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Sunday, October 19, 2008

America the Buteo

Friday rush hour, I was driving through downtown Philly accidentally, apparently having missed a very important turn when my friend Cecy called. "Do you have plans tonight?" she asked, "if not, you do now!" Her boss had given her four tickets to see the band America in a cute little theatre not twenty minutes from camp. My first thought was, "Who's America?" It turned out, however, I knew them better than I realized and was just living in my usual inability to match songs and artists.

The concert was incredible. It is remarkable to think that the band has been playing and making albums for nearly forty years. The harmonies and electric guitar solos were classic seventies. They played every song that people knew and some of their newer ones. I knew every word of the first six songs! Don't Cross the River, I Need You, and Sandman were my favorites. When they ended the concert, Cecy and I knew they had already planned for an encore; they had not yet sung A Horse With No Name. After it was all said and done, the band stuck around and signed autographs for everyone. People brought CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, and even vinyls! Now I have America as my Pandora station, so I am listening to hits from them, Bread, Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Journey, James, Taylor, and other fabulous bands which Gerry Beckley argues are not oldies but classic rock.

Saturday morning I continued my incredible weekend, driving the 90 minutes to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Even though it was barely fifty degrees at noon, the place was packed with people. I went to a talk entitled Raptors Up Close, where I learned some really neat bird and raptor information to incorporate into my own classes. After that, it was up the mountain. On the main trail, I felt like I was some sort of hiking superstar powering up the mountain as most people were liesurely strolling or carefully picking their footing amongst the many rocks. I was never passed, but did all the passing. This is highly unusual for me, as I am the tortoise of the true hiking world, contented to go slow and steady for hours and days.

Once I reached North Lookout, I pulled out my binoculars, eager for the sightings to begin. I did not have to wait long, as my first hour saw over ten raptors cross our spot. I had soon gained a fantastic perching spot on the rocks, right near the official Hawk Mountain Raptor Counters. Since my hawk identification had previously been limited to Buteos, I relied on their expertise for all the Accipiters and the high birds that were barely visible even through my glasses.

My total count for the four freezing hours spent at North Lookout: 16 Turkey Vultures, 14 Red Tailed Hawks, 10 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 3 Northern Harriers, 3 Black Vultures, 1 Third Year Bald Eagle, 3 Merlin, 1 Bluejay, 5 Coopers Hawks, 16+ Pine Siskins, 1 Red Shouldered Hawk, 2 Ravens, 2 Osprey, 1 Gold-crowned Kinglet. I had never before identified Sharp-Shinned Hawks, Coopers Hawks, Pine Siskins, Gold-Crowned Kinglets, Merlins, or Harriers. I was hoping for the two hawks when I drove up, so obviously it was a great birding day to get them and a few other newbies to my list. I am already plotting a second visit in a few weeks to see a Golden Eagle.

I will definitely have to dress better though. I dressed for hiking with a very thin fleece, short sleeves, and thin pants. That worked when I was hiking, but not for the hours spent on the breezy ridge standing in one place. The last hour, a woman lent me a pair of gloves, but otherwise I just froze. Pretty pathetic for someone who teaches about hypothermia and survival and has been working outside for years.

So after two huge highlights, my weekend is settling down for a Sunday of normalcy: laundry, church, feeding the camp animals, writing college recs for students, watching the Pats, knitting, finding a Halloween costume, and watching the Sox win the pennant (fingers crossed!).

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