I like to compare a big year to the game of golf. It is an individual game but you keep score to compare yourself to others. It is a polite and gentleman's (or woman's) game. You don;t really have any control of your opponent's score. Some holes or courses you know well, or they fit your game. In my game a big Dog leg right was my cup of tee as I could bend it around the corner like a pro. However, sometimes on dog leg lefts, I still bent it to the right.
No thanks to United airlines, I landed in Minnesota 5 hours late after some union trouble in Chicago, and they apparently would not certify a plane in O'hare to fly so they found one in..... San Francisco! When in doubt, never fly United is my saying and I may just shorten it to NEVER fly United. The airline is a fiasco and I have three free segments on them still and I will need for south Texas but after that...sorry you unfriendly sky people....
but I made it I was in Minnesota, albeit briefly, and this is my home course, so to say. It was time for my special short cuts, play the secret breaks, as soon I would be in unfamiliar and maybe unhospitalble terrain and I needed all the home cookin' I could get.....
Coded Birds: 47
Miles driven. 25390
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
other animals seen: gray whale, dolphin, bobcat, ring-tailed cat, elk, bighorn, jackalope, feral pig, California sea lion, harbor seal, bedbugs, iguana, woodchuck, red fox, muskrat
I awoke on Day 121 of this big year in a parking lot of the Gray Cloud Dunes SNA. Despite violating a permit for another group having a Big Watch, supervised by the Queen of Minnesota Birding, Ranger Sharon from the National Park Service, I saw NO signs against overnight camping and at 0230, where was I to go? The back of my Volvo XC60 is about 6 inches too short for this 6'3" guy unless I can park the back end up in the air and sleep backwards, as there is a subtle but noticeable downhill to the bed with the seats down....the fact that I even know this is really somewhat sad.
I met Don Harrington from Northfield MN at the Dunes and we went out to the right from the parking lot avoiding the Big Watch Crowd. I had warned Ranger Sharon from Minnesota Birds and Beer Club about me sneaking in during their event. She was gracious and a bit confused as to why I notified her. I have learned that crashing birding events or any even so called "public" event is not something one should do lightly. Another person asked me if I was going to participate in the event, I kind of smiled and said, "no you wouldn't want a person like me here. I'd just be in the way."
I feel I am sort of the WC Fields of life, in that I believe I should not participate or be a member in any organization or event that would want me in it. Maybe it is just me but it is hard to know where to go at such events, who not to offend, what to say. I do go to Minnesota Birds and Beers but they allow me in--an outsider, for comic relief. It is hard to screw up drinking beer, I guess.
We had a corner of the dune to ourselves and got some real looks at the Henslow, photoed a field sparrow for the first time this year and we got out of their within an hour.
After finding a pond in Cottage Grove with 4 Solitary sandpipers, a "Contradiction" of Sandpipers as they say and with solitary sandpipers even more so, or at least the name implies, we got visited by the police. Despite no one wanting me to be part of their group, the police are always ready to talk to me. I'm not sure if I can count this as a 'stop' though. When she knocked on my window as i was writing field notes in the car, I announced we were birding. Apparently stopping on the side of a road fully on the shoulder is worthy of attention. She looked at us like we had a disease and drove on.
Lock and Dam #2 near Hastings was very birdy. I got a suspicious waive from their lady cop as I cruised around lost in town looking for a way to make a left turn, but didn't pull me over. After hearing a rose-breasted grosbeak, out attention was focused on a great horned owl taking a muskrat in a mucky pond under an eagle's nest in broad daylight. You don't see an owl, breast high in pond weed very often. I got a photo after it had hauled out on a log. The rat was too much for it to carry off in the woods. I am curious why the eagle tolerate such an intrusion, like it was REALLY under their nest. I didn't want to get closer to photograph and I am just me, just a threat like an owl.
We scoured the earth for a sedge wren but dipped out and I left Don to go home and then I went to a campground to take a shower. It was heavenly and I retrieved some of my belongings from Texas, and I drove up to Grantsburg to search out my wife, daughter, and grandmother...as well as search for a LeConte's sparrow and try to tap up yellow rail.
The sparrow was silent but one popped out and looked at me near the pump house on Crex. I was in shock, so shocked, my camera was in the car 20 feet away. I tried to get it and et back but the sparrow, dipped down in the grass. After trying to flush it all I got was ticks. I couldn't even get that sparrow out of the grass, such is the life with Le Conte's. Henslow's are bad, but I think Le Conte's are worse. To think i got great looks at both and photoed one, that was a miracle, to be honest.
I hung out until dark but it was windy and I was tired. I gave up at 930, the rail will have to wait for another time. I had another...yet another early day tomorrow, but I had 4 near year birds.
Gray Cloud Dunes, Cottage Grove MN
#614 Henslow's Sparrow
Housing development on 70th Ave, Cottage Grove MN
#615 Solitary Sandpiper
Lock and Dam #2, Hastings MN
#616 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Crex Meadows, Wildlife area, Grantsburg WI
#617 Le Conte's Sparrow