Thursday, July 7, 2011

New River Festival - Belated Post #1

Julie Zickefoose on the hunt for golden-winged warbler at Muddlety....

Geoff Heeter, on the hunt for a Cerulean warbler...

Facebook has killed my blog. It's true. I am woefully late in getting this post (the first of two about the May 2011 New River Nature and Birding Festival) done. It is so much easier to put a pithy post or two and a quick photo on Facebook then to juggle the slow-loading and cumbersome Blogger site to put together a blog post. Besides, writing a blog post is more demanding intellectually (yeah, yeah - no comments from the peanut gallery on the quality of my writing, please) than a quick sentence on FB. But the wonderful New River Festival and the gathering of those wonderful women (and new man, Doug Sanchez!) who constitute The Flock deserve some attention. This trip fed my soul. Just like it did in 2009.

New River Gorge bridge (as seen from the boat in Birding By Boat field trip)

This year I did the Birding by Butt, Birding by Boat and Muddelty field trips. My goal - a Cerulean warbler. The Cerulean has been my nemesis bird for five years. I missed seeing it in 2009 at New River when everyone was racking them up by the dozens. I deliberately chose Muddlety since that mountain is known for breeding Ceruleans and may be lost to mountain-top strip mining any day now. Muddelty, Geoff Heeter and Julie Zickefoose (I was in total birder geek-dom) did not disappoint. Upon hearing that it was my target bird, Geoff and Julie put their trained ears and amazing talents to work and soon picked up a singing Cerulean. They worked hard to get me on the bird and I had satisfyingly long looks at a single male working a treetop just off the road. Yes, I cried. Hard. Sometimes good birds can move you to tears. And my friends, Susan Kaiholz-Williams, Laura Hardy, Kathy Hutton and Doug Sanchez were there to share the moment. It could not have been more perfect. Sometimes the birding gods hand you a lifer. And sometimes, they make the moment absolutely unforgettable.

Jim McCormac pointing out birds before we board the boats.

Birding the parking lot at Burnwood after breakfast. We never lose an opportunity to look for birds - even while waiting for our bus.
Another unforgettable moment occurred while wandering the grounds of Opossum Creek Retreat after breakfast at Birding By Butt. Walking with Doug Sanchez (welcome to The Flock, Doug. You fit in perfectly!) and Susan Kaiholz-Williams, we came across a yellow lady slipper. Susan remarked that it looked like a yellow scrotum. I said it had Hasidic Jew side curls. That's all it took. We all broke into uncontrollable giggles for long, long minutes. I will never be able to look at this beautiful wildflower the same way again.
Yellow ladyslipper (aka Yellow Scrotum Hasidic Jew Flower)

Other life birds at New River included black-billed cuckoo (wonderful looks at Opossum Creek) and golden-winged warbler. Thanks to Julie Zickefoose for getting me both of these birds. Once again, New River didn't disappoint in the sheer volume of birds, the beauty of the mountains and river and the amazing company. As Jeff Gordon once said, "this place is like summer camp for birders". Yes, it is. It really is.


Susan Gets Native said...

*grinning from ear to ear*

I feel so blessed to have been there to see you see your life Cerulean. It was a moment I will never forget.

I'll never forget that damn flower, either. :)

Unknown said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip! I completely understand your problem with facebook vs your blog. Ever since I got on Facebook it's been more difficult to take the time to post about my Birder Murder books on my website.

dguzman said...

Aw, nice! I wish I'd been there.