Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Big Year Preparations are underway!

It is September!

4 months to go and I can't put my head under the water, I need to get ready for my BIG YEAR!
so I decided to review my whole preparation for this big year

I am getting this blog template figured out and now know how to get pictures up on it, and becoming more savvy but that is only a start to the process

I am well on my way in other items in getting prepared for my Big Year and below is the list of items I have to get done ahead of time for me to succeed.  I write this here and now for all of you to understand the commitment and effort planning an adventure like this entails.

This is what i think is needed besides too much spare cash for the actual budget, as really there can't be a budget for this adventure, it costs what it costs, you do what has to be done, but the first thing is once admitting that is you still need to......

1.  Get a plan

I have developed a plan and along the way have pre scouted most places that seemed difficult so that I got a few bugs worked out and I know where to go
Since January, I have been to, Newfoundland, Hatteras,NC, Florida, Nome, Alaska, Colorado, Texas, Montana/AB/BC and Arizona, seeing 516 species without putting much effort into that.  I have my massive opening salvo, a South Texas sprint done as a dress rehersal with my daughter in January so I can recreate it

My plan is NOT foolproof as i don't know how to account for el Nino, nobody does and I have started making reservations for things already

You cant say that I will expect to get a Northern hawk owl in Eau Claire WI in January

But I bet I will get a black-whiskered vireo within 20 feet of where i got this bird in Long Key State Park in April, but one can only plan so much, although going to Nome was really helpful, as was Newfoundland

2.  Get the most up to date checklist from ABA

This seems simple but the ABA lists change, both with new appearances of vagrants never before seen and how they handle exotics

will they add the Mitred Parakeet?
Not that this is a big deal as finding one in Miami is like finding humidity but as of this second, it doesn't count.  Last year they added the near-extirpated birds back in.  These birds include the California Condor, the Wisconsin resident Whooping cranes,

 and the Aplomato Falcon, which has always been an issue for Big Year counting, but it now counts for sure, I have to go and get the condor, the falcon counts, and I know that I can always get the crane in Wisconsin if needed, luckily that was the 2014 change so I can plan on these treks.

Maybe they will add another exotic and what if I don't know where to find it?  Finding a Hill Myna isn't always so easy.

3.  I need to get angry but not too angry.

In general my feeling in life is a bit like Rodney Dangerfield...no respect.  I have been marginalized and scoffed at from my Falun Sucker Club days (is that a long story), school sports, academics, medical school residency, to business, to college, to even finding someone to marry me.  But somehow I succeeded....how?  Tell me I can't do something or that I have no place to do something and it makes me mad, then I just put my ears back and can literally go 24/7 towards a goal, almost any goal.  I can be very competitive.

But.......I don't always like it when I get this driven and part of me hopes this doesn't happen with this, I have learned success is all right and well and good but life is about the journey and not the end.  I have many examples like this, I built a large company on spite alone, but I remember my summer between college and high school.  Back then I was golfing sometimes 4-5 rounds (first light until after dusk) a day to get my handicap down to make the college golf team, yes I won a trophy at a tourney at the end of that summer after all of that golf. I actually made the team as a Freshman but when I got there I didn't like the team and I got sick of golf, so I ended up hanging up my golf cleats after my first college tourney and totally stayed away from the sport for 6 years, and then afterwards golf has only been something of an occasional occurrence.  I did 9 holes for my first swings in 3 years last week.  It is probably not a good to do this for birding and right now I have nothing against anyone who I need to leap-frog to get the record, I'm not sure I want to do that.  I have to decide if getting 720 species will make me feel complete, or if I have to find someone to motivate me negatively........life is too short to let others get you, so I need to work on keeping this in check

4.  Ask wife if really okay to do this and convince my 15yo daughter to do a "Junior Big Year"

There is never a good time to do this but I will be 50 next year and well, I'm not getting any younger.

Wife approves! Now Lauren has also fully committed, finally so at  least if she is hanging out with me, I wont loose a year of her life.  Kids are only around for so long.  Unfortunately my wife, Silja can't handle boats with severe motion sickness so she cant come along on many of the trips and she has to supervise my teenager so if said teenager comes with I wont get too lonely.  I think the loneliness of the road is my biggest obstacle to completing this adventure.  Kids grow up way to quickly and this adventure will make great college admission essay material.

Her big year will cost me money but well the memories...priceless?

5.  Make travel as easy and painless as possible, and as cheap as possible.

Gold Elite
I need one more flight to get Delta Gold Medallion status to avoid regular check-in, and security lines and the status also allows me upgrades to better seating.  I get a free checked bag.  Living where I live, Delta is the best for flight options, it also works for WestJet and Alaska, but you have to be at least Gold status.
I also have Platinum AMEX card for free lounge access and occasionally I still will have to fly United to Midland, McAllen TX or Denver, so I have a United Visa for free luggage there, and maybe I'll even have enough miles for a free flight

FFlier Miles
I have nearly 800K miles for Delta now, allowing me to book expensive Alaska Airline flights using miles and allowing me last minute flights on the cheap for the year.  I can probably milk this for at least 20 flights, I hope

Hertz Gold
The line in San Antonio and Phoenix to get a rental car has taken me up to 2 hours, with Hertz gold, I think I can save 12 hours in line during a calendar year

6.  Proper decked out birding-mobile

Now of course as you can see my car needs a bath, but this Volvo XC60 is the best birding car.  My biggest mileage year for a car was some time back when I rolled 76,000 miles on a new car, eclipsing the warranty in only 4 mos!  This car is easy to drive, good clearance for bad roads, AWD, and has comfy seats, it is usually quiet although if it gets hot, its one drawback is it has a really noisy cooling fan you cant turn off.  This current car (2013) just turned 50K and I will undoubtedly not need 76K miles to complete the big year but to live out of it for at least some time, one needs about 4,000 worth of stuff.
-  small tent, camping stove, sleeping bag, pillow 
- Yukon Cooler, these things can keep a sandwich cold for a week
- plug in air compressor for flat tires
- XM-Sirius radio, so if no local stations, no problem
- The tires for this car are hard to find so I bought a new set and plan on keeping a tire in the car in case I get the same problem I had in Alberta, any yahoo can mount it, but I cant be sitting around waiting for a tire

- New Bicycle and bike rack for the back of my car, and to put this on my volvo I need a new receiver hitch.  My last Bicycle was a 1991 Trek, this shift 3, Trek is more upright and better to bird off of and it will me allow to bird the road at Laguna Atascosa in Texas, which is currently closed to autos, damn ocelots or damn drivers hitting ocelots. 

my daughter's Volvo also needs a bath, but that is another issue.
-state road atlases for Texas, AZ, Oklahoma, California, Florida, and Colorado for sure are all on my Christmas list, I have Montana, Alberta, South Dakota, and Saskatchewan

7.  Birding equipment

here is my list....
-quality spotting scope, digiscoping equipment, bins, tri-pod, camera, telephoto lens, ibird and Sibley's iphone app, an iphone checklist program, field guides, hiking backpack, water bottles...I all have and I really like my new Tamron 150-600 lens, cheap, lightweight and if destroyed...insured and not that much of a loss.  I need a new skylight for it as screwed that up in Canada, I may also need a newer Iphone since my i5 was replaced in 2013 when previous version was run over in western Texas by a Halliburton truck.  

I also need a new head for my tri-pod, I will look at that tomorrow in Minneapolis after getting my hitch.

8.  Get in shape

I'm in pretty good birding shape as having birded quite a bit this year all over, but I need to get my Fat bum back into shape.  Hiking and Biking whatever so when I go to Texas in December I don't die. The real reason I'm doing this big year is that it may prolong my life a year by being more fit....at least one can hope.  This is a work in progress 

9.  Attire


An army can only go as far as their feet and stomach's carry them at least according to General Patton. Footwear is the key.

 My snake boots are legendary, they work well in Alaska (waterproof), protect legs from biting bugs, of course mandatory in snake country, and well even up here in the cold (warm).  I can hike all day in them any temp and well they are me. Sometimes, literally, like this Attu photo, they are all I wear

Now I am also breaking in a 2nd pair of hiking boots
my daughter needs to get a pair of these this fall and break them in.  One has to remember your feet.  I didn't wear them one day on Attu and I screwed up my big toe which still bothers me.

the same vein is Clothing

Did I say that?  Really?  This is a clothed big year and as such, I need a better rain coat and wash and wear shirts, lots of long wool socks 'skiing' for hiking...wool it breathes.  I think I like my collection so I think I'm ready.

10.  Finally, get the other stuff done this year

I got my 25th Anniversary out of the way this year as well as my parents 40th. in October

Get all the big fish caught and out of your system

I'm trying to get all of my pending fiction done and out to publisher, like I secured the rights to this photo for my Sjofn book will be the last of my unfinished fiction to get done

Book events...?  Not next year, I have two in September.

Get all the travel out of the ABA area done, we are doing St.Martin in October as wont be able to go in 2016, sniff sniff, tear tear

Get my co-ed nude sand volleyball playing out of me as I will be in St Paul Island in Alaska when the tourney goes around in 2016

No art auctions, get the art restoration work done, don't start any new hobbies, no new novels..etc.

Take care of my business and sell unwanted crap, like the extra mower now, take care of painting in 2015, buy the new car for wife in 2015, get the counter tops done now etc, 

Get all my dental and medical work done this year, Colonoscopy..?..2017, tooth implant...October

Well that is the list, it is going to be a long year.....almost as long as the wait for it to start........

one cant plan for everything but I am at least planning for some contingencies, I have Canadian cash in my go bag, passport is cool, I will have evac insurance for Alaska, somebody told me I should even buy a handgun....that may be overkill


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