Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gee It's Great to Be Back Home

Piping Plover mother and chick

I spent the last three weeks driving first to the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival, then to the LL Bean–Maine Audubon Birding Festival in Freeport, Maine, and then to the Acadia Birding Festival up in and near Bar Harbor. I got home Wednesday night, and Thursday had to head to Watersmeet, Michigan, to do a program at the Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center. The only car problems I had on the whole big adventure were coming home from that. We finally made it home Thursday, and now I’m home for a few weeks. I can take time to breathe again.

So now here I am, looking over photos of my adventures, and thinking wow. As much as I love traveling to new places and also to familiar ones, and seeing birds everywhere, too many adventures in one short period of time start to melt into each other. Looking at the photos and listening to my recordings jogs my memory of fantastic moments that I’d already forgotten about as new fantastic moments kept happening. That was the problem when I did my Big Year. As intensely fun as it was, much of it is a blur in my memory, and life keeps going on, with new adventures and new photos and sound recordings taking up so much time that I’ve never had a chance to go back and review all the photos and sound recordings I made that year. I’ve also never had a chance to really process most of those memories—it was all too intense, with too many experiences within too short a time.

The photos and notes I took on this trip, and my eBird lists with precise locations for each bird, are helping me keep everything from this trip straight, but my overall preference is to do one adventure at a time. I think I need more time than a lot of people to savor an experience as well as to process my photos and sounds, before heading out for another adventure.

I’ll have a few weeks before my next trip, but most of that time will be taken up on a new book project with a looming deadline, so I’ll feel more rushed going through all these photos than I like. I got some nice photos of Prothonotary Warblers in Indiana, and some nice pictures of a young bullfrog and a poor but identifiable picture of a water snake.

Prothonotary Warbler

Young Bullfrog

Northern Water Snake

I didn’t get photos or recordings of the Worm-eating Warbler I saw at Indiana Dunes State Park, but I did buy a wonderful print by the wonderful artist Kristina Knowski. That purchase turned out to be doubly apt because I got a quick look at a completely out-of-place Worm-eating Warbler in northern Maine, too. We’ve already framed and hung up the print, which will keep both parts of this trip in my memory. 

Copyright 2019 by Kristina Knowski

After Indiana, I stopped in Michigan to see Kirtland’s Warbler—that morning was cold, drizzly, and very windy, so I didn’t see much, but did hear three distant males and got a quick glimpse of a nearby female, and got a decent recording of a Field Sparrow.

In Ohio, I took my nicest photos ever of a surprisingly cooperative Warbling Vireo. My previous shots were of a badly backlit flying bird, and I forgot to change my camera settings back from overexposing, but thanks to the miracle of Adobe Lightroom, that was fairly fixable.

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

I also got some of my best photos ever of Wilson's and Blackpoll Warblers. 

Wilson's Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

I visited my daughter Katie in New York City for a couple of days next. I didn’t take any photos there, but being in Katie and Michael’s cozy and familiar apartment was the next best thing to being home. Then it was on to Maine, where I recorded an out-of-place Yellow-breasted Chat, saw an extremely rare backcross between a hybrid Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warbler and a pure Golden-winged Warbler, and had a splendid time at two birding festivals.

Odd Golden-winged Warbler hybrid

Odd Golden-winged Warbler hybrid

And I saved the very best for last— For many years I’ve yearned to see Piping Plover chicks. When my friend Laurie Gilman from Maine Audubon got the word that some had hatched near Freeport while I was up in Acadia, I of course stuck around an extra day and charged down to see them on June 3, the day I’d originally planned to start the drive home. That day was so intensely enjoyable that it squelched all my other memories until I went back through other photos after I got home.

Russ and I used to take trips with the kids once every year or two, and the details of those stick with me ever so much better than so many memories of so many destinations in such a short time. All in all, in addition to my Piping Plovers, I saw over 200 species on this trip—way too many to absorb all of it in three short weeks.

My career and my commitment to understanding and sharing information about birds and how to protect them require travel. My hybrid car averaged almost 60 miles per gallon on this trip, and I did my best to save energy, not use plastics, and do everything else possible to save energy and not produce waste or pollution on the trip. Now I'm home for a while. I'm ever so glad to be here, but also ever so glad I got to go to so many splendid places. Understanding the big world and all the wonders of each place, and all the wonderful people in each place, makes me that much more committed to protecting the world's environment, and the birds and people we share it with. 

Piping Plover mother and chick