Reentry

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.”

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Scarlet and Nancy, post-Wilson’s Plover #493!
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Scarlet and Gabriel

 

Here are the highlights of my last days in Texas in pictures:

 

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Plain Chachalaca
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Olive Sparrow
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Gabriel Mapel and Gabriel Lugo= Gabriel squared! 🙂
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Greater Roadrunner
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Nancy at Sabal Palm Sanctuary
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Always love running into Superstar birder, Gabriel Mapel and his dad, Daniel!
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Groove-billed Ani at Salineno

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!’

xoxo, Nancy

 

 

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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Next trip?

Hi everyone!

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.

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Taking a break from work and birding to celebrate the holidays with dear friends!

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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!

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!

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Can you guess where I’m heading?

Hint: I just bought some extra thermals yesterday!

 

 

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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Finer than frog hair!

Wednesday, 11/2/2016

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!

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Mom’s Big Year – Team Texas:  Gabriel, David and Martin… Day 1 – Salineno
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Seedeater hunting- Nancy, Martin, David and Gabriel

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.
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Nancy, Martin & Gabriel (taking the pic) setting the game plan for Wednesday

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!

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Post Northern Jacana SMILES!

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!

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Martin, David, Rich & Nancy a minute after seeing the Amazon Kingfisher- MEGACHECK!  Thank you, Rich!

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’.

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The star of the week-  Amazon Kingfisher.  Photo courtesy of Mary Gustafson

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.

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Birding Estero Llana Grande (my FAVE spot in the Valley) for Vesper Sparrow and Groove-billed Ani- target birds

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!”

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Well, the way this week has been going so far…That makes TWO of us!

Down to business…

 

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!

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SoCal Pelagic!
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Burrowing owl
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Olaf and Nancy- Big Year fusion!
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Point Loma

 

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.

Stay tuned!!

I’ve got the 500 mark on the horizon.

Look out Texas!

I’m here…

and I’m READY!

xoxo, Nancy

Did you say TEST ?!?

 

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Here’s my favorite poster I hung on the classroom wall during my first year of teaching, 1993

Well, it’s exam season in the Environmental Science class I teach.. But this round, the students aren’t the only ones being “tested.”

I’ve been wanting to tell you my MOST exciting news about my recent excursion to Cape May for the pelagic trip!  I’m sorry to leave you hanging for so long. I’m sure many of you understand what I’ve been doing since my last post… I’ve been doing the ‘mom thing’ and the ‘work thing’.  Next post about that coming soon. And sooner this time.. I promise!

I cannot tell you how much the texts, prayers, messages, calls, and emails of support have meant to me as I attempted this challenge and as I navigate through this year.  I truly believe that the deep level of support I feel from all of you is a critical part of the healing I’m experiencing on this multifaceted ‘Big Year’ journey.

I headed back to Cape May September 17th for the rescheduled pelagic trip with See Life Paulagics out of Wildwood Crest, NJ. With a handful of exciting target birds as my carrot, this time I decided to drive a bit out of my way to attempt… <insert drum roll here>  the Chesapeake Bay Bridge… AND…the Delaware Memorial Bridge before ducking my way down to Cape May.

Now, time is short and it’s getting late, so I’ll cut to the chase….

I passed my BIGGEST test of Mom’s Big Year so far….. and I did so with flying colors!

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My view just after crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I stopped dancing and clicking my heels just long enough to take this picture 🙂

How did I do it?

My original plan was to bring a birding buddy and ask them to drive me over the bridges and highways (I had been avoiding) to get me to Cape May. But, much to my alarm, there was only ONE spot left on the pelagic when I signed up and I had to make a huge split- second decision. The one open spot was mine for the taking and would be gone in the blink of an eye. So, sweaty palms and all, I took a deep breath and went ahead and booked the reservation. As my palms got sweatier, my anxiety level increased and I started getting short of breath on the phone while reading my credit card numbers aloud to finalize the reservation. My next question was no surprise to me.. I asked about last minute cancellations and refunds.

I was looking for my exit… just in case I chickened out.

But, at that particular moment I resolved that I was not going to let my driving/bridge anxiety keep me away from the birds I wanted to see SO very much!

So, when the time came and I actually approached the bridge, I had my eye on the prize. I played my favorite music, put in bird song practice CD’s, donned my new ‘good luck’ ring, gnawed on some gummy bears and just. did. it! I crossed the Bay Bridge without any issue and a short time later, did the same over the Delaware Memorial Bridge!

Wow!

And that was just the beginning. The weekend was chock full of rewards, that’s for sure!

Within a couple hours of arriving in the Cape May area, I ticked piping plover (#418) at Stone Harbor, NJ .

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Piping Plover #418, Stone Harbor Point, NJ

The overnight pelagic trip was amazing. Several folks commented that I was very brave to do an overnight trip as my first pelagic. It was ‘camping style’… so you boarded at 10:30 pm, found a spot on the deck, laid out your sleeping bag and supplies/food for the next 20 hours and “slept” until they started chumming around 4:30 am. I was super excited about the trip, but with everything I have going, I fell asleep within about a minute of my head hitting the pillow. The trip in short was awesome! I ticked 11 new species for the year and made several new and awesome birder friends to boot!

The highlight of the trip for me was Black-capped Petrel.

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Here’s the list:

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Special thanks to See Life Paulagics for one amazing overnight trip! The full moon, awesome birds, excellent guides, and really cool marine mammals made it particularly memorable!

 

And special thanks to Bill and Karen for hosting me again in Cape May for a second weekend in a row! As if that wasn’t enough to make it the perfect weekend….two more dear friends, Tom and Connie Halliwell, happened to be in Cape May, visiting from northern NJ for a butterfly field trip. They stopped by on their way out of town to say hello.  It’s always a treat to see them, as Tom gets full credit for getting me hooked on birding back in 1986!

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Tom & Connie Halliwell and me

As I headed out to start my trip home, it was raining cats and dogs! Many of you know that is not enough to keep me from making one final visit to the Meadows before leaving town.

Just before the rain got really heavy and as I pulled into the lot at the Meadows, I ran into Pete Dunne.  To those of you in the birding world, Pete needs no introduction..  When I was knee-high to a grasshopper and a budding environmentalist, Pete helped me pull together testimony for a public hearing in my attempt to save last tract of untouched forest in my hometown in northern NJ.  To see him this morning and thank him for his support and inspiration was simply ‘icing on the cake’ to what proved to be an *unbelievable* weekend for me!

A weekend with wonderful people and amazing birds in my *favorite* place…And all this, after facing some of my demons HEAD ON!

Priceless.

Definitely THE highlight of Mom’s Big Year for me.

Here’s my song (see below) that gives you a slice of how I’m feeling at this incredible and pivotal moment in my Big Year journey.

More soon,

Lots to do now as I leave for San Diego on Thursday!

— xoxo, Nancy

On Top of the World – click here to play

“I’ve had the highest mountains, I’ve had the deepest rivers
You can have it all but life keeps moving

I take it in but don’t look down

‘Cause I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I’ve been waiting to smile, ‘ay
Been holding it in for a while, ‘ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I’m on top of the world

I’ve tried to cut these corners
Try to take the easy way out
I kept on falling short of something

I coulda gave up then but
Then again I couldn’t have ’cause
I’ve traveled all this way for something

I take it in but don’t look down

‘Cause I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
Waiting on this for a while now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I’ve been waiting to smile, ‘ay
Been holding it in for a while, ‘ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I’m on top of the world”

~On Top of the World, Imagine Dragons