Sunday, May 26, 2013

Biggest Week: Pearson Metropark and a ramble on Kenn's Coverts


I am going to start with a "ramble". The rest of the subject will be addressed shortly ...

This was our last day for attending The Biggest Week in American Birding. The trip was a bit rough for me this year, because of some stupid thing happening to my leg. Even with the steroid drugs I had been given by the doc, I learned that constant activity was only making the problem worse. The night before (yes, I pushed it too far ...), I was even concerned about safely making the 10 mile drive back to the hotel. Bad timing for my body to be acting up! Anyway, I decided then that I would not push it as far on the next day, and just head home for the two hour drive in the morning. It was a good decision - but, damn! - we even had to miss a main Kenn Kaufman workshop ("Principles and Pitfalls of Bird ID") for which we had registered.

On the other hand, Judy and I already had attended two of Kenn's workshops this week, and the first one - "Understanding what you see for better bird ID" - was based on his great book Field Guide to Advanced Birding - as also would be the one we missed. Watching his lecture then was a great revelation to me! It not only taught me about birds, but it also taught me about how I learn!!!

One quick example: Kenn talked about "coverts". These are important parts of birds. You see them in pics of birds, and the bird guide books and birders always talk about the colors and patterns of coverts. But it really made no sense to me (yes, it takes me awhile) until I heard Kenn pronounce the word. When I read "covert" in text, I always thought about "ops" as the next word. Yes, I guess I watch too many TV shows about spies and such. To me covert meant hidden or secretive. When Kenn was talking about coverts, he said COVERts - as in cover - and not the COvert thing - as in secretive - that I had in my mind. These cover and protect the bases of the flight feathers! And they are really visible. Revelation! Yes, I am sad I missed his next workshop - also based on this book - but I already have a new learning tool!

I was so excited last year when I won a copy of Kenn's book (...that he autographed to me! SO cool!!!) in a raffle at the Birding Ohio Facebook Meet and Greet during the Biggest Week!!! But, to tell the truth, reading something like "the bases of the greater coverts lie beneath the median coverts, and above these are multiple rows of lesser coverts" really was something to be passed over. And, these wonderful things are on both sides of the wings, so you get hierarchies of primary and under-wing coverts added to the description, and so on, so the terms get even more complicated. Whew! Yet, I understand now! All I really need to do is to read the words slowly as I look at the pics in his well-illustrated book.  It seems reading technical books is much harder for me to do now with my attention span decreased by age and my now-ingrained-by-media predisposition to immediate "sound bites"! It is almost amazing that I once assembled and read a massive personal library of scientific books and technical papers on seaweeds  - even when I had to buy them from antiquariaat shops in other countries! (My library and seaweed herbarium were donated to the Univ. of Washington when I entered aerospace in the early 1980's.)  Ah, those were the days!

Here (thinking about my ability to assimilate media), I drifted into thinking about Marshall McLuhan's discussion of "hot and cold media". And if you thought I "rambled", just check this review (click the highlighted URL) out!  I liked it, but it caused me to think my "rambles" are just the stuff of a beginner!   I quote one snap from McLuhan : "I tend to add and the whole thing gets out of hand."  That sort of says that someone besides myself "rambled". :)

Suffice - more on point to say - I can now read Kenn's great book with far more understanding! Great book!!! And yes, we made it home safely. It was a good decision!

I know someone is wondering: "Will Dr. Bob ever get to the subject?" OK, here it comes more about birding at Pearson MP.

We certainly did not want to leave Ohio without birding. Going back to Magee (and of course, walking and  standing and shooting pics for a few hours) and then attending Kenn's  workshop 1:00 pm would have put our departure time in mid-afternoon. I just knew the drive home would be potentially dangerous. Fortunately, we had learned of a new place during Biggest Week registration. Pearson Metro Park in Oregon, Ohio was literally down the street (like two blocks) from the Holiday Inn Express where we were staying at birder's rates. (Thank you, Holiday Inn for great hospitality and for supporting birders! We will be back many times!).

After taking pics of the "Welcome Birder's" signs along the streets of Oregon, we went to Pearson.

Lovely wife and birding companion Judy wearing her Biggest Week shirt
Pearson is a lovely Metro Park! On the drive in we saw lots of parking areas and trails to explore. Passing on these, we headed for the Nature Center. When we arrived there, we saw two BSBO vans in the parking lot. This must be the place! We did not know that Pearson was on the Biggest Week guided field trip schedule, but it sure makes sense now.

We saw one field trip returning to their van.We approached, but they were mostly done. As everyone boarded the van, one woman remained. I think maybe she had just "tagged along" as we sometimes do (Hey, it is usually OK to join a bunch of birders any time ...), and she had her own vehicle in the lot. It turns out that Mary Bennett's RV had a new license plate for our trip - Alaska!!!. Certainly the farthest traveled from the continental USA! (See my other blog about all the state plates we saw on our Ohio birding trip).  We had a delightful chat - such are birders! Mary is retired and actually lives full-time in her RV. This encounter immediately reminded us of Dawn Fine and her husband who also do this. I wrote down a Google search for "Dawn's Bloggy Blog" and gave it to her, along with the Google search for "Dr. Bob's Birds". I hope she reads our blogs and contacts Dawn and us! Mary relayed wonderful stories about being part of a group called RV Volunteers as she described her experiences and where she was headed and where she had been. Mary experiences birds and nature everywhere! Really sounded not only like fun, but what a great way to "give back" by volunteering at way-points!
Mary's Home on the Road all the way from Alaska at the Biggest Week
That would have been enough reason for our visit - some things are just made to happen! Then we walked the short distance to the Nature Center. The rest rooms were open. Good start!  That is always a concern now.

(More Ramble!) As an aside in writing this, and having mentioned rest rooms, I now am thinking about the fact that when John Steinbeck (also traveling the country in an RV) wrote his book "Travels With Charlie", I was really quite disenthralled! John (older then) left the impression on me that he had "sold out". The book had none of the qualities of "Cannery Row" and "Sweet Thursday" (or the lesser known Log from the Sea of Cortez) about Steinbeck's days as a partner and friend to the marine biologist  "Doc"  (a real person - Ed Ricketts of Monterey, California  - upon whom I had patterned my life) and had none of the angst of his other books like "The Pearl" or "Grapes of Wrath".  I mostly remember the book recorded John constantly stopping to let Charlie pee on things at special places. What happens to our angst and fervor as we age...?

Maybe I should read the book again now! Older now, I now seem to look for "comfort stations" myself. And, maybe, if I read the book again (should my diminished abilities to read a book because of the afore-mentioned conditioning allow me to do so...), just maybe I will learn that the doggie discharge stops were actually written (as opposed to photographic) "snapshots" and introductions to wonderful sites around the USA. I wonder.

Hey, I wonder how many of y'all are still reading this now? I suspect I am not alone in my struggle with the written word and our pre-conditioning by current media demanding more immediate satisfaction than a "ramble" might yield!!! Y'all deserve a prize! (Thanks for being here!)

OK, here it comes - back to subject!

So, after a pit stop, we approached the Nature Center. It was closed. But, the Window on Wildlife was open! Judy and I were amazed that such a place existed! What beauty! Fruit trees were in bloom and the feeders were active. We sat there by ourselves for quite a long time.

There was a huge expanse of windows, a length-wise shelf along  them, and lots of chairs.  There were "bleacher seats" in the back for class trips. We could just sit there and observe the feeder activity forever!
In the area where we sat, there was a long poster with photos and names of expected birds. We managed to see almost all of them in our short visit!

Window on Wildlife view - what a pleasant scene!

"Dr. Bob" at the poster of bird ID pics shares his view
Lovely wife Judy displays her Biggest Week shirt
and four years of annual pins from Friends of Magee Marsh on her hat!

We also saw many more birds!

Red-bellied Woodpecker in a fruit tree. Look closely to see a Downy WP behind.
Tufted Titmouse tree topper - I love the haunting mystery of this!
White-crowned Sparrow - my best shot ever of this species!
Eastern Phoebe - again my best ever shot!
We  missed the Indigo Bunting reported by others, but managed many decent pics.

Amazing time that coincided with the flowering of fruit trees! Amazing place!

As we were about to leave, a group of seniors in wheel chairs were brought in by their care-takers. It turned out they were from basically across the street at Little Sisters of the Poor. Their caretaker called the home "Little Sisters of Mercy", but I looked up the proper name: Little Sisters of the Poor. Indeed, either name is very appropriate!

(Look out - more ramble!) "Sisters of Mercy" stuck with me and reminded me of a Leonard Cohen Song from long ago.  Here is a link to his song.  Great video of an older Cohen singing a song that always resonated with me. I am not sure I ever tried to figure out the meaning, but it "resonated" in the true sense - maybe the pitch in my own vocal range? In any case it always resonated.

I now suspect the song had something to do with "Ladies of the Night", but I offer it here to also suggest the comfort one might feel from being away from Nature for a long time and then "coming home" to experience it again. Indeed, I suspect the latter is even more fulfilling and lasts far longer in our memories!  And it is not gender specific.

I offer a few lyrics to help try understand what the lovely folks we encountered might have been experiencing. It has nothing to do with other possible implications of the song, but rather with reflections on lives past. It seems fitting. And, indeed, we experienced the fact that the Sisters of Mercy brought these folks to the "Windows" was so tremendously important to them!

"Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone. 
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on. 
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song. 
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.

They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem. 
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn 
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem. 

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. 
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night ..."

And, I know for many of us if we ever had been deprived by life events of opportunities to experience birds and Nature, a visit to any place to reconnect would be priceless!  This was the first time the home had made a field trip there. After this trip they will return often! It is a quick and easy and accessible way to allow their residents to "get out" and experience Nature and memories!

Aside: It was interesting the the line about "reading their address by the moon" struck another chord for me this year. As I get more birding contacts, this year has been really fascinating for me. I have seen some great photos of flying birds highlighted by a full moon in the background. And, almost daily I was receiving posts about bird migration as recorded on weather radar. Members of the the Nemesis Bird Team were official bloggers for the Biggest Week, and one member, Drew Weber, was regularly posting migration radar maps during the spring. Here is one example. This is really mind-boggling! Just imagine so many birds flying at night during migration that they constitute a large part of satellite imagery!!!

We had was SO much fun watching the home folks exclaiming about seeing common brightly-colored local birds like a Cardinal, Goldfinch or a Blue Jay!  Indeed the comfort this visit offered was very obvious!  I am sure their field trip and joy really sweetened their nights with favorable memories!!! We stuck around longer and pointed out other birds (Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and so many more ...) as they arrived. The birds were very cooperative! And, the folks from the home really sweetened OUR day ... and many nights of our personal memories to come! I only hope we sweetened theirs! I purposely keep our memories private in our own minds and did not take pics...

No, this experience was not a scheduled part of the Biggest Week, but it is a great illustration of what you might encounter during the week. We did not get too many birdy pics in our curtailed visit this year, but we again have incredible memories and snapshots of "Life"!!!

We left fully recharged again! Life is good! Life as a birder makes it even better! And, sharing our love - priceless! We cannot wait to return to Pearson Metropark next year during the Biggest Week!!! Indeed  Magee Marsh, Ottawa NWR, and Metzger Marsh are great places where we always go, yet there are so many more places to explore in the area!!! We learned of Pearson MP and many others (all with maps) at the registration desk for The Biggest Week.

Every year we add more days and places to our stay in Ohio!

(This year was  very special because I was accepted as an official blogger! I am honored indeed!)

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