‘Twas the night before…

Blue Jay, photo by Tom Halliwell

‘Twas the night before Mom’s Big Year!

I’m super excited to get going tomorrow! You’re all invited to join me on my journey and follow along via this blog- if you’re not already. (Just select the blue button on the right or elect to follow via email).  I am completely humbled and deeply moved by the outpouring of support I have received from so many friends near and far! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the personal notes of encouragement and offers to house me, bird with me, and support me along the way.  I’m sure feeling the love!

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Yesterday I made a decision. Instead of attacking the 1.5 million holiday tasks I had yet to do.. I passed on it ALL, left the house in its ‘it looks like a tornado hit here’ state, and decided to go chase a Iceland gull that has been seen up at the Conowingo Dam over an hour drive away.

Iceland Gull 16 (David Dillon)

<——– I was *hoping* to see this beauty (it’s not in this plumage.. but a beauty nonetheless).







But instead, I saw about 150 of THESE—>






No luck on the gull.. Bummer.

But a nice find I suppose. That is, if I were black vulture. 😛

And today, after the mad dash to catch up on all the errands that I skipped yesterday, I was hoping to come home to this..







And instead, I have this….IMG_5052





Distracted by a sea of unanswered emails, gifts yet-to-be-wrapped, piles of school papers, and dishes in the sink,  I left the house this morning not one, not two, but THREE times WITHOUT my shopping list. And then wouldn’t you know it… halfway through my errands, I *LOST* the all important list somewhere between Trader Joes, Costco and Safeway. Ha! I just had to laugh. 🙂

IMG_5039In this season of super-high expectations and in a time when the news headlines leave quite a bit to be desired….. my hope is that we all can find peace in what we have, in the hand that we’ve been dealt, even if its not quite what we expected.

And as for me.. the family starts coming into town for the holiday tomorrow.. I’m not ready.. not even close.

So, I’m sitting here, counting my blessings, hoping for a Christmas miracle and wondering whether black vultures do dishes…??  😛

To all my dear friends, near and far, Merry Christmas!

xo, Nancy

PS. It’s supposed to be 79 degrees here in Maryland on Christmas. Wow. Talk about ‘not quite what we’re expecting’!




Knock at the door?

This afternoon I heard what I thought was knocking at our front door. Figuring it was the UPS man with a holiday package, I flung open the door and was surprised to find no one there.  Soon after, I heard the knocking again and discovered it was coming from the other side of the house. I peered out the kitchen window and found a hairy woodpecker drumming away on our cedar siding! She flew away before I could get a pic, but this gives you a general idea of what I saw…

Not the holiday package I was expecting.. but I’ll take it any day!

Just pleeeease don’t look too closely at the holes in our siding.  ;-P


Thanks to fellow birder, Bonnie Ott, for the use of her photo.

Enjoy the start to the holiday season, everyone!

xo, Nature Nancy



Owl prowl



“It is good to have an end to journey toward;

but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

– Ernest Hemingway

We had no business going out… 

This weekend’s calendar was bursting at the seams with homework, science projects, basketball games, holiday baking commitments, orchestra practice, scout merit badge requirements, and several not-to-be-missed holiday gatherings.  Tis the season, right??

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Comfort birds

Yesterday I spent a full day at my new job at University of Maryland- Baltimore Campus (UMBC).  If you have not yet heard the news… it’s hot off the presses…   I just took a position teaching environmental science at UMBC this spring! In a word, I’m THRILLED!

With any new job, there’s a learning curve, of course. Even though I’ve taught undergrads before, I’ve been out of the classroom for 15 years. Going back has been both exciting and stimulating, engaging areas of my brain that haven’t been tapped in years.  My hope is that I’ll be skiing the downhill slope of that learning curve BEFORE I stand in the lecture hall with over 150 pairs of eyes pinned on me. At least that’s the plan.

Of all the courses I’d like to teach, this one’s at the top of my list– so I know I’m one lucky dog to have landed the position. That said, I’ve had days when I’ve thought to myself “I’ve got this!” and other days when the butterflies start to flutter .. There have been more of them than I care to admit lately. But yesterday was different.. no butterflies.


I asked myself–  What did I do differently?   I still have umpteen new unfamiliar computer software downloads, a syllabus to create, and a bunch of lesson plans to do. Where are those butterflies?

I realized that yesterday I had done one thing I hadn’t done before. On my 20 minute walk from my ‘low-man-on-the-totem-pole’ parking space, I had taken the time to stop in an empty lot and greet some familiar faces that will make all my fellow seasoned-birders cringe. 🙂 I encountered two house sparrows at my feet and flock of starlings sitting in trees above me.

For all you non-birders, these are considered ‘trash’ or ‘junk’ birds.. as they’re a dime a dozen, found everywhere, and show up in the most inhospitable, completely developed habitats. I’m pretty sure I’ve never smiled when I’ve seen either of these species.  But this time I smiled.

These were old friends in my strange new world. Just like grandma’s chicken soup heals your soul on a cold winter day when you’re under the weather, these birds were my comfort… appearing just when I needed them most.


Over the past few months, on several early morning coffee dates, my non-birding girlfriends have ever-so-patiently listened to me bubble over with excitement about my Mom’s Big Year.  They have been SO supportive and encouraging and have patiently listened to everything from my big picture travel plans right down to the detailed differences between a Franklin’s gull and laughing gull in winter plumage…      Quite the feat for a non-birding audience. 🙂

One morning a couple months ago, out of the blue, I received a text from one of those dear girlfriends, Sandra, with this photo attached.  


Sandra is simply lovely. She’s an amazing friend, artist, mom, and graphic designer and she created this collage as a gift to me- inspired by my journey.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I called to thank her.. I was deeply moved by her sweet gesture.  Every element of this artwork has a TON of symbolism for me…the word “FLY”, the bird cage, the birds on the wire, the colors… So exciting to wrap my mind around this. Whenever I look at it, I smile and cry, all at the same time. I will cherish it always.

With the support of people as genuine and generous as Sandra in my flock ;-), I know this journey is going to be nothing short of fabulous!  Today I’m rolling out my blog to a wider audience and I’m ready to FLY!