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, ...



  1. What an adorable addition to your family! Hope you get some photos of Debbie Shearwater in action - she's my hero!

    1. The jury is still out on that dog, the springer spaniel is NOT happy with "Mickey"

    2. Nan's right, Debbie (Debi) Shearwater is cool!

  2. Well I'm assuming you'll be back again in October so it's a good thing you like it there. I worked there for a season (is there no village bar anymore?) and have some pretty fond memories. Mottled Petrel and Spectackled Eider are exceptional birds for there by the way!

    1. yea, next to the community (?) office, oddly it is closed on Saturday nights so people can get up for church on Sunday
      as we are staying by the airport 3 miles away, a place in 15 nights on the island I've never been, no one to go with and no transportation

  3. Great write up. Thoroughly enjoying reading about your big year.
    D McQuade

  4. Only one thing to say to that. More birds needed. Year lists are to be remembered in hindsight. A superb trip from that perspective.


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