Friday, October 28, 2016

Qidi Vidi Numerari

Somewhere on Duckworth Street, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Liz Southworth, a birder from Boston I run into frequently on chases, I'm certain, thinks I'm nuts, borderline certifiable.  Liz, though, is too polite to tell this to me directly, but I can tell.

This week, somehow, I talked her into going with me to chase what was slowly becoming a nemesis bird for the two of us. Not only that, it was not a very satisfying bird to look for.  It was a pain and after we dipped out on day one of out quest, which was arguably the longest, most boring day ever of birding, I knew something radical had to be done.  I told her we had to go and say peace with the chocolate mermaid....Trinitaria, as like I said, I knew we had to do something...anything.  We were cursed, or so it seemed, and this was the cursed of all cursed birds.  The locals and even Liz told me... "Do not underestimate this bird."  Bruce MacTavish, local birding legend, told me it was reliable and to plan on two even three days...

Liz and I had spent collectively at least twelve days looking solely for this bird here in our lifetimes...dang bird!   How much "lets go to the dump, then the ballfield, lake, back to dump, scan the roof tops, ballfield, golf course, back to the dump, etc etc." etc days could a birder have?  It was driving me nuts!!  I would admit that to any psychiatrist, too.  "Doctor, it all started with this bird with yellow legs..."

"Tell me more..."  The doctor would say quietly filling up his/her syringe.

Desperate times require desperate measures.  I told Liz, she had to say a prayer too, it was either touch her right breast or say a prayer and I also said, "if we dip out tomorrow, I don't want to be blaming you for angering the mermaid by not believing."  I've had good luck with sacred mermaids over the years.  It was clear, we needed all the help we could get, it seems the weather always shifts when we both come here, and as we arrived, i did that again.  Monday was a nasty nasty day to be looking for gulls and despite hanging with local birder Jared Clarke we got skunked on the gull... so we needed to do something...

"Unless you got a better idea?"  I added.  Liz said a prayer. I don't know if she meant it but well, that was between her and Trinitaria....I only knew what I believed and to be honest, you can't handle what I believe.

Well, we went to bed and at dawn, we were back at it, looking, lurking....and then at 0759, Trinitaria delivered.

It was the morning's fourth stop in the gull parade, some grass near the dog run on Qidi Vidi Lake.  I had just scanned a group of 200 birds and decided nothing of interest was there and then out of a corner of my eye something flew in, I was too depressed to even look at it.  10,000 gulls around and what would that one gull matter...

"Olaf, Olaf, is that the bird?"  Liz said.
"Where?"  I perked up.  She gave me directions like her life depended on me agreeing with her...maybe it did?  This bird will shorten your life if you let it.

Crap there it was....there the &**^%$  n^^%$# %^$$W# bird really was a yellow-legged gull, I can still hardly even write the name...

Darker mantle, bigger gony spot, medium bill, clean head, rounded head and even a look at yellow legs although the grass is too long to get them photographed well....don't they mow parks here? We both saw the legs.

We only had 5 minutes with the bird, but we were able to get closer than in the car a parking lot from across the street, we at least got out and to the fence, we got some identifiable photos, but then a dog came by and the gulls...were gone the YLGU with the group of Herrings, GBBG, and a coulpe of mutts.

It was a lifer bird......
thank you Trinitaira....a monkey was off our collective backs, a very heavy monkey with yellow feet...that was getting heavier by the minute.

Well what to do now, we wondered?  Look at the roofs, dump, ballfield, try to get a better photo or do something else?  Get a colonoscopy would have been more fun, and well, this being Canada, there is a wait for colonoscopies so since Liz needed a willow ptarmigan, off we went.  We drive to where my lifer came from, yes, I got my lifer willow ptarmigan on the Rock.
We drove to Cape Race.

Okay, it is hard to think that I got 7 checklist rarities on ebird down here, (Killdeer is rare?)   and I also got to hang with one of the lighthose keeps, Cliff Doran, who invited us over to the residence for coffee and cake.  Cliff got the find of the year in the eastern seaboard this summer, a common swift.....swifts are rare for Newfoundland on a good day, but a code five swift, and get the bastard photographed to show the forked tail?  Cool..way to go Cliff!

So out on the cape, after coffee and cake, out looking for a ptarmigan, what do we see but a swift fly by....

We looked and I begged, have a forked tail, some white, please...anything...we studied the photos....but I guess as we did NOT ask Trinitaria for a rare swift.....she did NOT provide....who would have ever guessed to have asked, though.  A swift, here, now?  But gosh a chimney swift though in the last week of October is a rare bird for here....and in good weather.  Go figure....?
..many of the Newfy elite birders have not ever seen any swifts in the province, now Cliff, Liz and I have something in common, to have sighted elusive swifts on the Rock....Cliff's bird though..still wow!

Some sights of Cape Race......

Rocky crags

Black Gullimot

I posted the swift in the local birdng Facebook sight and I'm not sure anyone believed I saw the bird in the province....oh well,

We still had the gull, so we drove back feeling better and stopped at the favorite pub of birders and drank.....
Lifer beer...cheers!

The name where I got this bird...says it all, Qidi Vidi
You may think I'm stealing a line from Sandy Komito's book on his 1998 Big Year,  I came, I saw, I counted.  I doubt the legendary Mr. Komito reads my blog...

Qidi Vidi  translated:  "I came, I saw..."
I'll add a word....Qidi Vidi Numerari   "I came, I saw, I counted"
Here at Qidi Vidi Lake, I did just that....I like it here, just not trying to sort out this gull


Big Year Total:  767 (plus 1)
still trying to decide 1
Coded Birds:  94
Newfoundland Birds in 2016: 76
provisionals: 1

Miles driven.  40, 237
Flight Miles 191,600
miles on ATV 475
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 181   Different Airports: 60
Near bear/ death experiences 2
Hours at sea: 264
Miles walked 449
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12

states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  69
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  8

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Some Beach...Some Where

If I was writing a book on this big year, and it could be titled as anything from the Biggest Big Year to Psycho 2, I certainly even wouldn’t know what to title this chapter.  It was a bit of an odd trip to South Florida.  It was a stakeout trip, not a bird chasing trip.  I guess, in retrospect, it was not a good idea.  In the end, I had not one but two days at sea weathered out—wind and waves, making 7 for the year now, well sort of, one was uncanceled.  I might have gone on the Yankee Freedom II to the Dry Tortugas just to see what was out there, except that it was pulled out of the water this week for a Coast Guard inspection, and won’t run again until at least November 7th

To make matters stranger, I had friends send me a link that I am mentioned in News of the Weird, a few above the chronic public masturbator under “extreme hobbies.”  I’m not sure public masturbation is an extreme hobby.  It IS extreme though.  I’m not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing but I did sell 7 copies of Boobies, Peckers, and Tits on Amazon after it was put out there.  If my moment of fame was just being in a Kids magazine I wouldn't sell anything, I guess.

So, I went to south Florida but the only beach I saw was at the Delta Lounge in Miami
(picture above) Life certainly is a Beach…

I hired a guide, Larry Manfredi, local guru for no other purpose than I like Larry and maybe, just maybe we’d stumble upon something.  What we stumbled upon was a wonderful German restaurant and it served my favorite beer.  Now, I’ve written about beer before, Erdinger is a beer rarely served in the USA and there are only two 2 places I have found that have my favorite beer on tap—the Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis, not infrequent spot of the Birds and Beers meetings, and Lucy’s in Key Largo, Florida.  

So Larry and I, drank beer for lunch.  In 290 odd days of this big year, this has never happened outside of an airport leaving somewhere.  So another oddity, I drank my lifer beer before I saw the bird.  Now understand, this is no ordinary beer.  I have had special glasses shipped to me.  I have gone to Munich for no other reason than to go to Therme Erding Spa so I can strip off and drink this beer.  With Erdinger hefe-Weiss, I can block out any issues of the day, even a day of slow birding.

Larry and I had, what could be said, was a pretty good day of seeing stuff, just not year bird kind of birding day, but we saw cool avians....we saw a nice yellow Philadelphia vireo,

Many cool warblers like this yellow-throated

Painted buntings…always a tough bird for me to photograph

Then we ended up in the middle of the biggest day of falcons and sharp shinned hawks migrating, I have ever seen, wow!  The kestrels and merlins were about 1 every 20 seconds and at times I could see twenty sharp-shinned hawks in one view.  We also saw Mississippi kites, always a good Florida bird, for me, a good bird anywhere.

Some migrating harriers

It was just a lovely day of birding.  I can’t recall when I have had so much fun birding.  It was a wonderful day off from…birding….?

Towards the end of the day, sneaking around, Larry thought possibly we heard a single call of a La Sagra’s flycatcher, then I heard a single call.  We waited until dark but nothing showed up, or spoke up. Disappointed, we went back for more beer.  I returned to Long Key in the morning to both get a second listen for a possible rare flycatcher but also to check for the Key West quail dove (I saw one here in 2015), and maybe see a fly-by Bahama swallow.  

Well, I heard a flycatcher right away but it wasn’t close, I couldn’t record it, and well, I don’t even think it was a La Sagra’s, so it was all a moot exercise.  I hiked the trails, but didn’t see a single dove, of any stripe.  In fact it wasn’t very birdy at all.  Things were moving past my two observation locations, I saw probably 2500 swallows photographed over a hundred as they sped over me.  I got shots of a couple of martins, of the purple variety all of which probably should have gone through by now but nobody told these birds.  I saw every species of common swallow occurring in the eastern USA, even cave swallows, and then in the middle of this orgy of swallows and hawks, and then something else.  

This swallow had a forked tail, was bluish on tail and wings, the wings darker, it seemed blue green on body when the sun angle was on it and underneath, white, with white even under the interior part of the wings.  It flew different, was not associated with a group and it came while I was eating a snack at my swallow vantage-point.  I saw it as it flew right over me, curving out to the ocean.  “Oh s&%t!”  I said.  I saw it and knew what it was.  The trail bar went flying as I grabbed my camera as the bird took a single circle out over the water before heading east like all of the swallows following the keys.  It was one of the few birds that circled out there, giving me a second chance.   That enabled me to get a lone shot before the bird got too far to my right, but at least I got that. 

I know what I saw.  That forked tail was not from a tree swallow.  Lighter blue and much too white underneath for a barn.  The photo is bad but the white, the blue is visible, I saw white under the head but the photo is darker, not sure if head is turned, shadow, or I'm just plain wrong.....If it is a Bahama swallow...... I’ll let you guys decide….so Bahamas swallow or not?  Count it or not?  It had the field marks, just getting good photos of a fly by swallow…..tough.

The guys at the hawk watch at Curry Hammock have seen some strange swallows/ martins this year, some forever unknown.  I think a mangrove swallow was identified, some were probably just Purple Martins, though.  So odd things are moving through.  I'm almost certain, I'm adding it to my lifer list (drank the lifer beer ahead of time) but here days later, I haven't even posted the checklist.

I stood and/or hiked for 10 hours and I was dog tired when I got back to Florida City.  My private pelagic for Sunday scrapped due to wind/ waves, mine on Monday the same so well, it was time to bug out.  Up in LaGuardia I learned the small craft warnings for Key West………..were for really small craft and they were going out, crap, and the entire city of Key West due to Fantasyfest overrun with naked people with a little body-paint on them...

from Getty Images of Parade 

The Navy seems to have changed a little.  I could have been feeling at home but how do you paint a naked birder?  Maybe I should have been a blue-footed booby?  (Is the Booby the clothed guy dressed like a boy scout? IMHO he could be, unless he is around to help the naked drunk girls getting across Duval Street?) 

Trying to understand my potential "costume" would be way too complicated for a bunch of drunk people on Duval Street anyways so IT IS just as well I left town and I would have been way too distracted and hung over to find any future birds.  Oddly, I got a call from the captain of the boat in Key West when I had connected up in New York, he didn’t cancel and called the captains up in Homestead, wimps, oh well, I don't think the first mate above was on his boat…next time, I guess, I have to go out to find out.

Anyhow, I have not done anything with this swallow, Larry, wishes I had a better picture, so do I, but well, it wasn’t waiting for me to get that, so as I said, I’ll let you decide, count or not.

I definitely need both more boobies and tits for this year, I think I’m good on the pecker department
off to the next spot....Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet say it all....

The sun is hot and that old clock is movin' slow,
An' so am I.
Work day passes like molasses in wintertime,
But it's July.
I'm gettin' paid by the hour, an' older by the minute.
My boss just pushed me over the limit.
I'd like to call him somethin',
I think I'll just call it a day.
Pour me somethin' tall an' strong,
Make it a "Hurricane" before I go insane.
It's only half-past twelve but I don't care.
It's five o'clock somewhere.

Some Beach...some where...

is it 5 o'clock yet?

PS.  My wife thinks I sound like an alcoholic in this blog but only 2 beers were consumed for the research of this text....and I should know how to count to two...correct?


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Clown Car and Me

Okay, again, you may say, Olaf, this time you have gone to far, done some crazy hair-brained stuff, stuff no other birder would try.  Maybe that is so but well, who else would dare do it in a clown car?

I flew south on Saturday landing in Seattle just in time for the arrival of a remnant typhoon that hit the west coast, the Pineapple Express they call it and it meant for wind and rain all the way done to California.  At SeaTac, I waited for an hour just to get a gate and then ran for my plane, a flight to San Francisco that was bump and grind, rough, and just wild up in the air.  You don't hear screams everyday and then crying on a jet.

I was a little woozy when I got to SFO and stumbled to the rental car lot.  Usually, I rent "Manager's Special" at Hertz and typically I get nice big cars.  I saw my number on the Hertz Gold Board, #18, cool, I didn't have to walk too far.  I saw a sea of cool cars, one of them had to be mine.  I was soooo excited.  It is about time I got a break from Hertz, whose points BTW, you can never use.  There was a Mercedes, a couple of Mustangs, three nice full sized vehicles and then in space #18 I saw it....OMG, I stopped right there and started to laugh.  They had given me a clown car.

It was cherry lipstick red, small, well puny, but it had four doors, like why would you buy a 4-door of this Yaris model any how?  The driver's seat didn't go back far enough just about for me to get in, but it was tight.  I kind of wanted to drive with one of my legs in the passenger side but that didn't work so being me, I just drove it away, away on another adventure with just me and my clown car Bozo (my wife named her car Batty White, and here I am with a clown car named Bozo.  It drove loud, had the pick up of a lawn mower and fish tailed at speeds above say 45, climbing a small hill, it sputtered and just about died.  It was a clown car.

So I headed down towards Monterey into a real soaker which is VERY good for California, they need rain.  I tried to find a sharp-tailed sandpiper in Moss Landing but I could not figure out the dairy the bird was in and it looked like I had to drive off road with my clown car on some muddy dirt.  Off road for Bozo is a Walmart parking lot and I'd give it 50-50 that I could even drive through that so I bailed and left the sandpiper unseen and went to my motel.

Here is Bozo at the Motel Six in Watsonville.  I ate a place called Round Table Pizza, oddly they only had square tables.  The pizza was good but there was pieces of pizza everywhere like I had just missed a food fight.  Maybe all the round tables were out being repaired or disinfected?

October 16th got me on Debi Shearwater's last pelagic of the season and it was a bit of hell, a bit of melancholy, and I bit of stupidity.  It rained, it blew, there was swells, and generally only a few birds.  Debi told some Brits that there was "No f^&& way" we'd see storm-petrels when they asked but a little ways out of the harbor, that was essentially the only thing of note we saw....go figure.  Many asked what my goal bird I needed here and to be honest, I didn't have any (the stupidity).  I had already paid and my big plan was for Monday.  What else was I going to do?

I like Debi and sort of miss her already, like I said, she has one heck of a story to share in her biography, I'm just waiting for the word and we can write it....

Best bird....Wilson's storm-petrel

We saw ashy, black, and Leach's too.  We had a guy so seasick, like I can't believe anyone that gets that seasick would ever set foot on a boat.  He laid on the floor of the boat and after crawling there from the stern and didn't move for three hours.  It was hard not to step on, I don't get seasick.  This wasn't rough enough for me to worry, but it could get bad out a ways.  One of the birders on the boat wanted us to strap in the old people so they wouldn't get hurt and head out deep to look for rare birds....Debi just shook her head and we headed back to port.  It isn't worth dying out there.

We got back at 1230 and I drove up the coast and birded my way to Half Moon Bay.  I found some young golden-crowned sparrows and lots of wind and rain.

Bozo got pushed off of the road twice by big gusts, I as afraid i'd be a road casualty so I went to San Mateo and sacked out for the day.  After I ate what was a bad burrito.  I need to have a moratorium on eating Tex-Mex food--broken teeth,  Son of Montezuma's revenge, beans and gas....I just have to say no.

The bird I really wanted to get in the bay area was the blue-footed booby and I tried everything to get out there but there was either no room or no boats.  I asked my wife if spending this kind of money for one bird was worth it.  She was understanding and told me she would expect me to pay this and go.  If another BFBO showed up in say Los Angeles, there would be new plane fares, motels, cars, and I was here already, I needed to do this.  On Friday I called a boat broker Scott who said he'd help me and things looked good so I invited a couple of people with.  What I paid for this boat in this time of need makes me feel really bad.  But I guess it is only money.  I don't want to think about it any more.

2130 last night Scott gave me a call, boat "A" was stuck in Santa Cruz and so he had gotten boat "B" as no one wanted to go, thinking it was too rough out there.  The Perfect Storm was too rough for me, otherwise, I can handle anything.  I needed this bird.  Well, this back up boat was it, otherwise I couldn't go, it was just a 30 footer, only held 4 people and had no bathroom, so only guys could go.  I called a couple of Facebook friends I had invited and then uninvited them.  One had driven 7 hours already and was staying a mile from the boat....I was in the dog house.  I was the clown in a clown car.  Sleep was poor, thinking about the lives I had ruined at least for a day.  Sheez!

I arrived at Point Pillar Harbor at 8am stuck for a while in a traffic jam, so was the broker Scott, and the captain, Scott at the party boat rentals called me said, we got a back up to the back up boat, (yes let another boat) and it was a bigger one and so I called everyone I had told not to come and they drove down, I was out of the dog house.   We got out late but we got out.

The ocean swell was 15 x 14, fifteen feet high at 14 second intervals.  The biggest seas I had ever been in short of the Aleutians.  It was not for the faint of stomach.  One of my guests failed pelagic 101, chum the BACK of the boat, not the floor, at least she was outside.  But she was the first victim of the seas.

Mr. Birding Project-- Christian came with, he searched the left side and I the right side of the boat for birds.  There was no team of spotters, we were the team of spotters

It was no pleasure cruise but slowly we made it to the Farallon Islands.  What a neat place!

The seas were too rough to go around them but we got into fisherman's bay next to Sugarloaf and looked for my quarry.

The only west coast northern gannet was found first.  This is the rarest bird we saw on this day. I have now seen this bird three times 25 miles apart, odd bird, how did he get on this side of the ocean, this is an Atlantic bird?

then we kept looking, one then a second brown booby was identified and then there it was... year bird 766, the cover bird for my book Boobies, Peckers, and Tits the

Blue-footed booby

Yeah!!! More boobies, more often, I always say.  I had seen juvenile birds of this species in 2013 on the Salton Sea, well I saw 9, which is closer to their home in the Gulf of Baja, Mexico, but it was still nice getting one this year especially considering all of the logistics and money I paid to even try for this bird.  I doubt I'll ever see the Farallon Islands again, and it was cool to just have the privilege of coming here.  The land of angry Great White sharks, interesting scenery, and cool birds.

We headed back after everyone had seen the birds and found a feeding area of sea lions and whales

one of the birds in this melee was a black footed albatross

The only one I've seen in my last 5 west coast pelagics, there just isn't much food out there and the birds are largely gone. We did see a few Buller's shearwaters and 4 south polar skuas including a rather different looking light phase.  But in general we just surfed the huge swells home and back to port seeing a paucity of bird-life.  The only other boat out there?  A container ship and a fishing trawler, nothing else.  No one else was crazy enough to go out on a day like today, but I needed a bird, and well the captain needed some money.

So after the initial snafu of playing musical boats, my inaugural Booby Charters by Olaf, "the Boob Cruise" was a success!

So there you have it.

I was there and so was Bozo, my Booby Prized Car!  My clown car and me, what a pair are we.

You know there is this band from Minneapolis called Dillinger Four with a Song called Clown Cars on Cinder blocks.  The singer laments December is 31 days too long and this year has gone way to slow, yes it has, but I still have 2.5 months to go to get more birds...

So after doing ebird lists with Christian, eating a very good hamburger, I drove back to the airport and returned Bozo with two warning lights on, a window doesn't shut properly and well Bozo can be someone else's problem from now on.  My ticket says Minneapolis and then home to dentist but who knows if I'll ever get there, I am like my clown car, you will never know what will come out of it or where it or I will turn up next.  Where to next?   Even I don't know that.

Blue-footed Booby, though, is off the board.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Think Pink!

Some would say I went on a road too far, others would say the top of the world to you, maybe a road to nowhere, but I would just say whew!  I’ll say it again, whew!  Today, for the second time this month, I came to Barrow, but this time, I came, I saw, and I counted.  

You know, I posted a picture of me at the dentist on Facebook yesterday.  It created quite the stir...

Many thought I was drugged or gassed, or others possibly mentally ill, and one even thought I was the poster child for this particular Dental office (but I love that smile!) but in reality I was laughing at the absurdity of it all. I was also laughing at the story I was going to tell Dr. Johnson. How I got from San Antonio via San Francisco, Flagstaff, St Paul Island, then Seattle and home to have this tooth checked and why. Flying home to get a dental exam from Seattle to turn around again, two days later and head back to the Arctic, just to turn around again for the west coast and God knows where to next, that is a lot of explaining.  "Birds...?"  I said, then I laughed.

Besides the dentist, what did also I do at home?  I played dad, helping navigate my daughter and friend to a Kanye West concert in Minneapolis.  They charge $40 for a $2 printed t-shirt that doesn’t say anything.  I checked out my wife’s new birch bark bag she wove at the Swedish Institute.  Good job Silja!  Here is my lovely lady with her piece of art...

I think it is wonderful!  and well, while the concert was going on, we went to REI and then watched a little football on TV and other things….before that I ate at a Mexican restaurant, and I ate stuff I shouldn’t.  It caused pain.  I got better antibiotics, which worked better, and then daughter safely in hotel, I drove 221 miles home to see the dentist and then....I slept.  Pain always wears me out but I’m pretty tough.

I perplexed my dentist, just a bit.  The crack in #31 is sort of oddly placed if that is indeed a crack but something is going on, and as I lost #30 in 2nd grade (don’t ask!), I kind of need that tooth.  I lost #19 on the other side when my wife got pregnant with "L" (an even longer story, don't dare to ask) and had to sacrifice #18 as the root canal I got during lunch hour on an Oral Surgery rotation for a case of beer in 1993 had worn out last year, a year a beer, seemed good.  Ah teeth..sigh.  Dr. Johnson says I may need a big project to see if he can salvage the tooth, but it may be too deep, and he doesn't want me in the arctic, so I need to return but the pain is relaxing a bit if I avoid salsa chips.

I have more dental stories.  Just a small one here, I learned how to apply for an appeal of Minnesota In-state tuition (I was still considered a WI resident even though I married a MN resident) from a dentist who had done it before.  I tracked him down to have a crown placed in Anoka, MN.  He worked on my tooth and spoke of what to write, what letters to get, and where to send it and I took notes from the chair.  That was 1991 and it saved me $24,000.  Fixing a tooth was really worth $24,000, the key was knowing who to go to.  I kid you not.  In his case the committee made up of two students, the head of janitorial services, a low level VP and two faculty members approved the appeal and refunded his whole 4 years of out of state dental school tuition in one big check.  In my case I only got 2 years short a quarter reduced to in state tuition rates but it was a great deal, that only a few knew existed.  The year before I started Med School, Wisconsin and Minnesota had tuition reciprocity but that ended during a budget crisis that eventually caused Jesse Ventura to become Governor of the mosquito laden state. That was much better than the $200 I saved on my lunch hour root canal project, but heck, money is money. 

Well, my tooth problems are minuscule and insignificant to the many women who are and have been suffering from breast cancer.  It is breast cancer awareness month and we all are supporting it, even the NFL, so I’m thinking pink.  I’m buying the pink lemonade on Delta, and well, I’m up here in Barrow looking for a pink gull.  It is all pink to me…  

As an aside, I have seen many women with breast cancer.  In some cases some of the most horrific cases you could imagine.  I’ve removed breasts.  I’ve done plastic reconstruction.  I’ve seen the horror that is this cancer and have truly seen the look in many women’s eyes of the dejection that the diagnosis I’ve given them has left them.   People are NOT happy when you tell them they have colon or even skin cancer but breast cancer has a connotation that is different, it is like they fear losing their identity.  I’ve also seen many many women “cured” and out 20 years that have had a stress event in their lives that has caused the long dormant cancer to return.  It is not a good entity.  To be honest, the actual cures haven’t came easily for this disease and the best thing is early diagnosis of this animal so that is what I hope to encourage you to do, if you are reading this.  Mammograms, self-exams (even partner exams if that can help you to do it, why not make it fun!), need to be done as ignoring this is NOT the answer, it is out there and it kills.

One of my very and much too young office workers “Mindy” to have breast ca just finished the whole triple therapy of surgery, radiation and chemo, and luckily is doing well.  Many of you have seen me wear that t-shirt as I proudly support her during her plight.  I still am! 

Way to fight this Mindy!!

With all of this breast cancer awareness, not to mention my tooth issues, it is hard to think about flying way up here to get into a pink bird.  I flew into Barrow again this morning in a paucity of Ross’s Gull reports all fall and well, 20 minutes after arriving, bingo, got them, a few minutes later I got a better and closer flock which I chased down the road.  I got stuck behind a local, but got a couple of photos before they crossed the point heading towards Canada.  I had a problem though.  I forgot to put the car in park, and standing outside, trying to take pictures, I got hit by the door as the car rolled backwards and got wedged under the car a little before I got secured and could push it enough to get in and hit the brakes.  The flock was well east of me by then.  It seems, it is always something with me.

No complaints….I saw 31 in total, here is a few flying at distance.  No looking at a bad photo and trying to second guess an ID.  I'm sure the previous gull a week ago was a Ross's but I did the right thing to return.  

Note the pink breast, white trailing edge of top of wings, white diamond shaped tail, bad photos but good enough..

Here is a first year bird, see it still has black wing tips and the top of the wing markings that is typical for many small gulls.

I also saw a hard to get ivory gull but at distance and I lost it trying to get camera on it but I had the bird already for the year, but to blaspheme a fish…wahoo!  Lifer beer tonight!

Well, drank it on the plane back to Anchorage already, and I am having a bad hair evening, but gull is in hand.  I was happy to have ticked the gull, I’m still smiling at the northernmost football field in America.

I have to say, Barrow people are the friendliest.  I had a nice chat at UIC Car rentals.  I guess they have quotaed out on whales harvesting 10 this year…I saw one the previous trip lucky me.  They are warning about polar bears in town, I saw none today, thankfully.  Less bears more often, I say.  The young man at UIC was more mad at an arctic fox in town last night than bears, as they can bite and carry rabies, bears can bite and carry your (carc)ass off.

So that is the story.  I need to go back and get my tooth explored when I have more time than a day in case things go bad and whatever I do, I can’t be in isolated northern Alaska…

I got another bird…man have I tacked on the miles lately

Big Year Total:  765 (plus 1)
Coded Birds:  93
Lower 48 birds:  706 plus 1
provisionals: 1

Miles driven.  38, 812
Flight Miles 177,200
miles on ATV 475
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 170   Different Airports: 59
Near bear/ death experiences 2
Hours at sea: 248
Miles walked 436
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12

states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  68
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  7

And I hope I have made you a little more aware of breast cancer….get screened!  Or watch the dog or kids so your woman can go get screened….

think pink!!


Sunday, October 9, 2016

All Raw and Bare (bear)

Sequim, Washington.  As I was driving around Washington state today, I thought I had ran across another clandestine operation.  You see, Olaf has his peering eyes everywhere and about 200 yards from the above supposed shady operation, I found my 700th Lower 48 bird, an American Dipper, (photo with cell phone in downpour) a number only one other person has accomplished in a year.  This shadiness....?

Selling raw milk retail!  You see more states have legalized gambling an almost as many the sale of pot than to sell raw milk.  Portlandia has a whole TV show on the subject with Fred Ormison getting carried away and addicted to the stuff.  So before I called the milk inspectors, I checked, I guess Washington legalizes this practice banned nationwide after 1957, but relaxed somewhat recently.  It isn't legal around my house (or in Oregon).

So what is the hubbub about raw milk...listeria is one thing as is e.coli but to be honest...raw milk doesn't keep, the cream is on the top, I don't like the taste (although I can be a big milk drinker)

It is the organic and health food people, purporting its goodness....pre pasteurization, though led to many MANy deaths, and after our stomach breaks down the lactose and protein in milk any of these "good things" well...they mostly get broken down too.  It is called digestion and I would love to see a study ANY study showing how raw milk is better than pasteurized milk, I guess it is good for calves.  As adults except in lacto-cultures, (peoples associated with cows, like Hindu, and northern European) generally we can't handle milk.  I don't get this at all and this seems to rank up there with placenta eating, maybe that it seems organic like.  Hell my Springer spaniel eats cat turds...nothing more organic than cat turds but you know, I don't think that is a good thing to encourage either.

So maybe it would just be better for us to breast feed until kids are like 13....that is really wholesome and is the milk meant for humans...not calves....IDK, but I guess, I'm just a birder, and I won't change any zealots.  There are urban legends that milk cause diabetes so I guess those followers aren't into the raw milk thing.  I have though seen two raw milk illnesses in the ER over my that doesn't appear on the side of this cute little farm or in ads.      

Oh least it is legal...just not a good idea In my medical opinion

Barrow Alaska, October 4, 2016

I had a day off last week so I made a bee-line to find pinkie the Ross's gull in Barrow
Barrow is on top of the world and I broke my northerly record of being at 71.27 degrees latitude, I had been above 68 before in Norway, but this beat that easily.

Barrow is one of the ten most north cities in the world and in the northern language of the native people the place means literally "the place where we hunt snowy owls."  Not surprisingly I didn't see any.  It was a two stop plane, first to Deadhorse dropping off the Prudoe Bay oil workers and then on to Barrow.  I landed just before 11 and found the car rental company and rented a car.

Barrow is a muddier and colder place than Nome.  I wanted to say it is Nome without the charm, but I never thought Nome had any and so maybe Nome without the quirks.  Winter hasn't quite arrived in full fury yet, the Arctic Ocean isn't froze over and it was pretty warm, like 40 degrees, all in all it wasn;t a bad day, the sun even came out and well, that sun will disappear soon enough for the winter.

I had heard that the local bears had been getting grumpy, they want to go out on the ice and well a male bear the night before I got here had beaten up a female with a couple of cubs.  The male bear was looking for action, and was big and mean....and he was right where I was going, prowling the point.  Olaf and bears....I knew it then, it could be the end.

I drove out, looked around and then I saw HIM.  Luckily HE stayed safely, well, 3/4 of a mile safely away.  No bear encounters of the Closest kind for me, but third species of bear in 6 weeks.  Generally, I tried to stay in the SUV generally to afraid to go out but I did bird on the beach and looked for gulls, but I also watched him, I was taking this picture...when

The Lifer Polar Bear

I saw out of the corner of my eye, a gull fly by.  It was on the side of a group of 6 black-legged kittiwakes, smaller and had no black on wing tips.  Dang! (I said worse things) and I swung my camera over and tried to focus down on the gull, it was out a ways and it got behind me.

Larus sp.  (gull sp)

I thought I saw pink but you know, this is a lifer bird for me and I can't call this bird a Ross's gull.  It could be a rarer Little gull (the other small gull without black wing tips that could be here), or something really obscure.  I know some people and even some big year birders might call it but I can't.  I got standards.  Seen some head shaking calls by birders over the years..I don't want to be one of them.

That was it for small gulls on this day. It has been a poor year for these gulls to migrate up here...where are they?  Where is everything?   I looked, explored the grocery store which is much better stocked than Nome. I stayed away from HIM.  I staked out the beach, and had a diagnostic dilemma on IDing a loon, finally deciding on yellow-billed as more common than Common loons here.  I read a great paper on separating the  two and well, this one didn't follow that paper either.  The dark on less than half of the culmen and thick neck lead me to my final ID but you know, you could tell me I'm an idiot and wrong and I'd believe you two.  This loon did NOT help me on my gull either as it filled me with much doubt....too much doubt. This is a hard plumage though.

So if you are a member of Greenpeace, or some wildlife preservation club, you might want to skip this but this became a rather interesting distraction.

I saw this really odd chain of boats.  If you click on the picture and expand, you will see that the first boat is tied to the second, and that one to the third and all the way to number 6.  What was behind #6 being towed, confused me at first but as car after car after truck started parking by me at the end of the old runway, I knew something was up.  

Then they beached it, a bowfin whale!  The locals had harvested a whale.  Two front end loaders, and a bit of organized chaos they got it up on the flat.  Then came the crowd, men in knives, pictures, kids standing on it..

I snapped a quick picture and decided I may NOT be welcome so I left, I wanted to get gas and check in on my flight.  You certainly don't see a whale harvest every day.  Truth be told, I have ate is quite good and goes with Chilean red wine.  Whale the other red meat...

Getting gas, I noticed something else...fog.  It was coming in fast.  It is like one of those magical days of fishing in fair skies ended by a tornado.  You know how you rush to do something knowing that if you miss it,  your plans get ruined?  In this case instead of running from the rental car agency, I should have walked, or went back to watch the whale butchering. as the plane landed when I returned the car but I was on the later flight, a flight that I feared would never land due to fog (I was correct).  I needed to see if I could jump this Alaska jet so I ran as hard and fast as I could.  In the process I just about stepped on a baby in a car seat, tripped over an old woman but I made it to the check in woman who gave me a seat, I was last on the plane out of Barrow...she told me my fears were right on as i still got the beep for extra security

Landing safely and getting on my flight the next morning to St Paul worked ell, as was my flight to St Paul but nearing the island the weather got bad and I didn't know how we landed the plane.  I got off as most of the birders including head guide Scott Shuette left.  Stephan Lorenz read me the weather report..bad going on worse.  The heavy southern winds made birding nearly impossible, going up to 50 mph, then as that storm abated, an extra tropical typhoon made dead aim on Adak and the weather...would get worse.

I guess I should have spent the night in Barrow..

My tooth hurt from an incident on a salsa chip in San Antonio (something hard in it) and I think I cracked a molar.  I was on pain meds and antibiotics but I didn't have the best type with.  So 48 hours later I begged the woman at Pen-Air to give me a seat, the plane was full for the whole next week and having a tooth abscess herself, she gave me an emergency seat.

I ended up flying down to Seattle as I could, and I was thinking it put me in a better position to think about what to chase and to still get back to Barrow should the gull show up.  I needed to see if this molar would settle down, it wasn't. It was 5am, I wasn't tired, wired on pain.

I had nothing to do in Washington, so after checking out the raw milk spot accidentally, I went to Olympic National Park as I have never been there and looked out on Hurricane Ridge

I was above the fog!  Above the fray so to speak, I guess.  Some cute blacktailed deer, this one hiding in the gllom, but sneak around in the trees as I did up on top I found no grouse.  I also found NO bears.

Well I had an odd list of birds I wanted to see besides the dipper, some up here, some nearer to Neah Bay and the coast,  got them all.

Pacific Wren, Golden crowned sparrow, eurasian wigeon, mew gull, northwestern crow, greater scaup, varied thrush, white-winged scoter, and sooty grouse.

 I drove out to Neah Bay in pouring rain and back and got the ducks, but hard to bird in that much rain.  I ended up in pain getting the last room in Port Angeles as they were having a Dundeness Crab festival.  I couldn't eat any and I went to bed at 8.

Here are some of my birds:

Pacific wren

White-winged scoter

Varied thrush

More American wigeon in a pile than I have ever seen in one place before, can you pick out the Eurasian bird?  there are 2 in that group.

The oddest thing I saw was this tropical kingbird on the wire near the farm in Sequim, you may ask what that is doing up here, but oddly this is not even a Washington state bird for me, got 4 in Neah Bay in 2014.

I had six small crows speak to be IDed as Northwestern crows near Neah Bay, on the coast although I marked well over a hundred that could have been either, them or American.  Seen them out here before.

So nothing new, nothing too exciting but the views were nice but ticking things here and there.  I'm off to go back home and get this tooth problem solved. I can't go on like this, and will regroup and take off pain-free I hope


Golden dreams and memories

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