Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Birds, Beasts & Bon Bons - Bald Eagle, Buffleheads & Harbor Seal

Juvenile Bald eagle, one of last summer's "Butchie Boys"
Buffleheads panicking across water
Harbor Seal on the rocks
     Yesterday, the sun was shatteringly brilliant on the water of Totman Cove. The wind was tearing through the trees and across the water. It was breathtakingly cold at about zero degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill factor. In spite of this, the birds were busy. A flock of more than fifty Buffleheads were joined by a few Common goldeneyes, dozens of White-winged scoters, loons, mergansers and American Black ducks. An undulating phalanx of eighty mallards flew south above the cove.
     In the middle of the melee of birds, a juvenile Bald eagle got everyone's attention, including mine. It was one of The Butchie Boys of last summer trying out his hunting skills. The Buffleheads and goldeneyes scurried on the water, rose and settled repeatedly. Though there were dozens of them, they dove simultaneously disappearing in a rush. Herring gulls in kettles of hundreds wheeled and rolled through the skies. The Black ducks huddled together, flapping and quaking like fools.
     The Butchie Boy loped across the sky, skirting the tree line. The birds were nervous and when he dove for them, they panicked lifting off the water in a flurry of wings and salt spray. The young eagle must be hungry by now. It's late in the winter and months into slim  prey pickings. Ice has narrowed his hunting grounds forcing him to open water. Though there are hundreds of waterfowl, he's an unseasoned hunter. Even an experienced eagle gets less than twenty percent of the birds he intends to dine on.  If he hadn't been so self absorbed, he could have asked me for a handout. I would have thrown him a hot dog from the freezer, or perhaps one of the dehydrated, lost HotPockets hidden in the back.
     Though the wind was bitter, I stepped out the door to photograph some of the action. Naturally, I was wearing my bathrobe. This is where a  writer given to overwriting would say that the folds of the robe licked up around her legs, further exposing her. She'd say "frigid air bit into her tender flesh."  But, I have way too much self control for that.
     A great fear, a terror even, that writers have is "writer's block." We all worry that there won't be anything new to write about. We obsess that the muse has left us to tickle the creative fancy of some one other than ourselves. We fear we'll be orphaned by our own brains. This crosses my mind sometimes, too. But, the rational part of my brain, the stern governess that supervises the fickle filly of my creativity, says "Be quite. Be patient. Something will come along." If I wheedle and whine, the governess admonishes, "Don't be a hog!" The governess knows I'm a little piggy, too.
     Once, decades ago, someone gave to me as a joke a two pound box of cheap, assorted chocolates. The box was adorned with red writing and a cheesy, gold sash printed diagonally across the cover. It was the size of a suitcase. My friends taunted me, "You're not really going to eat that crap, are you?" "Gross!" I hadn't intended to eat them, but once they started giving me grief, I defended the box of chocolates as vigorously as I defend my decrepit bathrobe today. "Yes! Yes I am going to eat them, every one of them!" I declared.
      As a matter of principle, I refused to share any of my chocolate booty with my critical, jeering friends. I carried it around everywhere I went for over a week, guarding it so they couldn't purloin the sweets. I took it to bed with me. When I bathed, I took the box into the bathroom. Secretly, I punched a hole into the bottom of every one of the bon bons to see what was inside. I nibbled the corners off before eating any to make sure that I didn't get a mouthful of the DREADED JELLY. If the DREADED JELLY was detected, I put the bon bon back in the box. A few, weak sneak attacks were launched by my friends who over powered me, wresting the box from my grip. I fought them, regaining control of the box, though they did manage to get a few, which they threw into the trees, laughing wildly as they did. After weeks of this, I finally was too weakened to continue to defend the bon bon box. In a final attack, like a pride of lions that have finally worn down a tender antelope, they tore the box from me and threw it into a nearby river. I grieved. But, I took solace in knowing that most of what was left inside was only DREADED JELLIES, not anything of real value to me. I had secretly already eaten every oozing, carmel, chocolate, nutmeat filled delicacy. Writer's block is like a box of cheap chocolates; the writer always worries that the next idea will be a DREADED JELLY and that someone else will get all the good ones.
     Bathrobe Birding gives me nearly endless things to write about and photograph. Additionally, there are the blooms, bees, beasts and their kin. As I was photographing the eagle and ducks, this Harbor seal slopped itself up onto the rocks. Out of water they are as graceless as writers without the words. We frequently have seals in the cove, but they never leave the safety of the sea for the rocks. I don't know what possessed it. Its appearance, to over work a metaphor, was an unexpected, surprise bon bon in the box. It's reassuring that if the Bathrobe Birding fails, I can move on to Bathrobe Beasting - a whole new box of chocolates.


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  2. Wow these are incredible pictures and story Robin. Iðd love to see a bald eagle like this as well as buffleheads!

  3. I love this story. And the pictures are amazing. I fear every day that I will have nothing to write about, and then suddenly (not every day) the writing angels give me titles and I am stunned. -R-
    Christine Geery
    February 16, 2011 11:48

  4. awesome :)
    hyblaean- Julie
    February 16, 2011 12:47 PM

  5. Wonderful.
    Sarah Cavanaugh
    February 16, 2011 02:49 PM

  6. This is lovely--how fortunate you are to have such a gorgeous view and such great birds just outside your door! I'm also delighted to see a post on birds on the front page--I have a birding blog but not on OS, since I didn't think posts about birds would get any love here. I'm glad you proved me wrong. Cheers!
    Felicia Lee

  7. I doubt if your Bathrobe Birding will end anytime to soon, but even if it flails, I'm sure, there will be many surprizes in your boundless imagination to lead you to creative places. This was a delight to read, thank you !

    February 16, 2011 05:23 PM

  8. Even better than chocolates! Thank you.
    In opening a box of chocolates, my wife always dives for the "explanation sheet". Like you, she has her favorites and dreaded ones. Next time your friends give you a ton of the "dreaded" stuff, demand an index sheet, that will save you the nibbling. xxx m.
    February 16, 2011 06:14 PM

  9. never heard of buffleheads but *love* their name. i'm a little piggy, too - nice that you admitted it first. and thank you for maintaining that self-control; there is far too much frothy adjective-ing going on! i always expect to find great photography on your blog, but this time the story wins out - home run.
    femme forte
    February 16, 2011 06:53 PM

  10. Lovely pictures.
    rita shibr
    February 16, 2011 07:21 PM.

  11. Hey Robin: excellent as usual!!
    I have a close old friend (classmate and first love known him since I was in 6th grade) who lives in Maine and it very talented and he sent me his new web site, thought I'd share with you... and thank you for sharing!!!

    Bonnie Kynoch

  12. Wonderrful entry. Bon Bons and valentine's day. Loved the seal being bathed by the wave. What a shot.

  13. How I enjoy every posting you make!!! Wonderful words, wonderful life adventure.

    Here's an offer I almost tremble to make, but.........would it be ridiculous to say that there is a bathrobe here, woman's, that one of my kids gave me, passed along brand new, regifted likely, and I NEVER wear a bathrobe - you'll find me hanging out in jammy bottoms and some sort of fleece as decrepit as any bathrobe your wirting conuures up. So - would you, perchance, like to be regifted with my new, but been in the closet over 10 years, bathrobe. Alas, it is NOT blue - rather a deep emerald green. Victoria's Secret, size P/S but seems roomy to me. Nice thick terry cloth. I promise to give it a fresh wash and dry before passing it along. What say you??

  14. Wow! All this fan mail and a new bathrobe too? I'm definitely in a new robe. Emerald green is perfect camouflage!

  15. How is it that you are so cool to live by a beach with seals? You must be a millionare or something. Remember to spread the wealth 8)
    February 16, 2011 07:50 PM

  16. Excellent writing. Dragged me right in. Halfway through I thought, hey, was I not reading about birds? Now I am reading about chocolates!

  17. Thanks, Andy! That's the finest kind of compliment to my work. I love to sucker punch my audience! Thanks for the read and comment.

  18. RW005G, Hahahahahhahhahahah! A millionaire? In my dreams! Well, not in my dreams, actually. Money can be a real problem when you have it. Come to think of it, it's a problem not having it. So, see? Money is a problem, either way. So, you've just got to love where you are enough to see some kind of beauty in it no matter what. No, I don't have any money. Not a dime. In fact, my husband and I cleaned out or outbuilding today of bottles and cans so that we could take them to the redemption and then go to a Chinese restaurant with the proceeds after signing up at Social Security for Medicare. Lots of people live here and don't see half of what I see because they don't look. That's got nothing to do with money, only a willingness to see. Thanks for the thought, though.

  19. I love the shot of the juvenile bald eagle, birds are so difficult to photograph, especially in flight. Wonderful story.
    February 16, 2011 08:50 PM

  20. I echo the previous comments... wonderful!
    Catherine Forsythe
    February 16, 2011 08:55 PM

  21. Geeeeeeez, Sarah, Felicia, FusnA, thePocketRoad and Femmeforte, thanks so much for reading and the comments. I figured this furtive chocolate nibbling tale would ring with all the corner chewers out there, but I didn't realize so much so! Has anyone other than myself noticed that only the inexpensive chocolates have the road maps in them? Or is it that I just don't get out enough? And, if my observation is accurate, why is that?

  22. Dear Robin, I do not believe that chocolate index cards only appear in cheapos. If I remember correctly, Godiva boxes carry one. Thinking again, I do not think that Pierre Marcolini's do, perhaps because you are expected to have handpicked them at the shop or to know his trade so well you do not need an index or, more likely, he is so confident in his work that he does not think he needs an index card: every little gem being delicious and amazing, which is true. When it comes to chocolates, Pierre Marcolini is kind of God. xxx m.
    February 17, 2011 03:06 AM

  23. PocketRoad, thanks so much for that about the chocolatiers. Very interesting. Maybe if my bathrobe gives out I can start writing about chocolate. I'm reading a book, "The United States Of Arugula," (don't recall author's name off hand) about the history of culinary arts in this country. Fascinating stuff really. And, a good read around the history details, too. My remarks about the chocolate maps gives away that I don't eat much of it. Mind you, that's not for lack of love, simply a choice made for containing my girth.
    "Oh, how I lament,
    when the chocolates went!
    A choice hard made
    to give up mirth
    in exchange for slender girth."

    As to Marcolini, I think the Mast brothers of New York might object to his deification. Thanks again.

  24. Beautiful. I try to go spend time in Nova Scotia, Canada to extend my life.
    Some live to be older than 100.
    One man quit smoking at 103.
    Calm. Beauty and breathing.

    Once I watched ducks 10- days.
    I realized my mind had stopped.
    I thought the brain went dead.
    My P.U. broke down in Maine.
    The town was called`Pittsville.
    I spent ten days in Pittsville.
    Before the truck broke -
    I had the wildest and -

    fright experience.
    I had no thought.
    vacant reverence.

    Nature is awesome.

    A brain was still.
    I actually feared.
    Mind need calm.

    Mount up wings.
    Minds soar too.
    Wings like eagle.
    Art James
    February 17, 2011 07:25 AM

  25. Wonderful photos here. I do love birds but they are so hard to shoot.
    February 17, 2011 08:40 AM

  26. Robin, Great photos and story too! What about Queen
    Anne's cherry chocolate cordials? We both know someone who thinks they are the bomb! (and they probably are too).....- Ms. Boo
    Leslie Nuccio
    February 17, 2011 09:02 AM

  27. Great post. My husband and I brought our boys out to stomp around on a frozen lake last weekend. Our winter has been brutal, we were bored and needed outside entertainment. An adolescent eagle seemed to be suffering a similar fate. He circled us from the sky and us him from our footing on the frozen lake. What unexpected fun. Most excellent. Look forward to reading about bathrobe beasting next.
    February 17, 2011 11:10 AM

  28. Mission, Leslie and Cleverly, thanks for the read and viewing and taking the time to comment. You guys rock! I'm so tickled that the photos and story are well recieved. You have no idea. Just made a huge pot of clam chowder from the Hen clams (type of quahog) that my husband digs in front of our house. You're all welcome to come have some if you can get here before it's gone.

  29. After reading your story yesterday afternoon I realized I still had my jammies on and this is only my first week!!!
    Susie Lindau
    February 17, 2011 11:51 AM

  30. You deserve every kudo you get. I've turned several of my friends onto your writing/photos. They keep writing to thank me. Have you sent any of your writings to mags to try to get published. I for one think You are talented enough

  31. Susie, how cool to have a protoge' out there! I hope your jammies are good and raggedy. That seems to be the key to my success.

  32. thanks, Mike and thanks for becoming a follower of my blog. too. I love adding heads!

  33. Kathy Austen-Tee commented on your link.
    Kathy wrote: "Oh jolly well done Robin! :-D

  34. Dear Robin, I had not heard of the Mast Brother and I am grateful for your recommendation. Will check it out next time I am in town (which might be in a few years but that does not matter). They sure look the part in their movie with their beards and odd stories... xxx m.
    February 17, 2011 05:59 PM.

  35. Robin--we love your bird posts which my wife Lucia gets on her iphone. We are stunned by the birds that you see.

    Bob Knight

  36. I don't believe you will EVER suffer from "Writer's Block!" The clever ideas and analogies just flow from your mind to your computer keys like a waterfall. Glad to read and see that the "Butchie Boys" survived...I was rooting for them. Love your comparison reference to a box of chocolates! I always dreaded the jelly ones, too!

  37. Thank you, Bob, Lucia, HG and Cheshire. I hope HG is correct that I'll never suffer from the Dreaded Writer's Block, nor ever suffer the DREADED JELLIES. I'm inspired to get out and take photos even though it's 10 degrees with a 30 MPH wind. Better secure the bathrobe for this one!

  38. Robin, great funny story of the DREADED JELLIES! With my sweet tooth I would eat them regardless. You are such an inventive writer, veering from one story to another. I can't imagine you ever suffering from writer's block! Would love to see a picture of that notorious bathrobe, with you in it of course. Great photos of one of the "Butchie Boys" and of the Harbor Seal. I also love your header picture, makes me long for spring.

  39. If 40 comments is an affirmation of your ability I don't know what is. I'll be cheering you on to the next step. AnnieO

  40. Annie O, I'll have you right by my side in my mind when it gets rough for me! Your are a wonderful fan.
    Thank you, Hilke. I can't post a photo of my bathrobe occupied or not, bescause someone will rightly call the health department!

  41. "Bathrobe Birding gives me nearly endless things to write about and photograph." I'm so glad....I love reading your posts w/ nature infused throughout...congrats on the EP!
    Y Heron
    February 20, 2011 03:22 PM.