i wasn't sure when john and deanna would be waking up so i was surprised to find them already packed when i got up at 10am. i casually turned up the heat, since i didn't want my guests to freeze. they were watching the food network. john got in touch with his cousin and they left to meet him for lunch in davis square and later return to new york. i was invited to brunch as well but declined the offer hoping i could get some naturing done this weekend. i didn't have a good place in mind but the weather today was picture perfect (blue sky with not a single cloud in sight) so i decided to go out a little bit farther than usual and visit the parker river national wildlife refuge in newbury.

i walked down the cafe to borrow the car, but first i had to go back to belmont with my mother (we got some gas along the way). i noticed the maple tree in front of the house was dripping sap on this warm day - one of the signs of spring!

i'd been to the refuge one other time before, a little bit over 2 years ago during the fall. it wasn't very memorable and i didn't write very much about it. it took an hour to drive up there and even during the winter there's an admission price of $5 per car. bits and pieces of memory were coming back to me and my first stop was to the hellcat observation tower. even though the temperature today was in the 40's, the vast empty plains of salt marshes made for some strong winds and it was pretty gusty out there. i was hoping to see some more wild duck species, but i only saw canada geese and mallards. somebody had purposely dumped some bird seeds in the parking lot and some chickadees and swamp sparrows were mobbing the spill. later on, i managed to scare a cardinal out of some thickets when i blew my nose.

for the supposed "off-season" the place was surprisingly busy; but i learned a few weeks ago that wintertime is actually an active birdwatching time, and most of the people who were visiting either had binoculars around their necks or the more advanced birders had spotting scopes mounted on tripods. i still don't understand this bird mania. what makes seemingly normal people go all crazy about birds? i'm a nature lover myself but i don't have the same passion for birds. i find them hard to observe, either too far away or hiding in the trees, and since i have bad hearing, i find identifying them through their songs particularly challenging. and back before i had the telephoto lens, it was almost next to impossible to get good photos of birds, and even now it's still kind of hard. i like the bugs, and the mushrooms, and the flowers - small enough to get close to and for the most part won't fly away (not really true for flying insects, but if i really wanted to, i could probably capture them for study, unlike birds).

parker river national wildlife refuge AKA plum island is a long strip of land 6 miles long. past the hellcat observation tower the road is no longer paved, but instead they're either dusty gravel or long stretches of undulating muddy potholes. i drove slow as to not damage the suspensions on the car - fortunately there was never any cars behind me. i checked the the pines trail (didn't see anything) before finally making it to parking lot 6, where there was a broadwalk that cut through sandy dunes to the beach and the ocean.

since crane beach is nearby, it's not a surprise to find a similar beach here on plum island: grassy dunes and relatively bare sandy beaches. what i didn't know is from april to august, the beach on this island is actually closed to allow birds to nest. i think it's pretty awesome, miles of pristine beach off-limits to humans. so it was actually a treat to be able to walk on it now, since in a few months it'll be closed. however, like crane beach, this beach was pretty empty of interesting things to find, and after i walked a short distance, i turned back. i saw a woman sitting by the dunes by herself and i waved to her; she waved back. just two people, out enjoying the beach, no words needed to be said.

i drove all the way to the southern tip of plum island, where there's some rocks (not even enough for rock loving sea birds), then drove back the 6 miles north out of the refuge. it took another hour to get back to cambridge, where i had dinner with my parents and suhan at the cafe, before getting a ride back to my place to watch the academy awards.

for the first hour the show was very promising with new host jon stewart. a lot of sketch humor, with the likes of will ferrell and ben stiller. then starting from the second hour things started to go bad, mostly because the academy gives out all these lame technical awards that nobody really cares about. best achievement in art direction? best achievement in sound mixing? who cares! and then there are those niche categories, like best live action short film, or best documentary short subject, things that most people don't even see. plus, there's the musical numbers. thankfully this year there was only 3. i admit, dolly parton is awesome (i made this declaration a few years ago, one day i want to visit dollywood), but that 2nd musical number? interpretive dancing with fire? i could've done without. i think there was just two upsets tonight: "it's hard out here for a pimp" for best song (how could that beat dolly parton? dolly parton is a royal flush, "pimp" is a pair at best). and then crash won for best picture, beating brokeback mountain. that was crazy. when nicholson read "crash" i thought he was joking. this was one of the few years where i've actually seen all 5 of the movies nominated for best picture, and if you've seen crash, you can totally understand why it'd win. i could see how one could easily argue that crash is better than brokeback. the movie i want to see now is constant gardener - wanted to see it last year but missed it. finally, there wasn't any good dresses at this year's oscars. even jessica alba wasn't wearing anything that impressed me.