Tuesday, May 24, 2016

One for the Thumb

Northern Wisconsin to Hatteras NC

Hate me or love me, I finally have internet and i'm back!  You cannot believe how few places that say they have internet that it actually works.

I was going to title this blog, Going Spread Eagle using both the double meaning of the phrase, (majestic and opening up all of your junk for other's to see) and because Tony Lau and I started this phase of our trip in Spread Eagle, Wisconsin on the Michigan border.  In many ways the town seemed to have a double meaning itself and for a while, it seemed to Tony and I that we had inadvertently turned off of Highway 2 in Florence County, WI and onto a porn set.  There was "Misty Moors" place, with a sign, which sounded so much like a porn name, I looked it up...It IS a porn name!   We were afraid to find out what kind of place it was.

Then we drove on, and at a restaurant, the sign said something like..."Eat out Spread Eagle at Gia Marie's."  They had an odd 2 for 1 special.  "Buy one meal, and the second one is on Gia"  Was it really ON Gia?  Maybe eating out ...I won't say it. Then there was a strip club, a real live Party Store, and somewhat scared to stop or eat anywhere....Tony and I went to the Spread Eagle Barrens, to bird, we walked 100 feet and observed a threesome on a blanket in the port-coital throws of sex.  It REALLY WAS a porn set.

I could have put in some pictures....but to be honest that chip got to the bottom of my backpack.  You won't believe it, you don't want it, and there was too many double entendres, even for me....I was too exposed last time for discussion. so I changed my mind.  You know, I'm just a guy who is trying to see a lot of birds, write a few stories, meet some people.....you are going to think I'm weird or I make this stuff up.....like virginity, as Sandy Komito once said, you can only loose your reputation once....mine is probably hanging on by sinew.  That is okay, I know my limitations.

Okay...on with the story...

I loved the colors black and yellow when I was a kid, I liked them because they were the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers....I also secondarily had a love of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Iowa Hawkeyes.  1979 was a glorious year for Pittsburgh, first the Pirates in their "We are family" year, beat the Orioles for their first world series win since like 1960....Bill Mazerowski....Bert Blyleven and the Candyman were the pitchers I loved and I even changed my left handed batting swing to mimic Willie Stargell.  Then the Steelers won the Super Bowl that January.  It was magical their 4th championship in 6 years and Terry Bradshaw in a post game discussion set the battle cry for the 1981 season...."One for the thumb"  basically a phrase to say where he would put his 5th championship ring.....an event that never happened btw.   One for the thumb......a five spot, a whole hand.....it would be a wonderful thought.....could Olaf get a five handle on his lifer list, even one for his thumb?  

The synopsis:

Big Year Total:  678
Coded Birds:  55

number to go to old record:  72
Miles driven.  29, 563
Flight Miles 88,200
flight segments: 94   Different Airports: 39
Hours at sea: 123
Miles walked 185
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded: 31
Lifers seen this year:  43

Well let me go back to Michigan....
May 20, 2016

We met up with Roger Hill a retired periodontist I ran into in Florida Canyon AZ in January.  Not wanting to try my hand at trespassing in Wisconsin to nab their elusive Kirtland's Roger took us out near Grayling, we found a forest and basically found the birds......

They have basically closed so much public land up here in the Huron National Forest, it irritated me.  Public land not public.....?  They have elk up here, these warblers, like the whole of the Lower P. is closed to the public.....

We went south towards Tawas Point and found a road in the middle of nowhere that had like all the odd warblers singing....I photographed a Mourning warbler for the year, then we looked around, saw some mute swans and I don't want anyone to say my BC Mute swan was NOT an established acceptable bird so I photographed this family below.   We took Roger out to lunch (great perch), told stories, and I gave him a copy of my book.  He was a great help and a positive face for Michigan birding...thanks Roger!

*  equals lifer seen
#669 Kirtland's warbler

This could have been a better photo but well it is identifiable, we had places to go and birds to find.
  Mourning warbler
Mute Swan

May 21, 2016
Tony and I waited for 3 hours for a new plane in Midland MI, landing gear failure....luckily we had a 3.5 hour layover.  While I was there, I had a scheme....Tony agreed, not knowing what he had agreed to....

We would land at midnight in Raleigh AND I was planning to drive all night to.....New Jersey...because it was on our way to Hatteras....Isn't it?   5/21 was a travel day, if I had scheduled a peleagic on the 21st, I may have missed it due to that plane delay so I gave myself an extra day.....

We reached the ferry in Lewes Delaware at sunrise, realizing it is farther to New Jersey than one thinks.  We got delayed for an hour in Raleigh as my Siri would not navigate in North Carolina.  Was it the bathroom law and Apple was punishing them (me)?

We caught the ferry to Cape May, drove 30 miles and found this mudflat on a fast falling tide.....they were having a birding festival and everyone was around....but no one helped us and we ended up sorting thousands of sandpipers for the Curlew sandpiper and eventually found it tucked in a corner.  It was a lucky break on the tides and then also because right afterwards, it started to rain....Okay, I didn't get it Ohio.........

#670  Curlew Sandpiper  *

dipping three times, I averted a new nemesis bird.......things were looking up.  I slept on the ferry back, and then we drove on to Hatteras NC, we arrived exhausted at 1030 in the evening, the pelagic sailed at 0515, yet another short night....but we got the dang bird....and a not too bad photo.

May 22, 2016
Brian and Kate run the best pelagics on the Atlantic in MHO.  It is intimate and they can usually find stuff, but Brian is no risk taker and on the 21st, they cancelled due to a gale.  It is always rough out here when I'm aboard and today...no exception.  It wasn't a gale but...

I like belittling my life list, but I probably can't do that anymore.  in New Jersey, the CUSA was ABA lifer number 750, a bird I was thinking of celebrating with champagne, but we were too tired.  Despite my list, it had this huge hole in Atlantic seabirds that I knew could mean a very special day, whenever I came in May. This could be the last very special multiple lifers I would ever have, but just because you have a hole doesn't mean the birds will be there to fill them.   Today, though was different.  It was like whatever I could dream I needed, lifer or for the year....it showed up.

If this was baseball, it could be said I pitched a perfect game, so to speak. I got a seven spot for the year Including 5 lifers, I really did now have "one for the thumb."  Look at that whole hand in my picture...it was my second best day of birding all year, after with Grandmother Lucille.  I even got one of the biggies, 2 great looks at Trinidade petrels....how cool is that!

Tony got 10 lifers....

And get this....I photographed, and some pretty good, all of the year birds I needed.....it was a grand day.

Lifer beer was good before the exhaustion took its toll and we passed out at 8pm.  I had thought about chasing a white-winged tern in Wisconsin but I was in no shape to drive all night again to the airport...after much soul searching I decided not to bolt...I didn't need anything but maybe something odd would show up....here is my list for the day....and what a day it was.....I was too pumped to even get seasick.

#671  Cory's Shearwater *

#672  Wilson's storm-petrel

#673  Black-capped petrel *

#674  Bridled tern

#675  Trinidade Petrel *

#676  Band-rumped storm-petrel *  
(lead bird, thank God Kate is like a storm-petrel whisperer as not sure i would have made this ID on my own.  They don't patter on the waves like Wilson's, but their longer wings and shorter legs are not that easy for me, to discern in the field or sea as in this case)

#677  Great Shearwater *

The bridled terns were like a lucky break.  Bored and slow birding near lunch, we had this school of fish, mostly dolphin fish, gorgeous blue and yellow fish, Brian was feeding them and it was fun.  Then everyone was watching the fish and not for birds and somehow a small flock of bridled terns came right up to the boat before anyone noticed and then just barely.

After the diversion with the terns...the fish wanted more sardines and then Brian called one of the fishing boats which had no luck yet that day to come over....they were all sitting on their duffs drinking beer and then they passed behind us and chaos took over as something hit all of their lines..

They may have even got one for all of their thumbs.....as a fisherman I was a bit jealous.  I'm sure Brian is now owed one in the close-nit world of the fishing guides....

We went home, Tony looked a bit green but came out to drink lifer beers with me and finally eat a real dinner.....I was in a party mode, even if Tony was just hanging on to reality, he gave up on his snapper.

May 23, 2016

Day 2 at Sea in the Stormy Petrel II.  The day was in some ways nicer, maybe a real night of sleep changed my perspective....it was better weather wise, but it wasn't nice, only one poor older man got seasick.  I was unsure of if I had made the right choice, should I have bailed on today and chased the white-winged tern?

Everyone was surprised to see us, they figured we'd bolt.  At 915, though, it happened..............."Fea's petrel coming down the starboard"  Brian shouted and I ran for the front of the boat.  You could have almost reached out and touched it.  I shot these photos at 150mm.  One pass, it turned and headed away.  It was like it came for me.  It was a magical moment in birding....wow a Fea's!  I gave a birder named Susan a high five.  Did a fist pump and smiled.  I had made the correct choice.  It turned out the tern was a no show in Wisconsin to boot.  Score one for Olaf!  It was a small victory but yet another lifer, number 7 for this trek.

#678  Fea's Petrel *

The rest of the day was slow, like oh so painfully slow.  Little diversity, few birds, not even fish and one extremely pesky pomerine jeager which was probably not a good thing.  It scared away all the birds.  But....he or she put on a good show, was probably with us for 6 hours.

The day ended early with t-storms coming in.  I got a lifer and a year bird so no complaints and for once, had made the correct choice and we still had a five hour haul to get to the airport, it was going to be another short night...too short.

I rolled a seven, for lifers in 3 days, didn't crap out and put myself in the position I wanted, breaking 700 by day 150....day 150 is May 30th and I needed now to clean up Arizona before I began my Alaska strategy.  700 in 150 days I think is pretty good, for many a lifer goal, and it took me 49 years to get Mr 700 last May, and now what a difference a year makes...

The Alaska strategy, Adak-Gambell to Nome before hanging out in St Paul after I got my daughter back home.  I've been studying years of trends and well, IDK, we'll see how Arizona goes and what the Attu birds are ....which at midway didn't look like I had made a mistake.

We'll see.....

right now I'm still trying to determine how I can drink all of this lifer beer I have to drink, which I'm afraid that if I drink too many, I may try to wrap a can around my thumb

Thanks you crew in Hatteras, Brian and Kate, thank you Roger, and also, thank you Terry Bradshaw for well, being the lovable goofy Terry.  Those were some very good years and fond childhood memories.

petrels are sooo cool!




  1. Wow, what a goal, but makeable. Congrats on the lifers. Bird on!

  2. Good job. I'm happy for you and entertained for me.

  3. Great post. Love reading Happy Olaf!

  4. Enjoying the read, Olaf. Keep it up.

    Good luck.

  5. Was great to meet you on the boat Olaf, and good on the Fea's. Bird on.

    1. you too, missed a red-billed tropicbird today I guess, always another bird....thx

    2. There is a chase-able red-billed tropicbird which has spent the past few summers at Seal Island NWR in Maine. Last I heard it is a bit of a pain to get to- you have to take a boat from Vinalhaven. But the good news is that it should be around all summer- so you can chase it after the big spring push, so when you are in New England for Bicknell's Thrush. Good luck!

  6. Pet peeve. Your site is your blog, short for weblog. Each article is not a blog, it's a post or an article. So this post is called "One for the Thumb" but your blog is the site title, Bad Weather Big Year, or Olaf's Big Year.

  7. Pet peeve. Your site is your blog, short for weblog. Each article is not a blog, it's a post or an article. So this post is called "One for the Thumb" but your blog is the site title, Bad Weather Big Year, or Olaf's Big Year.

  8. I've just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.


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