Passenger pigeon from Yale University collection.

Passenger pigeon from Yale University collection.

It seems that whenever I am any where in the vicinity, I am drawn to the home of Renee and David Baade like a lost ship is to a beacon. Susan and I arrived in their drive way in Newtown, CT just before noon. Connecticut Audubon Society was hosting a talk for me at Kroon Hall on the Yale Campus (the university’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Studies partnered with  CAS in having me come). There was a very nice reception before hand. And here too I met in person some folks I had only known through cyberspace and or over the phone. Sharon  Sweet had reached out during the early days of Project Passenger Pigeon to tell me how much the bird’s story meant to her. When I was done with my talk, she rose to read a poem she had written in honor of the bird. Also introducing himself was Andy Caploe who made a special trip from his home in New Jersey to meet me and see the talk. Andy is the very talented actor whose voice one hears on the audio version of A Feathered River. He was accompanied by  his friend Jonathan Robinson (a documentary filmmaker), who lives in New  Haven, and the six of us went for dinner and enjoyed some wonderful tapas.

Andy Caploe and friend Jonathon.

Andy Caploe and friend Jonathon.

No talks the following day so Renee took Susan and me out birding. It had snowed a bit and was colder than it had been for a few days. We spent most of our time birding at Hammonasset Beach State  Park where highlights were red-throated loon, snow bunting, and Lapland longspur. Killdeer interjected the promise of spring even though it did not feel that way. Along the Connecticut River we scoped flocks of ducks including three species of mergansers,  ring-necked, and a locally unusual canvasback. Evening plans consisted of another stimulating dinner, this time with world-renowned book illustrator Wendell Minor and his wife Florence. Wendell, having become familiar with Project Passenger Pigeon, reached out a year ago and we almost crossed paths the last time I was staying with Renee and David. This time I wanted to make sure we did get together and everyone had a great time as evidenced by our retreating to the Baades after desert at the restaurant.

Ring-billed gulls at Hammonasset Beach State Park.

Ring-billed gulls at Hammonasset Beach State Park.

Susan had to return to Brunswick, Maine so arrangements had been made to drop me off along the Mass Turnpike near Lowell where I would be met by Charlie Browne, the former director of the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury Vermont where I would be speaking the next day. Just two days before they had received a large snowfall and temperatures had plunged below zero. Fortunately, things had warmed up a bit and the snowy landscapes were quite lovely. Charlie and his charming wife live outside St. Johnsbury.

Mountains on the way to St. Johnsbury.

Mountains on the way to St. Johnsbury.

Every morning he gets up to feed the rooster and several chickens they keep. We went birding soon thereafter in a 4,920 acre state-owned site called the Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area. It lies along the Moose River and is a wetland-forest complex that includes a boreal bog dominated by spruce (black and red) and balsam fir. Moose are supposedly common and it is a good spot for gray jays, spruce grouse, and black-backed woodpeckers, but alas most of what we saw were blue jays and black-capped chickadees. The most interesting mammal I did see was a snowshoe hare that ran along the road as we were driving back from dinner one evening.

Birding the Victory Basin bog.

Birding the Victory Basin bog.

The Fairbanks Museum is a  grand old museum founded by its name sake in 1889 and contains 175,000 objects. I visited once decades before and was struck by the array of materials including a California condor. My friend Mary Beth Prondzinsky is collection manager at the museum but unfortunately a family matter brought her to the Midwest. Leila Nordmann, Fairbanks director of programs, did a great job organizing the event. A nice turnout came to hear the talk and Charlie took some of us out to dinner at St. Johnsbury’s premier restaurant.

Charlie and Leila at Fairbanks gift shop.

Charlie and Leila  at Fairbanks gift shop.

Uneventful drive to Boston and flight home.

David, Renee, Susan, Blogger, Wendell, and Florence.

David, Renee, Susan, Blogger, Wendell, and Florence.

My talk at the Fairbanks Museum: I hope the bison approves.

My talk at the Fairbanks Museum: I hope the bison approves.

 

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