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Birding in Florida: Ocala National Forest

 There are rare endangered species, and then there are endemic species. Both are in need of humankind’s help if they are to survive, but they are not quite the same thing. Endangered means there’s not that many, endemic mean they only exist in one area. Endemic can be a broader term (Northern Mockingbirds are endemic to North America) or, in the case of the bird I was chasing, narrower. We were on the hunt for a bird endemic only to the scrub oak habitats of central florida. That’s not a lot of space for the Florida Scrubjay. There are other birds in our country that are more endangered, the Whooping Crane and the Californi Condor come to mind, but few are limited to so narrow a geographical area.  The Florida Scrub Jay lives in the oaks of central Florida. Furthermore, it prefers to live in oak forests that periodically undergo fires. That this creature still exists is more than a miracle. It has taken decades of luck for the habitat it resides in to have not been developed. We are
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Birding in Florida: Paynes Prairie Preserve

 The best birding in Florida for us was without a doubt La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie State Park. This elevated boardwalk that leads out into a wetland starts just after a barn with infographics about the buffalo and wild horses (WILD HORSES!) one can see at this place. Alas, we did not see any wildhorses or buffalo, but wowie did we see some birds. From the moment we walked in the birds were falling out of the trees. Literally. There was a massive live oak covered in Spanish moss and at least ten wood storks. While we walked by one of them hopped into the sky and flew overheard, guiding us deeper into this preserve. Bizarre shrieks and guttural rattles drew our attention to one of my targets for Florida, a limpkin. This speckled wading bird has a somewhat gangly appearance and a call that feels like it came right out of the Triassic (apparently, they often use it in movies to make jungles seem more jungly). We saw one moving across aquatic plants. Another probing in the water wi

Birding in Florida: Sweetwater Wetlands Park

 In Gainesville, Florida, we really enjoyed the Sweetwater Wetlands park. It was green and gorgeous, with water plants so lush and emerald in the afternoon sun it challenged one’s perception. Diminutive herons of the most charming powder blue perched on stumps or fished amongst reeds. The feathers of a purple gallinule shone iridescently in the sun as this diminutive waterbird walked across aquatic vegetation, looking for arthropods to devour. Red winged blackbirds called plaintively to each other from their hiding places inside of tall spans of reeds. Anhinga sat on the shore or on diminutive trees, their spear like beak cocked toward the sky, their wings askance, soaking up the sun. American Bitterns (2!!!) flew overheard, a rare site for normally secretive bird, who nevertheless seemed quite comfortable here. We were on a boardwalk, elevated above lily pads and yet more birds. I was on the hunt for a limpkin and maybe possibly a snail kite and was wondering if I had miscalculate

Towing an RV on the Blueridge Parkway in Autumn

 We drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I can only describe it as stunning. We entered at its very northernmost origin, in Afton, Virginia, and immediately began to rise, up from the Shenandoah valley, on twisting roads that grew richer and richer in color as we gained in elevation. We stopped in a grove of elms, having passed up the first few scenic pullouts because the crowds were too heavy. We found ourselves alone in a yellow forest lined with black trucks, a brown carpet of freshly fallen leaves on the ground, and lichen thick on the rocks. Leo was in a sour mood (he had just woken from a nap that he had needed to be a bit longer) but when I took a handful of leaves and tossed them into the air, his frown turned into a mischievous smirk. The whole family then scuttled about, grabbing leaves and tossing them into the air. And then the moment was over, and it was time to get back in the RV and drive. We didn’t make it far before I pulled over at a proper scenic pull off, with a

Central Park

  Central Park is a surprisingly decent place to bird thanks to its size and lack of viable options in the rest of Manhattan. Eager to see some birds in this most famous of parks, we set off for the Ramble. We entered the park from near the natural history museum and started our way southeast. Almost immediately we came upon one of the many massive boulders in the park (Original, left in situ, or moved there from where the buildings were all built?) and Leo had to, had to , had to scale it. Up we went, and found ourselves thrust up into the canopy of the park and surrounded by a mixed flock of ruby crowned kinglets, black and white warblers, and cardinals. I geeked out while Leo hopped about and Xander slowly trundled up the boulder with mommy’s help. It was such a cool spot to bird. We were eye level with many of the birds, up in the canopy thanks to these mysterious boulders (They had to have been put here, right? otherwise the whole city would be filled with them). The birds flit


  New York City I wanted to go to New York City not to fulfill any particular fantasy or because there was some artifact that I was enamored with. I wanted to go to New York City to have it as cultural touchstone—it is, after all, the most famous city of all time—and most of all to hate it. I longed to despise this overcrowded, overbuilt, obsession with capitalism that takes up far too much screen time in far too many movies and waaaaay too many television shows. I wanted to go to New York and be so unimpressed, have an Epiphone of being underwhelmed. That’s not what happened. New York is amazing. It sparkles. It’s a city unlike any other. Or like all cities, in a way. We only went to Manhattan, but still there were parts that felt like Austin, San Francisco, Bogota, Tokyo, Detroit, Hanoi, Florence, and maybe every city I’ve ever been to (well, maybe not Albuquerque)  and yet it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I loved Manhattan. I loved New York City. I was ena

We lost a tire!

 Today, while driving down highway Seventeen from Charleston to Savannah, I noticed a slight change in how the RV was handling. We had just hit a bump in the road—not an unusual occurrence in the USA—but something had… shifted. I glanced in my mirror. “That’s odd. The outdoor shower is dangling. We should pull over.” Almost as an afterthought, I added, “Does it feel like it’s handling differently to you?” Because it did feel different. “Definitely. You should pull over,” Raquel said, always wise in the ways of prudence and caution. “There’s a bridge, I’ll pull over right after,” I said, crossed the bridge (it was tiny, running over a creek, and there was no shoulder on the bridge) then I pulled over, perhaps 30 seconds or a minute after feeling this… bump. Raquel and I got out of the truck, went to look at the passenger side only to discover… that one of the wheels was completely gone. Not flat. Not blown out. Not punctured, or damaged, punctured with the antlers of a