The ospreys, herring gull, turnstone and swallows could have been in Scotland – even the brood of goosander ducklings and the distant great northern diver could have been Scotland, but these were common merganser ducklings and a common loon. And they were with hooded merganser, spotted sandpiper, ring-billed gull and purple martin so we were in upper New York state getting a few minutes birding in before a day’s work.
I had meetings with quite a few people at the Cornell lab of ornithology and then gave a talk in the evening. I’m making new friends all the time and strengthening the links with existing ones. Everybody has been very kind and helpful.
Tom Schulenberg showed me some of the skins in the Cornell collection. There were extinct Bachman’s warblers, Eskimo curlew and Carolina parakeets. And I held a passenger pigeon, a male, in my hands for a while. It was a male shot nearby in the 1890s and was in very fine condition except for having breathed its last breath over a century ago.
This passenger pigeon was a strong-looking bird with that long graduated tail and the iridescent sheen on the side of the neck. My hands did shake as I held it – it was a moving moment. As I handed it back to Tom he told me that I should wash my hands as some of these old specimens had been dusted with arsenic.
Then an excellent dinner on Cornell and I gave my talk to a pretty respectably large audience.
It was coming on to rain as my hosts hooted like mad – and any observer would have assessed the behaviour as mad – by the road in the rain. The target was barred owl.
We saw Virginia opossum snuffling about and fireflies flashing in the trees (I wasn’t expecting fireflies). We heard a barred owl to end the day – what a hoot!