Benjamin the Birdman and His Birthday Adventure


My children are back at college now. I miss them keenly, but at least they left a bit of themselves behind. Ariel, her wonderful new paintings (if only we had more wall space!).  And Benjamin, a CD of some of my favorite guitar pieces he plays (including Ave Maria that he plays in the style of the late, great Chet Atkins). And, too, I have my pictures from our weekend birthday roadtrips. I smile as I look through them—-remembering a quiet moment shared, a new wildflower discovered, or how red my face got on the climb to Waterrock Knob. The photographs seem almost like postcards I’ve sent to myself from the past.  Having a great time! So glad I was here! Love, Beth

For his birthday roadtrip, Benjamin chose to explore a place we only recently heard about—the Sandy Mush Game Land. It contains 2,600 acres that are actively managed with clear-cutting and controlled burns by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to provide a favorable habitat for certain animals. The best thing is that it is open to the public, and they even provide parking. It’s apparently quite popular with birdwatchers, which is how we discovered it in a wonderful book that recently came out called The North Carolina Birding Trail: Mountain Trail Guide.  It comes in a Piedmont and Coastal Plains version, too.

Long-time readers of my blog may remember that Benjamin is a very enthusiastic birdwatcher. He’s always liked birds and watched them intently even as a baby, but developed an obsessive interest in them around age four. That’s when we discovered he could read (very well indeed, too!) when he started reading to us from one of our bird books for adults. So we bought him bird song tapes and more books, and before long, he could identify most birds by hearing just a few notes warbled from the trees. I recall one sentence in particular from the bird tapes (which I remember because it really caught Benjamin’s fancy and he’d rewind the tape and play the sentence over and over):

The Eastern Kingbird very often sings while sallying forth in quivering flight.

Of course, we all love birds in our family, and Ariel is quite knowledgeable, too (possibly from hearing Benjamin play his tapes over and over). But Benjamin is the real Birdman. When we’re out hiking and hear a bird, I’m likely to say something inane like, “Hey, that’s a real pretty birdsong, isn’t it?” But Benjamin will stop, cock his head to the side (looking a bit like a bird himself) and say, “Hey, that’s a warbling vireo!” And then I’ll nod my head sagely, as though I knew it all along. Not that I fool anyone. 🙂

We didn’t really see any unusual birds on our trip—just an indigo bunting or two and a galaxy of goldfinches on the gossamer seedpods of the bull thistle. But no matter. We had the forest and fields and mountains and birds to ourselves this time. And we had each other. And that’s a gracious plenty.

Benjamin and Tom at Sandy Mush blog

(Tom in the drill sergeant hat he got at the surplus store and Benjamin in the Stevie Ray Vaughan hat he got at a yard sale)

partridge pea blog

(The partridge pea flower.  I think.  Please correct me if I’m wrong)

Ariel in Sandy Mush forest blog

(Ariel on the light-spangled forest path)

Sandy Mush Game Lands blog

(We could see remnants of an old farm there)

bull thistle seedpod blog

(The gossamer seedpod of the bull thistle)

Sandy Mush blog

15 Responses to “Benjamin the Birdman and His Birthday Adventure”

  1. Pat Says:

    Thanks for the tip on the book…just ordered it.

    You should have seen my face the day we “sally forthed” up Waterock Knob!

  2. betsyfromtennessee Says:

    Hi Beth, Looks like you all had another great adventure. You have two gorgeous children. I know you miss them when they are at college. Do they come home often????

    Your hike looked so much fun.. I love hiking to places like that —when there aren’t many people around. God’s gorgeous world is ALL yours.

    I’d love being there also to see and hear those birds…


  3. Judy Says:

    It is amazing to me that someone can hear a bird sing and know what kind of bird they are hearing. Benjamin would be a delight to be around. I would probably drive him crazy asking him questions about how he knows such things! Your trips always sound so interesting. I know you are missing your children now that they have returned to school. I like both the hats on the guys. The photos are great as usual. I hope you have not been attacked by anymore wasps.

  4. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Oh Beth, your writing just makes my heart leap: “a galaxy of goldfinches on the gossamer seedpods of the bull thistle.” Beautiful.

    I also love love love the image of your photos being postcards to yourself. They are, aren’t they.

    I’m so glad you were able to have such meaningful experiences with your children while they were home, even if they were fewer experiences than you’d hoped.

  5. Sharon Says:

    It’s one of the things I love about you, Beth: your exquisite ability to savor the moment.

  6. Jayne Says:

    What a beautiful place Beth, and how handy to have Benjamin’s great birding ear along to ID all those birds! I know it must feel so quiet with them gone now. We could all learn about savoring moments more from you. :c) I’ll be writing soon.

  7. Martha Says:

    I like Benjamin already! I share his passion for birds but I’m not quite as knowledgeable since I’m so new to this hobby. He’d probably be a great teacher on this subject.

    Anyhow, another great post. Beautiful place. Beautiful memories. Beautiful family. You are truly blessed!

  8. CountryDew Says:

    Great post. I loved reading about Ben’s love of birds. Your words are a great reminder of the true joys of living.

  9. colleen Says:

    What an inspiring way to spend a birthday. I’ve done weed walks but never bird walks. I’d like to.

  10. chris Says:

    I love the photographs as postcards thoughts; a wonderful reason to take photos, to remind ourselves.

  11. Benjamin Says:

    Thank you, Mommy, and everyone who responded. I, too like the idea of “postcards to oneself.” And you learn birds pretty well.

    Pat: I would have laughed out loud had my roommate not been sleeping for your use of the term “sally forth” for a hard breathless hike :-D.

  12. Jeff Says:

    I’ve never been a birder – I love to watch them and listen to them, but it is beyond me to identify them! I do, though, know what a pileated woodpecker looks like! Magnificent bird! Wonderful pictures – I particularly love the photo of the pea flower – yellow is my favorite color. Maybe you could share some of Ariel’s art work with us??

  13. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Yes, I would love to see Ariel’s artwork.

    That is amazing that Benjamin could read at four! And how he identifies those birds from their song, like I say, “That’s a loaf of bread,” like it’s nothing.

  14. Ginger Says:

    Sweet! If I ever go to Asheville, let’s grab a cup of coffee!

  15. Jean Blount Says:

    Hey! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

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