“Nobodies seen the duck today” These words haunted me repeatedly as my plane touched down in Chicago yesterday. That giddy, euphoric feeling from the previous day was long gone, replaced by a gnawing feeling in my stomach that had been growing since the American Airlines flight left Denver. I considered calling one of my brothers to see if the Garganey had been seen today, but what good would that do? What the hell was I doing chasing this duck anyway? Is this crazy? No strategy involved and everything now totally out of my control. I took three deep breaths and thought to myself “Oh well, what happens-happens” I then reassured myself that it will be impossible to pass Lynn Barber’s 2008 Big Year total of 723 unless a few boondoogles like this were attempted. Besides, Matt from Ohio saw the Garganey on Monday. I’ve mentioned Matt Stenger to you blog readers a couple of times already. He’s also doing an ABA Big Year so in effect is competing with me. I had read his blog this Monday and his friend Karen Cody, who works at Fernald Reserve, had successfully guided him around the preserve on Monday till he found the bird! It was his third try for the bird and that concerned me because my return flight to Denver was Thursday afternoon. Not much time was available.
The short flight from Chicago to Cincinnati was uneventful and, since I had not checked luggage, I proceeded straight to the Budget Car rental booth. My next task was to get to the preserve without any problems or tickets. It was a short trip from the airport in Northern Kentucky across the Ohio R. to the Fernald Preserve in Harrison, Ohio. This preserve used to be a nuclear enrichment facility, necessary during the Cold War, but now converted to a series of wetlands, prairie and forest. I drove into the preserve and proceeded along the ½ mile road to the visitor center. I assumed that’s where Karen worked. My mind once again slipped into “Big Year Paranoia”! Matt reads my blog. He surely knew by now that I was coming . Score a class 5 mega rarity in Matt’s back yard? What in case he’d instructed Karen to lead me on a wild goose chase? Is this a glimpse of things to come as the year unfolds (the state of my mind that is)?
Of course, I swept away these ridiculous notions and walked into the visitor center and asked the person behind the counter if the Garganey had been seen today……out popped this energetic woman from the back room who exclaimed, “I’ll show you the Garganey” Immediately, I knew this was Karen. We walked together all of 50 yards to the pond immediately next to the building. There it was in all its glory. A handsome drake! Matt’s friend Karen had just served me the Garganey………on a silver platter!
And it got even better. She’s a bona fide amphibian nut! As you know, I’m also recording all the species in the “Quest for a Thousand” that I see during the course of this year. Karen showed me a couple of Blanchard’s Cricket frogs at the preserve. That night, after I found several Cerulean Warblers at Miami-Whitewater Forest (and special thanks to one of my blog readers, Wes Hatch, who’s going to college in Cleveland, for giving me e-bird directions to this spot-perfect Cerulean habitat!)) I drove to Karen and Dave Cody’s home in W. Harrison, IN. Karen had organized an amphibian hunt for the evening. Her sons, Zach and Sam, joined us as well as Jerry, a knowledgeable herb and bird guy from the area. What fun we had! With hip boots, nets and flashlights we searched for toads and frogs. The reward was two American Toads, many more cricket frogs, and Gray Tree Frogs singing away in their neighbor’s pool. To end the evening, I was ushered to a hot shower. Sam, who’s 15 years old, gave me his room for the night and Dave evening had a piece of chocolate on the pillow. Now that’s what I always loved about Ohio. Genuine friendly people.
To make things even more funny, Matt Steneger had stayed in the same room the night before! Thanks to Karen, Dave, Zach and Sam for the incredible hospitality. Sam, thanks for the lunch it hit the spot. So there you have it. I got the Garganey (my 16th mega rarity of the year) in Ohio. Walking….and sleeping….and eating in the shadow of Matt from Ohio.