Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas!

7 days from now I'll be hopefully in a dog park in Florida tallying a rare bird, but a lot can happen in even a week.  My Big Year awaits, meanwhile I'm in Wisconsin celebrating Christmas, eating potato sausage, egg bake, opening presents and having good cheer.

My son Allwin returned from Bonn, Germany and his studies, I picked him up at the airport yesterday and like the prodigal son, he has returned, but was a little jet-lagged.

Here he is with Grandmother Lucille, generation 1 and 4 in our family together.  Everyone had to get photographed with their new hats and scarves, this in Grandmother's present and this is my sister's hat and glove set

Yea...what would a Packer shareholder wear for Christmas?  Nobody had enough courage to give anyone a purple and gold hat...

My mother goes all out for Christmas, Christmas china, twenty decorated trees, fancy Spode Christmas China...

My daughter holding my Niece, Lily next to the table all set for Grandmother Lucille's Christmas Meatball Dinner.

Another of the many trees in this home.

My Christmas tradition is my annual Christmas letter, which I got out a week ago and this year's done using quotes from Victor Hugo, so if you didn't get one consider yourself lucky.

It is also traditional that all the men go Ice-fishing on Christmas day but due to El Nino, this is only the second year we have no ice on Big Wood Lake in my lifetime,

The ice edge out about 150 feet from my mom's house with a pair of American Crows looking for anything organic that may have been blown up on the ice.  The last dip out so to speak on ice fishing was in the winter of 1997-98 when the Big El Nino led to Sandy Komito's very BIG YEAR!  I can only hope....

I ice-fished that December using an tractor inner-tube tied by a rope to a tree in our front yard where we lived 80 miles north of here.  I don't remember the fish biting terribly well and it was 'cool' seeing the tube pushing down the two inches of ice when I was near my hole.  Seeing the water come out of the hole can be unnerving to those not used to ice fishing on the edge.

Unable to fish this year, we hiked in our snow covered forest and I called in a dozen black-capped chickadees impressing my twins, we found 4 trumpeter swans, I flushed a ruffed grouse, and and we watched gray squirrels feed in the few inches of snow.

We opened gifts and Santa was good to me!!  I got what I wanted for Christmas, detailed road atlases of California, Texas, and Arizona, so hopefully, I wont get lost next year.  How did you do?  I hope you all have had as wonderful of a Christmas as I have and had time to spend with your families, next year, I may not have much time to spend with family trying for rare birds, although in 2012, I got a Boreal Owl driving at dusk to Grandmother's house on Christmas eve.  That story is well done in my birding adventure book so I wont repeat but one never knows what miracle can happen on Christmas.

My daughter Lauren Elizabeth "Lena" 15, twins Allwin, and Tyko, aged 20 wife Silja, and me, Olaf the large, and Bjorn the Christmas bear who sneaked into the photo

Merry Christmas!

God Jul!!

The next report will be from somewhere on the road, rare birds are being reported in Yuma, Victoria BC, Florida, south Texas, Ohio, Nova Scotia, and south of Montreal, where I may end up is a guarded secret but I could be anywhere!
Maybe I'll run into some of you.
See you on the trail


Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Trumpeter Swans in Ice Flows of St Croix River Sunday

December 1, 2015

1 month to go.  I have been spending my last month working on logistics of a big year and I don't think most birders even know much work this takes, or is appreciated by birders.  It certainly isn't for the non-birders.  You really just can't go on a big year, maybe Neil Hayward did, although nothing is truly accidental, and even with unlimited funds, sometimes you just can't go to certain venues or trips.  Here it is December 1, 2015 and already stuff is full up or really really tight to get anything...or worse, no one will take a reservation.

1) There are no open tour slots for Gambell in June, at least that I know of., I have scheduled a Wilderness Tour for a couple of days but that is now full, too.  There is also no way to stay there on one's own as rooms are full during that period.

The fall WINGS tour may still have an opening, but the people who schedule Gambell are unwilling to commit to giving any independent a room pending confirm on what the tour(s) will be needing, and as they wont commit until May, it may be a while.  All this and if you go independently you have to ship in food ahead of time...

2) The May Repo Pacific coast cruise tours are full and have been for sometime but I was able to book as an independent, Both my January and February Pelagics are now full and I'm trying to get the May Adak Pelagic full so it still goes. Everyone, it seems wants to go on trips that cuase me the most pain and not on the ones I need them to go on. Even the auto tour going up Mt. Washington is starting to fill up in June.  Who says birding is a dying hobby.

I think I also got the last rooms under $300 a night in Key West in April.  Last time I was there the only rooms available past Marathon were $1100/ night.  I actually joked with the woman at the desk and asked if a woman came with that.  She whispered "No, but for a few hundred extra, that could be arranged.  Would you have any preference for hair color and you can't add that to the credit card.  I guess I could book it as incidentals."  I kind of didn't know what to say at that point. Only in Key West can an escort be a rounding error in the price of the room, wait, that isn't just Key West..........

3) Nome in June.  Nome is another game of chicken.  The Aurora Inn won't confirm a room or for that mater even acknowledge you sent an email asking for one.  They will wait on the tours for early June.  So there may be a room with a couple of weeks left. The Nugget doesn't always have towels and when they do, there may not be hot water and they don't take your name for reservations only a number, no number, sorry.  This year, they had 6 no shows and I know three of them was me (and I was there..I kept loosing the numbers).  The Dredge #7 is between the two.  Last year, I fought and fought rental cars, even thinking of shipping a car in, I got one with help of the new Mayor Richard Benneville, then I arrived and found 20 unused cars.  I got the last open rental for June for next year at the end of September, again, I suspect, they'll have empty cars.  I got sick of awaiting on the Aurora Inn manger to alot rooms so Dredge had their last room available and so I took it,

"no cars to rent in Nome"

One of the Nome goal birds--Arctic Warbler

4) The most expensive "super-saver" scheduled flight in North America is the Anchorage to Adak flight, listed as of this writing at $1250 round trip.  So I guess a guy should just pay that right?
Now I don't have any Alaska Air miles, but last time I went, i could book it on their code share partner...Delta.  I have tons of Delta miles.  But alas NO!  Every other Alaska flight but not this one..

Plan B:  However, you can book it on America using American miles.  But alas I don't have miles there either, but I could buy American miles and it would take just 25,000 miles for the flight.  Cost $635 for the miles and then $10 for the flight.  Total  $640

Plan C:  I also have tons of AMEX points.  I can switch them to all kinds of miles, Delta, Aeroplan, but alas Not American and especially NOT Alaska.  However, at a ratio of 12 points for ten miles, I can switch them to British Air Avios miles.  AND because they are a partner for American I can buy the flight for only 15,000 miles...YEA!...?.....Unfortunately, you can't book Alaska Air directly on BA, you have to call them.  I read the internet that said British Air has the worst phone customer service in the industry worldwide.  They (like British Air) recommended calling Singapore office....really Singapore?  Their office is open 9-5, and what time is that in South Dakota.  I called the listed number for here.  In a very pleasant British accent..."Your wait time is 95 minutes."  Really?  then after 40 minutes I got cut off.  Sh&&t

Plan D:  I opened an Alaska Airlines miles account.  So far so good.  I can buy enough miles (I only need 15,000) too.  The cost...$420.  Wait, I can buy miles for $420 or just buy the flight for $1250.....what kind of f'd up system is that?  WHY WOULD YOU EVER BUY THE FLIGHT?  I plugged in my new number.  I got the "Account not eligible to purchase miles"  response....really?  I now have to wait to 10am to be able to call customer service.....apparently one can't buy miles unless they've been a member for a period of time, I don't know what to do?

Probably take the American air price? Bird in the hand?
I cashed in my for a hotel in Anchorage at least that saved some money.  I get a free night but only worth $73.....where can a guy stay for that?  I still had to pay $100

Laysan's Albatross is one of many key birds seen off of Adak at sea

Land, sea, and air, it all requires frequently advance reservations hope and prayer.  Hope you are going and a prayer you'll make it.....This not to mention questions like do I go to Nome in February or November?  Can I do all of the pacific NW in June?  and the daily questions like chase or not to chase?  But those will come in 31 more days.....31 more days!??!!?

I don't know whether to be afraid, excited, or what?


Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...