Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Song in My Head

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Song in My Head is:
by Ryan Adams and The Cardinals
from their new album
"Easy Tiger"

Ryan Adams seems to record several albums each year and this new one's already in heavy rotation for me. I first heard a song from this CD on The Henry Rollins Show in the Independent Film Channel. It was a heavy jam called Goodnight Rose and did not give me hope for the appeal of this new CD, at least to my ears, which prefer RA's more melodic work (see: La Cienega Just Smiled, When Stars Go Blue, Harder Now that It's Over, Call Me on Your Way Back Home...). Not that I don't love a heavy jam, mind you....

Then I heard Everybody Knows from "Easy Tiger," the first cut on the Paste Magazine compilation CD # 32 and I was hooked...

You know all those kooks camping outside the Apple Store waiting to by an iPhone? Well I was kind of like that for this album, "Easy Tiger." I didn't camp out anywhere to buy it, (though I DID play Everybody Knows at least 1,000 times while driving during the past month) but I did [warning: geek-moment alert!] pre-buy it from the iTunes Store. Yep! Downloaded it as soon as I could and started listening.

The first track I sparked on was Two which is also included as a live version with a bonus video of the band playing. NICE!

It's the melody that really hooked me. I'm a sucker for a nice melody. Throw in some pedal steel guitar behind the shimmering electric guitars, and a straight-up drum beat and I'm hitting the REPEAT button, babe.

I'm still listening to Two and grooving on the video of the band playing--checking out what guitars and amps they're using. The lyrics are nice, too, but, like I said, it's the melody. This guy's got catchy songwriting hooks in his DNA.

While we were in Maine, Two was the song was in my head and I was singing it to myself when I took the photograph above at low tide near Tenant's Harbor: something about the rock holding on to the seaweed (or is it vice versa?) that caught my eye.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Full Recovery/Full Disclosure

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Well, as you can see from this photo, my ankle and knee are fully recovered after just two acupuncture treatments!

One of the side effects (according to what I've read online) is an insatiable urge to steal food from small terns. That, and the realization that my shoes don't fit as well as they used to. But I DO swim a lot faster.

So, no more posts about my medical condition. It's all birds from here on. ah-ah-AH-AH-AH-AHHHH!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On Pins & Needles

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Acupuncture needles and electricity: what a great way to spend an afternoon!

On a Saturday afternoon in late April 2006, I stepped out of the BWD van after leading a field trip at the Ohio Ornithological Society annual conference and eye-watering pain shot through my right ankle. A series of visits to doctors, massage therapists, and foot specialists got me no cure and a boot-full of diagnostic hypotheses. And an ankle brace which I wear when I play softball, on long hikes, during birding field trips, and when appearing in the Whipple Community Theatre's production of RiverDance, (which is actually called Muskingum RiverDance). The brace supports my sore ankle while making it sore in new and interesting ways.

It's not arthritis, the X-rays say. And I can remember no physical event that brought on the pain. It just came. It's probably the echo of a long-ago ankle sprain I sustained in high school basketball practice, but there's no way to know for sure. Fortunately it does not hurt all the time, just when I use the ankle and the foot it's attached to.

About three months ago, my left knee got jealous of my right ankle and decided IT wanted some attention, too. So it got all tendonitis-y on me. Now it, too, only hurts when climbing stairs, running, or making a quick maneuver, such as avoiding stampeding buffalo, or trying to catch a screaming line drive while playing third base.

I used to laugh in the face of getting older. Now I'm not so sure I should've been so cocky.

Last week, while navigating the rocky, wooded islands of Maine, I got several jabs of knee and ankle pain despite my best efforts at being safe. "No thanks to the round-the-island walk! Think I'll stay here and whittle a ship-in-a-bottle!"

I finally realized that my only hope of getting rid of this very annoying and not-quite-debilitating pain was to look to alternative medicine for help. My friend Matt Smith runs Body Logic in Parkersburg, WV where he does body work such as massage therapy and its various permutations. I was thinking about trying acupuncture and Matt had just hired an acupuncturist--it was a sign, I thought.

I had my second session today with Dr. Shang, a licensed acupuncturist. Dr. Shang studied the ancient art of acupuncture for 5 years and has practiced it for more than 20 years. I knew I was in good hands. Still I've never been a fan of needles.

Here's what happens: She presses a finger to find the sore or tender spots on my legs. Where she finds pain, she taps in a micro-thin needle. This usually happens without my feeling a thing. Sometimes there's a little pain, like getting a tiny shot.

Today was my second treatment (my first was two weeks ago) and I have to say that I do feel better. Not cured yet, but more pain-free than in the past week.

After inserting all the needles (I got 10 today--5 in each leg) the good doctor hooks me up to a machine that sends low levels of electric shock into the muscles via little clamps on the metal needles, hooked up to a small current-creating machine. I really feel my muscles react to the electricity. Initially the muscles contract, then gradually loosen. The flow of energy from right to left through my body is easy to feel.

The point of both needles and electricity is to increase the energy flow to the affected areas. This will increase blood flow and will help in the healing process.

My bad right ankle hooked up to the "charger."

Dr. Shang leaves me hooked up to the "charger" for up to 30 minutes. I'm immediately relaxed after she turns up the power, turns off the lights and tells me to rest easy as she leaves the room. After about 15 minutes, my muscles start to come alive and my toes and legs twitch a bit. Just about the time I think I can't stand it anymore, Dr. Shang comes in and unplugs me.

I'll probably go back for a few more treatments. It's been an interesting experience and it has definitely helped my knee and ankle pain. Who would have thought that sticking needles in your body could help reduce pain and make you healthier.

Now I'm wondering if she can stick a needle in my head somewhere to help my hair get thicker on top. I'm too easily sunburned on the old dome.

And speaking of hair, sorry about the hairy legs. I'm not a body-waxing Adonis. I'm just Bill of the Birds trying to live my life.

Today the left knee got 5 needles and 20 minutes of electricity. I can suddenly do a perfect version of The Electric Slide.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Howdy Friends and Fellow Bird Watchers:

Apologies for the week-plus hiatus from posting here at Bill of the Birds. I've been away traveling, and my trusty laptop went back to Apple for some repairs. It was actually NICE not having to lug a laptop during my travels, and even nicer not having any reason to be online. It reminded me of what life (for all of us) was like prior to e-mail and the Web. Sometimes being out of touch is a good thing....

But if this ever happens again I'll need to arrange for a guest blogger to keep the mouse pad warm for me when I cannot (for whatever reason) post on Bill of the Birds.

It will take me a few days to get my you-know-what together. But like always, I promise to endeavor to persevere (one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie--can you guess which flick?).

Julie, Phoebe, Liam, and I spent most of last week at the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine. I've got lots to share about the experience at that wonderful place, but no time to do so now.

Instead, I'll leave you with an image that was the very first thing we saw of the camp as we arrived on Monday night, June 18 for the "Joy of Birding" session. Ahhhh!

That's Hog Island across the sunset-painted water of Muscongus Bay.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hiatus Ahead

Friday, June 15, 2007
My kids call me Ol' Camera Face. Photo by Ernie Hoffert.

Dear Friends:

Soon, after this post (or perhaps after one more I might sneak in this weekend), this Bill of the Birds blog will go on a short hiatus. This is occurring for several reasons:
  1. My beloved Mac laptop needs to go away to rehab for at least a week--maybe longer (unseemly lines are appearing on its display).
  2. I will be without Web access for a spell (a mixed blessing, methinks).
  3. There are book and magazine deadlines looming.
  4. And lots of undone farm work.
  5. I thought if I wrote five reasons, my logic would seem more reasonable.
I will endeavor to get a post back up here as soon as possible--and surely before the fireworks paint the sky on July 4. I still have several posts cooking, including one on photographing longspurs in North Dakota, but Zick already "got there firstus with the mostust." And I need to tell you about our encounter with the Prairie Sloughfoot.

Lest you think that's all I have to say today...

From L to R, that's Jessie, Zick, Angie, BOTB, and Ernie. We were the Pipestem Creakers. Photo by Rick Bohn.

We played music at Pipestem Creek on the Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival's first night. Pipestem Creek is the farm owned by Ernie and Ann Hoffert, two of our dearest friends from ND. We played all kinds of tunes, from Celtic to country to alternative to classic rawk! Ernie has this great deep baritone voice, which is why we call him The Velvet Fog of the Coteau. Jessie Munson plays the fiddle like there's an angel whispering in her ear. Zick sings beautifully and adds the high lonesome sound of the pennywhistle. Angie and her friend Spirit kicked in on mandolin and percussion. As for me, I just try to fit in with what everyone else is playing. It was a real treat to play for such a receptive crowd in an intimate setting, with very talented musicians.

Our final evening in ND was spent with Ann and Ernie in a patch of native prairie. We toasted the end of a great day and week. Photo by Phoebe.

Phoebe and Liam enjoyed a bit of ND birding, too. We don't pressure them (much).
And what would a post about North Dakota be without a photo of the world's largest bison?

If you ever get to Jamestown, ND, make sure you visit The Buffalo Museum. Better yet, sign up for the 2008 Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival because some of the activities will be held at this very same museum.

Please note: when you see the giant bison watch out for the giant bison prairie cakes he leaves behind.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Overhead: White Pelicans

Thursday, June 14, 2007
Boomerangs of white
Rising arc meets thermal lift
Silent prairie sky

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More NoDak Kodak Moments

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Feeling the need to share some more images from the Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival. This time I'll include some birds, too.

If it's OK with you, I'll let the images do most of the talking. ---BOTB.

Both western (above) and eastern kingbirds are present in nearly equal numbers in summer in east-central North Dakota.

Eastern kingbird.

Marsh wren male singing about the great nest he just built in a slough near Pipestem Creek.

This pair of barn swallows nested about the kitchen window in our house at The McCreary Place. These antlers were their fave perch.

The barnies were pretty used to humans.

This male house sparrow built a nest inside this cliff swallow mud gourd. Pretty opportunistic of him, huh?

This might be my favorite shot of all 1,300 I took in North Dakota. It was pure luck to catch this northern harrier wheeling over a fenceline.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

North Dakota Images: Landscapes

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I went to North Dakota to watch birds, to show other people birds, and was hoping for a bit of extra time--a few hours--to take some bird photographs.

Once I got there, to the prairie pothole region surrounding Carrington, ND, I remembered, as I do on every annual visit, that the landscape in North Dakota is every bit as captivating as the birds.

Here are some of the images that captured me during my stay in the Land of the Bison.

Prairie potholes dot the landscape, left here by glaciers millions of years ago.

Around these potholes, nature is abundant, even amid signs of humanity's impact on the land.

Some of the less rocky areas have felt the cut and turn of the plow. Once broken, the soil is never the same again.

Where native prairie still exists, many landowners prefer to raise bison (instead of cattle) to maintain a more natural balance.

Old farmhouses and barns dot the landscape, lonely reminders of broken dreams from long ago.

Skeletal remains of windmills are here and there. They made the water flow until the wind achieved a final victory.

Sunset over a slough with a million insects in the air

Along this 'road to nowhere' we found birds in great numbers.

On the bison tour to Oren & Connie's ranch, we experienced prairie life as it was for eons, up until about 100 years ago.

Rocky soil and stony outcrops have denied the plow its path, leaving behind untouched native prairie.

Far from flat, the coteau region of North Dakota undulates like the waves on the giant inland sea that once lay here.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Potholes & Prairie 2007

Friday, June 8, 2007

We've got the whole fam damily out here in the middle of North Dakota at The Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival. This is the fifth annual P&PBF and this year it's in Carrington, ND, a tiny prairie town about an hour northwest of Jamestown.
JZ, Liam, and Phoebe check out a prairie wildflower.

We're hanging out with old friends here, both feathered and human, and digging the scene in general. Today the sun is shining brightly. Yesterday was like a day in the monsoon season. But the birds did not seem to mind.

Yesterday's avian highlight, a male LeConte's sparrow singing on territory.

LeConte's sparrow near Arrowwood NWR. More on this bird later.

Today's: a couple of sora in a slough in the middle of the coteau. Breathtaking!

My best look ever at a sora.

Must fly to the next activity here: a wine tasting for which Julie, Jessie, Ernie, and I are playing music. We played last night at Ernie and Ann's ranch for the opening evening's picnic. Much jocularity was experienced by all.

Tomorrow: driving westward to favorite places like Chase Lake and sacred places beyond.

Wilson's phalarope pair. Moments later, they were working on making more phalaropes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Pilgrimage

Tuesday, June 5, 2007
View over Red House Lake in Allegany State Park, on a hot, hazy afternoon.

Made the trek to Salamanca, NY last Friday to participate in the 49th annual Allegany Nature Pilgrimage. (Note the spelling: Allegany, not Allegheny or Alleghany) This event is not only wonderful and enriching, it's a well-kept secret among birders, except in the region where it's held.

Located in the Red House Area of Allegany State Park in a rustic campground (called Camp Allegany) the ANP is very much like going to nature camp. People stay in the rustic cabins, or camp in the many campgrounds around this huge state park, and come and go as they please.

The ANP is run by a core group of well-rounded naturalists from four bird clubs in the region. They look not just at birds, but at plants, animals, reptiles and amphibians, insects, spiders, the night sky, and even things such as local history and Native American lore. It's a completely kid-friendly event, so many families participate--some having attended over multiple generations over the decades.

One of the 90 or so field trips held during the ANP.

During the day there are dozens of field trips and activities from which to choose. In the afternoon there are programs and more programs at night in a big tent on the grounds of Camp Allegany. You can learn about the Iroquois, make your own paper, go looking for rare plants, learn about black bears in the region, help to band birds, go for a swim in the lake or a bike along the miles of bike paths.

Tadpoles in the creek behind Camp Allegany.

New Yorkers apparently love their bumper stickers.

Or you can do what I did, wander around the park looking at birds. There are loads of warblers in their full breeding-season glory. From one spot each morning I could hear or see the following warblers: Blackburnian, yellow, black-throated green, cerulean, black-and-white, magnolia, chestnut-sided, hooded, ovenbird, Louisiana waterthrush, American redstart, and common yellowthroat.

Not bad!

This male chestnut-sided warbler is banded!

Male Blackburnian warbler.

I slept in the BWD van for this year's pilgrimage. There was a higher than expected turn-out and rooms in the camp's cabins were gobbled up. No I was not down by the river eating government cheese. I parked out behind the last cabin, up against the woods and an alder swamp. From what I heard, the cabins (many rooms along a long hallway) were warmer and noisier than expected, so I think I was actually better off. Besides I am a master at building comfy "bunny nests" for sleeping in the backs of vehicles--just ask Phoebe and Liam.

No government cheese in sight.

I gave the Saturday night keynote presentation in the big tent. My fellow pilgrims seemed to like it, which was great. Afterwards, we relaxed around a campfire, then I moseyed off back to my van, where I watched the stars twinkling and the planets shifting in the inky-black sky above until a yellow-billed cuckoo sounded off up the mountainside. That was my cue for drifting off to sleep.

Next year's ANP will be the 50th anniversary. It's always held the first weekend in June, so pencil it onto your travel calendar for 2008 and I'll hope to see you there.

And now for some photographic highlights from this year's Allegany Nature Pilgrimage.

Male indigo bunting along the edge of Camp Allegany.

The creek behind the camp attracted a resting female common merganser.

Veteran bird bander Bob McKinney has been banding at the ANP for decades and always draws a crowd.

Bob releases his banded birds by placing them on their backs on top of people's heads. This is a female American goldfinch.

Behind the cabins at Camp Allegany lies a beautiful alder swamp.

And in that alder swamp there are at least two pairs of alder flycatchers.

The stone footers of cabins long gone dot the woods above today's Camp Allegany.

Another day ends at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage.