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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

“I now belong to a higher cult of mortals for I have seen the albatross.” – Robert Cusham Murphy,1912

Waved albatross on Espanola Island in the Galapagos. Wikimedia photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson

A Poem Come to Life

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge fascinated me when I read it for the first time when I was about 10 years old. The poem was in a literary book that was among those collected by a grandfather who died when I was still an infant.

His books were all stuffed in a chest, and my access to them was my favorite childhood treasure. I read them all, from the complete works of Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber, whose exotic raciness flitted right by my then nativity. I’m sure that back then that I also didn’t understand all the nuances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, simply that if you killed an albatross, you would be cursed forever.

A page from my Galapagos journal. Photo by Pat Bean

I read Coleridge’s long poem out loud quite a few times, mostly because of how the words felt falling together in rhyme upon rhyme. I imagined myself upon a grand stage as I read to Blackie, my childhood canine companion.

This piece of my past jumbled its way through my mind the day I saw my first albatross in the Galapagos. I listened in awe as our guide told us that these waved albatrosses were the only one of this sea bird’s 20-plus species that visited the Galapagos.

The pair before us this day, which still are the only albatrosses I have yet seen, were courting. They were clacking their large bills together, and bowing and circling each other as if they were dancing to a medieval tune.  Like all the other birds I saw in the islands, these had little fear that they were being watched by nearby humans.

It was a rare experience for this birdwatcher, made even more so when our guide said not many people ever got to see an albatross courtship. These large-winged birds spend much of their lives out to sea.

Bean Pat: The Old Plaid Camper  https://oldplaidcamper.com/2018/04/13/to-the-lighthouse/  To the Lighthouse.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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            “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” – Mark Twain

A peaceful evening at the pond. — Art by Pat Bean

Good Writing is Rewriting

It took me eight years and five complete rewrites before Travels with Maggie was ready to be published, and at the end, I found it hard to let go because I worried about mistakes. But I finally did, and when that 75,000-word book went up on Amazon, I immediately started my next book, which is about my late-blooming birding adventures. I didn’t start seeing all the amazing birds around us until I was 60. This new passion bit into my soul at the perfect time, as my body was beginning to tell me it should take up a less strenuous hobby than backpacking and white-water rafting.

Tri-colored heron along the Texas Gulf Coast’s Blue Water Highway between Surfside and Galveston. — Photo by Pat Bean

I’m tentatively titled my new book in progress, Bird Droppings, although one writer friend has suggested the connotation might turn readers off. I thought it might intrigue them. It’s a collection of short essays and anecdotes and my idea is that the title fit these scenarios perfectly. “Just something to think about,” my supportive friend said. “Titles can make or break books.”

What do you think? I would really like to know if you share mine or my friend’s viewpoint.

Meanwhile, when I was 10,000 words into the book, I lost my focus, and for the next few weeks I always had an excuse when it was time to add more words to it. If you’re a writer and haven’t yet faced this setback, please tell me how you avoided it.

Anyway, I finally decided to simply start at the beginning and edit what I had written. Mostly, I decided it wasn’t good.  I had forgotten to leave out the boring parts. That is author Leonard Elmore’s advice to writers.

So, I’m rewriting, because that’s what dozens of quite successful authors say writing is all about. It’s working.  Writing has become exciting and fun once again, and the book is going forward – but this time my focus is more on making each word count, then on the number of words written each day.

Travels with Maggie, meanwhile, has earned good rankings on Amazon from 12 reviewers. Yes, I’m bragging.  If you’ve read the book, perhaps you would like to add a review. If you belong to Kindle Unlimited, you can even download the book for free. Someone said you need at least 89 reviews to get noticed.

Sigh!

I guess Bird Droppings and Travels with Maggie both still have a long way to go.

Bean Pat: My beautiful things  https://mybeautfulthings.com/2018/04/04/scarf-maya-angelou-and-martin-luther-king/ Scarf,, Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com.

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Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle.” – James Russell Lowell

I well remember my day on Espanola Island with my new sea lion friends. 

A Journal Page from a Non-Wandering Wanderer

As I’m reading my journal from 2005, when I was more active as a wanderer, I came across an entry of a day I had forgotten. It came at the end of an 11-day trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and while these days of wondrous sights are still etched in my brain, this last day slipped by without leaving much of an imprint.

Here is what I wrote about it in my journal the next day:

And I will never forget the blue-footed boobies. — Photo by Pat Bean

Yesterday was “interesting.” It took us from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make a short flight from San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands to Quito, Ecuador. Our plane was hit by lighting, and when we finally landed, our luggage was placed on the top of the van that drove us to our hotel.

A sudden heavy rain drenched everything in my luggage, and that of the other passengers as well.  Luckily a pair of my clean underwear dried out overnight.

And what a night it was. About 1 a.m. the hotel shook and I was almost tossed out of bed. A 6.1 earthquake had hit near Quito. Then at 4 a.m., without much more sleep, I got up and got dressed for the early morning flight back to Houston.

As I said, and “interesting” day.

I can’t help but wonder if I might have had a bit more to say about that July 13, 2005, day I I wasn’t still enjoying my memories of the Galapagos Islands.

Bean Pat: https://cheerstotraveling.com/2018/03/28/add-westman-islands-to-iceland-itinerary/  More Islands to visit. And Heimeay, too, just to see the colorful puffin statue if for no other reason.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Leon Dormido, also know as Kicker Rock. — Wikimedia photo

The Galapagos Islands provide a window on time. In a geologic sense, they are young, yet they appear ancient.” – Frans Lanting

Pages From My Travel Journal

Shortly after boarding the Archipell II, a 16- passenger catamaran in which I would spend the next eight days sailing around the Galapagos Islands, we motored around Kicker Rock, which is actually two volcanic rocks split apart.

Pages from my journal.

The English name refers to the rocks’ resemblance to a boot when viewed from one angle. Our guide, Luiz, called it Lion Rock, or Leon Dormido in Spanish, however, because viewed from another angle, the 400-feet tall rock towers look like a sleeping lion.

We had set sail for our adventure from the harbor at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, where sea lions seemed to be everywhere. One group of sea lions had even commandeered a small boat tied to a larger boat, and one, a young juvenile lying near where our group boarded a panga for the ride out to the Archipell, sniffed my leg when I passed it.

Sea Lion in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. — Wikimedia photo

It was a bit chilling, but I was thrilled to have such an experience. My friend, Shirley Lee, who was behind me, was less thrilled. The sea lion nipped her instead of just sniffing. While we had dutifully been instructed not to touch the animals, someone forgot to pass the message on to the islands’ wildlife, which had absolutely no fear of humans.

By the time we got to Kicker Rock, I had seen dozens of birds, many that would go onto my life list, such as great frigatebirds, a striated heron, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and several of what are known as the Darwin finches, a group of about 15 birds studied by Darwin because of diversity in beak form and function.

And this was only day one. What fun it is to relive this great adventure. I’ll write more about it next week.

Bean Pat: Spring Equinox https://marinakanavaki.com/2018/03/20/spring-equinox-2018/?wref=pil An artist’s rendition.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Female spotted towhee — Wikimedia photo

“The accent of one’s birthplace remains in the mind and in the heart as in one’s speech.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

A Southern Accent, Perhaps

            Towhee … towhee!

The sound was coming from a bird hidden in a tree about halfway up Negro Bill Canyon near Moab, Utah.

Male spotted towhee

Drink ur tea … drink your tea, a reply echoed from farther up the canyon.

The sounds stopped me in my tracks. I had no intention of hiking on until I had spotted the two birds with my binoculars. I was sure I would see two different species, based on the different bird sounds they were making.

Although tucked among some small branches, I easily spotted the first bird, a male spotted towhee that gets its name from its voice. With a black head and back, rusty sides, and black wings speckled with white spots, it was an easy identification, even without the binoculars. But this basic bird-watching tool let me get a closeup look at the towhee’s bird’s brilliant red eye. Such details always delight me.

After the second bird sang out drink ur tea … drink ur tea a second time, I found it sitting in another tree. Except that its head appeared to be more of a rich brown than black, the two birds were identical. According to my field guide, this was a female spotted towhee.

Towhees, I had read, learn their songs when young, and pick up different inflections, even copy the songs of other species if they hear them frequently.

Perhaps one of these birds had a southern accent, like this native Texan. It was a fanciful thought, but it might even have been true.

Bean Pat: Brevity: Stripper Girl  https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/stripper-girl/  Always one of my favorite blogs, and this one is an example of how the world’s language  changes.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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A flock of roseate spoonbills won the color award of the day when I visited Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. — Wikimedia photo

“I want my children and my grandchildren to live in a world with clean air, pure drinking water, and an abundance of wildlife, so I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to wildlife conservation so I can make the world just a little bit better.” – Bindi Irwin

Cormorants and turtles were also plentiful on the island sanctuary. — Photo by Pat Bean

Favorite Places: Ding Dong, I Thought

The name Ding Darling for a national wildlife refuge fascinated my wandering-wondering brain. So. of course I had to research its origin while visiting Florida’s Sanibel Island sanctuary in 2008.

D’ing Darling in 1918. — Wikimedia photo

The refuge, which is home to a mangrove forest, submerged sea-grass beds and a multitude of birds and other wildlife, was simply named after the island on which it is located when it was created in 1945. It wasn’t until 1987 that the refuge was renamed after Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling, who used a contraction of his last name — D’ing — to sign his work. The name stuck.

D’ing, as everyone called him, got involved with the refuge when he worked to help keep developers from taking over some environmentally valuable land on Sanibel Island. He also penned conservation cartoons, initiated the Federal Duck Stamp, which supports wildlife habitation, and designed its first stamp. In addition, he was instrumental in founding the National Wildlife Federation in 1936. Lake Darling, a 9,600-acre lake in the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa is also named in his in honor.

All of which makes me a bit embarrassed that my first thought of the refuge was that it must be a “ding dong” place to visit.

The first Duck Stamp, designed by D’ing Darling.

One had to take a ferry to get to the refuge before a causeway was built to the island in 1963. But that old bridge was replaced in 2007, just a year before I visited, with a flyover span tall enough for sailboats to pass beneath. The scenic view from the top was awesome.

I remember the refuge as a place where I got two birds for my life list, a prairie warbler, and a Bahama mockingbird, which at first, I thought, was simply a familiar northern mockingbird. I could have seen the warbler is many other places in the southeastern United States, but the Bahama mockingbird is a rare vagrant that only occasionally can be seen is southern Florida.

But it was the roseate spoonbill flock that impressed me most. I’m a fan of color.

Bean Pat: Daily Echo https://scvincent.com/2018/03/13/wishes-flashfiction/?wref=pil Flash fiction in 99 words.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Brown Creeper

“Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.” — Jimmy Buffett

The Nemesis Bird

Brown creeper — Wikimedia photo

Two blocks from my oldest daughter’s home, in a crowded residential neighborhood near Dallas, I finally saw a brown creeper, a bird that can be seen in all 49 North American states and Canada. But it had eluded me for five years of seriously looking for it in all the right habitats.

There were even several times during those five years when I was with other birders who would call out: “Brown creeper, here!” But the darn little creeper was always gone before I got a look.  It had become my nemesis bird.

The one I finally saw on a winter day in 2005, however, made up for all my efforts to see it. Here’s how I described the event in my journal.

Dainty and delicately patterned to match the bark of the tree, the creeper was spiraling upward around the trunk of an old oak … Two more times, this little tree climber circled the trunk, always in an upward motion. … it then flew to the bottom of a second tree about four feet away, and began spiraling upward once again, its actions perfectly matching a description of its behavior in my field guide.

The creeper was using its thin, down-curved bill to dig out tiny insects in the trunk’s crevices. So well camouflaged was the bird that my eyes were sometimes fooled into thinking I was simply looking at tree bark. But when I did see the creeper, I was amazed at the crisp look of the bird’s brown and white feathers, which seemed to sparkle when the sun briefly flashed on them.”

I’m glad I took time to write down my observations, because the brown creeper I saw that day is still the only one I have ever seen.

I guess you could still call it my nemesis bird.

Bean Pat: Blogging at the Holler’s for the birds. https://cindyknoke.com/2018/03/07/blogging-at-the-hollers-for-the-birds/?wref=pil

Pat Bean is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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