Monday, January 14, 2019
I watched a white-tailed hawk, the fourth one I’d seen on Curacao, fly over my head and I watched it disappear into the distance going straight toward the airport as if telling me something. It was time to go. I walked down bid farewells to our friends and Silja and I headed to the airport and our flight home. Our trip was over and it seemed simple enough to go home.
Nine hours later an urgent call for any medical personal on board the American Air flight 149 to Minneapolis caused me to stir from a nap. Before I could respond, six people went forward and five minutes later the 737 went into decent, and then a 180 degree bank and the captain put it down fast into St. Louis landing hard and then a minute later we were at the gate as EMTs came aboard and escorted the passenger out. One never knows how travels will end and I guess the hawk was warning me about my trip.
We took off two hours later and we cuddled up in a motel room at 2am in Minneapolis, 3 hours late and exhausted. It was a reminder of what will be. 2019 will be a year of thousands of miles of trips, trips by boat, bike, plane, RV, raft, including five continents, and hopefully no mishaps but travel is what travel does, one never knows...you just hope to get home, that is the adventure
The first trip was over, Curacao....at the northern edge of the continental shelf of South America....
Twenty four hours earlier.....
It was a dark and moonless night as I stood in the middle of a road four miles from our hotel looking and then taking pictures of a white-tailed nightjar resting on the side of the road illuminated by my headlights of the small rental car three feet to my right and I could count the bird.
That evening, the last of our trip, I had this feeling that I was forgetting something, but I brushed it off. I did do something I’d never done before. I won a game of hearts. I not only won, I crushed it. We’d taught Jan and Stuart, friends from Florida traveling with us to play the game and for a few nights we played. At home, our son Allwin usually wins. He has a great strategy and my grandmother Lucille won before she died, me….? I lose and loose spectacularly. Not this time.
I walked to our room and then it hit me. “Damn!” I said. “I just remembered what I’ve been thinking I’d forgot. Do you want to go birding?”
“Now? Are you drunk?” My wife went to the point. It was 10 PM.
I was talking sober as I was sober, I was too keen on winning to keep up with the wine everyone else was drinking, and maybe that is why I won. So my wife and I went out driving around at night looking for nightjars and we found nothing, so we drove back and went to bed. I vowed to go out in the early morning since it was our last morning on the island and my last chance. Driving around on roads in the middle of the night birding....sheez. I actually saw the ultra rare barn owl before I stumbled upon my goal....
This was the last of nine Clements lifer world birds, or 11 for the IOC that I nabbed on Curacao, one of the ABC islands. The island has no endemic birds but it has some good ones from northern South America, like this nightjar that I needed, as I'd never birded South America before.
I was born on the first day of Aries. therefore I am a goat and in Norse, Thorsbakken is my sacred animal, and as such, our eating got a little more adventuresome as the week wore on. My sacred animal became the fare of choice....For the first few days, adventure was ordering goat at the local bistro, we called the place the Fiesty Goat which was combination a store/ shack that also even featured live music on one day. The owner had invented the kabritu burger, or at least that is what the sign and the owner says. She is franchising the idea, and I’m not sure to whom or to where..
This burger is otherwise known as a goat burger smothered in goat cheese.
Another day, I ordered goat stew. This restaurant had it all, well all the concerns of a restaurant. Anthony Bourdain would have liked it. Most days, you never knew what you were eating, and you never were sure about what you’d have to pay for it. When in doubt, we assumed it was probably goat. Like all good tropical restaurants, you weren’t even quite sure if part of the building was just going to fall over, and you just hoped that part was not where you were sitting.
It seemed we just sat around eating goat every day on this adventure, but that was not true. I knew that a world lifer bird I needed was hanging out at the island’s golf course. The security guard let us in to the course under the auspices that we were going golfing and took my drivers license for collateral, made a copy and gave it back. All the gates here took licenses and car tag information down. St. Martin could learn a thing or two, from these people. You better have a good story or they won't let you in.
Once in, I drove around and near a sand trap easily found our quarry, a southern lapwing, a really cool looking bird. There is some issue with me figuring out which number lifer it is as I haven’t finished my checklists yet. My goal before Uruguay is to get this organized. I think I may just negate some of my birds.
Southern lapwing, world lifer #1047, under Clement or so I think.
It is place not designed for birders as parking is difficult and everything is private. Golf balls go shooting around everywhere, and I wasn’t even sure what hole I saw a pair of these birds on but I avoided errant shots and got out before the marshal and the security guards threw me out. I didn’t want to ruin it for the next birder.
Our time on the island became an idyll. Stuart listened to podcasts and baked in the sun. Silja and Jan read novels and travel essays by people doing similar things to us, even one by Paul Theroux, Deep South which hit home as we had just been where he was at.
We found small beaches with simple restaurants, fed feral cats, and watched people snorkel off of the South American Continental shelf. We also visited beaches lined by poisonous trees, which in one case had been painted like an octopus. Do the fruit and bark kill you or just make it so that you wish you were dead? We didn’t find out, luckily.
We found abandoned resorts, and looked at the scrub and hills which reminded me of the Edwards plateau of central Texas, complete with cacti and caracaras
And not to forget the birds....stunningly beautiful birds
Blue tailed emerald (male and female below)
northern scrub flycatcher
9 lifers and 2 IOC lifers, these two, a Cayenne tern, no picture, and mangrove warblers which were everywhere
The island has other birds I've seen like Yellow orioles
American flamingos were easily found at two locations
and other critters like the Miller's long-tongued bat which was the only thing that found my hummingbird feeder, the ass-faced toad, and Florida whites, Gulf fritillary butterflies, and hanno blue butterflies, a lifer butterfly
So a perfect trip...sun, sand, surf, birds, beer, butterflies, toads, bats, cats......and I guess goats...
and we also got home despite ....a scare
Curacao, a surprising hidden gem, don't be afraid to go...we'll go back, it is even safe to eat the goat
Thursday, December 27, 2018
Dec 27th 2019
With Blizzard Eboni coming into my house and I just a hop and a pop from the Minneapolis Airport for Christmas and nothing better to do, I caught the last seat out of town for Boston....destination, a bird AND a beer.
The Great Black hawk is a bird of coastal Central America. I have spent hours on hawk watch in Roatan trying to get one and have seen some cool birds....but alas not a great black hawk. It wasn't that surprising when one turned up this late spring overflying South Padre Island in Texas, but it was not chasable. It seemed lucky that someone was there to photograph it. It was even weirder when what many think is the same bird turned up in Maine last summer and then it returned to a park in Portland and for now well over a month has waited patiently for me to get around to going to look for it. This bird needs a map or something.
I arrived early this morning after getting lost in Kennebunkport, Jeb Bush and family were around or so I hear, I had to stay at some inn, and then figure out where I actually was. The things a guy does to avoid tolls.
I figured finding this bird would be easy but alas no. It was not in the park, and then birders got divided into two groups. Those that waited in the park for the bird to eventually show up, and the rest of us who had to go dig it out in the residential section. I have spent my share of time being a "skua" birder, one who gets results from the efforts of others so it was okay for me to go and dig the bird out. Everyone I came in contact with was telling me stories and giving me advise. The bird had saved one guy from buying squirrel traps, and he recommended me staking out his collection of the little devils.
There were fat squirrels everywhere, so I didn't see the point to being in his backyard all day.
The homeless guy sleeping in the park gave me some advice about the majesty of the great hawk and how the hawk made America great, again. This caused me to think. A probable Honduran refugee hawk had immigrated to America and was making America great again. Hum, sort of turns something else on its head. At 9 AM, I heard a single crow mob call, I headed that way and figured I'd nail the bird but instead I found an urbanized barred owl
It was worth a text to the group but only a few walked up the hill to see it. I spooked off the crows and eventually like the hawk, it disappeared.
I went to find McDonald's for a break at 11:15 and then at 11:35 was back at it.
I got a state creeper record for me and then began the tireless slog in the neighborhood. It had to be somewhere.
It was pushing twelve when I stumbled upon a hawk with two other birders, but it wasn't a black hawk, just a coopers hawk, but one that was eating a pigeon.
I circled the residential district and then got a text and was just a half a block away. I looked down the street and another birder was giving me the arm waves from a block away and then I looked between buildings and BINGO!
Great black hawk in the tree posing
I was the second person to see it today. Oddly I was standing in the backyard of the guy with the squirrel problem, so maybe...he was on to something. It was there for an instant and it flew left and then right and eventually it flew out of the neighborhood and landed right in front of the others who then had it pose for them. Fifty birders came out of nowhere as the bird just sat there and posed.
I needed the exercise anyhow, so the walking was good.
Some say the greatest Blackhawk of all time is Bobby Hull, others favor the chief Black Hawk, while I am partial to this "wrong-way" Feldman bird currently residing in Deering Oaks Park in Portland. I'll let you decide but until them.
Lifer bird #801
Ah that sweet taste of blueberry in my lager, got to love Portland!
Better late than never, my RV is in Alabama so could worry about other things like my life list.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
New Madrid, MO
Yesterday, I tempted fate and threw caution into the wind. You see, I made some some vows when I was in high school and then college. This has nothing to do with a bucket list, in fact, it was sort of a "anti' bucket list."
These included mundane items like never eating Doritos again (they affected my system negatively) and never buying a Chrysler product. In medical school I vowed never to do OB again and never work for anybody else.
One of these items I have never broken was to never spend a night with in 100 miles of a New Madrid, MO and especially, Memphis.....never. In fact, I would try to avoid even visiting the area.
IMHO it would not Climate change, a hurricane, nor a tornado that would be the greatest natural disaster to destroy life in this country in my lifetime it would be an earthquake, and not an earthquake in California or Alaska. It would be an earthquake here....in and around New Madrid, MO. When the next big one occurred, it will kill thousands if not more.
Why? On Dec 16th, 207 years ago, a series of 4-7.4 magnitude or better earthquakes (two occured on December 16th alone) rocked the area, with the last and biggest occurring on Feb 7, 1812, centered beneath where I stand in the picture above by the comical sign. It eclipsed 8 on the Richter scale, more powerful than the great San Francisco earthquake and greater than anything outside of Alaska in the USA in human history. These numbers are based on deep movement and due to the nature of the soil, the surface has magnitudes higher which would put three of the events over 8, even higher.
What did it cause? It formed a large waterfall here.
Which took the river many months to fully erode the uplift of the river bottom causing the falls. The process formed a tidal wave that went up the river to St. Louis. It formed a lake, and famously made the river flow backwards for a while as the water needed to reequilibrate. It rang church bells in Boston, cracked buildings in Ohio and killed many of the few settlers in Missouri at that time. Then after the fourth quake, the ground went silent.....or did it....
You may say that was over 200 years ago....it was an isolated event but on October 31, 1895 just a little ways from New Madrid, the fault moved again, the Charleston Missouri Earthquake of 1895 was a 6.7 tremblor. The largest since. It is now building pressures, pressures that will again release.
These have caused sand blows for hundreds of miles. What are sand blows?
liquefaction occurs during ground shaking and builds up pressure below the clay. Eventually this pressure is released through fissures, sometimes a long time after the earthquake and sand volcanoes occur. Ones in Missouri have been estimated to reach tens of meters high and have deposited sand up to 2-3 meters thick.
Oddly, I have sand blows on my property in South Dakota presumably from the 1812 earthquake at New Madrid or the one estimated in 1460 or ones earlier, and this was nearly 700 miles away. Beach heather, a rare wildflower has colonized some of these sand blowouts in Minnesota. So something thrives from these events.
So when this fault goes again....what will happen? I surely won't be standing in the Bass Pro Pyramid in downtown Memphis. Sitting on a silt island, that monstrosity will be the doom of all in it. It will be the most terrible thing to ever befall the country, and yet....people laugh it off. Earthquake construction in Memphis or Jonesboro, Arkansas? Not a chance.....history repeats itself, and well...as I said, I won't be there I hope to see it because, I made a vow not to.
Why did we even go here this time?
I dropped our RV off at the factory in Red Bay, Alabama to get fixed
The direct line home was to New Madrid and I felt like living on the edge. Above is the line up of motor homes waiting in the RV park next to the factory getting something fixed. Not the place I dreamed about hanging around near Christmas. We drove home from there, I'll pick up the rig later. So being here, I wanted to see the sights.....having given the area such a wide berth, I have missed many counties which I now can say I've been in.
So what else happened in and around New Madrid?
A large key battle of the Civil War occurred here. "The Battle of Island Number 10" Which in the spring of 1862, probably doomed the Confederacy. An error to not relieve the besieged forces on the citadel across the river in the "Kentucky Bend" of the river nor protect the troops at New Madrid allowed Grant's assault on Shiloh and Vicksburg. How this critical location was lost is almost comical. Generals Johnston and Polk never understood the importance of the place and it was very important and immediately General Beauregard realized building up the defenses of this loop of the river was priority one, but he fell ill, no one else was in charge. The fort and the area never got fully ready for the assault that was to come and those left were too timid to do what was necessary.
It is my opinion that if the Confederacy would have held this location at all costs, we would be living in a split nation. The long bloody road to Vicksburg would have been delayed and after the debacles of the Union army in Virginia in 1862 and 1863 would have caused a loss of appetite for the war and the Union would have sued for peace. The northern border of Tennessee would have been extended westward and quite possibly moved north and I would be standing in a different country in New Madrid in 2018......oh what could have been....I guess it was good the Confederates had such bad leadership outside of Virginia. Maybe WWI would have played out different and well, WWII would have never happened either, who knows, but for the unfortunate timing of a sick general.
There are some things I would have missed from the south....The South gave us Elvis, Coca-Cola and...Waffle House. .The greatest loss for me would be the Waffle House.
I love Waffle House....I believe Waffle House IS America.....My favorite movie with a Waffle House is Tin Cup. There is an urban legend that since Waffle Houses are always open, they do not have locks on their doors. The one above in Columbia, MO has a lock. I was in one in North Carolina that didn't.
I could say I missed Jax beer too, but I never got to taste it. I became legal to drink in 1984 the time when Pearl brewing stopped making it. Jax brewery in New Orleans closed in 1974.
oh well...I still got Waffle House
I got my lifer Missouri Mockingbird, LOL.
They had cool mansions.....
New Madrid was founded as a seat of Spanish power so the Spanish Military road ended there
It was traded to France in the late 18th Century and sold to us as part of Louisiana
The craziest thing that happened here was the feud, which took place across the river., Which here is south.
The earthquake (or the previous one) created a huge meander in the river which when surveyed left an isolated loop across the river from New Madrid which was part of Kentucky, called "the Bend" Tennessee even claimed it for 40 years but gave up.
Life on the Bend wasn’t always so dull. For sixty years, a violent feud – sparked by an argument over a horse, or maybe a cow – raged between the Darnell and Watson families. Mark Twain wrote about the feud in Life on the Mississippi, saying “in no part of the South has the vendetta flourished more briskly, or held out longer between warring families, than in this particular region…Every year or so, somebody was shot, on one side or the other, and as fast as one generation was laid out, their sons took up the feud and kept it a-going.”
The feud ended in the late 1800s when the last of the Darnells, an elderly father and his two sons, decided to flee the Bend by steamboat. The Watsons were told of the escape plans (word travels fast when there’s only 300 people) and showed up just as the Darnells were about to leave. They opened fire from the riverbank, killing the younger Darnells and snuffing out the family line. Being in a county not connected with the rest of the county and forty miles away, there was no law.
Talk about holding a grudge.....forgiveness....forgetting? Not a chance.
The other good thing about this visit is...I survived! I went to New Madrid, tempted fate and I live on.....I may have to go through again to go get the rig. Can I play New Madrid Roulette a second time?
At least I didn't get anyone local mad at me....those crazy southern feuds
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
A note to update. Well, the RV made it south but it was not without some issues down here.
First, despite no engine lights, when we finally hooked up the full water west of Tallahassee we blew a water line, later in Lutz, when we were having a repairman look at it, the leak was where the feederline for the hot water heater went into the coach behind the shower. To repair it would take quite a bit of work and many people. Large items would have to be removed. No one here wanted to have any part of this. The result.... we will be stopping at Red Bay, Alabama (the home of Tiffin) to get it fixed on the way home and drop it off for a while. and.....we would therefore be camping this entire trip without having water.
Secondly, I ate that lettuce, you know, the lettuce they recalled. I got salmonella and had a week of abdominal pain, but I fought it for days and before I started myself on antibiotics, diagnosing myself with....appendicitis, an ulcer, alcohol induced gastritis, a kidney stone, an appendicitis again, and e. coli from bad hamburger. It went away as we left Pasco County Florida on our way to Poinsiana.
Thirdly, I have had a bit of amnesia.....walking home from the bar the other night after the Eagles loss,, my right knee started to hurt and then swelled up. I really hadn't been drinking that much...really. There was this white Russian someone bought me and...? This has slowed up my birding somewhat, and led to my third sleepless night due to pain on this trip. I guess it is always something. I just wish I remember what I did....
Some say I was singing Grandma got run over by a Reindeer in front of a restaurant but I corrected them, that was Saturday night, NOT Sunday night.
Despite feeling like death earlier last week, we went out with a bunch of couples for Buddhist breakfast near Tampa
The temple was quite nice again and despite having something eating away on my inside, the Thai noodle soup was to die for and later, I almost did. but....it was worth it. A word to the wise...if they recall lettuce again....don't eat any! .
So we got over to Central Florida. We met up with couples from St Martin. My stomach held and we survived a rather odd Christmas show although truth be told, our guests Paul and Nancy left before the "show" started....they could be said to have been the lucky ones.
I could describe this event in great detail but let me say you had to be there. It was actually undescribable and not necessarily in a good way. Have you ever had the morbid fascination of being unable to look away? I chose this picture as no one is recognizable to avoid calling out anyone who may not want to be known to have been here. Alvin's Christmas carol and Dominic the Donkey, which I hope to never hear again.
Back to birding.....
Someone reported a smooth-billed ani up the road a few miles so I drove up to chase it.since it is a good bird, especially way up north near Orlando
I was recognized by a local resident Barbara Taylor who I let post my picture on Facebook.and that made me laugh for a morning.
I chased some of the hard to get local birds, all year birds for my rather mundane list which should top out near 400 for the year.
Snail kite photos are always special
Muscovy ducks flew in
My wife Silja liked this red-bellied woodpecker with an acorn...
Despite some cool weather, we also spied a few butterflies, nothing exciting but a few lifers no less
large orange sulphur
We've had the lucky fortune to reconnect with St.Martin AND Minneapolis friends down here so far. I feel like had a social outing every day which when I think about it, we had.
It is cold outside for here, 44, and I'm sitting here writing this with a gimpy right knee, but all is well, even if the local spa/massage office is closed today, I'll have to find something else to do....oh the problems I have to ponder. Maybe...I'll go birding....
All I can say is.....Don't drink and walk
If I could only remember what I did
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