"Wherever I go and wherever I am, I find I should be somewhere else."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Smoke 'em if you have them.

August 4-14th 2017.   It was a two week period of dips, slips, flubs, flops, bites, follows ....I could go on.  Basically I got smoked.  Sigh...the life of Olaf isn't what dreams are always made of, but then again, it may be just my perspective.  I'm sure you expect me to be perfect, perfectly bewildering would be a better term.

So what has happened in this filled week.  I go in reverse order as as i write this I'm sitting in Buffalo NY.  The airport has free wi-fi so type I do.

Behold the empty piling...............

Yes, there is NO bird on that piling, maybe just bird poo........The Wellsboro PA white-winged tern was put to bed last night at 830 on a snag all happy, nice, and quiet.  The heavy evening fog settled in the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania as the night was still and quiet and at first light all the creatures were stirring..

 Blue herons on the dock........

 bull frogs.......

Green herons....

But sigh all except the tern.   I met friends from Indiana, Tom and Theresa, too.  We had a nice breakfast at McDonald's but no tern.

I have a history with is not good.  Not good at all.

The last time I found myself in Wellsboro, it was at the Tioga County Courthouse.  A Pennsy trooper pulled me over on the state highway over Nessmuk Lake (coincidence?) for no registration plate on my boat trailer.  It was being pulled by a WI licensed truck, boat registered in WI, and I had a WI driver's license at the time.  Wisconsin doesn't license trailers for boats.  Trooper Smith gave me a tciket anyway.  I plead not guilty.  The last thing I did before we moved from Williamsport was to appear in this courthouse.  I had WI / PA reciprocity laws, I had Wisconsin statues, I had all kinds of stuff, but Trooper Smith didn't have the guts to show.  I was found innocent and that...was that....

My first patient as a doctor was from Wellsboro, he died at 1130 my first day.  He had Legionaire's disease and was in bad shape.  But by noon, my panel of three patients on my first day had all coded.  It was an auspicious start to my medical career.

My most interesting patient, well the one that mystified us to the point that he almost died was rock climbing near Wellsboro in 1993.  He fell and broke his right arm rock climbing and then became a mystery because he lost all clotting factors.  he was transferred in from Wellsboro to my hospital and over 72 hours sucked eastern PA of all plasma, clotting factors, and well, the grim reeper came knocking.  I was put in charge of blocking the door.  In desperation, I was charged with the most thorough exam I've ever done.  Inch by inch.  On a corner of his forearm I saw a hole.  It looked like a puncture, just before they had cut him open to repair the open fracture, but from what.  Even looking at it it looked like nothing.  I had an off the wall idea.

Crotalus horridus.  Could the young man have put his hand on a snake (timber rattler) while climbing, got bitten and then fallen breaking the same arm and hiding the true problem.  We had anti-venom  for that and the copperhead flown in.  Patient turned around and I got a great mystery case to present all over the place at conferences.  Nobody ever guessed the case as it presented so atypically.

I was once sent an application from a Wellsboro doctor to work in Minnesota.  He had no ER experience.  Kept talking and on the third call finally sent me his list of malpractice cases.  It was a novella.  He had excuses for everything.  To this day the most litigated physician of all time and he just kept calling me.  To think Minnesota would give him a license OR Pennsylvania wouldn't just pull his was absurd.  He called me for 2 years.  Like I'd change my mind or his file could be cleansed.  It would be like cleaning up Hitler or making a manure pile sterile......I had to get caller ID at home just so I could screen for PA callers......

The stakeout at Nessmuk from across the lake.  Definitely the biggest birding thing to hit Tioga county in some time....but alas....that is now past

So dipping on a tern in Wellsboro is just what was expected, I guess.  You may ask why, oh why did I not come on Saturday?

Well. Pastor Olaf was doing a wedding, a "hats only" affair at an undisclosed site in Minnesota on Saturday attended by 143 people at final count.  It was fun and great, lovely and romantic except.........I called the bride by the wrong name.....TWICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   OMG!!!!!!!

Now everyone is calling me JoAnne, since I appear to have Joanne on the brain.....JoAnne was my late aunt married to my uncle who had the same name as my groom on Saturday and my brain would not snap out of it.  If you think you are going to get pictures of this celebration.....think again......I was wearing my Stetson, I bought in Elko NV last year at the snowcock chase, and that was that.  The rest...use your imagination.  It was how you imagined it, trust me.

I should also mention that my wife got light headed and almost passed out during the dinner following and had to lay down in the grass.  There was karaoke in the evening but I was not doing that.  I had enough to embarrass myself earlier during the vows. 

  I had to hurry on Friday to get out of Ontario on Friday as I was in a remote fly in fishing location 400 miles away from the wedding.

On a good note, my boat won the biggest pike trophy for the 7 of the last 8 years, it even won last year without me in it, and this year, I got my spot back.  The bad news is that I missed the prize myself by an inch.  Greg Peer caught a modest 39 inch brute to win the honors.

We were dogged by low water, calm hot weather, forest fires, and dormant fish, but here are some of my fish.

Our boat caught and released 261 pike and we called it a down year.  It is all perspective.  I also started to write a book called "The Pike Whisperer"  It will include my longstanding pike passion, which easily eclipses my birding and I will include a chapter at least on my 2016 adventure.  "The year without pike" will be that chapter.  The only year since 1971, I did not catch a pike in.  Pike fishing is

Yea I catch 96 fish one day between walleyes and pike and I complain.....everything is relative.  Some of the walleye boats easily caught a thousand fish, but well...again.....relative

This year I was champion shore lunch maker. I guess....even using a camp grill 20 miles from where we were at, because...I could, and I couldn't screw that up

the fires unnerved us, even a popular lunch spot had the island burnt up in the last few days

Dr. Jeff Rapp of Duluth made homemade ice cream in the bush...and earned the nickname the "handy man"  Fresh ice cream on an island?  WOW!

The good doctor also caught the largest bottle of adult beverage to drown his sorrows in catching small fish.  Eric Thoreson from Rice lake WI caught the largest walleye, being 16 years since he had previously won the Stan Peer Trophy.

Birds.....nothing exciting....gray jays and some odds and ends boreal song birds

The big rarity was a way out of territory common mudpuppy, curiously being eaten by an otter.  Maybe my best picture of the year.  The Canadian herpetology society is evaluating my rare "amphibian" report.  Yes, a rare amphibian report.  two year amphibians this week and both in this blog!!

There is more to life than just birds....and northern pike....................NO I JUST DIDN'T JUST WRITE THAT!!!
 Okay strike that I wrote that....

My plane is boarding and I'm smoked


I mean Olaf

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Minnesota, where dreams are made

This was a busy week in Lake Wobegon...I mean Lake Olafdom.  On Sunday, I went birding with Barry to a place called Sica Hollow in extreme Northeastern SD in his attempt to put a 300 South Dakota big year together.  After the dust settled, he had three birds and I had SD lifer #270, a blue-gray gnatcatcher.   A good bird for South Dakota and a better bird for Roberts County.  I came home, my wife, daughter, and I went fishing, our first family outing this year, after I fixed a two year old electrical problem in my boat.  Ii was slow but I caught a smallmouth bass.

my  daughter caught a rock bass

and I took nearly 200 photos of birds....good birds.....California gulls, a possible royal tern (great bird for SD), Caspian terns (good for SD), a loon in winter plumage I really wanted to look at the beak as it could have been a yellow-billed, and red-necked grebes but as I got home, I noticed........I forgot to put the chip in my camera.....I swore....those birds became tern sp.  loon sp.  and well that was at least one California gull, but I didn't even bother to submit it to Ebird....I swore, took a picture of a juvenile kingfisher chattering at me, to make sure the camera still worked and threw the camera in my car and decided that there was more in life than birding, putting myself on a week bird photo moratorium.

I finally finished off my St Martin Birding Guide and sent it to the printer on Tuesday and then I went on my annual mission to Alexandria MN, the "Birthplace of America"

My favorite tackle shop is in town and I go twice a year, once to drop off my broken rods to get repaired and then a week later to pick them up on my way to Canada.  I visit Big Ole, my name sake from the 1964 Chicago's World's Fair.  The Minnesota exposition which featured this statue and centered around the Kennsington Rune stone, found near to Alexandria and permanently stored at the Runestone Museum, purportedly from 1362 and an ill fated expedition by Scandinavians that ended in blood at the headwaters of Hudson Bay drainage in west central Minnesota.

1964 World's Fair

It is one of those Americana places that should be on everyone's summer visitation list.

We came into Minneapolis, I met my wife who is off to Paris with her sister as payback for my big year, but we had another stop left.

Have you ever dreamed of owning something outlandish?   We have.  I love art.  I love cool houses--he more exotic and artsy the better.  My wife's high school chum has recently moved back to Minneapolis from Rhode island and lives down by Lake Calhoun.  Nearby coincidentally, is an interesting house for sale.   "The Olfeldt House" is one of the last built authentic and signed Frank LLoyd Wright houses, finished just after his death in 1959 and sat 15 blocks from my wife's buddy in St Louis Park.  We had lunch and the obligate cultural activity was to tour this house.

Frank Lloyd Wright.....he has been gone for 59 years but is still an enigma and is still the architectural icon of American in the good years 

They don't build house like he did anymore.  Each one is a statement.  His prairie homes are cool and this house from his his Usonian House design, I like better, and one of a few more than 400 in the US left was worth the trip to the city alone.  FLW simple uncluttered designs are what I like.

This is a one owner, three bedroom, 2400 square foot signed FLW house WITH a basement (he almost never built basements) and on three large lots including a birding mecca marsh, for just a cool 1.3M.......(gasp!), well St Louis Park is a nice neighborhood.......a vacant lot is worth 350K here.

The house was mega cool.  It was almost how I would design  a house.  privacy, long hallways, storage, useful and no wasted rooms.

The inside was even full of much of FLW original furniture......!

My art collection needs a home and well, this house needs restoration and preservation.  It is a classic and it has a story needing to be saved for the the next generation.  Somebody has to do it, it might as well be me.

We happily walked through it thinking of how we could live in harmony in this house.  We could swing it, and well, we could show it on Saturdays...

"You can put a bid on the house."  My wife said driving back.  We talked about what could go where.  Plans on renting rooms to share the FLW experience....taxes, we looked up grants for was all good.

Later, I demurred, the impulse waning to buy, but then we had dinner with friends and as the alcohol dug in discussions reigned.  Our friends have been traveling for a decade selling their business in Wisconsin.

What are your goals?"  They asked.  "What are my goals?"  I asked back.

"You know.  You are going to buy that house and every chance you are going to get, you are going to be up here."  Our friends said.  "Are you going to hang out with anyone ever from St. Louis Park?  Do you even see yourself meeting a single person that even lives in St. Louis Park?  "Do you go to their churches, synagogues or clubs?  Where will you meet anyone?"

"No,...and nowhere."  I said drinking a long sip of wine thinking and then I thought of an analogy.  "Is owning a piece of art requiring total dedication even good?"   In this case the art is a house, and should one be a slave to a house, that is what it is.  This house needs upkeep, money to exist.  I could buy a Anders Zorn oil canvas masterpiece for about 1.2 million.  Which is easier to maintain?  Which is more practical?  Which has the greatest resale potential........etc.

The painting wins on all except the "practical"  Neither is very practical.  My wife looked at our friends and drank a glass of wine and said honestly.  "We are gypsies.  We like to roam."

We ARE gypsies.  Gypsies don't buy 1.3 million dollar houses.  Gypsies camp.  Gypsies live in trailers, gypsies move from place to place.  Home is whatever bed we share together each night.  As much as I love that FLW house, we can't ever own it.  I came home and we sent a deposit for a Grand Canyon Rafting trip in 2018 to the person planning it.  I may have to marry someone on the river next year, and we filed away the paperwork on the house, never to be thought on again...the dream lasted 8 hours and 12 minutes.

At least the dream didn't end up being a nightmare.

My wife left for Paris thinking we had made a great "couple" decision of the future of our lives, one in which we both agreed...and I think we had done a good job.  We will try to keep being net sellers of is an adventure, it is not a house.

enjoy the ride!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Don't live in South Dakota if you can't stand the heat

How I survived 2016 is beyond me.  I barely survived last week.  After one week, four flights, 2600 miles in a car, 2 mountain ranges, five states, three days of 100 plus temperatures, two more of over 90,  and 30 miles on foot much of which basically on one leg, at this sign under Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota, I had reached my limit.  My %^^ hurt, my knee hurt, and I was hot, damn was so hot....How hot was it?  "It was so hot, even the dippers were having trouble keeping cool."  It was so hot, the birds were using hot pads to pull the worms out of the was so was HOT!

As I am holding up this sign, let me discuss my weekend in the Black Hills.

There are always little bits of history I learn when I go out birding.  There is a hero immortalized west of Custer SD.  He has a camping park named after him.  Unknown to me, there was one member of the US Calvary that survived the Battle of Little Bighorn on that fateful day for the 7th Calvary in the prairie of Montana Territory in June of 1875.  His name was Comanche  and he was Captain Myles Keogh's faithful buckskin.  A captured Apache mustang.  This camp was the last place Custer's troops camped before heading west on that ill-fated mission.  One can picture when the relief arrived the next day when all they found was bodies and a lone horse grazing nearby.  It makes an interesting mental picture.

Myles Keogh was an interesting figure.  A major fort in Miles City, Fort Keogh bore his name for decades.  He was an Irish national that served in battle for the Papal states in the battles that led to the unification of Italy, he was captured and imprisoned in Genoa before being released in a prisoner exchange.  In 1862, as the Civil war happened, in need of officers, the Union army contacted the Cardinal to secure possible candidates from Europe.  Keogh left service for the Vatican and then fought for the Union with distinction at multiple battles and became, for a time, the chief aide of McClellan.  Eventually, he became assigned to the 7th Calvary and began serving under Custer.  Keogh gets a fort named after him, but wasn't even an American citizen.  Comanche got a campground named after him and he wasn't an "American" really either....

It was the end to a busy week.  After falling down the mountain and now limping, my knee swollen and bandaged,  I flew home and immediately headed to go birding west.  My lake house was filled with in-laws and to be honest there was no room for me anyhow.  In all of this history, I met up with Barry Parkin who is doing a South Dakota big year.  Our plan was to head to the hills, the Black Hills to bird.  His is no record breaking big year.  The South Dakota record is held by Ricky Olson and Scott Stolt, both of Pierre who each saw 352 species in the year--2 more than Lynn Barber got during the same year during one of her many "Big Years."  Although she claimed to have set the record, the SDOU only recognizes Scott and Ricky's effort and all of this has caused some ill-will in the SD birding circles.

Barry is no wave creator and is just trying to break 300 and I went along with for a second pair of eyes and I am trying to beef up my SD life list.  I will accept no more snickering about my paltry state total and vow to be a member of the 300/800 club (300 SD, 800 ABA) as soon as possible, maybe next spring.  I only list in two states now, South Dakota and Alaska, and even Alaska is not an end-all for me as I have passed on getting good state birds like the Eastern pheobe because well, that bird nests in my backyard.  I'm not sure about even working on my SD list but well, a guy needs a goal.  I started the year at 215 in SD and have added many birds.

The Black Hills is a a place where the the midwest meets the west in birding and is home to many western and mountain birds. beefing up the state list to over 400 species,  I have only superficially birded the hills so I had many species I could get.

We drove into the Badlands in 115 degree heat.  No bird in their right mind was out and about so we had to find them along rivers and just trying to survive on fences.

Burrowing Owls

We saw about 40 around the plateau in and around prairie dig towns

Bell's Vireo

Swainson's Hawk

Black-headed grosbeak with a hidden find seen only on the photo

Not that I needed the nighthawk but always interesting to see something unexpected on a photo.  The car thermometer maxed out at 115........115........OMG, 115!

We camped at Comanche Park Friday night in a sea of foreign tourists.  I had a German walk up to me.  "Do you speak English?"  He smiled.  "I wanted to reply.  "Jag ...sprechen inte English."  I sighed and then told him how to register for his campsite.  He and his wife and two teenagers were from Bremen, and camping through the US.  It may be a majority of tenters in NFS land are not US residents these days.  

I awoke to the sounds of Pygmies,  They can be hard to find and I've never seen one before.  SD life bird, 260.  Blurry photo but at 0530 this morning but was ID able as a pygmy

We went for a hike a few miles west.  We ended up in a sea of hummingbirds.  They landed on my cell phone, they landed on my head, they buzzed me, and then Barry who brought a feeder with, broke it and then I said.  "Just stand there and hold it out Barry."  It took a few seconds and Barry had a new friend.  

State Lifer bird for me.  Broad-tailed Humming bird, Hell's Canyon, SD

The lifer haul continued, not great birds for ABA standards but In South Dakota these birds reside in very limited areas.

Western Tanager

Western wood-pewee

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Violet-green swallow

Most of South Dakota's tourist sites are Kitsch.   Mt. Rushmore was funded by an organized plot to fool Calvin Coolidge on a fishing trip.  Thousands died and were made homeless by the Miississippi flood while Calvin caught record trout, refusing to leave.  (The state was planting trout just upstream all night each day specifically trained to only bite what the President was using for bait.)  In the end, Hoover was sent to deal with the flood and Calvin made an executive order allowing for the tourist trap that is Mt Rushmore to be built.

Crazy Horse will never be finished.  Sturgis is out of hand and is not what is once was (a crazy week of decadence) now it is just a way to gouge the visitors.  Deadwood is a Casino trap and Harney Peak has an ugly view tower on top of it.

The Black Elk Wilderness is great.  The granite spires are cool.  Why did they spoil it by erecting an ugly tower a three mile walk from a parking lot?  Wasn't standing on the mountain top enough?

My favorite site is the mammoth dig near Hot Springs, something not contrived.  South of that is a cool swimming hole, Cascade Falls and nearby Cascade Springs.

A great place to swim and hang out.  Especially when the thermometer is at 104 at 10 am.  They also have yellow breasted chat and a great SD bird, Lesser goldfinch there.


Lesser Goldfinch....
One of the few places to ever see that bird in South Dakota.  Definitely a birding hot spot worth visiting.

The water holes and the mountain vistas are great tourist sites, why not highlight them?

Barry is happy because for years all I have heard from Barry is a desire to find the holy grail of Black Hills breeding birds.  It has become an obsession, I think.  I sort of roll my eyes.  The Cadillac of birds as everyone thinks at some point they want one but only a few will ever get the ruffed grouse. Barry dreams of grouse.  Hot, out of water, and tramping through forest looking for jays, jays that were never found.......I flushed a grouse, it was a brood.  "Grouse!" I yelled.  Barry has never ran so fast gto catch up to me ever.

Only the second sighting reported on ebird this year!   If it wasn't for the fact that my entire body was covered in ticks, and I was running on empty, and....i grew up in grouse country, i would be happy too.  It was SD state lifer 265.  Barry wanted to scream, and eventually, did.  I was ready to pass out.

Brown creeper on a tree was in reality, a better bird for me.  I've seen less of them, but not in South Dakota

I made a vow right there.  I was staying that night in a motel, I was having a shower, AND we were eating at my daughter's favorite restaurant in Lead.  The Roundhouse would heal my spirits.  the thought of their steak got my A$% up that mountain and too the car where we had drinks.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, it had closed recently under odd circumstances.  It was busy and it just closed permanently.  The next problem was that all the other restaurants in Lead close at 8pm on a Saturday night in tourist season..........8pm??  Just my luck.  Eating, I guess is over rated.  cold salami in a cooler is my usual I am used to it.

We did get a room and Barry passed out and I was not too far behind

Our last days in the hills were in Spearfish Canyon and Crow peak.  I was almost hiked out and 3 more miles on foot would be it.

American Three toed woodpecker ripping off bark in a recent burned forest.

A ?dusky flycatcher, finally heard and probably seen

MacGillivray's Warbler

A red-naped sapsucker, hiding under dead needles of a pine.  State lifer bird 269 for me, my finally tally for the trip

We were the closest to Milbank so I just started to drive home from Spearfish after we ate our one meal of Sunday at McDonald's, fancy eating for us.  

I headed home adding 15 state lifer birds.  Barry put 20 on his year list and I left in thankfully as bad of shape as I arrived.  My knee was only oozing the same fluid it had been oozing for three days but
gosh it was still hot.  If you were thinking of what craziness would happen to Olaf, I disappointed you.  Generally nothing happened on this trip.  It was just too HOT!  How hot was it?  It was so hot that all of the water had became holy water as all of the heat was boiling the hell out of it.  Okay...enough of that.

In truth, the crops are withering, much of it should never have been planted and well, it was at least good, knowing I'm not ranching out here.

Some call this hell, I guess, but I call this home. Three hundred and twenty miles later I jumped up and tapped my heels and said.  "There is no place like home Olaf...there is no place like home."