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Baltimore by the Sea

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ok where the heck did I leave off? Right – I am still telling about the day we saw the wolves which was a very long day. We roved around the north woods near the Canadian Border; thick forests of birch trees dotted with vast open burned over areas – prime habitat for some species of woodpeckers. Pulling out the iPod we tried calling them in, playing the ratta-tat-tat drumming and calls of the Three-toed Woodpecker. Bugger! No birds. Then we played the calls of the Black-backed Woodpecker. Hurrah! Way the heck off in the distance we spotting a woodpecker landing on a dead tree.

Digging equipment out of the car trunk, Don and I fumbled, fussed and snarked at each other as we finagled my way-cool spotting scope onto the my annoying, piece-of-crap tripod. Our fussing wasn't as much about us or the equipment as it was about our hysteria over seeing the woodpecker properly before the birds could fly off.
When finally set up, the frustration continued because I have to tell you, sometimes one dead tree looks a lot like the next. It doesn't help if the woodpecker in question likes to keep the tree between itself and you while. And here's something you won't find in your average bird guide book - did you know some woodpeckers can raise their middle toe in an especially symbolic rude gesture?

So we stood bickered about the bird, both of us saying the same exact thing; Don saying it in 'Donnish' and I said the same damned thing, but in 'Claireish'.

Don: If you would listen to me for a minute you would understand if one looks at the bird’s head stripes, there is only one, not two; significant because the Three-toed Woodpecker has a significant stripe behind then eye whereas the Black-backed do not.

(translation: It’s a Black-backed Woodpecker!)

Claire: Its back is all black!

(translation: OH my gawd, it’s a Black-backed Woodpecker!)

Don: Claire you ignorant Schmuck, if you would stop shrieking and see reason you would know the bird’s back becomes irrelevant – that bird has only one stripe and look, a second bird is flying in.
(Translation: OMG, TWO Black-backed Woodpeckers!)

Claire: I SEE ‘EM! They’re backs are black! They're black!

(translation: Two Lifer Black-backed Woodpeckers! Woo hooo!)

You get the gist of our snarking match.

Here is the photo I got of my lifer poka dots… um, I mean, lifer birds.
Click on the photo to check out the smudge of yellow on the male’s head (the lower bird).

We decided we needed a closer look at the Woodpeckers so we hiked into, or rather over, a gnarled tangle of fallen trees but - alas - both Woodpeckers flew off.

No matter, there are always other birds. A delightful Vesper Sparrow popped up for us. Back at the car I played Vesper songs on the iPod and the photo op proved to be outstanding. The bird did his best to out-sing the iPod. I turned the iPod off, and the Vesper looked damned proud of himself – he had out-sung his ‘rival’.
You can just about make out his chestnut shoulder patch

showing off that handsome 'mutton chop mustache and his white bordered tail.

Later on, since I now had a Black-backed sighting, there remained no reason for Black-backed woodpeckers to continue avoiding me. Therefore every Black-backed Woodpecker in the North America flew in for a look at its lifer 'Claire', otherwise known as ‘North American Homo Sapiens Annoyicus’. Here is a photo of a Black-backed that landed a tree overhead about a half hour AFTER I had my lifer Black-back.

The woodpecker's version of Peek-a-boo

After that we drove off and I dropped Don off so he could walk along the road in search of birds and I took the car a few miles away in search of a porta-potty. Mission completed, I left the car and skipped off to photograph a little log cabin and quant fencing. When I returned to the car and fumbled with my pockets, it occured to me "well, where the EFF were the car keys?"

Gak! A memory flashed through my mind - I'd locked the keys in the trunk.

GAK! I recalled my own joking on the day we picked up the rental; “So the only way we can get locked out of the car is if we lock the keys in the trunk?”

Sweet mother of Sibley!
I was going to die of embarrassment which was an easy end when compared to Don - abandoned a few miles up the road - who was going to be chased down and eaten by a pack of Canadian wolves, eh? I thanked the gods I didn't also lock the car doors. I owed some indulgent forest sprite a sacrifice of burnt offerings, or maybe a nice Napa Valley Merlot.

But the fact remained I had to get back the car keys. Climbing into car I tried my darndest to get the rear seats tipped forward so I could access the trunk. Bugger!

The air was cool but I was sweating. It was at least a 2 mile hike to tell Don what I'd done which would do a fat lot of good because neither of our cell phones worked here in the blasted godforsaken outback. I was about to fling myself into the campground dirt of despair because bereft of handy grenades, I was locked out of the trunk – unless...

HURRAH! On the dashboard I spotted an eensie weensy button sporting a tiny illustration of a stick figure dancing around an open trunk. I pushed the button – there was a deeply satisfying 'POP' - the trunk opened. OH JOYOUS DAY!

I drove up the road to pick up Don, who was no longer fated to be wolf droppings! The Canadian wolves would just have to eat wolf kibble for their din-din. I decided Don did not need to know how close he had come to foraging for berries in the big piney woods.

Don: " I didn’t see too many birds. What about you? Anything interesting happen?"

Claire: "No."

That’s my story. I'm sticking to it.

Forest Fodder - Wild Morel Mushrooms

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