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



  1. Olaf: Hope Buttermilk is okay cause Joan is making biscuits tonight from that kind of milk for our Thanksgiving dinner; ( Canadian, of course )
    Tough luck on the Ross's. Unusual that they would be scarce up there at this time of year. See on a blog today that another birder just got one up there but certainly not in a flock of hundreds of others.
    You might be interested to know that Tropical Kingbird is basically an annual bird in the Pacific N.W.; some kind of post breeding dispersal I guess. Actually got my lifer at the Hope airport in the Fraser Valley of B.C. this time of year, and they usually show up around the Boundary Bay area south of Vancouver, once again, at this time of year.
    Got to get that Ross's. Good luck.

  2. Think that you were feeling skittish after another bear encounter. ;)
    That is perhaps why you were so mistaken about the locals at their whale landing.
    They are overwhelmingly hospitable, you would have been very welcome. A whale landing is a cause for celebration in the community, lots to eat for everybody and to share.
    Go back and get that Ross's, it will be there for you.

    1. Well I wasn't sure of the cultural sensitivity in issues as in Lakota culture certain activities I would not be welcome at. Figured just as easy to leave.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Ah, that makes sense, one does not want to create offense inadvertently.
    Still a shame, you'd have had a good time...

    Separately, congratulations on beating 700 in the lower 48, superb record.

    1. Thx. Yea non local guy with camera could be interpreted as trouble. I know in Gambell I was not allowed to take any pictures of local people so I tried to honor that. I know different ethnic background and culture

  4. Ruddy Ground Doves:;id=1240873


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