On the last morning of our Thailand tour Polly and Paul celebrated their 4,000th bird.
Well, they celebrated too soon. When everything was entered up on the computer it turned out that the true total was 3,999. Ouch. That had to be remedied and the opportunity soon presented itself in the form of a King Eider at Cape Cod Canal. So they jumped on a plane, I’ll let Polly take up the story …
We impatiently picked up the rental car and headed for the canal. We arrived at the parking lot just as a flock of Eider flew from Herring Run. After listening to a birder/photographer tell us what she had witnessed of the birds’ behavior we went back to the car drove a short distance. We told ourselves that after the flights we needed a nice brisk walk and hurried in the direction the flock had flown. Soon the granite jetty was as tall as we were thereby blocking our view of the canal. We climbed up to the top and continued our quest. The jetty was very stable and we soon discovered most of the slabs had been cut with a flat top. As we made our way we had, of course, to stop and take quick looks at each bird we saw. We passed a great many Common Loon Red-breasted Merganser, Black and Surf Scoter. It was such a treat to see so many of these birds in breeding plumage. We paid special attention to the Common Eider. As we approached the mouth our pulses quickened while our spirits dipped. We stayed close to the mouth for around 20 minutes and then realized as 5:30 approached we were probably not going to see the bird that day. We made the difficult decision to go grab some dinner and a pint of stout. It was only then that we realized we had had no food for over 24 hours. We had skipped breakfast, there was no meal on the first flight, not enough time on our Chicago layover and only a tiny bag of pretzels on the second flight! We would have to cross all our fingers and all our toes and hope it would stick around for another day. Paul was ahead of me, he had just made it to the sand and was turning to give me a hand. I was on the last boulder and debating whether to sit down and slide to ground. The next thing I knew I was falling, face down, onto the sand. I landed forehead first….a “graceful” face plant. Dizzy and dazed, slightly nauseated I tied to get up. A family close by had witnessed it and came to help. I was protesting that it was okay and would be all right, but as I tried to stand up I could not put weight on my left leg. Paul and I just could not grasp what was happening. One of the women offered to have her husband drive Paul back to our rental car. She her friends and children stayed with me. She kept asking how I was, checked my pulse and pupils. I finally managed to say “you have to be in a medical profession.” She smiled and said she was a Registered Nurse. When Paul and her husband arrived with our car. Her husband and her friends’ husband made a basket of their arms and “fireman carried” me to the car. They told us there was a hospital very close by and gave us quick directions, then programmed our google maps, handed me a bottle of water and offered to escort us to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical. We said we could get there, that they had already done so much. She would not let us leave until we promised that we would go straight to the ER. By this time we both knew we had no choice. Tears streaming down my face, feeling such a fool off we went.
The diagnosis – fractured pelvis. Polly spent three days in hospital where an international lineup of staff looked after her brilliantly. The airline rescheduled her trip home with no fuss and at little extra charge but there was one thing left to do …
we hatched a plan…get me out of the hospital as early as possible and go for the bird on our way to the airport. We asked the Ortho Doc if that would be okay. He said “no boulder climbing”. One of nurses was a beginning birder and was so excited…Wednesday was her day off and she was going to try for it then too!
We left the hospital at 10:00 and headed for the canal. Paul parked the car and went to scout. He came back breathless and excited. He had not gone far enough to see it, but had seen photographers and spotting scopes. We hurriedly got me transferred to my wheelchair headed to the spot. There was the King Eider in all his breeding splendor! We told the others there a very short version of our tale and one of them volunteered to take pictures of us. After about a half hour of continued viewing we were getting ready to go when we heard a familiar voice, it was Ellie the RN, and beginning birder. We got her on the bird, visited a little and headed toward Boston and the long journey home.
I wish you a speedy recovery, Polly.