Friday, August 26, 2016

Fall Strategy Part 1

Since I don't want to bore you with all the fall birding I'm up to and I have undoubtedly poor internet, I am just going to include each of the 50 days as sort of a diary entry, maybe some cool birds and maybe some interesting stories or maybe not.  You can get the idea of the drudgery each day can be, long, more of the same, and generally stuck out here on a remote location.  This isn't 50 days to leave my lover, sorry Paul Simon, it is 50 days of fall birding.  This will, however, be the longest my wife and I will ever be apart....It will not be easy for me.....I apologize Silja, for doing this, I really do, never EVER again.  I will title each day entry in bold....well days I have something to write about.

Day 1  San Diego to Anchorage

A travel day, which didn't work so well.  Delayed flights in San Diego and Seattle meant I got in at midnight where I was going to meet my old birding pal Jim "Arvid" but his plane was even later than mine and we didn't even get to our hotel room until 1 am, it was then a very short night.  I'm sure there could be something pithy to say but well, i was too tired to think of this.

Day 2.  St Paul Island

Lifer Beer!

Our plane left pretty much on time, and Pen-Air actually took our luggage!  We didn't stop at Dillingham and we came in pretty much on time after a stop in St George.  The funny thing was while we were waiting at St George to off load cargo, a guy in row two perked up as they were about to shut the door and asked, "hey, is this St George?"  Out he ran off the plane.  It would have been a week for him to get back if he had slept another minute.

We landed in rain.

But we were ready to bird........We got picked up by Claudia and headed to Pumphouse Lake with a pair of British Tourists and immediately I scored a year bird.

#755 Sharp-tailed sandpiper

But the marsh sandpiper, however, was no where to be found.  Dang.  We ate and tried another place and then Scott texted Claudia and off we went to another lake, it took 5 minutes but I had my major quarry for the trip, the Marsh sandpiper, one that got away in April in Sacramento, a code 5 and a marvelous lifer,,,,I cleaned one up.

#756 Marsh Sandpiper

we also got other of which was a coded bird..


and the ruff being the best one of the evening after the Marsh sandpiper.  I had been here 2 hours and had 2 birds and one lifer and a bonus code bird.  But I was tired, I hadn't slept well the night before sop I went to bed early.

Day 3.  St Paul Island

Rain and More Rain

Scott was the guide today and the pair of Brits hung in there birding as best they could but it was blowing and it was wet, like very wet.  It turned out Martin birded and Jane, read and rarely left the car, unless we were looking at seals, and today was a bad day to visit.

I went and bought some beer as I needed to celebrate the lifer bird from the day before, I had no beer, but needed some, so I bought the weeks supply.

We toured the church.

It was built in 1906.  It is quite ornately designed and it doesn't have any pews, the people stand when they are in service.  It is a quite complete church of the Russian Orthodox Faith, I was impressed.

We tried to find birds the rest of the day but the storm was just overwhelming and so we finished early and I drink my lifer beer.

Day 4.   St Paul Island

The Putchkie Begins

The weather was better and it turned out to be lifer day for Jim.  After breakfast, the British couple toured the seafood plant while Jim and I went to the Salt Lagoon by ourselves and then we planned on doing the crab pots for the first time.  It was a day of many firsts.  Crab pots, putshkie...etc

It took a bit but we dug out a red necked stint for Jim.  Last year in Nome, I had seen one and in passing Jim my scope to see this bird embedded in a large flock of peeps, they flew, never to be seen again.  Jim never got on the bird.  They are easier to see in the spring, with a reddish neck, and now it isn't so easy but with the short bill and other field marks, but carefully we identified it.

Red-necked stint

A few days later we saw 4 of them.  This morning, we struck out in the pots but Jim had learned the crab pot routine.  We birded around the island, doing the usual loop, seeing arctic foxes, the Brits wanted to see them and finally they showed up..

Eventually, we tracked down a gray tailed tattler for Jim's life list.  It was a tattler picnic on Marunich, and we saw 8 tattlers, six sounded like Wandering tattlers, one made no sounds, and the final bird, made the characteristic call of the gray tailed, as you see, it is difficult to separate this bird from a juvie wandering unless they call.  It was Jim's second lifer of the day.  He was pleased.  Very pleased.

Gray tailed tattler

Jim was a putchkie virgin and this stuff is just lush today, think and green

We came back and Jim was going to share a beer with me, one problem, someone had stolen most of my beer, 7 of the 9 bottles I had left, leaving one bottle in each six pack.  Kind of pisses you off, I guess if they had taken all 9 I would have really been pissed off.  I have been here now three weeks in my life and no one had ever stolen anything but that was now over....I drank one of my remaining 2 beers and hid the other one in my room.  Why would you leave two beers if you are going to take them....did they think I wouldn't notice if two were left?

Day 5.  St Paul Island

The Three Amigos

Today we awoke at the usual and headed off for breakfast, a suspicious trail of empty beer bottles of the same brand I had bought ( and not a common brand) was noticed along the side of the road, with the first being just out of the road to the airport.  It took the thief a quarter of a mile to down the first beer.  Sad sad deal.......

Well, we had birds to get, I couldn't brrod over my beer.  I was birding in my back up hat, needed to mix things up but it didn't help so.. I changed hats, I needed some luck, my Attu hat wasn't working, so I switched.

We went to a pond near the airport and refound the Marsh Sandpiper, and then we saw two ruffs, a male and a female and then we saw a wood sandpiper, it is odd on St Paul, we ignored the code 5 bird (the Marsh) as I got literally life poses of the code 2 wood sandpiper, I suspect, I will never see this skittish bird any better and so I almost wore out my camera, and this was even the second one of the day.  I came up her in July to see this bird and well, now I saw it better...oh well, one doesn't know

Wood sandpiper

here is the wood sandpiper flying with the pair of ruffs

how often do you get a chance at a photo like this?
I guess commonly on St Paul
I vowed to never photograph the wood sandpiper again, I think I have enough now.

We poked around and then drove toward Northeast, then, Stephan yelled "thrush!" as something flew over the road in front of us.

We turned the van around.  The bird dived into the side of the road and then appeared and ducked again.  We tried to get it into view.  Piece by piece it came together.  Some times I say I'm too much of an assman, as I seem to always look at the tails of birds first, I need to become a better breast man.....The bird was smaller than a longspur as it walked past one.  The tail was darker brown and then it could be seen it held its tail up, not as far as a wren but not down.  There was no spots on the chest and it was generally gray, When it flew there were no wing bars, and the wings uniformly brown. There was no significant stripe of color on the face or neck....diagnosis....female Siberian Rubythroat, but no picture....this is my 20th rubythroat and I've only gotten one blurry photo in my life.

bird #757  Siberian Rubythroat

Skulky skulky bird.  We chased it trying to get a photo and then it flew to the left into the putchkie, where the putchkie literally had no end and despite a drive into the bird was gone.  It was a needle in a haystack, it was gone.

But other stuff was everywhere...
Arctic Foxes were climbing the walls at Polvina Hill

We started to aggressively attack the putchkie, like down at Webster area.  We kept poking as the hat was starting to get hot.  Don't give up on a hot birding hat, so after dinner we kept pushing...
We went to the Salt Lagoon I spotted a red knot and got a first of year photo of this bird, it wasn't a perfect one but just a juvenile bird but it was a red knot

red knot

and then we heard something else as it started to rain.
We had just seen a semipalmated plover but this was not their call.....we walked back to investigate.
Arvid's lifer 690 was identified and found,

Common Ringed Plover (right of the semipalmated plover) we heard the characteristic call of the two and then sorted out which one was which

7th or 8th island record of this bird so this was a good bird.  I had seen one in Gambell, well four , but Jim was happy but tired....

Day 6 St Paul Island

The Funeral Owl

You know, when you wake up in the morning at St Paul, you have no freaking clue what you are going to see.  I expect anything from smoke from a volcano (1943) to an emergency landing of US Air Force jets (this summer), to French cruise ships and to seeing birds of every persuasion from anywhere, wood thrush (2014) to common redstart (2013)....if a mammoth walked over the hill or a UFO fell out of the sky, I would just shrug and get out my camera.

Today, we woke up to 35 mph northerly winds, and driving rains, so what possibly could show up on a day like today?

Chaucer wrote that "The Owl brings tidings of death."
So what are the odds that an owl would show up on St. Paul Island?
Well snowy owls are fairly common but....well, what about another type of owl?

We drove around and found some birds, a gray tailed tattler here and a red-throated pipit there, then we hiked a lake and we found the marsh sandpiper and then oddly we saw the bird move could that be?  Then it was clear, we had 2 code five sandpipers....would you believe 2 marsh sandpipers?

So what are the odds I could get a photo of both of them in the same frame?
very rare ABA birds (like 11 sightings) and here I had two in a frame...what a deal, what a deal, this is what birding is about.

Then we drove around some more and we went to the crab pots, Scott yelled at me "get your camera."  I stood transfixed, thinking why?  "Boreal Owl"  he said loudly but not shouting.  "Four feet from me is a boreal owl."

I couldn't fathom this.  "What?"  I said.

"Go get your camera."  He repeated and I did and yes, the funeral owl, Aegolius funereus a boreal owl was right there looking at him and then looking at me from between some crab pots as Scott carefully extracted himself from next to the bird.

It is the owl of the month right after the bird of the month...the marsh sandpiper, a lifer bird for Jim, and just a wow bird for me.  WOW!  Seeing a boreal owl is like one of those lifetime experiences anywhere, but here in St. Paul?  I have only ever seen three.  It had been two decades since one had last appeared here.   I had now seen every owl save a northern pygmy this year, my heard only birds were down to five.

We were unsure if this is a Tengmalm's owl, named after a Swede, the European-Asian version or the Boreal owl from North America, either could have ended up here. 
We ate a happy dinner after I bought some added beer.  Then we found Jim his lifer 692, a spectacled eider, the same one with 9 king eiders I had seen here last month.

A lump on top of a black rock, a juvie male but well, the correct species.

Hopefully, this owl will not be a harbinger of death, just more rare birds.   What a day, a duet of marsh sandpipers and a Boreal/ Tengmalm's owl....a day a spec eider wasn't even in the top 5 birds.  What will tomorrow bring?

Day 7 St Paul Island

Weather this way or that way

I woke up tired and a bit sore.  I had been going at this now for a bunch of days in a row.  Dragging marshes and walking.  Man I was sore....but birding goes on.

Jim had picked up the remains of a weather balloon and we used it as a front to get a tour of the NOAA weather station, these guys and families keep to themselves and nobody had ever met them.  We met a very nice guy named Hans, he had been here 2 years and had just recently left the island for his first break.  He home schooled his daughter and we met his wife.

I was very interesting and we learned no one in Anchorage that makes the local weather forecast has ever been to St a nutshell, don't believe it.  He did give us a bird tip...he had seen a large long necked bird, he pointed at the heron....maybe...a grey heron?  Well we went to search for the bird with a rarity in our heads and then Claudia spotted it on a hill....just a sandhill crane  

Sandhill Crane

But one never knows......

We picked up 2 birders from Alaska, a mother daughter team and then of course they wanted to look for the Marsh sandy, as of course that is a great bird, having seen it 4 times, I worked on adding to my weird combo photos, here is a ruff and a marsh sandpiper, 3 plus 5 equals 8?

So now on my list of combo photos, 2 Marshes, that is 5 plus 5, a wood plus 2 ruffs, 2 plus 3 x 2 equals 8, and this one...
the combo photos are endless, but well, no new birds.
In general, though, today, I was overwhelmed with disappointment as a bird I have always dreamed about, a jabiru, was seen in Texas and here I am, besides a sea eagle the number one bird on my wish list....I don't know, it is hard to be disappointed after seeing 63 life birds in a year, I get over the jibiru especially on my next great bird.  

Day 8  St Paul

Stephan and the Wandering Tattlers

Today we went out with Stephan Lorenz, and well, we'd been birding with Stephan a bit too much.  Stephan said he wanted a nickname.  Well all we could come up with was that he was incredibly punctual so that doesn't make a nickname.  The Honeydripper came out but that didn't seem to fit.  I came up with what we would call his band, assuming he could play anything and I came up with Stephan and the Wandering Tattlers.......I guess playing at a music venue near you.

Oh and the birding...well, the weather was okay, I guess as the wind swung to the south.  I forgot and/or lost everything today, rain pants, room key, camera lens cover which I found in the putshkie, well that was lucky.  I did stpo and smell the roses, well, I guess, the putshkie...

We jumped a pair of common snipe later in the day which was Jim's 9th lifer for the trip, never easy to get a good picture, I at least got something

Best birds of the day, were Baird's sandpiper and a bank swallow, like I said, you never know what you are going to see here....and here is the Baird's sandpiper.

Jim celebrated the day with a whale's jaw bone

we dug the first bird out of the crab pots, a gray cheeked thrush it was a start...but nothing for the year list
so the numbers, 

Big Year Total:  757
Coded Birds:  86
provisionals: 1

Miles driven.  35,438
Flight Miles 139, 200
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 140   Different Airports: 47
Near bear/ death experiences 1
Hours at sea: 225
Miles walked 332
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12

states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  63
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  5

best bird of period the marsh sandpiper pair and boy was that boreal owl cool!
So three new birds, a good start, one I thought I would get, one I thought I'd never get and one I hoped to get.  The shorebird migration in St Paul really hasn't happened or/ if it did it largely missed the island as there is this swirling wind in the Bering sea and maybe they just aren't stopping.  We had a small drop out of sharp-tailed sandpipers, maybe 60 birds around the island, and a whole lot more of ruddy turnstones, and we were seeing a few trans-Bering migration that is the update,

birding continues, I'm not missing just birding


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pacific Coast Trails and Tears

Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County California

The PCT was designated as a scenic hiking trail way back in 1968, and spans 2569 miles from north to south along the western states.  The trail is one of the best unkept secrets in North America and it is something to personally behold.  In walking along the PCT the contrasts are stunning, they stunned me--from snow covered volcanoes to harsh mountain deserts, it can be 20 degrees or 120 degrees.  There are a lot of views to jar the senses. You may be shocked to see people wearing full wet gear in the Pacific northwest or the rampant nudity, with people wearing nothing at and around Deep Creek Hot Springs north of San Bernadino.  You will see some of the cleanest hikers there but at other places you will see hikers so filthy, and in such threadbare clothing at either end, it will make you laugh.

My favorite juxtaposition was the gorgeous blooming rhododendrons at the base of Mt Hood, in Oregon and then a mere hundred feet away a man in a Volvo plastered with save the earth bumper stickers and stop global warming slogans, was burning a couch. Yes, burning a couch with I'm sure at least 5 types of toxic gasses being formed, how much of a carbon foot print is it to burn a sofa?.

Ah, it is such a trail, a trail of dreams.  In my hikes, I've tallied no less than 4 lifers on this trail, Vaux's swift in Oregon, white throated swifts at Deep Creek Hot Springs and black-chinned sparrows and mountain quail near San Diego.  I've seen American dippers near to Los Angeles while canvasbacks swam in the same view.  This year, my gray vireo came near the trail and my best shots of Lawrence's goldfinches came a short walking distance off the trail, in a nutshell it is something everyone should behold.

I came here for a reason, well there is no bears here, for a start.  I like birding here, and love the peace and freedom of this trail, wear what I want, go at my pace, just sit and enjoy the space and the view.  I like the solitude, and I wanted to actually see a California quail, I had only heard them this year, and I wanted photos of mountain quail and black chinned sparrows, both late birds to my life list and ones I wanted to be able to re-find just for the sport of it.  I like going to a patch of stuff and have a hunt bird, and today I had three.  The California quail proved the most difficult.

Black Chinned Sparrow

California Quail

California Scrub-jay

My first photo of the bird as a new species!

Mountain Quail

Okay, I missed it, you'd think with 9 total mtn quail seen around the trail, on one day and three the next, I could have photographed one?  Photographing quail is tough, really tough.  Just seeing mountain quail involves patience, luck, and maybe skill but I can find them, I just flush them before I can photograph them or they won't come out of the brush.

Getting the California Quail photographed was a challenge and I saw about 50.

Western Tanager

Okay, now I am getting on my soap box a bit.  Just up Kitchen Creek Road is a very nice National Forest Campground and here we are, less than 2 hours from 20 million people and the campground has 2 campers today, one of which looks like he or she just lives here.  Really?  At $14 a day, the cost to stay here an entire month is less than two nights hotel in Monterrey.  The place has water, views, trails, and shade, and BIRDS....what gives?

This is the problem with America.  Our government says our economy will improve when the consumers start spending more money, I believe the problem is that we are spending too much money and we need to learn that more.  This place should be full.  I was just in the Bay area, The Bay area?  I can't even afford to live there.  1 million a house?  You can't cap rate a 1 million house, the rent would need to be $10 K a month, I can't afford that, so things are skewed. You need to be worth 5 to ten million to afford a house there minimum and the payments, do janitors make 150 a year?  Will 150K a year be enough?  Who can live in San Fran?  Either there are tons of rich people out there and /or something is about to explode as the doesn't work.  

But everyone can afford to come here, to the southern PCT.  and I mean everyone, even birders....

Heck, I hear all the time people need the mountain quail and the black chinned sparrow, maybe even the gray vireo, this place has them.  So I'm putting my time and money where my mouth is...unlike others who are trying to promote a faux cause....Olaf is promoting birding on a budget and to show off a marvelous hidden gem of America.

Next year I'd even be willing to lead a group, maybe pay me $100 bucks each for the week for expense. We'd camp and have a good time.  It takes a bit of patience to get the quail, morning and evening walks.  We could have day trips into San Diego to a trail I know that has all the local birds like gnatcatcher, munia, Bell's sparrow, etc.  It took me 30 minutes for the whole selection this spring.  Ridgeway's rail is easy on another trip, even the same day.  There is a great hot springs/ spa near this trailhead that well once you get the shock of body exposure out of the way you might make you even feel comfortable going to the optional non-clothing optional beach day in San Diego, it is gorgeous at Black's. I'm bringing my wife and it would be fun, so come on birding with Olaf on the cheap, where else would you get such an opportunity?  I kid you not, great birds and enjoyment of the great outdoors, if I could share the PCT and the hills above San Diego, with just one person and get them some lifer birds it would be worth it for me. a guide a lot of money, whatever....I love birding San Diego so much I'm willing to basically give away my time.

That is what my big year is about....I'm doing it for the birds and to get people out here and seeing the birds if I have to come with, so be it. other pet peeve....since I'm on a roll, might as well get them all out in the open

The Salton Sea, the place brings tears to my eyes...literally, they burn from the toxins....that is certified organic, (picture) note in the background, the large desalination plant, the smell where I'm standing is a cross between salt march at low tide and being down wind from a week old herd of dead cows.  You can't photo smells.  Behind the sign, they are drilling a gas well to power the desalination plant that makes the water to make your "organic" this really organic?  Do you care when you buy this stuff at Whole Foods or your co-op, do you feel good about yourself?  ..

Okay, what is the rest of this environmentally killing operation making ?  HAY!   Hay to feed cows and in my house, I can't give hay away and you water the desert because the government pays the Hay Kings to do it and through a loop hole in the milk pricing formula....all in a state with supposed severe water restrictions.....the %%&^% school 15 miles from the site has manicured green lawn, all in Imperial County, the poorest in the state????   The Hay Baron in that town has a lake in his front yard and planted palm trees.....all because he is supported by our government to legally exploit this valley.......enough rant.  Where is the Sierra Club?  This is what needs to stop, let the rivers run, and grow the food where it can be supported by natural climate.

BTW, there were no yellow-footed gulls on the sea this visit, but eared grebes, cormorants, and lots of shorebirds in the toxic soup.  It has been 120 here, but it was maybe just 105 today, the sea was down 5 feet from last time and the rock where my lifer blue footed booby in 2013 is now totally out of the water....Yikes!

    Well there is my update, in San year birds but still I love birding here and that is what this is about and invitation awaits..


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Something Bruin and it's not beer

I'm not even sure where to start this tale.

At 3pm I was singing and walking on my favorite trail in Madera Canyon, thinking about how good I had it in life.  I was on my favorite trail, it was perfect Arizona weather (as in no monsoon), and I was having a gorgeous day birding.  Red-faced warblers were coming in close by me at 4pm, I had seen a year bird earlier, and dug out some really fun birds and!  I'll just say it if you don't like my vernacular well then....shit!  You are reading the wrong blog.

I will say it here, I am not a brave man., despite my bravado, I do not typically take risks.  I avoid confrontation, I lead life close to the vest, and well, it hasn't failed me in 50 years.  I should have died in my youth from a terrible disease, it tried but well...I didn't.  Death for me was always something real.

I am writing this at the Four Points Hotel near the Tucson Airport drinking, if the words get slurred well, I'm not stopping, I need to get this story out there, but first let me say ....I am alive. 
I AM ALIVE!!  Yes, the good news!

This stupid big year, doesn't matter, health, use of my arms that matters.
I was not supposed to be here tonight but I'm not fit to go on.  It was hard to get here, I need not a beer but many.  I need to numb the pain.  My left arm hurts from just flexing out the muscles, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I don't know if I believe this stuff, but many of us have spiritual animals.  I know a woman who is the beaver woman of Two Harbors, Minnesota, some have a bull, or a moose, mine is an eagle, but I have a nemesis animal, and maybe I've misread my spiritual animal, maybe it isn't an eagle, the one that comes to me when I least need it or expect it, and it is never good.  Is those damn bears.

A little history...

I was plagued by spiritual visions between the time 4 of us went to Glacier Park in 1989 and ended during my honeymoon at the same spot, the vision ...well hard to explain, unless you experienced it, let me say it involved the continual munching of a bear on me when I disagreed with it.  If it ate my leg I couldn't walk right for a while, broke my arm, same thing, I generally stopped sleeping....this is well documented in my Big Year Book BPT, and I blamed it on accidentally sleeping under Chief Mountain, a place the medicine men went for visions...maybe they should have put up a warning sign?

On my honeymoon, I turned around into the belly of a bear standing in Alberta, standing above me on a river bank when my wife yelled for me to turn around, I was fishing. I dropped my chow right there.  For that, I blamed Silja.

I got chased by a Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone Park on July 4th 2013 into Hindu wedding party, wearing nothing but a pair of boots. It was actually lucky I did or I would have been eaten, I fear, I shouldn't have run, and for that I blamed Thor, he told me to go to Beartooth Pass.  The Barrow's Goldeneye was NOT worth it.

I've fretted about bears in Nome, worried about them fishing, and well, lived in fear my whole life from bears.

Today, I have no one to blame but myself....Man I hate f'in bears, I say that here, right now.  Nothing good ever comes to me in my interactions with them, seeing one is an omen of doom, IMHO

I'll leave the birds to later as I'm sure you are now curious, well even if you are not, I'm finishing this, I need to get this out.

I was walking down the Carrie Nation trail and just after seeing these...

Red Faced Warblers

I was working down the trail thinking how lucky I was to be able to bird all year and I heard a growl.

Let me say, I went up the trail in search of Thrush, I knew there had to be berries.  I found berries, lots of them

I don't know what tree this is, but it looked like good Aztec Thrush food so I watched on the way up and waited, listened, and found no thrush, no robins, no birds of any type and on the way down, I saw no thrush as all I found was a bear.

Okay, it is just a black bear, right?  Laurens Halsey warned me and I just pooh poohed him about 9 months ago and I dismissed the Fort Huachuca story about a bear breaking open a car to get a candy bar, these are just garbage bears.  I grew up with black bears....yea, big scary bears...yea right...

Initially the bear was about 40 feet away and after 2013 I decided to take a picture of all bears in case I didn't make it so everyone knew the killer, but that was a grizzly, but I snapped a quick photo before things got weird.  This was a big boar and a very big one but....I stood up and shouted expecting it to run and instead.....the bear walked out in the open and growled at me, no more photos so I put down the camera quick and picked up rocks and shouted and screamed, the bear, just looked at me and snarled.  I sort of made that oh no thought in my head.

Okay, it was time to get serious so I threw rocks, hitting trees and landing them just a few feet away.  The bear ignored them and then stood up on two legs and growled more.  Okay, maybe this isn't just a run of the mill bear.  I, then, not knowing what to do, shouted and waived my hands nothing.  I didn't want to hurt the bear but now only 30 feet away, I had warned it, so I put the smallest rock squarely into its ribs, I can still throw hard.  It didn't flinch, it didn't back down, it didn't do anything.  Then I threw a four inch rock hitting it in its right paw, up on the thigh.  I got a loud growl and then I noticed I was down to two rocks.  None were handy.  I slowly bent over to pick up my camera and sling it over my neck, I don't know why, it is $11,000 dollars of stuff.  Was I thinking correctly?  NO! It came down to all fours, so that was good, I think,  when I bent over walked slowly at me growling.

"Okay you fucker," It was now maybe ten feet from me, I shouted more obscenities at it as wrapping my bins in my left hand, I figured I'd throw the biggest rock and then transfer the palm-sized rock to my other hand and just punch my way through it, maybe it would give up before I died, I had nothing left to do.  I still had my mouth like that would help.

"You know, (Expletive) when you kill me they are going to hunt you down like the (expletive) dog you are and you are going to be stuffed at the forest service office, (expletives x 8).  It stood up again.  I took a deep breath.  This was going to be it, it is amazing how time slows when you face death.  I could sense the anger from the bruin, I could taste its breath, Gosh It stunk.   I don't know, I saw an opening, I started to side step to my left.    We could have reached out and gave each other high fives as I slid slowly to my left and then it growled again. I held up my fists like I was ready to face death, I didn't really want to die here in Arizona, but well we never know where

Then shockingly I was past it, and making space so down the trail I slid, under that tree I took a picture of the berries and it didn't follow me.......whew.  I race walked to the car!  I was only up just above the bench, it wasn't far.  Crap, I can't believe I brought up my family night birding up here, what AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Crap, that was close.  My left arm is so sore right now from being totally flexed out.  I somehow scraped my right elbow, I don't know how. You know my finger issues from the strange reaction doesn't seem so bad at the moment.

I was shaking so bad in the car, I couldn't drive well, shaking so badly, so I stopped at Santa Rita on the way down and saw the plain capped starthroat again, getting a picture this time, the guy I sat next to looked at me and said, "buddy, you look like you got a story."  I told him.  He shock my hand after the bird.  He said I needed something good.  Here is a good bird.

I may have better pictures but I don't care.

I was all happy to have earlier photographed a zone-tailed hawk (4th) in Box Canyon nearly running off the road, but I don't care now.  Not even worth sorting the photo.  I was happy to have photographed a Varied bunting east of Box Canyon but again, I don't care.  I saw the Berylline hummingbird at the Beatty's twice this morning without getting a photo bird 754 but I don't even care about that, that all was a long a very long time ago.  Today was a long, a very long day.  Right now I'm starting the next beer, this is a different kind of Lifer beer, my life, ......

I've seen these two hummers before, the Berylline in 2103 with an 8.5/10 picture.  I got a better starthroat photo from the same trip.....I don't care.  Just the same beware of bears up that canyon and Laurens, I stand corrected.

When I'm drunk enough, maybe I'm going to bed, maybe not....nightmares and PTSD, that will follow this, it always does with bears.

oh f$%%


Big Year Total:  754
Coded Birds:  83
provisionals: 1

Miles driven.  35,321
Flight Miles 135, 800
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 136   Different Airports: 47
Near bear/ death experiences 1
Hours at sea: 225
Miles walked 281
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12
states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  62
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  5


There is a problem when you drink too much and for me that was only two beers apparently.  First, I thought the bill that came was after credit card so I signed it and added a tip and left, it was raining out so I wanted to go next door.

The waiter followed me to my room, I hadn't paid.  I gave him my credit card and then demurred how much tip I should add now with this embarrassment.  He never returned then 45 minutes later sheepishly he called.  They had lost my credit card, and despite many waiters looking in the street and parking lot, couldn't find it.  They said they comp the meal but never did and I had to call the credit card company to send me a new card in Alaska.

My arms ached, and I couldn't sleep well as was expected so I sorted some photos.

Views of many Hummingbirds from Beatty's Guest Ranch and their rare leopard frogs, the Berylline zoomed in so fast and perched on the fence the one time I saw it near the feeder and then only to be jumped shortly later by Roofies that it was impossible to get the camera on it, and the same thing happened on a snag when I first arrived, oh well....I had most likely seen that hummer on my last trip to look for it but that wasn't a good look and I didn't count it.  This time it did sit there and display all of its field marks in the open if only for a few seconds 
but that is birding.

Back to the bruin....I'm not sure why I just didn't back off up the mountain and then cross the gully to the other side and bush wack back to the intersection of the trail.  It would have been a bit hard but not that hard.  I'm just so stubborn....I guess we live and learn as hindsight is 20/20
I've been getting horror stories about the antics of the Madera bears from other birders this summer, maybe someone as in the USFW people should do something before someone gets hurt, JMO

Here is my 4 all-time zone-tailed hawk pretending it was a vulture.  I WAS really proud of that hawk, and not just as I somehow avoided driving off the road trying to chase it down the canyon. I've never photoed one before.

I just don't know about me, I'm such a dweeb.  You'd think I'm a failure but I'm not and that is so puzzling.  I always wonder why crap happens to me, and why I am the only person who seems to get all the weird anecdotes of life, but it seems 1) that is my purpose, I'm a story teller always in need of material and 2) I seem to let it happen.  What next?  It has been a while since my last UFO encounter...Bigfoot?  That has been a while too.  You got to get out there and do stuff to have stuff happen to you, so I guess that is reason number 3.

A now sober and repentant

Monday, August 15, 2016

There is some wine in California

Central California

This is the end, hold your breath and count to ten, (one two three four...), feel the earth move and then hear my heart burst again, for this is the end.  I've drowned and dreamt this moment, so overdue I owe them, swept away, I'm stolen. Let the sky fall, when it crumbles, I will stand tall, face it all together at skyfall.

I had 8 goals this year

1) be the quickest to ever see 700 in a year (and for that matter see 700) (check)
2) get in shape and lose a pants size (check, Stor (big) Olaf is down to a sweldt 38
3) see more birds than Neil Hayward (sorry Neil)
4) bird naked on nude recreation week (check)
5) meet Debi Shearwater and Ben Basham  (Debi is amazing!) check-check
6) connect with my daughter, the young woman calling herself "L" (check)
7) transition my life into the next phase, (wait out a non-compete, and plan my 2017 activities), (family trips up Emery Peak trail in Big Bend every 4-5 years, race-walking and I'm going to work on my cooking and painting) check
8) My birding goal which I haven't ever written in here, you may think you know but you would be wrong, I'm a sea of disinformation, that phase begins now,
so as the unlike, what the lyrics state in skyfall, maybe this isn't the end
I'm still below budget, had a good profitable week last week at home, got my business commitments in check, back to writing my murder mystery, and...yea AND birding.

So I headed west with the young'n and she was hungry for well, whales, but she would take birds, as stated before, it was just lucky we got there, and we had time to go look for birds on the edge of Half Moon bay

First bird right out of the parking lot was a lower 48 bird, USA bird, and a photographic lifer bird for me, and bird #504 for L
chestnut-backed chickadee, no head but well, you know what it is

We made the departure of Debi's boat, Debi was everything I had dreamt of and more, I'm glad I finally had my chance to meet the seabird guru, and after that the day was sort of frosting.  Christian H was on this boat as he heads wherever he is heading to, somehow I get the idea talking to him he is just trying to show up on Gambell towards the end of the month without a place to stay during high birding season....I think everyone in America will be curious to see how that goes, as most of us would like to show up there without reservations and no money...I wish him luck.

Waiting in the dock, I got the fishing report from Smoothrock lake Ontario, the trip I am usually on, biggest northern pike, 42.5 inches won the trophy, by my boat partner, when I'm with, we call that...and good start.
The blueberries were good and Greg ran his temporary partner into the ground by day three, I'll certainly be welcomed back to guide duty next year.  I will also be taking my daughter pike fishing in June prior to the pike hunting trip, it is a low keyed family trip but when L wants to win the pike jackpot she wants dad to go with pike fishing, and we go real pike fishing.  BTW this is her monster pike from 2015

This is the 8th biggest pike in my boat, ever.  This picture from Olaf Danielson now graces the cover of the camps brochure...and yes my daughter both birds and fishes with me, we also shoot carp together with a bow.  She can handle her end of my boat but I don't let her get too cut up, but real pike fishing always involves a little blood, this is her second plus 20 pound pike and she is only 16.  We hand land every pike, no nets, and doing that takes a little skill without losing an appendage.

Back to Half Moon Bay,

The boat cruised out the jetty and on a rock was a Wandering tattler, a lower 48 bird for me

L yawned remembering all the effort to get one in Alaska, which she could have spent sleeping or something....oh well, who knew?

We cruised around, there was whales and cetacians everywhere, maybe 120 humpbacks,
a few blue and fin whales, tons of pacific white sided dolphin, northern right whale-dolphin (lifer cetacian), harbor porpoises (lifer), minke whales seven for the trip assuming I did not miss anything and well counting Sat and Sunday, Steller's, California sea lions, an elephant seal, harbor seals, it was a marine mammal orgy of activity, north of Bodega Bay, there was 250 fathoms of krill, hence the birds and the mammals...whales almost rubbing the boat

Pacific white sided dolphins

In some cases they were jumping over whales, and having sealions and something called a northern right whale-dolphin jumping over them, it was chaos..but cool chaos!

The birds...we saw great auklet and murrelet action as well as shearwater action but the storm petrels were scarce,  I did see the allusive northern gannet on a cliff from far away, which is a local great bird, I guess and we got a good look at a Wilson's storm-petrel close...some pictures

Scripp's murrelet

Craveri's unphotographed by me as I first heard it was a Scripp's pair and I was pointed the pther way and had just taken the above photo only later to be changed on photo inspection, ...again for me and this bird, maybe someday a photo....

Brown Booby

Sabine's Gulls

I love those wing markings on this bird

Day two of the seabird extravaganza was with the RROC (Redwood Regional Ornothilogical Club..I think) out of Blowdega, I mean Bodega Bay (Debi's name for the place), and yes, It blew, and it was cold and it was foggy, and wavy...and....I had an issue....I developed a weird contact dermatitis of my finger tips, I was thinking from either the steering wheel of the rental or the cover on my camera.  In my life, I once developed a latex allergy to a small degree in surgical residency, and my hands would just peel and burn, and in this case, they are could also be a cleaner for the rental or shampoo, but my hands look and felt like crap...but "This is NOT the end" so despite my bad luck on peleagics and bad hands, the birding must go on or maybe this song had a different meaning?  We'll see later in the blog..

We were very low key on this boat, I booked it under my daughter's name, we were almost anonymous, only one guy recognized me and that was later on...I just wanted to bird and munch on mango chips all day, show my duaghter some cool storm-petrels and since this was s club boat and I wasn't in the club, and they graciously let us on I didn't want to get in anyone's way.

The seasickness rate on the boat was about 40%, we weren't part of it on this boat and it was a more independent affair but I was happy they let us tourists on.  Some locals looked like they would just die, the "head" was getting pretty scary as only one person used the back rail like they were supposed to, but well we got into storm-petrels maybe once in a lifetime storm petrels, so many of the sick ones perked up.

Fork-tailed stormpetrels

My daughter had only seen one this year in a hand, and couldn't count it in Alaska, I'd seen a few a distance on the REPO cruise, so this was great.

Ashy Storm-petrels 
rafts of storm petrels

maybe a thousand of each species total, maybe more.  Many came right up to the boat and all of this with NO chumming, as that is illegal now, someone complained and everyone is trying to get a permit, Debi too

I was trying to get better photos and then with my salt encrusted camera, I used up the battery and my daughter, decided it was nap time, so she took a nap and loaned me her camera, then up flew a shearwater, it was close by and very dark, bigger than a soty. I looked at it as it was close, I couldn't even say the words of what it was, and then said "crap,"  yellow bill, black tip, "flesh foot!!" was shouted,  I snapped a quick set of photos, three hopelessly out of focus and one okay, in maybe 20 seconds, then it was team birding so I ran away from the front of the boat as others came to the front of the boat, had to get the daughter, had to get the daughter, I thought as that IS TEAM BIRDING, I found her in the cabin, she was out cold, like she didn't even remember I poked her hard later.  It was all I could do, she missed it, never woke up, I came out and watched it fly away.....

Flesh-footed shearwater

Bird 753 for the year and a LIFER bird, lifer beer, I chanted.  I could taste it, but was saddened about the daughter's miss, finally, a little luck for me, not for her.

It was an oatmeal stout BTW, oh wait, I'm still on the trip

Then we got into a pod of whales, L woke up for that, it was about as good as whale watching ever ever got.  COOL!!  She took back her camera and was off to the edge as happy as a whale lister would ever be, the shutter straining under the constant pushing.....

L's total for the trip, despite the big miss, plus 11, 514 for the year. WOW!
Best bird for the trip, she states, the many in-close black-footed albatrosses
Handsome birds...
Yea, they were mega cool, I agree!

It is back to school for her in a week, yea, maybe Adele's song lyrics from above are for her not me, a majority of our birding together is over so "maybe this IS the end."  It is the end of an era, as I can't bird with her until October, maybe not the whole year, that is very sad for me, we have bonded in a whole new way, a way I could have never guessed, she is SUCH a good kid, it is almost bringing a tear to my eye right here.  OKAY IT IS BRINGING A TEAR TO MY EYE.  I will throw her on a plane to home, little Miss Independent, I watched her 777 being pushed out of the plane  and started crying, my plane to LAX was 15 minutes later.  I am crying typing this.  I love my kids, and they like me!  We texted the whole time she was able before the plane backed off, she as unhappy some old guy got my seat next to hers, and well, she signed off, and that was ...that.... onward I must go.

It wasn't an earthquake:

 feel the earth move and then hear my heart burst again, for this is the end
It was me being sad, I miss her already

Sad on the west coast

Big Year Total:  753
Coded Birds:  82
provisionals: 1

Miles driven.  35,102
Flight Miles 134, 600
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 136   Different Airports: 47
(is the flight over Monterrey a segment or two or none?)
Hours at sea: 225
Miles walked 279
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12
states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  62
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  5
cost of trip
pelagics 330
flight 460
car 235
hotels, 510
food, 85

total  $1620

PS thank you Debi and the RROC again!

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 ...