Jet lag is a funny thing. Despite having a very long day yesterday, and feeling knackered as I crawled into bed, I woke after just over four hours and have been awake from 0230 local time until after 2200 local time (although, the six hours that someone gave me as extras yesterday have been reduced to five somewhere between Shreveport, LA and Henderson, KY. Still, never mind, I’ll get it back in a while!
I drove for most of the day and added two states to my life list: Arkansas and Missouri. I had breakfast too – but I’ll keep that until the end.
Since arriving at Houston yesterday afternoon I have mostly been driving a car. You could say that I have spent two days undoing the progress of the last two hours of the flight – as we flew over here a while before landing.
Imagine yourself birding from the UK’s motorways and A-roads – you’d tend to see large, obvious birds and a lot of the small stuff would go down as unidentified. That’s what it’s like for me here too.
The first three birds I saw on arrival were; common grackle, great-tailed grackle and starling. I’ve seen lots of the common grackles and starlings but only a couple of great-tails. But I have now seen zillions of red-winged blackbirds which has reminded me of how red their wing patches are.
Here is a selection of other species: lesser snow goose (a flock in a field in Arkansas), turkey vulture, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, killdeer, eastern meadowlark, white ibis, a few herons, American so-called robin, eastern phoebe, northern mockingbird, ‘our’ collared dove, mourning dove, distant unidentified terns, unidentified small woodpeckers flying across the road, barn swallow, cliff swallow, rough-winged swallow, chimney swift and the nighthawk outside my motel room.
The UK version of this would be similar – wouldn’t it? Some raptors, corvids, hirundines, swift and pigeons with a few other things thrown in (and some pheasants?).
This isn’t primarily a birding trip, but I will see some birds whilst here, and I might even see a passerine or two as time goes on.
As I stopped outside Red’s Restaurant on the 79 near Fordyce, AR, I heard a familiar song. There are very few songs of US birds that I have committed to memory but this one has stuck, thanks to good teaching by Wallace Kornack in Rock Creek Park two years ago.
I remembered the song as being like a very loud marsh tit call – I just couldn’t immediately remember which American species made this noise. Having thought about it over several hundred miles I now remember it was the ovenbird.
Red’s Restaurant had eight customers as I entered to be the ninth. Our waitress, Karen (and I have been challenged to tell you the names of all waitresses involved in this journey and I intend to meet the challenge), gave me a smile and the menu and went off to get a coffee mug for me.
The other customers had all given me the once-over as I entered, but they had also all nodded or even muttered a ‘good morning’.
I opted for cheese omelette and hash browns, with toast and orange juice as my start to the day – although to be fair, I had been awake for six hours already and this meal was the only one of the day.
The omelette (or in American, omelet) was fine (although no better than I could have cooked myself) but the hash browns were perfect – browned and tasty slivers of potato.
Altogether this was a very good breakfast experience. I was struck, as I have been before, that everyone else in Red’s knew each other, greeted each other by their names as they arrived and said goodbye when they left. Red’s seemed part of the community – and maybe an important part too.
Karen buzzed about, fuelling the atmosphere with both food and remarks to individuals and the room.
It was a rest from driving, a refuelling stop for the body but also a refreshing reminder of the atmosphere of rural America.
I paid, tipped, asked Karen her name (!), nodded to the room and stepped outside to be regaled by the sound of what seemed to be a giant marsh tit – for it was very loud.
Hash browns, ovenbirds and waitresses – I was back in the USA.
Please do leave comments on this blog – but note that they are likely only to be moderated at the beginning and end of my day (which is going to be between five and eight hours out of synch from the UK readership’s days). Thank you to those who commented yesterday. I now have a cell phone and its number is 870-575-2654