Friday, May 13, 2016

The swinging bunt

Chapter 42;
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.

The synopsis:

Big Year Total:  654
Coded Birds:  52

I'm adding some new categories

number to go to old record:  96
Miles driven.  26930
Flight Miles 86,400
flight segments: 90   Different Airports: 37
Hours at sea: 96
Miles walked 173
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded: 28
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 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.

So angry was he at the city fathers for intruding on his beautiful tropical paradise with roads and taxes that in 1942, the year before his death at the age of 94, he snubbed the city and deeded a 180-acre parcel of his property to Florida for use as a state park. Except for 35 acres that went to his daughter, Mr. Birch left the rest of his Fort Lauderdale property to his beloved alma mater, Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  That seemed good.  Antioch was a liberal school founded by Horace Mann in 1852 trying to help liberal causes like the environment.....NO you say?
In 1987 Antioch College filed suit saying the gift of the state park is null and void and asserted in a lawsuit that it has become the rightful heir to the 180 acres. This is no small matter. Commercial real estate appraisers calculate the land is now worth a half-billion dollars or more in 1987, 3 billion today to commercial interests for development. #2 Sides of Debate That translates into about $1 million for every student enrolled at Antioch in 1987, which was the first college in the nation to admit women to an equal curriculum and one of the first to admit blacks.
The college is saying that the state has neglected the park, allowing it to become a rundown patch of green space; therefore, they should be able to sell it to developers.  Those greedy rotten pigs!  back then, the state contends that the park is in exceptional condition, considering its urban setting, and that the college's lawsuit is nothing more than a bare-fisted grab for valuable public land to enrich its endowment fund.
As it turned out.  Thinking for the present like the grasshoppers the college was.  Antioch long ago sold its own share of Mr. Birch's Fort Lauderdale beachfront and learned to regret it, though at the time it was seen as a phenomenal windfall for the endowment fund. Eighty acres was sold for $4 million in the 1940's. The last parcel was sold several years later to commercial developers and it is now occupied by Galleria Mall, the home of such fashionable stores as Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The NYTimes article states:  "Hordes of weekend picnickers have changed the character of the park from a nature preserve and bird sanctuary created by Mr. Birch to a badly managed, overrun public green space that has lost its secluded charm."
This, Antioch officials say, is why the college is suing to acquire Mr. Birch's 180 acres. They cite a clause in the deed transferring the land to the state that stipulates that if the state ''abandons'' the state park for more than one year it would revert to Mr. Birch's estate, which is now controlled by Antioch."
Thankfully the college lost....the park lives on and a few days ago, a code 4, Bahama mockingbird was reported.  Honestly, the park looks okay to me.  Maybe they cleaned it up?  But the ranger looked bored and said to me as he walked up to meet me and I paid my 4 dollars.  "So you are here to see the bird with the injured eye."  I hadn't said a thing...did I look like a birder?
It was mid day and the bird was not around.  I looked for an hour.  Another guy was there, he had looked for two hours.  This was his third trip in.  We spotted a raccoon eating fruit in a tree.
he finally gave up and left.  I could hear his car go into forward in the parking lot when the mockingbird flew in.  It was odd.  I definitely don't want to bird with that guy.  What ever my luck worse. 
#651  Bahama Mockingbird

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 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, 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

Stilt sandpiper

Roseate spoonbill

glossy ibis

I even took time to move a eastern box turtle (I think) off the road

The Florida subspecies is near threatened.  So it was a good save.  I try to rescue all turtles.  It is a never ended thankless task though.

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

Out there...



  1. "You'll have plenty of time to rest when you're dead." One of my favorite phrases. Bird on!

  2. You will get your Yellow-green Vireo in Texas or California. Don't worry about the competition. Worry about a number, your final number. Make it as high as you can make it. More and More and More Birds!!!!

  3. Glad to know a fellow turtle-rescuer!

  4. So what's the theory on skipping Alaska? Couldn't that end things as much as give you the leg up depending upon your luck?

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  5. So what's the theory on skipping Alaska? Couldn't that end things as much as give you the leg up depending upon your luck?

    1. Skipping Attu minimizing Alaska in Spring Adak Pelegic none and mini gambell then back end loading Alaska in fall. Four to five weeks minimum Attu block functionally three to four weeks in prime time. So I'll be doing spring blitz in Hatteras Arizona and finishing migrants while they are going to Attu. Then I will do Adak waiting for Arctic warblers to arrive Down side is I can't miss anything in spring because fall migration I'll miss largely. You have to have confidence that red-legged kittiwakes will be seen on St Paul etc. I've checked what missed and what gained. Even in the year 2013, it wasn;t that many net birds....

  6. So what's the theory on skipping Alaska? Couldn't that end things as much as give you the leg up depending upon your luck?

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  9. Enjoying following your Big Year. I got one Big Year bird along with John Vanderpoel at Big Bend NP a few years ago during his near-record Big Year and have met Sandy Komito twice--who is really nice despite his negative portrayal in the movie. Really hoping you beat the obnoxious Yuppie who currently has the ABA Big Year record. His Big Year Blog really rubbed me the wrong way--he seemmed to sneer at all the commoners from flyover country he had to deal with on his travels.

    There's a word called supercilious that describes him perfectly.

    You seem to be sufficently quirky and an enjoyer of people and of life to be somebody to root for to be the new Big Year record holder. Hope you get it.
    No Days Off!! It may come down to one bird--either in 2016 or when someone tries to break your new record in future years.
    Good Luck!
    -John B Houston, TX

    1. Good on Olaf for an fantastic start to the year, but there's no reason to smear Neil.

    2. I don't like to delete posts. Yea Nate is right. Neil is in club house. I'm no saint. I'm the nude birder for Pete s sake. I can be smug. Usually I'm indifferent despite my bravado of being opinionated. To be honest there are others out there this year that should cause u to take notice Hayward is no ty Cobb therefore he should be respected in public as much as you would. I banter about stuff all in the competitive spirit. I was a catcher in little league trash talked all game. Hayward went out documented as best he could didn't appear to do anything nefarious

  10. Enjoying following your big Year. I got one Big Year bird along with John Vanedrpoel a few years ago during his Big Year and have met Sandy Komito twice who is really nice despite his portayal in the movie. Really hoping you beat the obnoxious Yuppie who currently has the ABA Big Year record. His Big Year blog really rubbed me the wrong way--he semmed to sneer at all the commoners from flyover country he had to deal with on his travels. You seem to be sufficently quirky and an enjoyer of life to be somebody to root for to be the new Big Year record holder. Hope you get it. No Days Off!! It may come down to one bird--either in 2016 or when sometime tries to break your new record in future years. Good Luck. -John B Houston, TX

  11. I'll keep saying it. Ignore the Drongo, bird your game. You got this.

  12. I'm sure Olaf has seen this already, but for the others, the game truly is afoot. Good luck Olaf! Hope your strategy pays offs!

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