Archive for the ‘Bucket List’ Category

From the time of early childhood, we’ve made fun of Newfies, told Newfie jokes, and held Newfies up as the epitome of how we fervently hope not to appear to others.  We did this with the blithe naivety of youth, never once imagining that Newfies were actual people.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “Newfie” refers to someone who lives in or is from the Canadian province of Newfoundland.

And that, amigos, is as graceful a segue to our current destination as you’re gonna get from this ole bird.

We’re headed for Newfoundland (pronounced NOO-fin-lund) for a bunch of reasons, among which are:

We’ve never been there;

We hear there are icebergs and puffins and whales, oh my!;

We have an unbridled curiosity about a folk who have their own time zone (half an hour out of whack with the rest of the world), have their own language (Oh, it’s English, just not English as we know it), and who may or may not be as amusing as we believed them to be in our youth.  In short, inquiring minds want to know if Newfies really are goofy.

Oh, and we also want to know if Newfie kids tell Ontarian jokes.  We suspect they do.

 

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If you’re a person who loves gorgeous sandy beaches as far as the eye can see, you need to add “Outer Banks of North Carolina” to your Bucket List.

Beach 1R

ShellsR

Cape Hatteras 1R

We are here in the off season (April is “off”; May is “on”) which means that we virtually have the place to ourselves. Yep, 80 degrees and a zillion miles of glorious unspoiled beach. Life sometimes sucks, but now isn’t one of those times.

Sunrise 2R

After a few days of poking around, we began to notice little signs posted in certain areas saying things like “This area of the beach is closed!” Beneath this was a stick drawing of a bird sporting what appeared to be a silly hat, together with an explanation (paraphrased by yours truly): “The Fluffy-Headed Shrimp-Suckers are currently nesting in this area.” Then, in smaller print, a few words describing why this should concern us, followed by (something like) “Love and Kisses, The Audubon Society.

Being the fledgling birders we are, we thought it was darned swell of those Audubon folks to do such a thing. There are those, however, who would disagree.

Flip 2 R

In any given situation, there will always be an arsehole or two who can’t just live ‘n’ let live. They probably don’t bother to vote but they’ll be first in line braying like a bunch of jackasses the second they imagine that their rights have been violated.

Let’s just back up here for a second. Back to the part where I mentioned “a zillion miles of glorious unspoiled beach.” Back, too, to the “off season” bit. Okay, so we have oodles of beach with nobody on it, and we have a comparatively miniscule portion of said beach cordoned off for a few weeks so that love might flourish for the Fluffy-headed Shrimp-suckers (or whatever they actually are).

Yep, I can certainly see cause for alarm there.

Imagine having to exist in a world where some stupid bird can just up and hog the beach! Gawd’s teeth!!  Especially when it’s just a few acres of beach that nobody’s using anyway. That’s certainly worth going to the expense of having a special protest sign printed up and nailing it to your hand stenciled board (pardon me while I wipe away a wee tear). That’ll show ’em, boy!

The thing is that unless this is really just a clever ploy by the government to ferret out the local morons, the Audubon Society could probably have saved themselves some sign money and aggravation by just keeping mum and letting those Shrimp-suckers do their thing on that empty beach. Nobody’d be any the wiser. Least of all the local moron bird-flippers who’ve lost their precious freedom (insert melodramatic eye roll here).

This is a bit tough for me to admit out loud, but, I think I’m becoming one of those freaky old bird ladies.  I honestly never saw this coming.  I should have, really.  I mean, look at the stuff on my Bucket List:  See a California Condor (check);  see Puffins (checkity-check!); see Whooping Cranes; yadda yadda…it goes on.  There are a surprising number of birds on that stupid list.

I’ve noticed something else lately:  When I’m not gallivanting all over hell’s half acre with ole Bob and our new trailer, I’m lurking in the shrubbery with my camera….stalking…birds!  Ugh!  I can’t believe it!  The funny thing is, though, that I keep encountering “bird people,” and I’ve discovered that there is a not-so-subtle rivalry between the hard-core birders (the beige-clad, binocular-wielding, dorky hat and sensible shoe-wearing sort) and the bird photographers.  Apparently the (ahem) REAL birders think the photographers are cretins (and probably vicey versace) because they do bad things to get “the shot.”  “Bad things” might include making bird noises or sneaking up on nests.  REAL birders like to stand there and wait for the magic to show up and land on them.

Anyhoo, I’m just a girl who likes to take pictures of birds (and lots of other stuff).  So, today, I was surfing around in Flickr and I discovered some really weird schitt.  There are gangs and groups and clubs and bunches of people (cults?  Hmmm…) who like to shoot pictures of birds.  Just like me?  Pffft! Yeah, no. Get this:  All of the groups I perused had (ugh) rules.   And, all of the rules were pretty much the same.  They said things like “NO pictures of nests!”  Why?  Well, apparently if you sneak up on a nest, you’re messing with nature or somesuch.  They don’t mention the little fact that a good 90% of the bird photoggers have at least a 500 mm lens so they can be standing in the next county and get the shot.  Negative bird disturbage.  I personally do most of my bird stuff with a 300 mm lens cuz it’s the biggest one I have.  I rely heavily on luck.  I think it’s more exciting that way.

In addition to the “NO nests” business, they invariably also have a rule that says (I can’t say this without rolling my eyes) “NO dead birds.”  Um…okay then.  I’ll make a note of that.  I guess it means I can’t post stuff like this (I shot it out my back window last winter):

Coopers Hawk with (DEAD!!) Mourning Dove

I also noticed several groups with “NO injured or abused birds” amongst their rule pile.  Because… I can’t even speak to that one.  Are there really people out there who abuse birds and then take pictures of them?  Are we that weird??

Long story short, I discovered that if I wanna join one of these bird photogger gangs, I have to strictly adhere to the “Only happy-sappy birdie shots – no reality allowed” rule.  In other words, I have to blow nothing but sunshine and butterflies out of my …er…camera.  Which brings us to another point:  What about the poor insects?  Or the fish?  I saw literally thousands of pictures today showing birds brutalizing butterflies and beetles and fish!  It was horrible!  I was deeply offended.  (I’m totally lying.)  But seriously, what if the bug group folks find out about this??  Or the fish group people??  It could get very ugly very quickly.

I guess I won’t be joining a Flickr bird gang anytime soon.  I’m just too much of a rebel.  I’ll just stay here and write about my travels and sometimes I’ll slide some birds into my blog…just to get it out of my system, y’know?  🙂

Okay.  I feel better now.  🙂

I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that it finally stopped raining!  The bad news is that this has happened just in time for us to go home.  Happily, our last day in Maine was spectacular, both weather-wise and fun-wise.

I know I’ve been a little vague about The Great Puffin Quest.  My reasons for doing so may seem odd to you, but, like that California Condor business, “See puffins” has long been a Bucket List item for me.  I was loath to jinx it by saying “we’re gonna go see puffins!  Neener neener!” just in case the whole thing went to hell like the whale-watching plan did.  I think I can speak for us all when I say that nobody likes to end up looking like one of those dorks who brags about all the stuff they’re gonna do and then end up with nothing but a handful of lamo excuses.

Anyhoo, the thing about puffins is that the little wheezers only come ashore for a very brief time each year to…er…well, y’know…beget puffinlets upon each other and whatnot.  When they do this stuff, they don’t really want us to watch, understandably, so they hide.  Most of this hiding goes on way out in the ocean on little rock-pile island-ettes.  As you might surmise, this makes the whole “See puffins” thing a tad dodgy as Bucket List items go.

For some reason, I had been under the erroneous illusion that one could simply arrive in Maine and say, “Yo, Where’re the puffins at?” someone would point, and we’d all live happily ever after.  Sadly, this was not the case.

The first roadblock came when we arrived in Maine initially (early last week) only to learn that the puffin tours weren’t scheduled to begin until June 13th, and that there would be only one tour per week (!!) for the course of the puffin mating season.  I feel we adapted rather well to this news:  I pouted pathetically and Bob rearranged our entire trip…once his query of “Do we really need to see the stupid puffins?” was met with…let’s just call it “hostility” and leave it at that, shall we?

So, already long story slightly less long, we headed over the border, as I mentioned in my last post, with the aim of being back in Boothbay Harbor (ha-bah) by Tuesday so that we’d be in plenty of time for the Wednesday morning puffin tour.

Unbelievably, it was STILL raining in Maine upon our return.  But, I was determined to see those pesky puffins so I checked and double-checked the weather.  No matter which website/TV channel I checked, the verdict was the same:

Precipitation:  Oh hell yeah!

Probability of it stopping:  In yer dreams, Skippy!

Boating conditions:  Sea – rough;  Waves – bring a barf bucket (it actually said that!) (I’m lying…again…)

Additional weatherisms:  FOG!  Visibility:  Nil to nada, with periods of zilch.

Perfect.

Now, I’ll have you know that I’m no weenie.  I’d have been willing to barf for the cause, but I sure as hell am NOT barfing if all I’m gonna see is fog.  My disappointment was complete.  Until…

I had begun to think that those puffins would just have to stay on the stupid Bucket List a while longer when Bob looked at me and said, “Well, there must be other puffin tours…”  You’re probably wondering why this had never crossed my mind.  I know I was…

La-la-long yadda-yadda-short, we found a tour going out last evening from a little harbor just up the road called, imaginatively enough, New Harbor.

You’ve been very patient (assuming you actually read your way to this point, and, if so, bless your heart!), so without further ado or inane babblage from yours truly, I give you….  PUFFINS!!

(Hiding among a pack of killer black guill…mumble-something-or-others)