Day 2 – Louisiana to Kentucky

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

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3 Replies to “Day 2 – Louisiana to Kentucky”

  1. Should have mentioned this book before. Too big to take on your travels but a great way of learning the american birds – American birding sketch book
    By Michael Warren
    Forward by Robert Bateman
    Isbn – 978-1-904078-47-0
    Published by Langford Press
    hardback 144 pages
    Published in August 2012
    Price £38
    This book is as good as a guide book. Yes the paintings are that good but not so you think they are photographs. It also could be the ‘Where’s Wally’ of American birds because it is so much fun going from page to page to find all the birds. You do not have to be knowledgeable about American birds you can have an ID book next to you while you flick through the pages to help you identify them. Not only are you learning about the birds but you visit every state in America. This is terrible for me as I have only visited a hand full when you see all those names of the states and what they have to offer!
    Michael does not need any introduction to most of the birding world as he has worked on so many great works of art. Starting life around Wolverhampton he went to Wolverhampton College of Art starting full time painting in 1972 with his first book in 1984. He is a real birder with all his work taken from the field. His list of work includes designing stamps for this country and USA where this work came about. This is his 6th personal book and he has also featured in 18 other books as well as calendars for tarmac featuring wildlife in their quarries.
    The enjoyment of this book comes out on every page. Michael does write notes on each page to help you but this does not put you off searching for those hidden gems. The warblers are a favourite of so many people who have been there and they can pop up in any state. Waders and hummingbirds can test you but I love the ‘kettle’ of Broad winged Hawks heading north as I found one heading south many years ago. This great series by Langford Press grows and grows and now stands at 34 with more to come. Can’t wait!

  2. Going out for Breakfast is a major part of rural life in the Mid West and the South or it was when I worked there. I was always impressed by how it seemed to have a major role to play in binding very rural communities together plus it was always good food. Winter time I drove professionally in the South and breakfast was always I major event. Try “biscuits and gravy” it’s very good. !

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