Monday, May 13, 2019

Marcia’s Big Year…aka Marcia's 365 #2

Guest series by Marcia OBara

Follow along this year as Marcia travels around the US in search of birds and freedom in the "Roadrunner!"

Thanks to everyone who is following me on Facebook. Your comments are very much appreciated!

The first day was great fun. I met a lot of great folks in Madera Canyon and have decided to try my hand at some photos. First batch were not bad, so I will keep trying.

A valuable lesson learned while on my e-bike on the road out of Bog Springs campground…downhill and a tight turning radius with a 60 pound bike are a bad combination. For those of you old enough to remember Laugh In, I bore an eerie resemblance to the guy on the trike that falls over sideways. Thanks to Linda Landry at Santa Rita Lodge for helping me bandage the wound.

The first few days were the warm-up for the long rides ahead. A visit to Paton’s was very productive, and I stayed at Patagonia Lake State Park. I began to appreciate a well-designed, clean shower room.

Ash Canyon yielded a Lucifer Hummingbird as well as many local specialties, up close and personal. I also bought a lovely Lucifer Hummingbird pin from Mary Jo Ballator.

Lucifer Hummingbird. Peter Hawrylyshyn

An overnight in Willcox and then off to the playa. The main birds of note there was a pair of Great Horned Owls and several fuzzy owlets. The journey to Roswell NM was not related to birding, just a visit to the UFO museum. Not one of my better choices.

Carlsbad Caverns was the next stop, and was an amazing place to see. I misjudged how long the caverns would take to see and so I was a bit rushed. Right about this time I needed to re-evaluate my timeline and itinerary plans. Too short a time for stops and too long for driving.

I belong to a traveling group called Harvest Hosts. For a small yearly fee I can dry camp (no hookups) at wineries, breweries and golf courses. My first HH stop was St. Clair Winery outside Deming NM. Great wine, food and huge flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds were the highlights of that stop.

After a very long drive through miles of construction, I arrived at South Llano River State Park. The park information on the web looked promising and it sure was. Several trails to walk and the location for the first TWO lifers for the trip: Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-headed Vireo. Both were singing and I had excellent looks. My challenge came when I tried to set the GPS for the next leg to Balcones NWR in Texas. No cell signal, no Wi-Fi and I discovered the address I had was incorrect. I was offered the use of a landline and was able to reach the campgrounds–seems the published address does not work and I needed a different address to reach the site. I will leave out the description of the campground. Oh, my...

Imagine my surprise at Balcones when I ran into Gordon Karre, Chris Rohrer and their guide Laurie Foss. That was a nice encounter. I also picked up new Facebook friends for my closed group page.

The road to Galveston was pretty easy. The FeatherFest started the morning after I arrived. My big challenge was unhooking my RV every morning to drive to the venue to catch the buses. Imaging if every day, in order to go somewhere, you needed to pull in your slider to the bedroom, unhook the water supply, remove the electrical cords and stow them, check all the cupboard doors and make sure everything is safely stowed, at 0530, in the dark. Fun times! I also did not take into account the very high parking lot surrounding the community center. Keeps out flood waters and also makes RVs bottom out. I used the entrance the buses used, that solved the problem nicely.

The FeatherFest was great fun. Well organized and lots of field trips. One of the highlights for me was that we rode in buses-huge windows and lots of room.

Not many warblers, but the appearance of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher was a high point. At the Fork-tailed Flycatcher site I also ran into Laurie Foss. I better start looking for her wherever I go. Visits to High Island, the rookery, Roll Over Pass and Lafitte’s Cove were filled with alligators, Red-winged Blackbirds, ibis, pelicans and all manner of Laughing Gulls –and a few Franklin’s Gulls for interest.

During one of the field trips we noticed a small mud pile, round with a hole in the center. The leader explained it was a crawfish mudhole. Left me wondering about how they live, swimming around, underground in streams.

At the Rookery

After FeatherFest I spent a day touring The Strand and Galveston Harbor. Tall ships are amazing.

After leaving Galveston I took the ferry – yep, I did. After watching the bus drivers I realized it was less tricky then I thought. My goal was Sea Rim State Park but it was full and with a very high tide I headed out for Lafayette, Louisiana. An unplanned stop at Smith’s Woods gave me lifer 3 for the trip – Chuck-wills-widow. A call to the swamp tour operator on Lake Martin, LA assured me of a space on the tour.

Adrift in Galveston Bay

When I arrived at the tour boat office, two Cajun gents assured me that I was going nowhere that day. “There’s rain and then there’s weather. This here is weather”. A discussion with the tour boat owner assured me that not only would there be no tours, we were in for really nasty storms. I asked for her opinion about moving on and she asked “do you wanna be in front of ‘em or behind ‘em?”. I left.

Next stop was Biloxi. The less said about an RV park with no bathrooms or showers the better. I did ride out those storms you saw on The Weather Channel.

My trip list is growing faster than I expected. As of April 25, I am at 229.

This trip continues to be great fun. I hope you are enjoying my blogs and postings. On Facebook you can read about my almost daily adventures by asking to join Marcia365 (info below).

About Marcia
Marcia OBara has been a birder since 1984. What started out as a little trip across the country after retirement has evolved into a rather unconventional Big Year.

After 48 years as a nurse, Marcia will travel across the eastern US in an RV, trying to visit as many birding festival as possible and birding every day for 365 days! She does not have a goal, but 500 species would be great.

Marcia has been an active member of Tucson Audubon for the past 5 years, joining in for field trips, volunteering for festivals and events as well as at the Paton Center. She has participated in Christmas Bird Counts, cuckoo surveys and her favorites, Elegant Trogon surveys. She was pleased to be offered the chance to blog about her Big Year here and hopes the Tucson Audubon members and other readers will enjoy reading about her adventures. She is also on Facebook in a closed group, so visit Marcia365 ( and ask to join!

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