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Archive for the ‘Nature’ 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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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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The Corkscrew Boardwalk … Wikimedia photo

Lie on the bridge and watch the water flowing past. Or run, or wade through the swamp in your red boots. Or roll yourself up and listen to the rain falling on the roof. It’s very easy to enjoy yourself.” — Tove Jansson

Home of Wood Storks, Air Flowers and Cypress Trees

In 2008, I spent a month on Pine Island just across the water from Cape Coral, Florida. The location allowed me to explore the west side of the Everglades at my leisure. One place I visited twice was Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, home to the largest old growth bald cypress forest in North America and a favorite habitat of endangered wood storks. .

The Ghost Orchid

Both times I took over five hours to hike the 2.25-mile loop boardwalk that meandered through the sanctuary’s awesome and varied landscape. It seemed as if Mother Nature had a different spectacle for me to watch and observe every 100 feet or so.

While my goal for visiting was to bird watch, that often took a back seat to my gawking at the cypress trees that stood tall and wide. with moss-draped limbs and sometimes unrelated flowers that grew among the branches. I even got a glimpse – thanks to my birding binoculars – of the swamp’s famous ghost orchid, discovered just a year before I visited.

I was told where to look for it at the visitor center or I would have just thought it was one of the bromeliads that had attached their roots to tall branches in

Little blue heron up a tree. — Photo by Pat Bean

the trees. These plants, which seemed to grow on nothing but air, fascinated me. But then so did the swamp’s birds, marsh prairies, otters (I saw two) and all the other wonders of a place that miraculously was saved when Florida’s cypress forests were being leveled for timber in the mid-1900s.

The National Audubon Society, recognizing the swamp’s value, worked to save the land and its inhabitants for future generations to enjoy.  Today, Corkscrew Sanctuary, is both a designated Wetland of International Importance and an Important Bird Area. I hope it will still be there when my grandchildren’s children, and their children, want to visit, like my six-year-old great-grandson Kaiden, whose mother and my granddaughter Keri spent a week touring the Everglades with me in 2008.

Bean Pat:  In the Forest https://forestgardenblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/blossom-xxxv-in-the-forest/ A perfect blog to accompany mine. They’re both about the beauty of a place.

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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Candy-striped rocks in Badlands National Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

“Landscape is a piece that is emotional and psychological.” – Jim Hodges

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Remnants of an ancient jungle can be seen in the Badlands. — Photo by Pat Bean

Alone on a Windy Day

In the neighborhood of a million or more people from all over the world annually visit Badlands National Park, a rugged, colorful, wind scoured, sun-bleached, South Dakota landscape that took my mind back through endless eras of time. It felt magical, and the windy autumn day I drove, and hiked a bit, through it seemed as if I had the park’s entire quarter-million acres of rock and prairie to myself.

         I had spent the night at a small campground in Interior, a city of less than 100 residents that sits just outside the park. It is home to the Horseshoe Bar, whose sign out front said: “All Bikes Must Stop,” and a gas station, where I had to go inside to pay. The friendly clerk there old me to drop by for a hot meal later. I bypassed the bar, and did just that.

South Dakota is known as one of this country’s windiest states, and it was living up to the reputation when I awoke the next morning after a night of rocking and rolling in my over-the-cab bed. The smart thing to do was to stay put for the day. But the Badlands, which I had never visited before, was calling me.

My canine companion Maggie and I answered the invitation. We did get bounced around a bit in our undersized, 21-foot class C home on wheels. But, oh was it worth it! As more and more people seek relief from the world’s chaos in nature’s wild places, it is becoming rare to have time alone with Mother Nature. Well, unless you are a backpacker able to truly go into the backcountry, and age has put me at a point where that kind of adventure is behind me.

Besides the kaleidoscope of candy-striped boulders, remnants of an ancient jungle, and fossils of animals, like the saber-toothed tiger that no longer exist, I saw bison, prairie dogs, antelope, rock wrens and prairie falcons.

But the day’s furious winds, which calmed down for a bit every now and then, evidently kept other visitors away. I saw fewer than a dozen cars on the Badlands Highway 240 Loop Road, and only three other people during my several short hikes.

It rained shortly after I arrived back at the Interior campground, and I spent another night rocking and rolling as my RV danced with the wind. Then it was off for another day of exploring the “good” Badlands.

Bean Pat: An invitation https://natureontheedge.com/2018/01/27/ The adventure begins Feb. 16. Sounds like fun and a good cause.

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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The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.” — Pamela Hansford Johnson

Sunset Bay State Park — Oregon State Parks photo

A Moment Not to be Forgotten 

It was a misty, early morning at Sunset Bay Park where I was staying while attending the Oregon Shorebird Festival (See previous post) held nearby.

Sunset Bay State Park near Coos Bay in Oregon. — Wikimedia photo

The Oregon coast campground oozed beauty and peacefulness as I stepped out of my small RV for the morning walk with my canine companion. We strolled down to the beach, where not another soul was yet around. The quiet swishing of the waves against the sand poured calmness into my soul and made me glad to be alive – even though I hadn’t yet had my coffee.

As I walked along the water’s edge, I saw a flock of western sandpipers in the shallows ahead, marching slowly along and constantly dipping their tiny beaks in and out of the water in search of breakfast tidbits. I watched them through my binoculars, staying far enough behind them that they wouldn’t startle and fly off. Maggie was too interested in sniffing at the water’s edge to even notice. But then something, I’m not sure what, did disturb them. In what seemed like less than a second, as a unity of one, they soared into the air, circled for a moment, then flew farther down the beach, their feathers flashing silver when catching the morning sun.

As I stood there, I recalled  a quote by Cesare Pavese that I had written in my journal: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”  My heart told me that this was a moment I did not want to forget.

Bean Pat: A strange bird story  https://apetcher.wordpress.com/2018/02/08/ This qualifies as my learning something new for the day. The post both made me laugh, and made me sad, first for the caged bird and then for the unethical humans. I know for a fact that there are more ethical people in the world than the other way around. But boy do the rotten ones leave a bad taste in the soul.

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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“I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore … I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”  – William Butler Yates.

A tree full of double-crested cormorants at Lake End Campground. — Photo by Pat Bean  

Water and Birds for Double the Pleasure

A walk among the moss-dripping trees. — Photo by Pat Bean

One of my favorite things to do when I traveled across this country in my RV was to spend the night parked where I could be lulled to sleep at night by the sounds of water gurgling, lapping and laughing. It was better than any sleeping pill, assuring me a good night’s sleep, and a morning eager to take a walk by the water.

It didn’t hurt either that lakes and ponds and oceans were also the stomping grounds of birds to feed my birdwatching passion.

Great Blue Heron at Lake End Campground, Louisiana. — Photo by Pat Bean

So, it was that I found myself spending a few nights on the western edge of Louisiana’s Lake Palourde at Lake End Campground, sharing it with an abundance of double-crested cormorants and great blue herons. An additional bonus was its scenic walking trail.

Palourde is an 11,250-acre lake near Morgan City, Louisiana. It was originally called Lac Palourde by early French settlers, which means Lake Clam. The name came because of the abundance of clams that once lined the shore.

I didn’t see any clams, but I did see lots of birds – and I slept well.

Bean Pat:  Living outside the lines https://tinyurl.com/y9ho6t7r Be sure and listen to the music. I really loved this blog

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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“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese     

The long-billed curlew — Wikimedia photo by Jerry Kirkhart

AKA the Candlestick Bird

It was a June Day in 1998 and photographer Kurt Duce and I were on the unpaved, closed to the public, south causeway to Antelope Island. We had permission to four-wheel it on the rough passage because I was doing a series of newspaper articles on Great Salt Lake.

Long-billed curlew_– Wikimedia photo by Frank Schulenburg.

Since the road was rarely driven, a pair of long-billed curlews had built their nest right beside the one-lane passage. We stopped and got out for a better look, and several young chicks began and skittering to and fro in front of us. It was a great opportunity for me to quietly observe with my notebook in hand, and for Kort to get some rare photographs of this large shorebird and young.

We weren’t out of the car for more than about 30 seconds, however, when the two parents began dive-bombing us. It took off Kort’s hat with one pass. In less than 30 seconds the two of us were both back in our vehicle. I dare say you would have ducked for cover, too, if you got a close-up look at this bird’s wicked bill.

But it was one of those remembered moments that claim a prominent place in the file cabinets of my brain.

According to Wikipedia, the long-billed curlew was once known as the candlestick bird, and Candlestick Park and Candlestick Point in San Francisco, where these birds once inhabited, were named after this bird, which, however, disappeared from this landscape in the early 1900s.

Thankfully, however, it found other habitat and is currently not in danger of becoming extinct, as did its cousin, the Eskimo curlew, which has not been seen in over 30 years.

Serendipitously, a short time after I was dive-bombed by the angry bird parents, I heard a talk by author and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams,  who remarked: “I can’t help but believe that as long as the world supports the life of the long-billed curlew, we can be supported, too.”

I certainly agree.

Bean Pat: Watch a YouTube video of a long-billed curlew at https://tinyurl.com/y9tzvygf

         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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