Monday, April 25, 2016

My stint in California

Northern California
Big Year Days 115-116

Let me just say....I just am a ping pong ball, getting slapped around at both ends of the table.  But that may not be just me...I don't know.  There is no I in Olaf, but there is a whole lot of o, as in Oh no, oh my, and the big one, Oh my God.....

Big Year Total:  609
Coded Birds:  46

Miles driven.  24850
Flight Miles 66,900
flight segments: 71   Different Airports: 32
Hours at sea: 30
Miles walked 149
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded: 23
other animals seen:  gray whale, dolphin, bobcat, ringtailed cat, elk, bighorn, jackalope, feral pig, California sea lion, harbor seal, bedbugs

FIRST A few comments from my last blog, one, thanks for the ID support on that Philly vireo, yea, I scrapped that right after I put the blog out there, it was a bad ID day, I also am pretty sure I missed a solitary sandpiper that day too thinking about it, I saw a sandpiper with an orange bill and got distracted, yea what has an orange bill?  Really?  I showed a couple of birders and then got the digiscope stuff out of my pocket and it went into the weeds, a USO, unindentified sandpiper object, but I just forgot about that sandpiper next to it and too late now, and the un-vireo ...I marked it as a orange crowned warbler, so no worries, life isn't so easy all the time.  I didn't count it,

SECOND Some of you have confronted me on the Bed Bugs

1) YES, they were bed bugs, not chiggers, why?
I have bites below the sock line and in lines like above the knee, a little higher up the leg, higher still, and a forth in what Mike Myers calls the mommy daddy region, I have a bite on my 4th knuckle right hand, and on my foot, all non-chigger locations, beside a bit on my bum, back, etc.  Also, I hiked all day with Jim T, he was wearing shorts, I had on snake boots with pants tucked in in chigger precaution, he got NO chiggers, and no bites, as we had separate rooms, his was apparently not infested.  If chiggers, he should have had some too. In my humble medical opinion and well, I do own an MD degree, BTW.  University on Minnesota Medical School Class of 1992 etc......bed bugs.  I AM an idiot 99.9% of the time, escpecially camera issues and maybe birding issues, too...but no, these were bed bugs.

2) I stayed at Texas Inn in Weslaco, TX (I thought I was clear).  I noticed the bites that morning and then badly the next day heading north.  I cannot blame the Motel 6 then in Kingsville.  I think Texas Inn it was north of I-2 on Hwy 88, BUT I may have location wrong, there are a few of them.  I was tired and wasn't paying attention, I have eaten at the restaurant across the street  before and that was coming down from Hargill Playa so I assume it was on Tx-88.  DON'T STAY THERE!

THIRD  Largely this blog is meant to entertain.  It is somewhat to document the year but unless I get 750 who really cares and even if I do, I can't document enough.  I doubt I'll write a book on the year.  So some of this is to help me remember. I'm sorry, I am whom I am. I don't have an agenda, other than a now 50 year old guy who is retired...yes, I'll say it.  What I'm getting out of this year is the kindness of strangers....some cool birds and well something to do.

FOURTH.  Apparently I have earned a disclaimer on the ABA site about my blog.  Oh well. Maybe that is a badge of honor?  If you read "Boobies Peckers, ..." I won't say it, and most of you haven't, my last adventure would have gotten a big red X.  I did move the blog around around today but it wasn't because of that.  I guess if you can't handle a rather tame Anders Zorn Painting on the cover from....1916  "Vatn" (He is THE master artist of Sweden) which is privately owned (sold for 1.2 million about 10 years ago), you have larger issues.  It is a museum piece....

Okay...caught up

Let me just summarize what happened yesterday.  I broke a record.  I may even send it to the record people.  I not only had one Jet bridge failure, not two but plane out of San Antonio was two hours late as....they couldn't get the bridge to work when they had to come back in for some one to sign off on the plane's safety, and that was after they swapped planes with the Minneapolis plane.  When we got to Salt Lake, they ran over the power cable to the bridge or the bridge did, you could see it, they had to push it off, tighten up the cable and then reattach, but late already, it didn't matter.  At Sacramento, it just didn't work, and they had to find stairs, remember those?   Well they did eventually, the captain was saying we might have to use the emergency chutes, but he was kidding, I was in the front and it was just something to do while we waited for an hour.  Older people panicked at using the stairs, it was a circus.  Many took pictures, like somehow using the stairs to board a plane is something camera Alaska to Adak is OUTSIDE!  I vowed not to post a picture here.

Okay, I was supposed to be in Sacramento by 0930, I got here by 130, but no matter, the Marsh sandpiper didn't get here at all yesterday.  It had already departed for points unknown........

Already giving up at 230 PM I drove hard for the back-up bird, at the eastern terminus of the San Francisco Bay near Santa Clara, 100 miles away.  There problems arose, like it was windy, not just a little, but somewhere between a tempest and a zephyr.  40 mph...more? It was blowing peeps all over the place and worse, I met a helpful local guy who said, nobody had seen the stint after the tide had come in.  I worked my way down the the dike as sea form flew into me.  A guy said there was a phalarope out there and I put down my scope, a gust hit my front lens cap as I was taking it off and it sailed out into the water, more lost and damaged equipment.  It was a red-necked phalarope and I needed it.

I worked down to the hardiest of the birders as the rest were packing it in as the wind came up more and more...they were hunkered down and as I walked in I heard one say, "got it!"  I didn't have anything but Westerns.  I looked their way,  I still didn't have it, then they struggled over and showed us, nice people these Californians and oddly, one knew me through Darlene Moore, the woman who took me in during the busted goose stakeout in Connecticut.  Thanks again Darlene. You are the gift that keeps on giving.  Everyone is so nice.    

So then I high-tailed it (one of my favorite Wisconsin slang terms) back to Davis, where it turns out all the hotels were full.  Except, the woman at Quality Inn snickered, Motel 6.  She wouldn;t expand on that.  I went to Motel 6, they had a room, and well I was blunt.  "Do you have bed bugs?"  I asked..."no!" She said.  "Then why do you have the only rooms available in town?"  She shrugged.  I smiled "no murders, drug labs, dead bodies..."  I couldn't think of anything more..."no" she said.  I checked in.  Do you want to know why it was empty?  I'll get to that.

Summary of the day...
April 24, 2015
Alviso Marina Park, Santa Clara Cty California

#607  Red-necked phalarope (I took this photo though on 4/25 at Yolo Bypass)

#608 Little Stint

A western sandpiper is on the left in the bottom one.  It was a good secondary target and a lifer bird, I celebrated it, lifer beer and all, my quite modest lifer total of 741 now, at a place called Cindy's they served Thai food on Sundays and oddly had a different name for that day only, that is when I heard of the pitfalls of my hotel choice next door.

It made me drink the beer....why me?  Is it the beard?  Is it my opinionated persona?  Is it the nudity on my book cover jackets?  Maybe it is.

Okay, the Motel 6, was evacuated as was the entire block just before and the Motel 6 woman did NOT lie to me......a guy in a room that was next to mine, had pipe bombs, not look alike pipe bombs but real, ready to blow up pipe bombs and nobody knew why at the restaurant.  I don't know if they arrested the guy.  I am afraid to read the article.  Here is the link if you think I'm BSing you.

I can't make this stuff up.  I think he was in room 208, I was in 206.  I thought about razzing the woman at check in but I was too tired and where else was I to go?  There were NO rooms.  You wonder why I get bedbugs...I need to think about camping now that it is warm, but I've had fire ants camping.....thanks again to Darlene Moore for sparing one night of potential crap at a hotel for me.  This woman is an angel.

April 25

The winds pounded Yolo Bypass all morning and I did get a year bird, maybe the fastest Vaux's swift fly-by ever, down wind and he or she was booking east.  Whoosh!  I almost didn't register the sighting in my brain.

#609 Vaux's swift

I couldn't have kept a camera on it if I tried.  I had seen one the night before over I-605, but I had no idea where I was and I wasn't going to text or log the bird in 80 mph "all hands traffic," so I'll count this one,

I did photograph some birds I hadn't yet in 2016,

western kingbird, counted in Texas.

Cinnamon teal, counted like in January.

That is about it, except for a passing thought.  When I drive around California, I think of how wonderful this place was in the 60s and 70s, at least for a non-ethnic person like me.  There were riots in Watts, I guess. I feel bad I missed the rest of the boom in California (not the riots).  I had written my opinions below about what I have seen this year, the politics, the questions we the Americans aren't asking our leaders, or maybe they are too hard so we just try to change something, but I just deleted it, ........there....all you guys want is birds...I guess.  I'm sorry.  I monologued in my 2013 adventure BPT occasionally but this is better.  

I'm tired.   I need to get home.

FWIW, I got three birds, I guess, but as I boarded my plane back to Key West today, the Cuban vireo is absent and I have come to the realization that the big year is finished in terms of any records in all likelihood, 750 is a tall order and one can't make any errors.  It is lonely birding alone for stretches and by going to Texas and meeting a friend flying in, (how could I ask him to eat a plane ticket?), I had cost myself 3 birds, at least two anyhow.  The stint I will probably see again in St Paul in August, so not much of a reward.  I appreciated a friend from Duluth, JG encouraging me today.  Many people are happy I did what I did, that is okay, I am happy every time I see the White Sox or the Pats lose.  I'll keep plugging, I have to go to the Keys anyhow for the nighthawk and the roseate tern, maybe I'll get lucky with a good fallout in the morning.  You know, only a couple of handfuls of people have seen 700 birds in a year.  I will, too, unless I like, get injured.

  Critical Birds I still need (five most worrisome non-Alaskan).

1) Gray Vireo
2) Yellow Rail
3) Saltmarsh sparrow
4) Dusky Grouse
5) Manx Shearwater

Any intel or help in getting any of these is much appreciated, some other birds are tougher but I have leads on them.




  1. Revere beach just north of Boston is a good bet for Manx in the summer. I think there's good habit there for saltmarsh sparrow as well but I have no first hand knowledge to share.

  2. If you fly into Portland, ME you can get Saltmarsh sparrow at Scarborough Marsh less than 10 miles from the airport. From there you can drive to Bar Harbor and take the nature observation/ whale watching boat trips and get manx shearwater reliably. There is also a birding festival in Maine at the beginning of June, the downeast birding festival, with a pelagic trip with space available where Manx is highly likely. You can also do a few hour drive to Saddleback or the white mountains in new hampshire to get Bicknell's thrush. It'll be a few weeks until saltmarsh sparrow get here, but just keep an eye on ebird

    1. Thanx. I'm scheduled for mt Washington on last tour up. In June flying to Portland. I assume I'll still need puffin then. I've been looking at ne for sparrow. I've never birded between jersey and Newfoundland so at a bit of a disadvantage up there

    2. You won't have any trouble getting Saltmarsh at Scarborough, and getting puffin is very easy in the summer, you've got nothing to worry about. Drive up to New Harbor (near Bristol, Maine), it takes an hour and a half from Portland. There's a company called Hardy Boat Cruises that will take you for a spin around Eastern Egg Rock Island where puffins breed. Also breeding there are Arctic Tern and Roseate Tern both of which it looks like you still need. You'll get good looks at all of them. Last year's long-staying Little Egret just showed up again this year, we got to see it on Sunday. It's also <10 miles from the Portland airport.

  3. You may need another CO stop. Gray Vireo is in Colorado Nat. Monument, Grand Junction. Dusky Grouse are around (Grand Canyon of the Gunnison?) Thor might be able to get you on one near Manning Park too.

    1. But they stop singing soon don't they ? Komito didn't get a gray vireo and I didn't appreciate significance of that.

    2. I get Gray Vireo in the Moab, Ut area (not far from Colo Natl Monument) pretty easy through the end of July.

    3. well thanks, email me at we may have to talk, not sure when it fits out there but I may need the grouse or something else, still got migrants to nab

  4. Gray Vireo-there are some near Phoenix and I'm sure you may go back to AZ for Tufted Fly and nightjar. Saltmarsh Sparrow near Portland ME. Go there for Puffin and Little Egret. A Little Egret is back where the One that summered near Portland was last year. Hang in there. Even Komito and Neil Hayward missed a few. -Mark

  5. Hi, I saw you yesterday at the Little Stint and am enjoying your blog. I don't know if this is you but someone posted to SBB (south bay birds) yahoo group that they found a lens cap.

    Found a lens cap for a spotting scope at the little stint location yesterday. Contact me via email.

    Don Pendleton
    East Palo Alto
    His email is

    Happy Birding. Vicki

    1. Thanks. Yea bet that is miine sent email. See you California birders are so nice. Good thing I whined about it. Lol

  6. lost your lens cap?? again?? thing is for sure..drama follows you like bad entertain...we laugh...keep up the great work...actually gonna be sad when the new year hits...its gonna be like "what, olaf is done..NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!" now what the hell we gonna do for entertainment??? go ice fishing?? and only on your blog do we have arguments over bed bugs v chiggers...who gives a rats hiney?? they both hurt and unless you are the owner of the aforementioned hotel, its really a moot subject. Oh and one more thing, "its not like I am gonna write a book"??!!! puh leez. those of us who know you, know better!! keep plugging my friend, you are keeping those of us on the sidelines well entertained and we are cheering wildly and screaming at the TV just like rabid NFL fans.

    1. and those of us who don't know you hope you write a book!

  7. Saltmarsh sparrow (Cape Sable race) s pretty regular near Mahogany Hammock in the Everglades. Not too far from Key West.

    1. That is a Seaside Sparrow not the Saltmarsh Sparrow.

  8. How can Yellow Rail be a problem, have you been quarantined from Minnesota?

    Don't be sad, Olaf, you've already surpassed my US list (not that I work on it) and I'm about 102 years old... and it's only April!

    1. 102. Lol. I've spent some effort in Minnesota albeit probably too late in trying to call up a rail. Made my wife once almost die of laughter in mscgregor called up a wolf even in that reguge no rails. I have seen three never heard.

  9. Did you rule out White-throated Swift on your year bird ID? They are far more common than Vaux's at Yolo Bypass and over the freeway. White-throated often appears all black in less than ideal viewing conditions.

    1. I actually saw it over the pond east of parking lot d. It was small I'm actually more used to seeing white throateds actually A friend of my be who had staked out the marsh had seen them too well a couple until he left Sunday. Well he saw the sandpiper. It seems every time I see vaux it is a fly by. Oregon and Montana. I didn't mark the second bird as anything as could have been a swift or a swallow or a ufo. Sure looked like vaux to my eye. It was almost a full horizon view. Definitely a swift not a swallow. I spent an afternoon trying to photograph a white throated on Mexican border earlier in month so feel quite confident of diagnosis. It was a little light gray underneath but nothing white it was pretty close but fast.

    2. And wished it banked never photographed any swift except white throated and I was ready as I was trying to photograph violet green swallows over pond do had camera at hip but it never banked oh well

    3. Sounds like a good ID if it was close enough to see the gray underparts.

    4. It was almost as close as the bomber. Lol although I know not funny. F and when I see chimneys which are always way up there still trying to figure how you photograph them. Was trying to get a bank swallow on film in dry tortugas as certain someone would say how u know bank swallow and well there is down time and I could not do it. Too close. Wt swifts had a pattern in mountains and after a while I figured it out. I try to document as many as can and think gone fair job but for some of these birds I'm not good enough. If I saw a code 5 swift in Alaska or a Bahamas in Florida I doubt I could be good enough to prove it. I guess I couldn't kick 50 yard sky balls in football either that is why this is a hobby and bot a vocation

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  13. Hey Olaf, In the bottom photo of LIST + WESA, WESA is on the left not right as stated. Obvious transcription error! In 2013, I photographed Dusky Grouse at Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP on May 16 and photographed Gray Vireo near Phoenix, AZ on December 21! Details in my blog, jaysbigyear2013. Don't give up! There is still time!

    1. Fixed thanks Jay for eagle eye and encouragement

  14. Hey Olaf, When I get back from Monaco on May 11th I'll have a month of free time. We can use my Cessna Cj4 until late June. I'll pay fuel and docking costs for wherever we go. We will make sure no coded migrants get away. Ill pm you details

  15. Saltmarsh Sparrow - easiest places are Scarborough Marsh 1/2 hour south of Portland ME (but watch out for intergrades with Nelsons) as per above. Also a place called Jakes Landing near Cape May NJ if you are going there which is also good for viewing Seaside.

  16. Yellow rails are consistent up in lassen county, CA during the summer at papoose meadows. You may want to watch Ebird and see what comes up

  17. Yellow rails are consistent up in lassen county, CA during the summer at papoose meadows. You may want to watch Ebird and see what comes up

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