I covered the 65 miles to the refuge at a leisurely pace. I made a few roadside stops to look for birds, none of which turned out to be terribly exciting. Upon my arrival at the refuge I was met by wildlife biologist Libby Errickson. After introductions, she and I headed out on bikes to do a loop of the world famous Wildlife Drive. On the right tide and at the right time of year hundreds, if not thousands, of herons and shorebirds can be found just feet from this 4-mile auto tour that runs through the refuge. While photography opportunities often abound, the high tide coupled with the way the birds were positioned limited my chances to shoot this afternoon. I was able to add Spotted sandpiper for year bird #242.
Libby provided an interesting and educational commentary as we wheeled around the drive. I now know how to discern the red mangrove from the white and the black. Libby claims to have a seen a Mangrove cuckoo this morning, but I am not sure how one sees a bird that I now know does not exist. Other birders with whom I spoke also claim to have seen it. This only lends credence to my assertion that the whole birding community is in on the hoax.
A particular highlight this afternoon was meeting Don and Lillian Stokes, birders extrordinaire and producers of fine field guides. Together, they have produced umpteen different field guides to birds and other wildlife. They are certainly very knowledgable about all aspects of the natural world. It was really nice to hear that they are enjoying my blog! You can check out their website here.
While Libby and I were walking to dinner, we started talking about alone time. Many people with whom I have spoken about my trip simply cannot believe that I am doing this entire year on my own (Libby is not one of them). They simply do not understand why I would want to spend seemingly endless hours by myself as I move about the country. My answer is that I am doing this alone because I can. I have been afforded the rare and very valuable chance in my adult life to spend not just hours but days alone. I have managed to escape the normal adult responsibilities that inhibit all but few from doing exactly this. Not only is adult life hectic, but we live a society that actively discourages people from spending extended time away from their peer groups or families. We often label people who enjoy being alone as odd-balls or losers. On the contrary, I believe that is is really difficult to meaningfully interpret what I experience in the world without first understanding myself. Having time alone gives me the chance to do the introspection that life does its best to inhibit. I firmly believe that I will return from this journey more comfortable with my own strengths and more aware of my own weaknesses. I believe this better understanding of myself will translate into more valuable interactions with other people moving forward. I am excited to reintegrate at year's end. Until then I'll enjoy the alone time I have now.