Posts Tagged ‘us visit’

November 12, 2014

Home to home, the journey took 41 hours. Very tiring; and though I managed to get an empty seat next to myself on both the long journeys (Detroit to Paris, and Paris to Bangalore), there was a lot of turbulence, bad service, terrible food (especially Paris to Bangalore, which is an Air France flight) and noisy co-passengers, so jet lag is still killing me. So I’m alternating the sights I captured with the chores I am doing.

F-15 manourvres, at St Louis airport, 051114

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Checking in:

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Over St Louis:

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Also, the minute I come home, I realize how many things have broken down, been disconnected, and so son….I have to rush around setting things right.

Sunset at Detroit airport.

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Detroit Airport.

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A sample list:

I crossed 60 on Oct 23, while I was in the US. This means that my driving licence, an important document, expired. I have to apply for a renewal within 30 days of its expiry, and the Regional Transport Office seems to have increased, not decreased, the paperwork involved. It took me 3 days to complete the paperwork, and I am now hoping that the new driving licence will be delivered properly at home by Registered Post (I do not know what will happen if I am away from home at the time the postman comes.)

Ready to leave American soil:

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Windows where the faceless travellers sit:

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I had not booked a gas cylinder for the past 180 days, so, instead of praising my lack of consumption, Indane (the gas agency) locks my consumer account. I have to go there in person, twice, with a request letter, a proof of my address and id (a xerox copy of my passport pages.) Now it will take 15 days for the cylinder to be delivered, and I’d better be at home, they won’t tell me the exact date and time when it will be delivered.

The moon reflected in the lake over Detroit:

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My printer cartridge ink has dried up after 5 months of not being used, and I’ve decided to buy a new printer (I won the old one about 10 years ago in a quiz competition, so it’s run its useful life.)

Something burning in Paris:

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The UPS (Uninterrupted Power Service), the inverter that charges the batteries and gives me electrical power in the flat when the power is shut down, is not working. I have to call two people for this: One, the UPS company and two, the battery company, and make sure all systems are OK.

Flight in the morning mist:

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I had put my electrical bills on ECS (Electronic Clearance Service) just to prevent the power getting shut off while I was not around. And yet, some lineman from BESCOM (the Govt power company) shut off the power to my flat, and it was my maid who gave him money out of her pocket and got the electricity restored after 5 days. I am still not sure how and why BESCOME did this to me, and charged me Rs.1600 when I have no arrears.

The Seine, over Paris:

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Over Iran:

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My cell phone died exactly 7 months after I bought it, and three trips to the repair shop established that I now need to buy a new phone.

As Julie Andrews sang, I was also like the wild geese that fly “with the moon on their wings”:

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My cordless telephone at home (landline) is not working, and I need to buy another set. I’m sitting and pricing some models. I prefer to buy from the shop because I want after-sales support in case there is a problem with the product.

Dusk on the wing:

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My tenant has vacated the apartment I rent out, but has not yet returned the keys to me. I must organize the paining of the flat and find a new tenant, after undergoing the considerable expense of re-painting the flat. The longer I take, the more I will lose in rental. I need to get the keys and inspect the flat for damage, and so on. She has not paid the rental since June, and I have to make sure I get the money.

Landing at Paris:

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Unpacking to be done, too….

Jet lag, missing the Boods so very terribly and running around getting things organized…is it any wonder that I am feeling down and depressed? Long absences are the very devil…

Of course, I managed a butterfly outing and a play, too… I suppose I should’ve slept instead…but didn’t want to be only be Ali Baba doing chaalis chores! Both outing and the play

read about it here

were excellent and worth the effort.

Let me close with my favourite image from the flight, of these ice crystals on my window:

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and the ice-mist on the wing as we landed at Paris:

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Riverlands Bird Sanctuary, with Edge and June, 230914 (Part 2: Confluence nature trail)

September 25, 2014

When we finished at the dam, and had our coffee (thankfully, they didn’t say it tasted odd!) Edge suggested we go to the Confluence Point.

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We had lunch (I completely forgot to take a photo of it…phulka/veg wraps, and soft drinks to go with it) Here are Edge and June with the coffee, instead!

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Here they after lunch, just before starting on the trail.

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We started on the trail; the time of day, possibly, was not the best for birding, and we didn’t see any. But that bothered me not at all, as both Edge and June are so knowledgeable about everything else I saw, and I got such a lot of information!

The beginning of the trail had a lot of information:

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The pioneers of the westward expansion:

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So too did the end point, where the two rivers meet:

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Imagine the water being that high!

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Butterflies:

I watched a lot of Monarch butterflies. They weren’t migrating in clouds, like the nature documentaries showed; there was one, here and there, flying around…

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Here are a couple of un id butterflies:

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Wildflowers:

Several delighted me..

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This plant belongs to the Nightshade family:

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We found this plant had a strange aroma, but June couldn’t place the name.

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This is Bindweed, considered a pest in gardens:

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Clover family:

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Wild Gentian:

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Autumn is coming, and the plants let us know:

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Here’s a burr that inspired Velcro:

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A wildflower from the pea family:

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This is Illinois Bundleweed, in its dry form.

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Here’s the fresh variety:

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And the leaves:

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Insects:

June pointed out these larvae, which were eating the plants around:

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Several very large grasshoppers had me hopping after them!

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Can you spot the damselfly?

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Well, I managed to get a close-up:

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Several beetles zipped along our path:

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This fat spider swung in the sunshine:

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and this little jewel closer to the ground:

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Tent caterpillars are considered pests, but that doesn’t take away the marvel of their engineering!

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I got a Hornet on a wildflower:

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And, later, on a bench:

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Here’s a ground beetle on the Goldenrod:

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We discussed centipedes and whether they were poisonous:

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A Harvestman (Daddy Long Legs…just LOOK at those legs!) was a treat to see.

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So was a Cranefly.

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Amphibians:

This beautiful toad was not easy to see.

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It took a lot of effort to take a pic where the creature is not melding into the surrounding leaf litter!

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Edge caught one so I could get him (or her):

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Then I managed to get it on the path:

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The scenery:

The weather and the open countryside were both beautiful.

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The Mississippi:
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The confluence of the mighty Mississippi and the Missouri rivers:

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Here’s Edge on the trail, with those 3 extra legs of hers:

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Here’s June, trying out her new attachment, which allows her to take pics on the phone through her scope:

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The two steadfast friends walk the paths of Nature and Life together:

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We finally went to the Audubon Center to have a look around:

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Edge, my heartfelt thanks to you!

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Unpleasant experience with Department of Homeland Security at Minneapolis-St.Paul, 6th August, 2014

August 8, 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Deepa Lakshmi Mohan, an Indian. I have been visiting the US regularly since 1989. My daughter lives in St.Louis, and I come to visit her often.

I have a valid 10-year visa,granted in Chennai in December 2012.

Last year, I came at the end of January (January 28th) to be with my daughter and her family when my grandson was born. Because of health issues for the child, I applied for an extension of visa well within the time stipulated, through the official channel, UCIS-ELIS. I was granted an extension of visa and I left for home at the end of October. This was the only time in 25 years of visiting the US, that I have taken a visa extension.

This year, because of scheduled surgery for my grandson, on August 19th, I decided to visit her again. I came from Paris through Minneapolis-St.Paul airport.

Because I am a frequent flyer wtih Delta, I am entitled to two pieces of checked-in luggage, which I was to clear through Customs at Minneapolis. I will return to this later.

Here’s what happened to me.

My flight (Air France, Flight 1463 from Paris to Minneapolis-St.Paul) landed at noon I’d already spent 9 hours on the flight. There was a one-hour wait in the queue at Immigration. I was asked to go to the counter where Mr Brooks, an Immigration Officer, questioned me about why I had taken a visa extension last year, and why I was returning to the US now. I answered him to the best of my ability. I felt that he was being hostile, but I did not want to make assumptions. He agreed that my visa extension was legal, but told me that UCIS-ELIS granted visa extensions, and that the Department of Homeland Security “didn’t like them”. (I am quoting him, he repeated this several times.) He told me that my extending my visa, and wanting to return to the US now, raised “several red flags.” He would have to question me further, and in front of all the other incoming visitors, a police officer led me to another room, where several other visitors were also taken, and being questioned by Immigration Officers.

After about an hour’s wait, he came back and called me, and took me back to the same Immigration counter. The place was deserted by now. He told me that several visitors “lie” about their visas and stay and work in the US, abusing their visa status. He told me that the 10-year multiple US entry visa on my passport meant nothing, and it was he who would decide whether people could visit, or whether he would send them home. He repeated that my staying on for a long time in the US and then wanting to visit again in 9 months’ time was raising “several red flags”. I answered all his questions to the best of my ability. He said he was worried that I would ask for another extension again. I told him that I had no intention of staying longer, and that I wanted to get back home.

I also suggested that he call my daughter in St.Louis and he said that he could be doing so. He called her, and in the course of the conversation, he asked her if I was indeed her mother, and whether she had paid me for any work.

I asked him, since I had not been able to get to Baggage Claim and get my luggage, whether it would be safe. He told me it would be.

After about two hours, he finally stamped the entry visa on my passport.

I went to the Baggage Claim area and found that one of my suitcases was missing. I was told to file a complaint with Delta at my final destination (St.Louis) if my luggage had not arrived there. One of my suitcases is indeed missing, and I had to spend time in St.Louis airport, filing a claim for lost baggage.

Luckily, I had enough time to catch my flight to St.Louis.

Now, here are my observations and comments.

1. I agree that probably the Immigration officers find people abusing the visa regulations all the time. However, Mr Brooks repeatedly agreed that my visa extension was legal and valid. He repeated several times that “CIS grants extensions, but we don’t like them.” If one Government agency grants a valid US visa extension, how is it possible that the Department of Homeland Security is not able to accept that? And why should I, as a visitor be interrogated at such length, when I have done nothing illegal?

2. Does the manner of interrogation have to be so unpleasant?The hostile and intimidating attitude of Mr Brooks never wavered throughout the interrogation. He asked me whether my daughter was a US citizen and why she wasn’t. I found these questions intrusive and irrelevant to my case, but since, perhaps, he was probably doing his duty in asking these questions, I did not react. But the intimidating manner throughout was very distressing to me.

3. If visitors must be interrogated, could it not be organized so that they first secure their luggage, keep it aside on a trolley and then go for the interrogation process? This way, I could have made sure that my luggage was safe, instead of going through the additional trauma of losing one piece.

I repeat…I have nothing against the questions that were asked, in an effort to prove my bonafides. But I object very deeply to the tone of the interview, where it was made amply clear that I was not being believed. When I tried telling Mr Brooks, “Look at it from my point of view,” he responded, “I never look at any point of view but my own.” In that case, why bother to ask me anything at all?

I knew that he had the power to refuse me entry into the US, (a fact that he reminded me of, repeatedly) after a long and expensive trip, so I did not allow his intimidating manner to affect me. But when, after finally stamping the entry on my visa, he told me, “You are always welcome to the US,” I felt like telling him, “I’m sorry, it certainly did not feel that way.”

I have no doubt that several people are extremely keen to get into the US any way they can. But believe me, there are plenty of people like me who come on expensive visits only because of their family, and would like nothing better than to live peacefully at home.

I feel that some Immigration officers have met so many wrongdoers that they assume malafide intent on the part of anyone who raises their “red flags”. But politeness and a helpful manner, in my opinion, would go a long way in preventing bonafide travellers from feeling harassed and troubled.

Even US citizens accused of a crime seem to have some rights. But visitors to your country seem to have none. For the two hours that the interrogation went, I had to ask to get the officers to open up a toilet in the waiting area for me. I had nothing to eat or drink.

I underwent an extremely unpleasant experience and am not in the least interested in visiting your country again unless there is a great necessity. Unfortunately, with my only child living here with her family, that may arise once in a while. I still think that my 10-year visa means that I can visit when I want, without having to undergo such difficulties at the point of entry. In 25 years of visiting the US, I have asked for a visa extension only once, but that caused me such an unpleasant experience.

Also in nearly 25 years of visiting the US, this was the worst experience I have ever had at Immigration, and I would certainly like a response from you on this.

With regards,
Deepa Mohan
(Living in Bangalore, India)

After this, I also went through the experience of having a Customs man ask me to open up the single suitcase I had, throw out all my stuff to find out if (I quote) “you have been less than honest in your declaration” about not having food items, finally declare, “You are lucky that you don’t have food and stuff that I could catch!” (he’s obviously a rat-catcher) and leave me to pack my suitcase again and go to the connecting flight to St.Louis. But I want to fight the major battle, and let the minor skirmish go.

I still do not have my lost suitcase. DnA are painting the house, which is topsy-turvy; I have had no opportunity to buy new clothes. Hope to be able to do so with the weekend coming up ahead.

I really don’t feel like ever visiting this country again, and definitely I will avoid Minneapolis-St.Paul airport like the plague.

Ode to Forest Park: What I’ve owed to Forest Park

April 4, 2014

Eliot Miller sent an email on the Mobirds mailing list, concluding about Forest Park, “Can’t wait to get back there again!” That brought the words tumbling out…

(All photos taken in Forest Park)

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Think of me when you walk
In Forest Park;
In the dawn, in the sunshine,
In the sunset, in the dark.

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Think of me, in the cold;
As in the drifts you go.
Think of me, as the fall rain
Slowly turns to snow.

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Think of me as the trees
Change colors in their leaves;
Think of me as the swallows
Fly their nests under the eaves.

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Think of me when the bare branches
Are full of colour and song:
Think of me as on the spring grass
You happily walk along.

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Art and theatre live there;
So does history, too.
Wildlife and birds live in the open;
Exotics live in the Zoo.

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Ancient trees drop their leaves
Or stand festooned in green.
The sunrise and sunset there
Are the most beautiful I’ve seen.

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People fly kites, play tennis;
They enjoy themselves on the water;
Cricket, baseball, picnics, walks.
It’s a place of fun and laughter.

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Think of me, no matter when
To Forest Park you go.
It is, in all the city of St.Louis
One of the nicest places I know.

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My contribution to Missouri Birds

November 18, 2013

Here’s an email from Edge Wade of Missouri Birds:

Hi Deepa,

I’ve delayed writing you, waiting until your Forest Park Birders’ Guide appears online. It is now on the ASM site

here

and will appear in the December Bluebird. Thank you for this, and for your contributions to Missouri birding.

Cheers,

Edge Wade

************

Feeling very happy!

Views from windows , 28 and 291013

October 31, 2013

What to do when stuck into a window seat on an airplane? Take photos…these are views of St.Louis, Atlanta, Paris, dusk, passing-over-Iran at night…

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St.Louis,slipping by beneath the wings:

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The mighty rivers of the mid-west:

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Sun shining on water:

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A bed of clouds…

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The Gateway Arch from right above…

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More…

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Downtown Atlanta:

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Paris:

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I don’t know what this futuristic building is:

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The mountains of Afghanistan:

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Journeys are said to end in lovers’ meetings, but sometimes they are difficult partings, too.

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Jet-lagged, and headachy, and trying to cheer myself up!

Surreal day….

October 27, 2013

A surreal day……a series of happenings. First, having to repack my bags dumping several things, at the airport, because they were ONE kg over the correct 50 kg weight.

Then, the discovery that my flight from Paris to Blr is now on alternate days.. Deepa Murphy then would have, instead of 2 hours at the airport, 26 hours. Arranged departure from STL tomorrow.

Came to the parking lot with the suitcases, and D had to help someone jump-start his car, which took 20 minutes.

Then we went for lunch, and the spitnik ate well and played, while the big eater ate too much and barfed all over me, herself, the sofa and the restaurant floor. Resulting mess took 45 min to clean. G

ot home, bathed KTB, had a shower myself, and we have to go out now…some days are quite incredible!

Our own natural and supernatural creatures…

October 27, 2013

Our witches need a break, too!

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And our personal St.Louis lion comes with his own warning:

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Am off on a long journey, far away from these two, in a short while…

Male Wood Duck, 140913, Boat House, Forest Park, St.Louis

September 15, 2013

Boat House, Forest Park, 140913

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The colours of the boat house, reflected in the water, set off the colours of this incredibly colourful bird.

Visit of the Least Flycatcher, 120913

September 12, 2013

I went out to the backyard, it was cloudy, today.
I thought I’d send the usual Starlings flying away.
Perhaps a Robin, and a Sparrow or two….
But the birds that I saw…were something new.

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Smaller than a Sparrow in size,
With white rings around their eyes.

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The behaviour was definitely that of a Flycatcher;
Their presence delighted this surprised bird watcher.

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They then turned their backs, and one of the things
I could do was, see the markings upon their wings.

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Though they were new in the backyard, they were not rare;
Yet I clicked them so that this experience I could share.

In a matter of minutes, away they flew;
I too turned indoors, I had the day’s work to do.

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Throughout the day, the joy stayed with me…
But..it wasn’t the Eastern Wood Peewee!

The bird id was probably Flycatcher, Least ..
Come to enjoy our garden’s feast.
Definitely an Empidonax…
Which one, I don’t know… so please, donax!

I’ve documented and shared it, and done my duty;
Click on the bird’s name for more about the little beauty!!