Gratitude… and Hawk Banding

Gratitude… and Hawk Banding

My heart is full of love and gratitude. Thank you for taking time out of your Tuesday and giving FSH Muscular Dystrophy some of your attention. Thank you for checking out my blog posts, and liking, commenting, and sharing posts on Facebook. Thank you for taking time to offer a smile to a stranger 🙂 And, thank you for continuing to join me on this journey…

Last Tuesday’s post received more than 400 views from 22 countries. Wow.

One of my goals for the year was to raise awareness of FSH Muscular Dystrophy. Together, on Tuesday, we made tremendous progress towards meeting that goal. Together, we will #CureFSHD.

And now back to those bird pictures I promised…

A week ago Saturday I had the opportunity to observe hawk banding at three Coopers Hawk nests. This experience will remain one of the highlights of my birding year.

Here are a few facts I learned:

Why band: bird banding is an “indispensable technique for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds”*(1)

Timing: timing is everything, and for these little ones there was a small window of opportunity for banding. If the hawks were too young, as they were in one of the three nests, they were too young to band. And perhaps just a week later, hawks at the other two nests might have been too old to band due to risk of early fledging.

What about the parents: One myth to address is that banding will cause the parents to abandon their offspring. This just isn’t so. In fact, parents most often promptly return to feed their little ones – sometimes even before the bander returns to the ground! During my day of observing the banding, perhaps the most impressive demonstration of this was watching the first nest, as mama hawk kept a close eye on what was going on, circling and flying between the row of trees surrounding the nest and another nearby tree. Shortly after the banding was finished, she returned to the nest and was observed feeding her little ones.

The importance of reporting: “The value of banding data is only fully realized when banded birds are recovered and band numbers reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory”*(2)

To learn more about bird banding, please visit… *(1) or *(2)

For information about reporting a found banded bird, please visit or

Here are several of my favorite pictures from the day…




A little one, curious about who is arriving at the nest (60+ feet up in a tree!)…


that same little one attempting to look fierce…







I received many requests this week for an update on my progress for the year. I’m pleased to share I enjoyed great views and lots of songs from several Dickcissel this week, bird species #150 of 2017. 🙂




With gratitude,
Deb xoxo

World FSHD Day, Tuesday, June 20th #WorldFSHDday

World FSHD Day, Tuesday, June 20th #WorldFSHDday

No, not a bird… however I have some amazing bird pictures from the weekend that I will post very soon.

For now, I want to join with others in raising awareness of FSH Muscular Dystrophy on #WorldFSHDday

To learn more about FSH Muscular Dystrophy, as well as why I am holding an orange slice, please visit

And above all else, please practice random acts of smiling on Tuesday, June 20th. Goodness knows our world needs these reminders of kindness and connection. 

Most individuals with FSHD lose the ability to smile… including me. So on Tuesday, June 20th, please offer an extra smile to a stranger on my behalf…

With kindness and blessings,
Deb xoxo


Feeling very blessed to have this wonderful, supportive family…


and even more love and support from a special aunt… I’m feeling so loved and blessed xoxo


Mamas and little ones…

Mamas and little ones…

Instructions for living a life:

Pay Attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Mary Oliver, in Sometimes

The last couple of weeks have been filled with little ones fledging, and the mothers who care for them.

I have been completely astonished, captivated really, by this little Downy Woodpecker who has been a constant visitor to the bubbling (water) rock and the suet feeders. I was concerned at first, because she was spending so much carefree time out in the open (oh the hawks!!), and her first several attempts to reach the suet feeder resulted in slides down the pole much like a fireman. Yet her Mama has been ever attentive, and has been carefully feeding this little one, who now looks confident in flight and seems to eat her weight in suet each day.

Have I mentioned the birds have been going through two suet cakes each day!!?? 😉

I should add that although I refer to this little one as ‘she’, I’m really not sure about that. Juvenile Downies have a red cap, and ‘her’ cap is significantly less red and begins further back then another recently fledged little one, so I’ve come to think of this fledgling as a ‘she’.

Here is the one who visits for long periods each day:




and with her Mama

and now, one week later, confidently flying from a nearby tree


although I do wish she would select one of the already dead trees, rather than one of the healthy ones, to practice her woodpecker skills 🙂


For comparison, here is Papa with another fledgling


There have been other youngsters as well, including this Northern Cardinal with a great hairdo…DSCN9296


And a Mama Wood Duck with her little ones…



This past week also included a return visit to northern Frederick County for more looks at the Red-Headed Woodpeckers. They are so beautiful to see!



And lastly, as an oh so proud mama, I’m sending birthday wishes to another (no-longer-so) little one. It seems like just yesterday you fledged and found your wings. I love you with all my heart, my dear one. xoxo

andrei 1




The Language of Disability

The Language of Disability

I’m thrilled (and honored) that links to my blog have been shared and people I haven’t (yet) met in person are following. Perhaps now is an appropriate point to share a few words about the blog title. I am often described as sensitive, occasionally as stubborn, and perhaps never as sassy. And calling myself Gimpy Girl sounds, well, a bit sassy.

Last September I actually registered two website names. I began with Honoring The Graces (, that sounds so much like a name I would choose. Yet after sitting with that a while, I went back a registered this second site, Gimpy Girl Goes Birding. It sounded bolder. It clearly conveyed what I was about to do during this birding ‘big year’. And in many ways, it marked a transition for me. Even though I had lived a long time with one foot in the able-bodied world and the other foot in the disabled world, it still felt all too sudden when I found I was out of options to seamlessly fit into our mostly nondisabled world. For example, sheer determination and concentration were no longer enough to step up even the lowest step or curb without a railing. And getting up from ground level without assistance (whether the trip down was planned or unplanned 😉 ) was no longer possible.

Although this transition brought sadness and frustration, it eventually led to some sense of relief (then even later to determination and adventure). I could let go of trying with all my might to be something I’m not and never could be (a fully able-bodied person). This deeper level of acceptance led me to find new ways to move through this wonderful and often challenging world, reclaiming the energy previously expended attempting to keep up an able-bodied appearance and rediscovering sources of joy (such as a ‘hike’ through the mud!! 😀 )


I believe the language used to describe disability is deeply personal (since ability and limitation are profoundly unique and personal experiences for each of us, I believe we should each have the freedom to choose language that feels most comfortable to describe our own circumstances at any given point)… and at this point in my journey, in choosing Gimpy Girl to name my own experience and transition, I credit the influence of writer Nancy Mairs who rejected the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped’ and instead chose to describe herself as ‘crippled’ – not only because of the term’s starkness and precision but also for it’s honesty and because she wished to be viewed as “one tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses [had] not been kind, but who [faced] the brutal truth of … existence squarely” (Plaintext, p. 9-10). Therefore, I chose the words Gimpy Girl (for myself, never for others) with the hope that I might move forward boldly, honestly facing this experience of changing ability, and keeping a sense of humor throughout it all. 🙂

And now on to some exciting bird discoveries…

As each birder begins a ‘big year’ he or she likely has a bird or two they most hope to see during the year – often a rare bird. My hope was more modest – not a rare species, yet one I had never seen (which would make it a ‘life’ bird) and a woodpecker found in the mid-Atlantic that I’ve never spotted on our property. The Red-headed Woodpecker. On Memorial Day, two new friends from the Frederick Bird Club set out with me with the hope of spotting one of these breathtakingly beautiful birds. And we were successful! Bird #145 of 2017.


On that same outing we spotted a Bobolink


A Grasshopper Sparrow



As well as a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (another one you’ll need to look up, as I didn’t have my camera close by at the time).

I’ve also been seeing lots of beautiful Great Crested Flycatchers – seen here preening at the end of the day.



With gratitude and blessings,

Deb xoxo

Oh, the places I’ll go!

Oh, the places I’ll go!

Borrowing a few words from Dr. Seuss (with a few edits)…


Today is the day.
I’m off to Great Places!
I’m off and away!

I can steer myself
any direction I choose…

On Monday of this week I became the grateful owner of a minivan. With apologies to anyone reading who loves driving a minivan (I know you’re out there… I’ve spoken with a few of you) – I came to these wheels reluctantly. I considered all alternatives, and eventually accepted a minivan was the solution that would offer independence and a greater ability to get out and about.


The line “Oh, the places you’ll go” had been repeating in my head, and now “oh, the places I’m going” is my new reality 🙂

Thinking a bit of positive reinforcement might help my transition to a minivan, I drove straight from picking up the van to Pinecliff Park in Frederick. This Solitary Sandpiper (a new bird, #136 of the year) greeted me in the parking lot. A lovely gift from the universe.

And as I zipped around the park on my scooter (amazed at what I was suddenly doing without embarrassment when the rewards – independence and birds – were great enough), I discovered two additional new birds of the year:

a Gray-cheeked Thrush (an uncommon bird to spot)

as well as a Black-throated Blue Warbler (you’ll have to look this one up, as my pictures didn’t turn out well).

This van (a Honda Odyssey with a BraunAbility power fold-out ramp, that really is quite lovely) is already offering the independence and mobility I hoped for. I can now pick up and go at any time, without having to evaluate how much walking I’m up for, and without needing to ask others to load and unload the scooter. I’m feeling very blessed to be in a position where these mobility options are available to me. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement and support from my parents that made this option a reality. I’m also grateful to have discovered a wonderful local mobility services company – the team at Total Mobility Services in Frederick ( was great to work with… thanks Anne, Blaine, Dana, and Nancy 🙂

And the blessings continued with even more new birds…

During an early morning walk at the Fred Archibald Audubon Sanctuary in New Market, MD I spotted this handsome Scarlet Tanager



and during the Global Big Day on May 13th, I was able to see 57 bird species within Frederick County, including several Eastern Kingbirds (sorry about the lack of focus in the picture)



an Indigo BuntingDSCN7905

as well as a another less common bird, a Swainson’s Thrush





Vultures and visitors

Vultures and visitors

…they shall mount up with wings like [vultures],

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31)

I enjoyed a slow ride through local (Montgomery County, MD) back roads recently, and as I drove around a bend in the road I came across this black vulture and a few of her friends hanging out on an old log. I admit I surprised myself as I admired her beauty and peaceful presence. Yet stop and admire I did, for quite some time.

Over the winter I read an interesting book by Debbie Blue titled Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible. In her chapter on vultures, Blue shares that references to eagles in English translations of the Bible quite likely would be more appropriately translated as references to vultures. Blue also describes an ancient Egyptian belief of the vulture as a protective mother-god “whose enormous wingspan could encompass and enfold everything.” A “Mother of Mothers who existed from the beginning, and gave birth to all that is.” (p.69) Equally important and timely, Blue encourages readers to consider (and reconsider) our own and our culture’s “narrow definition of what is beautiful” (p.79), perhaps seeing “beauty in places other than where we’ve been programmed to see it.” (p.79)

Here is a portion of Margaret Atwood’s poem Vultures, Blue includes in her book:

Frowzy old saint, bald-
headed and musty, scrawny-
necked recluse on your pillar
of blazing air which is not
heaven: what do you make
of death, which you do not
cause, which you eat daily?

I make life, which is prayer.
I make clean bones.
I make a gray zinc noise
which to me is a song.
Well, heart, out of all this
carnage, could you do better?

And if you’ve kept reading this far, hooray for you! Here are a few additional pictures from the week…

A Green Heron from that same drive


The yard was filled with Rose-breasted Grosbeaks this past weekend. Here are two of the males

and here is a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder with the smaller female Purple Finch


And lastly, our suet feeders were incredibly popular with the male woodpeckers this weekend- lots of Downies and Hairies, as well as Red-bellied (the first to check out the new larger suet feeder) and a Pileated who returned repeatedly over the weekend. Although I’ve seen two Pileated in our front trees, this was the first I’ve ever seen one visit a feeder. Since most of the frenzied activity was with the males, I’m hoping they were stopping by for some ‘fast food’ to bring home to the females and little ones! 😉




With love and blessings,



Easter surprises and the joys of regular visitors…

Easter surprises and the joys of regular visitors…

The first hummingbird returned last Thursday. What a wonderful surprise! No signs yet of a female.


And although the picture below doesn’t look like much, it is of my Solomon’s Seal – what I’ve come to consider an Easter gift. It is one of the few plants remaining from my herb gardens that, despite being (unintentionally) dug up and cut down several times, is a resilient plant that continues to thrive against all odds. Each Spring I hold out hope for this Solomon’s Seal. Where no parts of the plant were visible early last week, there were eleven healthy stems on Holy Thursday.


All of my birding the last week and a half has been at Saving Grace. Although the hummingbird has been the only bird added to the 2017 list, I have so enjoyed the regular visitors.

This Brown Thrasher decided to come out from the brush long enough to for several great views and a few good pictures. Look at those eyes! and that bill!!


And two more regulars allowed me to enjoy their company on a lovely Spring day…




Deb xoxo