These are days you’ll remember…

These are days you’ll remember…

And as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true, that you, are blessed and lucky.
It’s true, that you, are touched by something that will grow and bloom

–Natalie Merchant

When I look back on this year, August will be remembered as the month of adventures.

August began with a weekend trip to Garrett County, Maryland for an overnight stay in an accessible yurt (!!) with a return visit to New Germany State Park. If you haven’t yet discovered New Germany State Park, I highly recommend it. A lovely setting, great birds and trails, and camping opportunities (including an accessible cabin!), yet a comforting and easier pace to things.

New bird sightings included a Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, and a Blue-Headed Vireo, however my favorite bird discovery from that weekend remains the Common Raven who began calling in early morning, and showed up repeatedly throughout the morning.

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Raven

Two weekends later I set off on an adventure that, in the weeks leading up to the trip, was equal parts thrilling and terrifying.

Here’s back story: the day I returned home from Chesapeake Beach (that I wrote about a few posts ago), I checked my email and learned of an opportunity to join an overnight pelagic (Definition: of, relating to, or living or occurring in the open sea) out of Lewes, Delaware.  I knew I wanted to experience a pelagic birding trip this year, however I hadn’t yet found an opportunity. I sent off a text to my brother, who nearly immediately responded to count him in; he would keep me steady and on my feet throughout the weekend and help in any other way he was able. I then emailed Paul and Anita of See Life Paulagics (www.paulagics.com) to say I was interested, however had some questions. My phone rang a few minutes later, and even after I described my physical limitations Paul encouraged me to be bold and give it a try. So without much time to think (or over-think, which is perhaps a good thing), I was signed up for an 18-hour overnight pelagic birding trip. Oh my! The questions and doubts didn’t set in until maybe mid-day the following day. Looking back now, I’m so glad I joined this trip. It was an amazing experience!

This was sunrise Sunday morning, 100+ miles from shore, in deep Maryland waters beyond the continental shelf.

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I took only a few pictures during the entire trip, since I quickly learned trying to focus on relatively small moving birds, while on a moving and rocking boat, while also trying to stay upright requires advanced skills 🙂

Here are a few storm-petrels. Notice how they “walk” or “dance” on the surface of the water.

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I stayed out on the deck as much as possible, from the time we left the dock until we returned. There was only a sliver of waning moon visible Saturday night, and about midnight, when most of the lights were turned off, the night sky was indescribably beautiful. Add to that the thrill that we couldn’t see in front of us, and therefore couldn’t brace for those briefly airborne moments after hitting a wave (lol!!), it was a fun night. 🙂

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Here is my brother, David. I’ve just about run out of words to express my gratitude… I couldn’t have done this, and so many other recent adventures, without him.

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And friend Kathy, who as president of the Frederick Bird Club offered a warm welcome to the club at the start of the year, and who has continued to offer encouragement to meet my goals for the year and even more importantly to keep active, involved, and enjoying life this year and beyond.

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Paul and Anita, as well as the leaders and crew of See Life Pelagics were all great. Extra thanks go to Kelvin though, who didn’t give me time to fret about how I was going to climb the stairs (without a railing) to the boat. Instead, before I had even completed my first sentence of concern, he had me up the stairs and boarding the boat. I know I’m repeating myself, however the kindness of strangers leaves me so grateful.

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And one week after the pelagic, I traveled to Cape May – joining New Hampshire and Maryland family members for more birding adventures.

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One of my hopes for the trip was for good, long looks at a Least Tern. And each day I was lucky to enjoy those good long looks at several Least, Black, Caspian, Royal, Forster’s and Common terns in different habitats and displaying different behaviors, including diving for food.

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On a moving boat again, so not fully focused. The striking colors of this American Oystercatcher were too wonderful to leave out of the post just due to lack of focus…

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And a Tricolored Heron I had made several previous (unsuccessful, Maryland) attempts to see

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While I later had opportunities to clearly view Clapper Rails out at the water’s edge, there is something exciting about the first glimpse…

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I happen to love sparrows, so I was thrilled to see three new sparrows – a Seaside Sparrow, a Saltmarsh Sparrow, and this Lark Sparrow – during my days in Cape May.

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The Pied-billed Grebe holds a special place in my heart, and I always love discovering them in new locations. It feels like meeting up with the relative of a familiar friend

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It is hard to describe the feeling of hundreds of swallows flying overhead, sometimes close enough to feel the air move from their wing beats.

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Out of focus and difficult to see, I know, however a summary of my time in Cape May wouldn’t be complete without mention of this Northern Bobwhite and his “bob-white” calls from the edge of the parking lot at The Point.

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Along with many Monarch butterflies, we discovered this Viceroy – a Monarch mimic

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And while part of this adventure was about enjoying Cape May birds, a more important part was spending time with family…

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We went Birding By Boat on the Osprey (http://www.ospreycruise.com) with Captain Bob, twice!

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We also spent time with a guide from the Cape May Bird Observatory (www.njaudubon.org/SectionCapeMayBirdObservatory/CMBOHome.aspx). Since we were all new to Cape May birding spots, as well as a good number of the shorebirds and migrant birds observed, it was a great help to have a knowledgable guide to get us started. Our guide happened to be a Cape May native and a highly respected birder and naturalist. Thankfully he was also patient and eager to help us learn. Many thanks to Jessica and Tom from the CMBO for coordinating this wonderful opportunity.

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A final factor that really pulled together our successful trip was finding a lovely house to rent that (1) could accommodate a group (2) with easy access to birding locations and (3) be physically accessible. By complete luck, we found the perfect house (www.capemayrentals.com/properties/258-6th-avenue). Located five minutes to the Meadows, seven minutes to Higbee WMA, and three minutes to the local organic market, we couldn’t have asked for a more convenient location. And with ramp access and a curbless shower on the main floor, the house offered the accessibility needed.  Many thanks Kathleen, for offering your welcoming and accessible home!

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Whew! Those adventures brought August to a close. September started right up with a birding trip and a bike ride, however I’ll save those updates for next time.

For now I want to end by sharing how exciting it is to hear your bird discoveries. I’m touched when I hear that something I’ve written or shared has sparked an interest for you. And I’m humbled to learn that something I’ve done or am trying to do has encouraged you to pursue a passion or source of joy. And although I’m not comfortable in the role of accessibility advocate, it seems I’ve raised awareness of access and limitations, as well as opportunities and abilities, simply out of necessity as I find my way through this year. So if something I’ve done or shared leads to a greater awareness, that’s good too. 🙂

And I really will end with a special highlight of my week in Cape May. The picture below was taken on September 1st from the Hawk Watch platform – the first day of this year’s Cape May Hawk Watch. While looking out at this view, I had the opportunity to hear reflections and memories shared of the first hawk watch experience, 41 years prior. I also had the privilege of hearing someone else speak of birds as a reason to get well and keep moving forward. The simple joy of watching the birds at my yard feeders became my motivation to live more fully, and to not give up when facing the challenges of muscular dystrophy. It meant a lot to hear someone else speak of birds in this way.

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With love and kindness,
Deb

7 thoughts on “These are days you’ll remember…

  1. Debra…so awe inspiring. What an exciting adventure and having family close to share it with, well I’m envious. So much beauty to be seen, but so much is overshadowed by the tumultuous world thrown at us daily. Thank you for uncovering it for those of us living in the concrete jungle. With much love, Judy.

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    1. Thank you Judy. You and Charlie were with me in spirit, as I held you and all those impacted by the Texas storms in my thoughts and prayers throughout the week. You have amazing birds to bee seen Texas! Perhaps we’ll meet up again for a Texas road trip 🙂 With love…

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  2. I should say that I think you’ve infected me with this thing called, “birding.” I can’t identify where it happened – maybe it was seeing the excitement everyone had when birds started appearing on the Pelagic/Paulagic tour, maybe it was getting to hear and enjoy the passion of the naturalists and expert birders we spent time with during the last month, or it could have been just the fun of taking boat trips out into the Atlantic or to new places (for me) like Cape May. But honestly, that’s not it, despite how much fun that has turned out to be. The interesting thing is that your renewed passion to take on challenges, to face fears and difficulties, to enjoy things you love, and most importantly (for me anyways), to let me be there with you, has opened a new chapter in our relationship. You’ve opened your life to me, and I’m loving it. And BTW, a topsy-turvy ship out in the middle of the Atlantic definitely did NOT give my pole-dancing skills their chance to shine!

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  3. accessible yurts, pelagic birding adventures: you embody bold adventure, courage and unflappable determinations. you teach me new words, you fill me with courage. your brand of living is magnificent and contagious. i too had tears of gratitude for your brother who promised to steady you. oh, that we all had such brothers, such moorings in our life. your photos, as always, are beautiful and breathtaking and make me see so much blessing. sooo many favorite captured moments, it would be hard to pick a number one favorite, but that sweet little guy sitting atop the white meadow bloom…..(the one above the bobwhite), that one struck me as so magnificently regal. and sweet, all at once….

    thank you, as every….

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  4. Thank you Barbara 🙂 That sweet and regal bird is a Bobolink (not sure whether a female or nonbreeding male). And it was a special discovery during the Cape May trip — I had only previously seen a breeding male, in his bold and unmistakable colors. So I knew this was a new or different bird, however it took time to figure out it was a Bobolink (and I love that figuring out time, putting all the clues together!). And the other special piece is that I happened to spot it when I gave myself permission to take a short break and not keep up with the group. It was a nice reminder that good things can happen when I slow down and listen to my body.

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