Adventure begins where civilization ends

Adventure begins where civilization ends
Adventure begins where civilization ends

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Life is a pod of whales

We were in the San Francisco area this last weekend to go on two pelagics and ideally to see some new birds. We did go on two pelagic tours but we saw more whales than birds, which wasn't really an issue for me. I saw 4 species of whale this weekend and 3 species of dolphin so I consider it to be a completely perfect trip. I mean we did miss our plane (which turned out to be a good thing over all), my dad got a weird rash on his fingers that made him lose skin, and I did have to wake up at 4 A.M for a few days but I had fun and saw some amazing animals and met some great people and that is what matters.

We did see some birds, a black footed albatross and a brown boobie.

We saw at least a hundred humpback whales.


And last but certainly not least I got to have a great weekend with my dad before he goes off to Alaska.

Oh and I got to meet this adorible seal on the pier, if i could have kidnapped it and kept it in my hot tub I would have.

With that cute note I will let you all get back to your lives and I hope you have a great day!


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A tern in events

Today I celebrated the 240th anniversary of my country's independence as well as finding my 500th bird! It was a great day all around, a day of fun, food, family and of course fireworks.

Last weekend we went backpacking in the Ruby mountains in Nevada looking for the Himalayan snowcock. We found it and had an amazing trip. Then this weekend we celebrated my mom's birthday and after that we headed to my grandparents for the fourth.

We all ate lots of good food and became deaf from all the loud fireworks, I got to play in the water with my little cousin and paddle around with my mom in her new canoe, We watched as tens of pontoon boats floated past all decorated to the hilt in red, white and blue. It was a good day.

After all this normalcy my dad and I went out to Crex meadow to get my 500th bird, a black tern.

I also got my 501st bird a Virginia rail and my 502nd bird a red-eyed verio. I also saw an adorable family of grebes.

Also a juvenile bald eagle who was sitting on the side of the road.

I had a great weekend seeing family and birds alike. I am glad I have gotten to see over 500 birds this year, and I am curious to see how many I get by the end of 2016. I wish everyone luck on their own birding lists and hope you all had a great fourth of July!



Friday, June 3, 2016

The Island of Misfit Toys

 I don't know how many of you have seen the "Rudolf the red nosed reindeer" movie before but one of the scenes is where the Rudolf and his friends rescue all the misfit toys from the Island of Misfit Toys and they give them to the children, this gives the toys meaning and instills in them their reason for existing. None of the toys were friends before this and never had they ever imagined leaving their home and experienced the world and what it means to be alive. These toys are a lot like the group of us.
We started out as misfits who had yet to see all that the world had to offer and left as friends who had a new perspective about the world in which we live. I may not speak for the other birders on this trip but I know that I will never be the same after everything I saw and experienced here in Adak, Alaska. I expected to be happy when it was over but I'm not. I already miss the wild beauty and the everlasting ocean around the Aleutians.  It opened my eyes to all that the world is. Adak showed me how much humans have negatively affected our world, however it also showed me that given enough time nature will start to regrow the parts that we have destroyed.
I can honestly say that the girl who got on a plane a week ago heading for Adak is not the same girl who leaves it today. I am not ashamed to say I am crying a bit as I write this because I know that I am a better and more well-rounded person due to all that I have seen this week. I am proud of who I am now and slightly ashamed of who I was before. Someone asked me during this trip if it was still a big year under protest and that got me thinking. I realized that somewhere during my travels I have really started to love birding and seeing all these gorgeous places and meeting all these amazing people. If I had spent this year sitting at home watching Netflix I would never have changed. I would still be a shell of who I could be. I don't want to bore you all with my rambling, so I will tell you about the trip that changed my outlook on life.
I hadn't known what to expect when I entered the Pük-ük (our boat) and was impressed by the conservation of space. The boat fit all eleven of us easily with room to move around without having people invading your personal space all the time. However, being in suck close proximity with all these strangers allowed us to get to know each other and we all became friends. I had never met any of them before this trip but after this week I'm comfortable with all of them. I think it helped with my interpersonal communication skill too (I need all the help I can get with that) and helped me to be a little less introverted. That is part of what I meant before when I said I broke out of my shell.
Since we all slept, ate, breathed in the same space as one another we learned each other's goals for the trip. Mine was to see a whale, my dad's was to reach 700 birds, Chris wanted to see a short-tailed albatross and so on. I think we all got what we wanted out of the trip. I saw my whale, three actually. They were all orcas who were heralded by over a hundred birds of all kinds. I missed another whale sighting when I took a nap and it shows how much we tried to help each other because I awoke to multiple people yelling "LAUREN! WHALE!" Alas the whale was gone by the time I got to the deck but it was okay. I saw my orcas.
As for everyone else's goals for the trek, Chris got a spectacular look at his short-tailed albatross and he got to almost hold a Whisked auklet in his hand when it got trapped on the boat. I almost jumped out of my skin when I looked down and BOOM out of nowhere was a whiskered auklet! It was the cutest little bird I've ever seen and it was no more than three feet away. It was so close that my camera couldn't take a picture of it. I can't imagine anyone on the boat could ask for a better view of the little bird. At first only three of us were there and seeing the auklet but we didn't want the others to miss out on the once in a lifetime opportunity to get up front and personal with it and so Chris started yelling for people saying "WHISKERED AUKLET ON THE BOAT!!" No one heard us though and if they did the implication of what was being said was lost on them. It was a relief when (dad) Olaf opened the door to check on me and got Oxsanna, one of the crew, to come pick up the poor bird. Before she let it free, she kindly showed it to the birders in the upper deck.
I realized after she left with the bird that Blair, one of the other birders, had said he was going to take a break and was sleeping. Realizing that he was missing the chance to see the auklet I raced downstairs to where he was dead asleep and woke him. It is things like that and when people woke me up to see the whale that make a trip like this as satisfactory as it is. We all look out for each other and work together to see all the birds we can. Even though most birders keep score so to speak of how many birds they see it isn't a competition. We all are working together to see as many birds as possible and that is an amazing thing. Birding is an activity like none other and I am proud to be a part of it. So in conclusion this is no longer a "big year under protest" or at least it no longer is in the way I originally intended. My outlook on this year has forever changed and I am glad it has.
Here are some of my pictures from this week in and around Adak, Alaska.
Theses are Layson's albatrosses fighting two northern fulmars for a piece of fish.

This is a short-tailed shearwater

A short-tailed albatross

A whiskered auklet that got stranded on the boat

A very opinionated Stellar sea lion

Two adorable sea otters

I realize that I refrained from writing much about the actual trip but that was intentional. I do not believe that words could properly tell about the amazing animals and places and about the untouched beauty of a place like Adak. In my opinion this was an experience that can only be felt, not retold. I wish you all the best in your personal adventures and realizations.

P.S. I have now seen 446 birds!

I don't want to make this blog too much longer but I also want to add that my trip to Gamble was spectacular in its own way and an indisputably amazing trip. I saw whales that were practically right next to me, bought ivory from the natives, and saw some really rare and beautiful birds. I wouldn't trade my trip for the world. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Peter Rabbit

School is an institution, I will let your imagination determine what kind of institution it is. That said I am sad that it is over and that I am no longer a sophomore. The most depressing part of school being over is that I am now getting less sleep and waking up earlier than I ever did during the last school year, birding is a very demanding hobby. Do not get me wrong I love seeing all the wildlife and traveling around the USA, but I am still a teenager and I need sleep. My dad is under the impression that sleep is for the dead and seeing as I am not dead I don’t need any. I disagree.
One would think that the last day of school is the time when you go to someone’s backyard and burn all your books and folders (maybe only south Dakotans do this) or when you stay up all night celebrating with friends and sleep in all the next day. I did neither, I technically did stay up late due to our late night flight but I doubt that counts and I don’t believe that 5 hours of sleep counts as “sleeping in”. However, I think it was worth it. I may have lost my summer of friends, sleep, fun, and laziness but I gained a summer of birds, family, new acquaintances, beauty, and adventure. I love all the places I have seen and all the new people I have met. I had no idea there was so many great people in this world. The group I went with to see the buff-collared nightjar are some of those great people.
There was five of us: Thor, Dan, Olaf, Laurens and Lauren (me), if you look closely at the last two names you will notice how similar they are. Laurens the guide is none other than my self-proclaimed namesake. Details such as me just meeting him do not matter. He was such a nice guy and he joked around with me and made fun of my dad with me (making fun of my dad is one of my favorite hobbies). My dad raved about his guiding skills and we all were very confident we would see our target birds. When I met Laurens I knew that the trip to see the nightjar would be fun regardless of how many birds we see. It was him that referred to the first rabbit we saw as Peter rabbit. Seeing rabbits, some scarier than others, was a trend for the next day.
The other two people in our group, besides my dad Olaf, were Thor who is an old friend of my dad and Dan who is an old friend of Thor’s. Both of them worked in the Canadian school system and I had a good discussion with them over the problems with American schools. This discussion helped to pass the two hours while we were crammed into the back Laurens’s car. It was a tight squeeze. I got another respite from the boredom when our way was blocked by some very cute cows.

When we were released from the cramped confines of the car I rushed to the side of the road to spit out my gum which, over the last couple hours, had turned into a disgusting starchy version of what it had once been. Let’s just say that I will not be chewing gum for a while (just thinking about it gives me shivers, so gross).
The gum incident was weird since in all the years I have been chewing gum I have never had anything like it happen before. It did put a slight damper on my mood but soon the hunt for a five-striped sparrow caused me to lose focus on anything else. We heard the bird for a while but alas we never saw it. However we did get to see the nightjar. We saw it almost immediately after we started looking. It was quite lucky. It flew off soon after we initially saw it and we found it again on the road near our cars or at least we found something resembling the nightjar. We spent a good piece of time standing there talking photos of what we later learned to be just a common poorwill, oops. Unlike most of the group I was not disappointed because I had needed that bird. So for me it was more of a two for one sale instead of the doppelganger my dad said it as. It was a cute little bird but since I had decided to not take my camera on this trip I didn’t get a photo.
The reason I had decided not to bring my camera is that my neck and back were aching from carrying it and my backpack up a hiking trail near our bed and breakfast the day before. I had learned my lesson about carrying a backpack and camera up a mountain and determined that when we went hiking this morning at Ramsey’s canyon I would forsake my backpack and just bring my camera. This was a good plan until after I had passed my parents by a good ten minutes and was very thirsty. I hope you understand how hard of a hike this was, my phone determined that it was five miles and 19 flights of stairs, it wasn’t easy. I ending up waiting for my parents on a scenic rise overlooking the forest and I realized something, I liked hiking. I really liked it. The burning muscles, crisp mountain air, beautiful views, and the joy at finally reaching our goal all played a part in my new found appreciation for mountain hiking.
It did help that we found our target bird much sooner than expected and we were able to more fully appreciate the hike since the pressure of finding a code five bird was gone. The bird was a tufted flycatcher and he was a very photogenic little bird.

He was by far the rarest bird of the day but he wasn’t the only bird. We saw a western tanager:

Some magnificent hummingbirds:

And a black chinned hummingbird:
We also saw some non-birds, including one my dad claims to be terrified of, although why a grown man would admit to being scared of this adorable albino bunny I will never know. It is so cute!

As you can see I have had a very successful trip thus far, I met a man who shares my name, found out I love hiking, I got to see a code five flycatcher, and I got to see my dad freak out over a bunny. It was a good day. So even though I am missing out on going to parties, hanging out at the lake, sleeping in and seeing my friends, I get to see all of these beautiful places and watch all these amazing creatures. I am having a once in a experience that will mean much more to me in the future than a high school party or sleeping in all day. I hope you all are enjoying your lives as much as I am.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sweet sixteen

 I know it's been a while since my last post and, sadly, I don't have much to show for it. In a way I have been taking this month off in preparation for my big Alaska trip at the end of May. Since my dad has been gone on his birding trips I haven't had much ambition to do my own. I did drive around  and see some normal South Dakota birds but nothing truly fantastic. So far the big things that I've changed in my life is that I am 16. That was last week and and I got to see family and go to the mall America with my friends and to an art museum with my art class. Just seeing all the art at the museum inspired me to start sketching again which is another of the more notable changes this April.

I the beginning of April my dad had been driving around looking for a yellow headed blackbird. My mom had seen one already by then which bugged him. I hate to say this made me happy, but that would be lying which is wrong. I knew he would get one this summer and so I didn't feel overly bad for enjoying having a bird he didn’t have. He did recently see one of his own down in Texas after I saw mine here in Milbank. I was just driving around with my grandparents looking for an antique store and there was a yellow headed blackbird! I saw two more when I was driving home from my birthday party in the cities. I also saw a Baltimore oriole. Sadly my camera is getting cleaned, so I wasn't able to take any pictures of them.

Before seeing those birds I was inspired to start doing some art of my own at home due to the art trip we did last Thursday. Something about seeing all of these artists paintings and sculptures immortalized forever in the museum inspired me to start drawing on my own. I'm not a big painter, but I love to sketch, and so I have been more and more lately. I started trying to break out of comfort zone by drawing portraits. Last night I attempted to draw my cat who was sitting next to me. She actually held still for about an hour before she got scared by the movie I was watching and left. I think it turned out pretty good for my second cat sketch.

Besides that I've mostly been taking it easy and trying to finish everything before school ends on May 20th. After that I'm in Alaska with my dad till June 10th. While I am excited to go the part of me that loves Netflix, wifi, milk, good food and running water is not as excited as the rest of me. It doesn't help that I'm missing a good piece of my summer. But I know once I get there and see the ocean and all the wild life I will forget about he rest of the world and fall in love with the new places and animals. (As long as I don't get too sea sick that is). I have only been to Alaska once and it wasn't anywhere near where we will be going and i will get to see entirely new birds and other animals while I'm there which will be really amazing. 

My camera will be newly cleaned and so I promise some good pictures when I get back in an area where I can post them. However that is still a good while away and I am not quite sure if I'll go on any trips before then. If not you will have to make due with this and hope my dad takes me chasing some rare bird with him soon. 

Thank you for reading and may this blog find you in good health and happiness!


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On top of the world

"You know you are a real birder if you've ever faked your own death to attract vultures."

I know that many of you read my father's blog (badweaherbigyear) and if you have you might remember him pretending to be a disabled camper in order to see a grassquit. While I am not sure how ethical this is or how similar it is in comparison to faking one's own death but it shows his devotion to this big year.

I am not nearly as hardcore as my dad is, although he will say he is taking it easy, and according to this quote I may not even be a true birder. While that may be true, I am enjoying seeing new birds and amazing places. One such place is Colorado. I had never been to Colorado before this weekend and was amazed by all the mountains. My dad, however, was on a mission. He had gotten to the airport earlier than us and the second we were in his sight he walked away. I found it to be quite rude that we didn't even get a hello or a hug since it had been at least a week since we had last seen him. He had plans for us and greetings had to wait.

When we finally caught up to my dad at the rental car, a jeep, we packed our stuff and drove (for hours). When we at last reached Silverthorn and started driving around the houses like creepers, looking for birds. I was only slightly concerned about someone calling the cops and helped my dad to find bird feeders around the neighborhood. The neighborhood was located on the side of a mountain overlooking a green valley. It was quite eerie when it started snowing and I saw the contrast between the green valley and the white snow. In this snow we saw a grey-crowned rosy-finch.

After seeing all we could at Silverthorn, we left (thankfully not in a cop car) and headed to Gunnison. At this point we had been driving since we left the airport and had yet to get out of the car. So you can imagine my boredom. It got better when we reached the road around which we might find a Gunnison sage-grouse. We looked until dark and all I found was my spirit cow, and yes I said spirit cow. I am sure you have heard of a spirit animal, so the idea of a spirit cow should not be a foreign concept. 

I created the idea of a spirit cow in order to distract myself from the post-plane exhaustion and to annoy my dad. I have to admit it was a lot of fun.

The next day we headed back to Gunnison and after much searching we got a bit of good luck when the grouse we were looking for flew over.

Our trip passes in a haze of driving with only the occasional stop every few hours. We eventually stopped at Colorado National Monument and I saw a juniper titmouse.

While in that area we also saw a herd of  mule deer.

 So far besides the driving it had been an enjoyable and very scenic trip. The part that made me wish for more happened at the top of a mountain in the snow. We were there to see a ptarmigan of some sort which lived in the high altitude. We hiked up a hill and I stood for a moment in the wind. I was on top of the world! However, as I looked out across the snow I saw hundreds of people snowboarding and skiing down the mountain. This caused a craving for my snowboard or even my skis. I missed them so badly as I watched all these other daredevils gliding down the white mountain. My love for the snow and all sports related to it was much greater than my love for birds and even though my dad yelled at me and tried to guilt me for not searching for his ptarmigan, I still sat there on the mountain watching and taking pictures of the boarders and skiers.

If only it was winter, I have told my dad and he reluctantly agreed that after his big year is over it will be his turn to be the follower on our trips. We decided that a ski/snowboard trip in Colorado would be an amazing adventure next year. I hope you all accomplish your dreams for the next year or two. 



Monday, March 14, 2016


This latest trip was to Tucson, Arizona. We stayed in Miller Canyon which was very beautiful. The one downside of the canyon was that it had no cell reception, but I adjusted and after the first day used my phone just a camera. However this turned out badly since I grew used to using my phone less, I did not notice later when it went missing. The location of my phone is still unknown, but besides that, the trip was one of the most vacation like of any birding trips I have been on this year.

I got to go on my first hawk watch this weekend. A hawk watch is a strange pastime where people sit in a clearing waiting for a hawk to fly by. I noticed that many people also brought their dogs with them which provided a great source of non hawk related entertainment.

This is Joey the dog, she was known by almost everyone at the hawk watch and had the unique skill of being able to jump out from the dog park. I had to laugh as she ran around saying hi to everyone. In addition to seeing Joey the jumping dog I got to see a common black hawk.

The best part of that day was convincing my dad to let us go shopping. We needed presents for my grandmother and great grandmother's birthdays. My dad gave us fifteen minutes to pick something out, but we able to evade my dad for thirty. It was fun and we found some really nice presents. After that we went to see some humming birds and I got three new birds to add to my list.

Broad billed hummingbirds

Broad tailed hummingbird

Violet crowned hummingbird

My parents practically had to drag me away from taking pictures of all of the hummingbirds. 
It was a lot of fun and I was quite happy on the ride back to our cabin. Later that night we went hiking to see the elusive spotted owls. We saw them and got a great view of the sunset over the canyon.

One of the people who owned the cabin we were staying at was kind enough to show me a ringed tailed cat. 

The next day we went hiking in the desert and saw a curved billed thrasher and a black tailed gnatcatcher.

This blog was mainly just pictures since not much of interest happened this weekend besides losing my phone (potentially while hiking in the desert). I hope you all have a great week