Sorry, I couldn't help myself. That pun has been in my head since the moment I laid eyes on a group of Ruddy Turnstones at the pier in Cape Charles tonight.
I showed up at 6:00 for the reception, which had been moved from the theater to the art gallery next door. We got preempted by, of all things, a showing of High School Musical that apparently took precedence over the large group of money-spending tourists that had travelled to town for the Birding and Wildlife Festival. It wasn't a big deal to me really . . I'm not much of a mingler, anyway. The plan was that we'd leave the gallery at 6:45 and walk 4 blocks to the local Presbyterian church, where Pete Dunne would deliver his keynote address. Me? I left the gallery at around 6:20, right after a few plates of cheese and fruit, and headed down to the beach. That, of course, is when I discovered the Ruddy Turnstones, as well as this precursor to a sunset.
A few minutes before 7:00 I made my way to the church, which was quite possibly one of the ugliest houses of worship I've ever laid eyes on. I mean I know God doesn't care and all, but for Pete's sake, the curtains look like you cut them out of Grandma's old couch, and the white wicker backdrop with Christmas lights intertwined and large gold balls atop the posts have just got to go.
Anyway, Mr. Dunne gave a really engaging speech titled "25 things that changed birding". I felt bad leaving before he was finished, but I had an Owl "Hoot" to get to, and I didn't want to be late.
What's that they say about "The best laid plans of mice and men"? Yeah, I was the mice tonight. I got to the location for our outing at about 8:50, as did another couple. We sat in the dark and waited patiently for more than half an hour, at which point we decided to just call it a night. They left, and I decided to take one more shot at an owl. There was another "hoot" going on just a quarter of a mile away, and I was going to attempt to join it. Keep in mind, it's pitch dark, I have no flashlight (I opened my cell phone and used it, actually), and I have no idea where the trails go. Luckily, I could see the flashlights of the other birders in the group and I was able to catch up with them. Less than 20 minutes later and Eastern Screech Owl responded to a recorded call, and I spotted it flying into a tree just above the path. The guide shone his red spotlight on the tiny bird, and I was able to get a really good look at him. It was a cute little bird, far smaller than what you envision when you think "owl". I guess I just always picture the big majestic owls like the Snowy or Great Grey. Nonetheless, he looked at us for a moment, then turned and flew away. It was fleeting, but dammit it counts.
I'm off tomorrow morning early, with a walk at a private home at 7:30 am. The property has apparently been in the same family for close to 250 years, and it's been conserved beautifully. Let's hope tomorrow yields me another 13 new birds like today did. I'll be sure to keep you posted.