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Last Gasp from WV

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Here's Bill with Ron Canterbury, one of the world's experts on golden-winged warblers.
Bird festivals go by so fast, and we're working so hard, that I almost have to get back home before I realize I've had fun. I think the New River Birding and Nature Festival we worked last weekend was one of the most intense I've experienced. We were up each morning Thursday-Sunday at 4:30 AM, to assemble and lead the large groups on birding trips that might not end until 3 PM. Yiikes. In addition, I gave a keynote address, and Bill, Jessie Munson and I gave a mini-concert on Saturday night. It was a blur of bleary half-sleep, terrific birds, rehearsal, and performance, with an hour or two of bliss in a large hot tub sprinkled here and there. I don't know if we could have done it all without the hot tub at our deluxe cabin at Opossum Creek. Thank you, Geoff Heeter!
Lotta people, one-holer. Logistics, logistics.

I truly think Chet Baker had more fun than anyone at the festival. He loved our cabin, exploring every room before curling up in his own bed in the corner. Best of all, he acted just as he does at home, and we could let him out to relieve himself, and he'd come right back to the screen door to be readmitted. Gotta love a dog you can trust to hang around. His finest hour was the cookout at Opossum Creek, where he went from person to person smiling and accepting compliments and small bits of hamburger. We began to refer to him as The Mayor of Opossum Creek, and we had more than one offer to dog-sit or even acquire him. I believe that a cookout with 60 people is a Boston terrier's idea of heaven.
Our idea of heaven was playing music with our friends Jessie Munson and Jeff Gordon. As a duo, we can make some pretty good music, but Jessie transformed us into a band with her fiddle improvisations, backup, and superb musicianship. First violin in the Memphis Symphony, and she fiddles, too. Sublime doesn't begin to describe her playing. And Jeff added a new dimension with his powerful voice and stage presence. We love us our Jeff. If you want to be completely swept away by a blog, check out Jeff's story of the salivary gland blockage that put him out of business for much of the festival. Complete with macro photographs of the offending blockage, it's a must-read for anyone who wonders, "What happens when your salivary gland gets blocked up?" Seriously, he writes a terrific blog, and we're proud to count him as a dear friend.
If there is anything that Bill brings to a birding festival, besides his amazing ability to put fidgety warblers in a spotting scope, it's an irreverent silliness that is infectious. He's always on the lookout for the absurd, the incongruous, the simply stupid. (Don't miss his latest blog entry on salad clowns). And so he rode the stuffed tiger that has decorated an illegal roadside dump in golden-winged warbler habitat for the past two years, with a bemused Jim McCormac looking on. Handsome Jim struck a brawny pose for me too. If there's anything more fun than botanizing with Jimmy Mac, I haven't found it. He's like a walking encyclopedia, cheerfully doling out natural history, conservation status, and Latin names of any plant we find. Whee! I stick to him like the white on rice when I get a chance.
Leading trips with Lynn Pollard was a delight. She has a quiet serenity that's the perfect anodyne to a rattly van full of people itching to see rare birds.
And Dave Pollard has got his Zen mojo working all the time.How these folks pull off this festival, bigger and better each year, is a wonder of nature.
Lovely Judy loaned me her scope for the duration, as I had accidentally brought mine without its eyepiece... Once I learned to use its pistol-grip, I was hooked! I'm still really lousy at finding warblers in a scope, but anyone stinks compared to Bill. He's scary fast.
Just to prove that I, too, can be irreverant, I leave you with a trail marker that left me and Jeff looking for a photo-op that never came. There were just too many people milling around us to take the photo we wanted...


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