Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New River Adventure

The delightfully lovely New River, viewed from our campsite.

Our pals the Heeters in Fayetteville, WV invited us along on a river float/camping adventure on the New River. We know Geoff and Kyle from The New River Birding Festival, of which Geoff is a co-founder. They are old hands at whitewater rafting, having both migrated to the area, famous for its wild rivers, to become rafting guides. This trip would be on relatively calm waters—two days of rafting with a night of camping thrown in. Julie was busy with an illustration project, so the kids and I loaded up the van and headed south to the hills.

We caught a minor league baseball game in Charleston on Sunday night—more about that (possibly) in a future post—and stayed overnight on the Heeters' farm after the game. The two young Heeters and the two young Thompsons (boys and girls the same age) get along famously. It's nice when you can let the village raise your children.

Monday morning, instead of heading off to work, we loaded rafts and life jackets and coolers and tents and far too much other stuff into two vehicles and headed off to the river. Along the way we picked up some other friends' kids and one other adult, Katie, and began the long, complicated process of changing from land-based to water-borne creatures.

Raft #2 in our expedition, with Katie's dog Cannonball about to re-board the craft.

The rafts are large, heavy plastic or rubber crafts, designed to float high and to withstand the rocks and beaches of a sometimes-angry river. We ran several rapids during the two days, but the New was low and clear, so we did not encounter anything that was truly scary.

In the New River Gorge you are often far from civilization—or at least civilization and its comforts are not easily within reach. No cell signals. Too wet for the laptop. If you bring a camera it needs to travel in a dry bag or in a water-tight case.

Geoff talked me out of bringing my binoculars.

"When was the last time you spent a day without binoculars?" he asked me.

I had to think. It's been a long time.

It was a big relief to have no expensive gear to worry over. I did take my pocket digital camera.
Did I miss the binocs? Only twice—when distant birds were not ID-able with the naked eye. Otherwise, I enjoyed a more "whole-istic" view of the river and the gorge.

Floating down the river was true bliss. We told stories, jokes, sang goofy songs, and also spent a fair amount of time (kids included!) just "being"—sitting in quiet contemplation. The river's motion and sounds have that effect.

Phoebe and Liam surprised me with their willingness to raft or swim through rapids, to jump off of rocks into the water, and to revert to being nature creatures, released from the grip of Webkinz and TV and e-mail.
Thompson kids ready to run the river.

We slept on a sandy beach in our tent. We ate hobo-style meals squatting around a fire. We fished (both kids loved that)!

It was a really nice change of channel. Thanks Kyle & Geoff!

Some photographic evidence:

I caught you a delicious bass.

Lunch spot on Day 2.

Shooting the rapids with Liam.

Some say Bigfoot still roams in the New River Gorge. It's the hairless race, I'm told.

The kids built a fort and defended it against all comers (adults).

Kids at play in mid-river. Phoebe relaxes on a warm rock.

Kyle and Geoff our hosts and guides.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Scenes from New River

Dear Readers:

I am still laboring to fill the pages of this new (temporary I hope) home of BOTB all the while living in the transient state known as Bizzyville. I got home last night from the chilly rain-soaked hills of West Virginia. I head out tomorrow for the human-made mountains and canyons of New York City.
I'll be doing a few media thingys in NYC. If you've got Sirius Satellite Radio, tune in to channel 112 for The Martha Stewart Living Today radio show on Thursday, May 15 at 2 pm to hear the host, Mario Bosquez, interview me about The Young Birder's Guide.

To prepare my brain for The Big Apple, I am meditating on my time in the Appalachians with good birds and good friends. Here's a final visual sampling from The New River Birding Festival:
Bucolic farm scene from Glade Creek Road.

Event host Geoff Heeter feeds The Wild McCormac breakfast before a field trip.

Wild pink azalea growing in swampy woods near Fayetteville.

A beaver swamp near Fayetteville where Paul Shaw and I tramped around looking for prothonotary warblers. No prothos, tho.

Leaping Canada warbler.

This blue-winged warbler sang a perfect golden-winged warbler song. Clearly he's a GWWA trapped inside the body of a BWWA.

Father flicker guarding the nest hole. No sign of the sneaky mother flicker.

Festival co-host Geoff Heeter, squire of Opossum Creek Retreat.

Festival attendee Marcy models the latest in birding rainwear.

The birding on the field trip to Muddlety was done in the fog and rain.

We saw no camera but we weren't going to litter anyway. In fact, we picked up trash.

Red eft loving the rainy weather much more than the birds and birders were.

Steve McCarthy, stalwart member of The Whipple Bird Club, and field trip leader at New River put Chet Baker to sleep with his petting.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

11 Seconds of Parula

From Upper Danese in Fayette County, West Virginia.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Oh Sweet Canada!

I had a great day today leading the High Country Birding Trip at The New River Birding Festival in Fayette County, West Virginia.

Another big day tomorrow, so just enough time and energy left to share three images.

This was a very cooperative Canada warbler that sang and fed and preened for us along Glade Creek Road. It was my best Canada warbler watching ever. You should have been here.

Showing the black necklace just like in the field guide.

Singing: Chip-chupety, wee-ditchety.

And back into the rhododendron thicket he goes. Sad to see something so beautiful fly away.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Gone to the Hills

View from Babcock State Forest picnic area.

I'm headed for the hills of West Virginia. Not the ones that we can see from our birding tower—some larger ones in the southern part of The Mountain State. It's time once again for The New River Birding Festival—a favorite among the annual events that I attend as a trip leader and speaker.

We'll be seeing lots of territorial male warblers, such as this blue-winged. Golden-winged, cerulean, and Swainson's warblers are among the most sought after species.

Up high in the mountains the dandelions and redbud are still blooming. They've gone past down here in the SE Ohio lowlands.

And then there's the life-bird wiggle—mandatory for all who have added a new species to their life list on one of my field trips. Either you dance, or you walk home! Birding is a contact sport, buckaroo.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

New (Temporary) Home of BOTB

Is six days long enough to wait for a problem to go away? I think so. Well, Blogger's Help Desk folks are either all on vacation or are all out birding and they have yet to respond to the pleas of hundreds (if not thousands) of bloggers who upload via FTP. I will not bore you with the details here. Let's just say that I am a turkey for having waited this long for a far-flung human to solve this problem.

Now we're publishing on Blogspot, part of the same lumbering, stock-option happy, piece of Microsoft bait that spawned Blogger. Not sure I'll be here forever. But I'm here at least until Blogger gets its servers restarted and fixed.

Tomorrow I head to the New River Birding and Nature Festival in picturesque Fayetteville, WV. Dude, it's totally warblerville there. I'm doing the high-country warblers trip on Thursday with local bird maven Paul Shaw (aka pshaw) and I'm crossing fingers for 20+ warbler species by noonish.
Male American redstart along the New River.

Off to pack in a panic. Back soon.


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