Monday, June 1, 2009

Worth it

It was a good month.
  • 32 species of warbler, or 33 if you count the brief, blurry, fly-away glimpse of the Kentucky Warbler that Peter and Fay Vale had been looking at.
  • Three different species of nightjar, including a perched Chuck-will's-widow, a perched Whippoorwill, and a Common Nighthawk.
  • And a Mass Audubon Birdathon that I was so into that I literally birded until I puked.
No, really. After a few hours of birding on Friday evening (Manx Shearwaters!), I got far too little sack time, and was up at oh-dark-thirty. Or maybe quarter of oh-dark. So I started the day overtired. And underdressed. Somehow I had the notion that it was going to warm up throughout the day. I wore a pair of shorts and a couple of t-shirts. It was cold but tolerable early, and I kept going, because hey -- it was going to warm up. I brought something to drink, but not really enough. So I was a bit dry. And did I mention cold?

The offshore breeze in Nahant didn't help. But I got a break whenever we got back into the car, and hey -- it was going to warm up. As the day wore on and the birds piled up, I was officially cold, and officially dehydrated. I tried to ignore the physical discomfort, which began to coalesce into a whopping headache. But I'm a gamer (if I spin it right), and we were raising money for charity, and the more birds the better.

So we kept birding, and I kept ignoring, and we made it all the way through to the end of the count at 6 p.m. And then I crashed. The headache was brutal by this point, and I'd been cranking the heat in the car well beyond the usual preferences of my good-sport carmates, Linda Pivacek and Sherry Smith. They'd both offered to drive earlier, but I'd thanked them and said it wasn't necessary. Now it was starting to sound like a good idea. I stopped to buy some Advil, and after a too-little-too-late stop for a Coke and a few hot fries at the McDonald's on Route 1, I handed Sherry the keys.

Some people have problems with motion sickness when they ride in a car. I'm not usually susceptible, but this wasn't usually. And when one is susceptible, it seems that the driver's seat is the place to be, because it gives you a focus. But there I was in the passenger seat, and I started to feel funny, so I clearly had some more ignoring to do. I kept ignoring for a while, when my wife Nancy called. After a brief conversation with her that I cut rather shorter than I would have otherwise, I asked Sherry to pull over, and I stopped ignoring and commenced heaving.

But you know what? I'd seen 101 species in the previous 24 hours, including the Chuck-will's-widow that Sherry had spotted, and we'd raised a bunch of money for Mass Audubon's Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. And once home, I took a hot shower, and Nancy put some food into me, and I felt like a slightly washed-out version of myself again. And it was all worth it.


  1. i may be new to birding, but i'll bet a dollar that i'll never meet another person who birded 'til he puked!!!! great story, jim, and so psyched to see that you've started this blog. keep up the great work. and next time you go birding, dress warmly and drink lots of water!!!! : )

  2. Thanks, Jodee! The funny thing is that the next time I went birding with one of the people I'd birded with that day, I was similarly underdressed. So I might be a slow learner. Fortunately we didn't bird for as long, and it *did* warm up.