The Four-Day Weekend, Part 1

I picked up Debra at 3:55 AM on Friday morning, and we headed for Lugoff. Lex was waiting when we got there, and we started loading his car with all our equipment. We were on the road again before 5:00, heading to Florida. The three of us were taking our best shot to see the Greater Sandplover, a stray bird that normally lives in Asia and Africa. This individual is only the second ever recorded in North America, and we hoped it would still be there. Storms with gale-force winds and abundant rain earlier in the week had made finding the bird difficult for some other birders, and rainy, windy weather was still partly in the forecast.

At 10:15 we pulled into Hugenot Memorial Park and found a place to leave the car. (This is located east of Jacksonville, out on the coast of Duval County.) We grabbed our scopes, binoculars, raincoats, and started walking. Other birders were standing around a large group of mixed shorebirds, and we knew we were in the right spot. The bird had been cooperative all morning for those who were there earlier, so we had good hope. We didn’t have to wait. It was among several hundred plovers and sandpipers, but with a little pointing and scanning, we all picked it out and had leisurely, upclose scope views. That was nice. Here’s a picture of the scene (the Greater Sandplover is in this group, but too far for the camera to show detail):

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We continued there for a few more hours, enjoying the bird and the people who came long distances to see it. One gentleman had just flown in from Rhode Island to see it; he liked watching the bird through the scope. As we stood there searching the birds for something different, a Red-necked Phalarope flew in, and we got great scope views of this normally pelagic species. That, also was a new one for me.

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Lex

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Debra

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Lex and me

On the walk back to the car after noon, rain started, and wind pelted us with sand. We were gritty and soaked on the way to find something to eat. Not knowing the area, we solicited recommendations from the locals. Both people we asked said the Sandollar was the place to go. We did, and it was worth it. Debra tried the cashew-crusted curry grouper; Lex and I had grilled mahi with dill and caper sauce…all of it very good food!

I saw two guys come to the buffet line and recognized them as birders from Tampa who had shared part of the morning with us. I walked over to see what else they had found after we parted, and they told about finding Leach’s Storm-Petrels over the surf at Little Talbot State Park. That is another pelagic species not normally seen from land. So after finishing at the restaruant, we headed up A1A to Little Talbot.

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I find it hard to take unblurred photos of armadillos; they’re deceptively quick.

If you are ever in the area, pay the small entrance fee and just drive through this unspoiled fragment of coastal Florida. It is a beautiful place. We parked and walked up onto one of the boardwalks so we could scan the ocean. After a little while I found dark slivers of movement cutting over the waves. As they came closer, even flying over the beach itself, we were able to get positive identification as Leach’s Storm-Petrels, my third new bird for the day. It has been a long time since I got three new birds in a single day east of Texas.

It was mid-afternoon, and we had seen what we came to see. So we drove back home. I only had two-and-a-half hours of sleep the previous night, but the adrenaline kept me going all day. We made the vehicle transfer back at Lex’s house, drove to Lancaster, dropped Debra off, transcribed my bird records, and I was in bed by 12:15. That was a great way to spend a Friday!

Published in: on May 28, 2009 at 10:02 am  Comments (1)  

A Few Days on the Road

My Frontier turned 212,000 miles a little while ago. I’m hanging out in Memphis, tonight. Tomorrow I continue toward my sister’s family in middle Arkansas. …Guitar stores, barbeque, time to write, and maybe some live music if I plan well.

Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm  Comments (2)  

Happy Christmas!

Holy beyond the hype, let quiet exaltation harmonize this day’s portion of your life’s movement. This, and the next eleven, are days for the outlasting of what noise has been.

In 2007, I spent the last week of October on Ocracoke, resting, writing, playing. This year, I will do it in the last week of December. Which is now. I do anticipate that drive.

Published in: on December 25, 2008 at 8:52 am  Comments (4)  

Truck Milestone

In September of 1999, I purchased a 2000 Nissan Frontier, and since then it has been a reliable companion on many roadtrip adventures. Whether the journey was for fun (Boston, Oklahoma, Outer Banks, etc.), family (Arkansas, Atlanta, Maine), or business (Houston, Cleveland, and countless hospital visits all over the Carolinas), I got there and back and felt solid doing it.

This past Saturday, the odometer changed from 199,999 to 200,000, and I stopped for a few photographs.

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(This milestone would have been reached sooner, but my other truck has accumulated nearly 40,000 miles over the past 27 months, as well. It’s a Nissan, too.)

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 9:05 pm  Comments (2)  

Boundary Waters — a Start

For well more than a year, the guys in the hiking group had tossed around the idea of taking a trip together to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Since Phil had experience there and it was his idea to start with, he organized a plan and started taking names.

On August 19, we began arriving in Duluth. Those of us who were there early got to check out the equipment at Gander Mountain and the books at Barnes & Noble, relax and talk, and do some birding in the parking lot behind the Days Inn. When all eight guys were assembled, we went to supper at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. Our adventure was underway. Late night conversation with the Olympics on TV finished the evening.

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Early the next morning we loaded into two vehicles and headed out along the north shore of Lake Superior. Our destination for the day would be Seagull Outfitters, near the end of the Gunflint Trail, but along the way we would stop several times to enjoy the territory, Minnesota being a new state for several in the group, myself included. We ate smoked fish from a roadside vendor and had a late lunch at Sven and Olle’s Pizza in Grand Marias.

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We arrived at the outfitter after 4:00 and began the orientation. After getting reasonably settled for the night in the bunkhouse, Don Germain, a long-time friend of Phil’s, came to talk to us about his vast experience of paddling, guiding, and outfitting in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He shared lots of helpful insight into what we would soon be facing.

After a night of rough and restless sleep (for me, at least), we woke up, finished loading our personal gear into the large packs, had a quickstart breakfast, and gathered at the Chevy Suburban with the trailer of canoes behind it. We were fitted for PFDs and paddles, endured more of the orientation guy, and finally hit the road back down the Gunflint Trail to our put-in.

Beyond the dry facts of these few paragraphs are eight personal and constantly reshaping perspectives about the moments of the week as they rose and fell, like waves beneath the hull of a ready canoe. Next, I’ll attempt to express some that were my own.

[Additional pictures of this trip are posted on my Flickr site. You can see them by clicking here.]

Published in: on August 31, 2008 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Saw Four Great Lakes Today

On my way home from canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Widerness (Minnesota) with friends, my flight from Duluth to Detroit showed me Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Erie. Some stories and photos from the week will appear here in the next few days.

Two shots of Superior from early in the trip:

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Published in: on August 26, 2008 at 9:28 pm  Comments (9)  

Ever Seen a Kayak on a Buick?

Well, here you go. One of the big fun items on the recent family vacation was kayaking in Santa Rosa Sound. Getting there, we did fairly well with the carpooling thing: twenty of us arrived in five vehicles. Here’s the Rendezvous getting ready for the trip down.

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The boat is a Necky Elaho HV, which weighed a little less than the car. It does make a good-looking ensemble, though. And once in the water, it performed to the satisfaction of its operators.

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Published in: on August 14, 2008 at 9:45 am  Comments (2)