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

Monday, September 18, 2017


As I said before the birding must go on, and what a chase I had.  It was a "Sooner" chase....But before that, I want to share some photos of St Martin...

First, the house we almost sold....shockingly, it survives to be slept in another day

The fence is beat up along our pool and we have some minor damage but It isn't too bad.

The place we were going to keep took a beating but stands, but everything around it is pretty tough.  It may be many many months before water and electricity go to it.  I've been trying to get rid of that pergola for years BUT IT IS INDESTRUCTIBLE.... POSSIBLY though it held the house together.

some other photos of nearby...

It will be years before i get these houses straightened out and it down there, but we have to go to Florida and Honduras this year...very sad....I've already made arrangements.

I got a lifer SD bird on Sunday at Hartford Beach State park, a red-bellied woodpecker, my 65 South Dakota lifer of the year.....I know a red-bellied woodpecker...why would I ever chase one?  I was just out for a walk and I saw 5

I was sitting in my basement watching our beloved Packers taking a beating when I got the email...Masked duck in Oklahoma....yea, right.   I had just seen a post of a bananaquit in New Jersey with all kinds of explanation except the bird was clearly a yellowthroat....imagination run amok, but for some reason I looked at the picture of the bird...dang, it was a masked duck and it was a hen,...fifteen minutes later, I was out the door, 9pm, heading south, way Oklahoma.

I like Oklahoma, if I wasn't married and in another life, I'd have either lived in Oklahoma or southern Kansas.  I like the people, I like the accents, I like the terrain..I'd leave in April and May to hide from tornadoes but can;t have everything.  Oklahoma is quirky....weird history.  Even their nickname is after a bunch of dirt poor people waiting in Perry or Enid for the start of a land grab of the Cherokee strip, the fourth land rush in Oklahoma and the largest, of course it was the Sooners that left early and got some of the best land, most that waited got nothing....the difference between 1893 and today...?  The date.

It is a state that we acquired during the Mexican-American War of 1848 with a little from the Texas Annexation, that nobody wanted so we gave it to the eastern Indian tribes, ex slaves, and there was even a piece, the now panhandle that was no-man's land, having no designation at all, and for a time was illegal to even be there.   Some enterprising people even tried to get that area to be its own territory Cimmaron Territory and maybe someday even a state...but those were always it took some fast PR in Chicago to drum up support for it all and as we are....

It was along night but like the Sooners, I had a goal in mind and a bird that might not wait as it is teal hunting season in Oklahoma and there is nothing more prized than someone getting the opportunity to get a rare duck.  That thought kept me going.  It beeter get there soon if I wanted to see that bird.

Hackberry Flat, Tilman Oklahoma
872 miles, two wrong turns, a two hour nap in a corn field, and I arrived 15 and a half hours after I left NE South Dakota.  It was 1230, and the day was getting hot.  I was tired but then I saw a group of people way out near a pond.  I just drove over there as three cars were leaving.  One guys said, the guy we left behind knows where it is.  I shuffled over 100 feet and there it was sleeping, head ticked under a wing.  Every ten minutes of so it popped its head out.  Eventually, it put on a little swim by for us for excellent photos in near perfect light.

What a stunning bird!  Even if it is a hen.  These may be the photos of the year!!

In fact, I’m happier it was a hen.  Exotic wildfowl keepers usually have males.  We got to see both legs and it was unbanded.  

I even photographed wings

I suspect it was just a bird displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Great bird!  Lifer bird!!  

Hard to believe that in the 1993 Texas breeding bird survey they estimated a statewide population of 3000 of these birds but then they just disappeared.  The cause is unknown but in the last 5 to ten years there have been like three sightings and those where fleeting.  Masked ducks like to stay in the weeds and can be hard to see even if you know  where one is but this one came out, I felt very lucky.  It could  have came out to a man with a shotgun.  Sadly, it still might.

The four of us there laughed at my long drive they were from Wichita, Tulsa and Fort Worth.  I had them beat....

I had heard the new checklist is delayed by 1-2 months so it will be a while before I know how many I the meantime, I 'll keep chasing birds

Wichita National Refuge, Lawton Oklahoma
This is an area I’ve never been to before so despite my exhaustion, I wanted to look around.  I drove into this huge wildlife refuge of 59,000 acres I'd never heard of next to Fort Sill, which oddly, my old company, just started a clinic contract at today, this very day.  What are the odds of that?

WNR is a wildlife refuge with little wildlife save a wild herd of Texas Longhorn cattle.  I refused to photograph longhorns.

I saw a loggerhead shrike and vultures, that was the best I could do.

I went and saw the Holy City of the Wichitas that is tucked back in the refuge.  This is a place where they still do the annual passion play every spring.  I'm not sure how many attend.  They have little parking.

Built in 1934 by the WPA, when Church and State used to be the same thing,  It is billed as a "slice of old Jerusalem"  Although it looks much like 1930s western USA with a painted chariot laying around.  There is also the large modern statue of Jesus and a sign saying the government does not support this....but it is on federal land.  Oh, I'll be nice...I bet the play is very moving.  I've actually seen the REAL Passion Play in Oberamergau Germany, where the seats were hard and the play even harder.... to understand at it was in German.

Views from Mt Scott at 2464 feet high.

It was a nice area that I may never get back to.  I stumbled into Chickasha and found a lo-cal room.  I was too tired to care, and too tired to appreciate an expensive one.  The bed looked as though only a few people had sex on the sheets before I got here, so that is good and it beat sleeping in a corn field.... but I did go out for a lifer beer!!  I had to..

Cheers!  To a damn nice duck!

If I wake up, I think I need some sausage with that beer and the best Swedish sausage spot is in Linsborg Kansas, a little out of my way....... but for one of the 5 best sausage shops in America...I shall take the detour!

yum, I can almost taste it now!!!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ode to a Dying Island

In the last three days, i was filled with worry.  Hurricane Irma bearing down on St. Martin, an island I own not just one house but two, with a closing of selling one house set for next week.  So instead of watching the Weather Channel my wife drove me to the airport to go bird.  I would be better off without internet.  So away I went.

I saw two lifer birds in what could be assuming the ABA adds what I have in the bank to the checklist, my 800th bird. wasn't so grand a feeling.

Swallow-tailed gull, Seattle Washington, a great code 5 bird from the Galapagos Islands, which I saw a lot of birders I knew, everyone who was anyone was there on Monday.  Some of the people I thought I was friends with gave me the cold shoulder.  I didn't care.  It was at a nude beach BUT this bird is not on my nude life list...honestly, I didn't think about it, I was distracted by Irma.

I flew immediately to Salt Lake and rented a car to drive to Idaho, on Tuesday Morning, I got another lifer, the new Cassia Crossbill, a bird split off from the red crossbill which lives in the Sawtooth National Forest.  I shall be honest, I can add this lifer bird to my sans clothing list btw, as I thought about it, and the forest was pretty sparse of others.

But it still left me hollow.  I went to Shoshone Falls to get a hotdog but they had turned the water off, I can watch water flow for hours...Not today but they did have food though at the park near Twin Falls Idaho.  Tired and worried as the NOAA forecast moved the hurricane turn westward, I drove in a funk back to Salt Lake.  It was a sleepless night at the hotel.

At 0530 I boarded the plane local time, Irma, a hurricane name meaning immense or universal, a really odd woman's name, and one also a derivation of a goddess of war and destruction came ashore on Orient Beach St Martin.  We all drank Scotch in first class as it was a wake for the island.  The earliest I've ever drank hard liquor.

Since then, I watched video of seven story buildings collapse, and many many pictures of the devastation.  Here is a photo from Anse Marcel, one bay north of Orient.

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

I don't know what to do, I sit here in shock, alcohol numbs but it doesn't sooth the pain, I've seen one photo from the Dutch military copter flying over the Orient Beach Village, it looks as bad as the above photo.  many dead, maybe people I know.  It is bad...really bad.

Here is a comment from the Manager at Club Orient, a place on Orient Beach on the French side.

The island is in complete devastation.

Steve has been able to call briefly by cell, but his battery is almost used up. There is no electricity anywhere on the island, and it will be out for the "foreseeable future."
Markets have been cleaned out. There is no food or water to be had.
Housing is gone. Some people have set up camp under the pool tables at the casino. The casino is gone but the tables provide some security/shelter.
There is no gasoline to be found. Cars are not moving. Steve's car is OK, but all the windows were blown out. I'm not sure any roads are open.
Steve and Linda are OK but in shock. Their room started to fall in so they took refuge in the bathroom with their dog. They were not hurt when the floor above collapsed into their unit. 
Bert (head of maintenance) wasn't as lucky. He was cut by flying glass on the head and arms. He was treated by first aid personnel and will be fine. 
About 12 people took refuge at the Grand Case Beach Club (GCBC). 
Anne spent the night elsewhere and has checked in by phone. She is OK. There is no word yet on Florence (reservations). 
Keep in mind communications are sporadic at best.

Bert's son is trying to get to the resort on foot to assess the situation.

I share this with tears in my eyes.  We've had 15 wonderful years, I've seen exactly 100 bird species, a have a field guide to the island birds coming out (for naught) in a month, but with no tourism on this island in the future it is just something to remember it all by.  They are all gone.

One of two forests that has the threatened scaly naped pigeon is totally defoliated, so I assume they are all dead.

The bridled quail dove??

there were only a couple breeding pairs on the sad so sad....

here are just some pictures I had in a file to copy quickly here, too painful to review much more...

So sad, my two house, one I'm certain totally destroyed and the second...??  The closing next week on the other one... that won't happen.  There is nothing to keep the French family on the island.  There is nothing, no hope and no future..not even food and water....they and those with that have means will leave.  

The airport is destroyed so how will they even get off?  IDK, but a cruise ship will need to be taken there....I'm certain that before the French Army gets there that desperate means will become the norm, so we can't go down there any time soon.  Tourists better arm themselves with whatever they can, rebar, boards, knives, sticks....  For us?  Pray...all we can do.  I could post many many photos of the destruction, but it is can't handle it, beyond a is the view I want to remember..  A view gone....that is Club Orient below from deck of out villa, what was a chalet we owned is certainly as well as all the foliage, gone.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars and over 50 trips........sigh...I told you all that there is more to living than just birding and well, this is one thing.  It could have been worse, we could have been there.  If this was last year, I would have had to abandon my big year.....Life Bird 800?   Big F$%ing deal....does 800 birds matter?....that is my thoughts today.

so sad so sad

To my favorite island...St.. was a good run....


Friday, August 18, 2017


Grenville, SD Aug 18th, 2017

Roslyn has the Vinegar Museum and its resident poet.  Eden (formerly Eden Park),  has Club Eden but the the biggest thing that Grenville SD had until recently was a flood.  Today the biggest thing that nobody ever heard of to happen in Grenville was the arrival of one of North Americas rarest breeding birds.  The near extinct Whooping Crane.

Yesterday, I got interviewed for radio podcast on Animal Radio's Pet talk.  It airs next week and was on my 2013 habit of nude birding.  They got a laugh.

I found it good to be on the lake this week, there is nothing like being home

Up in Canada, a friend of mine  encouraged me to do a book on my fish stories, my first love, pike fishing and so I started that on Tuesday and have a good start going and YES, I am including some 2016 sections on my big year.  Haven't got to that yet, not sure if it will be 10 pages or 100 pages but I'm writing.  I needed a break this morning  and as the rain was coming in, and my wife scurried to finish painting our shed.  We've had a very wet August.  I'm predicting bad crops around here.

So I decided to go and chase a nearby bird, 17 miles away from my house on Enemy Swim Lake.
I drove around the lake and then west, through Grenville, SD  population 59.  Grenville is an odd town, and has not had the best of years recently as Waubay Lake rose up to swallow some of it and for a while literally you couldn't get there until some of the roads were raised moved around the water,   Some roads had to be raised 30 feet in some cases.

In 1915 and for decades, the Soo Line did some great marketing attempts at this God forsaken land on the top of the Coteau to sell land it got along the new spur and the only spur in had in the state.  They named places like Eden Park, and Lake City, as enticements and both cities never amounting to anything and even together, with Rosyln and Grenville combined would not be anything anyone would mistake for a city.  Today Eden is a place of 79 people, lake City is 52 and Grenville the end of the line, was marketed as "an industrial center" in the 1951 Soo Line annual report along with Minneapolis, Duluth, Milwaukee...those three have nothing in common with Grenville,   I think some executives were smoking something back in the day.  Soo Line was trying anything and well 40 years ago they gave up, ripped up the track west of Veblen and left these towns to fend for themselves.  The only thing that was ever in the Grenville was a very unimpressive grain elevator and a diminutive warehouse that today look pretty sad. Such is life in the rural prairie.  Times have past us by...

 The small town has obscure Polish family names for street names that are all one lane wide.  The local baseball team has the cool name of the Grenville can guess the pastime here.

I even saw more white pelicans in town than residents

Dead west of town, was an off again on again report of an oddity.  Nobody but me and Barry Parkin really birds up here so the off again is expected.  The whooping crane, a cool bird nearly extinct but the population is slowing rising, more , now than the four burgs up the old rail line:  Roslyn (178), Eden (79), Grenville (59) and Lake City (52) combined, but just barely.

This crane has been around for a while and using the bands, this is a Wisconsin bird.  Neceedah must not be so welcoming this year as I also saw a Wisconsin bird in Ontario in June.  It took me a few minutes to find it in a bean field but there it was.....South Dakota lifer 272....we can argue if it meets the ABA rules or not since I know where it is from.........

Finally you can see the bands on the leg.  The only better near extinct bird that could come to SD (lesser numbers) would be the California Condor, I shall wait patiently for one of those to show up, somehow, I think on my deathbed, I'll still be waiting.  I'm happy with the crane.  Oddly, I've never seen a sandhill in this state...yet.  Such is my bizzaro world of SD state listing

So there, another SD at a time, someday 300.....but I'm still out there birding getting birds.  Barry wants to go out on the eclipse and hear morning songs in midday, I'm not sure that is what I want to do and I'm not sure if Nebraska is on my travel plans next week either.

maybe I'll see what a whooping crane does at an eclipse....probably ...not much


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