Monday, June 29, 2009

A Birding Day Made in Heaven


I have been insanely busy these past few weeks. But Friday I played hooky. Marianne spotted an item on one of the birding sites that a roseate spoonbill had been spotted in Delaware. Not only are roseate spoonbills are spectacular (they're bright pink) and distinctive (that bill!) birds, but they're semitropical birds which are almost never seen further north than Florida. When I was a kid, I had a bird book that had a roseate spoonbill on the cover, and it was emblematic for me of the kind of bird I was never ever going to see in Vermont.

So Marianne piled into the car and followed the directions to the Delaware-Maryland border, down a highway and onto a small road behind the Catch 42 Restaurant. We parked the car near three birders clustered about a spotting scope and asked if they'd seen the creature.

"Right there," they said.

After a good long time and some very clear viewing, the spoonbill lofted up and flew along the shoreline and out of sight. So Marianne and I went for lunch at the nearby dockside Tiki Bar. We brought along our binocs, and a good thing too. The spoonbill had relocated to the remains of a dock in the middle of the water before us. So we got even better views than before.

There were also the usual egrets and great blue herons and such, and two ospreys perched on posts nearby. Usually, ospreys are the superstars of the marshlands. But we pretty much ignored them.

Just before the spoonbill lazily flew away again, four pelicans flew by. Delaware is far beyond their normal range, so that was a rare spotting as well.

After lunch, we went back to the spot of our original sighting and, sure enough, the spoonbill was there again. We chatted with some new birders, who were equally elated by the sighting and frustrated that the bird wouldn't fly to the far side of the road, where it would be in Maryland, so they could add it to their Maryland life lists as well.

Birders are (pleasantly) funny people.

On our way home, on their tip, we went to a small lake and exactly where they told us it would be, was a black-bellied whistling duck. Another extraordinary bird, and effortlessly spotted.

Non-birders should ask somebody who goes out regularly how common it is for rare birds to be so cooperative.

Oh, and I hardly need say this, but the mussels I had at the Tiki Bar were delicious. Some days are golden.

Oh, and also . . .

The Locus Awards have been announced. As you may or may not recall, I was short-listed in two categories -- Best Fantasy Novel (for The Dragons of Babel) and Best Collection (for The Best of Michael Swanwick). And I lost. The winners were Ursula K. Le Guin's novel Lavinia and Paolo Bacigalupi's collection Pump Six and Other Stories, Congratulations to them both!

You can find the complete list of winners here.


1 comment:

uman said...


I've read many of your stories and all of your novels. But I don't recall any about birding. Is that deliberate-- an effort to keep two passions separate? I ask because I have a friend who's an avid birder (he writes a small column for a paper in southern Massachusetts) and would love to point him to any stories you've written about birding. Thanks.