Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sorrowful in New England

Let me say this upfront, I have really been unmotivated to blog in the last few days as after what happened in Orlando.  My exploits don't matter.  The families of 50 people, 50 young people are grieving and the families of just as many are worried about the health and recovery of loved ones. and still more are trying to quell the PTSD from being there. I don't like stereotyping this as the LGBT community as these are just people...people out having fun on a Saturday night until they weren't.

I can't relate to this tragedy.  I cannot know how those affected, feel.  What I feel is different.  I can say that I understand their losses but I don;t know if I can even say that.  I was very surprised to see that even in northern New Hampshire on the morning after this event, flags all over were half-mast. This is not just an LGBT issue this is an American issue, if the LGBT community wants to be part of a cohesive society and not a separate society they need to understand this and I think many do.

Unfortunately crap happens in America, but we do have too many guns and this is from a gun owner, but guns were not the problem here.  How to integrate these 1st generation immigrant children into our or English, or French society seems to be something that somewhere we all have forgotten how to do, maybe it is religion, culture, but IDK.  We are not and have never been safe anywhere all the time here--be it a night club or a school. Terrible stuff has happened in the last 150 years, it is just that we have more people and more people means bigger and more events, and more media means we learn about it.  We cannot have metal detectors at little league games this summer, we cannot have malls locked down like airports, if it becomes that, the bad guys have truly won.

Save the countless recollections of this tragedy, and just before, I have contributed my worthless opinion, I continued on into New England and really enjoyed myself.  It wasn't easy birding, as the weather....well what else would it be?

So here is my story of birding if anyone still cares:

The synopsis.     

Big Year Total:  734
Coded Birds:  74
provisionals: 2

number to go to old record:  16
Miles driven.  31,501
Flight Miles 99,100
flight segments: 105   Different Airports: 42
Hours at sea: 178
Miles walked 218
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12
states/ prov. birded: 34
Lifers seen this year:  56
nights slept in car:  9

 Boston MA

Whatever was happening elsewhere on the early morning of June 12, I was not aware of it as I was hopelessly lost in Boston.  Nobody cared about me not even Siri, as I lost it when she deposited me in a dark alley and then when reprogrammed gave me directions to Rhode Island.  Is Peabody MA such an alien concept?  Is my accent so bad?  I found the hotel an hour later, and then 30 minutes after that, I figured out how to actually get to it.  You can't make cross traffic turns off of Highway 1.

What was important in Boston was my son, Tyko, with his brother Allwin in Germany, this was the only twin we could visit for their 21st birthday.  Now many of you, if you actually read my book, Boobies Peckers, and Tits will recall (well maybe) my great Chapter:  Flashbacks, where I retell my epic father getting to the birth of his twins story.  I still feel somewhat guilt over all of this and apologize to my wife.  21 years ago this morning I was blissfully knocking off an item on my bucket list on Big Wood Lake Wisconsin catching largemouth bass like a pro, on nearly every cast.  It was a day fishing dreams were made of and then, later when my wife called me to pronounce the breaking of her water….I had driven to Iowa to start a shift and she was in Pennsylvania, and shortly I was off on a crazy chase…the details are well described and I shant not repeat them.

Today 21 years later, I was picking up the twin known for a while as twin “A” for a breakfast rendezvous and a year bird, all at Revere Beach north of Boston.  Tyko was doing a fellowship in Bioinformatics at BU for the summer and well, we hadn’t gone on a big year birding adventure this year with me.  Tyko was my son to accompany me to Attu in 2013 so we have spent much time birding together just not this year, college and being a busy young scholar.
You haven’t met this one of our three wonderful kids in my blog yet.  He likes orange, computers, science, reading, and well, his thing is cool hats.  Tyko specializes in hugs and is a truly nice guy.
Here is this fine young man on his last day of being 20, we are so proud of all of our children, it will be nice to see all three back together soon.

After Siri took us into a small backyard instead of Revere Beach, we found the oldest public beach in America…who knew?  We looked on the rocks and struck out and then we scoped the bay and just off of the beach and pretending that they were a raft of ducks, we spotted 20 Manx shearwaters, bird #732, and one I got a photo of.  Not a good photo, I may add.. 

Tyko then hiked with me to get a piping plover, a lifer for him,

And then another birthday photo,

You can fault me for be fat and ugly, and a bad birder, you can fault my many shortcomings as in my life, my choices, my bad attitude, my opinionated opinions, and just about anything about me.  You cannot, though, fault my three bright, friendly and wonderfully adjusted children nor my very special and extremely nice and loving wife.

Finally we ate and in characteristic fashion, I tipped over his tea, then we picked up mom at the Airport.  Tyko decided to use Swedish speaking Siri, but is was some sort of Google Siri on his phone, it had to be better than mine.  I could tell when I was going wrong as she got very excited, even for a Swede.  Then she got us lost and directed us to a Memorial at Logan Airport….is this that hard?  I took matters in my own hands and we found the terminal and Silja.  I could see the airport for Pete's sake, and who is Pete?

After lunch and time with a beloved son, it was sad to head on the journey.

Mt Washington, NH

My bad weather big year continues, it is June and as I ate pizza in Gorham NH.  This was my 48th state to visit in my life and for Silja, state 42.  I got a call from Sue the Bicknell’s guide on the Mt. Washington Road that the weather up the road was horrid, it was snowing at 2800 feet and the wind………let me just say it WAS BAD.  She tried to talk me into cancelling but I had no real place to go.  I said a prayer to the birding gods and hoped the morning weather report was wrong.

New Hampshire on there roads gives road numbers and directions to the liquor store.  I needed some, as everything now hung in the balance.  It was Sunday and they were closed.

Why do we advertise this in this world of DWIs etc?

The directions were simple, take a right at the moose and drive six miles to the sign.

I was going to ask if it was my or the moose's right until I figured it out that they were both the same, think about that, how could that be possible?  Well I'm in the car, not folding a moose's antler...

 We arrived before 6am, met up with Sue Wemyss.  The weather WAS wrong, it had warmed overnight and it wasn’t below freezing on top so up we went in a “Stagecoach” to get the much desired thrush ......split off the gray cheeked thrush in 1995.  We were the intrepid birders for the year.  If a Yellowhammer was reported in Gambell on the far boneyard with winds like this even Paul Lehman would have not gone out and try to find it.

Let me say some things on Sue Wemyss.
Sue was an Olympian, 1984 Sarajevo, she got 28th in the woman's 20km ski race, how cool is that!!, Plus she competed in 3 other races.  All this and she took us up the hill to see a bird, and put up with lowly Olaf.  She still directs the local ski trails and has helped many of the teams giving back to her hobby.  I hope to do that with birding, although doubt I'll be in much demand.

Back to the weather....I was going to say that at least we weren’t at the top when the gust measured at 105 MPH hit, BUT we were at 4500 feet and not far down and I would estimate that the one gust the hit us was over 80.  Probably the same gust.  Many were over 60.  Sue put her head down in a perfect down the hill skiing posture, and I just braced myself.  I wanted to use a Robin Williams line about foreplay with spouse in the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” to joke to my wife and say  Brace yourself honey but she couldn’t hear me….but shockingly we had heard Bicknell’s call twice, once in a lull between gusts up at the tree-line and later when we were packing it up down lower a few times before it started to rain and the road opened at 8 for a motorcycle outing.  Driving a Harley up today....priceless?  Pointless is a better word but then again i did go birding in it.

....Tough day and tough birding.   Interesting place though.  I actually liked it enough to buy myself a t-shirt. I rarely buy souvenirs occasionally a sticker, but rarely a t-shirt.

It says “If a man speaks in a forest and no woman is around to hear him, is he still wrong?”
The comments I get on this shirt!  The stewardess just stopped me to read it on the plane...

Scarborough Marsh, Portland ME

Silja added another new state....43  After braving more wind twice at this marsh where we once saw a Nelson’s sparrow and later heard another one…I have heard of hybridization in this area but it sounded like a Nelson’s and the view sure looked like one….bird #734.  This area we stopped though was not a very birder friendly spot despite the Audubon center as there is too much traffic noise and to be honest it was tough birding with the heavy wind.
I was able to photograph a black duck family.

We argued about where to stay but not in a bad way, one motel was open but the office was closed, another in Saco, had a disconnected phone number as I got only as close as next door in an Assisted Living facility.  Neither were conducive to the modern way of booking hotel rooms.  We thought about it for a while eating lunch in Saco.  Then I took a chance on another room, which had the rank of month old pack of Camels and the bed was like Granite,  Mt Washington was softer.  We took a nap for an hour before meeting St Martin friends John and Michelle from nearby for dinner in Saco.
After a fun night it was to bed for an early drive...they are all early.

Vinalhaven ME

Just going out to Vinalhaven island was an adventure in itself.  We arrived just in time to buy tickets and to get organized for the hour and fifteen minute ferry crossing.

We arrived in Vinalhaven just before noon, found our inn and checked into our first room, which as it turned out, had a broken toilet, undeterred by that we made it work and went looking around.  Silja bought a book at the used bookstore about the regulations in family farming and sustainable agriculture and we both bought lobster rolls.

At 2pm, I met up with John Drury and we headed out on the Skua to bird.  Silja went biking and read her “new” book.  We headed out to Seal Island NWR in the hopes of seeing the loneliest bird in North America, the red-billed tropicbird.  This male bird, and they know it is a male as he has mounted lobster trap floats and a decoy, has been showing up since 2005, making him at least 12 years old but he had a full tail feather on his first year so he may be older. 

We saw Atlantic puffins

Great cormorants in full breeding plumage


And thousands of terns, well the colony has 2500 pairs of arctic and common terns

They have 5 researchers staying there and we met two who rowed out to the boat, it is a long and lonely summer IMHO on that barren rock weighing tern chicks...

but alas…the tropicbird was a no show.

I don’t see the rare target bird every time.  I am just a human birder.  I dip, I dipped here, I’ll dip again.  I saw the bird's hole…it didn’t work out to stay for another day at this, it is a waste to leave and come back if needed but I might have to.
I came back and my wife was gone, the room abandoned, the key on the door and a note on the bed…….
It didn’t read, “sorry sucker, met a lobster trapper and decided to leave you for the smell of fish and his name is Earl.”  I am NOT living a country western song and my wife and I love each other.  No, she had got us a new room as the toilet was unfixable despite efforts and we were in a nice cabin, across the road.

The wine bottle was open, the cheese was out, and the juice glasses ready when I arrived.  Life was good despite no bird.  I am living the dream....We ate and drank the night away on the deck and then at the Sand Bar, not much else was open..the service was about as bad as it could be even a little drunk, it seemed bad.  This is no party town.  We watched the tide come in and went to bed.

The morning was filled with beauty and we lounged until the ferry took us back to the car and I to Portland for the next leg of my adventure.

My lovely bride....

we really liked the hinged floating docks

and many of the boats were cool.

It was somber in many ways and we discussed the events.  I did have a strange liking for all things New England.  Lobster rolls....I felt an urge to buy a Bosox hat and even a Bruins hat.  I know both team's histories well,. We looked at college websites for Bowdoin College for Lena.  I looked at New Hampshire and Maine property.  I guess I like everything New England EXCEPT the Patriots....Nope, I can never be a fan of them....go green.  I just need a longer visit than a day to get a better feel for the place.

I'm now at 734......not bad, the tropicbird isn't in the clear yet, I'll get a shot again, I got a couple of bothersome birds and a garganey on the way.....where I end up next...well, I may not even know.  Silja dropped me off at the airport in Portland and away I went, I'll say I'm heading west or south as there isn't much east or north of Portland ME..or maybe I'm off to Pond Inlet Baffin island NWT?  I may be prone to not saying...

I'm still sorry about the whole of Orlando, my condolences, if that has any value.



  1. Hang in there, Olaf! I'm enjoying your exploits immensely and hope you are as well. My mom used to say if a Swede (aka my dad) says things are ok, then things are great. So maybe you are. Current events are depressing; being able to come to this blog for good, clean birding is therapeutic. Thanks, Nancy Magnusson

  2. Lobster rolls! Brings back many fond memories of great birds there last year. Fabulous total with over six months to go!

  3. Well, I guess Mt. Washington has to live up to its reputation occasionally. Good, though, you still got the bird. Too bad " the Red Devil " didn't come out of his hole. He's taunting you, demanding that you make a return trip. There are worse places to be be especially on a nice warm sunny summer afternoon when the birding has slowed down elsewhere. Have fun.

  4. I would be back to Gambell ASAP personally. There have been rarities about this week. And what about that Pine Flycatcher. You really needed to try another day or two for that Tropicbird, not sure why you gave up so quickly. Every bird is vital now.

    Go Olaf!

    1. took three days to get off there i hear this week...fog

    2. Why would you ever want to leave?

  5. Aztec Thrush... not on your list yet? Pine Fycatcher/Aztec Thrush combo in AZ.

  6. Dear Olaf, love your quest (big year), love your blog, including it's stream of consciousness so that all of us know you better than we know our neighbors. And thank you for condolences for those shot in Orlando - but honestly: "This is not just an LGBT issue this is an American issue, if the LGBT community wants to be part of a cohesive society and not a separate society they need to understand this and I think many do. " What does that mean? Of course it's an American issue - and who put LGBT people in the closet together - themselves? We've been spat upon, beat up, maimed, and killed. I don't know an LGBT person who doesn't feel fearful that those bad days could come back with only a little slacking of vigilance. Well - still rooting for you - go get 'em!
    Good birding out there!

    1. It was a rambling sentence that was meant to say that everyone was affected here not just the LGBT community. When many of the LGBT leaders have been on the radio (only listened to radio) it seemed they still want to divide us and them, it was almost like I couldn't feel bad for them since I wasn't LGBT...maybe it is but in my mind it is just 50 poor American kids (I think mostly 20 somethings?) that got shot who happened to be at a club, just American people got shot.....maybe I've transcended IDK, I think having to use monikers is old thinking, but I'm not perfect, but I think this affects me and not just the LGBTers and some activists I felt wanted to exclude me in their narratives. I understand prejudice still happens but I can't understand that fully either. I think I just talked in a circle....

    2. thanks for your reply - I get it. On to the birds!


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