Friday, September 23, 2011

CRABS and Nostalgia

Non-birders may think that spending the third day in a row birding, as I did this week, is a bit excessive. After two long days counting for the North American Migration Count, I joined CRABS for a day at Baskett Slough. No, the people I were with were not crabby, quite the opposite. CRABS is an acronym for Craig Roberts' Amateur Birding Society.

Craig Roberts was a crack birder and the one I turned to, via email, when I had a question on bird identification. He was also a very good, I'm told, emergency room doctor. Craig and a group of friends from Tillamook began birding together and the friends named their little group after him, since he was their inspiration and leader. Craig was scheduled some years ago to help with our newly, at that time, re-formed Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count, where I was looking forward to meeting him in person for the first time. But, tragically, Craig was killed in a car accident just before Christmas... by a drunk driver. He left a wife and children and a ton of friends.

Craig's little birding group from the Oregon coast has stuck together and still go off birding once a month. Last Monday, the day after the NAMC weekend, they came to our farm and we all went together to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Without Craig to tell us what we were seeing, I turned to other top birders for advice by posting photos on my BIRD blog. The aces told me this bird was a Greater (rather than Lesser) Yellowlegs. You can tell by the knobby knees (and other things but I like the knobby knees hint best.)

Besides all of us missing and remembering Craig on Monday, one of the CRABS group began reminiscing about her childhood in the little town of Willamina that we went through. I found her recollections of this town where my children attended school to be fascinating. She lived there in the late 1930's and early 1940's. Back then, the parking lot by the grocery store was a vacant lot where the town children played ball and other games. They roller-skated in the plywood mill, went to a school that has since burned down, and watched movies in a theater that no longer exists. It was a good reminder that nothing stays the same.

This must have been the season for nostalgia as Johnny just returned this morning from nine days to visit the town in Illinois where he grew up, attend his 50th high school reunion (how can it be that long ago??), spend time with his many relatives who still live in the area, then fly to Connecticut to visit the relatives who live there now. He enjoyed swapping stories of the good ol' days with his sisters, brother, nieces and nephews. This is the only photo I've seen so far since his camera wasn't cooperating. His brother Bruce in Connecticut took this of a sister, her daughter and granddaughter, Bruce's son Charlie and his partner Heidi, and Johnny. Charlie and Heidi live on a farm, have a big garden, horses and other animals... including a tortoise.

With Johnny gone, I, naturally, birded for three days straight. (Between morning and evening goat milking, of course.) Plus canned and froze garden produce, watered plants, sheared sheep, rode horses, wrote blogs, and took photos. Just to prove nothing stays the same on the farm any more than anywhere else, here are the last three artichokes: I didn't pick them in time so they went to flower instead, making the bumblebees happy.

And now today is the first day of autumn, my favorite season. The Ginnala (or Amur) Maples in the arboretum are quite outdoing themselves in the fall color department. But soon, they, too, will exchange their brilliant leaves for bare branches. And one more yearly cycle will have come and gone. (But 50 years since high school?? How can that be??)

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