Sunday, June 19, 2016

Where to next Magellan?

I was thinking of titles for this blog.  "Hot in McCainland,"  "Bloody in Yuma"  "Bruised and Beaten in Buckeye"  "Sizzled in Scottsdale"  "Destitute in  in the Desert."  I could have settled on just "Why?"  Why?  Because we were mad, as in hatter, or generally just I was insane, being a big stupid idiot comes to mind.  "Where to next Magellan?"  Seems to sum it all up.  We should have died, we could have died, but well...I am still blogging

Brian Johnson of Scottsdale, my intrepid partner in this, summed it all up and gave me a title.  "Where to next Magellan?"  The only thing he said basically during the trying part of  yesterday.  We were lost, standing on broken branches nowhere near a trail.  It would be maybe a hundred yards before we could, if we wanted to, even put our feet on the sand or whatever was underneath us, it would shortly be 120 degrees, we were miles from our car and even farther from anyone else.  I had found a cave that we could maybe crawl into to avoid the extreme heat once our water ran out and had pointing it out to Brian.  That wasn't going to save us short of prolonging the agony of death.  We had no cell phone signal but somehow, Brian's phone gave our GPS location.  I looked at it on the map.  We were surrounded by green, buried in a a see of thorns and brush....I did the next best thing a stubborn Swede can do, I swore and charged ahead, promptly ended up upside down....

The synopsis:

Big Year Total:  738
Coded Birds:  75
provisionals: 3

number to go to old record:  12
Miles driven.  32,445
Flight Miles 102, 900
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 108   Different Airports: 43
Hours at sea: 178
Miles walked 230
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12
states/ prov. birded: 34
Lifers seen this year:  57
nights slept in car:  11

Back to birding...

I am not going to say where we went.  We had heard vague rumors of this bird and I mentioned it to Laurens Halsey, he didn't talk me out of it.  He warned Brian (they found copulating nightjars together a few days ago) that my pants may come off, and yes...they did.  Brian's were nearly cut off, shreaded by the thorns.  Not for the reasons maybe he implied tongue and cheek, though.

I was originally going to not mention this bird on my list until fall/ winter.  I had a witness and a picture but you know, thinking about it, this is really not my style, BUT I'm not going to mention where we were.  The ebird reviewer knows and has seen pictures..we weren't where we were supposed to be ..the rest of you, this is all you get.  The ebird checklist will be hidden, sorry.

I'm doing this for a couple of reasons:  first safety and secondly practical.  This was one difficult place to get to.  As noted we missed a turn on foot.  (the road to where we walked was almost as bad as the road to Aliso Springs).  To where we needed to be and where we were after hiking for an hour and a half was about 4 miles to go back and correct and around to get there.  This is after we had walked miles leaving well before first light.  As such, we tried (mostly I) tried to go cross country, Brian followed and I nearly made a mistake that could have killed us.  We should have just packed it in and gone back to the truck.  Both of us were cut up badly.  I had lost some blood, and AND how I didn't get bitten by a snake is only from the graces of my team, a team of guardian angels.  Much of the blood has been sweated off.

It was 98 degrees at 0900 am, and by noon, 120?  I carried 3/4 of a gallon of water, it was not enough.  No cell phones worked but oddly we had GPS, but knowing where you are doesn't help you get to where you need to go especially standing in the middle of a mesquite and tamerisk forest with blood dripping down your arms.  So no one ever needs to think about going here, it was too much.  I would not return ever to this spot.  I would truly trade being shot at or chased by a bear, both from 2013 than to ever EVER do this again.  We were warned but we didn't listen.  We were stupid, lucky....but really really stupid.  I'm pretty sure heat stroke would have gotten us had we delayed getting aback by another hour.   I'm really sun burnt too.  Just don't go here!

We did see birds first photo of a Bullock's oriole this year.

yellow breasted chats, again FOY photo, they called in total darkness..

and then the bird of the year maybe for me

Nutting's flycatcher....
Brian's photos are even better than mine.

Reporting birds is about ego, but I'm going to say it here but hide my ebird location, just like the guys with owls do.  Secondly, practically for me, this is a big year, and competition, although I don't care about it, Christian has given me info and I him, but no one else has doing it so this here is all the people need to know as why should I help those who aren't helping me.

I got out and went for pancakes because that was what I was thinking about to keep me happy and from loosing it.  Simply know life is really just a stack of pancakes, nothing beats them, I had hoped to be able to eat them one more time...Brian smiled and ordered a burrito and French toast and an endless glass of diet coke.  In life it is the little things....and man those were good flapjacks!

Jemez Springs, NM

I enjoyed my first shower in days after my ordeal.  I wasn't going to sleep in my car again.  I savored  a rare night lately in a bed although I could only get 5 hours of much needed sleep before I had to get up at 0330.  I was groggy and had a hard time getting going.  There is nothing more sobering, though than having to put back on soiled clothing ( I chose ones without blood on them) before going through a McDonald's drive thru to go birding.  I took stock in my body as I was waiting for the standard, coffee--large, three sugars to come my way.  My right arm was luckily not broken, it was sore from when I fell off a tree truck I was standing on and flipped upside down and I put my arm out to brace the fall on my head.  My shoulder got caught on another branch so that stopped me.  I lost a water bottle in the process.  My forearm, as I now remember it, hit the side of the tree pretty hard.  My arms looked like I had gotten into a fight with a cat, deep and heavy scratches on them.  I had a deep one on my left arm that had closed okay so I didn't need stitches but it was sore.  My left lower leg was bruised, mostly as I used that leg to just elephant the brush, break the small branches and some, didn't break too easily but I would heal.

I again had to be early not only to beat the heat but as I was chasing black swift, the early bird gets the swift.  Black swifts are odd birds, they like to live behind waterfalls and feed high up in the sky so high, you can never see them.  I am no expert but in my experience, there is a method in getting this bird (well I know a nest sight in Montana, that is also a way).  One is to wait for fog or rain so that the fog and clouds forces them down to your level, or get your a$$ out to a waterfall before first light.  In June, that is not easy.  The sun comes up early in June and waterfalls are not always right on a road.

I picked Jemez Falls in New Mexico as it seemed handy to an airport and on the way home.  I had never been here.  I arrived in the parking lot with a nearly full moon lighting the road.  I hiked down to the falls and took a seat with a good view.  Immediately I got buzzed by something dark.  I cowered down into the rocks instinctively as out of the corner of my eye I could see a swift heading down over edge of the falls.  "Bastard"  I said under my breath.  Then I put my heart back in my chest so to speak and I got ready for the show.

I was not early and I turned my ISO way up as two then as many of 5 black swifts, large swifts without a speck of light or white on them cruised high overhead, I never got buzzed again.  They were really up there already but I could see them.

It is 0525 in the morning and the sun wasn't even fully up yet but I still managed to actually photograph my third swift for the year.  I haven't shot a Vaux's yet although seen them.  These birds, and at one point, I could see five, hung around for ten minutes on and off and then....they were gone.  I assume they came off the falls but to be honest it was dark down there and my first notice was the buzz-by.

I hung out until 0630 but it was mostly to try to see which Jay was sitting in a tree I could see until the sun hit it.  Stellers but that didn't matter.

It was a neat spot, and looked like yet another place I'd like to come back to if it wasn't for this dang birding year.  Bird #738 in the bag, I went back down the valley and stopped and snapped a picture of Jemez Springs, it is a bit of a throwback town

This is the Stage stop

As I was taking pictures apparently one of the tribal police was taking pictures of me for apparently going 42 in a 30.  You know, this scofflaw from traffic court, me, has no reason to argue.  The Jemez Reservation can use my $75 bucks and the cop was a fisherman, wanting to go to South Dakota to get walleye, I gave him a lead or two.  My perfect birding record over.  I had never NEVER gotten a ticket or arrested while birding, naked or otherwise and now...that is over.  My 67th stop, 7th ticket.  I didn't deserve this one but I deserved one the last 10 stops and didn't get one.  Oh well...

Some clean up items....

I had heard through the grapevine that those arm chair people out there, had doubted my knot sightings because for one thing I had waited two days to post it, well it was just a day, AND I was in Nome with no data access.  I was a little short with the guy who told me this but I was really tired and all covered in blood, really, sorry there.  The stewardess on my flight moved the person sitting next to me to an open seat, as I must have looked bad.  The day I left Nome, I finished a bunch of ebird postings at the Alaska Executive lounge in Anchorage as I did my blog the very next day.  I will add, I'm pretty sure I saw the third knot tucked in a cove on one of the ponds and watched this bird for 30 minutes with head under the wing with my daughter.  I never saw the bill but it had longer black legs and then distracted I turned away, as the bird popped its head out and flew away, I never got on it in flight but my daughter said it was a long narrow bill, she counted it, I didn't.  I couldn't tell even with the long legs and until later I didn't know these knots had black legs.  I was only 90% sure.  I had all my photos of it, which it turned out I didn't, as in the extreme cold somehow I had not put in my chip correctly.  My daughter was through birding....

When I came across the two knots two hours later, about a mile from this encounter with the single bird, I went to get friends I left on the bridge....I saw these birds well on the gravel bar,  50x scope versus my 5x camera in very windy condition and harsh light..I watched these birds walk around some loafing eiders, had light abdomens were long and wide versus stockier surfbirds, had the bronze on the wings folded....IDK.  I snapped two photos and blew it up to this....they aren't jeagers...IDK

Would I have called them Great knots if there hadn't been a previous report?   No.  I would not have called this a slate-throated redstart with out a previous report if this was the only photo in existence, either, but I had watched the redstart for a while before i tried to shoot it.

I showed this exact same picture to the Wilderness guide Aaron Bowman a hour later on the bridge and his partner....I wasn't hiding anything, in fact, I was really wound up about seeing these birds and I wanted to share....I stayed out until midnight trying to help my friends get it.  I worked hard on that bird, over 24 hours I walked quite a bit of the shoreline around the sound, thinking that with the wind they were tucked in somewhere.  When I screwed up my first encounter, I literally cried like a little kid.  .I do wish I had snapped the picture two feet earlier when their feet and lower bodies were exposed or had brought walkie talkies.  Oh well

In the end believe what you want, I'm getting nothing out of this...maybe a bill and a headache.  You guys are reading this drivel.
I guess that is not true, I have sold 114 Boobies Peckers and Tits, since this started, thank you very much.  Those royalties paid for my Motel 8 shower and bed last!  I don't expect to be respected as a birder.  I have said that repeatedly in this blog.  That is okay, this is my hobby.

I will say that with the black swift not even counting the knot, I have now taken more pictures of ABA birds in a calendar year than anyone ever has.  I know Laura Keene is trying to break this record (I think) and I don't know where she is at, I now have more than the current record...but for me I couldn't give a rat's ...well you know, ....about this record....big deal, horray for Laura, if that makes her happy, just note to whomever,  I'm out there and I got a lot of pictures.

Another nice meaning guy told me to sneak off for a week in Hawaii to get a big island total and with that I could crush the USA record.....

Is this only about the records?  If so how very sad all of this is if this is just about that.  I kind of think I had an epiphany in the desert this week.  It was very VERY good for my soul out there even before my mishaps.  Let me say this here and in all honesty, When it is said and done, I will be buried in the Anscarius Cemetery 4 miles east of Grantsburg Wisconsin or at least some of my ashes will be (I hope to be cremated in the long Nordic tradition, ashes spread at two other locations, Orient Beach and Smoothrock Lake Ontario) near my beloved Grandfather and mother, Allwin and Lucille Danielson. The previous story teller in the family, uncle George Danielson, my Great grandmother, Ellen Danielson, and my great-great grandfather Henry.  Hopefully near my immediate family, but I will have no control over that.  I'm not sure I would wish to be near me for eternity either.  There will be no mention of any damn birding records on the tombstone.  The only record I really care about is my nude birding record.  I wrote a book on that.  It has my inermost thoughts and fears in it.  When I told birding stories to Brian, it wasn't 2016 stories I largely told, it was 2013 stories, that is a record I cherish and had a lot of fun doing.  This year is fun too, but in a whole different sort of way.  This record is not not going to be mentioned on my tombstone either, BTW

I am not going to Hawaii and I am NOT going to mention my photo tally ever again, unless I am forced to.



  1. I think I feel about good French Toast the way you feel about a short stack. Great way to start a day.

  2. Relax Olaf... just enjoy yourself and writing your posts.

  3. Relax Olaf... just enjoy yourself and writing your posts.

  4. You are living an adventure that most birders can only dream of. Enjoy each day! (And I need some info from you about Cave Creek Ranch....)

  5. O: If nothing else, I am sure you will remember your day out looking for the Nutting's for the rest of your life, no matter what other birding adventures lie ahead. As our mutual friend Chris would say; " Better you than me ". A heck of a find, and mucho congratulations.
    To rub it in a little bit, rare birds are only rare in some places. I have fond memories of lying on a lawn chair on my patio deck in Hope B.C., ( near mountains with lots of waterfalls ), with some kind of libation in my hand watching the Black Swifts soar overhead. Not much effort expended there!! Have fun.

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  8. Only 12 left to tie. Only a few easy ones (Calliope Hummingbird, Groove-Billed Ani) left. Hope future chases, pelagics and Alaska visits are productive. I see that 837 have been seen in the ABA per ebird in 2016. Excluding non-countable exotics that still leave splenty to chase!

  9. As someone who spent a summer doing field work along the Bill Will I can sympathize with you. It's brutal out there, sometimes the Tamarisk is so bad you can barely breathe from all the dust it creates, never mind move forward! Beautiful place, but not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

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