Thursday, April 21, 2005

Knitting in the field

Here we are 2 days into our 5-day birding trip to Texas. We've seen about 120 species of birds, with 9 new "life birds," as we birders call them. My darling spouse-o has posted notes about our trip on his blog.

Birding in south Texas is a rather mind-blowing experience. There are so many amazingly cool birds, like Groove-billed Ani, Least Grebe, and Plain Chachalaca* (all specialties of the area) and in spring there are also the migrants, like Rose-breasted Grosbeak,* Black-throated Green Warbler,* and Worm-eating Warbler who are just passing through on their way to eastern breeding locations. For a west-coast birder like myself, practically every bird is unfamiliar. The birding is intense, with the ears, eyes and brain working overtime to isolate interesting sounds, locate all the proper field marks and integrate the pieces into identification and understanding of the birds. Phew!

(by the way.. we saw all 6 of those species today. Links marked with * are to photos taken by my darlingest spouse-o, mostly from last year's Texas trip and one today. Photographing birds takes a lot of patience, luck and photo skills. Have I mentioned lately how amazing Bill is? He has photographed 67 species in Texas to date - 1 of every 4 birds we've seen here.)

To see these birds, we travel long distances through some pretty economically-challenged areas, looking at tiny scraps of undeveloped land which are often surrounded by run-down homes, strip malls, and beach-front condos. Inside a refuge, you can sometimes forget how close to civilazation you are, but soon you are dumped right back into the "normal" world of south Texas.

There are *lots* of other birders at the locations we are visiting, because the concentrated nature of the birding brings many visitors from all over the world precisely now -- during spring migration. On the other hand, there are lots of people who live in the area who have zero awareness or appreciation for the natural treasures of the area, and we get a lot of funny looks wearing our full REI regalia, dorky hats & binoculars into the ice cream shop.

So this trip is an experience of contrasts. Wonderful natural resources crammed into a hot, humid, bug-infested, untidy suburban landscape. A feeling of being exactly where we belong as birders but being total outsiders. Intense activity vs. long stretches of drive time.

For the down times, I bring my knitting along each day when we pile into the van. Here's what I accomplished with my travel time yesterday and today: fronts for Cotton Candy!


I'm in love with this little sweater. The cotton hasn't been too hard on my hands so far. I think the fabric is very even without much difference between the knit and purl rows. I love the neatness of the edges and the raglan shaping. It's also spot on gauge, giving me hope that the finished cardigan will fit properly, assuming whole 15% shrinking thing is going to work.

Tomorrow's knitting will be very boring: 120 rows of seed stitch over 6 stitches to make the button bands. Actually, it's perfect birding knitting: requires no thinking and can be put down at a moment's notice when the next great bird shows up by the side of the road. I figger it's button bands all day tomorrow and maybe even a start on the sleeves.

Now it's bed time - it's nearly midnight here in Texas and I need to be in the van tomorrow morning at 6:25 to start our drive to Santa Ana NWR. At least I'll be able to sleep in the van until dawn and save the knitting for the daylight hours! Nighty night.


Blogger Emy said...

I've been down near McAllen, and I want to say a friend of mine grew up down there. It's interesting country, to be sure.

April 21, 2005 11:42 PM  
Anonymous sequinK said...

All that birding sounds so exotic to me!! (I know NOTHING about birds).

Sweater = very cute! Hope to see you in Saratoga sometime soon!

April 23, 2005 4:28 PM  
Blogger Wiz Knitter said...

Hi darling! Sorry you had such a terrible time at the airport last night. Sounds like the birding was worth it, though. (Though I must tell you again to go to Belize -- imagine all that wonderful landscape WITHOUT the suburban culture invading it. Don't groove-billed Anis have a cool call?)

And I love the sweater, it is so pretty and could even work for a boy! A good one to make for a mom who doesn't know the gender.

April 25, 2005 1:57 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Interesting that you're birding right in the middle of suburban landscape. I always pictured open fields or marshes in the middle of nowhere. You learn something new everyday!

Have fun on the rest of your trip. And best of luck with the seed stitch.

~ Christina

April 25, 2005 9:44 PM  

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