The Bir Trip (Birder Interrupted), Ch. 23, Forty-two Years Later

Forty-two Years Later

Not that I had never thought of picking up where my broken VW left me, not that the birds of Texas and the great Southwest beckoned me, but where would I find time to do justice to such birding areas? I had not allowed myself to think seriously of completing what I had started so many years ago. How could I, with college, military duty, work and more work, and family. Then one January day in Texas, retired from my day job at Smithsonian, something changed.

Linda and I were in Austin a few days before my beautiful daughter-in-law would give birth to her and her husband’s daughter. They chose to name their daughter Sabine, the name of Sabine River separating Texas and southern Louisiana and the name of an ancient tribe from central Italy. I had nothing to do with choosing the name Sabine for my granddaughter, but the name had special significance. After repairing my VW in Arkansas in 1963, I planned to drive south to Sabine National Wildlife Refuge near the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. There I would see fabulous birds to add to my life list, and then I would cross the Sabine River and see thousands of spring migrants dripping from the trees on the upper Gulf Coast of Texas. However, I had put the ill-fated trip behind me, that is, until this January.

During the wait for the birth of Sabine, I discovered a book among the library of her soon to be parents. The pages were full of information about hiking in Big Bend National Park, where Colima Warblers nest. I could feel the urge to see Colima Warbler, to go around the Big Bend. One day during the pregnant pause, I visit to an Austin bookstore and pick up a bird-finding guide for Texas. That was it. I was in, hook, line and sinker, with no going back to days missing live birds. Somebody had to see all those places and birds. The new Sabine meant birds. The name of a new life and places I once thought I would bird forty-two years ago was now even more important. I heard a little traveling music.

All this catapulted the idea of more than just visiting the Sabine region of Louisiana and birding in Texas, but to complete the trip, the one started so long ago. There was no turning back. The fuse was lit. I could go back to Arkansas and follow the old route I planned to travel in 1963. The second leg of the trip could be possible. I could complete the trip that my broken car abruptly ended decades ago. This time, my soul mate, the girl left behind in 1962, and I would travel the route not forgotten.

Unlike the earlier part of the trip, there are now plenty of sources for discovering additional sites to find birds. I eventually collected three bird-finding guides just for Texas. Besides publications, a plethora of information on the internet. Amazing! It is possible to email birders for local bird finding information and check the latest bird sightings in many regions. That speeds things compared to the postal mail that I used in the early 60,s. There are internet sites on individual species for information varying in detail on identification problems, behavior, distribution, you name it; this source still was not as good as the Smithsonian’s Division of Birds library but it was quick and available in Austin and back in Oregon where most of the planning took place. Replacing my LPs of the 60s were bird sounds over the net. I could record them either to tape or to CD for study or playback, and along with my geographic field guide, identifications were waiting to happen. In addition, more and more people are out there birding, including many highly organized commercial bird tours, some led by Jon Dunn and other friends. Once a region had been birded, many of the observations ended up on the net or otherwise shared via emails across the country.

Returning home in Oregon, near the end of January 2004 I began to plan in earnest. Plans to make the trip the next April were impossible. Our multiple family members were experiencing multiple health problems. We decided to wait one more year, which was a good decision. We were not ready. The serious itinerary began in early 2004 blossomed into a detailed and optimistic plan. Hope was eternal that every “i” was dotted, every “t” crossed and all target birds listed. The itinerary listed birding sites, page numbers of bird finding guides that provided the details about the location and its birds, the number of miles from the previous location, and the target species. An entry in the new itinerary looked something like this:

North Fork Taylor’s Bayou (21 map, 25) [30]

Swainson’s Warbler-nesting (Patterson Bridge)

Swallow-tailed Kite Mississippi Kite

Prothonotary Warbler–nesting

The locality is about 30 miles from Sabine Woods and west of Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. The target species are those not seen in 1962-63.

Ken Kaufman, in “Kingbird Highway,” a delightful and inspiring chronicle of teenage birding, wrote, “Listing would shift away from knowledge and planning and experience, toward contacts, hotlines and money. “ The first leg of the listing journey, in 1962 and 1963, was based on a little knowledge, considerable planning, although not enough, many contacts, and very little money. Today, we are basing our listing on more knowledge, more planning and experience, actually fewer contacts than in the sixties and still not much money. As for hotlines, we will test some of them as we travel. Still, we were looking not just for a big list, but also for the adventure of the unexpected. The unexpected did not have to be some rare or hard to find species. It could be in a person met, a landscape, sunset or some other surprise of nature.

Our master list of bird species was an ABA checklist of birds found in North America. Red checks were made next to the species seen during the first leg of the trip. The optimistic total for the 1962-63 trip had been 572 species. Only 384 were seen from June 1962 to the unscheduled vehicular melt down in March 1963. We optimistically hoped to find about 200 new species on the second leg of the trip. If so, the combined legs might hit a grand total of 584. Beginning in Arkansas and traveling south would prevent us from picking up any of the species embarrassingly missed earlier. Still, this was not a competition, but a goal, a target number that would keep us alert not to mention increase our life list. The real competition was with us. The goal was to complete unfinished business of birding until we dropped or at least for about 45 days.

Our mode of travel by a little SUV was not in the economic spirit of the old VW. However, the newer vehicle could hold enough clothes, food, bird references and maps for two, could fit easily on the shoulder of most narrow roads, and could turn around so that the “what was that” bird could be identified. Everything we needed and then some was in the vehicle. We tried to maintain our food supply so that no matter where we might be we would not starve. A jar of peanut butter, a couple of gallons of water, cereal, fruit, it was all there. Not to be entirely out done by the center brake light I installed on the old VW in 1962, I put multiple stripes of reflection tape on the back of our SUV, so much so that someone asked if we were rural mail carriers. We also designed front and rear bumper stickers that read “ABA Birder, “with the thought that the labels might improve trading critical birding information with other birders. I’m not sure many birders noticed. One person asked, “What was an aba birder.” Linda looked at me and said, “Well Yogi, what should we say?” Maybe most people thought we were lawyers and ignored us.

Now, in our 60s, we were confronted with travel expenses many fold greater than in the 1960s. We are still highly dependent on fossil fuel. Gasoline has gone up over 625% in 40 years and was continually rising, but a vehicle’s ability for increased miles per gallon needs improvement. The old VW got 30 mpg; our small SUV attains a slightly better than average 26 mpg, but less with stops and starts on backcountry roads. Further, after 40 years, the comfort of camping night after night or sleeping in a car night after night is no longer appealing. Camping fees of today would have quickly chewed away my budget when most state and Federal camping was then free. Our comfort level, in the sixties (we are talking age here) begs for running hot and cold water, a real bed, and a door that locks out everything from bugs to whatever. We might camp occasionally, but only infrequently. Therefore, infrequent camping means frequent motels. Add that to high cost of transportation, user/entrance fees across the country, and food, and the total would be extreme for most. In the 60s, I planned to travel from Sabine refuge to Oregon in about 65 days. Those same miles now would have to be birded by about 20 fewer days for the sake of our budget and for the sake of our physical stamina. Unfortunately, the actual birding tour would not begin until we drove 2200 miles from southwestern Oregon to northwestern Arkansas. Being passed the age of endurance driving, we would need about five days just to get to where the VW broke in 1963.

Regardless of economic changes and the need for a real bed, our 60ish age holds a spirit of the 1960’s. We not only knew the trip might turn back time and that it would also bring adventure to our future. Most importantly, I would be with the girl left behind in 1962.

In late February 2005, we allocated a back room of our Oregon home to lay out everything that was going in the vehicle. We made lists of what we still needed such as plenty of batteries for flashlights, camera, tape player, dried food, air mattress with pump, and a new bee-sting kit for my allergy, new socks, and the cash registers kept ringing. I began finalizing our itinerary, with bird finding directions from people I had emailed, adding contact information and last-minute sightings of rare birds reported on the net. I told my dad about the trip. He, as my mom, suffered from dementia. It was during one of his more lucid moments. His eyes widened as he said, “Good, I am so glad you are going to do that.” He even asked a couple of specific questions about the trip before lapsing back to wondering where Linda and I lived and where was my mom. She was in the hospital at the time. Even if she could have understood about the trip, I would not have told her. She did not need the worry. In early March my parents, who had been sick for years, suddenly became more ill. They were extremely close and died within four days of each other. It was a shock and a relief. They both suffered dementia, and had been, in many ways, gone long ago. Still, we thought they’d be there when we returned. Maybe some of the grief and loss would be ameliorated with the miles.

We wanted to be in Arkansas to begin the second leg of the birding journey by 3 April. We left our nest in Jacksonville, Oregon, on 28 March and headed south over the Siskiyou Mountains for the long journey through the greater length of California before turning east. Our southern route would help us avoid any late winter storms. On the way, we veered north to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Linda had earlier seen the chasm, I had, gasp, not. Just as James Fisher in “Wild America” had experienced, the view brought tears to our eyes. Before leaving, we looked down on the backs of three California Condors soaring below the South Rim. We sped onward, stopping briefly at Sandia Crest not far from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The unseasonably late snow and cold at 10,678 feet awarded us all three species of rosy-finches. They spiraled down from buffeted conifers, cascading as if autumn leaves to join gray-headed Dark-eyed Juncos at a bird feeder. In my earlier birding days, I had seen two species of rosy-finches, but Linda, had seen none. The detour to Sandia Crest was well worth the time. Somewhere on the eastbound freeway, my back decided to exercise its periodic caravan of pain. Meanwhile, we careened across the Panhandle of Texas to meet Tom Smeltzer at Black Kettle National Grassland in eastern Oklahoma. Just to the north, before sunrise and after my throbbing lower back made it difficult to walk, Tom showed us our first Lesser Prairie-Chickens. Too bad, we couldn’t include these species on our trip list but our rules required the count to begin where the trip stopped in 1963.

Harrison, Arkansas, was not only the location where the sixties leg of the trip was terminated and where my car died, it was where my parents lived for many years and where I was born. Decades later, I was lucky enough to join a few other Arkies in the ornithological community, including the James family. Douglas A. James, professor at the University of Arkansas, was not far west of Harrison. He started teaching there in 1953 but it would be nearly 20 years before we would meet at Smithsonian. A prolific writer of numerous papers ranging from bats in the Ozarks to Great Pied Hornbills in Africa, he coauthored “Arkansas Birds” with Joseph Neal in 1986. Doug recently was senior author on a paper on Cerulean Warblers in Arkansas, a species missed on the first leg of the bird trip. Maybe we would find the species this time? On the first day I met Doug was when he left the Division of Birds late one evening. We had forgotten to get a property pass so he could leave the museum with his luggage. Just as a museum guard was about to stop him, I grabbed his two suitcases, and told the guard, who knew me, that the luggage was mine. No pass required. Security today is, of course, much stricter.

Francis James, who left Arkansas for points east, is a renowned avian ecologist and conservationist. Despite my best efforts, Fran could not be convinced that the study of subspecies of birds (essentially my day job) might be interesting. The third James, daughter Helen, is a prominent avian paleontologist, working at Smithsonian’s Division of Birds. Her colleague down the hall, Arkansas son Gary Graves, one of the curators I used to tease when he was the new person in the Division, is also peppering the journals with papers on systematics of hummingbirds and other Neotropical migrants.

The 1960s journey was near the northern boundaries of what I would call the southern warblers, such as Yellow-throated and Prairie warblers that regularly winter in Florida where I saw them. When I departed Arkansas in 1963, I headed west on a Greyhound with my head in my hand, leaving without seeing any of the remaining southern breeding warblers, including Prothonotary, Cerulean and Hooded warblers. Linda and I would be too early in Arkansas for most warblers. What we would find in Arkansas and beyond inevitably would be the adventure of surprise, learning and just plain fun, chiggers, sunburn and maybe a few warblers. Whatever might happen, we would relish trying. We would soak in the landscape, and the birds.

*****

3 April 2005

We arrived in Harrison, Arkansas, found our reserved motel, and made a couple of phone calls. The first was to my surviving northern Arkansas relatives who lived several miles northeast of town. Another call was to Sheree Rogers who lived just out-of-town and who had staked out a Harris’s’ Sparrow. We then rushed to Baker’s Prairie.

Once 5,000 acres, Harrison swallowed up all but 71 acres of Baker‘s Prairie, which is preserved by the Nature Conservancy and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Before the sun fell below the western horizon, we visited our first official birding site. Spring was only beginning to arrive in the cold wind. We parked in the lot of a giant new high school where Vesper Sparrow foraged on the edge of the lawn. Linda crossed the busy street at the edge of the prairie while I gleaned the sparrows. Northern Bobwhites call from a briar tangle. The low growing trees, not ready to grow leaves, produced our first Eastern Towhee and tail wagging Eastern Phoebe. Not far were Eastern Bluebirds and over the wind, Eastern Meadowlarks were singing from the brown prairie. This was the place to start our trip list.

4-5 April

Sherre Roger’s place was alive with birds. We had corresponded by email months earlier. Her yard was the place to find Harris’s Sparrow, a species primarily in the south-central states. About a dozen feeders attracted Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, Purple Finches and more. White-throated Sparrow kept our attention; the target sparrow had been foraging near them. Thirty minutes later, a buffy female Harris’s Sparrow popped up for identification.

The morning was young and more importantly the wind was still in the breeze stage. A walk through Baker’s Prairie yielded more meadowlarks and bluebirds. Prairie flowers had yet to spring up and last year’s grass was dead and prostrate. We were too early for Grasshopper Sparrows. Barn Swallows flew by, turned in the speeding breeze, and circled back again. At the edge of the preserve, in a stunted woody tangle a Willow Flycatcher clung to a windy perch. A rusty Brown Thrasher added color to the grayish brush before vanishing.

We visited my aunt, her son and her brother in the remote rocky hills several miles northeast of town during the afternoon. She had once been on the staff of the U.S. Embassy in what was then West Germany, but preferred the solitude of the Ozarks, rebuffing even Harrison. From age 3 to 8, I visited Harrison every Saturday when my folks, and everyone else, came to town to shop and visit. Almost anything shoppers needed could be purchased from stores built around the old brick courthouse centered in the town square. I spent a greater part of those days watching western movies, Flash Gordon, and travel logs in one or both of the big screen theaters that faced the solid courthouse. Old men sat in park benches outside, whittling and talking about bygone days. Indeed, those are bygone days. The two theaters are closed, but there are sometimes wood chips below the park benches. Harrison’s population had doubled since my youthful movie days, and the county count had nearly tripled. The town blossomed like a dandelion. The city line sprawled across much of Baker’s Prairie and everywhere else to produce a typically blighted land of too many shopping centers and houses with unnecessary square feet. Only small areas of Harrison held on to the rural charm I remembered. Linda noticed it too, especially the large town square and Crooked Creek drifting nearby. I wondered if the little house of my birth was standing. Was it a historical landmark, a museum or, most likely, was it a corner of a superstore selling discounted paraphernalia. We all think we need more stuff. I let my curiosity gravitate to when we would find our next trip bird.

The next morning we attempted to complete our laundry at the motel. While we birded around the property, we were unaware that the driers were not heating. We added a couple of new species to our trip list, most notably a Mississippi Kite. Later, we piled our clean but soggy clothes into plastic bags and hunted for a laundromat.

My back was ever so slightly better. The toll of too many days sitting, driving grimly across uneventful and stressful interstates were happily replaced with walking, standing and, most importantly, birding. In the 60s, my back never bothered me. My body was lean and my eyes like a hawk. In forty years, I had gone from a skinny ectomorphic kid to almost pushing too many pounds for my 6-foot frame. My ribs were no longer showing. I was still using the same belt and belt hole I was using 10 years ago, but I was not consuming the daily milk shakes as I did birding across the country in 1962 and 63. Much to my chagrin, my arm length could not keep up with my inability to read, and I very recently gave up squinting at hawks and warblers. I was surprised the power-line wire along the local road was not a double strand, and how much easier and farther away I could separate perching Kestrels from Mourning Doves with my new spectacles. However, the glasses did not go well with my binoculars. Taking them on and off meant possibly dropping or losing them. I had already wasted the equivalent of years looking for my reading glasses. I purchased a glasses strap so that I could throw the glasses off and then look through the binocs. That worked well except the glasses tangling with the binocs, and until an earpiece poked me in the eye. The bird could not be identified through the tears.

After drying the laundry, we turned off scenic highway 7 a few miles south of Harrison. I wanted to show Linda where I had lived during the days of Saturday movies. The road, a narrow paved lane led through familiar country. One stretch had been particularly good for Scissor-tailed Flycatchers but instead we found a barren fence row on both sides of a once vegetated roadside. Houses that I once knew were gone completely, whole farms abandoned, but new homes had sprung up in old fields and leveled woodlands. The house of my younger youth was much enlarged from the original structure my father, his half-brother and father had built. The vegetation along the intermittent creek was gone. Two sycamores below the house and a large black walnut were a memory. We drove on.

A mile to the west was a left turn. Inside the fence was a corner of my uncle’s property. It contained huge oaks and cedars, trees he loved and hoped to preserve. Down the road, passed the woods was his house, the home of my late grandparents. It stood relatively straight, but the front porch sagged from the combined weight of discarded furniture, obsolete tools and general debris. The grounds surrounding the house were likewise decorated with discarded junk. We had witnessed familiar scenes in Oregon and in every state that we have ever visited. Still, when a hoarding relative is the perpetrator, it is at least embarrassing.

Remembering the pond and nearby barn about 500 yards from the house, I dodged the cow pies while hoping for a Barn Owl in the aged rafters. There were no owls but four male Blue-winged Teal flew from the pond. There were two males and a female Harris’s Sparrow in the bushes next to the pond. I quickly retrieved Linda who was busy photographing the outside of the house. We relocated the birds. A fourth bird, briefly seen, appeared to be a female.

South of Harrison and an hour on winding route 7 and 30 minutes of tighter turns on a narrower road to remote Lost Valley at Ponca brought us to a small stream. Trees were still leafless and silent, just as they were in 1963. No warblers, but the shallow stream looked promising. A minute barely passed when we spotted a bobbing brownish bird at the edge of the water. The clean buffy flanks clearly marked the Louisiana Waterthrush, our first eastern Warbler.

We drove back to route 7, continuing south in the mountains before descending to the Arkansas River at Russellville. There, we got on I-40, the highway we traveled earlier from California to Oklahoma, and sped eastward to Little Rock. We arrived at another uncle and aunt’s residence south of the city. They lived in the same spotless home where, on 31 March 1963, I caught a bus to Oregon.

6 April

A thunderstorm had lightly touched southern Little Rock. I searched the trees around our host’s home but I could only hear the hum of cars joining in the morning commute. I stood in the same yard 42 years earlier and heard only traffic. Wishful thinking would not hurry the migration.

After breakfast and good byes, we found the interstate to Texarkana, cruised through part of Hope, home of Bill Clinton who retired from his Washington, D.C. day job a few years after I left my post. We never met but I saw his limousine during our numerous commutes. Linda mailed a couple of letters from the post office before we caught the highway south for our night in Sulphur, a refinery town in southern Louisiana.

*****

In 1963, I thought I might be lucky enough to see an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the grandest of all North American woodpeckers. I tried in western Florida and had planned to try again in Louisiana. My optimism of the 60s was gone. Reports in 2004 that the species was not extinct seemed anecdotal, and I was reluctant to spend time following what seemed to be a long shot. After all, the last North American Ivory-bill was seen in Louisiana in 1944, the year Linda and I were born. When we arrived at Tom Beatty’s place in Arizona’s Miller Canyon on this trip, we were stunned when Tom handed us a print-out from a website. It announced that an Ivory-billed Woodpecker had been videotaped by David Luneau in eastern Arkansas. Being a museum person, I appreciated the hard evidence of photographs. Apparently so did John Fitzpatrick of Cornell University, Van Remsen of Louisiana State University and 15 others, in an online ScienceExpress report that was soon to appear in the prestigious publication Science. Van has been a long time member of the Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of the American Ornithologists’ Union; Fitz was a former member of the committee. The authors of the report concluded that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is no longer extinct and living in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas. They also reported the extreme difficulty in finding the giant woodpecker. As much as I, along with others, want to believe the fuzzy video is proof that it is an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, I remain skeptical. Maybe, someday, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker will find its way to my life list.

*****

7 April

Sulphur was stark and noisy as the metal pipes, tanks, and all kinds of plumbing steamed, smoked, and snaked up and down in large and small pipes. Petroleum was its name, and sweating men in hard hats scurried by foot and truck through the gray hard landscape. The humidity of the Gulf rolled inland. It seemed extraordinarily weird. It was the stark reality. The human consumption of rotten subterranean juices obliterated the immediate smokey view. These prehistoric fluids would flow on, into our car and others, to leave an indelible mark everywhere. It was stupendous. It was shocking. Our road wove through the bowels of the steely gray place. How vulnerable we felt, and how vulnerable were the refineries. Not a bird was in sight. It was too harsh.

Reminded that Sabine National Wildlife Refuge was not far beyond, Linda mentioned that the landscape of refineries, oil pumps and the like were part of the ecology of the Gulf. She had seen it before. I had not, and her words helped me brace for more to come. In the meantime, there would be the refuge and new birds to discover.

South of Sulphur and onward to Hackberry on route 27 we realized we were in the Gulf Coast marshes. The ecosystem in Louisiana makes up about 12% of the nation’s wetlands. It is twice the size of the Everglades, and, according to National Geographic, is disappearing under the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 33 football fields per day. Dredging, digging deep shipping channels, levees, introduction of nutria and other manmade manipulations is causing the demise of an ecosystem that not only provides natural habitat for countless species, it also protects human habitat, including petroleum concerns, from flooding especially from hurricanes.

So at last, on the shrinking marsh, we watched a Roseate Spoonbill fly high over Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. We stopped only a couple of times along the road, once to check for migrants in some willows growing on a levee. We found a burnt tinted Orchard Oriole. Later we stopped to glass White and Glossy Ibis as they foraged the shallows. Our next stop was Peveto Woods (pronounced peva-toe, with emphasis, according to locals, on the toe). However, we never found it, although we must have been close. A sign that read “Peveto Woods Migratory Bird Sanctuary” led the way but the lack of other signs left us unsure. The only person we saw was a confused tourist. Maybe a birder could help but no one else was around. We birded a spot that partly fit our emailed directions and found Yellow-throated Warblers in an otherwise quiet set of trees. The site was actually private property, a home site ready for placing a house on about 10 foot tall power pole sized stilts. The extra height is to avoid being flooded. Flooding has happen repeatedly, and everyone hopes to be prepared. In 1886 the thriving town of Johnson’s Bayou, along with tens of thousands of cattle, were wiped from the face of the land. On this dry day, our trespassed home site was not acting as a migrant trap.

We still had daylight as we crossed Sabine Pass and into Texas at the south end of Sabine Lake, a wide part of the Sabine River, and on to Sabine Woods. Sabine at last. Arkansas’s Eastern Towhee, Harris’s Sparrow and others had been the prelude of birds to come. Today, new trip birds were tripping over each other. When we arrived at Sabine Woods, I felt this was the day to see spring migrants. The steady strong south wind signaled otherwise. What would be needed for that famous day when warblers, tanagers and orioles dripped from the trees was a cold north wind. Of course, that kind of wind is difficult to fatal to birds migrating north. The ones that survive the trans-Gulf crossing are starving for food, water and rest, head straight for the nearest land that has trees and bushes. Sabine Woods is one such place, but fortunately, for the birds, they were flying on by, buoyed by a nice tail wind. Their miles per calorie would allow them to go further inland where suitable habitat was more continuous than the Louisiana and Texas coasts. We did find a few Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped Warblers and several male Blue Grosbeaks. Also present were five birders, walking slowly and quietly, with binocs at the ready. A birder’s muffled voice told us that Worm-eating had been seen in the morning. Two apparent Gulf Coast veterans shook their heads, lamenting the southerly sea breeze. On our way out three birders anxiously tried to decide if the waterthrush they were seeing was a Louisiana or Northern. I pointed out the white flanks, narrowing eye band and dull leg color. It was good to see a Northern Waterthrush again.

Passing through Port Arthur for the second time, we left behind the Petroleum formed landscape of white sky, tanks, pipes and noise. We got a room in a Winnie motel just early enough to double back to the north fork of Taylor’s Bayou for a chance at Swallow-tailed Kites and Swainson’s and Prothonotary Warblers. The directions painted an accurate picture of the area, and as promised, a couple of Barred Owls conversed in the distance. Wood Ducks swam around cypress knees where a Prothonotary Warbler sang above the black mirror of swamp water. The pale green of the Spanish moss kept the golden bird hidden almost beyond my patience and dimming sunlight. Herons traveled up and down the bayou, including members of a colony of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Kites never appeared. The sky dimmed, frogs tuned up and mosquitoes began their happy hour of drinking. It was time to retire to Winnie.

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