Friday, July 8, 2016

Lumping the Splits

It could be titled splitting the lumps too..

An odd thing happened on my way to Maine, I ended up in San Antonio, Texas.  What?  Yes, I geographically think like my son.

 An even odder thing happened on Wednesday, I got an armchair tick, when the American Ornithology Union put out their checklist supplement this year.  An armchair tick is when the checklist changes by a split and when you have both of the splits already, you get a tick from the comfort of your armchair.  I heard about it at my office.  In the scrub-jay complex, having seen the coastal subspecies first, in January Irving Regional Park that was my "Western Scrub-jay" now renamed as the California Scrub-jay (my lifer above from my cache of photos).  In February, in Mt. Davis TX, as well as many times later, Black Canyon of the Gunison, CO etc I saw the new Woodhouse's scrub-jay, smaller, less blue etc.  I had entered my ebird checklist as such, so

#745  Woodhouse's scrub-jay

My daughter was with on two of these so she gets a bird too...yea for her.  More on her later.

The redpolls did NOT get lumped (so no worries on how to handle a lump) and I have seen the new Townsend's storm-petrel for my life list (San Diego 9/2014) and although I am pretty sure I saw one this year, the year is still early so I'm not counting that bird, I want to re-see the bird for 2016..I need something to see while at my life list bounces up to 774 from all of this madness.  The Leach's was a three way split but I don't think I've seen Ainley's storm-pertrel and not well documented in the ABA area.  The AOU moved species/ families around in the checklist, changed some names and did the usual stuff.

....but another change is the split of the green violetear, into (lesser...could they came up with a better name?) and the Mexican, actually my world lifer is the lesser of this bird.....I had never seen the Mexican nor it ever in ABAdom.

Now somehow it became known to me yesterday that my blog from Utopia was unclear to the point many thought or assumed I had got the green violetear, there.  However, I thought I was clear.  Clearly insanely clear is the word, in retrospect possibly.  That I didn't count it.  The only year bird was the ani.  I wasn't drinking lifer beer and I dipped on the code three.  I dipped on 2 coded 3s, YGVI too.  I did not ever add it to either of my coded bird lists nor my ebird list, in fact, I never even submitted a checklist from there to ebird as I was all wiped out from the wine I drank.  I had no internet and had really seen little new.  It was a text of a picture that woke me up from being passed out.  As I noted, I did see and hear something but it wasn't anything I could call anything....past is past I guess.

Oddly enough, a woman from east of San Antonio reported another violetear yesterday after seeing it the day before at her feeders.  There was an ID confusion over a blue throated hummingbird so it took until yesterday for it to be reported.  I toyed, should I go..?  I had already flights booked for Portland Maine and had even been upgraded to prime 1st class seats.  I asked Barry the Birder....he hedged but said, well, you only can get an hour at most, but then said the guy he was birding with today would kick me in the a$$ if I didn't go (Scott from Pierre).  Christian F from San Antonio, a new Facebook friend who saw the bird on the 7th gave me the pros and cons.  Eric Carpenter, fresh off a Texas big year said go..."I was pot committed."  He quoted me.  My wife thought I was nuts....the office thought I was insane...others...crazy.

"crazy....."  I started singing the Patsy Cline tune, drove through a severe thunderstorm in central Minnesota, and well...hesitated.  I was waiting for a sign if the hail that pelted me wasn't one....I can hesitate like a champion....

At midnight I got up the courage to check was dirt cheap on United..I closed my eyes and hit, "Book".

I called Delta at 4am and made up a story of how I was stuck in San Antonio, scared of the shooting in Dallas, distraught was a word I used....they rebooked me for a sob and a beg....only charging me $150 bucks.  I boarded a generally empty plane at 0430 and by 5 was off to Houston on the first flight out of Minneapolis.  The problem with 5am flights is the coffee, all the coffee it takes to get big fat Olaf going.  it goes right through me.  It takes like 4 cups to get this guy of Swedish ancestry to get going versus like 2.  For the rest of the day, I feel like I never met a bathroom I don't like stop at.

Jan McClintock was very nice to answer my email and she invited me to see her bird, and it wasn't a sit out in the porch kind of stakeout, it was in her home.  I was reminded of the Gibsons BC Canada Xanthu's hummingbird from The Big Year movie tale.  "Stay on the path..."  words in my head.  I have actually ended up once in Gibsons BC.  I saw the ferry going someplace and so one day, I jumped on a ferry at Horseshoe Bay and eventually ended up in Gibsons.  No hummer there that time.

I took my spot on the chair and didn't move.  The thing that caught me in Ms. McClintock's house was the books (turns out she is an editor) and the NSA plaque on the wall....sigh...I WAS being watched, not the other way around, of me watching.  I didn't ask.  Maybe this is the birding police special undercover unit?  When you are invited to go into a house to bird, especially one with plaques on the wall of higher scary sit still, focus on the bird and try to not ask any questions that might get you thrown out, especially before you see the bird.  I never mentioned much of my past except I was an author. I promised her a fictional novel.

Well it hadn't been seen early but then before I got there, it had.  It really didn't take that long and I was doing Tiger Woods fist bumps in the air.  I even got pictures.....NOW I (we) can count the violetear which has a new of yesterday...The Mexican Violetear. No confusion.

#746  Mexican violetear

The pictures could have been sharper but one, those devils, the black-chinned hummers chased this bigger violetear off the feeder almost every time it tried to feed, and two, I staked out this bird in the living room of the owner as noted.  Both of these photos are through her window.  Not too bad if you ask me.  Like other times I "almost" saw this bird, the first two times on the feeder, all I got was that big tail as it sat immediately opposite me.  I did spot it in the tree so I spent 30 minutes waiting on it to feed.  I was rewarded.

I was back at San Antonio Airport 3 hours after I had left.  I had time to spare...
How better to celebrate lifer 775, lifer beer...LIFER Beer!  It had been a while (the snowcock), well not that long.   I wasn't going through withdrawal or anything.  A Mexican violetear with Dos Equis as San Antonio Airport seems appropriate enough.  Lifer 60 for the year...

Complete with guacamole and tacos, too!!  I love Tex-Mex!

It was a bit of an odd week.

1) My daughter got her 500th bird...a black tern about 200 yards from where I got mine near my hometown.  Maybe the same pair...IDK With the splits she is at 503 for the year.

2) Although the Dallas shooting today was truly awful, it was the St Paul shooting that has unnerved me.  I was in that same situation in February in Florida.  The police stopped me and a driver for a rather nebulous charge in Florida once.  The driver did the same thing the guy in Minnesota did, he warned him he had a gun in the car and had a conceal and carry permit.  The cop just executed the guy in Minnesota.  It could have been one or both of us.  I was worried I would have to call Rangel Diaz to bail me out but maybe we would have just been shot, with some story made up to protect the living.  It is scary out there.  I used to live two blocks from where the guy got killed.  It isn't a bad part of town, it is near the Minnesota Fairgrounds, a place my grandfather won a new Chevy back in the 1930s, a place of fond memories, but now.....I'm scarred.  Could a birder of color even do a big year?  Has anything truly changed in America?

3) It was Silja and my 26th Anniversary yesterday.  Anniversary of me getting locked out naked of my best man's house chasing his cat during a really nasty t-storm and almost getting late to my own wedding.  I could have been shot then too, I guess, crazed naked man in the city.  I was in Uptown area of Minneapolis.  I didn't even get to drink at my wedding it was a dry (Baptist affair), I needed a drink.  This year...we had lunch, the day before we went to eat dinner and shared a hot tub.  We watched episodes from the 1st season of Game of is all making sense now...well sort of, GOT I mean. Does that show ever make sense?   That is what old married couples do...I guess.  For a present I had to promise only 1 (one) bird chase in 2017.  My wife doesn't believe me.  Yea, I want 800...but....I like being married.   In general, the wife is getting sick of me being gone.  Her tolerance is wearing mighty thin....this and I've been around more since her birthday.....I guess it is good to be loved and needed, but ...these last 6 months are not going to be easy I fear on the home front.  A year is a long time.

4) I ended up doing a pontoon ride with my parents and grandmother on our lake in Wisconsin
I was told all the places for sale...(hint hint)
I saw this family of loons, so peaceful
Then on shore, I heard a mob in the woods.  Hoping for an owl I went and investigated.  I found the victim, a broad-winged hawk

I felt sorry for the hawk and then it looked at me and both it, the mob of crows, and two robins went after me!  Hey, why me?  It is tough up there in Wisconsin.  I could feel the talons or the wings of the hawk go over me and I was almost so mad at the dang crows I almost borrowed a gun from the family..but I settled down.  No not so innocent crow murders, I guess there are a murder...hum? Something was a miss at home and I think it was me on a pontoon boat....note to self.

5) I finished my novel.  The Curse of Panther Creek, off it goes next week

It isn't as good as my last novel but it is not bad.  I learned an awful lot.  The idea came for this when my cover artist sent my a painting and told me to use it for a novel.  This came about as the second try.  Witches in Oklahoma, who'd have thunk it.  I even have a little birding in this one.

As a penance for my bad writing of that blog and for my devoted fans.  If you want a copy of the Kindle Version I'll send it too you when I get the file.  send me your email,
I'd (well my publisher) would like for you to send me $2 each but I won't hold it to you.  It will be on Amazon eventually but there it will cost.  If you want a signed soft bound copy, it is like $14, post paid.  Pretty cheap, but those cost me, so I got to charge you.

6) I heard my last Lake Wobegon tale from a Prairie Home Companion, as Garrison Keillor retired.  I miss the story is the end of an era.........I 've been looking for the Chatterbox Cafe for it is gone.  No more Powdermilk Biscuits or Guy Noir.........oh sigh......

7) Nightmare kitty's cancer got worse, I'm afraid we may have to put her down at some point this summer.  I like our 4 cats even though I grump about it and loosing a pet is a sad deal....we will enjoy the days we have left I hope I can have a few....

on that sad to write more...

Big Year Total:  746
Coded Birds:  78
provisionals: 1

number to go to old record:  4
Miles driven.  33,134
Flight Miles 113, 100
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 120   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:  60
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  4

Costs: plane change miles ticket  $150
United ticket: 370
rental car 32
food and lifer beer  26
lost plug ion for phone  24
a lifer bird...priceless?

So there you have it, I really got a violetear this time, and that is an update from my boring, opinionated, or depressing though it is.



  1. You made the right choice!

  2. Glad you got it. i got it a few hours after you today. Jan is really nice isn't she? Her husband is retired NSA--hence the plaque. Good luck in Maine.

    1. Very nice. I didn't ask question I didn't want an answer to. Lol.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. 8) Which bird to choose to break the record?


The Lowdown of the Lowcountry

On Wednesday, we moved from a very overcast and wet Southeastern Virginia to a sunny southeastern North Carolina.  We reached the Low countr...