Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Killer Rabbit of Patagonia

The Movie Monte Python, first told the story of a terrible beast, a mythical beast, killed with a holy handgranade but....there could not just be one......then the story continued....really....

It was 1979. and despite the best efforts of the US Secret Service...President Jimmy Carter while fishing on a small farm pond in Georgia was charged by a swamp rabbit and as the rabbit tried to board the President's boat a small skirmish occurred and the beast was repelled with a boat oar, so continues the legend of the Killer Rabbit.  It was thought that the Welsh left King Arthur in search of new land but in reality, they were just taking the Killer Attack Rabbits to a new land....what became America.

It was said by some that the rabbit and it's kin were moved by the US Government to a place where no one would be bothered by these foul ill-tempered creatures ever again....until.........Olaf showed up......

The synopsis:

Big Year Total:  693
Coded Birds:  60

number to go to old record:  57
Miles driven.  30,235
Flight Miles 88,200
flight segments: 94   Different Airports: 39
Hours at sea: 123
Miles walked 195
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded: 31
Lifers seen this year:  47
nights slept in car:  9

Yes, really?  killer Rabbit?....but more on the appearance of "Killer"  later....

A sojourn first into Olaf:

Many of you ask questions....

How much are you spending?
It is rumored that Komito spend 80-100K on his 1998 year.
I'm thinking I'll spend 45K, plus a boat load of fflier miles.  Way WAY below other birders....efficiency....and fflier miles.....this doesn't count my car damage from sons or broken camera.

I will add a new category:  Costs for trip

Arizona, May 24-28
flight RDU to PHX       $174 (cheapest flight I've seen in a while)
Rental car  $210
gas, $76.00
Hotels....$625  (family of three for three nights, two for one, full cost..note should have been $80 camping)
share guide fee  $80
feeder fees for me  $10.  (have National access pass)
$3 donation to museum in Willcox
laundry  $4
food.  $124
lifer beer $5
total   $1301

added stuff.  Lost waterbottle $25, broken speaker cord $18, car is NOT in parking at home airport, postage to send home wife's stuff in Portal,

My favorite books?
Ursula LaGuin The Dispossessed -fiction
Barry Lopez-- Of Wolves and men
Both were the most influential books in my literary and personal development, One was a textbook for a college course.

Where am I from?

I grew up on the family sawmill in rural NW Wisconsin, Falun a Swedish immigrant community.  I trapped pocket gophers and worked on the mill in my youth.  He stressed in me the advantages to knowing how to live off the land.  I have only worked for another person in my life for 5 years in residency.  Grandpa Allwin Danielson taught me to be a deer tracker.  I taught myself to be a proficient pike fisherman.  Grandma Danielson taught me to hunt and clean squirrels.
My grandfather never advocated for the fairness of life outside of our little domain, in fact, he stressed the need to make sure you are comfortable in what and who you are because no one else will acknowledge it.

When is the book coming out on this year?

Been there done that...I don't think I will write anything more than this for this year.  Books are dead.  I wish Hayward the utmost success with his, but again, been there done that.  Boobies Peckers and Tits, poured out my innermost fears and thoughts and there have been too many big year books.   Partners one of the biggest distributors of books...Out of business this month...private books stores,,,,dead, dying...Amazon...pays you nothing and gives you headaches.  I write fiction so my kids can appreciate my versions of Utopia and what fears and thoughts I have in my head....if any break even, I'd be shocked.  No one one reads,...especially, to be brutally one cares what i think or write, I am from the part of the USA, that is ignored by those on the coasts....for a Midwestern author to get published from a big house...get real.

why big year?
I'll explain more on that next segment, it is complicated.......time to talk about the birding

May 24/25th brought me and my family to Madera, they arrived 8 hours after I did.

The birds kept coming
679.  Varied Bunting (could not get a photo at Santa Rita feeders)
680.  Cordillian Flycatcher

I went out with a Dr Ammann I met and we got his lifer whipoorwill, a nice guy from Vancouver BC.
681.  Mexican Whippoorwill
682.  Whiskered screech owl

May 25
683.  Red faced warbler
684.  Plain capped starthroat
Dig the red-faced of my favorites

The starthroat I had staked out for 5 hours before just before 11am on the 25th, it appeared without warning, and drank a bit, as I grabbed for my camera, it was gone.  I had neither time to shout there it is or anything before it was gone.  The woman in front of me started chanting lifer bird...lifer bird...the two of us were the only two paying enough attention to get the 20 second cameo view of the bird.  It wasn't a lifer for me and I have a huge blow up of the 2013 bird on my wall.

Eventually my wife who had taken Lena back for a nap to Chaparusa Bed and Breakfast (I'd camp if I was by myself) found me walking home....she had forgotten about picking me up.

I met up with Thor, his friend Dan, and Laurens Halsey in Green Valley, a place where Thor had just bought into to.  I was too young to live there, 50 is the new 20 or something IDK.  LOL.  I got a local expert Halsey to show the way to the California Gulch as I hate it down there....long, scary, and windy road.  I had my 16 yo with...Silja went over to visit Joan, Thor's wife.

But it does have one good sign.
We got there and staked out the night and found
685.  Five striped sparrow
686.  Buff Collared nightjar

Clear as mud...right?  You can see her collar, it was a female.  I had heard her song on proctor road in 2013, just didn't know I had, oh well to late now to add one to my BPT list....

May 26th soon became the number two birding day of the year.  I got my crew out of bed and we hit the road at 645 and drove the Box canyon road over to Sierra Vista.  I was relieved upon arriving late at Ramsey Canyon but finding there still was parking at 0815.  No fights today in the parking lot.  We hiked the trail, and it wasn't a trail of tears or anything.  Just up but either I was in better shape or maybe I given the trail too much credence OR even the flycatcher had moved a lot down but it was an easy hike.

The tufter just appeared in the dry creek bed, and there it was in all of its code 5 glory.

687.  Tufted Flycatcher

 over exposed under exposed but well I had a perfect shot of one of the two last year.

Walking back, a helpful birder pointed out bird #688.
Sulphur-bellied flycatcher

We also saw a cool raven nest
I'm not sure how they fit.  Mother needs to kick some not-so-baby birds out.
I got bird #689.  Virginia warbler in the oak scrub, and well we got back to the car by noon.

We went over to Beatty's for lunch (we brought it) to watch hummers and a blue thorated came in bird #690, but I missed the photo op as it was too close.  Here is a photo from the 27th at Cave Creek Ranch in Portal to document...

Then it was off to Patagonia.  We had a plan, find laundromat, put in load....go find thick-billed kingbird, come back, switch to dry, go to Patton's IDK, because my daughter noticed she needed a brown headed cowbird (really?) and then back.

Phase one, Laundromat
they had one, next to the police station with itself was just a trailer

24 minutes later, #691 nabbed, Thick-billed Kingbird
back to get change at grocery store and something to eat for supper, then drier..

It was at Patton's when I got scowled at by the attack rabbit....
Lena got the cowbird...we saw the violet crowned a trash bird and no one bothered to take a photo...

We arrived just as the drier had stopped spinning 32 minutes later packed and headed back to Madera...plan foolproof, my clothing didn't reek of me anymore...

We ate and then thinking.....seeing a white buffalo was supposed to be magical....I saw a white buck playing golf one fall at Luck Country Club and well I had a "Lucky" round and then the white rabbit...?

I said let us go owling!  The ladies!  What a crew.

We hiked into an undisclosed place in Madera and nearing dusk heard the whiskered screech owls everywhere.  Mexican whip-poor-wills were singing and I said to LE and Sil that Flamulated owls sound more like owls.  I had only one call of theirs on my iphone and I played it once to show them. Immediately, I saw the flutter of a something land on a dead tree in front of us.  I shined my light thinking it was a bat.....FLAM OWL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was beside myself saying..."There it is, there it is!" Maybe like 20 times thinking the two ladies wouldn't notice the little owl 15 feet away. I was in disbelief Wow!  Wow again, wow a third time. I didn't bring a camera.  Who knew?  I thought there was like 10% chance we'd even hear one.

"Try the screech owl song once"  Lena said as the Flam owl went away.  I did.  In came another bird, same branch.  Whiskered screech owl.  Lena was ready with the iphone, she got an owl photo with an iPhone....?
It looked so big compared to the the way, Flam Owl was a lifer...and I didn't even have any beer with, just white wine.
#692....what a day, what a day...thank you rabbit.  The attack rabbit portends good things...unless your name is Jimmy Carter

I got 6 birds during Boobies Peckers and Tits at this same spot, and now 6 lifers here, all within 10 feet.  I like this spot.  I love this!!!

I drove out of Madera nearing 4am as we cruised through to the Tucson airport, and dropped my best friend, Silja off for her flight to Atlanta and then Dusseldorf.  It was great reconnecting, and now she had her adventure and we had ours, Lena and I had one more bird to find for my list and she had all kinds of stuff.

Willcox gave up a Bullock's oriole for LE and then 20 miles south, I stopped at the side of the road and her year bird #400, Scaled quail darted around the road.

I hadn't got a photograph of any this year either so it was a good stop as it is pretty certain a guy or gal  needs to document everybird they can.

It was a happy car as we rolled up the Pinery Canyon Road, directions were to go exactly 10 miles...and about mile 8.2 from the black top, we came across a birder in California plates, he was looking for the redstart he said, I said "I think the spot is farther up."  I scratched my head and drove on.  Then well before 10, we saw birders.  This looked like the real deal.  We stopped.  It was the stakeout.  They had seen it twice, about an hour ago, and it was just 7  am.  We didn't have to wait long.  It flew out across the road in minutes, then lost it showed back up in the pine tress, spotted by my eagle-eyed daughter., then off it flew.  30 minutes later it came in again, easily noted for its lack of white on wings, and then it flitted from tree to tree, finally...I took a shot with the camera

slate-throated redstart 

 It could be the worst identifiable photo ever, but it was, and it was a life bird....and bird was over.....I had conquered Arizona.  I had conquered warblers, I now had them ALL!!  every warbler seen in the lower 48 this year, every!
How many is that?  Go count, my friends, go count.

I ran into friendly birders to ladies from Ft Worth Texas, who had spent a period of time at St Paul with Neil.  The California guy came and thanked me for redirecting him and then I gave him tufted flycatcher directions.

It was 8am, we were half way from Portal to nowhere, I needed to mail stuff home, and well I had promised number 1 daughter lunch...well breakfast....AND she needed the Mexican chickadee and I wanted to photograph that and blue throated hummingbirds.

The Mexican chickadee proved difficult.  It took us until after our tour in Portal and an hour eating and then another hour watching the blue throated hummers at Cave Creek Ranch, then 15 minutes to the post office, and ten minutes going into New Mexico, daughter had never been and well, there isn't a sign......, but the view driving back was cool.  I like the Chiricahua Mountain Island.

Even spied many javelina in Cave Creek area.

Some birds I have seen before but now photographed:  As I guess you might not have believed me

Mexican Chickadee

Grace's warbler

Elegant Trogan

May 28

Day 148 of the big year started as normal, up before dark, but one thing was different, I had nothing to get.  There were no birds reported within hundreds of miles, so I took my daughter out to the thrasher spot to pad her year list.  I got lost and ended up at the nuclear power station....

She nailed it with a LeConte's and a Bendire's thrasher, The LeConte's was standing on the road and then I sat in the car and found out Delta had changed their seats into three zone, nixing Medallion people from upgrading any person traveling with them.  Sky cap service in Phoenix is also being nixed at the end of the month.  Nothing like giving the retirees a boot in the bum.  Arg!  Not going to be fun trip to Anchorage.....

We went to Encanto Park on the way to the airport to both pack the car and for dearest daughter to go hunt the elusive yet satisfying Red-faced lovebirds.  They are like a very satisfying tick as they are cool and everywhere, but somehow I had managed to not photograph any this year...
I did now.
Rosy faced lovebird

Bird  #410 for Lauren Elizabeth for the cool is that!   While there, we got a text that Silja and Tyko had reached Bonn and met up with Allwin, our wayward son abroad.

Off to Alaska, I suspect, to get the jeers or better put the indifference, I deserve, not sure I will even mention it on the Puk-uk when I break 700 on May 30th, not that it matters, 150 days is good, a record but really?  This is just birding....but thank you for following along with my adventure.

I will say though, it is so cool when people recognize me around.  It has given me hope in the kindness of people.  I had lost that in business and in the ER.  In business most people are heartless and ruthless, and in the is the views of the American underbelly that I usually see and that is why I don't want to do medicine any more.  It is not puppies and kittens out there.

Christian Hagenlocher is doing a big year because he is worried that he has little time left to see many of the birds before they are gone.  This made me smile....but thinking about it, he may be on to something.  Many of the places I saw in 2013 are already changed..and not for the better.  The Thrasher spot will eventually become hay pasture, as no one will buy it and save it for the birds.  Much of the wilds is being destroyed and all the while as we waste everything....just my carbon footprint, I am laying crusing around seems bad and mine is less than some.....but again, if many of these wild places are closed off to human intrusion no one will even care.....IDK, I hope they never change Madera, but shockingly, you can't camp at Rustler Park on top of the mountain in Portal any more.  Not enough staffing.....very sad.

Well maybe I have been putting in on too thick...?  I saw this a few days ago..

Well to Alaska we go,
14 days with my number one daughter, and that my friends is PRICELESS!



  1. Thanks dad, you are priceless too! Oh and we all know I'm number one child as well as number one daughter ;)

  2. So many excellent birds. Congrats to both of you! I need to bird Arizona SOON! Safe travels, and have a great time in Alaska.

  3. Olaf,
    You are awesome Dude.
    Curious what the 45k covers and doesn't cover of your Big Year.
    Hope you make 700 before Wednesday.
    We really enjoy following your adventures.
    David Chapman

    1. pretty much everything, travel food and lodging, (not equipment etc, new bike, jacket, camera, computer parts) but like I said, I have such a huge hoard of FFlier miles, a number embarrassing to admit. That might make it hard to compare. I'm flying to Alaska almost free and even using hotel credit to stay in ANC...etc. Now if I add some treks OR if some fares go way overboard, I might have to up. I live in Delta lounges that costs....IDK. Just giving a ball park

    2. I firmly believe these should be capped at $30,000 AND that number upped for CPI, that would be a fun and fare rule, sit it on your birding and scheming not on your pocket book

    3. I like that idea.
      Keep up the good work.

  4. Have you looked at what's being found in Newfoundland?

    1. Yea can't get there for 2.5 weeks. Very sad. Plover is like three weeks late.

  5. Olaf

    Of course the fact that you are grounded with your family is awesome. Your concern for the environment is clear. Let's face it the sad truth is seen by any of us with an interest in nature that can judged in decades.

    But don't forget you have a shot here. It will be very difficult - not because of the existing record as you will beat that if you keep going - but your opponent.

    Your blog shows you as genuine, open and honest. That exposes you to the odd barbed comment I have no doubt about that. But it gives you a very good human appeal and you should not underestimate the number of people who want you to succeed. Spend the money. Twitch the birds. When the planned trips and targets are fewer, twitch hard and twitch frequently. Go as soon as you can. You will only regret that night you didn't go at the end of the year. Dips happen. That's part of the game.

    Very best of luck in Alaska


    1. Thanks Paul.

      The one thing people have never been honest about on these things is the cost. You can spend from 10k to 5 million on these things. I've been asked 20 times. I do really believe an expense cap would make these quite interesting as I've implied. As the Steve Martin character implied in the movie. Flying private and using guides is like using corked bats and steroids. I've used guides lower 48 twice so I'm no saint once to rest as had driven 3000 miles in seven days and the other to go to a place California gulch I didn't feel safe. On gambell St. Paul you almost have to use tours in critical time. But going birding with a local guy is basically same thing.

      Ridicule is synonymous with being Olaf. My bpt 2013 project and writing of it opened me up to much. pretty easy to fudge one iof these and trying to be as forthright as I can. I can't always bird with someone. I took Christian hagenlocher to get black rail as then we d have a witness for heard bird birding is sharing. I don't expect to bird or be invited to bird with any other big year birder past or present. I've routinely offered to bird with anyone I enjoy the company and they might end up getting to drive overnight like tony lau did last week.

  6. There is one tally you are not keeping that I think you really should: Encounters with law enforcement while doing NOTHING illegal. That would REALLY give people an idea of what you have to go through to get some of the tougher birds. Plus it would add a little more humor.

  7. Enjoy Alaska. And time with your daughter. Priceless.

  8. Olaf

    I'm the wrong person to talk to about cost. I've been on the odd plane ride in a British context. You can think about the money next year. You won't get this chance again.

    You'll know this first hand before me. It looks as if you survived the strategy relatively unscathed:-

    So it's time to max out in Alaska. Good luck again.


  9. Some of us still read books! :) Good luck in Alaska! Nancy

  10. Man you missed the Pine Flycatcher by like 2 days.... too bad but awesome birds otherwise. Would that bird even count for you since it's not accepted yet?

  11. There is a chance you're qualified to receive a Apple iPhone 7.


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