27 June 2008

Sapsucker Woods & Montezuma NWR

I took a rare opportunity to get out and do some extensive birding the last two mornings. We're on vacation in Ithaca, NY, and I would be remiss if didn't try to get out to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the adjacent Sapsucker Woods, as well as to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. I felt bad, albeit only momentarily, leaving the girls with my mom while I went out for two straight mornings of leisure. But she insisted that I go, so I packed up my stuff and headed down the road. Yesterday, I arrived at the Lab at around 8:30, and by 8:40 I'd added a bird to my Big Year (and Life) list. A striking male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was visiting one of the feeders outside the lab's large windows, and I took a good long look at him through one of the Swarovski spotting scopes in the viewing area. Mmmmmm, Swarovski. He chowed down on safflower seeds for a while and then flew off in to the woods.

My walk through the woods was leisurely, lasting until about 12:00. I am seldom able to just go really slow when I'm birding, as I usually have a short window of time before I've got to get back to the real world. But yesterday, I stopped and turned back to chase a bird's call whenever I felt the urge. The great news is that it paid huge dividends. My goal was to add birds to my lists, plain and simple, so I didn't waste time with the camera. This was a numbers game, and if I started worrying about getting good photos I'd certainly have missed some of the birds. The result was the addition of 5 new birds to my lists: Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Veery, Wood Thrush, American Redstart, and Warbling Vireo. All of them are birds that I could have eventually seen with enough effort around home, but it was fun to see them all in a place so hallowed as Sapsucker Woods. As a side note, to those who have ever questioned their ability to discern a Purple Finch from a House Finch, allow me to simplify it. The male Purple Finch is an almost entirely red bird, with a bit of brown, whereas the male House Finch is an entirely brown bird with a bit of red on its head, breast, and tail. If you ever see a red finch and are wondering which one it is, my guess is it's most likely a House Finch, as the Purple Finch is pretty unmistakeable.

Today I left at a little after 8:00 and drove up the lake road toward Montezuma NWR. We'd driven through a couple of days ago with the girls in the car, and keeping them under control was all I could accomplish that time. I saw an interesting warbler right near the Visitor's Center that I couldn't ID because of poor positioning and overcast skies, but nothing else very intersting. Today, with no rugrats to keep quiet, I again took things nice and slow. My first encounter with a life bird was at the main pool, and it came right in the middle of a downpour. Undaunted, I got out of the car to get a better look at a duck that stood out from among the numerous Mallards. After wiping off the lenses of my bins, I got a good look at an adult male Redhead. Again, it's a bird I could see near home during migration in the winter, but I hadn't this year and was happy to see him. I got back in the car and endured the rest of the main loop road inside, with nothing new to be seen. I was feeling a little dejected when I got to the point where I could have just turned left and headed home, but I decided to go right instead and check out some of the other viewing areas.

Needless to say, I'm glad I did. The first stop I made had both a restroom (thank ya, thank ya very much) and an observation tower. There were two other birders there, and over about 20 minutes we spotted 3 new species to add to my list. The first, and easiest to pick out, was a Black Tern. They're very striking in their adult breeding plumage, and we saw at least 5 or 6 of them. Then a songbird started calling from the trees just next to the tower, and upon a closer look we determined it was an Alder Flycatcher, another lifer. He sat there and called for so long that I got greedy and went to retrieve my camera from the car. When I got back, he had moved to a less spectacular perch, but I got a good shot of him nonetheless.

After the flycatcher flew off, someone noticed an odd water bird in the pond. One of the birders trained her Swarovski spotting scope on it, and we were all a bit perplexed. We looked and looked, but the feather pattern didn't match what we were looking at. And then it dawned on the third birder of the group . . we weren't looking at juvenile pictures, just adults. A quick re-check of the grebes and we had it figured out, it was a Pied-billed Grebe. The juvenile plumage is quite a bit different than the adults, but Sibley's drawing was pretty much spot-on.

The next stop, at May's Point Pond, was uneventful. There were Cedar Waxwings and Indigo Buntings playing in the trees, but the pond was virtually empty of birds. I headed back toward the house, striking out again at the two stops I made before getting back to the intersection near the entrance. Go straight, and it's a direct route back to the house. But, on a hunch, I turned left and headed back to the entrance. I wanted to take one more good run at that warbler. I stopped at almost exactly the same spot I'd seen him at two days earlier, and I just waited patiently. The sun was peeking out from behind the clouds occasionally, making it really hard to see anything at the tops of the trees. I saw a couple of birds flitting rapidly back and forth between the topmost branches, but I was struggling to pull focus. Finally, one flew back away toward the pond and landed on a low branch of one of the trees near the sidewalk. I got a good look at him, picking out the bluish-green color of his back, the strong white wing bars, and the unmistakeable dark band across its throat. Jackpot . . Cerulean Warbler! I studied him for another 5 minutes or so as he flitted about the branches of the trees, gleaning bugs from the bark and singing loudly every so often. That is a bird that you might only ever see once in a lifetime, and I'm thrilled I made the decision to head back for one more shot at him.

That brings my total of new Big Year birds added on this trip to 11, bringing the total to 132. A recap of the additions: Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood Thrush, Veery, Warbling Vireo, American Redstart, Redhead, Alder Flycatcher, Pied-billed Grebe, Cerulean Warbler, and Black-capped Chickadee. I think I can coast to 150 now, and depending on how soon that happens I might readjust the goal upward toward 175 or 200. Here's hoping!

Poop . . Still Comical After All This Time

Recall my post from November 27th of last year. Fast forward to today, and it seems poop really is still comical.

Today we took Meema's niece Tess down the road a way to rendez vous with her mom. The "with Tess" part of our trip is over, and she's headed off to summer camp tomorrow. The drive to Whitney Point was about an hour and fifteen minutes long, but it would have been more like an hour if we hadn't had to stop to let the girls pee when we got into Ithaca. We stopped at a gas station that didn't have a restroom, so they had to hike half a block to a hotel to do their business. Fifteen minutes later we were back on the road, with about 25 minutes to our destination. Twenty minutes in, Lily informed us that she had to go potty yet again. Running late as it was, we told her she had to hold it until we got to the McDonalds where we were meeting Tess' mom, and remarkably she was able to. Crisis, temporarily, averted.

After the drop-off it was back into Ithaca for dinner at The Boat Yard, which is another story altogether. What's relevant, however, is that Lily peed when we got there, and again when we left an hour later. From there we went across the street to play at a park for a half hour or so, then headed to Wegmans for some groceries to get us through the rest of our stay. When we got inside, Lil had to go potty again, so I took her straight in. She peed, again, and we went on about our shopping. To recap, that's 5 urinations in the span of 3.5 hours, and she'd had only a single Capri Sun and a few sips of lemonade to drink. That being said, you'll understand that I didn't push the issue of making her try to potty before we left the store, as it's only a 25 minute drive back up to the cottage.

Talk about your all-time backfires. About a third of the way up the lake road Lily proclaims "Meema, I've gotta go pee-pee!" in her most urgent voice. We were torn . . should we make an emergency stop for her, or push our luck a little bit and try to make it back to the house? Well, she went ahead and made that decision for us, having an accident a mere two minutes later. Meema insisted we pull over and let her try to finish, so I pulled quickly into the driveway of one of the McMansions along the road. Meema hurried around to Lily's door, got her unbuckled from her seat, and ran her out behind a brick wall to let her go potty. Somehow, she also had the wherewithal to grab a paper towel from under the seat of the car, and it would pay off in spades.

They managed to get Lil's panties off with lightning quickness, and before you knew it she was popping a squat in some stranger's yard. After a few seconds with no visible results, Lily's posture changed noticeably, in a way that was all too familiar to me. Her thighs flexed, her neck extended, and just like that she was squeezing out a little turd. Appalled, I took off my hat and buried my face in the steering wheel, just hoping no one inside the house could get a good description of the guy driving the car with the kid that crapped in the lawn. Meema looked over to me and mouthed the words "she pooped", as if somehow I could have missed that fact. I hollered frantically at her "I know that, just get her in the car quick before somebody calls the cops!"

When they got back to the car, I was prodding them to hurry the heck up so we could get out of there. Inexplicably, Meema asked me to open the trunk.

"Why the heck do you need to get in the trunk?" I yelled.

"I'm gonna put the poop back there," she said.

You can only imagine the look on my face. "I wasn't going to just leave it in their yard," she finished.

"Well hell," I said, "I woulda just thrown it in the woods or something!"

She insisted on bringing the poop home though, so she finished strapping Lily in, put the turd in an empty bag (on the opposite side of the trunk from the groceries, thank goodness), and got back in to the car. I high-tailed it out of the driveway and hustled up the road. As we left the house, I noticed a "For Sale" sign on the other side of the wall Lily pooped behind . . I can only hope that means that nobody was home. As we drove up the road and laughed about our evening, Meema shared one last little tidbit that just put the icing on the cake. She said that as she realized there was no more pee-pee coming out, Lily looked at her and said "Uh-oh, I got a poopie!" A classic Lily moment to be sure, and she was narrating it as usual.

25 June 2008

Dear American Airlines,

Allow me to start by saying that I'm aware the title of this post has been used recently for the title of a book. I heard an interview with the author a few weeks ago, and the title just stuck in my head. The impetus for his book was very similar to my motivation to write this post. He, over the course of a day or two, was grossly mistreated by American Airlines employees in an airport. He started composing a letter of complaint, and it snowballed into enough material to write a publishable book. I can assure you this post will not turn into a book. However, I can not promise that the similarities will end at the title. I have a feeling, based not only on his interview on TV (I think it was on Glenn Beck) but on the general sentiment I've heard being passed around about American, that my story is indicative of a pervasive and disturbing trend.

Typically, barring provocation, I am a very polite individual. When it comes to the service industry, I know precisely how hard people work (despite what the typical customer's perspective will tell them). I'll wait patiently in a line much longer than most, and I'm very tolerant of mistakes if effort is apparent. Some people, however, do not belong in service positions. There's an underlying ability to be nice in the face of all circumstances that exists at the core of folks who are cut out for customer service, and you've either got it or you don't. The individual working the A9-A11 gate at Charlotte Douglas International Airport for American Airlines yesterday clearly falls in to the "doesn't have it" category, and she should move on.

I'm disappointed with myself for not taking notes during my travails yesterday. And I had the camera in my suitcase too, but I did not get it out for visual documentation. Regardless, I hope you share in my agony.

Mandi dropped us off at the airport at around 5:50 a.m. yesterday. Lily, Avery, and I braved the morning airport rush, got our gate passes from the self-service machine, and headed through security. You've never been so on edge as when you're arguing with your 3-year-old to take off her shoes with a rushed mob of 150 or so business travelers staring at you impatiently from the back of the line. We managed to make it through with all of our belongings, got our shoes back on our feet, and began navigating the long hallway down to Terminal A. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7:37, and by this time it was around 6:25. The gate agents were busy boarding an earlier flight, so I took the girls to an out-of-the-way part of the lobby so they wouldn't disturb anyone. Having seen our position on the stand-by list (#'s 6, 7, and 8) and concerned we might be casualties of a weight restriction, I went over to the gate to let the agent know that the girls were young children. This interaction, though rushed, was courteous in the most clinical sense. By that I mean the agent said "Thank you" to me as she made the notes in the computer, but the sincerity of her gesture left a lot to be desired. My inference, whether accurate or not, was that she'd have preferred to say "Thanks a lot douchebag, now go the hell away and let me deal with the paying customers". I'm good with body language that way . . I can promise you my interpretation is pretty close to spot-on. To quote My Cousin Vinny, "Dead-on-balls accurate."

Understanding my position as a non-revenue traveler, I went back to wait patiently without pestering someone who obviously was not in the mood to be social. The girls made the next 15 minutes seem like 3 hours, and then mercifully we heard the agent call "standby passengers Eaton and Slovick, please check in." Relieved, I gathered our bags and herded the girls toward the gate. Still approximately 60 feet from the counter and trying my best to quickly motivate the kids, I was taken aback when I heard the agent yelling to me "I've only got 2 seats!" As I got appreciably closer the wind somewhat fell out of my sails and my pace slowed. Now in recovery mode and thinking about my options for later flights, I kept walking toward the gate with a quizzical look on my face. When I was 20 feet away, the agent stepped out from behind the counter and repeated herself in a far-from-apologetic tone. Now again, an understanding of the service industry becomes enlightening. When I say her tone was unapologetic, don't confuse that with my placing blame on this individual for the circumstances. I know it's not her fault we didn't get on the plane. But that point is moot. If your concern for your clientele is genuine, your delivery of unpleasant news is saccharine-sweet. "I'm so sorry sir, but we only had 7 seats and there were 5 passengers in front of you on the list. Your listing will be rolled over to the next available flight to LaGuardia, hopefully you'll be able to get on that one." Or something along those lines. No one whose heart is in the job would argue with me on that point.

Instead, what came next was the proverbial lemon in the paper cut. Before she even got the exclamation point out of her mouth, she began with her ruthless follow-up. "Besides" she said, "you're not allowed to travel in shorts as a non-rev anyway!" In that moment, I had been humiliated by a complete stranger at a distance of about 6 yards. Bear in mind that I had already interacted with this agent once this morning, wearing then precisely what I was wearing now. Very nice Docker's hemmed khaki shorts, a sharp looking golf shirt that was neatly tucked in, a belt, and sandals. It was, after all, the 24th of June and the forecasted high temperature for the day was in the low 90's. When I spoke to her the first time, a point at which I might have been able to fix it, my attire was not an issue. Now, however, since she had me against the ropes, she decided to go for the knock out and add insult to injury. In my opinion, this woman was displaying a blatant abuse of the power inherent to her position by ruthlessly enforcing a rule that is quite obviously open for interpretation. Does the policy state that shorts are not allowed? Yes, it does. Do the gate crews at all of American's terminals across the country enforce it to this degree? No way in hell. How can I be so certain of that? Because I've flown in shorts at least a dozen times on a buddy pass, and it's never even been discussed.

I worked in night clubs that had dress codes, and every person who worked there knew precisely why the dress code existed. It was a fall-back crutch. If you wanted some knucklehead tossed out, find some nitpicky thing in the dress code he was violating and say it's "no exceptions". It's implemented for people to hide behind when they're uncomfortable addressing the real issues. In this instance, I believe she was smack-dab in the middle of a power trip, she just wanted to be right that day. To quote Randall from Clerks, "There's nothing more exhilarating than pointing out the shortcomings of others."

As you can imagine, my reaction to this final barb was less than favorable. I passed right over the lack of seats on the plane and began pleading my case, rather perturbedly, about the excessive rigidity she was showing in enforcing this policy. She very curtly cut me off and said that I wasn't going to tell her how to do her job, and that the discussion was now over. Infuriated, I called my mom (not running to mommy, but she's the AA employee, perhaps she could reason with this woman). In my fury I explained to my mom in no uncertain terms that the agent in question was one of the three biggest bitches I'd ever met in my life. Unfortunately for us all, I was well within earshot of the woman (and not really trying to be discreet). That mistake in judgement pretty much ended my chance at resolving the conflict with her, so after a few more sarcasm-laced exchanges I stormed off down the terminal toward security. The last thing either of the two agents at the gate said to me (she had reinforcements) as I left was, "You know, your mom could lose her flying priveleges and her job over this." I knew that was an empty threat, but it didn't make it any less infuriating (both to myself and to mom). I dragged the girls back through security and tried to devise a plan.

My first attempt involved swallowing my pride and appealing to the mercy of a ticket counter employee. I tried to get an audience with a supervisor, but he didn't typically arrive until 8:30 or so. At this point it was still 7:15 or so. The employees at the ticket counter, aside from their less-than-believable uncertainty about their supervisor's schedule, were exceptionally polite and helpful. But come on folks, billion dollar airlines don't let low-level supervisors at mid-sized airports just come and go as they please with no precise accountability with regard to scheduling. Don't play me for a fool, I can see right through your vagueness. Their advice, being not in a position to clear me to travel as-is, was to go through to the concourse and purchase a pair of pants. They let me leave our bags behind the counter while I went through security (again), since the plan was to come back at 8:30 to talk to said supervisor about repealing the aforementioned suspension of my flying priveleges. While in the security line, Lily freaked out at the sight of three very nice Amish men behind us, which only compounded the uncomfortability associated with taking kids through the metal detectors for a second time. Once through we darted around to all of the reail stores in the concourse looking for a pair of pants, only to be shot down at every turn. Even the Johnston & Murphy store carried above-the-waist garments only. My last ditch effort was a stop at the Nascar store, where I was (mercifully) denied pants yet again. I came within inches of asking random travelers for pants from their suitcases, but I stopped short of that.

Dejected, we left the secure area to again wait at the ticket counter. At precisely 8:29 I rounded up the girls and headed for the maze. Once at the head of the line we were given the "Oh shit, he actually came back" look by the agents, and they called us over. They explained that somehow the supervisor may not be coming in that day, and that they were sorry. Then, without my having to ask, the woman ticket agent offered to try to get me in touch with the manager, whose office, she explained, was right below the gate where the incident took place. That manager is the only employee whose name I recall, and it's for completely random reasons. Her name is June Miller, and I never even met her. The name just stuck because I've got a friend named June (whom you'll read about later), and one of my favorite all time books is "Death of a Salesman", by Arthur Miller. So somehow June Miller stuck. In an ironic twist of luck, Ms. Miller's secretary happened to be right behind that very ticket counter at the time, and she told me she was going to head down to talk to her boss, and that just in case she decided to let us travel I should get our stuff together and come down there too.

So we did. Got our bags, herded through security (where an agent said "Haven't you guys already been through?" . . "This is our third time, actually" I replied) and hustled back down to the gate. At this point it was pushing 9:00 and the next flight to LaGuardia was leaving at 9:15. I put Lily on my back, told Avery to keep up no matter who she had to run over, and started tearing ass through the terminal. As we arrived at the gate, the secretary met us about 20 yards shy of the counter and told us that she'd spoken to Ms. Miller and that her response to our plea was an emphatic "Absolutely not!" Now, as utterly nice and polite as this secretary was to me the entire time, I have to believe that this was a fabrication. You're telling me that a manager with an airline that's laid off 15,000 people and gone bankrupt twice in the last 6 years has so little to worry about that she's passionate about enforcing the non-rev dress code at the Charlotte airport on a Tuesday? I call bullshit. The fact is, the gate agent with whom I had the confrontation was the head person in charge on this day (due I'm sure in part to the unexplainable absence of the ticket counter supervisor and Ms. Miller), and knowing the response before she even asked the question this secretary probably just fabricated the conversation with Ms. Miller in order to put an end to the situation. With no hard proof of this (and with no open seats on the 9:15 flight) I once again put my tail between my legs and turned to walk away.

So now it's time for Plan C. I've exausted my patience with regard to begging for mercy and arguing the rules. I felt like Lou Pinella after he's just tossed 2nd base into right-center field . . I was toast. Somehow, some way, I was going to have to get something a little more full-coverage on my lower extremities if this day was to end North of the Mason-Dixon. I called my mother-in-law to beg her to bring me some of my father-in-law's pants, but she wasn't home. Then I called Mandi and told her she was going to have to leave work to come and get us. That went over like a fart in church. My last resort was June. June lives down the street from us, a full 32 miles away from the Charlotte airport. June works nights at a local hospital and her scheduled days of the week vary. Knowing that, I try to communicate with June via email whenever possible, just so I'm not calling the house when she's trying to sleep after a 12-hour overnight shift. But email wasn't going to be an option today. So I called her, and it went to voicemail. Downtrodden, I tried her cell, knowing full well that she rarely turns it on when she's inside the house. When that didn't work, I nearly gave up hope. I was seconds from walking to a taxi stand and cabbing it home to get pants. On a whim, however, I called June's home number one more time. Miraculously, and with the sounds of an angel choir in the background, she answered after one ring. Her voice was obviously of a person who'd just woken up, and I contemplated just apologizing and hanging up. But I really don't like to lose. So I swallowed my pride, again, and begged her for help. I asked her to go to my house, get me some khaki pants, bring them to me at the airport, and then go on her merry way. All before she'd even fed her kids breakfast. Thankfully, she agreed. I would have totally understood if she'd said no . . $4.00 per gallon for gas, 60 miles in her van that probably gets 24 mpg . . we're talking at least a $10 out of pocket expense just in gas, not to mention the hassle of getting the kids dressed quickly and hustling them in to the car. No one would have blamed her for declining. But she didn't. She saved my ass like she has numerous other times, and by 10:30 I was dressed to the nines and ready to try my hand at this stand-by thing just one more time. Mercifully the security line was very short this time, and the girls had finally gotten the hang of it. You know what they say, 4th time's a charm! Ironically, while I had gotten through the metal detector with no issues on the first 3 tries, this 4th time (the only one in pants) my belt set off the machine. This, I hoped, was not a harbinger.

The girls and I went to have a little lunch in the concourse . . of course they couldn't agree on what to have so we waited in not one but two ridiculously long fast-food lines. When we finally sat down to eat our Pizza Hut and Quizno's lunches, Avery looked at me and asked why I had to change pants (dude, what the hell have you been paying attention to these last 4 hours???). When I explained why, she calmly said "Well, I think you looked way better in the shorts." Great, thank you Martha.

We finished our lunch at around 11:30 and took a leisurely walk down toward the gate, again. The next flight didn't leave until 1:15, and it appeared as though there were enough open seats for us to get on. That is, of course, as long as the gate agent didn't go in and delete our reservation from the system like she'd done for the previous two flights. So we stopped along the way to look at the hanging displays, watch the juggler, and marvel at the length of one bartender's braid. Airports are great for people-watching, aren't they? We got to the gate at around 12:00, and I made sure we sat about as far away from the counter as we could while still being able to hear the agents' calls over the loud speaker. The last thing I wanted, after 7 hours in the airport, was for the agent to see me and do something vindictive that would keep us from flying. She was still at the counter, after all, but did not appear to be the one working our flight. Then, in the one stroke of luck we really needed, I watched her reach into the closet at the end of the counter, grab her purse and her travel mug, and say goodbye to the agent left at the gate. Her shift was over. She walked away through the terminal without even a glance in our direction, which I was perfectly happy about. I tried to avoid watching her as much as I could, but I had to keep glancing out of the corner of my eye to see if she was really leaving. She was, and I've gotta tell you I got up and did a little Snoopy dance right there in the terminal. Don't worry, no one saw me.

We got the last three seats on the little plane to LaGuardia, and as soon as we took off the girls both fell asleep post haste. I can't blame them, they'd been up since 5 and had probably walked a total of 4 miles in that airport. That's a lot of work, and they needed the rest. I wanted to nap too, but this post was racing through my mind so fast that I decided to order a $6 airline beer instead. It's expensive, I know, but they keep them on dry ice, so it was absolutely perfect. Just a hint of ice crystals inside, nice cold can . . even Miller Lite can taste great at 34,000 feet under the right circumstances. Two hours later we landed on time, got in the car and headed upstate. The 5 hour drive to Ithaca seemed like a blink of an eye compared to the day we'd had, and I'm glad the whole ordeal is finally behind us. For the next week the posts will be nothing but cute kids, amazing birds, and quaint country scenery. Cheers.

23 June 2008

# 121 - Bald Eagle

Today my heart raced at the sight of a bird, which is not a common occurrence for me. I get excited, but this was different.

On the way home from the post office Lily, Avery and I were driving across the South end of the Coddle Creek Reservoir when I spotted a raptor flying across the road. At first glance it appeared far too large to be a hawk, but at the same time much too brown to be a vulture. Intrigued, I slowed way down with absolutely zero regard for the motorists behind me. Thankfully, there were none. as we passed one of the little coves just West of the dam I craned my neck left and saw the bird perched on a tree limb. With nowhere to stop and a curve coming up in the road, I had to look away, but my initial instinct was "eagle". We found a spot to turn around, hustled back and pulled in to one of the turn-outs between guard rails. With all of my gear packed for our trip to New York tomorrow I reached for a cheapo pair of binoculars I keep in the glove compartment for emergencies such as this one. I walked dangerously close to the road and pulled focus, and I was thrilled when my hunch was confirmed. It appeared to be an immature Bald Eagle, although I couldn't be 100% sure.

With my internal clock ticking like a time bomb on a Wil-e-Coyote cartoon I raced home to get the girls lunch and Lily down for her nap. Without so much as a good-bye I told Mandi I was taking Avery on a pilgrimage to photograph the bird, and we were off. We got back to the same turn-out in what seemed like no time, and to our surprise the bird had moved closer to the road and politely turned toward it, as if to make himself a better subject for my photos. I snapped about 2 dozen shots, and did everything I could to get him to take off for an aerial view, but he was not feeling that. Regardless, I got some really good looks at him, and I'm excited to be able to definitively say that it was a 2nd year Bald Eagle. There's obviously no way to tell from this distance whether it was a male or a female, but that's neither here nor there. Here are a few of the best shots I got of him. Happy birding, I'll be posting throughout the week from New York, where I hope to visit Sapsucker Woods and Montezuma NWR.