Friday, July 4, 2014

July 3 (Day 184) - Camping in Pawnee - Sonia talks about new experiences

Well how about that?! Looks like the ptarmigan gods heard our prayers and threw in a brown-capped rosy finch for fun. Hasn't Dorian had some great days since we last talked? I'd say my blog posts are his good luck charm. I couldn't be happier for him. Thanks for cheering him on, everyone!

The happy ptarmigan dance

In case you haven't figured it out, it's Sonia here. As Dorian mentioned in his post last night, he's camping out in Pawnee National Grasslands for the next two nights. Looks like you're stuck with me for back to back posts.

 [manacle laugh, manacle laugh]

Actually, I thought it might be fun to tell you about my introduction into the birding world. Dorian first took me birdwatching in Central Park during the middle of winter. It was about a month into our relationship and I was still trying to figure out this hockey loving, scientist DJ who likes watch? I thought it was a line, but it was at least a creative one so I went with it (I mean, all the cool guys use science and birdwatching as pick up lines, don't they?). I honestly was confused at first because I couldn't imagine what kind of birds would be out in the dead of winter, but I thought what the hell. Two awesome things ended up happening that day: First, as we were walking around the ramble we turned a corner to overlook a lake. When we looked down there were about 40 Northern shovelers bunched together doing what they do best, shoveling. It was a pretty spectacular scene. The sun was still pretty low so the light really hit the birds perfectly to give the green of their heads this incredible shine. I sat there for a while watching them move counterclockwise together as a perfect unit. That's honestly the only time I have ever seen that many shovelers in the same place doing this, so I feel fortunate that this was my first birding memory. Sure beats a bunch of dirty pigeons eating out of a garbage.

The group of shovelers we saw was double this size

Photo Dorian took of a Northern Shoveler 

The second encounter was like a scene straight from an episode of birds gone wild on Nat Geo. We were standing near the boat house and Dorian was showing me a building where some Red-tailed hawks nested. As if on cue, one of the birds came flying down straight towards us. It swooped down, grabbed a pigeon about 10 feet in front of us and carried it up to the tree over our heads. The pigeon was fighting to get out of the hawks claws, but all that flapping was in vain. To get the pigeon to calm down, the hawk placed the its neck between the "v" of couple of tree branches. Once the pigeon went limp it began ripping it up piece by piece, devouring more than I thought possible. I know it's a gory memory, but as a novice birder it was a lot more excitement than I thought could be possible when bird watching (little did I know that there would be countless painful hours ahead of me, looking for this kind of sparrow and that. Talk about exciteme... zzzzzz...). I don't admit this to Dorian, but after that little jaunt through Central Park I was a bit hooked. From that moment forward I wouldn't be able to walk through a park without looking up and wondering what exciting things were happening above my head. I really thrive off new experiences, so this whole new world of birding was fascinating.

Photo Dorian took of a Red-tailed Hawk
eating a squirrel (on a different day)

Close up shows the blood evidence around the beak

Speaking of new experiences, tonight I was introduced to the incredible world of sailing. A friend of a friend is a sail maker here in Nashville (I know, what a cool job!). Her name is Deb Pincus and she runs her own business called TC Sails. She has an incredible reputation in the sailing world as being excellent sail maker, not only in Nashville but throughout the States. She was even asked by the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St Louis to make the sails for an installation that went up this past May. I'll be passing through St Louis later this month and I think I'm more excited about seeing this installation than I am the famous Arch.

Installation entitled "Lots", designed by Freecell Architecture
You can read more about it here

Close up of the sails that Deb made for the installation

Anyway, Deb had repaired a sail for someone at the local Yacht Club and asked if my friend and I would like to tag along. It doesn't take much to get me to go sit by a lake and watch a bunch of sailboats go by, so I jumped at the opportunity. Long story short, what was supposed to be a simple 20 minute hoisting of a sail turned into 2 days of overhauling the line used to hoist the sail (called the halyard). While this was a bit of an unexpected repair for my friend, it was an incredible introduction to mechanics of a sailboat for me. I learned how to run a new halyard from the front of the boat up to the top of the mast and down through its main shaft. After that, we attached the sail and got it positioned for the owner for his next venture out.

 Deb sewing the old halyard to the new halyard
before we strung it up through the mast

Crew getting ready to hoist the sail

Once this was done, a sailboat owner across the dock, Rick, was kind enough to offer to take us out sailing on his boat. While I have been on a sailboat before, I've never actually sailed. I got my first lesson as we let out the jib (sail at the front of the boat) and I learned tacking (moving the jib from one side of the boat to the other). This may be incredibly amateur for an experienced sailor, but I was a really impressed by just how much was going on... and we only had one sail up! Needless to say, I had and incredible time working the boat and learning the very basics of sailing. Side note: Deb also made a sail for Rick's boat and it has won 4 separate sailing competitions.

My view 

Hard at "work"

My friend, Maggie, after the Captain told her
he was going to keelhaul her....
and then explained what keelhauling meant

The award winning sail that Deb made
for this particular ship

Of course, no good conversation about sailing can go without including this clip from my favorite comedy: 

Aye, that'd be all fer now, ye wretched landlubbers. Hoist yer grog and tap yer hogshead as we all be hopin' our young lad finds whate'er booty he be lookin' fer in da open seas er Pawnee National Grasslands. Aaaaaarrrrrrrgggggh!

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