Greetings from Yellowstone National Park, where Anders and I have just passed the 10,000-mile mark on a cross-country birding safari we started almost six months ago. Our quest to find some of the most fascinating birds in the hemisphere has taken us across bayous and rice fields in Louisiana; to a magical spring migration along the Texas Gulf Coast; to California’s sprawling Central Valley and Yosemite National Park; to a dreadfully hot desert in Idaho; and to Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii.
Hawaii is home to a world of nearly extinct and reclusive birds that live high above the beaches in dense rainforests and atop volcanoes that resemble moonscapes more than a typical tropical paradise. While here, Anders and a scientist with the American Bird Conservancy both tumbled several feet down a hill in pursuit of the endangered Palila, one of the family of honeycreepers that very few people in the world ever get to see or even know exist in the first place. (Click here for Anders’ post on that episode.)
Along the way we’ve seen 50 species we’d never seen before, some rare and some not, every one captured in photos, some of which we’ll sprinkle through here. My passion is loading our observations into eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s massive citizen science project. But we’re doing more than chasing birds: the goal of this journey is to research an upcoming book for Simon & Schuster that Anders and I are writing about bird conservation across the hemisphere.
One of the best things about writing a book for a major New York publisher, (aside from an advance that pays for these adventures), is having an editor. In our case, that’s Mindy Marques, a vice president and executive editor at Simon & Schuster, who at this juncture is part boss, part cheerleader, and on occasion a quasi couples counselor.
Working in close quarters with your spouse has its rewards and challenges, of course, and so I’ll skip the details of a few shouting matches, (with me doing all the shouting), a few tears, (with me doing all of the weeping), and more than a few hours with both of us negotiating our differing work styles. With these minor skirmishes behind us, we’ve been having terrific fun and more once-in-a-lifetime adventures than we could’ve ever hoped for.
The journey started at our hometown of Raleigh, N.C., on February 1st as we packed our Ford F-150 to the gills and hitched up our tiny, but then wonderfully shiny Airstream trailer. First stop: Melbourne, Fla., for a couple of months at Land Yacht Harbor, a favorite wintering ground not just for us, but for a host of egrets, herons, cranes, woodpeckers, hawks and spoonbills. (Click here for my post on snowbird “glamping” amongst a sea of all things Airstream, and here for the story of two Pileated Woodpeckers that ran into nature’s backlash.)