College Town, Day Two

I sincerely doubt I'm going to blog every day I'm in Ithaca, but my first day of interning at Living Bird seems like a worthwhile occasion for commentary, I think.

Mind you, the day started well before that, when I pulled into Stewart Park a little before 8:00 a.m. The park sits at the south end of Lake Cayuga, roughly halfway between my boarding house and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (which shall be known as "the CLO" on this site henceforth!), meaning that the warmest, least Arctic part of the lake is right up against a large grassy area where birders can pull up in their cars and scan the waters for wintering waterfowl.

Hoo boy.

There were some big flocks, of gulls, of geese, and of ducks, but you couldn't simply say to yourself "Big bunch o' ring-bills" or "Mallards by the score." No, I learned that yesterday, when a quick spin through the park brought me up short at the sight of a flock of Canada Geese grazing on the lawn. Among them were a few white spots--the inevitable Ring-billed Gulls, which are so acclimated to human habitation that many of them winter in Food Lion parking lots. But there was one BIG spot of white that I caught from the corner of my eye, and when I slammed on the brakes and peered back, I saw it: huge white back, long white neck, the hint of black primary feathers on the folded wings, the pink legs... it was a Snow Goose.

I noted in TV2B that my first sight of a Snow Goose was a huge disappointment from an aesthetic perspective; having believed in them as a pure-white symbol of liberation from the mundane concerns of humanity, I was not ready to spot my first one sitting in a muddy clump by the side of a dirt road in Delaware. I wasn't ready to get my second close look at one in Maryland, either, hanging out as it was in a stubbly corn field with the gaggle of Canadas its injured wing had forced it to slum with. But I'm apparently a slow learner, as I wasn't expecting my third good look to come at the edge of a muddy pool of meltwater in a municipal park, either. Maybe it's time I reassessed my understanding of goose-related symbolism.

That, along with the lone Greater Black-backed Gull I spotted amongst the hordes of ring-bills late yesterday afternoon, persuaded me that a morning stop with my good binoculars would be a good idea. And I was right. As the sun neared the top of the Cayuga Heights ridge, I was down in its shadow, scanning the water for field marks. It took no time at all to spot the pair of Common Mergansers close to shore, but I had to wait for a male to turn its blinding-white forehead toward me from the middle of the lake before I could confirm the trio as American Wigeons. Tiny Buffleheads hurtled across the waves, already caffeinated and ready to face the day. Lesser Scaups were by far the most numerous of the ducks, but I checked them out carefully, looking for oddballs--and in doing so spotted a pair of Redheads and a lone Canvasback. At 8:11, I finally put down my binocs and got back in the car, but as I drove away, I caught a glimpse of a big dark bird perched on a snag down the lakeshore--a Bald Eagle, field marks gleaming in the morning light.

With that start to the day, there wasn't much that could go wrong at the CLO, and it didn't. Living Bird Editor-in-Chief Tim Gallagher (who shall be known as "Tim" on this site henceforth!) started with something nicely straightforward: he gave me a color printout of the new issue and asked me to give it a once-over. I spotted a couple of minor errors here and there, asked a couple of questions about formatting and naming conventions, suggested a couple of changes for clarity's sake, and basically got to spend the morning reading a magazine I was going to read for pleasure anyway. We met Tim's delightful wife, travel writer Rachel Dickinson (who shall be known as "Rachel" on this site henceforth!) at the Ithaca Bakery for lunch (turkey sammich with shrooms and parsley, served on a bialy), and discussed plans for me to begin a Special Secret Project (More later!) for the magazine. After lunch, I had a couple of manuscripts to look over, one in hopes of creating a longer web-only version of a story from the magazine that Tim had had to cut down, plus a couple of new pieces that might go into a future issue. I spent a couple hours cutting those up with my red pen, typed up an edited version of the web-only piece, and found myself with enough time at the end of the afternoon to take a stroll around the CLO grounds (which today saw the return of the pair of Great Blue Herons that have been nesting here for the past two years.)

All in all, about the only weird note on the day was the uncomfortable sensation that you can only get when you have a red pen in one hand and you turn a page with the other only to discover that you're supposed to be copy-editing a piece by Jack Connor. It's something like being asked to watch film from a UNC game and look for any Roy Williams' coaching mistakes.

Oh, and there's a whole Charles Harper thing going on here that I'll tell you about later. Let's just say that I'm working in a room with two of his prints on the wall, as well as a whiteboard with a drawing of Bender from Futurama. I feel strangely at home.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on March 15, 2011 5:01 PM.

College Town, Day One was the previous entry in this blog.

College Town, Day Six is the next entry in this blog.

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