Well, here we are… several weeks into the New Year!
(2017?! what happened to 1996?? I clearly recall when that year seemed soooo far in the distant future.)
You haven’t heard from me in a while. I’ll admit, frankly, reentry back post-Mom’s Big Year life has been rough. Like coming off of a high. Last year was the best year of my life to date. So definitely tough to follow that. Many of you saw that glimmer in my eye as I always had another trip around the corner.
Since January 1st, I’ve been playing catch up in just about every aspect of my life and am a bit overwhelmed… Dishes, laundry, work, friendships, carpools, teaching, etc etc… catching up on everything except sleep. Adapting back to the way things were before the Big Year. These past few weeks have been a time for me to shift my attention back to matters at home and work. It’s truly been a joy to be back with the family!
Paul just suggested we take our Halloween decorations down. I guess it’s been a little busy. Lol! So, as you can tell, I’m still playing catch up.. but could not wait another day to update you!
I owe you some very cool posts that cover the final push of MBY! I head to Florida next week for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. I’m super excited to be leading trips for the festival again this year and to be presenting my first MBY talk! Check it out the festival website here: Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival And if you’re there, I’ll be at the Wildside Nature Tours booth, so please come by and say HI!
So, going back to start bringing you up to date…
The rest of my Texas trip in November was FANTASTIC!
We met up with friend, Scarlet Colley to take her magical pontoon boat trip for a shot at Wilson’s Plover. Anyone who has been on Scarlet’s boat knows that ‘magical’ is the only way to describe it. Scarlet talks with her dolphin friends that surround the boat. When I asked her how close they get to the dolphins, she told me, “We feed them our joy…We touch them with our hearts… And we swim with them in our dreams.”
Here are the highlights of my last days in Texas in pictures:
My next trip held a big change in temps for me!
MBY headed NORTH!
Check back soon for the last of the MBY adventures. The last weeks were full of surprises and some were ‘beyond birds!’
There’s SO much to share from these last few weeks, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s been a whirlwind of travel, final exams, family, friends and holidays. BIG fun!
After an amazing trip to the Rio Grande Valley in November, I stepped up the birding again in mid-December to finish the year strong. With the immeasurable help and support of family, colleagues, and friends at this crazy time of year, I felt so fortunate to squeeze in trips to Minnesota, Southern Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina and an unplanned trip to my childhood home in New Jersey… all before the ball dropped. I closed out 2016 with some very exciting hits, some tough misses, and a rather exciting finish to Mom’s Big Year!
Now, I’m getting back to reality.. unpacking my suitcase and starting the laundry. I just submitted semester grades this morning.. so, this month I’ll have more time to blog and recap on what I would consider to be the best year of my life so far! It was certainly a huge year of birds.. but as you all know, for me, it was much more than birds… It was a year chock-FULL of learning, growth, love, healing, travel, adventure, new friends, old friends and family.
I am grateful. I simply couldn’t ask for more.
Speaking of which…Here’s one of my favorite songs, by Sara Evans, I Could Not Ask for More. I’ve posted it before and I’m posting again as I love it so much. I sing it to my kids and hubby all the time. It really captures how I’m feeling right now about them, and you, and my entire support network for Mom’s Big Year.
“These are the moments
I know heaven must exist
And these are the moments
I know all I need is this
I’ve found all I’ve waited for, yeah
And I could not ask for more
I could not ask for more than this time together
I could not ask for more than this time with you
And every prayer has been answered
Every dream I’ve had’s come true
Yeah, right here in this moment
Is right where I’m meant to be
Here with you here with me”
These last few weeks I’ve been doing the mom/work thing.. This week alone has been filled with band/orchestra concerts (5 concerts in 7 nights!!!!!), basketball games, Girl & Boy Scout meetings, holiday parties, the usual grocery shopping/meal planning, school projects etc etc.
Because of all the crazy busy days and nights- I owe you blog posts from the second half of my fabulous foray through Texas and my success in ticking Short-eared Owl (#499!) a couple weeks ago here in Maryland. More on those soon… Perhaps I’ll get to write them after I send out LAST year’s Christmas cards I never sent. Lol!
All in a Mom’s Big Year, right?! 🙂
This weekend we had a dusting of snow….our first of the year! After church, Sunday, I headed over to Maryland’s Eastern shore to see if I could tick #500.
Spend almost 3 hours of driving and 3 hours searching for a reliable Northern Shrike.. but missed it.. It was nowhere to be found! Rats! Thanks to John and Meg Harris from the Howard County Bird Club for making the trek with me!
dipped on the shrike- but still smiling
the conciliatory dark chocolate
Now I sit in the airport for my final planned trip for Mom’s Big Year!
Took a moment to look up from my laptop and this is my view. It’s a beaUUUtiful start to what I’m CERTAIN will be an INCREDIBLE trip!
Can you guess where I’m heading?
Hint: I just bought some extra thermals yesterday!
Well, it’s been an AMAZING few days in the Rio Grande Valley and I still have a few more days of hard-core birding left!
I am beyond thrilled with the birds I’ve ticked here so far. I have my “Texas A-team” with me and the plan is to leave No. Bird. Unseen. And with this crew, we’re actually gonna make that happen!
Meet Team Texas:
Gabriel Lugo– fellow Wildside Nature Tours guide, came ALL the way from Puerto Rico, just to lend a hand. NO bird slips by Gabriel.. that’s for SURE. Gabriel chauffeured the team the entire week for hours on end..from Amazon Kingfisher to Aplomado Falcon to Northern Jacana and back, several times!
David Stekoll– Uncle David has joined me once again to ‘tear up’ Texas for Mom’s Big Year. I’m SO super thankful to have another serious birder in the family! He’s the BEST! And fortunately, he’s still talking to this Yankee after driving across Texas for Mom’s Big Year(Austin to Big Bend and back) with me for 7 days in May. Lol! We got 86 birds on that trip… It was EPIC!
Martin Hagne– reigns from the Texas Hill Country and has been an indispensable part of several Mom’s Big Year adventures. He knows the ‘ins and outs’ of Texas birding and birds – especially the entire Rio Grande Valley- like the palm of his hand! Martin joined the Mom’s Big Year – Arizona edition in August and has so kindly spent hours helping to plan the Mom’s Big Year itinerary.
And very special thanks to Greg Miller this week -and beyond- for his constant support, guidance and for serving as a major resource to me throughout the entire year. I certainly could not have done it all without him. Mom’s Big Year was actually his idea! A shout out to Raymond VanBuskirk for his updates on some local targets this week and to Rich Kostecke for re-finding the Amazon Kingfisher on Tuesday while we were there!
Our first day here we drove the 3.5 hours to Laredo to test our luck. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a shot at the Amazon Kingfisher! And…. WE GOT IT!
This is only the 3rd time EVER that this bird has been seen in the US… so it’s considered a MEGA-rarity in ‘birding speak’.
As if things couldn’t get any better, in just two days, I’ve added several new birds to my year list, including Sprague’s Pipit and Northern Jacana.
After lunch today, I was walking out of ‘Fat Daddy’s’ roadside restaurant near Estero Llana Grande and a frail-looking old-timer in a cowboy hat said a polite and chipper “Hello! How are you?!” as I exited. Basking in the successes of the day so far I responded, “FANTASTIC, how are you?!”
He enthusiastically replied, as only a Texan could,
“I’m finer than frog hair!”
Well, the way this week has been going so far…That makes TWO of us!
Just arrived in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas today after a fantastic and VERY fruitful trip to San Diego.
I spent three full days birding, including a pelagic trip out of Mission Bay. Southern California exceeded my expectations for sure! I ticked 46 new species and brought my total to 475 for Mom’s Big Year!
Very special thanks to Steve Ritt for providing me an unbelievable amount of help and expertise to make this such an ‘over-the-top’ successful trip! And thanks to Paul Lehman for meeting up and for providing additional useful info regarding my target birds.
I’m trying this again. Last weekend’s pelagic is rescheduled for tonight and the conditions have all the makings of a great trip!
I’m heading to Cape May this morning, even though the simple thought of it makes my palms sweat, my heart race, and the hair on the back of my neck raise up. This week my driving anxiety ebbed and flowed… Some days much less comfortable than I expected after such great success last weekend.
That said, I’m still riding the wave and I’ve decided to try a route today that takes me over my biggest challenge yet on the Big Year bucket list-
the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
I need to add Piping Plover and pelagic birds to my year list.
And I’m determined to drive myself right over that stinkin’ bridge to get them.
Time is short this week, but I’ve been itching to share this post with you all! Thank you for the calls, messages and emails inquiring about how my trip to Cape May panned out.
Here’s the scoop… Bad news first..
I found myself 9 minutes outside of Cape May mid-day last Saturday and received a call from long-time friend, Bill Boyle, informing me that the Sat-Sun pelagic trip (the main reason I had done the trip) had been postponed due to high seas. 😦
<<Insert crying-like-a-baby sounds here>>
So, I may have traveled 4+ hours to get there prior to hearing this…
BUT the really good news is that I drove to Cape May…
ALL. BY. MY. SELF!
Those of you who have been following along know.. That’s a HUGE check for the MBY bucket list!
There unfortunately were not any birds I needed to chase for Mom’s Big Year in the area.. BUT I was thrilled that I had the chance to spend some time in my *favorite* place with some of my *favorite* people.
And the ‘always a treat’ flight of migrants didn’t happen the one morning I was there.. But special thanks to Vince Elia for being so very sweet to come out to meet me to go birding, even when there weren’t any birds! Depite the quiet morning, we all *beamed* ear-to-ear, as we were simply happy to be out birding Higbee together once again.
Special thanks to my dear friends, Karen Thompson and Bill Boyle for always serving as the most gracious hosts during my visits to Cape May. It’s such a treat to catch up with them and hear about all of their latest birding/nature travel adventures!
Here’s a cooperative Northern Waterthrush we enjoyed for a bit in The Meadows.
I just can’t even begin to tell you how TICKLED I was to reconnect with all the great folks from Cape May. Some of my friends there have been fixtures in the community for decades, while others are new on the scene. I even got to meet up with a local birding friend from Maryland, Kurt Schwarz, who kindly joined me to chase a salt marsh sparrow. Alas, no sparrow this time.. but smiles and laughter nonetheless.
It was super fun for me to get to spend time with Brett Ewald and Erik Bruhnke on Saturday. I knew both of them from different chapters in my life, and they both have relocated to Cape May! And to have us all meeting up in Cape May at the same time…
Well, that’s simply MAGIC to me!
Based on the concert of big smiles in this picture below…
can you see how much each of us simply loves Cape May to pieces!!!???!!
Erik, Hawk Counter extraordinaire
Nancy & Erik
I cannot close this post without telling you about the traveling part of my trip TO and FROM Cape May. I mentioned in my last post the large amount of anxiety I was feeling about doing the drive for this trip. The major highways, the bridges, the Saturday traffic… all not sitting well with me. At all..
How did it go, you ask?
Well, I was feeling some stress about the highways on the way there, so I took back roads to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. And then, when I got to the bridge…. I sailed my way over like it was NOTHING.
After 11 years, it was an anticlimactic pile of nothing.
I floated through the rest of the trip, without issue. And the trip home was even easier for me than the way over.
How did that happen?
I have absolutely NO idea, my friends. It just DID!
I’ll admit, during the last hour of my trip home, I sobbed like I haven’t sobbed in a very long time. The enormity of the transformation that had happened during my trip this weekend had finally hit me.
And this is the incredible scene I was treated to just minutes before I arrived back home.
Can I do it again this weekend for the rescheduled pelagic trip?
I have NO idea! I know this journey of healing is not over. I have felt the gnarly tendrils of anxiety creeping back as I’ve been driving highways near home this week.
BUT I do have a feeling there’s nothing…
that can keep this girl away from Cape May. 🙂
Special thanks to all of my dear family and friends who are carrying me through this amazing Big Year journey of birds, travel, self-discovery and healing. It’s not over yet and I’m certain there’s still some incredible adventures ahead. I am grateful to every one of you for following along and can truly feel the unconditional support of all my friends and family, old and new, near and far.
Special thanks to my dear and most wonderful husband, Paul. (It’s good he’s sleeping now.. because he’d never let me post this about him if he saw it…He’s so humble.) Many of you have heard me say he’s a living saint, who has made me realize this Big Year story is about SO much more than the birds. It’s truly a love story. A story about a love of birds, friends, travel, family, and an incredibly deep love between a husband and a wife. It’s a story in which a husband loves his wife so very much, that he has made a huge sacrifice in giving his wife a gift that no one else on the planet could ever give her….
the gift of a Big Year.
Here’s a link to a song below that seems fitting for how I’m feeling about you all.