Sunday, July 3, 2016


Big Year Hump day 184

I was listening to a guy on a cooking show on the radio describing his mother’s cooking.  “Mother was a terrible cook and cooked only leftovers for 30 years.  One day I decided to try to find out what the initial dish actually was.  Despite much effort, endless research, and fastidious tracking the exact source of her leftovers could not ever be determined.”

Likewise, I have been birding constantly now for exactly ½ of a year.  I have been telling various stories of what actually led for me doing this.  It isn’t that I have been any misleading on my part, in retrospect, it is from a lot of reasons as to how I ended up doing this. I’m now not sure exactly of why myself.  It is much like the leftover statement.  I cannot trace exactly from whence all of this big year nonsense begat.

I do say currently and I said this just yesterday that I am “pot committed” to this year.  Pot committed is a poker term that means that your opponent in poker makes a small continuation bet and because you have a significant portion of your chips in the pot already, you are forced to call him or her as you are “pot committed.”  There is a similar term called a “value bet”—meaning that for the reward, calling a small amount is determined a value since the reward is high.  I guess I have both of these.  I have also committed much time, effort, and money for this year.  Therefore, I am forced to continue on.  For a rather modest some of money, my “value bet” is that I can get to something substantial as well.  You know at the end of the day.......I'm still only going to have a memory to all of this.

But it is July...and I'm halfway done.  I must say here and now, that the long and hot summer doldrums can literally eat you up in a big year.  I feel it and summer is just starting.  There is nothing I would rather do than just take off my clothes and watch the summer roll away while the grass sways in the breeze.  But…alas, I cannot.

My daughter Lena has the doldrums and looks about as enthused for finding year birds as any of my cats now sleeping in the sofa, the deck, a comfy chair, or any of our beds to go hunting for rodents.  Need less to say, if something crosses their lines of vision, any of the five (daughter or cats) may react to it or…they just may not.  It is hot out and well....yawn....

Speaking of the rest of my children...
My son Allwin (Twin “B”) has three weeks left of his 14 months in Europe and has just finals left.  In his latest installment of his newsletter to “Comrades and Family,” (which seems a title that Lenin would use) he tells us all of the beautiful melody that the German language is during verb tenses, (more so that Wagner) discussing oddly the German for the House is destroyed, the house will be destroyed etc.  I find that kind of an odd choice for subject matter….but I always got really weird just before finals, once deciding that lemonade contained all the essential food groups, and then only consuming that for a week….Allwin is, also like me, rooting for an Icelandic victory today versus France in the Eurocup.

Tyko, the other wayward son that I have sired, Twin “A” if keeping track, is still in Boston doing research on …something.  I think he is doing computer simulations for proteins in medicine or something like that but to be honest, I don’t know.  He went and visited a friend in Princeton because well, New Jersey is like next door to Massachusetts.  I worry, his geography is starting to sound like mine….like Texas is on the way to Maine etc.   Or I flew to Arizona on my way to Alaska because well, it is on the way. 

Ah the family I have missed so much of in 2016….

I did promise my wife that I’d be home no matter what for her 50th birthday and throw her a party.  After finishing up on what was left on the birding board, having now seen every breeding bird in North America save the red-faced cormorant which I will see in August and probably did see but couldn’t count as I wasn’t sure off Adak.  I went home to a dry and cool prairie, for a needed break,  el Nino’s fading is not helping the farms up here.

I went to my cabin, moved a boat lift as the water level is down, and hooked up my outside shower for the year.  Ahhh…one of my favorite things in this earth is my outside shower.  I enjoyed my cabin for a day watching 2 of our favorite movies, The Good Year, and The Man who Knew Too Little.  I took a picture of my wife, Silja on the morning of her birthday.

the Merc is only 4 years younger than us.

I birded a little around my cabin seeing.....

Upland Sandpipers

Grasshopper sparrows

a Swainson's hawk hovered over my roof, and my Say's pheobes sat on my fence, but I became tired of photos

And we went out drinking and to eat pizza with local friends.  My daughter came with as the designated driver, which was fine, she just got her 14 year old driver’s license upgraded from one she couldn’t drive after dark to an unlimited one now that she is 16.  Yes you can drive at 14 in South Dakota.

Now you may wonder how or why I brought a 16 year old to the Headquarters Bar in Graceville MN (home of Tom Kelly and If you have to ask, you do not know one of the heroes of Minnesota Sports that is some kind of sin).  In Wisconsin we used to say that the drinking age was to be tall enough to see over the top of the bar, but in Minnesota well at least here, they have solved that problem, Minnesota is the land of ice augers, self jigging fishing poles, and well, post-it notes, they can solve any problem.....Here it was simple, they have just ordered high stools so kids as young as 6 or 7 can look over the bar just perfectly?  Now they can say "Hey Mister, a Bud light please, I want to stay in shape, little league is not over yet."  See they can now easily belly up to the bar...

Having a 16 year old designated sweat!

The big party I was throwing was actually on July 1st and was at the same place I officiated a wedding last summer.  Now, as it was apparent to me in Utah, finding venues for activities like this on holiday weekends can be difficult.  I decided to go to an old standby and chose the place that hosted the nude wedding I officiated in 2015 and this understandably made for a decidedly clothing-optional affair as the weather was pretty good and the guests were more comfortable celebrating birthdays as it could be said, in their birthday suits, so it worked out.   This made this birthday party a little different from most parties quite a few of you have gone to, but it was fun....and I drank and ate too much....  

I ran the bbq and we had a gathering of say 50 people.  It ended up being a night to remember and I think…think…appreciated by my best friend and sweetie—the birthday girl.   Many asked what I gave her, and it consisted of flowers, carved ivory from Gambell, some sangria mix, a book on tape, and my endless devotion.
As my need R&R continued the birds kept being found and as I drove into Minnesota I got a note that a yellow-green vireo had been seen at the home of Mary Gustafson not all that far from the National Butterfly Center, and after seen the second day, I realized that I had to cut off my rest and head back to Texas to get it.

Mary Gustafson can be said to be a dean or at least one of the deans of LRGV birding.  I first met her a couple of years back while chasing a crimson-collared grosbeak in Santa Ana NWR after one of my many aborted dips on flamingoes up the coast. I’m sure she doesn’t remember me from this encounter but over the years we have had some email chats as she is the reviewer for at least Hidalgo and Starr Counties and well occasionally asked some much needed questions about my ebird posts like how did I know that female rufous hummer was not an Allen’s….things like that, things I couldn’t answer, things I should have answered or well should have thought about before putting in quick ebird posts that are misleading or wrong....oh well.
Back at Santa Ana a couple of years back, I met her as I scoured the underbrush for that grosbeak and around the corner walked Mary, clad in a cowboy hat making me feel like the actual Texas birding rangers had arrived on the scene to examine my posts before I even made them.  As there can only be one cowboy of birding and as Mary had beat me to it, I quietly put my black Stetson in the closet for all future Texan birding chases and even today, I left my new “Clint Eastwood” style Stetson back in Minneapolis  and wore my time tested lucky Ripon College fishing hat. I was hunting for yellow green vireo and well I needed all the help I could get.  

Kidding about hats aside I am still laughing at one of Mary’s many Facebook posts of an exotic dove she owns (I think or maybe a friend's bird) that she videoed bothering an extremely tolerant sleeping cat.  It was the most tolerant (or highly drugged) tabby I have ever seen, as any of my four felines would have taken care of the birding nuisance in a quite permanent manner and taken care of it quickly.

Mary had reported a yellow green vireo at I said....her house.  One thinks about how alpha-birders like Larry Manfredi, Mary, Ben Basham, and many more have rare birds show up in their yards one then has to remember that they live in areas that see rare birds, create good back yard habitat, pay attention, and have water features.....This has never been an easy bird for me and the best one I ever saw was out of area out of season so I didn't even count it in Texas.  I saw one in San Diego later that year.

Well the bird showed up on Friday and I showed up today and was encouraged that Mary had said it was there as I landed in McAllen at 10am.  But when I got had flown off, north 20 minutes earlier.  We scoured the area and to make a long story short, and it was not much of a story, it started singing in a neighbor's yard, a yard that came complete with dogs, barking, poorly tied up dogs, big dogs that looked to be the biting kind.

We heard it well enough to count it and then it moved into a safer tree (for me) and surprise, surprise, I dug it out of the tree and got a pretty decent photograph for a yellow green vireo, through a hole in the branches....

They like it thick and sing from the middle...small bird, dark hole, with bright light behind...I have done worse....

#744 Yellow-green vireo
FWIW, a code three, and three tries to get a bird that felt like a leftover.

I had a nice chat with Mary whom was quite gracious to help me on her street, and so ends the saga of another tick.........

I spent $575 on this bird as I refused to burn my last remaining United FFlier miles, oh well, at least I'll get some back now.

Big Year Total:  744
Coded Birds:  77
provisionals: 1 + 2

number to go to old record:  6
Miles driven.  33,234
Flight Miles 109, 300
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 116   Different Airports: 43
Hours at sea: 178
Miles walked 241
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12
states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  59
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  4

Thanks Mary!!!

I must confess, I bugged out of my mother's 4th of July party today and well she IS a good cook, and well, now all I get is leftovers, when I crawl into northern Wisconsin tonight...



  1. Wasn't the ani 744? Don't want you to short change yourself. Glad you were able to make this bird up

  2. O: Being an honorary Canadian of sorts, ( based on all the time you have spent fishing up in Ontario ), glad to see that you had some kind of celebration on Canada Day, ( July 1st ). And happy Independence Day to you too. I will celebrate it by going for a 15 mile bike ride, and, then, not coincidentally going to see the doctor afterwards!!
    Great that you got the vireo; ( one less bird to chase in the Fall ). Belated birthday greetings to Silja.
    Was talking to some Danes yesterday, and it seems like all of Scandinavia was cheering for Iceland. They told me 20% of the country's population were at the stadium watching the game, and alas, they lost.
    Not a very birdy reply, but, then, like you say, in most parts of North America, the doldrums have arrived.

    1. yea happy canada day!! I celebrated our northern patriots for freedom by offering Kokanee Beer at my shindig on July 1st....where the heck is that Sasquatch.....I picked up a Kokanee drinking habit in Ontario

      yea, a sad day for those Icelanders, damn French!

      My son will now not be conflicted and root for the black and white of the Germans

  3. Have you seen the Pine Flycatcher in AZ?

  4. Are you chasing the Red-billed Tropicbird at Seal Island in Maine?

  5. So, do you get to add another bird to your list because of the split in Scrub-Jay?


Golden dreams and memories

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