Thursday, August 23, 2007

Birding Meme

Wren over at Wrenaissance Reflections tagged me for this birding meme. OK, here goes!

1. What is the coolest bird you have seen from your home?
Definitely the great blue heron, who visits our pond fairly frequently.

2. If you compose lists of bird species seen, what is your favourite list and why?
The only list I have is one of birds seen on our property, which is right here on this blog!

3. What sparked your interest in birds?
I'd been interested in wildlife for many years. When we were newly married, Chris and I watched just about every wildlife show on PBS. And we loved going to zoos. Then, about 20 years ago we bought our first house, a city rowhouse with a tiny patch of yard. The previous owners had done a nice job with landscaping, and we set out some birdfeeders. We loved the birds that would visit, even though they were classic "city birds" like starlings and pigeons. We've kept bird feeders in every house since.

4. If you could only bird in one place for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
Not having "birded" anywhere but my own back yard, I don't have a favorite place (yet). I enjoy visiting new places and if I have the chance to see local birds, that's great.

5. Do you have a jinx bird? What is it and why is it jinxed?
Not sure I get this one. That must mean I don't have a jinx bird!

6. Who is your favourite birder and why?
Again, I'm no expert on this subject. But I do like the blogs, 10,000 birds and Monarch's Nature Blog.

7. Do you tell non-birders you are a birder? What do they say to you when they find out?
Well, I have to say it hasn't come up in conversation. And I guess I'm kind of keeping it to myself...

Now, I know I'm supposed to "tag" others with this meme. But I'm relatively new to this blogging community (I spend more time with books, reading, and my litblog). So if you happen to come across this, thanks for visiting and consider yourself tagged!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Fabulous Fungus

Walking near our pond last night, we came across this excellent specimen: a large fungus growing halfway up this tree, just where a bit of bark juts out like a shelf.

Let's take a closer look ... I just thought this was totally cool.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A Tale of Ten Dollars

We just returned from a week of vacation. This year's destination was the Delaware shore; specifically Bethany Beach. For many, many people in the mid-Atlantic region, it's not summer without a trip to the shore. We are not such people; however, the kids had been clamoring for a beach vacation and we agreed that since our last week-long beach experience was in 1998, it was probably long overdue.

On Saturday we settled into our rented beach house and enjoyed an evening walk in the sand. We returned Sunday morning to sunbathe and play in the waves. After lunch, we drove 30 minutes due south, paid an attendant $10, and parked the car to explore the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Boardwalks are an essential element of northern beaches, and despite having lived in this part of the country for over 20 years, we had never experienced it for ourselves. It was crowded, full of horribly overweight people, secondhand smoke, bad restaurants, and block after block of shops selling inappropriate T-shirts and all manner of junk food. A late afternoon thunderstorm brought everyone in off the beach and sent us running back to the car.

Monday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we drove 30 minutes southeast and doubled back to the coast, paid an attendant $10, and entered Assateague Island National Seashore. Just over the bridge from the visitor center, we came across several of the wild ponies Assateague is famous for. Grazing at the side of the road, undaunted by the line of cars snaking along, striding brazenly across the road for a bite of sweet grass, and posing agreeably for those of us who stopped our cars for the photo-op.

We then continued on to the Dunes Trail, and got out of the car to explore. Piles of dung indicated this, too, was a popular pony hangout. It was an easy walk from the trail to the beach, where we found miles of unspoiled shoreline and only a few people. Gulls and other shorebirds darted in the sand; offshore, pelicans dove for their prey. We gathered shells in the ebbing tide, and returned to the parking lot where two ponies now looked on with curiosity. It was simple, beautiful, and peaceful. We only left because of threatening weather.

The good news was, our $10 gave us access to the park for the entire week! Wednesday we got an early start, and brought a picnic lunch. Once again the shorebirds far outnumbered the people. Many of the people brought their dogs, this being one of the few beaches where dogs are allowed this time of year. By this time we were missing our own sweet dog, and jumped at the chance to greet a couple of labrador puppies. Chris took the opportunity to jog on the beach, and returned with reports of seeing a pony at the edge of the water.

Very few people seemed to have discovered this lovely piece of shoreline. Given the choice between Assateague and the Ocean City boardwalk, I know how I'd prefer to spend $10!
We enjoyed the rest of the week in Bethany Beach, taking advantage of the pool as well as the beach and enjoying dinner at a couple restaurants near Bethany's tiny boardwalk. But for all of us, Assateague was the highlight of the vacation. We're now talking about returning -- this time, with the dog -- on a day trip, perhaps in early autumn.