We decided to drive to Assateague Island on the Maryland side which is only a fifteen minute drive from Ocean City. This area holds a few more species of birds that we just don't see (or at least) see only rarely in CT. We just pulled into the Preserve entrance when we spotted the first species that are rare to uncommon in CT: Boat-tailed Grackles. Here is one of the males-
We started walking down one of the Trails, and just as we stepped into the woods, we spotted several of these little feathered gems: Brown-headed Nuthatch's.
We saw (spotted) quite a few birds along the Trail including Eastern Towhee, Sparrows and a few Warblers. But everything moved around so quickly, I wasn't able to ID them let alone photograph them. It was a little easier when we reached the edge of the marsh. Marsh Wrens were singing, and Green Herons were fishing along the edge-
This Great-crested Flycatcher was the only flycatcher species we saw. It was hanging out over a small fresh waterhole in the middle of the pines that was being used by the Ponies as a drinking hole.....made obvious by the footprints and piles of droppings scattered around. Note- I know absolutely nothing about Flycatchers. If I have incorrectly identified this bird, please drop me an email and let me know what species it is. Thank You!
Glossy Ibis were everywhere we walked in the Preserve.-
And so were Willets-
Ocean City in the distance-
Back to Ocean City- We spent a few hours in Assateague and the surrounding area, and then decided to go back to Ocean City and look for the Black-headed Gull again. Skimmer Island was nearly empty of birds, and the Black-headed Gull had most likely moved on. We crossed the inlet bridge and turned towards the inlet. Just as we approached the water by the last turn, Jen spotted a large flock of Terns plunge-diving just off the bulkhead and seawall. I pulled into the small Hotel parking lot by the wall for a better view. I went to the office to ask permission to park there to watch and photograph and was given very enthusiastic permission.
I looked at the Terns and discovered two species: Forster's and their larger cousins-Royal Terns. That was fantastic since one of the bird species I wanted to see, observe and photograph were Royal Terns. This front row seat was great since we only see a very few of each specie in CT each year; both usually at the end of summer. Now they were just a few yards in front of us in their magnificent breeding plumage's.
On the edge of the wall was a bench, and we sat there and enjoyed the Tern Show!
Common Loons in summer dress were still present in good numbers swimming up and down the seawall-
A stunning Royal Tern-
Another one flies by after a dive-
A Forster's Tern spots a school of fish......
.....and starts its plunge.....
A Royal (left) and Forster's (right) locate the school of fish.....
.....the Royal plunges.....
Another Royal Tern flies by.......
.....and shakes off after its plunge.-
Royal Tern a little closer-
What a beauty!-
This Royal was successful-
Another close Royal, spectacular bird!-
Another Royal locates the fish-
I like this shot!-
This one too!-
The fish are getting a bit larger-
Good Royal Tern profile studies-
Just a beautiful bird!-
While we were enjoying our lunch and the great view of the Bay, Jen looked at me and said "I think there is a Pelican standing on those pilings"! I looked over and saw this large brown blog on top of one of the pilings on the dock a few hundred yards to the north. I really couldn't tell so I went out to the car for my binoculars. Sure enough, it was a Brown Pelican. Jen knew what was going to happen next! I ran back to our car for my camera, and started walking through the parking lots trying to get closer to the Pelican.
I got as close as I could, but I really wanted to get closer. The bird was on the pilings behind a condominium complex and it was obviously private. I asked the guard if I could walk through the parking lot to get closer to photograph the Pelican. He said-"That Pelican, it's there every day"- "Sure-go ahead"!
With the permission granted and a very excited Thank You, I walked to the edge of the pier within a hundred feet. The Pelican stood up and started scratching and was quite animated.-
I am really fascinated by Pelicans, maybe its because we are rarely blessed with this bird in CT, but I just find them interesting!-
The Pelican sat back down after its grooming. After fifteen minutes of watching, I went back to the Restaurant.
When I walked back to my seat, Jen and the waitress' were watching the bird. Suddenly it took off and flew north towards the bridge. I took a few quick shots through the window of the Restaurant. That was a wonderful avian encounter....and it also distracted me from the Show. Time to go back to our room, take a shower and get ready for the Awards Ceremony.
To the Show!- It was 2:30 pm when we arrived at the Show. You could feel the anxiety in the huge hall as everyone was waiting for the Awards presentations in the various categories and of course the announcement of the winners in the World Classes. There are five categories in the World Divisions: Decorative Waterfowl pairs, Decoy Shootin' Rig, Interpretive, Miniature and Life Size. We had many great conversations during the remaining two hours, and suddenly it was time....the Awards Presentations had begun. It seemed like a blur as all the Awards in the Youth, Advanced and Masters classes were given, and now here we are....the World Divisions!
The winners of the first four World Divisions were slowly and methodically announced going Division by Division. Many names mentioned were recognizable World Champions, and some new names added to this very prestigious list. Than World Life Size echoed over the p a system, the hall became quiet! Third Place goes to Tom Horn with the Long-tailed Hermit. Than the announcement second Best in World goes to......
now my heart was racing! Maybe I had a shot for second place. Although I have five World Championship titles in the other divisions, this is the fourth time I have entered World Life Size and have taken third all three previous times, a second place would be fantastic. But, with Gary and Larry's birds there, maybe it wasn't going to happen. This was going to be tough.
The announcement came, second Best in World goes to.............Larry Barth! I was stunned! To me that meant Gary had won with his unbelievable Great Blue Heron! It couldn't be any other way. I picked his bird right from the start, it had to be his! Here is Gary's breathtaking Great Blue Heron, a masterpiece of art and sculpture, no one can do it better!
Tom Horn's Third in World Long-tailed Hermit with Vine Snake-
Larry Barth's Second in World stunning Cedar Waxwing trio on Pussywillow-
In actual time, two minutes had gone by which seemed like an hour. Then First Best in World came from the podium.....is awarded to........then there was that heart dropping pause before the name was announced. This is the ultimate, the crescendo of the day, the biggest award! Again it took what seemed like an hour......it is awarded to (do I have a chance here?)............
...........Keith Mueller from......I didn't hear too much after that! I gave Jen a huge hug and honestly, I couldn't remember much after that. I received my award on the stage and shook hands with Larry and Tom and just about everyone else in the Hall!! Yeah I was happy, I would be lying if I appeared to temper my excitement! Now I can put this behind me and the pressure of winning this title is relieved......but still being savored.
I was feeling about as good as you could as an artist, but I still had mixed emotions regarding my friend Gary. His rendition of this Great Blue Heron was the best that I have ever seen and probably the best that has ever been sculpted or will be sculpted......I know he will be back, and maybe next year he will be on the stage accepting this incredible award. Go Gary!! Gary is not only my compodre', but a trusted carving pal. We share ideas all the time and he has always been very supportive and inspiring to me as a fellow artist. This is something that is rare in this field!
Jen and I were on top of the World (literally). We wanted to have a quiet celebratory dinner, and we really wanted to have our dear friends Pam and Jim join us! Here they are closing up their booth after the announcements. I was glad that they were there with us to "share the moment". They were both very supportive and inspirational when I was working on my Potoo which seemed like I would never get it finished. They gave me a little push every now and then! Thank You both! But my biggest support and inspiration was Jen....she was there from the beginning from the inspired concept in Costa Rica, through all the long hours of production (often when I wasn't in the best mood), to the completion and the Award. I dedicate and honor "La Madre de la Luna" to Jen.
Day Six- Sunday, April 28- "Taking a Deep Breath-Soaking it up!"- I slept very well last night. I woke up early to the calls of Clapper Rails in the small marsh. I sat on the deck with a cup of coffee and watched the sun come up. The morning calls of the Rails was very refreshing. The Rails were joined by Oystercatchers-
This one flew by the Convention Center-
Just as the sun cleared the Hotel, the Clapper Rails became even more active. I watched them scurrying around the marsh-
This one was right below me on the edge of the marsh by the Hotels deck-
I have seen this so many times...the territorial Willets chase the Greater Yellowlegs out of their marsh!-
Jen and I spent the day at the Show, we wanted to enjoy the moment! TODAY...... Gary's Great Blue Heron was voted first place "Peoples Choice" Award... a great award. Congratulatins Gary!!
At 4:00 pm it was all over! Gary and I talked quite a bit regarding art, birdcarvng and the show, and I know he will be back next year with more amazing pieces! He did win quite a few Masters Awards again at this Show, and now has more than all of us put together. He is a very gifted artist, I greatly admire him, and his work and am proud to call him a friend!
Part Two, Day Six- Monday, April 29-"Heading Home", and Day Seven, Wednesday, May 1,
"A Day to Decompress- Codfishing off Gloucester" continues........
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