Motto

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Free the Nipple


Sometimes even I can't believe what I stumble into.  It seemed like an omen following this van from Wickedrentals.com  The side advertised for free the nipple campaign. I wasn't going to speed in front of her to photograph the side.

 Well it was also World Naked Gardening day last weekend.  When I was driving around northern Indiana I heard a report on Insight Radio from Sinjiv Chopra MD (Deepak's brother).  He talked about the 5 things to living longer and healthier.  One was drinking lots of caffeine.  Voltaire drank like 70 cups a day.  Another was eating a Med. diet.  There was meditating and exercise. The final one was walking outside as exposed as much as possible to sunlight.  Vitamin D.  It all seemed to come together.  So was the perfect plan then to walk around naked, drinking coffee, meditating about birds?

The synopsis:

Big Year Total:  666
Coded Birds:  52

number to go to old record:  84
Miles driven.  28, 363
Flight Miles 86,400
flight segments: 90   Different Airports: 37
Hours at sea: 96
Miles walked 180
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded: 29
Lifers seen:  36

I was in Minnesota and I woke up on the 14th and it was cold, very cold.  A tough day for clothing optional birding.  This was not 2013.

Bird #655 the veery was all puffed out


I turned around and heard a single cuckoo call and saw half a beak and the tail of a cuckoo, black billed #656, and then 657, a Bay breasted warbler flitted in the tree.  I decided this was insane, even for me, so I called up my Friend Don H. and we met in Hastings MN and scouted around.  It took me an hour to drive.

We worked hard and found some birds working the big river south.

658.  Golden winged-warbler
659.  Philadelphia vireo  (really this time)
660.  Acadian Flycatcher

661.  Willow flycatcher

Both epids easily ID'd by their calling constantly.  They had just shown up, willows seemed everywhere, the day before...none.

I took off for Ohio on that evening and drove all night. You can't fly cheaply or efficiently to Toledo.  Delta doesn't do that and I will not fly through O'Hare if possible.  The curlew sandpiper was still there.

At 0130 in the morning in a swamp in central Wisconsin not far from where I went to college, looking at the setting moon and immersed in the smell of swamp on a quiet still night, I beat two rocks together and very quietly, I heard the faint reply, tap-tap...tap-tap-tap........YELLOW RAIL.  bird #662.  I wished I could share with you the feeling, the sound, or the smell.  I love bogs on a cold night.  In a few days that place would be so buggy, you'd scream and on this night a joyous thing and why I love birding.  All in my home state.

Well I arrived just after sunlight west of Toledo and started looking for the curlew sandpiper.....nope, wasn't there or was it?  Please see below. ***  It isn't on my list, now, let me say that.  It did fly off at 0745 or so, never to return.  After that I went and looked for warblers.  I documented a few in photos I hadn't during the year.  I have a newspaper story to write here later this week.  I need pictures.

Chestnut sided warbler

Then I went to sleep for 11 hours.  I woke again watched a depressing report on Heroin abuse in rural America and got depressed.  I snooped around Ohio and headed west.  I need to see my son before he goes to Boston, but I tried to finish my migrants.

In Indiana, I found a great spot for Cerulean warblers on territory.

This was bird #500 in my naked big year.  #663 here.  I have never seen this bird with my clothes on.  I looked left, then right.  It was warm.  The free the nipple people were around....and....

I heard a mourning warbler.........I spent a while trying to at least get a look at that bugger.  It was in deep.  I got it and then I moved to another bog six miles away, following the free the nipple people, they kept going....it was then anti-climatic but I got a Canada warbler #664, and a migrant yellow-bellied flycatcher, it was calling, and I couldn't for sure ID it, as there was so much background hermit and wood thrush noises, eventually on second pass it was in an more accessible location.  I slogged through the bog got close, the call stopped, and a epid flew out and across the opening...definitely the yellow-bellied.  Bird #666, the Devil bird...........

Let me make a few comments about my Alaska strategy.  I felt it was impossible to do both Hatteras in the spring, Attu, Gambell, and Nome...and get all the migrants so I would NOT have to worry about fall migration.  In hindsight, I was trying to outdo Neil Hayward, who didn't go to Attu...no one else.  In looking at past years, and I was on the 2013 Attu trip, a perfect year, or nearly so.  I would be minus 3 in this regard.  On one year, the boat broke, so I would be actually plus 4, but it is all moot.  The Attu trip is also not guaranteed.  Now Mr. Weigel, plans on leaving Adak on the 29th, flying all the way and then driving three hours to Hatteras for the My 31, and June 1 Pelagics and then...probably flying right back to Alaska.  He my friends seems capable of doing it all.  Like the Devil, the devilbirder is everywhere all the time.  I called him out and got a list.  I see non confirmed and probable hybrids on it.FWIW.

I will also say it was and is very important for me to bird with my daughter in Alaska and she can't leave until the school is out on the 24th, but that was a secondary concern.

It seems for the last two months, Mr. Weigel appears to be the man who never sleeps.  Getting all of the coded birds on consecutive days, including mysteriously on May 10th, the little egret in North Carolina AND the Bahama Mockingbird in Fort Lauderdale.  Then another on the 11th, flies in gets bird instantly and off he goes....Maybe he has his own Gulfstream Jet?  Maybe it would be better to say he is the man who never dips.  He did miss the skua on our boat as he was standing behind my friend Thor, all six foot three of Thor.  He had to wait for my daughter to get out the door.  At least, I think that was him.  He never introduced himself.

I wish I can can show up somewhere and get the bird all the time instantly.  I'm apparently not a good enough birder to see them all.  Where ever the bird shows up he is there.  He takes a mysterious second trip to Dry Tortugas on May 4th for the view apparently, as he needed nothing as was the only birder to report a Black Noddy from mine on the 18th until the 24th, when he was there on the 20th.  They see a white-tailed tropicbird, the only one reported all season on 5/4.....There is also some odd similarities in travel....hum....little stint on west coast, flies to Florida, for an Antillean nighthawk...then to Key West at dawn.....?  I did that.  Did he sleep in the back of his rental car in the Marathon taxi parking lot and get roused by angry taxi drivers....?

Nothing I can do about that.  I'm doing the best I can.  I refuse to fly corporate.

What will I do?
Well my first goal is to bird with my Grandmother Lucille this week, that is what is important.  It may be the last time, who knows.  We will get a year bird together!!   Not all of this is important.  So....spending six figures on this is like going to change any of our lives?

My wife baked me banana bread, my dog licked me and my son, whom I haven't seen in a while hugged me at 2330 when I drove home 832 miles later.  I have the most amazing family.  Family for me is number one........I'm not sure birding is better than pike fishing but it is close.  Maybe my writing is number two.  Vitamin D, number 3........I'm a better pike fisher than a birder...so what does that put birding, 5?

I am still trying to best Neil Hayward's 749.  I have always wanted to be the quickest guy to break 700 in a year, and unless something bad happens, I will in early June, if not sooner.  My 750th lifer bird will come in Hatteras...if not sooner.  Life lists are cool..........I love my new camera.......and well, I will have 17 days birding with my DAUGHTER!

That my friends is priceless.

Olaf

**from this point on I will be holding back a bird or two, maybe five, maybe more...all photographed and signed documentation if desired as to where and when I saw them.  You know, I'm usually birding with someone.  Maybe I didn't dip on the heron, did I get there a day sooner?  Where was I the two days before?  The CUSA in Ohio....? I was in Ft Zachary Taylor on the day Vireo found....?  Maybe I've seen all the coded birds too?  I need to keep a little mystery out there in my number.  What the competition doesn't know about me is better, but at least, as Hulk Hogan states, "and that is all the people need to know or was it the Baron von Rashke".... I have 666.  The girls in the wickedrental van know the truth and that is not what they apparently want exposed.  I had to apologize for my camera.

BTW, I had to come home to vote.  The SD primary maybe does matter,...? and we have a vote on restricting feedlot operations......GO BERNIE!!!  Did I really say that?

37 comments:

  1. There's a line in the movie The Big Year that "no birder could hope to win a big year without going to Attu in May." Bold strategy! I love the competition. Jeremy D. told me that you were coming for the CUSA on Sunday morning since I was leading a tour group there. We saw it and left by about 07:30. I'd say sorry that you dipped, but maybe you didn't..? I'm loving the storyline as the competition heats up; good luck out there!

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    1. Hayward did NOT go to Attu either. I didn't check the time on that CUSA, man it was cold out there!

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    1. As someone who has birded with John twice this year in Texas and in San Diego, I will say that he is both superman in the way he chases birds, and a very honest person to boot. In saying this I'd like to preserve his reputation, as it should be. He has photo documentation of nearly everything this year (including the recent rarities). He was actually born in the US, but moved to Australia in his young adult years, so he's both an American and an Aussie. He's a great guy all around and even has spent several of his weeks this year birding with his wife beside him. Just wanted to put this all on the table before folks start jumping to conclusions based on conjecture.

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    3. He sent some of us a photo of the North Carolina Little Egret which says "9 May", so I'm guessing he put the wrong date on his blog.

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    4. I don't think John would mind me posting this excerpt from an email he sent a group of us. Just want to clear up how he managed to get the birds he did before going to AK. Intense indeed, but he's not making things up.

      "Since there were a couple of more sightings of the Little Egret after our miss, I went there first, and after a four hour effort of trudging through tall wet grass, skin beginning to peel off my feet, I resigned to taking a little snooze. Thankfully I’d done my usual trick of exchanging phone numbers with anyone and everyone on a rarity stakeout, and I got the call I love best: “we’ve got the bird”. The directions were dodgy, but I eventually got to the right place after a couple of miles in fresh dry socks, and kaboom! Little Egret. Checking eBird I decided that between the Bahama Mockingbird in Florida and the Slate-throated Redstart in Arizona, the only choice that could get me to Alaska in time was the Mockingbird. It was the right choice, and worked out with miraculous ease – the bird was right where it was supposed to be at the opening of the Hugh Taylor Birch Park in Fort Lauderdale. Could I possibly squeeze in a race to see the Curlew Sandpiper that had reappeared in New Jersey? Yes! And a squeeze it was – while I struggled to pull the breeding plumaged female CS out of thousands of Dunlins and Long-billed Dowitchers. I started at early light was into my last half hour of time available before I’d need to drive 1.5 hours up to Philly airport to make my Anchorage flight yesterday. It was about 2PM when the little red devil broke from the huddled pack of many hundreds sleeping Dunlins to do a little chasing of ‘peeps’ (Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers) on the edge of the group..."

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    5. I was at Birch State Park around 8:00-9:00 am on May 10. The bird was right as we exited our vehicles in the brush to the left. A gentleman with an Australian accent walked up and I mentioned the bird was on the ground. He took a picture went back to his car and left. At the time, I thought it strange he didn't stay and watch the Bahama Mockingbird perform for us as it truly did for 10 minutes.

      I am wondering if this could have been John. I will try to find a picture of him. If so, I would say he was there no more than 2 minutes.

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  3. Better check your numbers. Ebird lists the Canada Warbler as #666, so maybe you have 668?

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  4. they go by taxon order, I saw it before the yellow bellied but on same checklist so they put it in that way

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    1. Olaf there is a little confusion in the writeup. I think Mourning Warbler was #664 so Canada Warbler should be bumped to #665. Same total.

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  5. With all due respect to Mr. Woodruff, I believe Mr. Weigel has some serious explaining to do if he wants his ABA list to be taken seriously.
    As at least a part time American he should realize that releasing a non-annotated bird list half way through a Big Year is going to automatically raise some " red flags "
    There is obviously no hard and fast rules, but all the recent ABA Big Year birders declared their intent relatively early in the process, and then proceeded to document their sightings via blogs that detailed their sightings, often with photographs, and/or birders they saw the birds with. All we have so far from Mr. Weigel is a list with dates that he saw the birds. As others have pointed out there appear to be some serious discrepancies about when he saw the birds, and how he was able to get from point A to B in what some might call record time. Does he have his own private jet?
    When you Google his name relative to his Australian Big Year (s, some of the local birders there also had similar questions.
    In my opinion, going forward, Mr. Weigel would be well advised to do a much better job of documenting his sightings publically, and include at least some photos, and descriptions of what he saw, how he got there, birders he saw the birds with, etc. In other words do a regular blog. Sure this takes time and effort, but with continuous internet access it can be done from airports, motels, in flight wifi, etc. It seems like Olaf has been able to do it, so why can't the somewhat secretive Mr. Weigel do the same. In a competitive Big Year, let's at least have a level playing field.

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    1. If you read John Weigel's blog description it states that later in the year he plans to begin writing substantial blog posts and eventually post photos. He said that he has not been posting regular updates because he does not have enough time, which is understandable given his pace. Once those photos up I think it will be perfectly fine to judge the credibility of the record, but for the time being I think all that is needed is a bit of patience.

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    2. All well and good, but one always waits in airports and most have Wi-Fi.
      Just a little input is better than no input.

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    3. Hi Thor, are you able to point me to any references to doubters from his Australian big years?

      "When you Google his name relative to his Australian Big Year (s, some of the local birders there also had similar questions."

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  6. Anyone doing this for an official record should go public early in the process. It's to easy no a days to get word out. 5 mins a day. Secrecy is suspect.

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    1. Fully agree. He might be a serious challenge, but he will be taken much more seriously if he opens up and gets his records accurate. People like Neil and Jon did great jobs, as did Jay Lehman. Everyone understands that these guys can't post all the time, and sometimes they are in places with no internet.. However, a weekly accurate update would sure help Mr. Weigel.

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  7. I guess my response to Mr. Brooks's comments would be try telling Messrs. Hayward, Lehman, Van der Pol, Ake, and Ms. Barber, in addition to this year's Mr. Danielson that their Big Years pace was slowe(er ), and, yet they all managed to post blogs with pictures, other birders they birded with who witnessed their sightings, schedules, etc, more or less from the beginning of the year. Why can't Mr. Weigel do the same. At the very least start NOW.

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  8. William, thanks for a voice of reason.

    FWIW, I too have run across John a couple times this year, and I haven't had reason to doubt his numbers. As Olaf mentioned, John did not count the Great Skua when he was on the deck at the same time. He easily could have counted that and probably no one could have questioned him. He also apparently missed the Marsh Sandpiper. I saw him in Los Angeles when we both missed the Kelp Gull, which he then chased in Ohio.

    As Michael pointed out, John appears to have made a typo on the date of the Little Egret. Mistakes will happen, and he has already said that his blog was launched earlier than he would have liked.

    To claim that John is a stringer and a cheater who is only doing this for self glory is a premature and uninformed claim to make. If you have seen his blog, you will notice that a large reason for his big year is also to raise money to help save the Tasmanian Devil.

    I can't say why John waited to announce, but I suspect it was strategy. Olaf just admitted in this post that he will likely keep some secrets.

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  9. I think Olaf is holding back for self-protection. If Mr. Weigel had kept his records straight in the first place there would have been absolutely no perception of stringing. However, with no facts and just a list, presumably an accurate list kept by a competent birder, which it now appears he is, what other conclusions can one draw? Sorry, but if you are doing a Big Year you should know that your records will be looked at and questioned if they are not accurate. I think holding back your numbers if you are doing a Big Year is somewhat akin to Sandbagging in golf.

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  10. Quite simply no axe to grind. I've twitched a bit in Britain and done a bit of European birding over the last thirty years. All tame stuff. My reaction to John Weigel's late entry was the same as set out here. It is inevitable if you choose to do that people will question your credibility. It is not in the spirit of the competition. Life and year listing have a curious collaborative element (or should have) that those outside of it do not understand. That said if Olaf now withholds sightings as he goes, all he will do is damage his own credibility. That would be a huge shame. If he maintains the correct approach, people will judge his total in the right way. If he withholds sightings, he may as well skip those long thankless trips, the occasional highs and the surging bursts of adrenalin when he sees the bird - as people will view his total sceptically in any event.

    Very good luck.

    All the best

    Paul Chapman

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  11. Ohhhh you guys don't know John like we do back here.

    He documents it all. He photographs it all. And if he misses a photo, he gets the details of the person standing next to him for a written statement.

    He has all bases covered. And he is absolutely credible. And honest.

    I'm 26 years old a very fit. And I struggle to keep up with John over a few days. He is crazy! In the best way!

    And I know from his emails that he has been struggling to put together a blog in his time at airports. But the guy is so fast paced that these sorts of things will have to wait. Anyone who knows john will agree that he is a 'birds first, audience second' kind of guy. The people will get their accounts. But not while there is birds to find. And not until he runs out of days to find them.

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  12. I tend to disagree with Mr.Baxter, although I don't doubt the authenticity of his analysis. If you have been following Olaf's blog, his schedule is also brutal, and yet he still finds a way to produce regular detailed blogs. As others have said there are often long waits at airports, wifi is available on the plane itself, etc. As I have said above, all the Big Year birders in recent years have produced regular blogs. The birds may come first, but if you want your Big Year to be taken seriously in this very interconnective world, in my mind, it is imperative that you not only keep a running count, but you inform the birding world about what you are doing in a timely fashion.
    Commentators have reported positively about Mr Weigel's character, his charitable work, etc, and I accept those as being representative of the man. However, I had second hand information this time last year that the " Australian Big Year Birder " was going to do an ABA Big Year this year. I waited to see his reports starting in January and, as we know that they were not there. Some have portrayed the lack of same as a time issue, which I don't accept. Others have said that this was a strategic move. In the meantime Olaf has been producing detailed reports of where, how, with whom, which birds, etc, from day one. I assume Mr.Weigel is aware of Olaf's blog, and yet, he has still waited this long to produce a kind of list. If the analysis of why is that this was a strategic move as some have suggested, then the only way to describe this in my mind is being sneaky. Also, as Mr. Chapman points out, if this behavior causes Olaf to be more circumspect in his reporting, that would really be too bad. Big Years, despite being competitive, should also be cooperative in the spirit of what we hope is the true nature of the sport/hobby that many of us have devoted many hours of our lives to.
    I have had the privilege of birding with the declared no 2 and 3 ABA lifetime list birders. Even though their numbers are only separated by a couple of birds, they often bird together, share information, and generally help each other out. To me they represent what is best about the so called competitive birding world, and I would hope that this kind of mutually respectful and cooperative behavior would be the norm rather than the exception.

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  13. I have it on good authority that John has a super-secret plan involving Mexican bird smugglers to have numerous prospective ABA-first-record "vagrants" released just across the Rio Grande river in mid-December, with John "coincidentally" stationed just on the ABA side of the river to provisionally "count" them on his year list. Devious, yes, but also so crazy it just might work!!

    This is all shaping up as the perfect sequel to The Big Year movie...



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  14. Apologies to Ian for not addressing his question in my last post. Wasn't sure whether he wanted me to e-mail him directly or respond using this site. Couldn't figure out the former, so am trying here. In a nutshell, and I could be wrong, as I wasn't there, but it appears that Mr. Weigel followed a similar strategy when doing his Big Years in Australia;i.e., bird first and report sometime later, perhaps near the end of year. Mr Baxter seems to confirm this above. This may be okay in Australia, but for the last number of years, this hasn't been the way it has been done in North America. Even on the world stage Nohan Stryker, the current World Big Year birder who just set the record in 2015, did regular public reports despite the fact that he was traveling all over the world. One comment that I can remember reading from an Australian birder during one of Mr. Weigel's Big Years to paraphrase was: Who is this guy?, why isn't he reporting to Ausbirdlife, and why isn't he a member, or something to that affect. That is what I meant by a similar question being asked. To finalize my feelings on this topic, because I think ( I hope ) I have said everything I need to say is that going forward, my wish would be for Mr. Weigel to report regularly about his Big Year. Despite the fact there are no hard and fast rules about this, this, to me, is the fairest, and, in the spirit of fair competition, the most sportsmanlike way of doing things.

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  15. OK - I have re-read all the comments and I just wanted to select two quotes:-

    "Checking eBird I decided that between the Bahama Mockingbird in Florida and the Slate-throated Redstart in Arizona, the only choice that could get me to Alaska in time was the Mockingbird." (John Weigel e-mail)

    "I can't say why John waited to announce, but I suspect it was strategy." (Matthew Grube)

    I can't say the use of a source of information without contributing to it or the withholding of information for strategic reasons is within the spirit of twitching to which I identify.

    The commoner species are almost exhausted. Olaf will need to roll up his sleeves and twitch hard but I am sure that many will look to support him in that regard.

    Very good luck again

    All the best

    Paul Chapman

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  16. Olaf, you are my birding hero. You have inspired many birders. Do not let anyone influence you to change your strategy or hold back on reporting. Forget that turkey from the Outback. You've got this! Go get 'em, buddy. We are behind you!

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  17. There is another byproduct of Mr. Weigel's strategy that, while not unethical, is certainly undesirable among birders: By neither eBirding nor in any other way sharing info on his sightings, he is taking a ton of information from the community but giving nothing back.

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  18. Why is the Willow Fly above not a Least?

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  21. Firstly, good luck Olaf, you seem to be doing fantastically!

    As an Australian (well a New Zealander actually, but I live in Australia), re comments made about John Weigel, I think you'll find there are no doubters at all about either of John’s two Australian Big Years. On the first Big Year, he travelled with several well-respected companions, including a well-known Australian television wildlife presenters. He smashed the previous record. On his second Big Year, he wanted to do the year independently. All his birds were verified, and he saw virtually all the hard to get species and vagrants either with other people (such as on a pelagic trip), or at known twitch sites where a rarity turned up, and other Twitchers were presents. John's character was shown to be exemplary, and the amount of research and planning he did was mind-blowing. As an aside, it's worth noting that he is very well-funded, and that he's also an American birder who happens to live in Australia.

    In terms of secrecy, he's not being secretive - just cautious at first, somewhat like those who appeared in the movie (exactly like them in fact). The fact that birders are saying he's employing secrecy, and that this is suspect, simply sounds stupid. Supply weekly updates via social media is just one way of doing a Big Year, and usually says something about a person’s ego than the race (no reflection on you Olaf!). If you're serious about competing in a Big Year, yes, good records are really important (and believe me John will have great records of everything he's done), but posting weekly blog updates is great fun, but for a lot of people completely counter-intuitive. If you're a 20s-something social network geek, maybe it's straight-forward, but for serious birders, you coud described it as a waste of valuable time, certainly at the beginning of the race, when time means everything. Knowing John, a full account of his race will appear soon, and it will be extremely well documented

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  22. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.........

    "The fact that birders are saying he's employing secrecy, and that this is suspect, simply sounds stupid."

    My experience of twitching and yearlisting is not based on movies. It is based on thirty years' twitching experience and detailed knowledge of thirty years' yearlisting competitions. So notwithstanding your characterisation of the comments as stupid, it is exactly how such an approach would be construed in Britain. If that individual had been in the presence of yearlisters without declaring his yearlisting and had been from say America or even Australia, I know exactly what the chap would have been called.

    All the best

    Paul

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