So there we are, at a hawk watch station, asking for directions to the nearest Aplomado Falcon.
And we got them, but they were Birder Directions, which are a special kind of instructions similar to country directions, only worse and more so. “Go down to the end of the road, turn left at the scary-looking goat, look for a house with a green roof, and there’s a tree in the yard there, and if you wait five minutes, an Oak Titmouse will pop up.” There are directions like this in books.
These were delivered unto us by two elderly gentlemen, one of whom was as sharp as a tack and one of which was a trifle fuzzy, but could tell a hawk from a handsaw when it migrated overhead.
Needless to say, the fuzzy one was the one primarily giving directions, while Tina took notes.
(As I cannot remember the names of the two elderly gentlemen involved, I shall call them Bob and Frank.)
BOB: So you come out of here and you get on the big road…ah…511. 510? Maybe it’s 510. Does it have a number?
FRANK: 511, I think, if it’s the place I’m thinking about.
BOB: Right, right. So you take 511 and you go past the battle.
URSULA: …the battle?
BOB: Ah, you know, the old battle. There’s a marker. Maybe it’s a national park. Can’t think of the name of the battle. They’ve got a marker, though.
FRANK: Palo Alto.
BOB: Right, right. Don’t know why I couldn’t think of that. Anyway, it’s on the left. I think. There’ll be a marker or a park or something. Anyway, go past that.
TINA: Past it. Got it.
BOB: I don’t know how far past…couple of miles, I guess. You should pass Port Isabella Road. Not Port Isabella, though, the road. The old one. There’s a new one, but not this one. Actually, you could just take that road if you wanted…Do that. It’s easier. Well, anyway, so you pass the battle, right? Couple miles, I think. Do you know, Frank?
FRANK: Not that far.
BOB: Right, right. Okay, so then you come up on a road. Named that that fellow. Emerson Road. Is it Emerson Road? Doctor Emerson, that’s it.
FRANK: Thought it was Hugh Emerson.
BOB: Definitely Doctor Emerson.
FRANK: If you say so.
BOB: So you go past that, there’s a stoplight.
FRANK: Two stoplights.
BOB: Four stoplights.
FRANK: I don’t know if it’s that many.
BOB: Anyway, then you’ll see a bridge to nowhere.
BOB: It’s an overpass. You’d go under it, right? Except you don’t. Don’t go under it. There’s a frontage road, right? You know how they love their frontage roads here in Texas. Go on for miles. Every on ramp is like a mile long. They love ‘em.
URSULA: We’ve noticed.
BOB: But not this one. It’s short. Up to the bridge. Which doesn’t go anywhere.
TINA: Does it just…end…?
BOB: Sorta. Anyway, you take the frontage road and then you turn left and go over the bridge that doesn’t go anywhere–
URSULA: *has horrifying visions of the rental car hurtling off a cliff with Tina yelling “DO YOU SEE A FALCON!?” as we plummet to our deaths*
BOB: –and it’ll turn into a gravel road, right? And then you go–lord, Frank, how far is it? A mile?
FRANK: Not even.
BOB: Maybe a mile.
FRANK: Not a mile.
BOB: Well, anyway, there’s a railroad track. The old railroad track, they don’t use it any more. Maybe a mile down.
FRANK: *gazes upward*
BOB: And you go over the railroad track up to the bend in road–is it a mile to the bend, Frank?
FRANK: It is not even close to a mile.
BOB: And at the bend in the road, you stop and look left.
FRANK: There’s a nest box on a pole.
BOB: And a bunch of palm trees.
BOB: Yuccas. Right. Don’t know why I said palm trees. Anyway, there’ll be a falcon in the yuccas.
FRANK: They eat the yucca blossoms, and don’t ask me why a falcon eats yucca blossoms, but they do. It’s very strange. You’ll need a scope.
TINA: *stares at directions in mild dismay*
URSULA: *begins laughing with quiet hysteria*
So we did. We didn’t mean to, but we got lost trying to avoid a toll road and suddenly there was Dr. Hugh Emerson Road, and we passed it and the world’s shortest on-ramp (we had to actually reverse on the highway to get to it, it went by so fast) and the overpass did indeed go to a gravel road almost immediately, and nothing like a mile past the railroad tracks we stopped the car and looked to our left.
Sitting in solitary splendor among the yuccas was an Aplomado Falcon.
So, y’know. Birding.