The June 2015 issue of Birding Magazine was just published, which includes an interview with yours truly. I share the experiences that got me started in birding and bird conservation, the connections I see between birds, running, and music, talk about my work in Mexico (especially the wonderful Donate the Guia program), and get to introduce Oiselle to the birding world.
Well, true to form I entirely missed writing here in April and am on to May. I have three half-started posts and no all-finished posts. I am caught somewhere between accepting that I just don’t write here regularly and where I actually want to be (Anne Lamott’s instructions: Butt in chair. Just do it.) But binge watching M*A*S*H on Netflix every evening has won out lately. (Full disclosure: Moonstruck is streaming on my phone as I type this post on my computer, but I sort of feel like as long as I finish this, it is okay).
I am starting to feel more settled. In mid-April I finally moved my things out of storage and into my new house. Unpacking has been more than a little like seeing long-lost friends. A dear friend helped me pack back in January when I moved back to the city. Unpacking all of the meticulously wrapped glasses and kitchen items, seeing all of the carefully labeled boxes so I could tell what was in each one, it made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to have a friend like that, someone who didn’t think twice about dropping everything and driving 100 miles with me to spend 18 hours packing up all of my worldly belongings and cleaning a house that wasn’t hers and then turning around to drive 100 miles back. I have learned a lot about friendship from her in the last few months.
It seems like every time I start to get in a groove with my running something happens to throw me off. March was going really, really well. Then one morning after a great 6 mile run I was in the shower. I reached for the shampoo. That’s all I did. My upper back was in exquisite pain for nearly two weeks. It was the kind of pain where I could only fall asleep for about ten minutes at a time and then would wake up because of the pain when I moved in my sleep and just cry because I couldn’t figure out anything at all to do to make it better or to be able to sleep and my god, all I wanted to do was get a good night’s sleep. It was not the most fun I have ever had. After about two weeks of this it slowly started to get better and now I am more or less back to normal, glory be. Grad school killed my upper back. (I want to call grad school a bad word, but I won’t.)
I almost always start a blog post with a bulleted list of things I want to include and then fill things out from there. As I was doing it this time, I realized that just about every single one of those bullets could be a blog post of its own. Butt in chair, J-Dubes. Come on, now.
For tonight, because I am also a firm believer that sometimes you just have to put something out there in the world even though you know it isn’t finished, I’m giving you some short bullets, along with pretty pictures.
So here is the abridged version what I have been up to in the last month and a half:
I’m a regular blogger over at the Leica Birding Blog. In early April I wrote a post about taking my nephews birding for the first time. I meant to share that back when it happened, but I procrastinated and then they published another post I wrote about local patch birding. So I guess that while I haven’t been writing for my own blog, at least I have been doing a little bit of writing somewhere.
I babysat my friend’s accordion for four years and finally was able to give it back to him. It was a beautiful instrument, but too big for me to play. I was really glad to be able to take care of it for him and give it back, even though he didn’t give it to me with any expectations of getting it back.
We found out that we received a Heritage Fund grant from Arizona Game & Fish to put together a series of monthly field outings for young birders in southern Arizona. Here’s a picture of a trip we took to Pima Canyon last month–everything was in bloom. Amazing.
I took a tile paver workshop at Santa Theresa Tileworks. Everyone was so complimentary when I shared the pictures that I feel compelled to explain: I didn’t make the individual tiles. I did do all of the design and…I don’t know what you call it–construction? Once I decided on the design I cemented it it all in place and did the grouting.
I traveled to San Diego to the Trilateral Committee for Ecosystem and Wildlife Conservation in San Diego. I gave two presentations, including one to the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Director of the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the Director General for Wildlife for the Mexican Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources–more than a little nerve-wracking, but I think it went well. I also got to spend an afternoon/evening wandering around the San Diego Zoo–I have mixed feelings about zoos, but this one is pretty special. I got a little goofy with some of the statutes. #flystyle with an extinct prehistoric bird. Fun times!
My management board met in San Diego right after the Trilateral. There are some major changes on the horizon for my program, but I feel fortunate to get to work with a lot of really amazing people, doing a job that I love.
I took an incredible science communications short course from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC). I definitely have a longer post coming about this experience. The workshop days were long and full, but we still had a bit of time for some evening and early morning birding.
NCTC has an Eagle Cam for the nesting pair of Bald Eagles on their property. My friend Danielle and I went birding one morning before class started and saw this guy (gal?) and it’s mate come into the nest with a fish, as well as an interloper young bird that this one chased away. Digiscoped with (Danielle’s) Leica APO-Televid 65 + iPhone 5s + Phone Skope Adapter.
I’ve been in a good place with running for the last month. I hit my monthly mileage goal for the first time this year in April. May is also off to a good start. My travel and field work schedule between now and September is ridiculous, but I’m looking around for some races to put on the calendar. I got in two runs while I was back east last week, including a gorgeous seven-miler along the trails and roads at NCTC. (I stopped for a quick picture with the Potomac River behind me.)
So that’s the medium-form version of what I’ve been up to lately. My goal for May? Butt in chair. Keep on running. More writing. Less Netflix. Bird by bird.
For the first time in two weeks I woke up the other morning feeling, well, awake. I’ve been struggling with motivation to run the past few weeks and instead of waking up ready to start my day, I’ve been groggy more often than not, staying in bed for just a few minutes longer. I am a morning person, friends. This is not normal. A combination of a busy travel schedule and colder mornings just saps my will to get out the door, and sometimes my will to even wake up. This past Saturday I opened my eyes and knew I was going for a run. It’s so strange–some days I can’t wait to put on my shoes and head out; others I get completely dressed and end up faffing about on Facebook and Twitter (yes, yes, perhaps the lesson here is to not check social media before I run?)
I am most likely to get my run in if one of two things is true (and ideally both of them):
- I run with someone else.
- I run in the morning.
The running with others thing is a work in progress. Since moving in August I’m still trying connect with local runners. When I am in town I’ve been running with Sierra Running one or two days a week, and that’s been great. The days I’m on my own are a little bit harder to motivate. I’m doing okay, mostly, but some days are harder than others.
The running in the morning thing, well, especially on the weekends that conflicts with the other thing I love to do: birding. So this past Saturday when I woke up and wanted to do both, I thought: why the heck not? When I’m running I always keep my eyes and ears open for birds, but this time I put on my running clothes, put my binoculars and spotting scope in the car, and drove down to the San Pedro River National Conservation Area. There is a great trail system that runs along the river and into the grasslands. If you run south you’ll hit the U.S. Mexico Border in about ten miles. If you run north, you can just keep going and going. I’ve never followed the river that far, but I suspect you can go for about 30 miles, until you hit the confluence with the Gila River.
Birders had reported a Green Kingfisher just south of the San Pedro House, so I headed that direction. I don’t do a lot of trail running, so I was just in my regular road shoes. Fortunately the trail was fairly smooth and even; the worst sections were sandy, but even those were fine. I ran a 3 mile out-and-back section of the trail, opting to stay along the grasslands instead of dropping down to the river. It was a beautiful, cool morning. Although the leaves of many of the cottonwoods had already fallen, some of them were still hanging on with beautiful splashes of yellow and fall colors.
I passed a few birders and photographers enjoying lots of White-crowned Sparrows as I made my way down to the river. Heading south along the river bank I came to a fork in the trail where I could either go low and run along the river or stay high in the grasslands. I decided to stay high, where the trail is wider and firmer.
The trail wound around an old oxbow, full of tall cottonwoods but without water. I passed Green Kingfisher Pond and kept heading south (this is the spot where Green Kingfishers have been found in the past, and the only spot in Arizona where I’ve seen them; until the sighting of this year’s bird, though, it had been a number of years since one was seen on the San Pedro).
Finally I hit Garden Wash and headed west. As I was running the clouds began to build and the wind began to blow, but it was still a great day to be out for a run. The wash, of course, was dry. Our idea of a river in southeastern Arizona is more like most folks’ idea of a creek, except during the summer monsoon, when our rivers transform seemingly instantly into raging torrents. This year’s monsoon is over, and although there was still water in the river, Garden Wash was long-since dry.
When I hit the 1.5 mile mark I turned back, retracing my steps, heading back north through the grasslands, and making my way back to the car. After swigging some sports drink, I grabbed my binoculars, scope, and field bag and retraced my steps down to the river. See if you can spot the difference between me as bird and me as birder in the next two pictures:
Did you catch it?
So I headed down the trail, but this time in no hurry at all, stopping, looking, and listening at every opportunity. White-crowned Sparrows still sang in the mesquite trees, along with a pair of Lark Sparrows and a lone Lincoln’s Sparrow. A Red-tailed Hawk flew overhead. Gila Woodpeckers called from the cottonwoods. It was a great morning.
When I came to the fork in the trail this time, I decided to go low and follow the river. I came across some birders who said they’d JUST seen the Green Kingfisher, as well as a Louisiana Waterthrush, another good bird for the area. They pointed in the direction the birds had flown, so I headed south again.
The weather turned more overcast and windy. There was no sign of the kingfisher or waterthrush, and even the common birds were becoming silent. I did spot a lone Black Phoebe foraging along the river and played around with some digiscoping.
I got back to Green Kingfisher Pond, this time walking around it in search of, well, Green Kingfishers. This old quarry holds water year-round and can be a good spot for herons and sometimes ducks, but it was silent today.
The weather got even windier and more overcast. The sun disappeared. I had on a long sleever, but even so I was beginning to feel chilly after getting sweaty on a run. I turned around and walked along the grasslands back toward the San Pedro House.
It was a better day for running than birding, but even when the birding is slow it is nice just to be outside. I’m lucky to live in a spot as beautiful as southeastern Arizona–and good to remember that running and birding don’t need to be an either/or proposition.