Today has been a holiday here in the USA just like back in the UK. Here it is Memorial Day where those who fell in battle are remembered. There are stars and stripes all over – and I like that. Remembrance Day in the UK, with its poppies, is moving, but the only time you see anything like the number of flags back home is when England are just about to lose in some international football tournament.
I spent today birding with friends from Cornell – new and old. It was so good to be with people who knew all the calls and songs as we travelled around Cayuga County. I think we got 120 species in a pretty leisurely birding tour – and had scones (which weren’t scones but were very tasty (and were sold in a store where Bruce Springsteen was on air)).
We talked as we drove from place to place – about birding, about the challenges facing nature conservation, about people, about birds, about my accent, about American spelling, about wine, about whether England is to the EU what Texas is to the USA, about state gas and car taxes, about radio programmes. We talked about a ton of things but it always came back to birds.
We nibbled on Caspian tern and least sandpiper before a starter of bobolink (with savannah sparrow accompaniment), followed by a main course of cerulean warbler with a side of mourning warbler. Dessert was a very tasty upland sandpiper, with a cheese course of dunlin, short-billed dowitcher, semi-p sandpipers and plovers, white-rumped sands and more. It was quite a feast.
Cerulean warbler was a much-awaited delicacy. Great views of a difficult but gorgeous bird. This is a species that hugs the tree tops but we, thanks to my companions, saw one out in the open and very well. Stunning.
But, and it seems slightly disloyal to the cerulean warbler to say this, I think the bobolinks may stay more firmly in my mind for longer. Gorgeous, but declining, birds of grassland, we stopped in one place where the males were everywhere; singing and fluttering like skylarks across their grassland home. This was a glimpse into what meadow bird densities were like before silage and early cutting caused bird declines.
If I hadn’t looked at a bird in the USA until today, my trip list would only be about 10 fewer than it is now – that’s how many birds we saw today (or what a rubbish birdwatcher I am)!
The birds will stick in the mind for a long time, but the companionship of friends and a fabulous meal with more friends this evening will stay as a memory even longer.
I hope your Memorial Day was as good and as memorable.