Eastern Coast of North America,
almost the whole coast.
Big Year Days 130-134
Many dream to be able to defy gravity like this raccoon. Some want a superpower like many of my characters in my novels do. We all have fantasies, I even had one as a kid, and it involves baseball. I used to live for baseball. Olaf, batting with two out, my team behind by three runs. It would go something like this....
Mark "the Bird" Fidrych stood behind the mound talking to the ball. He then adjusted his Tiger cap and addressed the ball again. I could not hear what he was saying but them immediately he mounted the rubber. Looked at the man sneaking off of third base, and threw me a fat one. For a moment I could see the seems stop revolving. The bird was a right hander so I was batting left. The ball just hung up there as it came. Time seemed to stand still. The bases were loaded. Although a big guy, I rarely swung for the fences. I'm conservative by nature and live by singles and doubles, but here I could get 4 runs. The change up came in slow and I took a mighty Casey swing....I missed it. I swung so hard, the force brought me to my knees, even in this imaginary game. It took me a while to compose myself.
The bird came again, this time knowing I was swing for the parking lot and the ball missed my left ear by an inch as I ducked to get out of the way. Unnerved, I took a second strike and then a ball. It was now or never. "What the heck." I mumbled as he threw me his signature fastball. I swung hard.
I could feel the vibration burn my hand as the end of the bat knocked the ball straight down into the plate and then up. I paused for a moment seeing the ball bounce fair. I ran for first.
The catcher, Bruce Kimm, caught al of his games and instinctively ran after the ball, but The Bird himself fielded it towards third base. He moved to throw it home but Kimm was too far off the plate to get the runner who passed him to reach. But I still had to make it to first. The Bird reached back and threw the ball which slipped out of hand just a little and for some idiotic reason I decided to dive head first into the base. Me the ball, and the first baseman's glove and for that matter even the base all ended up in a pile. The dust settled and the ump looked down on me laying half across the base. He was looking for the ball. I knew where it was, it was not in the first baseman's glove, it was under me. I reached down and grabbed it and gave it to the ump. I could hear, "runner scores." It wasn't pretty but I got one home at least. As they say, I left ducks on the pond, but at least I got one.
Big Year Total: 654
Coded Birds: 52
I'm adding some new categories
number to go to old record: 96
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Lifers seen: 36
other animals seen: gray whale, baird's beaked whale, humpback, dolphin, bobcat, ring-tailed cat, elk, bighorn, jackalope, feral pig, California sea lion, harbor seal, bedbugs, iguana, woodchuck, red fox, muskrat
The above was a baseball fantasy of a ten year old, played out over and over again in 1976. I didn't dream about the big homerun. I batted 7th in my imaginary league. I hit .287 one year and .292 the next. 7 home runs was my best year and unlike Big Birds 19-9 record in 1976, my imaginary record was a rather tame 13-11. I had a bit of wildness in July. The ace on my staff went 31-3 though. He threw heat, I threw forkballs. Largely though, 1976 was a magical summer for a young boy so i won't complain.
Such was also my birding this last week. I had essentially a free week, but as the man who set the world big year record says, he birded every day....therefore, I, Olaf must bird every day. I decided to take a swing for the fences, there was a rare gray heron in Newfoundland, Curlew sandpiper and/or white winged tern in Nova Scotia and Massachusetts and a Bahama Mockingbird in Florida. The birds threw me the pitches and largely I missed.
Oh well. I tried.
Cape Bonavista Newfoundland
I blew in at midnight on a Porter Air flight, crashed three hours and drove 200 miles to the cape. I arrived and immediately noticed two things. The was no heron in the beaver pond and no birders looking. I then spent 6 hours:
finding every body of water a heron would like and then bushwacking a mile of river took 4 hours. By then I found another birder named Ed, I met him in February. I warmed up in his car then. He had not seen the heron either. It was a full strike one!!
I did see an iceberg, my first
I saw an interesting rocky coastline
and a milestone bird, Atlantic Puffin #650
It was a long way out on an island. Later I learned this is a puffin watching spot. I just went up to look at the sea as I was bored. Then I spied an arctic fox,
and well I drove around until 1 looking at the ponds again.....all in vain.
April 11, Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
I came into town and slept like the dead, but had to leave at 4am, as it was 200 miles from Halifax down there to get a curlew sandpiper, but the finder of this bird, a generous resident named Mark Dennis, didn't see it in the falling tide the night before. I had no where else to go so i came to the holiday area....
well we never found the bird but Mark came and helped.
I did find piping plovers, they are cute little guys.
Let me say something about this area. It has nice beaches, BUT NO, and I repeat NO public bathrroms...at least that I could find.......none of the parks, beach access points, or even the base ball field had one. There is no convenience store nearby either. The only food is a take out shack. They had no one either.
Never shy, I just went on the rocks on a breakwater. A woman nervously drove by. I didn't care. Give me an outhouse....then. I watched what this woman was up to and then two other came in cautiously, I thought it was the rough road. Nope! They began exchanging things way up in the parking lot. I turned my spotting scope. Drugs? I got to see this. Housewives selling weed like the Showtime show.
Nope...dildos. The lady that drove by me was a distributor. The first woman bought a big purple one. She held it up. Seemed a bit floppier than I would suspect. Never held one...Nothing says love me softly, like a huge purple dildo. Mark had joked how conservative people were here. They cannot even exchange sex toys in a home. The second lade had a vibrator. I couldn't tell the brand oh and some crotchless lingerie. You don't see that out birding. Pretty red with a bow on the but. I guess it was too cold to try on. They held it up in the wind as I looked. The sex toy drop spot in Cape Sable Island. Hawk Beach....who would have thunk it? The things you see birding. No wonder she wasn't going to give me crap for urinating in public. She didn't realize I had 65x spotting scope.
April 12, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, Fort Lauderdale FL
I left Nova Scotia at 6am. The computers broke in Customs, but I got through anyhow. I hubbed through JFK airport for the first time since 1979 when we had to land a wounded plane emergently coming from Europe. I remember it as a crash landing but I was 13 and maybe my baseball fantasy and my plane fantasy were similar? We were neglected in an abandoned terminal for nearly a day. I remember that. I have not been to NYC or JFK ever since. It scarred me a little way back then. I was still nervous about being there now.
I survived and landed in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at noon. Fort Lauderdale and Halifax are like always in the same itinerary, right? I headed to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, it was like 12 miles from the airport. It could be an easy bird.
Okay, let me say that Hugh Taylor Birch is a hero of mine. It is time for a little history, much of this is from a 1987 review of this in a New York Times article. Birch at the turn of the century collected three miles of of isolated beachfront property when land was cheap and settlers were few and far between. He had the area to himself. He brought the governor to read by his favorite tree and in his older years many remember him as a tall, white-bearded man, vexed by encroaching civilization, using a rifle to shoot out new street lights installed by the City of Fort Lauderdale at the edge of his property. You got to like a man shooting street lights.
I had it, it may have only had one good eye, but I could drink a lifer beer, and well, I got at least one bird home, it was a bit of a swingling bunt but a bird is a bird.
It was tome to head north, a yellow green vireo was only ...200 miles away....is everything 200 miles away on this trip?
Columbia Ave Hammock, Cocoa Beach FL
I came for a yellow-green vireo, the other big year birders shall be happy as it flew the coup a few hours before I arrived and did not show up on the 13th
But...I got a good consolation bird
#652 Blackburnian warbler
#653 Connecticut warbler
The picture is bad, but is is definately identifiable as a CT warbler...Good bird! I said it to everyone, Thursday night. I just saved myself from a bug infested crawl in mud through an alder swamp in NW Wisconsin to get the bird. I do it in crocs and with little clothing to enable hosing myself off at my grandmother's It is not a place i truly wish to go...now, I don't!!
Good we got this on the 12th as the next morning next to the spot we saw the bird, a homeless man had moved in a ramshackle tent and was loudly shouting, "They charged me with assault and battery and with intent to kill. No I'm free and they think they can spy on me with all these poeple sneaking around...." Later to the relief of all, wearing not one, or two but 6 hats, he left for the day...where do homeless schizophrenics go in Cocoa Beach? I don't want to know but it is a problem. People should not have to live like dogs...........It isn't just the psych care it is also the psych rules, we can;t force medication on people........
Merritt Island NWR
I went to look for white rumped sandpiper and I was not disapointed
#654 White-rumped sandpiper
other birds not photographed in 2016
I even took time to move a eastern box turtle (I think) off the road
I cut my trip back to the airport too close. I was forced to drive 95 on 95, but...I made it. it was 200 miles back. It took me 2 hours 25 minutes and i stopped for gas and three hamburgers at McDs........we will soon see if my plan works for this big year, the birders are heading to Attu tomorrow, gathering on the 15th in Adak...without me......I think of Attu as a 2 week plus trap in prime birding time, I will spend my 2 weeks wisely. I will start by finishing off all of my migrants...all of them, with the CT warbler seen, I can do it, I can....I must. With Aussie record holder John Weigel out here on the prowl, my 750 goal is not nearly enough....that is way I put # to old record above. 760 will win the year, but it could be even higher....I need to have every bird and leave as much time for pure chasing....I have to run the table in Minnesota this weekend.
I can rest when I'm dead, I guess