Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Oklahoma superlatives

Wow--I've been looking through my photos and it's going to take forever for me to get them all "up." But here are a few of the superlatives of the trip:

  • Most sardonic look by a prairie dog:
  • Most dead animals on roadsides: turtles, especially red-eareds and snappers.
  • Most dead mammals on roadsides: armadillos (at that end of I-35. As I approached my end of I-35 today, it was porcupines.)
  • Most unexpected adventure: being awakened from a sound sleep in my car by Refuge people to get my car to higher ground and me and Photon to a safe spot during a tornado warning and torrential downpour.
  • Most thrilling adventure: When Joe Grzybowski and I came upon a diamondback rattlesnake in Blaine County. Joe wanted to get the snake safely off the road before any other cars came along, which rather pissed the snake off, but a bit farther down the road we came upon a dead diamondback sans head and tail--"collectors" (there should be an uglier word for them) can be brutal.
  • Scariest moment--I don't think I was even mildly scared the whole trip.
  • Nicest stranger--the lady at the Pizza Hut in Watonga, who kept calling me "sugar" and "sweetie."
  • Kindest act: After patiently allowing me to tag along on a cowbird monitoring day, and thereby learning full well my limitations, Joe Grzybowski let me tag along on a Black-capped Vireo monitoring day, too. It's up and down on rocky terrain--stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful country, but I'm neither experienced on that kind of terrain nor in as good shape as I should be. Joe went up and down the rocky slopes as nimbly as a mountain goat. I suppose I was rather like a goat too, in the sense that I had to scramble up more than a few rocks on all fours. But Joe would wait up and then have some cool and interesting story to tell and not even let on that he was really just giving me a chance to catch my breath. As it was, we covered one mountain and 11 vireo territories in what seemed like a full day to me. But on a REAL full day, Joe covers three times that! I should have worn this shirt:

  • Best bird: Well, duh! The Black-capped Vireo! I think my favorite was the one at the Quannah Parker Lake Dam who let me photograph and record him.

  • Biggest tragedy: I think it was stepping on a cricket frog when I was trying to get a Lark Sparrow out of the women's bathroom.
  • Most painful moment--crashing into a sharp corner wall in the shower room at the Refuge campground when I slipped on the wet floor on Sunday. I smacked my face right where my skull juts out at the eyebrow, and gave myself rather a shiner--the blood pooled on my eyelid like a sickly blue eye shadow. The other woman in the shower room was actually a registered nurse, who made sure I didn't have a concussion. The best thing about being 55.5 years old is that people never look too closely at you, and either no one noticed at all or anyone who did notice didn't say anything.
  • Most beautiful flowers: I can't decide whether it was the prickly pears, the barrel cactuses, the Indian blankets or just the generic fields of prairie flowers in full bloom because of all the rain.
  • Most respiration-compromising situation: not the climbing, but seeing so many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Mississippi Kites the first day. I'd be watching in joy and awe and suddenly realize I was holding my breath. I guess after a few days I started taking all this beauty for granted, or leastwise I kept breathing when I saw such gorgeous things.
  • Most amazing song: the mockingbird who was up at the Quannah Parker Lake Dam. I can't get over the imitations that bird made. The video I took is on my video camera rather than my regular camera, so it's going to take a bit for me to figure out how to get it on my computer, but I'll post it ASAP.
  • "Toothiest" goose (click for enlargement and look at the serrated bill--also notice the feathered eyelid):

  • Most intriguing nighthawks--the ones I saw with Vic Fazio when we went out to Hackberry Flats. These were apparently functionally illiterate, and hadn't read the books that say they rest on fence posts, horizontal branches, and other fairly wide structures.

  • Silliest occasion I marked--turning 55.5 on May 11. And I just did the calculations--sometime during the evening of June 1, I'll turn 55.555. Should I call that a quintessential occasion or a cinco-pated day or what?
Lots more stories, photos and videos to come.