Friday, April 8, 2016

Oui oui, ooh! la la!

It is always a good sign to start the blog off with Olaf drinking a lifer beer, so Minnesota Birds and Beer Club....I've seen a lifer and drank a beer...but I'm getting ahead of myself

Chapter 34

Montreal Quebec, Canada

Big Year Days 99

Big Year Total:  544
Coded Birds:  39

Miles driven.  21400
Flight Miles 61,100
flight segments: 63   Different Airports: 30
Hours at sea: 25
Miles walked 111
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be more)
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded: 23

I sat there in Oakland City Indiana, (and mind you I like Indiana just maybe not my choice of restaurant though last night) and tried to figure what was the next best bird, or one I could get to.  It wasn't an easy choice, I'm scheduled for Florida in a week so I don't want to go there and Texas the week afterwards.  Where to go... where to go so I plugged in some ideas on Delta...I decided to let Delta Decide.  Home, Arizona, Alaska, wherever and any place with a dusky grouse were way too expensive, then on a lark I plugged in Montreal, it was 50,000 miles of $1200 one way from Minneapolis the day before but there was still that pink-footed goose report from Wednesday.  The phone thought about it...

12,500 miles ONLY for the flight I would want to take.  Wow, cheap....As it turns out the cheapest flight from Evansville to anywhere--Montreal Canada.  I hit the BOOK button, choice made.  At this rate I can almost fly everyday on miles.
About as much French as I know, despite me spending countless days on the Island of Sint Martin, FWI, is oui, and ooh! La la!  I guess I know merci, and a few other words.  Since I'm always apologizing for myself I should learn how to do that.

I have not set foot in Quebec since the summer of 1976 save the brief trip through the Montreal Airport last month on that fool-hardy pink-footed goose chase.  Do you remember 50 ways to leave your lover?  I do.  It was playing on the entire family vacation driving out here, through the Soo Locks, Sudbury-North Bay, and then down to Cornwall Ont. and here.  I was ten and I went to the 1976 Olympics, seeing a soccer game between 2 African nations and water polo...yea, water polo. The car was mysteriously filled with roman candles at some point, not from me, I blew my entire life savings on O-pee-chee baseball cards....still have them.   The red banners with the symbol of the Montreal Olympics on the light pools, hanging from everything are burnt into my brain like looking too long into the sun.

I like Canada and every "non-bush" Canadian city I've ever been to, St John's to Victoria and even Thompson, Manitoba, which is by definition, "in the bush" I guess.   I think I would like Montreal too, but that is a trip for another time.  Friends heard I was coming and sent me strip club advice. Wandas?  What the?   I've never been to a strip club, ever, why would I want to see naked women...?  I don't have time for such nonsense and especially by myself.  This isn't a tourist trek, this was a trip about birds and one bird in particular, the pink-footed goose.  That bird seems to bring me through here, Montreal.  Last time, I got to go to gate 87 and enjoyed a flight on Air Canada which was just me, myself and I and go to Connecticut where I spent three days searching for the mythical goose, and got skunked.  Today, I walked above gate 87 just before the flight to Hartford boarded on my way to customs and again, one passenger, a fat white bald guy, who, I guess must have been American.  

I have decided that my best route to get through customs quickly is to tell the truth and just not a little bit but open up about everything, talk at length about crap they don't care to hear. A single guy coming to Canada for probably less than 24 hours equals body-cavity probes and extra questioning, so I over load them with the truth. 
Today's conversation: 

"Why are you here?"  
"To take pictures of a bird, not just any bird, but a goose of the anser genus.  Commonly called the pink-footed goose.  I dipped out on the bird a month ago when I was last in Canada and here and now it has been reported on some road southwest of here that is named after a pope, Pius the XII I think,  I don;t recall when he was the Pope, but I'm not Catholic.  I can show you a map if you like, all kinds of intel people have sent me."
"Are you a professional photographer then?  You say this is a leisure visit on your entry form."
"Oh heavens no."
"Then what do you do?"
"Well I am a physician by training, but I have served as an Executive, and a writer, and well also a consultant...maybe i'm retired at the moment."  Then trying to act be as nerdy as possible  "No, this is just a hobby, a fascination I guess, maybe an obsession as I just came here to see a goose, sort of a wild goose chase, one could say."  I feign laughter.  "I suppose I came to see one of the missing members of the genus anser..."
"You said that already...welcome to Canada, sir.  it is cold out there, stay warm."

We never got to the part that I didn't have a return ticket, no hotel reservations, no fixed address of my visit and I don't even know a soul in Montreal.    

I was thinking this goose was going to be like the Barnacle here as it looked to be in the city but alas how wrong a vision that was...

This could be a snowy spring day in Minnesota, South Dakota or....Quebec...really?  Snows in a corn field..go figure.

However, when I found the spot on the canal where someone reported this goose 50 hours ago, there was not a single goose at 1230, nothing.  It was cold, snowing (what else?), and blowing....a miserable day to be out scoping waterways for birds.  I said a little prayer to the bird gods, that I needed a break, I had been scouring every goose for this bird now 4 days and two countries.  I shrugged, couldn't hurt?  I don't think Jesus cares if I see a bird or not, he had more pressing matters. Maybe Justice would come?  I walked to the car to warm up twice and then decided to look at the map, there was this lake across the road I could sort of get a look at and well, I did fly here for this, I should look....I crossed the road.  Nothing.....then like Forrest Gump said, "then God showed up."  I'm the luckiest damn birder, damn.

2000 snow geese just appeared out of nowhere and landed on the lake.  I could see that they were nervous, edgy, and they didn't want to be there.  I looked fast.  God might of helped but I still had to do the work.  Luckily there were few blue morphs and so the few dark geese were easy to pick out.  I saw a couple of juve snows, dark morph, one was even molting into a whitish head.  Then I spotted it.  Pinking bill on tip, definitely not black, not a juve snow.  I fumbled for my digisoping, snapped a couple of pics, my phone got too cold and turned off,  dang.

Picture stinks but before I wouldn't have even tried.  The only picture on this goose I've seen was in the middle of a snow pile and although clearer looks like this one too.  It was just so harsh out there.  Heavy wind, snow, cold, and trying to get scope pictures was just crap and they were way out there, hardly any contrast too..........and then they spooked, everyone lifted and they flew off.......mine, as it lifted I saw it had that big white tail band, proving it wasn't remotely a snow goose, pure pink-footed goose, a PINK FOOTED GOOSE!  I never saw feet, though, but it didn't matter.  I've seen this bird in Europe, too and now ABAdom.  I had seen another goose that was suspicious but I never saw the head. I marked it as anser unspecified.  I texted Thor...."Bingo!  I got a Bingo!"  Thor needed further explanation.

Someone probably saw this same goose a week ago with 50,000 snows on the other side of Montreal and this one now with 2-3000 was a little easier to handle, probably the same bird, the sightings don't overlap.  This could have even been the same bird from Connecticut.  It was hanging out with when it probably flew over me with a small group of snow geese,  so maybe?    

3 days in Connecticut and a day up here and mow another pink monster accounted for....whew!

Okay, I know you have been waiting for it.  Olaf's opinion and adventure corner.  What did I screw up this time?

My rental car cost me ...$12.49 Canadian, and I got upgraded into a Durango.  So so far so good.

Some thoughts on Quebec, first do NOT make a right turn on red.....I'll say no more, just helping out a friend.  In other parts of Canada, the signs are nicely bi-lingual both English and French....NOT HERE!.  Road freaking clue, quest---west, sud--south, I know that, but why do the English provinces have to put up French on everything but not here?

Let me take Tim Hortons as an example, nothing is more Canadian except hockey than Tim Hortons

The writing on the outside...this one is five miles from my goose..looks like a little of everything.  I walk in, menu only in French.  I have no clue, now Thor is born here and says pretty much everyone can communicate with me in English, they may not want to.  I order number 7. I find myself speaking dumb, slow, and weird to the friendly guy helping me like that might help.  He speaks English, then I say I'll take the trio, he mumbles something in French that could mean anything from we have a soup or a donut, you have a lovely bunch of coconuts, or you can sleep with my sister, IDK.  

I make a face, he says "soup or donut," okay sister not on the menu, thankfully, probably I should have just said "yes"  but I ask what kind of soup.  Well maybe he doesn't know English that well, vegetable does not flow off his tongue so well, something with chicken or maybe it was tarantula, IDK, I'm clueless.  I point to the picture of soup and hope that is one of the choices.  I get some funky chicken in red broth, then comes the credit card.....this is a disaster.  I have had this cause trouble in both parts of Canada, afterhours at gas is the dreaded chip and he can't look at it. Here, though, it is only in French, I close my eyes and push a button, wrong button, I ask for help but HE CAN'T LOOK AT SCREEN LIKE IT HAS STATE SECRETS OR SOMETHING.  I cue it up again and I accidentally abort it I got six people behind me.  I whip out the cash, ...and say...."You do take Canadian money right?  This still is Canada."  Immediately I'm thinking, damn why did I open my mouth?  I eat in the corner and try to cover my face, my sandwich comes cold, I deserve it.  

Not a single English word on a road sign the whole way to the airport.....IDK, note to self, maybe I need to learn French a little?  I stayed at the airport Marriott for ease and then not knowing where to go next, I played let Delta Decide Game again...still no good bird reports.

Cheapest flight.........TUCSON!!!!  We have a winner!  12,500 miles to Tucson through Minneapolis on am flight I want, the others...65,000.  Minneapolis only...37,000.  I could just get off at Minneapolis on a Tucson ticket for deft is this system?

Delta Decides worked here, bird #544  Pink-footed goose and a lifer, 738, so I don't know what I'm looking for in Tucson, I guess I'll hike up for the Tufted flycatcher, but I do know, I got to be home on Monday.  We'll see how Let Delta Decide works for that?  Delta knows best!   I need some sun though, haven't seen it since Loveland skin on my face is finally healed.



  1. Hi Olaf,
    Having followed your progress weekly from the UK I have enjoyed all the ups and downs and look forward eagerly to future updates. As have many others

    However, unfortunately I have just had a shock and need to review my level of respect. Beer with a slice of orange!!

    Good luck with the rest of the year.

    1. Lol. It is this new thing with wheat beer. I know. I know. Would it make u feel better if I admit Erdinget hefe Weiss is my favorite and citrus never touches it.

  2. I've just installed iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.


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