Well, now it’s time to play ‘catch up’.  The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity with my trip to Florida, a BIG snowstorm here in the northeast and the start to the spring semester for my new environmental science class.  All fun for me!

Florida was fabulous!  The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival was a hit on SO many levels! I had a great time working with Wildside Nature Tours to bring incredible birds together with equally amazing people!  I led 5 straight days of field trips for the festival and truly had a blast! Each trip and its guides and participants were unique. Everyone was engaged and made it such a rewarding time for me. It’s always so much fun reconnecting and leading trips with old friends and colleagues and meeting lots of new friends too!

Here are some highlights:

My flight home was cancelled on Sunday due to “Snowzilla”.  We had 30″ of snow blanket our home in Maryland! As I was fretting and wringing my hands about my cancelled flight and the possibility that I might actually MISS my FIRST class of the spring semester/my new job (eeek!)… Skye, seabird counter extraordinaire, looked me square in the eyes and with his jovial smile said one word to me.


That’s all I had to hear to give my attitude the 180 degree turn it needed. Cancelled flights yield more time for birding… and more birding I did!   I took the extra time and thanks to fellow Wildside guide, Steve, had the great fortune of seeing a bird that I’ve been dreaming about seeing since I was 5 years old…. a male painted bunting!

Painted bunting, Photo credit http://www.finchforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=31115
The first couple weeks of teaching my new class have been fabulous.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how incredibly motivated my UMBC students are!

This week on my day off, after getting the lunches packed and the kids off to school, I took a deep breath and realized it was the first day the house was quiet since my trip and after the kids had been home for 10 days straight due to the weather.  It was a warm morning.  The snow was covered by a thick blanket of fog as it started into a steady rain.. It was the PERFECT day to pull the covers back over my head and go straight to sleep again.  And that I did.

By about 9:15 am I reached for my phone to check email as I was pondering all the things on the ‘to-do list’ that had been pushed aside in the whirlwind of activity these past few weeks.  The mile-long list (including the unsent holiday cards!) made me pull the covers even higher over my head as I entertained the idea of another hour or two of sleep in my warm, cozy bed..  With the quiet in the house after all the hustle and bustle, some extra zzz’s were just way too tempting for this overtired mom.

A fellow local bird club member had just sent an email reporting 12 + Pine Siskins at his feeder.  Knowing it was a bird I needed to see for the year and one that only came to feeders on occasion and could be missed…. I literally kicked my feet straight up in the air, covers flying off the bed and shot straight up. Fifteen minutes later, I arrived at his house and got the bird.


Pine siskin, courtesy of Jeff Culler

There was only ONE thing on this planet that could get me out of that bed that morning.

And you guessed it..







First trip!


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’!

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I bought this stone last spring, just after the Mom’s Big Year seed had been planted during a fun and inspiring conversation with Greg Miller*. I had time on my hands at that point.. enough time to pick this stone up and put it down 7 times before I finally decided to treat myself and buy it.  Since then, my ‘Imagine’ stone has fueled dreams of flying off to far away and exciting places all over the country to see rare birds and equally exciting people.

I no longer have the luxury of extra time, as this week I begin prep for my first big trip of Mom’s Big Year.  Now everything is kicking into gear.

All. At. Once.

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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.