It's all Joshua's fault. A few years back, Josh became addicted to eating regularly and resorted to getting a job.
The young man actually started working for a living. I know what you are thinking, but of most of us birders have had to resort to such drastic means at times in our lives. It is the nature and struggle of our shared avocation. And so we dedicated birders should not disparage Josh for his lapse in dedication to the chase.
I carefully picked those words, for Josh is not only a fine birder he also has been known to pursue dragonflies and even the small fishes of the streams at times.
And, in fact, the very existence of the Presidents Day Gull Run sprang from the fact that Josh was gainfully employed. You see, Josh went to work in a bank. Unlike most enterprises in Mississippi, banks close on Presidents Day.
Here's the setup for the Gull Run. Josh named it because this is the time of year we may get rare gulls seeking shelter from the northern snowstorms. And even if we don't get such rarities on Presidents Day, we do have throngs of gulls on our beaches, and we can count on seeing Common Loons getting ready for their long flight north.
And it seems to me there are more plovers and skimmers to be found in our early spring season than when our traditional spring forays are launched.
We officially start the run at White Kitchen, La. For the last three years, a pair of nesting Loggerhead Shrikes has greeted us there. This year, White Kitchen was very unbirdy for one of the most reliable hot spots on the northern Gulf.
Not even the world's most reliable Bald Eagle family was on vacation. But we got our eagle twitch fairly soon after. Eagles will always demand attention, but they cannot be considered rare in South Mississippi or Louisiana.
Before I could take a short doze, we had crossed the Pearl River and we were in Mississippi. And we soon were chasing our first gulls and other marshy birds the venerable LaFrance Fish Camp in the Ansley community. We relaxed and watched mixed blackbirds in the enchanting hamlet. We paused a bit to walk the chenier trail at Ansley. It is a thick and birdy adventure.
We heard more birds than we saw. But we counted coup on most of Mississippi's common songbirds. We abandoned Ansley and gambled on finding a Peregrine Falcon at the Silver Slipper Casino parking garage. But the casino was enlarging its garage, and no raptors were in sight. We did spot a good variety of water birds far below. It was a good use for a casino.
We bumped along the shore of Bay St. Louis and spent a good deal of time sorting gulls at Washington Pier with able instruction from Mark Woodrey of the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Predictably, our pace slowed after lunch. We poked around Pitcher Point but found the birds were somewhere else. We bounced down our incredible beach stopping at marinas, jetties and flocks of birds.
This year, we birders shared the beach with throngs of people of all ages. And we aging birders had the pleasure of showing some of the kids our binoculars. It was a very different feel for a Gull Run. I realized this was the very first Gull Run that wasn't cold and blustery.
We were just in the edge of Biloxi when we faltered. Larry Basden and I turned north toward home and the Lindas waiting for us. But Mark led the rest of our band to a night hunt for Yellow Rails in Grand Bay. Close, so close, to Alabama.
I missed the first Gull Run because I was still a working man, and apparently Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning don't honor national holidays, but I haven't missed another run since. But the irony of this year's Gull Run is Joshua was not on the trip. The young man fooled around and fell into a real job just before the Gull Run that doesn't give him Presidents Day off.
It's a tragedy to see the founder of our band of scoundrels stuck in a real job on the day of the Gull Run, but his sacrifice is for a good cause. Some things are actually more important than birding -- but you won't hear me saying that in public. Good birds to you.