The Covid-19 Pandemic has meant different things to different people around the country and the world. I do not know if it is the discipline I developed while in the Navy or the medical knowledge I have gained over the 39 years of marriage to the love of my life, Connie, but I found the isolation from friends, family, and restaurants to be tolerable.
That does not mean I did nothing over the last year and change. Nothing could be further from the truth. Before the pandemic started, I was well into a project to upload twenty-plus years of birdwatching data to Cornell University’s citizen science project, e-Bird. This handy application gives birdwatchers a place to record their bird sightings in real-time while creating a permanent record of their achievements. More importantly, it gives the scientists valuable data regarding the health of the avian world.
I dedicated many hundreds of hours to updating both Connie’s and my records. It was fun for most of the time spent because we got to relive some of our birdwatching trips. Sometimes we even had to reach out to others who had been with us to verify some sighting that seemed out of the realm of possibility for the area.
Fortunately for people like me who sometimes do not get an identification correct, there are monitors who see all the lists submitted for their specific area and they will challenge an entry that seems out of place. Then the original observer gets the opportunity to defend the sighting with real evidence, review any notes that may exist, or change or delete the entry. I had some interesting conversations with some of those fine people. More times than not, I was able to learn a good bit about the distribution of a species in a particular area. There was more than one entry that may have been correct when we saw the bird, but due to name changes, we were compelled to update our records to indicate the current name for a bird.
While that was a great indoor project, I had a need to be outdoors as much as possible. Another project that kept me busy for several days was the planning and building of a waist-high planter for Connie to start a mini-garden in. This project quite quickly had a name change from planter building to coffin building. I was building the box in our garage and it did in fact resemble a coffin during the construction. The box would eventually come to rest on a sturdy stand thereby bringing it up to waist height. The frame took on the title of bier during the construction. When it was all assembled, I painted it to match the house and we put it up in the backyard. It now no longer looks like a coffin or bier, but it has had more plant corpses in it than harvested fruit from it. So….
Once the planter was in place, we decided that walking over our two-inch-plus diameter river rocks to get to it could be dangerous. Therefore, we needed to construct a gravel path across the yard to the planter. Since I was at it, I decided to construct a path from the sidewalk to the birdfeeders on the other side of the yard. This project was tough. By this time it was getting hot in Texas and I could only work for a few hours in the mornings each day. I typically sweated out two pounds of water during the time I was working even though I was constantly drinking water. That was a trying time for sure, but the results were well worth the sacrifice.
Before, during, and after all the above, Connie and I developed a habit of having our morning fruit and latte in her case, cappuccino for me on our patio. My camera was always at my side and I was able to get some great shots of Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, and Mockingbird.
I also developed a plan to get even closer to the hummingbirds and set out to find the perfect personal portable blind. I found what I wanted and ordered one. It took months to arrive and as of this writing, I have not had an opportunity with hummingbirds around to test its effectiveness/suitability. You will have to come back to this site to see how it works out.
During the general election of 2020, Connie and I worked as election poll workers, a NON-PARTISAN JOB, in an attempt to do our part for democracy. We worked some incredible hours for people our ages, but it was rewarding, and we did come through it feeling we had contributed to the process. We also learned firsthand just how secure elections really are. It was an incredible experience. Our county elections officer asked us how we felt about the experience as we were returning materials following a local runoff election that followed the general election. I reported that I found it to be rewarding. She said that was good because she was not letting us go any time soon. We have since worked a local school board election. I think the hook was set.
We also spent several hours over a few months volunteering with the local food bank at mass food distribution sites in the community. These were real labor-intensive activities that certainly impacted those in need. The need was real and in too many cases remains real for so many. We hope to be able to continue helping in this effort.
Our last volunteer activity was to participate at a mass-vaccination clinic here in our hometown. We worked the same clinic two times, one for the first dose and the second for the second dose of the vaccine. Connie, being a Registered Nurse, was one of the people observing the freshly vaccinated folks for the waiting period required before leaving. During the first clinic, I made follow-up appointments for the second dose. At the second event, my job was to assist in the check-in process. The group that was getting the vaccinations for these events was the local school district employees. Many of these people had not seen one another in months due to the remote teaching and in the case of non-teaching staff the lack of people in the physical school buildings. With that set of facts in mind, it is easy to picture how keeping these folks moving in the same direction was kin to herding cats. It was an absolute hoot. We both enjoyed the experience and we tried to bring masked smiles to the recipients of the vaccine.
One final note and I will get off my volunteer horse. I was selected as a volunteer to participate in the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine phase 3 trial. I was honored to serve in this important scientific study to evaluate the efficacy and determining whether any unseen side effects would appear with the larger sample population. While the trial was a double-blind trial, after the vaccine gained emergency use approval from the FDA, participants were offered the option of being unblinded. If a person had received the placebo, they would then be offered the real vaccine and remain in the study for further research purposes. I was one of the placebo members and was offered the real vaccine which I gladly accepted. Meanwhile, Connie had been working the local appointment app and she too finally got the jab. We were both completely vaccinated within a few weeks of one another. That said, we remain masked when appropriate to do so.
The really big news is that I have been working with my Web Developer, Howard Sander of iWebCrafter.com, and we have completely redesigned my website. I encourage you to look at the site and I welcome all feedback. Howard gets credit for any good things you may have to say, and I will take the negatives under advisement. Kidding aside, Howard and I have worked hard to make site navigation easier. I tried to add more content around each image while adding all my shooting data for each of the over 300 images currently in the portfolio. Over the next several weeks and months I intend to add more images that have been stacking up over the past years. One important change I made was removing the links between my individual photos and the corresponding photo on Fine Art America. I did this for a few reasons, but the more important one is that I no longer have marketing my images as a priority. I want to emphasize the beauty of nature without subtly pressuring anyone to make a purchase. I have other ways to permanently share an image with anyone wanting one. I have kept my Fine Art America account and there is a general link to it on my site, but not every photo in my portfolio is available via Fine Art America.
Stay tuned, we have some exciting plans for the next few years post-pandemic.