Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Condor Express

The Condor Express, shown here in a web photo, was our marine transportation out of Santa Barbara.  It's a fast catamaran with good stability. I really enjoyed the trip, but I could have used some warmer clothes.  The boat has an onboard galley that fixes a variety of edibles so you don't have to bring food unless you want to.  I spent most of the time near the bow.  It was a full boat so at times it could be crowded.  The course we followed was one that went to the Rodriguez Seamount and then to other seamounts where pelagic species are found.  We left the dock at 7:00am and got back after 9:00pm, so it was a long day.  I managed to see five new birds for the year: Ashy, Black and Least Storm-Petrels, Buller's Shearwater, and a Cook's Petrel.  In the weeks prior to this trip hundreds of Cook's Petrels had been sighted.  But today there were only a few.  I missed the earliest sighting by going to the back of the boat where the bird had been spotted only to find that if I'd stayed where I had been, the bird would have flown right by me.  Oh well!  A bit later two more were seen from the back of the boat and I managed to see one of those, which was ABA bird #757.   After we got back to shore, I headed on down Route 101 and found a Motel 6 that had a room available.  Tomorrow will be a leisurely day since there are no nearby birds to chase.  The total now stands at 684.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Santa Barbara California

I enjoyed a fine Denny's breakfast this morning before I took the rental car back to the airport and from there took the shuttle to the airport itself.  There was a long line at the United airline counters.  Motel Six does not have a publicly accessible printer, so I wasn't able to pre-print a bording pass.  But I was in line for only about ten minutes before reaching a check-in kiosk.  Then it was on to the gate in Terminal B.  The plane left on time and arrived ahead of schedule, meaning we had to wait for a gate to open up (the reward for early arrival!).  I had the seat with the back-of-the-seat kicker behind me.  Don't get me wrong.  I like kids.  Some of the best years of my life were as a kid.  I did lean over the seat back and ask her not to do it, which worked for at least a few minutes.  I still managed to do the difficult-rated sudoku and the crossword puzzle.  In LA I got my second rental car of the day and drove to Santa Barbara.  The drive was difficult with way too much stopping and starting, brake lights on, lane switches (web photo).  I never had a chance to relax at any time.  In Santa Barbara I parked the car and had a late lunch of Indian food and then found a Starbucks where I went online to check the bird news, email, blog responses, all the while sampling one of their scones.  I got a call from Monte Taylor telling me he was in town and picking up the key to the hostel room he had reserved.  Monte had posted an online note saying he had a spare bed available for the night before the pelagic trip if anyone was interested.  I emailed him and said I was interested.  So we were sharing the room.  The only problem was the room had only one bed, a mistake on the part of the person who took Monte's reservation.  It couldn't be remedied, so Monte said he'd sleep on the floor.  The least I could do to repay this kindness was buy his dinner which I did.  On the baseball front, the Cardinal's game was delayed in starting by thunderstorms.  They finally won it 1-0 in the tenth on a lead-off double by Ludwick, a sacrifice bunt by Molina, and a ground-out by Ryan.  I applied my scolpolamine patch behind my ear before going to bed.  Heaven only knows what dreams that will induce. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Nightingale-Thrush? Oh yes!

The alarm on the cellphone in my pocket went off at 4:45am and I uncurled myself from the backseat and got out of the car.  There was a moon cast to the sky, but there wasn't any clear sky, only lots of lightning.  And the thrush was not singing.  Shortly thereafter local birder Sheila drove up in her truck, hoping to wedge in a view of the thrush before she had to go off to work.  Still no thrush calls.  Then the rain came and it was back into the car for about ten minutes until the rain slowed.  Back outside I heard the distinctive calls of the thrush, but it was so blooming dark that there was no chance of picking it out of the foliage.  Another local birder showed up.  We three followed the calling bird around for about half an hour until it flew across the road near the parking lot and stopped calling.  At that point Jen Fowler and her naturalist friend drove up.  Jen has been following the movements and antics of the thrush since its discovery.  The expanded group waited and listened for about fifteen minutes before the bird started calling again.  I actually saw it fly a couple of times but the views were less than wonderful.  More local birders came by and tried to glimpse the bird, then left when they didn't succeed.  A friend of mine, Jay Lehman, formerly of Delaware and a participant on the pelagic trips I ran in the 70's and 80's arrived.  Jay now lives in Cincinnati.  He had seen the bird yesterday, but came back today to see if he could photograph it.  About then the sun broke through the clouds.  The bird was still calling, but nobody seemed able to find it while it was perched....until Jen did.  She got the rest of us who were still in attendance onto the bird including me (web photo).  I have seen the bird a number of times in Mexico but it has always been a pain in the rear to find in the vegetation.  This bird today was, however, an ABA bird (#756) and a year bird (679).  After the sighting, I thanked Jen, said goodbye to everyone, jumped in the car and went for breakfast at a local place, Cheyene Corners, where I had one buttermilk pancake, one egg, two pieces of bacon, and coffee.  It really tasted good.  At that point it was approaching noon, so I pointed the car south and drove the 400 miles back to Denver where I got a room in the Motel 6 nearest the airport, filled the car's gas tank, then filled my tank with Chineses takeout from the restaurant across the street.  I ate the food in the room while chatting with Joyce.  Tomorrow I fly to LA and drive from there to Santa Barbara where I hope the Condor will make it out for a pelagic trip.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Flight Day - Stopover in Denver

Thanks go to Dick Palmer for giving me a ride to the airport since Joyce had a meeting.  Once again at the airport I went directly to security since I had only two smallish bags and had pre-printed my boarding passes.  However, the contents of my bags gave indigestion to the TSA scanner and I had to watch while they pawed through them and rescanned them.  Of course, in the end I had to repack them since they were returned to me in a jumble.  My flight was on Continental Airlines which means I went northeast to Newark to go west to Denver.  However, at Newark I got to see Air Force One in person (web photo) since Obama was in NYC for a speech.  Got to Denver a half-hour late and went to the car rental lot where I had to repeat all the information I had given on the reservation form.  The car was okay and did have cruise control although I had been told when I asked the agent that it did not.  I set the GPS for Savoy SD and started driving the 400 miles.  The trip required a couple of cups of coffee and a donut to get me there, but I drove into the parking lot at Iron Creek at about 12:30am.  I even got a few hours of sleep in the back of the car before the rain started.  I dropped off to sleep with visions of birds with orange bills dancing in my head.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Packing Day

Today was packing day.  Typically I pull up my travel list on the computer, delete all the obvious things I won't need, and print out a copy.  During my first pass through the list, I'm looking for things I need to go to the store for.  Today that generated a short list of items which I promptly went out and got.  In the next round of getting ready, I go through the list and lay everything out on the bed.  The final round finds me going carefully down the list and putting each item in the luggage.  The last few times I've traveled, I've kept my junk to a minimum so I have only two carry-on bags - one for the overhead and one beneath the seat in front of me.  In the afternoon when Joyce got home from her workshop, I was essentially ready to go.  We went out to eat at Luna Maya, a Bolivian restaruant in Norfolk.  My daughter and family had given us a gift certificate for this restaurant some time ago.  It was a great night out.  When we got home, I settled in to watch the Cards play the Mets.  Wainwright was pitching and I felt confident we'd win.  How wrong I was.  Oh well!  It's just one game.  Right?  I wish I felt that way.  Tomorrow I fly to Denver and drive to South Dakota to look for the Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush on Thursday morning.  Help me by wishing it to still be there.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jorn and Claudia Get Home

I took Jorn and Claudia to the airport at 4:30am.  We heard later that they had made it back to NYC (web photo) and a highlight was their taxi from LaGuardia was a Prius.  I got a few hours of sleep and ran some errands to get ready for the next venture.  Made a few airline reserverations for future trips using some of my frequent flyer miles.  No Cards game today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Somebody Else Has Airline Troubles

Jorn and Claudia had morning flights from Norfolk back to NYC where they live.  We had a nice breakfast including the fresh granola that Joyce and Claudia cooperatively produced last night.  I took the two of them to the airport and dropped them off around 9:00am.  I had hardly gotten home when I got a call from Jorn telling me their flight was rescheduled for later that afternoon.  So I went back to the airport and picked them up.  We came back to the house, read the papers, watched the local birds (web photo), and I took them back to the airport mid-afternoon.  Again upon return I got a call that said their flight had been cancelled and they would be flying out early tomorrow.  Soooo...I reclaimed them from the airport.  We had a squash-based summer dish that Joyce put together; it was a hit.  Jorn and I watched the Cards/Cubs game on ESPN until he had to go to bed because their flight was an early one.  I stayed up to the end.  The Cards won on a home run by Lopez in the 11th inning to salvage one win from the Cubs series.  The Cards are still in first and the Nightingale-Thrush is still singing in South Dakota.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Home from Family Week

My son Jorn and his wife Claudia rode home with us from Wintergreen to Norfolk.  We stopped for a visit with Claudia's sister Alyssa and her husband Bill at their place on the Chickahominy  River.  When we arrived the temperature was 106F.  We had a pleasant stay with a tour and a visit to their newly acquired chickens (web photo).  Alyssa had fixed a fantastic lunch which we thoroughly enjoyed at leisure.  Our ride to Norfolk went well until we got to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel where we had to wait an hour to get through that bottleneck.  It was good to get home, unpack, go through the mail, and do a snack supper.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Family Week

For one whole week I relaxed with the family and enjoyed what birds there were around our rental house in Wintergreen VA.  It was a nice place perched atop Devil's Knob at an elevation above 3000 feet.  There were relatively few birds during the week since it was the middle of the summer and it was really hot.  We took some excursions to nearby places like Crabtree Falls (photo) and the St. Mary's River natural area.  But most of the time was spent visiting, eating good food, and relaxing.  The baseball Cardinals got on a win streak, sweeping the Phillies and the Dodgers and are now back in first place in the NL Central.  On the bird front an Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush popped up near Spearfish SD.  This is only the third ABA area record for this species and this sighting is WAY north of the other two.  I made plans to stop off and try for it next week on my way to a CA pelagic.  I hope it lasts that long.  A Western Spindalis in FL and a Little Egret in CT didn't hold up, so I won't be chasing either of those birds.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Travel Day Home

John got away to the Phoenix airport (web photo) in good order and I spent the rest of the morning at the motel beating the heat and looking over trip plans for the fall.  At a reasonable time of morning I drove the car to the rental return area, a very nice new facility by the way, and took the shuttle to the terminal.  Since I had checked in and printed out my boarding pass at the motel, I went directly to the gate after dealing with the security hassle.  The flight to Detroit went well, but since I had only 35 minutes to make my connecting flight, I had to hurry down that long, long terminal to the gate bypassing a quick look at the flight board.  So, you guessed it!  When I got there, huffing and puffing, the flight was delayed.  I eventually got home at 12:30am for a few hours of sleep.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Horned Lizard

The upper photo shows the horned lizard I found in Sawmill Canyon in the Huachucas a few days ago.  That discovery pushed me to buy the cap that I'm modelling in the lower photo.  I bought it yesterday at the herp museum in NM east of Portal AZ.  With a little enlargement (click the photo) I think you can see the connection.  I like the new cap. 
Today we made tries for a couple of the less common AZ birds that haven't been seen reproducibly in the recent past.  The two are Black-capped Gnatcatcher and Flame-colored Tanager.  We looked for the first in Montosa Canyon near the Whipple Observatory and the second at the Madera Kubo B&B in Madera Canyon.  We had a good time, but saw neither bird, though we did see Berylline and Violet-crowned Hummingbirds at Kubo.  By the time we left for Phoenix with a Starbucks in my hand, the temperature in Tucson was at 100F.  By the time we got to Phoenix (are you singing along?) the temp was around 114F.  It topped off at 116F a little later in the afternoon.  We arrived at our airport motel just before 3:00pm, but we were allowed to check in anyway.  We unloaded everything from the rental car and repacked it for the flights tomorrow.  The motel office had a computer with a printer, so we were able to check-in for our flights ahead of time, presumably making things easier at the airport tomorrow.  John is taking the 4:00am motel shuttle to the airport and I'm returning the rental car later in the morning and taking an early afternoon flight home.  After longish showers, we had dinner at the Lalibela Restaurant in Tempe, a great place to eat Ethiopian food.  I had eaten there before when Jorn was a grad student at ASU.  The food was just as good as I remembered.  Back at the motel I checked the score of the Cards' game.  They won 7-1 over the Dodgers with Carpenter pitching a great game.
The Arizona trip was a resounding success.  Now I'm ready to relax during our Family Week on the Blue Ridge.....unless of course a rarity shows up somewhere on the East Coast. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Chiricahuas

I suppose when you hear of the Chiricahuas, you think of Geronimo and the Apaches. That's certainly a part of the history of the area. But I think of the beauty of Cave Creek, the diversity of habitats lodged in this sky island, and the consequent variety of birds and other animals that reside in its valleys and canyons and on their slopes and peaks. We approached the Chiricahuas from the west, past Chirircahua National Monument, and up Pinery Canyon to Onion Saddle.  We had gotten an early start so there was plenty of bird song when we arrived dominated by Hermit Thrushes.  It took only a few minutes to locate a group of Mexican Chickadees (#676) and moments later our first Olive Warbler (#677).  But it took about two more hours to get the last of the birds we needed, the Red-faced Warbler (#678), which popped up with a group of Pygmy Nuthatches less than a quarter mile from where we saw the other two target species.  It was still early, but we were getting hungry.  In these parts there are very few places to eat.  One of them is the Portal Store at the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon in Portal AZ.  Since John hadn't seen Cave Creek, it seemed like a good place to go.  We headed down the east slope of the mountains toward Portal.  Along the way we almost ran over a pair of Montezuma Quail who allowed a close look and some photos before walking and feeding slowing up the oak leaf-strewn hillside (photo).  Portal Store had a nice gathering of characters and we had hamburgers for lunch, after which we went down the slope into New Mexico where we found a new herpetilogical museum.  We took a look inside where it was cooler than it was outside (100F).  The museum is a private venture with some live animals, lots of historical  information, paintings, carvings, and a collection of beer bottles with herp logos or names on the label.  It was an hour worth spending.  Afterwards, we decided to go back to Green Valley and use our time tonight to go up Mt. Lemmon again to try for a visual on Flammulated Owl.  Tomorrow we'll try a nearby spot for Black-capped Gnatcatcher before driving to Phoenix for our last night in AZ before flying home Friday.
Post Script:  We heard three Mexican Whip-poor-wills and one Flammulated Owl responded well to the tape, but we didn't get a visual on him.
For you who live on Mars and haven't gotten the news, the National League won the All Star game.  Long live baseball!
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Lucifer Shows

We were up at 5:00am for our Denny's breakfast before heading south to the Carr Canyon road.  This time John got to drive it.  After getting to the campground, we parked and walked around hoping that our earlier start today compared to that yesterday would get us the warblers we sought.  But none of them were singing.  We moved along up the road, stopping where we could get the car off the road.  Still nothing.  At one point John saw a warbler with a bit of yellow including what appered to be a yellow rump fly across the road.  But try as we might, we couldn't refind the bird.  A little further along while we were outside the car a similar sighting was made up the hill.  I raced up there while John got the car off the road and confirmed it was a Virginia's Warbler, one of our targets and species #674.  At that point I was certain that further searching here in the Huachucas was not for us.  We would invest our warbler searching time into our visit to the Chiricahuas.  So it was down the mountain we went and back to the Ash Canyon B&B where we plunked ourselves down in the chairs for the duration, meaning we'd stay until the Lucifer Hummingbird showed.  It took three and a half hours, but show she did and bcame yearbird #675 (web photo), another significant milestone.  We drove back to Sierra Vista for a late lunch.  I hit the ATM machine and we headed for Wilcox which has a Motel 6 and is poised to get us to Rustler's Park in the Chiricahuas early tomorrow morning where we hope that we get the two remaining warblers and the Mexican Chickadee.  But for now, we're going to put our feet up and watch the Baseball All-Star Game.  Go get 'em National League and go Albert!

Monday, July 12, 2010

One of Those Days

We breakfasted in the motel (not too bad!) and headed east for the Santa Rita experimental station near Florida Wash.  There has been a pair of Black-capped Gnatcatchers there, but there have beenn no recent reports.  But, we thought we'd give it a try....just in case.  We worked the area where they had been seen with no luck.  However, we did get a couple of Northern Beardless Tyrranulets which John needed as a catch-up bird.  Over the Greaterville Road to the Empire Ranch which has a nature trail along a marshy watercourse (La Cienaga).  We walked the area, noting that they were helping to raise the endemic, endangered Chihuahuan Leopard Frog in some enclosed ponds.  The watercourse has some impressive cottonwoods.  John spotted a large dark bird soaring over them that looked like a Turkey Vulture; it turned out to be our target, a Zone-tailed Hawk.  These birds mimic Turkey Vultures by flying with a noticeable dihedral and even tipping from side to side.  To make sure you have a hawk, you need to check for a banded tail.  The bands were there and we had bird #672.  From there we headed southeast to the Huachucas where we pointed the car up the steep gravel road along Carr Canyon.  This road gets you up to some beautiful scenery and into the pines where we would have a chance for the warblers we still needed.  However, we didn't find any warblers so decided to come back down and visit Tom Beatty's B&B in Miller Canyon where a bunch of hummingbird feeders are set up.  We parked, paid our entrance fee, and hiked up to the private viewing area where we sat and watched.  After about 20 minutes the male White-eared Hummingbird appeared (photo, #673).  There also was a beautiful male Berylline Hummingbird that did look like the picture in the fieldguide.  Continuing our string of Huachuca canyons we next went to Ash Canyon B&B run by Mary Jo Ballator.  I hadn't heard of this place until Chris, a birder from Chapel Hill who is doing a lower 48 big year, told me about it when I last saw him Florida in April.  It is best known for having reliable Lucifer Hummingbirds, removing the mandate to see them in Big Bend NP.  After finding the B&B wasn't on Ash Canyon Road, we did find the place by looking on the internet (MiFi pays off).  We paid our entry fee and settled in for the watch.  Although we were told that late afternoon was the best time to see the Lucifers, we didn't.  We spent over two hours with no luck.  I was dejected, and decided that we would go to a nice restaurant and celebrate John's birthday.  We did and it was worth it.  Went to bed a bit early without posting a blog.  Sorry, but...well you know.  Sometimes even I need some extra rest.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fort Huachuca and California Gulch

It was Sunday today, a good day to go onto Fort Huachuca, in that we wouldn't have to contend with heavy traffic at the gate.  Indeed getting into the fort was quite straightforward, much easier than entry to Ft. Story in Virginia Beach.  Once inside, we took the road to Garden Canyon, our intention being to go all the way up to Sawmill Canyon which we did.  The road has considerably worsened since the last time I drove it, but we made it to the picnic area with only a minimum of bottoming out.  Our first target bird was Buff-breasted Flycatcher which it didn't take long to find.  An adult feeding a fledged young (photo) was the first of many.  Among the pines were a few Grace's Warblers, the western replacement for our Yellow-throated Warbler.  Also among the pines were several Hepatic Tanagers.  We continued up the trail where we hoped to get some other warblers.  We didn't find any, but we did meet Alicia and Dieter Kamm, local birders who do a lot of traveling to see birds.  They gave us some helpful advice concerning species we still had yet to see.  Coming down the mountain seemed easier than the climb and we headed back toward Green Valley.  On the way we stopped at an Italian restaurant at Sonoita where we were waited on by a German lady who reminded me of Frau Blucher, the character played by Cloris Leachman in Young Frankenstein.  In Green Valley we got a motel for later tonight and went to meet Melody Kehl with whom we had made arrangements to be taken into California Gulch.  Our targets there were Five-striped Sparrow and Buff-collared Nightjar.  It had rained, so the temperature was actually rather cool and not the 100+ we had expected.  It took a little time to get a good look at the sparrow, but we succeeded.  Melody had put together a picnic supper which we enjoyed while we waited for it to get dark enough for the nightjar to call.  We all sat around in folding chairs listening intently.  Melody thought she heard something, but none of the rest of us did.  However, there were sounds coming from the direction of the Mexican border a quarter mile away.  We figured it was time to leave.  Along the road back, we saw many frogs and toads, brought out by the rain, as well as three large owls.  When we got back to Green Valley, the rain had stopped so Melody offered to take us up to Madera Canyon to try for Whiskered Screech-Owl.  It was a quick, successful run and we were back at our motel by 11:00.  The five new birds for the day brought the list to 671.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Big Day

Breakfast at a nearby pancake house worked out well and we were on our way toward Madera Canyon while it was still cool.  On the way we stopped in the grassland and looked and listened for Botteri's Sparrow and got a couple (photo).  At the hummingbird feeders at Santa Rita Lodge we saw the first of many Broad-billed Hummingbirds.  Further up the canyon we got Sulfur-bellied and Dusky-capped Flycatchers.  We spent some time at the feeders at the B&Bs up the canyon and finally found one of the Berylline Hummingbirds that had been reported there.  But we had no trogon.  So we did the hike up the trail to Josephin Saddle and sure enough I heard a trogon call ahead of us.  When we got there, four people were watching the male call.  I thought they were using a tape, but it was the real thing calling on its own.  I took a couple of photos (photo).  While we were watching the trogon, a Greater Pewee called and then flew in.  That gave us 7 year birds for the morning.  We had lunch at the Feedlot Restaurant in Contintental, a real hoot.  Since we were on a roll, I decided to continue the push.  We went to the Patagonia roadside rest area where we got the Thick-billed Kingbird.  This was followed by a visit to the Patens where we added Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  Even though we checked some sites in the area nearby, the string ended at nine for the day.  We motored over to Sierra Vista where we will go to Sawmill Canyon in Fort Huachuca tomorrow for a few choice birds.  The total at present in 666.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Back in Arizona

Oh those early morning flights!  Today's departed at 5:45am for Atlanta where I connected with my flight to Phoenix.  Arrived on time and since I had no checked luggage, I quickly caught the van to the rental car headquarters where I met John.  We picked out our car and headed northeast out of town.  We were going to the Mount Ord area to get Gray Vireo, but when we got near the area where I had them before, it was now a dividied highway with no way to get to the parking area on the left side of the road.  We had to go 10 miles further down the road before we could turn around.  On the way back we pulled off on a spur that looked like it had good habitat.  The spur actually went under the roadway where the habitat was even better.  In fact we heard a vireo calling not too far away.  With only a little effort we got good looks at him (#654), and my watch said it was only just 12 noon.   Back on the road, we headed south toward Globe and beyond to Dudleyville and Aravaipa Canyon.  As we drove into the canyon area there was a Common Black Hawk (#655) with three Turkey Vultures.  We stopped and took a good look at our target bird, turned around, and headed south to Tucson.  We spent the rest of the afternoon on Mt. Lemmon at Rose Lake campground where we had lovely looks at a Cordillearan Flycatcher (photo, #656).  I also got a Rufous Hummingbird, a catchup bird (#657).  Back into Tucson where we got a motel and went nearby to eat at a chicken and shrimp place that was closing as we entered.  Tomorrow we'll head to Madera Canyon and see what we can find.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Ruff Day in Delaware

Yesterday while I was in flight to Baltimore, I got a phone message from Andrew Baldelli letting me know there was a black Ruff at Bombay Hook NWR in Delaware. When I got home, I checked it out and decided to make a run for the bird. Colin Campbell in Delaware encouraged me saying that once in place Ruffs tend to stay for a bit. So I called Andrew who had volunteered to go with me and set it up to pick him up at 3:45am. I was awake before the alarm, so I got up, dressed, and put my stuff in the car, and left, only to return a short time later to pick up my cell phone which I had forgotten. I picked up Andrew and set the gps for the Delaware refuge. We had no traffic heading across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and up Rte 13. It was an easy drive. After it got light, we stopped briefly for a donut and a cup of coffee, and arrived at the refuge at 8:00am. Checking out the sign in sheet, we found that the Ruff had been seen the day before in the morning. We used the restroom and headed out for the observation tower at Raymond pool where the bird had been seen. I almost never use the tower, but Colin had strongly suggested that we begin there and it was indeed a good decision. We hadn't been up there more than two minutes before Andrew said, "I've got a Ruff, but it's a white one and not a black one." Indeed it was! (photo) Clearly there are two birds involved and I'm not going to speculate beyond that. We observed our bird and the other birds in the pool for over an hour and never saw a black Ruff or any other Ruff. Needless to say the ride home to Norfolk was a happy one. And I was able to salvage a luncheon date with Tony Hage and Dick Palmer to boot. The Ruff is bird #653. Now all I have to do is to complete some arrangements for future travel and pack for Arizona (5:00am flight tomorrow) before I fall asleep.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Bird in Maine

Since yesterday's breakfast worked out so well, Denny and I returned to Bea's to start off the day. By the way we went to a Thai restaurant last night and it was a treat. It was right across the street from our motel in North Conway. All the menu items were intriguing, but I got a spicy basel chicken stir fry plus a couple of those unfried spring rolls in rice paper. A great meal. But I digress. Back to today. Near the end of breakfast Denny got a phone call from his contacts, Chris Lewey and Christine Costello, with current information on the only remaining goshawk nest in their study area. In fact the young birds have fledged, but remain in the area of the nest since their parents are still feeding them. Denny mapped out the route and we set off to the north. The site is near Bethel, ME. It took us over and hour to get there. US Hwy 2 had construction in two places which offered a level of frustration, but we moved on through eventually. When we got to the location where we to park the car, we took a deep breath and started up the hill in the northwest direction, through the trees. After we had gone a ways, I heard the young bird call. So I went another hundred feet and waited until it called again, and repeated this procedure until we were quite close to the calling bird. Then it flew and I got a good look at it - gray tail with zig-zagging bands, white undertail coverts, white eyeline, rusty wing coverts, big. It was then that another bird called. The second young bird, which was noticeably bigger than its sibling, flew in and landed near the first. We watched them for a few minutes, but it was apparent that the adults were not near and the youngsters were getting upset. So we went back down the hill and back to the car. At that point I decided to try to catch an earlier flight back to Norfolk, so we set course for the Manchester airport where we arrived about 1pm. An earlier flight was not available. Instead I got a Starbucks bold and settled in with the free airport wifi, airconditioning, and a quiet corner with ac power and wrote this blog. Apologies for the quality of the photo, but I just had to include it instead of snatching a web photo. He was so cute. This was year bird #652.
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bicknell's Thrush

Bea's Restaurant in North Conway opens at 5:30am, but Denny Abbott and I weren't there until 6:30am. Aaah! It was indeed the early morning place to eat recommended by our congenial host at the motel. It turned out fine. Denny and I both ordered eggs and corned beef hash, and I had plenty of hot coffee to go with it. From there it took exactly the half hour to get to Mt. Washington that the motel host said it would. We were second in line to pay our $31 fee and drive on up to mile post 4 at 4000 feet where we came out of the tall forest and into the krummholz, a stunted forest. This is the beginning of the zone for Bicknell's Thrush. When I stepped out of the car, my heart stopped. The wind was blowing 50 mph and I could hardly stand. This was my shot at the thrush and I was being blown away. Not to worry. Denny (photo) recommended we drive a little further along this optimum section to a spot where we'd be much more out of the wind. It worked wonders. Once out of the car I began to hear the call notes of the thrush and eventually the song. Then one teed up on a spruce and I was able to shoot a quick pic (photo). Bird #651 was in the bag. We drove to the top of the mountain, but it was so socked in that you could barely see one car length in front of you. Back down at the bottom of the mountain we visited the center across the road where we both got cups of fresh very hot coffee. From there we drove to Vermont where Denny knew a place where White-winged Crossbills might be possible. After walking an hour, we decided there were no crossbills around and headed for lunch at a market with a deli on the Connecticut River in northern Vermont. Back in New Hampshire we tried the Kancamagus Highway for crossbill spots with the same lack of luck. After a few phone calls trying to connect with someone who could put us onto a nesting goshawk, we called it a day and found a motel. Tomorrow we'll pursue more goshawk opportunities before I have to get to Manchester for my flight back to Norfolk.
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Off to New Hampshire

In the afternoon I boarded a Southwest Airlines flight bound eventually for Manchester, New Hampshire, where I would be picked up by my long-time birding friend, Denny Abbott, for a try the following morning for Bicknell's Thrush.  My first leg went fine, but my second flight was late by an hour and a half.  I had called Denny to warn him about the tardiness so he wouldn't be sitting in Manchester waiting for the plane.  When I did get there, he was ready and we headed to North Conway where we eventually decided it was getting so late we should grab a McDonald's dinner.  In North Conway we got a motel whose person on the desk was a Canadian with an aunt in New Market, VA.  After a bit of baseball on TV (Cards didn't play), we went to sleep.  I looked forward to another good night's sleep since we didn't have to be up until 6:00am.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July

We spent the morning relaxing and getting things ready for our afternoon celebration.  I cleaned up the outdoor chairs, which had collected leaves and debris and were stained.  I also spruced up the grill for cooking the hamburgers.  Joyce prepared the vegetable slaw and the potato salad.  At the appointed hour the guests arrived and a fruit salad and ratatouille were added to the offerings.  We had made margaritas and they went over well.  When it came time to do the hamburgers, I discovered after the grill went out that we were out of propane.  So the hamburger cooking shifted to the broiler in our oven.  Everyone had a good time and it was nice to see friends and celebrate getting to 650 together.  Tomorrow I fly to New Hampshire.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Home in Norfolk

You have no idea how good it feels to get a really good night's sleep - one that you know ahead of time will be uninterrupted and as long as you please.  That sleep would, of course, be followed by a pot of fresh-brewed Starbucks coffee with my Cheerios, bananas, and blueberries.  Then doing the daily newspaper puzzles at the new patio table that Joyce bought to replace the last glass-topped table that crashed in a storm.  And the weather was cool and dry, and the birds were singing and carrying on.  I love it.  Since I was home and unexpectedly available, Joyce and I decided to celebrate my getting to 650 by inviting a few people over on the fourth of July.  So we planned a menu, made a few phone calls, and it was in motion.  We went to Cosco to get some supplies and while we were there I got both my pairs of glasses straightened.  You'll recall that I rolled over on one of them at St. Paul and the next day fell hard on my spare pair.  After the repair, they both fit a whole lot better.  Ran a few errands on the way home, and then watched in horror as the Cards played badly and lost badly even though Carpenter was pitching.  This game marked the half-way mark of the season with the Cards 1 1/2 games behind the Reds who are hitting the cover off the ball.  In the evening I did some prep work for the remaining trips this year.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Out of Michigan

For those of you hanging by a thread awaiting word of whether we got the Yeller Feller, the answer is  On top of that we were up really early the following morning so we could be on the road toward Detroit to catch our re-booked flights.  As such coffee was delayed as was any suggestion of a breakfast since nothing was open along the road at that hour of the morning.  After we crossed the Mackinac Bridge (shown here in a web photo at sunset), we stopped and got some food.  From there it was pretty much drive, drive, drive.  We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, so John and I had lunch and watched a piece of the Brazil/Netherlands soccer match.  John's a big soccer fan, and he and the world cup are sweeping me up in the mania.  It's fun!  After lunch, John went on to his gate and I settled in my chair at mine.  Moments later I got a text message from Southwest telling me that my plane would be late, but that my connection to Norfolk in Baltimore was not threatened.  So I relaxed, made my flights, got home a little late, and had a nice evening with Joyce.  And the Cards shut out Milwaukee too!  Before I went to bed, I made arrangements with my friend Denny Abbott in New Hampshire to go with him next week to look for Bicknell's Thrush.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Spruce Grouse and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (#650)

Up at 4:00am and out the door with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee in hand before anyone noticed it was still dark.  We stopped at a gas station on the way and picked up a sort-of breakfast.  It was quite light out but the sun still had not risen when we drove into Whitefish Point.  We scouted out the location that Calvin Brennan had put us onto and drove even further on the same road.  However, the habitat deteriorated, so we returned to his suggested spot.  We spread out and walked through the spruce woods on a bed of reindeer moss.  After about half an hour John called, "I've got one."  I moved over to where he was and there, not fifteen feet in front of him, was a male Spruce Grouse, feeding on the grasses that had sprouted there (photo).  We got Dave over and the three of us watched the bird for fifteen minutes.  I got a few pictures although the light was very dim and the bird was either too close or behind twigs.  We then took off and returned to the spot wher Calvin had told us to look for the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher but which didn't prove fruitful yesterday.  Today, however, there was no wind and we got the bird.  This was bird #650 for the year.  After breakfast we went to Hulbert Bog where we found four more of the flycatchers.  We drove on to Newberry where we had lunch and checked into a motel.  We made arrangements to fly out from Detroit tomorrow, a couple of days earlier than planned, and then napped because we're making a last ditch effort for the Yellow Rail at Seney NWR again tonight.  We just love those late nights.