Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Harsh Mistress

Saturday, June 10, 2006
Part of our intrepid group, birding between the raindrops.

Yesterday (Friday, June 9) I found out that the gentle, beautiful rolling prairie (that I love so much) can be a harsh mistress. Twenty-eight intrepid birders ventured out in a giant tour bus, headed to Chase Lake NWR in search of some of the area's highlight birds. Oh we found many avian delights, but we had to work mighty hard in the face of cold driving rain and muddy roads so slick that it was like driving on ice. Plus, it was cold and very windy--think horizontal, stinging rain.

We finally figured out that if we only birded from the lee side of the bus, being outside was less like taking a cold shower on a winter's day. At one point our bus driver said "Uh oh" and the bus slid sideways to the right, almost going fully into the ditch and tilting at an angle normally associated with racing sailboats. We all moved to the upside of the bus and our skilled driver got us unstuck and back on the road.
We set a world record for most people on one side of a bus when we slid into the ditch and needed counterweight balance to get out.

Among the best birds of the day were a very cooperative Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow, some eared grebes, Clark's grebes, and chestnut-collared longspurs. We ended the day with 75 species--a very respectable total given the challenging weather. Among the familiar faces on the trip were Elsa Thompson (mi madre), Sharon Stiteler (BirdChick, read her take on the day here), Paulette Scherr, and Stacey Adolph-Whip (both local NWR employees and really good birders). To our groups credit (and contrary to my whining here) nobody complained about the weather.
Another hopeless day for digiscoping. This was my best shot of our friendly Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow.

Eared grebe on Pearl Lake, part of Chase Lake NWR.

Later that night I played music for the festival attendees at The Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, fulfilling a lifelong dream of sharing the stage with a stuffed buffalo. Great fiddler and good pal Jessie Munson came to town for the gig. As usual, her fiddling totally made the gig--she's like Hamburger Helper: Add her to any musical setting and she makes things tastier. Our good buddy Ernie Haffert also joined us on stage for several numbers. Jessie and I (and Zick) are going to put a national tour together--playing just birding festivals. Our backstage demands will be unmeetable: "We require three brandy snifters backstage, each one full of green , peanut M&M's, three masseuses, a bag of 48 sliders from White Castle, and at least one life bird, staked out for each member of our band."No buffalo were harmed in the making of this music. Can't say the same about the humans beings in the room.

Among my fave tunes we played last night were Far, Far Away (by Wilco), These Days (Jackson Browne), and Red-haired Boy (a traditional Irish tune). It was great to end the day with good friends, playing music.


On June 12, 2006 at 8:56 AM Rondeau Ric said...

Snifters of M&M's, masseuses and White Castele sliders (smuggled across the border at great personal risk) are no problem. A life bird for Jessie is also no problem. The deal breaker is a gauranteed lifer for you and Julie.

For a minute I thought we were going to get you to Rondeau.

Ahh well, maybe we could mist anet a Connecticut, what does Julie need?