Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Go with Godwit

Chasing birds in addictive.  I have a funeral at the end of the week, half a continent away, and we are going to Asia birding on Sunday for a month, and I don't know why, but I went birding today.  Why? I guess because I have never seen a bar-tailed godwit in the lower 48 states.  Why else why?  because it is plover madness down at Ft DeSoto this time of year, and why else why?  My wife went with me, since what else do I (we) have to do?  I guess I do have things to do, I am literally writing 3 books right now, and well....I guess I went because I could.

What is a bar-tailed Godwit, a bird I see in and around Nome, doing in western Florida?  On their way to migration points....no.

Those Nome birds winter in New Zealand.
Today's bar-tailed godwit seemed to have fleas, was doing some serious preening and scratching

The Godwits we see in Florida this time of year are Marbled Godwits, which are bigger and are the ones from my back yard in South Dakota.  They head south to the coast, really any coast, Baja, Texas, South Carolina, Here.
Marbled godwit Ft DeSoto

But for a Bar-tailed godwit down here is a good bird, not a super rare thing, they see one or two it seems every year but I just have not chased one.  Today, chase I did.  

It was easy to find, very near where I always bird and where we typically park the car, and unload the bikes.  Today, I drove my bike up to the lagoon, shot photos and....GOT YELLED AT FOR DRIVING MY BIKE ON THE BEACH.  Okay, rules at DeSoto.  No...dogs, no covered license plates, BBQs, vendors, picnic tables, nudity, and apparently bikes on the beach, only two of which had signs to that matter...I'd say I should read the signs but I did not see any signs.

Well, I went plover watching, plover madness was evident.....five plover species and none were even killdeers.  All were easily seen.  It is always a good tutorial down there and almost always I see too many Piping Plovers for eBird.  I get emails, snide remarks, and questions, too many questions.  All of which I ignore, Ft DeSoto does not always bring out the best in me.  Rules....yea....

Winter plovers are not always easy....So let the review begin....Olaf's bad tutorial for plover madness month.

Black bellied plovers, big, like willet big, thick bill, no black belly this time of year, more of a beach  shore bird, but this one was at the lagoon 

Piping plover, small, very light plover, almost color of sand, black bill, orange-yellowish legs, band on front of neck does NOT meet.

Semipalmated plover, band meets on neck, a little orange usually on base of bill, but the piping bill and semipalms bill look almost identical from shape and size, yellowish legs, typically darker than pipings, but not always 

Snowy plover.  This bird seems to always be more upright in posture.  Bill longer and thinner than a piping and semipalm, legs are gray to dark, no band in front, like piping.  White forehead, which looks different to me from piping but basically the same, 
Where other plovers will chase the waves, it seems I see snowy's up higher on the beach and not infrequently in a little bowl they have made or found, like this one today.  Almost missed this one.

Wilson's plover has a T. Rex look about them, they just look angry and mean, while pipings and semipalms look nervous..  They have a huge bill, dark legs, usually a complete band in front, darker like semipalms

I saw 150 plovers today.  They guess there are 12-13000 piping plovers in the world, 30-35K snowy plovers, and maybe just 10,000 Wilson's plovers.  I've seen over 100 of both Wilson's and Piping plovers on this stretch of beach or in two small tidal ponds.  It is the place to go, and whether eBird likes my counts or not, I do not care.....I'm just a bad birder down here.

There are over a million bar-tailed godwits on this planet and 1/10 of that number of marbled godwits for comparison, and although these 3 plovers are much more scarce as they say....location location location....but if you bird and come to Florida, stop by here and see the little guys, and may, just maybe, a bar-tailed godwit or something else strange may be around.  Ft DeSoto is a nice beach to just soak up the sun and some cool birds.


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Honeycreeper Madness

I will just write a brief note.  I am drinking my lifer beer for bird number 820, wow, 820 birds....who'd have ever thunk?  Even with a bit of a rash of exotics, some of which I still have to tally, but it is still something good.  Today's addition was the red-legged honeycreeper

After Ian blew through, luckily sparing our camping site in Land O Lakes Florida, honeycreepers began to show up in the Keys, Miami, the Everglades, Sabine Woods in Texas, Grand Isle LA, and most recently in Jupiter and Delray Beach Florida. A friend of mine called it Honeycreeper madness.

I saw these reports and as we cruised into Tampa last weekend, I figured I'd head south right away, but the Key West honeycreepers moved north, then north again and finally I just decided to go this morning after Brunch at the local Buddhist temple.  I had no more excuses, I had to go over and see one.  One may never have an opportunity like this again.

It was an uneventful four hour trek to the Atlantic side of Florida.  Orchard Park was full of families and then as I was putting on my camera, the only birder there put me on a glimpse of the target.  It took me another hour and a half to get photos.

One could hope for gorgeous blue males in breeding plumage but I never figured on seeing honeycreepers in the USA, so I'll take green ones, immature males and females all day long.

I settled for a male black-throated blue warbler to give me that blue color for the afternoon in Delray Beach 

So I got my bird, I'm drinking my lifer Grain Belt I had in the refrigerator and getting ready for a big birding trek to Asia next weekend



Saturday, October 15, 2022

Not evil, it is just a weevil

The Boll Weevil decimated the cotton crops of the South over a century ago.  In most places the economy collapsed and withered, just like the cotton balls out in the field, but not Enterprise Alabama. Here, the insect brought prosperity, as inadvertently as it did.  Elsewhere, the bug transplanted from Mexico caused a total estimate of 23 billion in damages and led to massive social upheaval and mass migration, in Enterprise, realizing what was ahead, they switched to growing peanuts, and the town prospered.

Today was the Boll Weevil Fall Festival in Enterprise Alabama, and yes, Olaf was there, well my wife was there too.  We came late looked on a bit and went and saw some of the statues to the local bug hero.


Pharmacist weevil

Power company employee weevil

This weevil was waiting for a dental exam, Silja was in need of a cleaning so she got in line

farmers market weevil

There was also AC and heating repairman Weevil

Silja was touched by an angel in downtown Enterprise today, literally.  This older woman asked me to send her a photo of the iconic Athena holding the Weevil statue (it is named the Harald of Prosperity erected in 1917), instead Silja volunteered to take her photo.  Why was she an angel, you ask?  Well we told her we were from up north and South Dakota.  The woman proudly exclaimed, she was from heaven.  The Heaven?  Well, there is no "Heaven" in Alabama, in fact, although there are two places called Hell (one in Norway and one in Michigan) there is no city or village named Heaven anywhere in America, so therefore she must be an angel, as there is no other Heaven.  Why is an angel taking a selfie on an Iphone 11?  Maybe the shipment of I-14s have been delayed up there too?
Silja taking a photo of an angel in front of the Harald of Prosperity

It was not our only stop with unusual monuments,  We swung through Memphis to see the Great Pyramid of Memphis.  I was tired of three days of heavy wind so I needed a stop.

The Great Pyramid, once a odd basketball stadium (Memphis Grizzlies) is now a Bass Pro Shop and a hotel.  I needed gloves and a belt and lunch sounded like fun.  It was brave to drive the big rig in downtown Memphis at the Riverfront.  I checked the online community.  "Sure, you can camp in the bug lot.  Well, luckily I also read to just park at the Tennessee Welcome visitor center, which we sort of bailed out in when I saw the low arched sign over the road and the ominous warnings, 
Morale:  do not believe the internet!

We had our visit and got out in one piece, no problem.  Like Enterprise, we came we saw and we weeviled

We are 350 miles from Land O Lakes Florida and our winter campsite, seeing everything in Enterprise and since our campground is a little lo-cal, we will make it tomorrow.  Snowing at home and here, in the land of the cherished weevil, 85 today.  What a difference 1400 miles makes.

So far an uneventful trip and an angel, good day all in all



Monday, October 10, 2022

The dang old Zugunruhe.

Summer is over, the better (best?) part of fall is also past and well, like a migratory bird we are getting that antsiness to head south.  In German, Zugunruhe, that migratory-anxiety, which I guess is appropriate since son, Allwin is now safely in Jena Germany, waiting his job at the Max Planck Institute.  He is now blogging about his experiences so like father like son, send me a note and I'll give the link.  

Zugunruhe is a terrible feeling, one of the worst, for me at least....what to pack, what to leave, where is what.....panic, anxiety, and just the feel of dread.

We have packed the RV, loaded up the Volvo and the bikes behind, and plan on a Wednesday departure.  We have to go to St. Paul to drop off the furry children tomorrow since we are soon off to Thailand, and then Bhutan, Tiger and Snowball will be at daughter Laurens "Cathouse" for the rest of fall.  The kiddos do not travel well and it seems better to just leave them safe and sound until we retrieve them near Christmas.

Our trip south is routine, not much added save two days in Enterprise Alabama to....see Boll Weevil statues.  The whole city is littered with them.  Okay, the strange and true.  Maybe throw in some other chance stop like the Memphis Pyramid, and it will be a quick and to the point trip.

What have we spent our last few days doing?

We went to see the author William Kent Kruger in Milbank at the public library.  He inspires and entertains, at least me, also an author and writer (although much less famous). 

Then we went to make sure the cabin was put to bed.  Our dinosaur stood watch, stately in the wind on Enemy Swim Lake.

Everything looks so brown, but it has been a nice fall so far.  

We painted our house, it has been a 4 week project.

I started a new book, not reading, writing, "Burnett County, Revisited" and another anthology of history of my home county in Wisconsin.  Not many more years to do projects with my mother and this may be the last, who knows.  

So anyhow, on the road again as they say, and you will hear an update in a few days. 

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 ...