new battery but was waiting for it to be warm enough to change it out. He tried charging the old one all afternoon, to no avail, so told us he couldn’t come. Tim went to get him, then drove him home after.

There were ice crystals on the mixer that we keep in the mudroom. My toes were numb just moving things in and out of there.

The kitchen is about 52 degrees F. I am staying upstairs in my office, where I will work. I will venture downstairs occasionally to run water through the pipes.

6BY5: Quarterly Report and Summation January 1, 2018

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I know that since October 18, you’ve been obsessing about what the last three species were that I listed on my Monhegan trip, the ones I didn’t see until October 1 and therefore had to wait til the fourth quarter to report. Well, wait no longer: yellow-crowned night heron, orange-crowned warbler, and white-winged scoter.

The yellow-crowned night heron was its own adventure, as several of us went off to a pond where it had been sighted by many others. We saw a bird very far away, so far away that not even looks through scopes were definitive. Luckily, one photographer took a shot with his 600mm lens, and when we blew that image up, we were able to make a positive ID. (I just looked up 600mm lenses online. I knew they cost thousands, but I didn’t realize how many.)

But wait! I listed three more species after Monhegan. Yes, only three: ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, and snowy owl.

Tim and I went looking for the reported snowy on Christmas Eve, about an hour’s drive north of us. It was risky, looking for an individual bird. It could be a bit of driving for not a lot of payoff. Luckily, we saw a bald eagle and horned larks and snow buntings and a rough-legged hawk, so if we hadn’t seen the snowy, we still would have been happy to see these birds. But after a first stop, we got back in the car, drove a little farther, and over the next hill found the snowy! Not only did we get a great look, but it meant that I had gotten a snowy for the fourth consecutive list year, and that makes me happy.

So, fourth-quarter additions: yellow-crowned night heron, orange-crowned warbler, white-winged scoter, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, snowy owl.

And full 2017 list: downy woodpecker, common raven, black-capped chickadee, American goldfinch, white-breasted nuthatch, American crow, mallard, tufted titmouse, American tree sparrow, dark-eyed junco, European starling, house sparrow, mourning dove, blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, rock dove, red-tailed hawk, eastern bluebird, purple finch, wild turkey, bald eagle, northern cardinal, Canada goose, barred owl, rough-legged hawk, snow bunting, American robin, bufflehead, horned grebe, common merganser, herring gull, northern harrier, horned lark, brown creeper, pileated woodpecker, American kestrel, red-winged blackbird, killdeer, wood duck, turkey vulture, common grackle, eastern meadowlark, northern mockingbird, mute swan, song sparrow, northern pintail, green-winged teal, American black duck, great blue heron, eastern phoebe, American woodcock, Wilson’s snipe, Carolina wren, belted kingfisher, brown-headed cowbird, osprey, yellow-rumped warbler, pine warbler, tree swallow, chipping sparrow, northern flicker, great egret, Cooper’s hawk, black vulture, yellow warbler, northern rough-winged swallow, eastern towhee, blue-gray gnatcatcher, snowy egret, fish crow, surf scoter, long-tailed duck, common eider, common loon, great black-backed gull, double-crested cormorant, house finch, broad-winged hawk, rose-breasted grosbeak, chimney swift, warbling vireo, barn swallow, brown thrasher, gray catbird, black-and-white warbler, indigo bunting (May 6!), yellow-bellied sapsucker, house wren, common yellowthroat, Baltimore oriole, bobolink, white-crowned sparrow, chestnut-sided warbler, American redstart, blue-winged warbler, ovenbird, northern parula, veery, ruby-throated hummingbird, eastern wood-pewee, American bittern, eastern kingbird, ring-billed gull, spotted sandpiper, red-eyed vireo, cedar waxwing, hermit thrush, green heron, glossy ibis, willet, Nelson’s (sharp-tailed) sparrow, great-crested flycatcher, wood thrush, scarlet tanager, common tern, black-throated green warbler, gray jay, red-breasted nuthatch, palm warbler, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, northern gannet, black guillemot, laughing gull, peregrine falcon, great cormorant, sharp-shinned hawk, merlin, blue-headed vireo, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, American pipit, clay-colored sparrow, white-throated sparrow, Cape May warbler, blackpoll warbler, dickcissel, Savannah sparrow, Lincoln’s sparrow, rusty blackbird, yellow-crowned night heron, orange-crowned warbler, white-winged scoter, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, snowy owl. (147 species. 2016: 118. 2015: 125. 2014: 118. 2013: 173. 2012: 115.)

6BY4: An Aside December 31, 2017

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For Christmas, my stepfather-in-law, with whom I keep the annual bird lists, sent me a book about a guy who broke the big-year record a few years ago. I had sent him this book last Christmas, and now that he’s read it, it’s my turn. “Please ignore the coffee stain on the cover,” he wrote.

To do a big year, one needs time and money. The book’s author had just quit his job, and clearly, he has money. At least it would appear so in the first couple of chapters, as he flies cross-country twice before March. At February’s end, he has a species count of 294, and he hasn’t yet decided to do a big year. (His final count was 749.)

The number 294 hits me especially hard because unless I venture out into the subzero wind-chill temperatures during the next fourteen hours or something amazing shows up at my feeder, my count for this year will remain exactly half that: 147. For the whole year.

Which shows, in part, that I’m not a serious birder, no matter how people around me perceive it. I sometimes wish I was more serious, but: time and money. Even my best year—the year we hired a guide in southeastern Arizona, where the author begins his journey in January—my count was just 173.*

And that’s OK. Still, I wish I had time, and I wish I had money, and I can guarantee you that with both, I would do a lot more destination birding.

 

*Will I ever break 200? It would take some planning, a lot more discipline, and a reordering of priorities.