It was one of those days.
I had been invited to help field test an experimental hawk count on Mt. Tamalpais for the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. I felt honored to receive the invite, and took it as a sign that four years after my apprenticeship I'm finally moving beyond the novice stage.
I departed early with a scope, binoculars, two liters of ice water, sunscreen, a Mt. Tam trail map and a sandwich constructed from tri-tip leftovers from the previous evening's barbecue. I was pretty excited about that sandwich.
When I got to Mt. Tam the gate was closed. The rangers had shut down the mountain due to extreme fire danger. No exceptions for the NPS volunteers who comprise the GGRO; Mt. Tam is a California State Park.
I turned around, a bit deflated, but during the drive back down the hill I decided that, heck, since my lunch was already packed I should drive over to Hawk Hill and join the hawk count there, which was already in progress. I was still excited about the sandwich.
It was a slow day on the hill, hot, and when noon came around I eagerly unpacked my sandwich. It was delicious, but there was a yellow jacket in the area that seemed to find it delicious as well. I shooed him away right as a male northern harrier flew by in the valley below. I put down the sandwich so that I could hold the binoculars in both hands, and watched this beautiful bird forage below. When he passed from view I resumed my lunch absentmindedly, and was stung on the side of my tongue.
Unfortunately, I am not a good enough writer to describe the pain, other than to suggest that it was both unique and intense.
I went over to the first aid kit and dug out some Benadryl and some ice to suck on since the tongue was already swelling. The hawkwatch director, who shall remain nameless, came over and asked, "You gonna finish that sandwich?"
Yes. It was one of those days.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature