Last week was a doozie for many of us in Western Howard County, Maryland. And that may be an understatement.
At my house we started last Sunday with a visit from a rabid raccoon on our driveway. Tuesday, the tornado hit. (See my last post.) And now this Sunday, a black bear wandered through our yard!
Black bear in Western Howard County, 6/26
Black bear in Western Howard County, 6/26
Black bear in Western Howard County, 6/26
(Yes. You read that right. A black bear. IN. MY. YARD….. in Maryland.) This is not a typical sighting for our area….and thus VERY exciting for this nature girl! 🙂
I just can’t make this stuff up.
Well, after all the drama and devastation, this week we’re finding plenty of silver linings…. or rather… They seem to be finding us. 🙂
Some of you who have been following along on the blog may recall a post entitled “Lemonade” that I published during “snowzilla” when I was stuck in Florida in January. Well, this past week I was given my second BIGopportunity during Mom’s Big Year to exercise my lemonade approach to a not-going-as-planned situation.
My post-tornado heavy heart is much lighter and happier this week as I see our wonderful community (and beyond) coming together like never before. At any given time, neighbors, some who haven’t seen each other in months or years, can be seen outside trading their raccoon/tornado/bear stories, shaking their heads in sympathy, hugging, and even sharing laugh or two.
I can’t help but smile.
As for our home, we’re getting things back in place. But it would have taken us years to do it ourselves. I have to give a shout out to Ben Wolff and his entire crew at Wolff Tree and Landscape (http://wolfftreeandlandscape.com/) for their professional approach and for the highly-technical work they did to make our home safe for our family again. They went above and beyond and were somehow able to return our entire yard to a new post-storm beauty. As part of the cleanup, they removed 4, 150-foot tall trees that were hanging high and leaning OVER the top of our house. Eeeeek! Amazing! Ben even so kindly granted my request to cut some beautiful pieces for me from the fallen trees, so I could set up some unique ‘tree cookie’ tables in our yard. I’ve always wanted to do that, so needless to say, I’m a very happy camper. Thank you, Ben!
Now, after 3 hours of sleep (you just knew that would happen in Mom’s Big Year, didn’t you? 😉 ) , I headed out on an early flight this morning to Boston en route to Bar Harbor to do some ‘guerrilla’ birding with dear friends, Erin and Chris, Thurs-Sat. Wish us luck!
Puffins are on the agenda and I’m just a TAD excited.
And you already know how I feel about combining dear friends and birds.. So this is gonna be GREAT!
When I return home, why don’t you join me in my backyard at my new ‘tree table’ for a nice, tall, cold glass of lemonade… 🙂
It’s very sobering for me to write this post, as we are all still pretty shaken up about the whole thing. What happened this week was certainly not on the agenda for Mom’s Big Year nor on my ‘to-do’ list for this week, that’s for sure.
I’m a mom. And many of you know, a very thankful one, often counting my blessings. Now, I’m more thankful than ever. This week, I was given the gift of clarity, through an experience that reminded me of the fragility of life and of what really matters.
It happened in Howard County, Maryland Tuesday afternoon around 1:40pm and the National Weather Service later confirmed that the 500 yard path traveled right through my yard. See map below.
I was alerted to pick up my son from the nearby cub scout day camp early due to the impeding severe storms.. but we had NO idea what was in store for us.
I saw a deep dark curtain of charcoal blue hanging in the sky over the camp as I approached and my ‘mother bear’ instinct kicked in. At that moment, I KNEW I had to get to my 10 year old son. Like now.
When I arrived in the parking area and raced out of my car, my feet slipped in the wet grass as I rushed from the vehicle. Once I got up some speed and bolted toward the camp building, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the shouts of a camp official instructing me to ‘shelter in place’ in my car IMMEDIATELY. Our cars were parked about a 5 minute walk away from the campers. But at that moment, I knew .. no matter what..I needed to get to my son. If we were going to ‘shelter in place’ to brace for a tornado, he and I were going to do it together.
Now those of you who know me, know I’m a rule-follower. But at this moment, rules meant nothing to me. Against the direction of the staff, I drove right up to that building and ran through the barricade of administration monitoring the doorway. The power was out, and I searched for my son in the sea of 900 children sitting orderly yet scared in the warehouse-type building. Using my ‘mother bear’ superpowers, I navigated that huge, dark building, spotted my son, and within seconds was holding him in my arms, squeezing him so tight he squealed. Scared, yet so very relieved to be in my arms, he sobbed. I would have cried too, but I was pumped full of adrenaline. As the storm blew harder, I knew I had to make some quick decisions about what to do next.
Winds from the nearby tornado roared overhead and made the building shake. In my mind, I was plotting our escape from the lockdown, to get us far away from the ‘I’m certain it’s not tornado-proof’ aluminum structure. But there was no need to execute my getaway plan. Within 5 minutes, the skies began to brighten and we were released from lockdown. We sped out of there, anxious to get home to my daughter who had confined herself to the basement bathroom after getting the tornado warnings on her phone. She was alone and did everything exactly right. That’s my girl! We are so very proud of her! 🙂
The usual 7-minute drive home to my daughter took 2 hours due to flooding and trees and wires down. The roads were not even closed by police yet.. It all had just happened and looked like a war zone.
The damage to our property is surreal.. The destruction is very localized and it’s truly amazing no one was injured or killed. Fortunately, our house is intact with some water damage in the basement. We have approximately 20, 150 foot trees that were sheared off or knocked down by the 80 mph winds.
These two photos below were taken in our backyard almost exactly 24 hours apart Monday-Tuesday of this week.
Here’s a photo tour of the damage in our yard.
Seeing the extent of the damage, we are counting our blessings. Every. Single. One.
I am so impressed and deeply indebted to the cub scout camp administrative staff for handing the whole situation so professionally; to my son’s exceptional den leaders this week, James & Alice Johnson, who treated the boys as their own, especially in such a scary situation: to the countless neighbors, friends and strangers, who have offered their assistance, support, calls and messages of encouragement and prayers; to those strangers-turned-friends who have hugged me on the side of the road; to my kids and hubby for being so brave and strong through this whole ordeal; as well as to our community leaders and local emergency management officials for navigating our county through this extreme weather event and its aftermath. Everyone has worked together throughout this entire situation to keep each other safe and lift each other’s spirits. My heart is full.
After dropping my little guy off at scout camp this morning, I’ll admit, I finally had a good cry. The adrenaline rush is over, and the reality of the massive scale of the clean up is starting to hit hard.
However, I just recalled the morning after it all happened. The beams of the sunrise radiated through my window, prying my eyelids open. I kicked off the covers and jumped out of bed. As I peeked up out the window at the beautiful light filtering through the forest in front of me, my heart sank as I looked down out at the devastation surrounding me. I gasped as I recalled the life changing events that I had somehow temporarily forgotten from the day before.
I cracked open the window to catch a sense of the morning air and to soak in this new and strange world around me. As I did, the “teacher-teacher-teacher” song of the Ovenbird rang out loud and clear nearby in the debris. The ‘”peet-zah!” call of the Acadian Flycatcher followed. And then I heard the melodic & beautiful “ee-o-lay” song of the Wood Thrush.
It was the same exact repertoire as the morning before this had all happened.
Day 5 provided a fantastic opportunity to soak in breathtaking views high up in the Davis Mountains of West Texas and add some more birds to the list. As always, the pictures don’t do this place justice. You’ve just gotta GO!
We connected with our new friend, Bill Sain, in Alpine the night before, ran over to ‘The Post’ in Marathon for Elf Owl and then headed to the Davis Mountains first thing on Thursday. (A shout out to Martin Hagne for putting us in touch with him!) Special thanks to Bill as he SO very kindly set aside Wednesday night and all day Thursday for us. We share LOTS of mutual friends in the birding world, but hadn’t had the opportunity to bird together until now. Bill’s such a sweet and fascinating person. I’m certain it’s not our last birding adventure together! 🙂
We missed a couple targets, but just enjoying our time high up in the picturesque Davis Mountains MORE than made up for that!
We even got an impromptu tour of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope from a telescope mirror specialist at the McDonald Observatory. (You KNOW that tour was a real treat for all of us, especially this science teacher!) The telescope is currently being updated to perform world-wide collaborative research on……….
****cue background Twilight Zone music now***
Yes, if you’re in the hard sciences.. It’s a thing. VERY cool!
Here are the new year birds we had in the Davis Mountains. # 350 is within reach! :
We ended the day with a lovely dinner of tapas at The Saddle Club in Alpine with Bill’s wife, Marian and mother, Gwen. You can probably tell from the picture above, this Yankee just KNEW she was NOT in Maryland anymore! 🙂 Fun!
As I reflect on our day with Bill, this quote keeps coming to mind.
Yes’m, old friends is always best, ‘less you can catch a new one that’s fit to make an old one out of. ~Sarah Orne Jewett
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 →
Those of you who know me, know that BIRDS and FRIENDS are my two favorite things. 🙂 So, if you put good birds and good company together in a great PLACE, then, in my book…. it’s *magic*! Continue reading →
A VERY special and sincere note of thanks to our friends, Jane Tillman and Mark Lyons, for meeting up with us early Monday before we headed west.
Together we hit Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park in Austin to try for Chuck-wills-widow and got ’em! After birding the park for a few hours, we had success adding the following new species for the year.
And thanks to Jane for her enthusiasm and sharp strategizing for Mom’s Big Year and to Mark for all his support! Jane’s recommendations were ‘spot-on’ and produced many more birds throughout the adventure! Thank you, Jane!
We spent the afternoon at Pedernales Fall State Park. A lifer Golden-cheeked Warbler was a REAL treat for me! And we had a chance to watch a male Painted Bunting take a bath.. That’s a bird I was tickled to see for the first time earlier this year after drooling over it in a book when I was 5 years old. I’ve been dreaming about seeing it ever since then! New year birds at Pedernales included the following–although we did hear Bewick’s Wren loud and clear in the morning at Commons Ford too.
Stay tuned for a review of Day 3 tomorrow..
MORE birds AND friends!……My two favorite things! 🙂 ❤
Well, I can’t believe it was just over a week ago that I stood face-to-face with a Colima Warbler in Big Bend. With the long list of end-of-the-year kid activities (picnics, concerts, play-off games etc.) we’ve been running (but enjoying!) this week and it honestly feels like my big Texas adventure was a million miles ago. I’m finally getting a break in the action to start sharing it with you. I’ll recap the highlights over the course of the next week.
Uncle David from Austin was my fabulous travel companion and we wasted no time in getting our big adventure started! We went straight from the Austin airport to Hornsby Bend and some local ponds and picked up several species before packing the car to head west on Monday. It was fun to run into The Nature Conservancy’s Rich Kostecke and Vee Na at Hornsby Bend and add some new birds along the way. Other highlights included photographing a Least Grebe mom and chicks and catching a barn owl at dusk. 🙂
Least Grebe mom and chicks
David awaiting the Barn Owl
Here’s the list of new species we added to MBY (Mom’s Big Year) on day 1: