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Camden Yards

07/08/02 12:00AM By Ted Levin
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(Host) At a ball park, commentator Ted Levin scans the sky for fly balls along with everyone else, but he says there are other airborn attractions that are worth spotting too.

(Levin) Baltimore's Camden Yards sits close to Baltimore Harbor, which empties into nearby Chesapeake Bay. I'm here with my sons, Jordan 6 and Casey 14, to cover the Orioles three game series with the Red Sox, and to write about the birds' of Camden Yards, the wild ones that is. Waiting for the game to begin, Casey spots ten great egrets flying in loose formation above left field, white birds against a dark sky, like a bevy of outfielders dressed in immaculate home jerseys.

Al Capitos, the head grounds keeper, told me that during early spring of the 2000 baseball season, a pair of Canada geese attempted to nest in the outfield. And last summer, Capitos had his hands full with a pair of mallards that landed in short center field, the male bowing and strutting. The one bird, however, Capitos has never seen in Camden Yards is a real Baltimore oriole.

In more than twenty years of integrating birds and baseball, I've never seen a real oriole or blue jay or cardinal at a major league ballpark For that matter I've never seen a diamond-backed rattlesnake either.

Now, as the Orioles take the field, a barn swallow--small, swift, and colorful--enters the airspace above left field, cuts sharply to its right and pivots, like a second baseman turning a double play. Species number one.

Three up, three down, a perfect first. The game moves quickly. By the bottom of the fourth inning, the Orioles lead 4 to 0, Josh Towers is pitching superbly, totally in control, and I've got six species.

Jerry Hairston's on second, Melvin Mora's up. A yellow-shafted flicker flies in over center field. Number seven, a woodpecker out of its element. Mora delivers a sacrifice bunt.

In the bottom of the sixth, Big Rich Garces is pitching for the BoSox; one out, the bases are empty. Garces is called El Guapo, the handsome one by Sox fans. My teenage son Casey calls him "El Guano," the bird dropping. "What's guano?" Jordan asks, as Mora strikes out.

Top of the eighth, the Orioles lead 4 to 2. As Trot Nixon flies to left, Casey spots a peregrine falcon, high above the warehouse behind right field. A pair nests on the Bank of America building in downtown Baltimore, a good flap away from Camden Yards. The bird streaks, lights out, like a Randy Johnson fast ball. Number nine.

A monarch butterfly flutters over the infield, bullied by the wind like a knuckleball. Alan Mills pitches for the Orioles; runners on first and second. Carl Everett, something of a bird-brain himself, launches the first pitch 430 feet into the right-center field bleaches. Three mourning doves glide in off the warehouse roof and circle the field.

The next batter, Manny Ramirez homers on a three-two pitch. The Oriole's manager leaves the dugout and Mills is gone. So are the doves.

And more or less so are the Orioles.

This is Ted Levin from Gillette Swamp in Thetford Center, Vermont.

Ted Levin is a writer and photographer specializing in natural history.
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