This is Corey’s fault. His lovely post on Jamaica Bay (particularly the Barn Owl pictures) not only reminded me that I needed to get outdoors again, it got the wheels turning in the Inimitable Todd’s head. So, despite the pounding sun and predicted heat, I was gently pried loose from my computer just prior e-mailing my first targeted agent and aimed in the direction of the water.

The Inimitable Todd had never been to the east side of the refuge before. As I led him down the trails to Big John’s Pond, he was impressed by the natural beauty of the scene – and also by the enormous, threatening signs warning of ticks along the trail.

“Oh, don’t worry,” I told him. “I’ve never even seen a tick.”

(You know where this is going, right?)

But even concentrating strictly on vertebrates, it was an interesting day. We saw Gray Tree Frogs hiding in a crevice of the blind:

I hope they like ticks!

We saw a family of Wood Ducks, a Black-crowned Night Heron, several young Scarlet Tanagers. I left the IT staking out the owl box and headed to the West Pond, where I saw Skimmers and Oystercatchers, Short-billed Dowitchers (badly named) and Stilt Sandpipers (rather more accurate), Glossy Ibis and Least Tern, Brown Thrasher and Gray Catbird, Little Blue Herons and Great Egrets, even a raccoon dashing across the trail (no doubt in pursuit of terrapin eggs). But as I walked, my thoughts drifted ever back to the IT and his tick-beset quest to catch a glimpse of the Owl. Was he succeeding? Was he failing? Had his position been overwhelmed and his precious bodily fluids sucked dry by marauding parasites?

Meanwhile, the IT, patient and serene, was being entertained by this handsome creature:

Not an owl, but not bad either.

I returned in time to watch a fledgling Green Heron, still bedecked with traces of fuzz, catch one of the numerous dragonflies that soared over Big John’s Pond. But the owl box still looked like this:

Owl box minus owls.

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