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 then.........sh&t! 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 ...now 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.
Big Year Total: 754
Coded Birds: 83
speeding tickets: 1
Near bear/ death experiences 1
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
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.
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