A Grand Day In Baltimore

“Had a great day yesterday….simply marvelous. Rode up to Baltimore.”

“Wow. Nice city. What’d you do?”

“Went to Fells Point and took the Water Taxi out to Fort McHenry.”

Fells point 2“That sounds good. Did you like Fort McHenry? It is a great historical site from the War of 1812.”

“Oh sure…..we’ve been before (I wrote about it here)….just not yesterday.”

“What? Didn’t you just say you took the water taxi over to Fort McHenry?”

“Yep. The purple route.”

“That only runs between Fort McHenry and Fells Point.”

“That’s right. That’s the one we took.”

fells point 1“But you didn’t go to Fort McHenry?”

“Not exactly. We rode the taxi over to Fort McHenry but we never actually got off the boat and went up to Fort McHenry.”

“You didn’t?”

“Nope, we just rode back over to Fells Point.”

water taxi“Just went along for the ride?”

“Sort of. We were looking for something.”

“Well, did you find it?”

“Ultimately, yes. We thought we did on the first run but we weren’t one hundred percent sure until we spotted it again on the way back.”

“The first run? You rode the water taxi to Fort McHenry more than once?”

“Oh yeah. Three times, in fact.”

“You rode the water taxi to Fort McHenry three times yesterday but you never actually got off the boat to see Fort McHenry?”

“That’s right.”

“You were looking for something but it took three tries to find it?”

“Not really. We found what we were looking for on the first run over and confirmed it on the trip back. Then we went again so we could see it again.”

“Okay….you got me. What were you looking for?”

“A bird.”

“Let me guess…a Raven, right? It is Baltimore after all.”

“Well, no, but we did see a big Raven – you know the one, Ray Lewis.”

“OMG, you saw Ray Lewis? In person?”

“Well, not exactly. But we saw something that looked very much like him.”

ray lewis“Right. So you went looking for a bird but not a Raven? How about an Oriole?”

“No….but seeing an Oriole would have been great too. I hear they are doing okay this year. But we were actually looking for a couple of real live birds.”

“Oh, it’s that birding thing again with you two.”

“You guessed it.”

“Soooo, did you find the bird you were looking for?”

“At first we only found one of them. There were two supposed to be there.”

“Well, what kind of bird were you looking for that you had to make multiple trips to Fort McHenry?”

Brown Boobies.”

one booby“Isn’t that some kind of seabird that lives in the tropics?”

“Yep….mostly on the Pacific side of Central and South America. You hear about them sometimes from people who do tours of South America or the Galapagos Islands and places around there.”

“And you’re telling me that these birds are in Baltimore?”

“Right now they are.”

“So what are they doing here? Did someone bring them here?”

“Not sure. Guess they just flew up for the summer. Who knows?”

“Do they come here every summer?”

“The species map at eBird.org doesn’t show any sightings in and around Baltimore prior to this year.”

“Have they been here all summer?”

“I don’t know. The first sighting date I see on the map is September 5th. Most of the sightings I’ve heard about have been in the past couple weeks. But I think that maybe they would have been spotted earlier, they would have been reported earlier. The birders around Baltimore keep a pretty good eye out for rare birds up that way. “

sightings“So why haven’t you gone up there earlier to see them…when they were first spotted?”

“Oh, the usual things….busy….figured it was a fluke and the birds wouldn’t hang around very long. We didn’t hear about them at first….but this past week, all the birders in the area have been traveling to Baltimore to see them. I am certainly glad we decided to go yesterday. We had a bit of concern though as we headed up yesterday. No one had seen the birds since early Thursday morning so it appeared that the birds may have left the area. But we went anyway, not knowing if the birds would be there or not.”

“Sometimes you gotta take a chance and see what happens.”

“Exactly. I was pretty excited about it. I was leaning over the side of the boat trying to see the ropes between the two ships where the birds had been hanging out. Because of position of the ships in the port, you cannot see the ropes clearly until you’re directly across from them. But it all worked out, we saw the younger bird on every pass. No sign of the second bird though. We had really just given up on getting to see the adult after the second round trip on the taxi.”

Two ships“Too bad. So what’d you do?”

“What else? We went to lunch. We were down at Fells Point which has some great restaurants. We had lunch right there on the waterfront at a place called Barcocina. It was a lovely day so we ate outside on the deck…..it was a beautiful…warm, sunny, breezy. You just couldn’t ask for a prettier day.”

“Food any good?”

“Oh yeah. They have an upscale Mexican type menu. We had guacamole & mango salsa with chips, salads, and tacos. All very good.”

barcocina“So, then you went back and rode the water taxi again?”

“You betcha. We had high hopes of seeing both birds before we had to head on home.”

“And???? Did you see both birds?”

“Yep. The third time is the charm. Both birds were on the ropes on the trip over and also on the trip back. The captain of the boat was very obliging and slowed down to let us look and get a couple photos. We got to tell all the other tourists on the boat all about the Boobies and how lucky they were to see these birds up here in Baltimore. It was a totally successful birding trip.”pair of boobies

“So, you saw the birds and it was all good?”

adult booby“Yep. But we saw a few other cool things too.”
“Such as?”

“We saw the Lady Maryland coming in under sail. The Lady is a pungy schooner and these type boats were common on the Bay in the 1800’s.”

lady m“And we saw the Sigsbee, an old oystering skipjack, coming in under sail too. Both are part of the Living Classrooms Foundation and take students out into the Bay to provide hands-on experience sailing the boats.“

sigsbeesigsbee 2“That must have been nice.”

“It was. The boats looked so graceful and lovely sailing across the water in the Bay.”

old new“Oh…we also saw a huge cargo ship (C.S. Ocean) by the Domino Sugar Plant unloading sugar. According to our trusty captain, Domino provides about 18% of the sugar used in the United States. He said most of the sugar produced at the plant here in Baltimore goes to Hershey…and you know what that means???? Chocolate, of course!”

dominosweet drop“So. Just the two birds though?”

stroll“Well, there were other birds – lots of Cormorants and Gulls and Pigeons. And there was an Osprey. I was surprised that the Osprey hadn’t headed south on his migration yet. But why leave when there are a couple Brown Boobies hanging out too? And, of course, there was that former Baltimore Raven.”

adult 2“Okay. So you went to Baltimore, rode the water taxi, had lunch, and saw a couple rare birds and you’re calling that a great day.”

“Ab-so-lute-ly! Wouldn’t you?”