Monday, October 3, 2016

Coming out from under my rock

I have never been away for a month and a half.  It felt like I had been sent out on a ER shift and forgotten about, left to wallow in the call room of self pity and despair, the eternal wait for an ambulance that never actually ever makes it to your facility but keeps calling to say they are coming.
Last Monday, I turned down our lonely road, near a minor town, in a flyover state and saw Urland Ranch for the first time in a very very long time.  I stopped and looked at the place on the road seemingly transfixed by the early South Dakota fall day and didn't know what to do.

I was HOME!

Could I be even afraid to go back home?  A lot and I mean a lot had changed since I had been back here and I even had a new cat named Annie, consensus was to name her Olaf but my daughter didn't listen.  I went in, my dog said hello and nipped me for being gone and then we were buds again, and I effectively crawled back under the rock from whence I least under my rock, I had a friend or 5 to pat

On the way home, though, besides loosing a piece of luggage that never truly seemed to be able to catch up with me....I did a little birding after my dusky warbler in San Francisco, my suitcase though left San Diego without me to go back up to San Francisco on its way to Salt Lake City

I took a pelagic out of San Diego....

let me summarize this outing...slow

I had a few out here to get and left some out on the table, just very few birds, a scattering of storm petrels, and few shearwaters...

but I got a big one I needed.

#761 Least storm-petrel

Note a haf sized bird in a sea of black-storm petrels, we saw a few but it was a long and slow drive to 30 mile bank

We did see a white-rumped storm petrel of some sort which I saw, and although flew odd, the forked tail I saw turned out to be the feet of the Wilson's storm petrel when I saw a picture.  I clunked someone on the head with my camera and so as they say, no pix for me.

We got a lone Brown booby on the last bouy before port...

We did see a jeager chasing an elegant tern

but to be honest, interesting birds were few and far between but it was a good day and the Grande has food.  I wrested for the bow to see possible murrelets but missed two Craveri's sightings (didn't need) saw 6 Scripp's no one else saw, or so it seemed, they seemed a pretty easy spot to me,  the boat came in and I ate pizza with Liz Southworth and her husband and then went to bed, and left early for good ole' South Dakota.  I looked for my suitcase but it had returned to San Fran or at least was returning and despite ordering it to Minneapolis, it hadn't turned east yet.  I thought about sending it to South Dakota but alas.....

There were NO rental cars in Minneapolis, wife was busy with daughter to drive 200 miles to get me so I went to the stash spot for a company car, there was one not needed for a week, I put in the keys and the battery was dead.....

I had given a tip to the shuttle driver, he came to jump me, no cables, I talked to a construction guy who had cables, he loaned them out but used them everyday to jump his car.  He never let them out of his sight....we couldn't find them jump point of the new van, then the construction guy brought over his jalopy. car started.  I was off.....................HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, already wrote about home before...

On Wednesday, I got a call from San Diego Delta baggage who then noticed the APB on my suitcase while talking to me and said, oh you just want this in Minneapolis?  "Yea"  Three hours later, I got a call that it was in.  Seems so simple to just look at your teminal.

So at home, safely tucked under my stone, I binge watched the 5th season of Longmire, The series has effectively jumped the shark.  They are repeating story lines.  I watched the first season of Easy.  I like this conglomeration of short stories sort of related.  A little racy, though, when watched with wife led to well...I don't kiss and tell.  I finally watched the finale of Seinfeld  Not a great ending IMHO.  I was only 18 years late....It has been 18 years......"NO SOUP FOR ME!"

I ate, veged (sp?), did some work, found out the office computer system had crashed and was still being reset, and laid out my mother's book on the history of the Sheriffs of my home county.  Then I saw something go by my computer.....code 5 alert!  South Padre Island.  Damn, how is that going to work?

I scoured my sources, confirming the bird which by Thursday morning proved to be no one day wonder, dang.  I thought about going but two things were happening, one, my mother in law had a heart attack and well was doing tests and then scheduled for a cath next Tuesday, my wife had basket weaving class in Minneapolis so I needed to stay home, then she came home and made banana bread and well, I couldn't leave then.  My sister's new baby and her are doing fine, thankfully and I also promised to do my grandmother's taxes.  I was scheduled to do a pelagic in Oregon on Saturday....I couldn't fit Texas in, maybe Sunday, it would be a terrible double back but well...a big year birder has to do what a big year birder has to do.

My wife's banana bread...yum yum, which is like code in the house for well....marriage is great.... did I ever say that?

Friday, I took off for Wisconsin and the 5 hour drive to check up on my grandmother.  If I missed a bird to see my 91.5 year old birding encouragement so be it, and I arrived as she was making potato sausage, another favorite.  Gosh, it is good to be home.

It was a really nice day in northern Wisconsin.  I walked in the woods after completing my taxing assignment enjoying the smell of the woods most

I bid my grandmother adieu and zipped off to Minnesota where I dropped off some stuff at an undisclosed location and talked to a naked man fixing a motor home, it was a nice day but I was antsy to get going, I had a suitcase to find and maybe I could catch a standby of the 4pm flight to Portland.

Driving into Minneapolis, I, for some reason decided to check the weather for Oregon coastal waters and it looked okay well Friday did and Sunday did but a rather under mentioned wind seemed to be coming in so eventually I called the pelagic operator but left a message.  I sat in the parking lot, then in baggage after finding my wayward suitcase, and waited, checked seemed like I was back on Gambell.  I saw a flight going to San Antonio the same time as my 6pm flight to Portland, finally, I called Delta to rebook my circle tour I had planned.....

I decided to head to South Padre island.  It worked.  I had more open ended flights now than a guy should ever have.  I only had to eat a single night in a hotel in Newport.  As I boarded the plane for San Antonio, the call came in....pelagic cancelled.  Boy if I hadn't got that itch to go get a bird in Texas, I would have been really really mad sitting in Portland but I hadn't got the bonus bird yet.

I landed, then got my car and zipped off through San Antonio for points south 300 miles away south, like I had done this before...then I remembered, I had, 5 times...I wish Delta would fly closer to the LRGV and I guess in December again, twice a week, they will.

I got a hotel room at 1am and crashed at the Best Western a mile from the bird, I was dead on my feet.

I woke, grabbed a coffee and went to the World Birding Center, a place so over named it would make your head spin but...BUT....even I guess a blind place hets a bone, there were 20 people on stakeout 30 minutes before sunrise in the parking lot.  Shockingly, ten minutes later I nabbed the little bugger, a South American code 5, a variegated flycatcher, then Justin Bosler from my common crane hunt saw me and we chatted and the bird vanished, but no fear for Justin, it came back and then I got photos.

#762  Variegated Flycatcher

It was a circus at the WBC, 50 people were there with spotting scopes, fighting for camera windows, people cutting in front of people taking pictures...all the bad birding behavior one would expect....

At 745, it was time for me to leave, bird bagged, I had places to go...

I went down to the Valley Trust lots near Pizza Hut to look for warblers etc. and I got bad photos of many species...

Wilson's and Golden winged...

I talked to some nice birders from Ft Worth Audubon who commented that I was so savaged in a tweet for wasting resources....probably from the Washington Post article...I don't read such things. First, I am not doing this for any cause.  I'm doing this for me.  The planes I'm flying are going anyways, I do not use private jets, so yes, my carbon footprint is big, but not that much bigger than normal.  I am spending less than some big year birders this year, a lot less.  It isn't like I'm using money I would be donating to a cause....I don't believe in awareness campaigns.

If you want to know my philosophy in life read "The Enumerator."   My life  story in "Boobies Peckers and Tits" first 20 pages.  E  is a cheap ebook by me.  Religious wise....after much thought on the matter, I'm a dualist.  Not that that gets me anywhere, most of us have been stomped out in the 13th century and I know few other Dualists....I'm firmly a pacifist (Mennonite thinking versus Quaker though) and although I lean towards communal living, but never done it, it is clear that on a large scale like I've written, that is not possible to achieve.  I admire Che, to a degree, but in the end, Ayn Rand sort of says it all, self-determination is the only way.  So there you go, a Marxist Self-determinist heretic.....whatever that is our where ever that is practiced let me go there.  Libertarianism only gets me so far.  There are too many people and we have become so productive our population has exceeded our workforce demands for ever so extra people are not needed, and therefore what to do....wars?  I do not have answers but no politician is going to deal with this ... I don't even know where I'm going....My vote?  YES on Hawaii.   Otherwise I believe in third parties, preferably ones with beer.  I would have been a good hippie.....for a while.....

So hate me...loath me....but heck, This is MY money.  What did you spend yours on this year?, I would ask any person.

These fine guys also asked me where I was off to next...

Wherever I was going, and wherever I have been, I always find myself that I should be somewhere else, or so I say....shockingly, I ended up in San Francisco later that night.  I had emailed Debi Shearwater on the fly (literally, as I was flying) and she had a spot on a pelagic the next day.

I got a room, then at 7am sharp, I was checking in on Johnson Pier in Half Moon Bay and then boarded the New Captain Pete and off we went on yet another pelagic.  I chatted with the legend herself of seabirding.  Debi amazes me, someday when all of this is over I need to buy her dinner and chat.  She and I have a lot in common, a lot.  Our pasts are similar and hers, a book should be written on it and to be honest, I'd volunteer to be her biographer...the stories....priceless, all I can say is I wish I was of age in San Fran area in the 70s...I could have lived my theories out and probably been disillusioned like many of my older peers

I had somehow hoped to be in disguise on this boat but it was like old home week....there was Douglas Kibbe (and Mackenzie and friend) from Colorado....reliving my Colorado adventure with me, my embarrasing six mile shoeshoe hike for a American Three toed woodpecker and no white tailed ptarmigan (embarassing as Douglas just ran circles on me at altitude), and stories from my 2015 trek for the same bird on Loveland Pass when I showed them the most photogenic ptarmigan of all time.  There was also Dave McQuade from Florida man of much intel for me on the eastern seaboard who I hadn't actually met yet.  There was Laura fellow big year maniac, people from Adak, and people I had met on this boat before....well at least I had some people to chat with.

Well, there was a problem on this pelagic and it wasn't Debi, it wasn't very birdy
absolutely no...NO albatrosses, of any stripe, apparently a Debi Journey first...alas I didn't need any.

We did stumble on a photogenic pair of Scripp's murrelets, oh how I hoped for Guadeloupe...oh well

Of course there were humpback whales everywhere, sea lions abounded, no storm-petrels at all

I only needed one bird, and I was 0-3 getting it and then with two outs in the 9th inning, behind a run and thinking I had to go schedule a Washington pelegic (wasn't sure if I could get one in Oregon as they had no more current trips) I got a curve ball, swung at it, and gosh...I hit it......!!  Debi yelled (and Debi doesn't usually use the com system)  "Bullers 4 O'clock!!!"
Damn...I was in the bow........

They had one cross the bow the day before and few got on it.  These birds are so scarce this year.  A guy can move real fast with a 500 mm lens in waves....but I got back there, then on it, and then lost it, it crossed the bow where I was, then it landed, I got on it and then camera ready (it had been ready) I got shots............year bird!   Also my weakest lifer (2013) was now strengthened up....I may have a beer anyhow....

#763  Buller's shearwater

Ah the sweat smell success!

Success, though smells a lot like fish or the ocean....hum.

Thanks Debi, you snarfed one for me

The numbers:

Big Year Total:  763 (plus 1)
Coded Birds:  91
Lower 48 birds:  695 plus 1
provisionals: 1

Miles driven.  36,938
Flight Miles 153,200
miles on ATV 475
speeding tickets: 1
flight segments: 153   Different Airports: 47
Near bear/ death experiences 2
Hours at sea: 248
Miles walked 432
showshoes 4 (isn't going to be any more)
Miles biked 12

states/ prov. birded: 35
Lifers seen this year:  66
nights slept in car:  12
slept in airplane:  5

Gosh, what a crazy week, 1400 miles of driving, 14 hours in planes, 23 hours at sea, and of course 16 hours on the TV......Netflix....!!  My own bed for 4 nights!

Okay costs?
what does a crazy week home cost?

Lost rental car payment $50
unused hotel in Newport  $90
Hotel in San Fran  $200
Hotel in Texas  $80
Rental cars 230
tip for shuttle guy Minneapolis $10
plane fares/ Penalties, gosh, this is confusing $1200
used some miles, got miles back, got credit for PDX flight phew
bottle of wine at home  $10
I will get credit for Newport
Debi $190
San Diego pelagic 150
cab fare 20
hotel and dinner in SD 200
food 100
breakfast with grandmother  priceless
time with wife...........I let you decide, I could sing Barry White
vet bills for Kitty.......................I don't want to think about it

$2450  (I think)
four birds (dusky warbler included in costs)

Okay, I'm off to the airport to go somewhere, I don't even know where...yet...



  1. No matter what, you're the first birder to get all the Code 1 and Code 2 birds in a single year. Congrats!

  2. Thx Joe, A lot of work goals, 700 in 150 days and all the non-coded birds by 250 days, that Buller's kept me from making it, 273 days I guess, not bad, for an idiot like me, a blind dog with a lot of bones......and birds

  3. Must have been amazing to see that flycatcher in Texas! Congrats

  4. Yea maybe my favorite of the year. Thx


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