Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Early Bird DOES Get the Worm

Despite my complaints earlier this week about getting up at the crack of dawn, Boy Wonder and I arose at 6:05 this Saturday morning so we could join the 7:00AM Ijams bird walk. One of us was dragged out of bed by the armpits; guess who?

After a fortifying dose of Starbucks coffee and coffee cake, we took a two-hour walk on the Will Skelton greenway looking for birds.

About fifteen people turned up for the walk, some avid bird watchers and others, like us, just learning. It turns out August is a quiet time for birds; now that nesting season is over, they're molting and gathering strength for winter.

In addition to goldfinches, cardinals, and woodpeckers, we found some new friends.

And we walked with an Ijams favorite, Lyn Bales, an amazing source of information on local flora and fauna.

Lyn's a Gatlinburg native and has written a wonderful book on East Tennessee, Natural Histories, published by the University of Tennessee Press. He illustrated the book with excellent ink drawings of plants and animals, too. Even if you're the great indoors type, Natural Histories is good to read because of its mix of history and the natural world. Did you know, for instance, that the reason we're plagued with starlings is because some misguided soul wanted to populate the New World with every bird mentioned in Shakespeare's plays? Unfortunately, Shakespeare mentions starlings--once--so here we are today with this pesky, persistent, bully of a bird.

At any rate, Lyn is very good with the younger set and has a great sense of humor.

We both loved listening to Lyn's stories on the walk. Naturally, Boy Wonder also had a lot to say, and although I was worried he was a bit overboard, it turns out birders are patient people.

We found love under a rock. See?

We also found bird feathers, rocks, inchworms, yellowjackets, airplanes, and sticks. Almost all of these went in Boy Wonder's pockets.

Despite the early hour, it was a great time.

And the funny thing about five year-old boys is, when they're not driving you crazy, they're heartbreakers.

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