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Birder Directions: A Play In One Act

So there we are, at a hawk watch station, asking for directions to the nearest Aplomado Falcon.

And we got them, but they were Birder Directions, which are a special kind of instructions similar to country directions, only worse and more so. "Go down to the end of the road, turn left at the scary-looking goat, look for a house with a green roof, and there's a tree in the yard there, and if you wait five minutes, an Oak Titmouse will pop up." There are directions like this in books.

These were delivered unto us by two elderly gentlemen, one of whom was as sharp as a tack and one of which was a trifle fuzzy, but could tell a hawk from a handsaw when it migrated overhead.

Needless to say, the fuzzy one was the one primarily giving directions, while Tina took notes.

(As I cannot remember the names of the two elderly gentlemen involved, I shall call them Bob and Frank.)

BOB: So you come out of here and you get on the big road...ah...511. 510? Maybe it's 510. Does it have a number?

FRANK: 511, I think, if it's the place I'm thinking about.

BOB: Right, right. So you take 511 and you go past the battle.

URSULA: ...the battle?

BOB: Ah, you know, the old battle. There's a marker. Maybe it's a national park. Can't think of the name of the battle. They've got a marker, though.

FRANK: Palo Alto.

BOB: Right, right. Don't know why I couldn't think of that. Anyway, it's on the left. I think. There'll be a marker or a park or something. Anyway, go past that.

TINA: Past it. Got it.

BOB: I don't know how far past...couple of miles, I guess. You should pass Port Isabella Road. Not Port Isabella, though, the road. The old one. There's a new one, but not this one. Actually, you could just take that road if you wanted...Do that. It's easier. Well, anyway, so you pass the battle, right? Couple miles, I think. Do you know, Frank?

FRANK: Not that far.

BOB: Right, right. Okay, so then you come up on a road. Named after that fellow. Emerson Road. Is it Emerson Road? Doctor Emerson, that's it.

FRANK: Thought it was Hugh Emerson.

BOB: Definitely Doctor Emerson.

FRANK: If you say so.

BOB: So you go past that, there's a stoplight.

FRANK: Two stoplights.

BOB: Four stoplights.

FRANK: I don't know if it's that many.

BOB: Anyway, then you'll see a bridge to nowhere.


BOB: It's an overpass. You'd go under it, right? Except you don't. Don't go under it. There's a frontage road, right? You know how they love their frontage roads here in Texas. Go on for miles. Every on ramp is like a mile long. They love 'em.

URSULA: We've noticed.

BOB: But not this one. It's short. Up to the bridge. Which doesn't go anywhere.

TINA: Does it just...end...?

BOB: Sorta. Anyway, you take the frontage road and then you turn left and go over the bridge that doesn't go anywhere--

URSULA: *has horrifying visions of the rental car hurtling off a cliff with Tina yelling "DO YOU SEE A FALCON!?" as we plummet to our deaths*

BOB: --and it'll turn into a gravel road, right? And then you go--lord, Frank, how far is it? A mile?

FRANK: Not even.

BOB: Maybe a mile.

FRANK: Not a mile.

BOB: Well, anyway, there's a railroad track. The old railroad track, they don't use it any more. Maybe a mile down.

FRANK: *gazes upward*

BOB: And you go over the railroad track up to the bend in road--is it a mile to the bend, Frank?

FRANK: It is not even close to a mile.

BOB: And at the bend in the road, you stop and look left.

FRANK: There's a nest box on a pole.

BOB: And a bunch of palm trees.

FRANK: Yuccas.

BOB: Yuccas. Right. Don't know why I said palm trees. Anyway, there'll be a falcon in the yuccas.

FRANK: They eat the yucca blossoms, and don't ask me why a falcon eats yucca blossoms, but they do. It's very strange. You'll need a scope.

TINA: *stares at directions in mild dismay*

URSULA: *begins laughing with quiet hysteria*

So we did. We didn't mean to, but we got lost trying to avoid a toll road and suddenly there was Dr. Hugh Emerson Road, and we passed it and the world's shortest on-ramp (we had to actually reverse on the highway to get to it, it went by so fast) and the overpass did indeed go to a gravel road almost immediately, and nothing like a mile past the railroad tracks we stopped the car and looked to our left.

Sitting in solitary splendor among the yuccas was an Aplomado Falcon.

So, y'know. Birding.

Which Google shows me is indeed lead-colored. Huh.

Knowing a hawk from a handsaw is fine and all (yay Hamlet!) but does the fuzzy one know the difference between a falcon and a fillet knife?

Also: Travel is the best way to get the weirdest stories of human interaction.

*cackles silently in the office to avoid scaring the other geeks*

Yep, that's Texas country directions...with extra birdingness. Glad you survived and found the bird.

Yucca blossoms for falcons...who'd have guessed it.

In the vicinity of Pt. Pelee, there's a house which figures in a major way in birder directions to nearby spots. It is referred to as the Purple House [if I'm remembering the color correctly -- it's been a while]. The point is that the house _isn't_ purple [or whatever], but it was years ago. You just have to know.

Best line evah:

URSULA: *has horrifying visions of the rental car hurtling off a cliff with Tina yelling "DO YOU SEE A FALCON!?" as we plummet to our deaths*

Agreed... and yes, the image fits with birders!

Birding. It's a Gateway To Adventure.

Watching the red bellied woodpecker on the feeder, and the cardinal waiting her turn, perhaps I can in some small way partake of the adventure. Just in smaller sips.

Or you know, a Bridge to Nowhere!


Great little one act play. Have heard similar directions in Maine.
Was the Oak Titmouse really a Juniper Titmouse?

Not after 1996, it wasn't!

Re: Titmouse (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Titmouse (Anonymous) Expand
So, just out of curiosity, did you find out where the bridge did not go? I suppose if it didn't go anywhere, maybe it didn't go everywhere, but I wonder if there was a specific place it didn't go, or was it more of a general not going anywhere.

Er, there are a number of these in Texas small towns -- little two lane roads that turn into monumental 4 lane overpasses over another minor road, that turn back into a squirrel track after the over pass. I've seen at least two others myself. I have been told that they date to some Texan's stint on a transportation committee in Washington, and all contracts to build were awarded to his close friends, but I couldn't say who or when.

Go past the place that isn't there anymore, then go back the other way.

But was the Aplomado Falcon eating the Yucca blossoms?

Also, someday birder binoculars will have built-in GPS, and Things Will Be Different. Someday.

Re: Go past the place that isn't there anymore, then go back the other way.

Surely there must already be an app where you can set up little flags on a map to mark via GPS where a bird was sighted. Ideally with a handy way to compare it to your life list so it will filter out birds you've already seen or aren't interested in.

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Yucca blossoms are kind of interesting. They taste sort of like raw peanuts. Have eaten them while on a sea-turtle-tagging project off the Georgia coast.

Really, you had to be there.

And you were there, and brought it home for us.

Thank you.

I don't doubt it, although Ursula's rendition gives me enough of an idea to make me fall down laughing.

I don't know anything about birding, but following the Wikipedia link I can say that the Aplomado Falcon looks like a very handsome fella/lady indeed! :D

I can just see how that would work for directions to "Thrush Bob"...

It ends with:

"Ands y'all go down that road and turn left at the drive with the almost frog pond, but you woun't know it cause you can't see it yet and stop when you see the dragon, but don't pass the Angry Bald Man. You know that growler we saids to pick up at that ther Aviation place at the rail road off Main? You give that to the Angry Bald Man and he mightn't not take no mind at all to nods in the direction to look. But if you see woman with a shovel and a pile of mulch, high tail it... She's gonna make you work for your Bobs. And if there's a beagle out, just chug the growler and tell that there Angry Bald Man to go a heads and shoot you, cause there's no hope for ya."

- Krin

*snerk* I'm in Texas, and, yep, I've gotten those directions before.

(I'm now having the urge to send you blurry pictures of a hawk-or-falcon-or-some-damn-thing that was in my backyard here in Plano -- rufous body/undercarriage, NOT a red-tailed hawk, which we're quite familiar with, probably a bit bigger than an Aplomado, if I'm envisioning the weight/size correctly, dark grey wings and back, and I think we saw a flash of white when the wings were open, although sadly my camera wasn't fast enough to catch it. Fairly short beak in profile, less hooked than some raptors.)

Should you wish to receive blurry pictures, I'll share them -- you can see the basic color scheme, although it was definitely more ruddy in person (it was twilight, so my camera greyed everything out a little bit.) We've never seen anything quite like it before or since -- red-tailed hawks, turkey buzzards, and black buzzards, but this one was unusual.

Very glad you got to see your Aplomado Falcon, and that is deeply weird about the yucca blossoms . . . and what the heck was up with the bridge to nowhere??!? What did it DO to earn that name??!? o__O

-- A <3

*grin* If you want to post a link to them here, we can try to puzzle it out, but I warn you, I'm bad at raptors!

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Amusingly, I know EXACTLY where you are talking aobut, because I ended up there lost last time I was down that way.

SUPER COOL sighting! Some spring I'm actually going to make it down there for spring migration, but I say that every year.

This is a great story.

Also, I'm pretty sure I've both given and received similar directions. i.e: the quick way from DeKalb IL to Rockford is "go up that way, and turn left at the place where that barn ain't there anymore".

I'm trying to think of which barn that is, but I was always a passenger, not a driver, and my parents needed zero help with the directions.