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More Sweet WV Moments

Saturday, July 2, 2022

 Hard to put into words how good it felt to be among friends (all of us freshly vaccinated and tested) for a week in West Virginia again!  Amy, Keith, and Kim. Oh my gosh was it great to see them after such a long hiatus! Our time was too short, and there was too much going on for the long yaks I craved, but we ascertained that we are all still alive and thrilled to be together.

And then there was Jim and Paul...parking lot hijinks. Such fun to be in the field with these fabulous naturalists!

Had a deliriously wonderful day at Babcock State Park, co-leading with Jody, here in joyful lead. 

 I love being out with other weedpickers, as Bill used to call those of us who walk looking down, squatting frequently to exclaim about tiny wildflowers. This is Bellis perennis, an introduced daisy from Europe that I love without reserve.

Jody helped us with violets. This is Sweet White Violet Viola blanda. The red stem is the tipoff.

Babcock was showing rather well on this May morning! Ah, West Virginia, when you shine, you really shine!

The historic gristmill would be enough, without the songs of Swainson's warblers ringing from the great rhododendron surrounding it!

Birding this wildly scenic place with other naturalists: heaven.

Sugar Creek is always one of my favorite trips featured by the New River Birding and Nature Festival. We're never sure what we'll find, but it's usually really good. 

On this beautiful day, way down at the bottom of the mountain, a surprise awaited. There was a Swainson's warbler, quest bird of the festival par excellence, just showing off. For casual bird lovers, the Swainson's warbler is a rare and local specialty of the New River Gorge of West Virginia. It needs impenetrable thickets of great rhododendron, and it's easy to hear, but famously hard to see, in that dark and tangled milieu. Lots of people come to the Gorge to see their life Swainson's warbler. Sometimes they come home only having heard it. It can be an undertaking to catch even a glimpse. Bill used to say his syncopated, emphatic whistled song says, "Screw you! Screw the world!"

That interpretation, of course, born of the frustration of staring into rhododendron tangles for hours, hoping for a glimpse of the author of that disembodied voice.

 Have you ever seen a Swainson's warbler on a powerline?
Us neither. A moment of cognitive dissonance, to see this famous skulker of the rhodies perch on a wire. 

Nobody was playing a recording. This bird just did not care.  Or maybe he associated groups of birders with recorded songs, and was just heading us off at the pass? 

Birds can surprise us...maybe he's been exposed to enough birders to know we carry singing Swainson's warblers in our big pockets. It always pays to think outside the envelope with birds, because they LIVE outside the envelope.

I never thought I'd shoot a SWWA in flight! Such a big, strong, hearty bird, so different from any other warbler we have; a skulker in great rhododendron thickets, a syncopated singer, rarely seen.

Except for today

with the tiny leaves of a hornbeam hanging like squirrel ears all around him. 

I don't expect to ever have such a session with a Swainson's warbler again. We take what we get, gratefully. 

It was a charged and magical day. I wrote in an earlier post about the homemaking cerulean warbler who knocked us out with her aqua blue crown and persistent plant fiber pulling as she gathered nesting material on a roadbank. Here she is wearing her cat's whiskers!

We were birding slowly along the same roadside when a red truck rolled slowly up. The driver stopped to tell us about a potential hazard along the road and his little red and white dog stuck her head and then most of her body out the window, wanting to join the conversation. One gentleman in our group was drawn like a magnet to her gentle overture, and, though I wanted to pile on and pet her too,  I thought it best that I capture this sweet moment between them. And I marveled at dogs, and humans, and the instant and dear bond they are able to forge with one another. What a sweet, sweet moment. 

Yes, I sent this photo to Jeff. :) Too sweet!

Hello! You are a nice man, I can smell that. You have dogs at home, yes you do. I would like to touch you, and have you touch me, because I am a dog.

Dogs: Is it any wonder we love them so? Open hearted, gracious creatures they are.


Thanks for a trip down memory lane! In my 20’s, way back in the dark ages, I used to go to Babcock State Park for annual rafting trips down the New River. It is such a dazzling place. Unfortunately I haven’t seen it in decades, so your pictures were sweet to see. Thanks!

Wow! That photo of the Swainson's singing. Priceless and so beautiful. Maybe someday I'll see and hear one too.

Love the whole blog...and while I know the Swainson's warbler is the star...I love the dog conclusion. Yes, exactly. Dogs know. Trust them--they like someone...good sign. They don't like on guard.

Such a beautiful day you had there. What a walk full of songs and sights that you will treasure forever. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Love, love, love this post from beginning to doggy end. I'm now in the "a dog has me" category as my MIL is in memory care now. 14 year old Frances with a bad heart took to me immediately as we have some history of knowing each other. She used to be a snippy, protective of her ma sort of dog; no one liked her much. She's a totally different sweetheart now and I'm lerning more about understanding dogs - some from you. Much comes naturally for me though. Our 3 indoor cats have accepted her kindly and vice versa so life is good in our crowded little cabin of house. So nice ofyou to continue posting here; I'm one of the no social media readers. Kim in PA

Love, love, LOVE all this!

I love those Swainson's Warbler photos! I just saw one for the first time in April on a Texas trip with VENT. One of these days I'll get to West Virginia.

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