Back in the nest

Well, momma bird is back in the nest!

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!

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Sneak preview of my trip up north to Minnesota! Evening Grosbeak. Tick!

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”

Click on the link below for the youtube video:

Sara Evans, I Could Not Ask for More

I am so happy that you’re a part of my Big Year. And I cannot WAIT to share more with you!

But for now, it’s back to mom duties today.

I must head to the grocery store now, or we’ll be eating candy canes off the tree for dinner…

Though, I’m sure the kids wouldn’t mind… right?. 😉

More soon, xoxo,

Nancy

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Catching up…

Hi everyone!

Since my return from Texas, I’ve been playing catch up around here. There’s still lots to do for the final weeks of Mom’s Big Year, but the day-to-day mommy/family/work duties have been my priority these past two weeks.

What’s been on the menu?…Parent-teacher conferences, end of the season soccer parties and games, laundry, homework projects, wisdom tooth removal for our teen, last day bird banding at the lab for the season, updating grades for my students, prepping for Thanksgiving, basketball tournaments, and planning the next big MBY trip.  Oh and a quick Snow Bunting chase.. bringing me to #498 for Mom’s Big Year!

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Just before the calculus parent-teacher conference.. and yes we came OUT of the conference with smiles too! 🙂 
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Nancy with fellow soccer mom, and dear friend, Susan, and her adorable Sandy
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Basketball tourney today!
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Soccer dinner last weekend

 

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Snow Bunting success!, North Point State Park, 11/20/2016, Photo courtesy of Anthony VanSchoor
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Heading out to get the family pics taken last Sat
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Holiday groceries
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Pre-turkey workout, while the turkey was in the oven!
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All done!

 

I still need to blog about the second half of my Texas trip.. But I could not let another day go by on this Thanksgiving weekend without posting how grateful I am.

Those of you who know me, know that I make a practice of gratitude as part of my daily living. But this year I am particularly grateful for so many things and for every one of you as a part of my Mom’s Big Year journey.

The “village” of support has been overwhelming and moves me to tears when I pause for a moment and soak it all in. I am thankful for each of you in my “village” and the role you have played to make this journey such a successful one. And it’s not over yet!

But I am particularly thankful for my husband. As I’ve said before, this Big Year has TRULY been a love story. Paul has given me a gift that no one else on this planet could give me… and for that, I am forever grateful.

Here’s Paul, 2 am on Monday night after we woke up to the classic beeping of the dying smoke detector. He went outside to the shed to get a ladder to climb up to the ceiling in our bedroom to change the battery.  Not a word of complaining out of him.

Not one.

I am thankful. ❤

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Last night the clean laundry was piled high on my bed. Paul was away visiting his parents and I was SOOO beat from all the holiday prep.  I crawled under the covers and fell fast asleep UNDER the pile of laundry!  Too funny!

And the pile was still there this morning.

Could someone please send the ‘laundry fairy’.:-)

Thanks!

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Two steps forward…

It had all the elements of a great family trip. There were college visits for my oldest, days at beach, golf outings, tennis matches, chats with locals, shrimp and grits, cooking in, eating out and plenty of ice cream runs. Last week we took a family vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. It wasn’t strictly a birding trip, but I, of course, had to squeeze in at least a few good-sized dollops of birding. (My chat with some local watermen while out in the field one morning is worth a post all its own, so stay tuned!)  

Now, you may recall that I am trying to nip my issues with bridge/driving anxiety during my Big Year and I am using birding in my attempt to do so.  Well, this entire week I had Charleston’s beautiful Ravenel bridge staring me in the face. I honestly didn’t give it much thought.. but I’ll admit my mind did occasionally wander to images of the day I would sit in the driver’s seat while making my way over that bridge.

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Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge

One afternoon, while perusing the downtown Charleston shopping district, I ran across this book.

IMG_9623I am not lying to you when I say I picked it up and put it down 10 times. I was trying to decide whether I wanted to stop right there and read the whole thing in one sitting or put it down and never ever pick it up again.

I figured Mom’s Big Year is already more than half over and it was time to add a whole new dimension to this Big Year thing!  Gull-billed tern, Sandwich tern and Least Bittern were all seen in the last couple weeks at the Pitt St. Causeway on the OTHER side of the Ravenel Bridge.. so the choice was clear…THIS was my ticket.. These target birds were my carrot to get me over that bridge.

Well, by golly, without giving it much thought, I just buckled down and DID it! I took the helm and sailed my way right over that bridge with my hubby in tow! And we missed our target birds, so I did it AGAIN the next morning at sunrise.. Out and back. ALL. BY. MY. SELF!  I could hardly believe it.  Now, it wasn’t without anxiety, but it was a feeling I hadn’t ever felt before.  I was getting better, I just KNEW it. Eleven years I had been avoiding bridges like this one and I did it!  Two days in a row!  I didn’t care one little bit that I missed my target birds those days (ok, maybe I cared a teeny bit), but birds aside, I drove over that bridge!

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Birding with my honey on the OTHER side of the bridge! (Note the bridge photo-bombing us in the background)
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Tri-colored Heron – Pitt St. Causeway, Mt. Pleasant, SC

After eleven years, the whole experience was less climactic in the actual moment than I expected.  I dropped the family off at the beach in the afternoon, so I could chase a Wilson’s Plover that had been seen recently a few minutes away. Then suddenly, the magnitude of what I had just accomplished finally hit me. As my youngest closed the car door behind him and ran out to the beach, I started to cry.  Mom’s Big Year had yet, once again, gotten bigger… and this time it wasn’t about the birds.

Now, Saturday was travel day back to Maryland and with my newly found ora of confidence I decided to take the wheel and give Rt. 95 a whirl as we made our way home.

How did that go, you ask..?

NOT well.

In complete contrast to my masterful driving the day before, I felt like I was on a roller coaster spinning out of control and dizziness and panic started to show their nasty countenances. My legs and arms started getting numb, and my lips tingly.. After 30 minutes of attempting to power through my driving anxieties like my counselor had taught me, I decided that for everyone’s safety, it was time to pull over.

The tears this time weren’t the happy tears I had cried the day before.  They were tears of frustration and feelings of failure as I hung my head and pounded the steering wheel. I thought my issues were over and that I had entered a completely new era. The reality was there plain and simple… I had not.

Fortunately, my kids and husband quickly reminded me of how far I had come in just a few days and clamored with words of support and comfort from the back seat.

Two steps forward, one step back… These seas are going to be tougher to navigate than I could ever have imagined.

I recall when I first started the Big Year, my very wise and dear friend, Marcia reminded me that I can’t eat the elephant all in one bite.

She was 100% right.

 

 

Break in the birding

I’ll get back to the report on the Texas trip soon! But this weekend was reserved for some overdue family fun time.  While Mom’s Big Year includes a ton of birding (of course), it also includes a ton of “mommying”.  And this weekend it was all about the mommy stuff.  Continue reading

Text me…

Said my final goodbyes to the kids last night before bed.. Texas here I come! 

I gave my youngest one final kiss on the forehead, turned out the light, and started walking out of his room. With his eyes half-closed as he began to enter dreamland he quietly uttered, 

“Text me when you get to 300,  okay mom?”

I can tell he REALLY gets it. 🙂 and boy do I feel loved! 

No place like home

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Well, my birthday was last week and I admit I took the opportunity to play the birthday card more than once. 🙂 We spend the holiday weekend back in my old stomping grounds of northern NJ. I ate several servings of dessert Friday night, went birding Sat morning  and had a chance to visit with dear family and friends all weekend.  What fun!

A visit to Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary was at the top of the list. It’s one of New Jersey Audubon’s Centers, just minutes from my childhood home. They happened to be hosting a family nature walk Sat morn, so I dragged my boys and hubby to join me. We had a great time (see pics below) and since I hadn’t been north of my Maryland home since last year, I added black-capped chickadee to my Mom’s Big Year list. Yay!

Scherman Hoffman is a special place to me. I clearly recall visiting when I was a high schooler, enjoying chats with the long-time director, Rich Kane, and asking Pete Dunne for advice on how to go about saving the last tract of woods in my hometown of Parsippany. In the late ’80’s, I took my first warbler ID course there. Great memories for sure.

Indeed, there’s no place like home.

First trip!

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I just landed in sunny Florida for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival!  Special thanks to Kevin Loughlin and Wildside Nature Tours for bringing me down to lead field trips here for the next 5 days!  So much FUN! I can’t wait!

Looking forward to seeing some great birds and meeting and reconnecting with lots of fun and exciting people on this first out-of-state trip for my ‘Mom’s Big Year’!

Continue reading