Book Fair Weekend

Polk Street 3The calendar rolls around to another Printers Row Book Fair weekend. Always something to look forward to! This year seemed bigger than ever and Sean and I found a few things to add to our collection. Arcadia Publishing came out with another Chicago book, this one about the history of the ‘el. Sean and I got to meet the author and have him sign our copy. We also met Bill Geist and had him sign our copy of Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America.

I checked in on the MCC falcons throughout the day on Saturday. Everything was still the same – lots of adult activity, lots of noise from the nest, no visible chicks. On Sunday, our neighbors hosted a barbecue for the building residents out on the back deck. Sean and I went down at about noon. After a bit, I needed to go check the nest, so I grabbed my things.

“Honey,” Sean said, as I walked out the gate. “We are having a barbecue here. Don’t be forever, ok?”

“I won’t,” I said, turning around to hurry out.

“Um…” he said, clearing his throat. “Seriously.”

“I promise! I promise that I will be aware of time.”

In the spirit of that promise, I left everything at home but my good camera and put some steam in my engine as I hurried off to the MCC. I did a quick circuit around the west side to check for chicks on the ledge – nada – and then decided to make a stop up at the garage top, just to make sure they weren’t out on the north side.

Max Snacks on an American WoodcockI got to the garage top and WOOOO! An adult perched on the garage stairwell roof next to the remains of an American Woodcock that had been there since the day before. I hadn’t seen the adults perch there much this season, although I knew they were using it as an eating perch still, thanks to the remains they’d been leaving around.

My excitement diminished slightly when I realized that I’d left my scope back at the house. If the universal sense of humor still existed, that would mean the adult would be Max and he would hold his leg band out the entire time.

I sneaked up the incline and got my camera ready. Upon zooming in to its fullest extent, I could see that it was, indeed, Max. He stood with his left talon resting on the American Woodcock and the green and black band glinted in the sun. FRICK. I knew from last year that there was no possible way to get close enough to get a clear picture of the band when he sat on that corner. The closer you got, the more the roof obscured his bottom half. In order to see his feet, you needed to be back a ways, just out of the range for the camera to pick up the leg band numbers. I snapped pictures and hoped anyway.

I decided to try to get some close-ups, even if I knew they wouldn’t include his feet, so I tip-toed down the garage roof, trying not to scare him off. I got to the stairwell and leaned out over the railing as I looked up.

"And just WHAT do you think YOU are doing??"Max’s attention was focussed on the nesting ledges. He would watch and then every so often let out a nice screech. I held my camera out and started snapping away. Finally, the shutter noise caught his attention and he turned to look down at me. He blinked. I blinked. He glared. I snapped pictures. After a minute or so, he went back to ignoring me.

I didn’t know how much time had elapsed, but I had some sense that I was edging into “too long” territory, so I reluctantly took my leave. On the way back to our building, I ran through some possible ways I could get Sean to feel good about giving me a time extension so that I could go back with my scope. But, even though I knew he’d relent, a promise was a promise and we try really hard not to break the promises we make to one another, even for a really good reason.

I got back to the barbecue right in time for the first burgers to come off the grill. Sean looked over the pictures through the small viewer on the camera and seemed appropriately impressed with the handsome Max close-ups. He also seemed very happy that I’d come back, which made missing yet another chance at Max’s bands worth it.

A few hours later, the barbecue wrapped up. Sean suggested that we go back over to the garage top to check in, since I’d been so good about it earlier. I jumped at the chance! This time, I took all of my gear, just in case.

We first stopped by the western side, stationing ourselves on the ‘el stairway. No chicks still!! We could both hear them, though, and feathers and debris kept puffing out of the nest. It was very nice to have Sean corroborate the sounds.

Just as I suggested we move from the ‘el to the garage top before heading home, Sean looked down to the street and started waving. I followed his gaze and saw a man coming towards us. I don’t know if I was too far into the chick zone or what, but I didn’t recognize him for a minute. Thankfully, Sean did — Preston!

We had a great reunion with Preston Kendall, who I hadn’t seen since last years season. He’d come down to try his luck taking pictures from the ‘el platform. Sean and I warned him that he’d probably be kicked off, especially since his camera is huge.

As we talked, one of the adults landed on the nesting ledge and dropped in. The cacophony inside was unmistakable and we all closed our eyes to listen carefully. All three of us thought we heard at least two distinct chick voices, with the possibility of more.

The adult flew back out and landed on the Board of Trade annex, so we gathered our things and went to the garage top to take a look. The adult was still there when we arrived at the top and I set up my scope as quickly as possible.

By this time, it was around 5pm and the area where the adult perched, on the lighting fixtures just below the roof rim, stood in a pretty deep shadow pool. Preston started taking pictures as I tried to focus my scope in on the adult. Black and green bands popped out directly and I realized it was Max. Excitedly, I zoomed in, but the murk plus a wind that had kicked up in the late afternoon that made my scope bounce all over the place, made it nearly impossible to see.

At first, I thought I read a sideways “E” and then I couldn’t be so sure, so Preston looked. He squinted into the eyepiece for some time before turning it over to Sean with a shrug. Sean took his turn. He got very still and I realized he was completely in the leg band zone. Good boy!

“It…it…THERE!” He yelled, “I see it clear as a bell! Nope, it’s gone. It was a tipped over 9! A ….oops!”

He wrinkled his nose and looked at Preston and I. “Sorry!”

I’ve made the same mistake a number of times. After hearing what Sean said, Preston and I each took turns at the scope and, sure enough, we both saw a tipped over 9. Something about the power of suggestion just makes it impossible to see anything else at times.

After making that same mistake last year, Mary told me that I should try to keep what I saw to myself while she looked, otherwise she’d be likely to see the same thing, whether that was correct or not. True corroboration on leg bands, especially if they are very hard to see, requires both people forming their own opinion before hearing what the other person thinks they saw.

I patted Sean on the back and told him not to worry about it. We all make that mistake, even people like Mary and Matt. Besides, Preston had been taking pictures the whole time, so with any hope, one would come out.

About an hour later, we walked Preston to his car, said our goodbyes and then wandered on home. When we got there, we looked up “5/*9” in the database, but unfortunately, that set of numbers didn’t exist. Ah well. We spent the next little bit looking at the alphabet sideways, trying to determine what number or letter might look similar to a sideways 9. Hard to tell.

So, we’ll see what Preston got and keep on tryin’!

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~ by Steph on June 10, 2007.