Thursday, February 12, 2009

There's a Ditch Near Hasty...

Sorry for the lack of posting here, life has gotten busy. The hospital I work for has had numerous lay-offs that fortunately haven't affected me. In fact, I'm part of a group working on a big computer project for the lab and I've been putting in LOTS of extra hours. (Counting my blessings here). My wrist seems to be recovering nicely. I've done two bird outings with lots of photography and it felt petty good. Before the CTR surgery holding the big lens on my camera gave me trouble. I'm off work today as Art had his first age 50+ Roto-rooter (colonoscopy) procedure today. We go to the same clinic and when we both turned 50 we were given packets that included cards to schedule colonoscopies and "advanced health care directives"!!!
"Here ya go- while you do the prep for the colonoscopy, you can fill out your living will!"
Sweet.
Anyway, while poor Art is sleeping off the versed I thought I'd download my pictures and throw a post together. We had a day of mild weather last week so I packed my gear into the car and headed up to Hasty for a day of birding by myself. When Art and I were there the week before we had filled the feeders and then dumped the rest of the seed all over on the ground in the campsite. Last Friday as I started walking up the long driveway toward the campsite I could see major bird movement in the yard. About half way up the drive I could hear them. There were AT LEAST 300-350 Redpolls and a handful of Pine Siskins feeding on the seed! As I reached the camper they all flew up into the tree tops in one big whoosh. I set up a camp chair, got out my camera, sat down and waited. It took a while but soon a little flock of bold Chickadees zipped in, probably thinking they finally had the feeders to themselves. Within seconds the entire flock of Redpolls dropped from the trees, chattering, bickering and eating. I sat six feet away with my jaw dropped, barely able to take in the sight. Redpolls are such pretty birds. I saw my first ever Redpolls last winter at the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Bird Festival . Two weeks ago I saw a handful at Hasty and a single Redpoll at home and now I was sitting in this huge flock grinning like a goof! It was definitely a birding bliss moment for me. Have you ever had a birding bliss moment?

I just love these guys.

I'm pretty sure I saw two Hoary Redpolls in the flock but I couldn't find them in my pictures.

"Hey lady! The thistle is getting a little low here!"
When I got too cold to sit in the snow any longer I headed back to the car and set out to do some exploring. There were three Wild Turkeys in the trees near the road. I had seen their big tracks in the snow by the feeders and was glad that they seem to be making it through the winter. It was funny to hear them cackling in the trees in mid-winter. I hope they hang around come spring. I'd love to get a look at little poults. Down the road a ways I came across a flock of Snow Buntings that lifted off the road and landed on the lake. I pulled over to get a better look but when I got out of the car some local domestic geese waddled toward me honking and hissing so I stayed put in the car and moved along. Glancing over the fields I spotted a pair of Northern Harriers gliding low, hunting for rodents. I love to watch Harriers hunting. They face the ground, skimming low, listening and watching for food. It seems a bit early for them to be back for the season but I have seen sightings of them on the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union listserv this week. The Ravens and Crows were very vocal that afternoon and there were pairs of Downy Woodpeckers chasing and calling- all signs of spring approaching!
Around mid-afternoon I decided to turn toward home. It had been windy all day and was getting quite overcast. There was just one more place I wanted to check. As I drove along highway 73 toward Cromwell I scanned the fields for a Northern Hawk Owl that had been seen and reported there. THERE! Up ahead on the right-on the power pole! I checked my mirror, no one was coming behind me, so I pulled over onto the shoulder so I could get a good look. I knew the ground was still hard so I was startled when I felt the tires on the right side of the car start to sink. The flat crust of snow left by the snow plows hid the ditch and tricked me into thinking that the shoulder was wider than it was.
#%@*&!!!
In a split second my car was resting on the frame and I was stuck. I crawled out of the car and flagged down a car for help. The car that stopped held an older couple who were delighted to try to help. The woman got out first and she couldn't have been 5 feet tall and 100 pounds. The husband was tall and fit looking. He told me that they'd give me a little push and I'd be on my way. I asked the Little Woman to get in the car so I could help push instead of her but she said she didn't drive. As the husband walked up I realized he had an artificial leg!! When we saw that the frame was resting on the ground and hopelessly beyond pushing, we flagged down another driver with a diesel truck. The Truck Man hooked a strap the the back end of my car and started pulling. The front end of my car swung to the right and went all the way down into the ditch. I couldn't even get out of the car! By now the Little Woman was frozen so she got back into her car. Limping Gentleman went off down the road to stop traffic and Truck Man had to pull me backwards for a few hundred yards, crossing into the other lane of traffic to get my car out. I thanked Truck Man as he rolled up his now broken strap. I offered to pay for a new one but he just smiled and left as I babbled my gratefulness. I turned to Limping Gentleman with tears in my eyes, and offered my thanks. He hugged me and told me not to let it ruin my day of birding and to drive home with care. Such kind people. I can only hope that I can offer such kindness to some one else when they're cold and tired and feeling so careless.
A few miles down the highway I stopped for gas and called Art to tell him of my experience. He didn't laugh or point out my mistake. He said he'd offer two pieces of advice. First, he said, stop at the restaurant across the street and get a bite to eat and relax. Second, drive back up to Hasty and scout around for birds some more before heading home.
The homey Country Inn was just what I needed. They were serving all-you-can-eat fried fish and it was delish!! After three cups of coffee and I won't say just how much fish, I drove back to Hasty. I parked and walked back up the driveway for another Redpoll fix. This time I didn't even bring my camera. I just stood there as the Redpolls swirled around me. As the chill set in and I turned to leave I heard the maniacal call of a Pileated Woodpecker. He swooped in and landed on the same birch snag where I saw him last summer. He was close by and looked me in the eye.
SHIVER.
I made my way back to Highway 73 and turned south again. As I passed the spot where three strangers had so generously helped me, I looked around for the Hawk Owl. About one hundred feet off the road beyond my tire ruts, in a tree silhouetted against the glowing sunset, sat a pair of adult Bald Eagles.
I drove the 150 miles home with a full heart.
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31 comments:

Beth said...

I love this story. It is full of all the beautiful things in life that lately seem to get covered up by all the bad news assaulting us every time we turn on the computer or the television. I'm so glad you had a lovely day and met kind people and had someone who loves you send you back to enjoy the redpolls a little bit longer.

Red said...

Awww You Minnesotans are so kind and generous! What a wonderful thing they all did and I'm so glad you're okay and your car survived for the driving too.

No one told me birding was dangerous.

I have yet to have birding bliss, but I have had a couple of nature encounter bliss moments.

Sandy said...

cute cute photos. Don't have time to read right now but I'll be back to read it.

The Early Birder said...

I'm pleased to learn you are safe after such an ordeal.
Birding bliss - Quite a few but seeing a fall of 00's of migrant warblers in Bulgaria was something special. That no of Redpolls will be hard to beat. FAB

RuthieJ said...

What a day you had Lynne! Thanks for sharing it with us.

I live for birding bliss moments--like holding a baby bluebird in my hand or having an eagle fly over so low that I can hear its wings flapping.

I'm glad you met some nice and helpful folks to get you and your car out of a predicament

Marsha said...

I can just imagine what it was like to sit amongst that many redpolls! I bet it was birding bliss. The closest I've come are the two afternoons a cardinal visited. I just sat in a chair and smiled hoping a mate would come and it would stay.

Your photos are the redpolls are excellent! I'm sorry but I kind of had to smile about the story of pulling off the road to far. So far this year, we have come across two vehicles that were tricked into thinking a rural corner is wider than it really is because of the snowplow and turned to sharp and were stuck. I am so glad that nice people pulled over to help. Bald eagles, harriers, hawks & a pileated woodpecker...I can see why you had a full heart.

Pablo said...

That very same ditch-hidden-by-snow thing happened to me in Iowa one winter. It was near a ski resort, so everyone stopped to push us out.

The trip was okay, but the best part is that I married the girl I went there with, 29 years ago now!

Shellmo said...

I'm so glad you didn't get hurt in that ditch - and it's nice to hear of other people's kindess and willingness to help. (My husband did the car in the hidden ditch thing last month - so i have complete sympathy for you!) But between your delicous meal, being a hasty brook and seeing all those birdies (especially those fun red polls) - it sounds like a wonderful day!!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

You certainly had an eventful day.Those Redpolls are so cute.I too have had the experience of sittins among a flock of them.That was a special moment.
Blessings,Ruth

Lynne said...

Beth- You got it! That was exactly what I was trying to convey.

Red- I hope you experience a birding bliss.

Sandy- Come on back!

Frank- The Redpolls were special and I look forward to more birding bliss moments!

Ruthie- I really do believe in "Minnesota nice"

Pablo- A ski resort in IOWA??? I'm glad to know you got the girl.

Shelly- I felt like such a dork sinking into the ditch. Glad I didn't let it ruin my day.

Ruth- It was a very full day, exhausting but lots of memories.

ivars krafts said...

What an outing, Lynne! I'm so glad it turned out OK & for your very understanding husband who encourages your adventures. I'm sure your weekend at the Festival will be just as exciting, but without the worries of car problems. I'll be up there for just the day tomorrow -- little concerned about the new snow that is falling tonight.
Can't wait for more of your pictures!

mon@rch said...

How wonderful but those redpolls are adorable! Sounds like an adventure for sure!

Linda in Erie said...

Wow, what a day! You can send some of those redpolls my way as I never see any in my backyard. You are always seeing neat birds and animals up there at Hasty Brook and now neat people, too. Pair of Bald Eagles! I'm needing a fix of eagles about now.

scienceguy288 said...

Quite the yarn you spun there. What a great story of human kindness in anotherwise relatively scary world. I also thought you might want to check out: http://scienceguy288.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/diy-mystery-series-episode-1/

KGMom said...

Oh my--your day is a real example of the Tennessee Williams' line (given to one of his characters): I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Bird Girl said...

Lynne! What a story! I was on the edge of my seat wondering if you'd EVER get out of that ditch and when you did if Art would kill you ;-) Such a sweet and understanding hubby. ha. I'm always going off by myself for some 'birding bliss' (yes I KNOW that feeling and LOVE it)! My hubby is not so understanding (of course he has been with me when I FORGET to look in the mirror before I pull over to see a bird, etc.
So glad you found those nice people to help you - that you had good fish and coffee AND that you had fun with the redpolls - saw a hawk owl (I'm jealous) a pair of bald eagles and heard that pileated and made it home safely after 150 mile drive! Phew! Hope you slept good that night!

cindy said...

Do you have adventures or what??!! Do you have a great husband or what???!!!

Kallen305 said...

I am so glad you got out of the terrible car situation and there were kind people there to help you.

I cannot get over the number of redpolls you have. I cannot find one, I repeat one, in the whole area of Central Mass. Totally unfair I tell you. ;o)

Jayne said...

What a day Lynne! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Being able to sit in a flock of Redpolls had to be worth it all! :c)

bruss1510 said...

What an amazing story, Lynne. Glad it ended the way it did and I think it is karma that what you put out in the world comes back to you - you are so sweet to others it is only right that three strangers would be so kind and helpful to you. Glad your day was full of adventure and bonus birding bliss!

Beth

Tina said...

What a day...you put more in that day than I do all month!! So glad you made it out of that ditch..what list of characters you met and yes isn't it nice to find people with heart!!
So jealous of you and all those redpolls I have been looking for just one sighting but to no avail...glad you are able to visit Hasty Brook and come home (150 miles!!!!) with such good memories and a full tummy! You are a great story teller...and I enjoyed every sec.!!

NCmountainwoman said...

What a great post! Here's the best part...you drove home with a full heart. Many people would have focused only on the ditch and stewed about that for the rest of the day.

Your wonderful attitude says a lot about you! Yet another reason I hope to meet you in person someday.

Owlman said...

What a fantastically honest post that shows how life can throw you curve balls and then you find help from the most unlikely of people - Limping man, Little Woman and Truck Man. You really captured emotions of helplessness, frustration, embarrassment and gratitude that all of us feel in situations like this.

Ultimately this story demonstrates the power of human kindness, especially helping out total strangers. The time will come when you’ll be able to return the favor and see the gratitude in someone else’s eyes. Posts like this make the blogging community great. Thanks again for sharing your experience so honestly with us.

Mary C said...

Wow! That many redpolls has got to be birding bliss! I'm sure glad your day wasn't ruined (or your car!). It's so nice when people are willing to stop and help (even if they physically can't).

dAwN said...

Lynne,
what an amazing day you had! I have never seen redpolls ..they are beautiful birds...and for you to see such a huge flock must have been awesome.
As for getting stuck and the rescue story..very cool.
And Eagles to boot.
Lucky day for you!

Mel said...

Hola Lynne,
Beautiful birds! Too bad to hear about the bad part of the experience.
At least you managed to turn it around :)
Besos,
Mel

Q said...

Dear Lynne,
I enjoyed your story...Redpoll bliss for sure. Your husband was so wise to suggest you go back for a hot meal and a bird fix before heading home. At least the last thing you remember from your day was the joy of the birds and the kindness of strangers.
Thank you for excellent photographs too.
I will look for Redpolls in my backyard.
They are very pretty birds.
Sherry

gardenpath said...

Great story! Glad you and the car are okay. The redpoll shots are stunning!

Kathiesbirds said...

Man Lynne, what a day! You were so blessed and one stuck car couldn't undo all the good that came! That's quite a biridng story and the most I have seen you write in a long time. On the day you posted this I was spending 8 1/2 hours of hell in a dentist's chair! I should have been with you! My mouth still aches and I have been taking advil for a week now, and I don't normally use any drugs at all! But, the birds outside my windows can still make me smile. I'm glad you drove home with a full heart!

Leedra said...

I love the post. The story about the ones that helped you is so touching. There are still good people in the world. Glad they were close to you that day.

Sounds like you had an awesome day.

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Leedra said...

Whoops! I forgot, LOVE the first photo.

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