Friday, July 29, 2016

America's Worst Airline

Well, I remember a nickname for America West Airlines as America's Worst Airline.  Multiple bankruptcies and ill-timed mergers of Eastern Airlines, Allegheny, Ozark Airlines, America West, US Airways, TWA, and finally American Airlines have cobbled together the "New" American Airlines.  Whose culture is it these days?  I'm not even sure they know.

Their logo is "We are glad you're here"  That I'm certain, they do NOT believe.  I don't believe it

Truth be told, 10-15 years ago, I liked American.  They flew me and my family all around the Caribbean, had a professional staff, and generally were the airline to fly....I used to belittle United and say when in doubt do NOT fly United.  I'm a half a million miler on Delta as from their Northwest roots, and Minneapolis hub but American was the airline to fly....but no more, never again .

Let me say it here.  I will never fly this airline again, EVEN and I repeat EVEN if it is from rescheduling on a cancelled United Texas flight.  The airline is not safe, they are NOT professional, they are NOT reliable, and to be honest, some businesses like Eastern, Ozark, etc etc, just need to go away.  TWA and PanAM fought for 50 years to be the monopoly airline and where are they now?  Where is Bethlehem Steel?  The Rock Island Railroad, MCI...Dead, gone, buried.  In many cases, thankfully.

My day started yesterday with a cat funeral, Nightmare kitty, a family pet for 11 years needed to be put down (such a way to say it).  After a Glenlivet in her honor, I dug a grave on the ranch.  Animals need to be part of the land they roamed.  We have a family tradition of pet funerals that maybe border on the pagan, but I don;t care.  It helps us.  We can argue the pros and cons theologically of whether animals have souls and I have with my very well read family, but let me leave that for a different time.  I'd give you a picture of her but I don't have one on this computer, she was a black torti shorthair....I had a similar kitty as a kid named Uglikitty.  Allwin picked her out at a farm overrun with kittens up the road in 2005 with our exchange student at the time from Norway, Ingvild along with two others, Whiskers and Grey, Whiskers didn't figure out the road and Grey still roams my house.

I had an odd feeling of doubt as to what to do on my travels to Monterrey today and a Debi pelagic. The cheapest flight was from Bismarck (5 hours away) through Minneapolis, but to San Jose the most direct, American from Minneapolis through Phoenix, Delta doesn't do Monterrey and well, I had to leave late to bury the cat and build a stone cairn.  I laid in my bed and plead my dilemma to a not understanding wife and finally I held my nose and  I chose American, took the miles on Alaska and went to bed on Wednesday.

It went okay until we backed out of the gate at Minneapolis.  A maintenance guy was trying to attach a piece of duct tape in the back galley of the 737.  It made us 15 minutes late, then we got out of order to take off, and were 12th in line.  It took 30 minutes to take off.  I cannot ever remember such a delay in Minneapolis is perfect weather.

The stewardess forgot about us in rows 28-30 before we were descending. I got my soda just before we had to give them back to land, BUT we didn't just land we had to circle Phoenix a bit to make us late and then due to construction we had to wait to get a gate.

The same stewardess pleaded for the 67 who had tight connections like me to allow us to go first, those so in front of the plane got out but then a high school kid (was in Minneapolis for the Junior Golf tourney, I had heard earlier, Tiger Woods in the making??) he stood and blocked the aisle, looked clueless and then everyone got up.  For the first time in my life on a plane me and a guy just in front of me shouted at the people in the aisle.  He finally, walked up to the kid and said, "Get out of my F^&%% way you little..." and gave him a push to the side and I followed in his wake.  The run from A8 to B19 is surprisingly far in Phoenix and I went into excercise induced asthma somewhere near the turn for the lower B gates.  I was having chest pain by the time I got to B19 as they were making the final call.  If I would have just passed out, everything would have strangely worked out.

I got on the plane, left my suitcase outside as they said they had no room....they closed the door in my wake, and I took my seat.  Then a minute later, they reopened the door, I could here the bridge being replaced.  "We are over loaded so we need to offer for two of you to not go on tonight's flight."  The captain said.  There was a moan.  Then they announced the rear bathroom was broken.  Another moan.

Well, then I saw my suitcase come aboard, then then two stewards opened the overhead and began along with the captain and co-pilot a laborious project of filling overheads with 21 pieces of luggage left outside for gate check.  I have never seen such a thing.  They put suitcases under seats, in closets, and I even think they put one in the closed bathroom.  "Weight load now checks out."  So they closed the door again.....It took us 40 minutes to get out of the gate and through a construction project

Well we were off and I finally could breath easy (literally and figuratively) as we flew over Barstow then to the coast.  We descended, and heard the weather for Monterrey, 10 mile vis, 55 degrees, landing in 15 minutes.  I could see the lights of Monterrey and Carmel and then, the plane began to climb and without so much as even a second look--diverted to Phoenix.....Phoenix? Why not San Jose as we flew over San Jose and then Fresno and Bakersfield airports.  There was some continuing turmoil in the first class bathroom as that was the only one and as the 1.5 hour flight became four, and they ran out of bathroom water over Bakersfield. They ran out of alcohol over Riverside and that may have been a good thing or a bad thing, depends.  The anger grew.  People were talking behind me that at least going to Phoenix would leave teams of American reps to help them, I knew that would not be the case...I thought it would be lucky if they even had a gate for the plane.

We landed at midnight, the Steward gave the stock landing speech about welcome to Phoenix and if this is your final destination or wherever your travels bring you speech.   There were jeers like I have never ever heard on an airplane.  One guy up front bordered on causing the FBI to show up.  We had to of course wait for a gate, 30 minutes as the midnight construction started as no planes come to the B gates at night....The captain did not greet us, there was no one from American to help advise us, we as they say were on our own, as there was a stack of phone numbers for a hotel and American customer service.  Old people were crying as they didn't know what to do or where to go.  It was bad....being abandoned by an airline is always really bad.

Then as all the gate checked luggage was somewhere on the plane (I had seen where mine got put so I grabbed it on way out) and nobody knew where, I had thought that the crew would help locate it but they sort of made themselves scarce and there was mass yelling and pandemonium as they apparently forgot about it and how in got into the airplane saying gate checked luggage would be delivered to gate.  Were they that stupid to forget that 30 minutes?  As I grabbed the phone numbers I could hear some serious anger from the jet bridge.
I was too tired to care.

It was 7 hours of flight to go nowhere....I got a $70 room at the Sleep Inn to go with my non-refundable room for $250 in Monterey, my $169 dollar trip on Debi's boat and my non-refundable Hertz fare.  This is not to mention my cost of my ticket.  I finally got through at 2am to American, who told me the next seat to Monterey was Tuesday........Tuesday?

I didn't care as I could have driven all night to The jetty in Monterrey from any airport in California, EXCEPT not Phoenix.  I would miss the boat.  I emailed her as I couldn't do anything else, I didn't want to be banned forever.  I told the woman at American on the phone, I just wanted to go home and she booked the flight back.  a 4400 mile circle, but American wasn't done with me yet.

I tried to check in at 6am at the airport, they had no record of my flight.  I got in the line and literally let out my frustration as I had an email with the flight.  Someone at 4am you see had cancelled me and put me on a San Francisco flight on Sunday.......WTF!!!

I got my seat back, was placed in zone 4 and when they said I couldn't board with zone 2 people (as I didn't want my camera checked) I just put my ticket over the scanner and said.  "I'm with all of them."  Pointing to the people in front of me.

It was a wasted 48 hours a wasted thousand bucks, but I learned something and I didn't even see a house sparrow in the airport..........
first, never ever fly American, 2) fly where you have status, and leave a flight after yours, 3) never fly to Monterrey and 4) avoid saving money by prepaying stuff...............I possibly missed a bird, maybe even THE bird...but I had to come home for the family to be there in the funeral..........I guess I going back home where else to go, I guess......

If I had just walked to the gate in PHX, I would have missed the flight but made the boat (I would have been put on a San Jose flight).  what is up is down, and what is down...up.  The flight today to Sacramento someone booked on last night to get home, cancelled due to lack of a crew...another to Glendale and one to Long Beach...same are not making any us all the trouble and just shut down.

When in doubt NEVER fly  I mean American...
good luck on your travels, and if your travels take you on American....GOOD LUCK with that.



Monday, July 25, 2016

More of everything

more, More, More, More, More!

All I got to add today from Alaska is more.  You wanted more, I wanted more and now got it!  More and More

There was a lot of "More" in St Paul as I waited out the days to get off the Pribs.  I came for one bird. There were more to be found.  There was also more wind, more rain, more mud, more fog, more damp, more cold, and more, more of the same...

There were...
More meals at the Trident seafood plant

More incredible scenery

well, the one day for a few hours when the fog burned off.

More Arctic Foxes

More Northern fur seals

They of course wanted more territory and more females,,,and more fish

There was more Rock Sandpipers

Many more.  More semipalmated plovers

there were more views of the wood sandpipers, more red-faced cormorants, and especially more tattlers, like this wandering, wondering if more of me was such a good thing, even once when i accidentally threw a rock and almost hit one.  More accidents...more stupidity.

There were of course more seabirds, kittiwakes, more of everything in the sea...

In general there were a lot more of unfocused bad lighting shots form all over the island
like more of these king eiders

I even saw a rather scruffy looking immature male spectacled eider in this group of ten but well, it was tough enough to pick him out with a scope.  You know, I've only ever seen one adult male of both species in breeding plumage.

There was even more wolf's bane or northern monkshead, I did not touch the plant, at least not enough to kill me, I did get more tingling in my fingers after rubbing my pants...maybe too much more symptoms?

There were More sights of things around the island Including...
 more crab pots

More narrow and bumpy roads that go seemingly nowhere

More flights leaving the island without me on them

More religious shrines that time, and the locals, have seemingly forgotten about, this one I was actually thinking of bringing some green and yellow paint with to paint next time I'm here

What is that Thomas Moore paint?

There are more pictures of guides thinking of the short comings of their clients, like the master of St Paul, Scott Schuette, (right) looking at Olaf wondering why I am looking at a shrine's disrepair and not at more of the ducks in Webster Pond.  Jeff (left) a photographer / birder from Pittsburgh is wondering if his luggage will ever arrive, and wondering can there be any more rain and how many more days until it comes in.

And Allison, the student from Unity College in Maine who is wondering why Olaf isn't counting more rock sandpipers on the Salt Lagoon, I just stopped at "x"  On an ebird checklist what is X + 1?  It is just X. More of the new math of birding.

She eventually needs to decide if she wants more of this or after one more semester, more of something else.

Yes, another quality birding destination, and MORE utter disappointment left in my wake. but for that I can't provide an adequate picture.   I am certain I am a bad client, plain and simple, but I cannot change who I am, more or less, I am what I am.  Here in St Paul, being left there for extra days as I tried to fly standbyto try to get out, I was doing more "birding" with photographers and my needs did NOT outweigh the needs of them, so I went along cheerfully snapping a picture or two, biding my time, staying loose.  When I could maybe see and add something I put in more of an effort, when it was photo time, I took it easy.  They wanted more inflight shots of puffins with fish, when they looked, I took a nap at the cliffs, one always needs more sleep here, not more puffin photos, you can have too many puffin photos.

They almost went insane with me seawatching so after a while I was just dropped off, and after they got sick of photographing more of me, they went on to scour for more puffins with fish....I kept at the scope.

there was more signs telling others to beware of rats, there was a wall of kid posters of drawings of rats, dead rats, bad rats,
I had more pictures but alas, I needed more power on my cellphone.

I spent more hours at the scope since ....since I was in Connecticut with who else but Darlene Moore. Here, I looked and looked, one shearwater, one fulmar, then another, more more more, shockingly as the hours rolled by at SW point at the scope.   The strong headwind blowing onshore from deep in the Bering Sea continued and the fog came in and out mostly in.  As the clock ticked, the wind and the rain continued, on one foggy day the total nearing 5000 of each bird, a gray ghost flew by with high arches after erratic flight, the bird was a little smaller and a whole lot faster than the many shearwaters and had a big black stripe on its leading edge of its light gray was a mottled petrel, one more bird I guess than what I had seen in a year before.  It was hard to think about, though,  as something else happened to dampen my mood.

Sadly,, I also saw more tragedy in a Native community, where there seems more despair, it is something everyday here in South Dakota--the hopelessness, and self-destruction grows everyday in the souls of the inhabitants.  Just before I got there, there were two suicides, a man and a woman at the same spot, they had a family, I don't know the details.  One reached the breaking point and when the other found her, he too took his own life right there, leaving children behind.  It was a sad depressing tale and then as I watched local friends and family solemnly build a memorial to them I was deeply moved.

I had a hard time sleeping after this, thinking of this and what, if anything could be done in such a place where the future is like the weather--tough, bleak, and seemingly endless.  Depressingly,  I think the problem will get worse before it gets better.  I saw an advertisement for a canvas painting class.  One can fight the bleak times with art and crafts and I hope these people will come and let their inner selves and creativity shine through. Maybe that is a start?  I don't have any answers.  Suicide doesn't seem for me to be one.

It made me think of my own past, and I vowed to make more paintings, more art.  You see I used to paint or draw all of my life birds where I saw them and either as I remembered them or I drew them right there.  I have always appreciated field guide art

Here is my 1989 rendition of a Canada warbler, it isn't very good, obviously I need more work, much more work, since I pretty much stopped in the early 90s.  Now, I won't even be this good.

More this, more that, and then the plane came, and they had one more seat, a few more minutes and then they boarded, and one more airport, later, we landed at St. George, then I began a 9 hour odyssey homeward.

so more numbers that have little importance in the big picture of life, art, and anything to help these islanders. but here....

Big Year Total:  752
Coded Birds:  81
provisionals: 1

Miles driven.  33,934
Flight Miles 124, 800
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 129   Different Airports: 46
Hours at sea: 192
Miles walked 273
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12
states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  61
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  5

There were more costs, and I need to add more to the budget as this excursion ran $3645.  So I think the year total will be be expanded by five thousand.

It was still more, more, more...

I began to think of great quotes to sum up this excursion, ones by Thomas More in Utopia, a core read to anyone learning the classics of literature

"You wouldn't abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn't control the winds"

I cannot control the weather on St Paul, so I should not just abandon it, It was good I stayed and me staying for 4 days gave me an extra bird and I cannot control it, so I need to stick to my plans and not be a defeatist.

I also was upset with myself, more self-loathing I guess, I should have kept still about my big year number.  The photographers got it out of me.  Thomas More also writes...

“Pride thinks it's own happiness shines the brighter by comparing it with the misfortunes of others.”

I told my number on the island to the photographers when they asked and they don't care, this was pride and this is just a personal thing.  John Dunn summed up all the big year books in a broad not flattering nutshell of narcissism.  I said it before and I wrote about it, that these have been there done that and I will keep my resolve to refrain from such an undertaking.  I write this blog to entertain and to share what this is like.  Maybe to keep you all from doing this.  I still don't have a reason to do this, it used to be why not, now I just ponder why?  Maybe writing about this helps me to find more answers to more of life's questions but maybe not.  This is NOT philosophy, it IS just birding.  Maybe I'm over thinking, again this is just birding....

I guess though, this is a big year blog so I'll put the number in here but I really don't think I should be telling anyone else in the field or truly highlighting it.  It diminishes other efforts.

When I got home, I found out I had more dogs, sigh, lonely wife with all this time on the road
Here is Silja with the new addition to my pet supply

I shake my head, more pets, in two days I need to put a cat down...more bad news....

I like St Paul, though, I just want a lot more good memories and a lot LESS nightmares and depression about tragedy, ...


Friday, July 22, 2016

The Wolf's Bane

July 18-??  St Paul, Pribolof Is. Alaska

Walking around St Paul Island especially the Zap Cliff area is fraught with peril.  The Puschkie is thick and wet.  It covers up many holes, which if you step in them you have two choices (assuming they just don't suck you in, one I looked in I could not see a bottom).  The first choice is to just let your ankle break.  The second choice is to fall.  But that has too added choices, you can either fall off the cliff or into the grass.  That latter choice is also fraught with peril.  For if you fall and accidentally touch any of the Northern monkshood (of the family aconitum), you very well may not make it off the hill.  The stuff is everywhere.

It is one of the most poisonous plants in the world.  It works fast and easily absorbed through skin. It is without any antidote and close relatives of this plant have been used for eons for murders, suicide, and other nefarious purposes.  DON'T TOUCH OR PICK THE FLOWERS!  I do have use for this plant in a new novel...

Here I am sitting in a patch, cheating death

I came up to Alaska to pick up a bird I missed this spring, because it is here and well, I am pot committed.  I got weathered out of where I wanted to go for a tit, so I caught an open seat on Pen-Air out here.  It was touch and go, even to here.  Luckily, the Wood sandpiper did not disappoint.

#749 Wood Sandpiper

Stephan one of the St Paul guides watching one of the two as it flew away.  They always flew away, here and Attu when I saw this bird previously.  I was clothed this time.  I hate wood sandpipers, skittish flighty birds.  This bird is identified by its call and the big white rump as it flies away...Sorry Sandy, I hated to pass you but, IDK, here I am

Later on the 18th, we went and spotted another year bird...

#750  Red-faced cormorant

A common local bird and I guess seeing one for the very special 750 was a bit of a downer --no ultra rarity or epiphany moment.  It was a foggy, wet moment in the history of birding, the birding Gods could care less but heck.  I had reached the big milestone, at least.  Sorry Neil, I can't say anything else, but sorry.  There wasn't champagne,  I borrowed a small bottle of chardonnay from a woman visiting the island and I hate chardonnay.  There is no bar to drink at, it is a 3 mile walk from the airport.  I don't know, it was a goal 750, but it is hard to celebrate anything alone, especially this.  It is a number of species never seen before in a year until this one and here I am.  It doesn't make me any better than anyone else, isn't changing my life, and in fact, possibly it makes me worse, I DID this crazy thing, most think I'm nuts.  What did I do?...I went to bed early.
The fog and the gloom continued, in fact even getting in here was a gut wrencher, landing in the fog.  seeing all the poison in the grass scares me, and well just walking....

I have no home leg out of here at the moment, I'm just hanging out waiting on vagrants and standby seating, and luckily, on the 19th, I nailed an early shorebird migrant

#751  Gray-tailed tattler

A Siberian bird not infrequently seen here, in fact my lifer bird was from here.  It got down in the rocks and I had to almost sacrifice a leg to get it out but what the heck....I have two, correct?

So now I sit, waiting watching, hoping not to die from accidental poisoning or from boredom...hoping for a flight.....should I just stay?

In the interim, I keep going out and looking, taking pictures, seeing stuff, waiting...hoping....

Red-legged kittiwakes

Pacific wren

Northern fur seals

With one even nursing a calf.

So there is my update.  I may be here for a while....yes, John Puschock, I have now broken the record for what it is worth.  You asked 6 months ago.  751, IDK.  It is only July.  I am the Wolf's Bane I suppose for Neil and Sandy, sorry guys.  So I guess, I just keep going....what else is there to do?  I can't leave.

Send messages....I brought nothing with to read
I don't want this to be the bane of my existence.....bad pun

751 yea!!....more like yawn, I'm going to bed


Monday, July 18, 2016

Lemons to Oranges

I went down on Saturday for an Orange County pelagic.  I can never get on Alvaro's website so I didn't know they had one but to be honest even though they saw a Buller's and some whale trip up north saw a Nazca Booby, I was happy to remain south, I was concentrating on the 3 missing southern species, I'd go up north soon enough and the Buller's, it was and is, way too early for them they saw one....well, that I cannot change....

Initially I concluded that this was yet another strike out, a big lemon, but this was a really fun trip, and this year is about the people and NOT the birds IMHO.  Big deal, I can see all these birds, maybe I will see the most, probably not.  In the end, who knows who saw what.  I know what I saw and I know which birds I saw were iffy, and I've tried to find back up birds.  I had a comment on my blog last week about my really bad photograph of a "sprague's" pipit.  They were rightly concerned that it was a imm. horned lark.  Tough ID, I agree, expecially with such a bad photo.  It could be, but I sure remembered white flanges on the tail which I know is not characteristic and as I causally looked at it but the beak/bill left me with my only thought was that it was a pipit, not a lark.  In fact, that was what I studied before I decided I better dig the camera out of the passenger seat.  I have changed my ebird on that to unidentified.  The one I saw ten miles from there I am certain was a Sprague's.  I saw that one well very thin flesh bill but I never got it in focus on a one fly-by shot I took. You can barely tell it is a bird, but I can't prove that bird to everyone else.  I can't prove the initial one in Minnesota however, being May, not much chance for a imm. Lark then.   So you know, who the heck knows what I or John, or Christian, or Sandy, or Neil saw?   This is an imperfect world.  I'm trying hard and I appreciate your input.  If you are not certain, I am not.  There have been a few rare gulls seen this year that will never pass the scrutiny of state checklist committees and some of them have shown up on lists.  I'm certain I have listed no hybrids, and I was careful to make sure my sharp-tailed grouse and GPCX were 100%.

What I did see on this boat trip were two important birding people.  Dorian Anderson is a legend in my mind.  Where I have made this huge, large, painful carbon footprint, he didn't.  Like the Forest Gump character (although Dorian is most unlike him) Dorian went on the road to leave his troubles behind imho.  He may or may not agree with that statement but I really admire his footpowered journey.  I ran into him on the boat, he was also on this boat in January and we had some nice chats.  Dorian was sporting a new camera, recently made his girlfriend his wife or maybe it was the other way around and he is doing well.  If no where else Dorian, I salute you for 2013!!!  GREAT YEAR!!

I also had a nice chat with John Dunn.  The other legend.  Birder extraordinaire...etc etc.  He was calling birds for the local Sea and Sage Audubon for the trip and he was congenial enough to chit chat with a pee-on like me.  I appreciated it.  John spent many years on the much maligned ABA Checklist committee and was right in the middle of the 2011 Hooded crane fiasco.  I don't have any skin in that deal but I have heard the story many MANY times.  Dunn voted no, and I can guarantee he has received many very negative emails.  To be honest, I see his point.  I also see the state points, and what always troubles me is the inconsitency, like the wood-rail and the sungrebe accepted, but this bird rejected.  IMHO the providence of all three birds is uncertain at best and suspect at worst.  As such knowing nothing more than just enough to be scary, I would have voted no on all three, it is such that any and I mean ANY doubt should be a no vote.  Alas, I would never be on such a committee, what a thankless task, joyless, task...what really is the reward for it.  Let me say it here, thanks John for serving, thank you very much.  Maybe if the Pine flycatcher gets rejected, I would be like the crane people but IDK, there is too much anger misdirected in this world.  Hate those that are killing birds and wildlife and direct the anger there....Monsanto et al. might be a better place to start.

Well what did we see on this voyage?
We saw 6 Brown boobies on the oil derick like they had never left.  Two were flying around as above

A thousand elegant terns

hundreds of Sooty shearwaters

a lot of Pink footed sheerwaters

I had my best look at black storm-petrels

Even saw an ultra cool, fully luecistic black-vented sheerwater, we saw 4 white ones in maybe 5000 birds

Long-tailed Jaeger

A lower 48 year bird for me (who is counting)

Earlier in the day, John Dunn called out two fuzz balls (I think that was his term), could be Craveri's could be anything... flying off when we were poking around trying to find storm-petrels out at 14 mile hump or whatever that place is called.  I saw them, thought they looked white underneath, but I couldn't tell exactly which of the two possibilities they could be, guess they could have been a third.  I moved up with my camera and couldn't relocate them.  Later when we saw Cassin's it was clear that these weren't them.  But were they Craveri's or Scripps?  I couldn't say...John Dunn couldn't say, so I just shrugged it off and kept looking.  After 3 later Cassin's we saw no alcids.  Nearby however, Jeff Bray had snapped a picture.  For a day I figured the day ended up being a lemon.  Later under scientific conditions like a computer without a from Jeff Bray and the trip checklist

Craveri's!  year bird #748, I had made an orange out of the!!

I keep hoping someday that I will see this bird sitting on the water sitting there so we can sneak up to them and get a great picture.  but alas never....never....they are always white bottomed fuzzballs flying away.  I have a lot of fantasy dreams, my wife just shakes her head.


I and I think everyone on board was impressed with a blue whale chase, the captain spotted it way off and counted 12 minutes from its dive and closed the gap.  It came up really close.  A LIFER WHALE!!!  My 16th cetacian species for the year!!

Blue whale

Fin Whale
Two really huge whales!

Well I had a day off so I decided to chase the berylline hummer, so Off I went to Beatty's Guest ranch in Arizona.

As many of you know, me and the Beatty family go way back, Tom Sr.s brother was a chemistry professor on mine for my term in college.  I was his lab TA in 1985-86 school year.  When a student named Scott Biederwolfe committed suicide at the end of the fall 1987 term in his PChem class just before the final exam, we all got our final exam grades adjeusted higher due to the PTSD of it all.  I was involved as I let Scott take the sodium cyanide that killed him out of the stockroom two weeks before.  I didn't realize it until after the event (I was at UW Stout that weekend speaking having the speech tournament of my career).  I got a B on that final for real, was adjusted up to an A and my A- for the class became an A.  It was the only grade I didn't deserve, and to be honest I deserved an F for that whole stockroom deal.  I was so filled with self-loathing before that exam which was the day after the funeral, I just sat there unable to open the test booklet until with just an hour left, I began.  I had realized just before I came in that I had caught the student in the area and his finger prints were found on the jar of poison. I know he would have just found it somewhere else.  My supervisor, his wife Anne at the time, was my boss from 86-88 when I was stock room attendant.  Anne died from cancer I think not that many years after I graduated.   She was a nice lady.  I wasn't found to have violated anything.  Scott was a biology TA and was not infrequently getting things in our stock room but I have lost sleep over that day ever since.   A scene from that event is in a novel I'm working on now.  It helps me to talk about it.  Maybe that was why I went into medicine?  I owed a few lives saved for that one.

I was also a study partner of Tom Srs. nephew in German class.  I have heard North Dakota stories about the Beatty past for years.  Seeing Tom in Arizona is a small world.  Tom came and chatted for three hours, as we hald a vigil for the rare hummer, which never officially showed.  I saw a black billed dark green hummer in the trees before it was chased off by a broad billed and it could have been a berylline but I could NOT call that was never seen again.

I did point out a violet crowned to some novice birders though, they were very happy

it was a female..still my favorite hummingbird..that is what birding is, sharing.
Well, I stayed so late, I almost missed my flight out of Tucson.  I'm going to go and find a chickadee, I got some inside intel.

List is up to 748, my 80th coded bird......what I said I needed to best Neil's mark which is my goal.  I still need three non-coded birds, so that will happen

Big Year Total:  748
Coded Birds:  80
provisionals: 1

number to go to old record:  1
Miles driven.  33,934
Flight Miles 119,200
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 124   Different Airports: 45
Hours at sea: 192
Miles walked 242
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12
states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  61
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  4
Bird sex:  1

Delta/ American ticket: 780
rental car 138
food   80 (food pricey out there)
lodging  265
fees   5
Boat fee  $60

The value of an orange is NOT priceless
Expensive for one bird......but the value of talking to Dorian, John Dunn, and Tom Beatty Sr, that was priceless

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tits Up

Oh humor me...would you not expect a pun?  Tits up......broken; dead in the water, floating
It is a long and windy road I'm traveling much like this one I found 4 miles back in central North Dakota.  Things always happen to me.

Why was I even in Central North Dakota?
First, I like birding the prairie.  Secondly, I had two birds on my list that are review birds in Minnesota, I was losing sleep over them.  Sprague's pipit which is the 4th in MN in 10 years and that Baird's sparrow...yea that one.  I NEED to sleep at night.  Third, I really know NW, North Dakota and eastern Montana well for birding, all those chasing of petroglyphs (like this one of an eskimo curlew in NW NDakota) and mounds,

I seem to know every weird rock, mound, everything up here.   but I have not birded central North Dakota but it is a lot closer, so well, prairie is prairie, I like driving to see what is over the next hill.

I took off on Tuesday.  It was blowing about 35 mph but was a nice day up here.  You got to know how to bird in the wind up here and typically you have to bird in little hollows.  Unfortunately I needed my flushing spaniel but she was getting a hair cut so, It was just me.  Brighid is a great sparrow flusher

North Dakota is just like Oklahoma where they reserved sections in every township for the schools.  Typically, these have the best prairie as they rent it out for pasture.  I think you can access them as a birder and I haven't been thrown out yet.  Some of these are in the middle of nowhere, though and after all the rain up here, it was a muddy 4x4 drive.  I hey some puddles that just kicked up so much was kind of fun.

Well to birding....I spotted a Baird's and heard two more, I could not get a camera on the one I saw, it wasn't for lack of trying.  It seems only the grasshopper sparrows came up when walking but heck, a guy can only do so much

I did get a camera on a Sprague's pipit through a muddy car window and dang thing was spooky in the wind, so only got two shots.  This is about as SE as you ever see them in the summer

 I got a photogenic dickcissal

We've had a big eruption of them this year
Well my work done in North Dakota I was enjoying myself.  It was a great day to bird.  I stopped in Jamestown to buy an extra pair of boots, someone knifed my snake boots in Alaska and I ordered a new pair at Cabelas but decided I needed a second pair, I rarely shop so I bought a new pair of pants  ..and then....the phone rang.  Lakes Region Electric is putting in a underground powerline near my house and they accidentally cut my already underground cable.............

Getting late they wouldn't get to fix it until tomorrow....I needed to get home to save the stuff in the freezer and fridge...geez.  My wife and daughter were in Minneapolis.......I hustled home furious, so they are moving my camper hook up for free off the powerpole.

While home I still birded in my back yard today

Swainson's hawk anyone?

I have to ask...which county is this Eastern Kingbird actually in, head is in Day County but mid body and tail is in Roberts County.  The pitfalls of listing on a county line and living on one...

What about year birds?  I did get a link about gray headed chickadee being a Euro birder shall be forever the Siberian tit to me...on a blog from a recent is pretty good

I'm glad I wasn't on that trip....lucky me!

But...I'm now thinking I want to go chase this bird especially in the Yukon.  This bird needs to be found and documented better and I got a new Yukon birding friend....can I bring guns to Canada to protect from bears?  I'm not so dishonest to say my year is for anything, other than myself.  How can it not be?  But I want to become the tit man, I really do.  My first word was water but second was chickadee.  Really..they are such cute little guys.

My lifer tit came in the Lapland region of Sweden one winter skiing, when I gave up and went into a pub on the side of the trail and watched the Swedes do well at the world Nordic Championships, somewhere after third beer and outside (Swedes will go outside and sit at a table any time of the year) cheering the team a pair of tits came!  But as they are declining on this side of the pond, and no one can find them, this looks like a productive project for me, maybe if I can get enough data, I can write a book or an article on them....

So my last goal for the year, find a bird to dedicate my life too....the Siberian tit...gray headed chickadee it is!  I'll try to help them, but first someone needs to find them, and well in that, I can help.

so anyhow, I covered my pipit and Baird's with extra sightings so now I can rest easy.  Power back I can write this blog, and I got my new mascot least I pickd a bird I can find...well maybe....

The Dakotas are 600 miles of really fun birding intermingled with a near disaster.  Some call this hell, I call this home..........I'm more comfortable with my list now....

My life as a big year birder, something is always tits up, hopefully next time it won't be me


Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...