Adventure begins where civilization ends

Adventure begins where civilization ends
Adventure begins where civilization ends

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Snow on the beach

Snow on the beach, it is something that is difficult to picture. When I first saw it as we were walking along the water towards the car, I could not figure out what it was. At first I thought it was ash? Then I looked closer and it was white. I never for a second thought it was snow. My dad informed me that it was in fact snow when he noticed that I had stopped following him. Snow on a beach? It is such a strange concept.

Our trip did not start at a beach or in the snow. That happened later. It started on a flooded dirt road somewhere in North Carolina. Our very pretty but equally impractical Dodge charger had no chance of going into the water, so we hiked. My dad didn’t want to carry his giant camera all the way down the road and so he suggested we just take mine, it was very sneaky. Guess who ended up carrying the camera the entire two miles to the tree where a red-cockaded woodpecker was? Me. I did this in my snake boots which are great at defending against snakes and going through water but….they are terrible to walk in.

We saw the bird but I regret getting out of the car to hike those two miles. My ankles hurt so badly afterwards and I had to strongly encourage myself to get out of the car when we reached a beach area. It was quite pretty and there were many new birds for me.

It was neat seeing all of these new birds and walking around in the sand, so much so that i ignored my foot pain and enjoyed being on the beach. It was almost erie walking through the dunes and looking out apon the ocean. We reached the point of the beach and continued back along the rocks. It was beautiful and when it started snowing the area became almost surreal. We came across a lone black scoter who seemed very at home in the snowy waters.

On the walk back to the car I picked up shells and fossils. I planned on giving them to my mom as a kind of apology for making her be alone on Valentines day. I felt bad that we left her and also bought her some presents from a tourist shop. Technically my dad paid for them with my guidance. 

We had originally come down here in order to go on a pelagic but it was cancelled and pushed back a day. We still went on Sunday but the weather was bad and I got seasick. It was a very miserable trip for me since I didn't feel good and had cold feet (literally). I did get to see a hammerhead shark, a couple of sea turtles, dolphins, and a great skua! Which helped to make up for the long day in the boat. That is all for now, have a great day!


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Unexpected Death

I was informed of an unexpected death while on my way to see the ivory gull at Duluth, Minnesota. The gull had died. This was quite a surprise to me as people had been feeding the gull and I'm sure they would throw themselves in the way of a gyrfalcon before they would let it fly off with the rare ivory gull, but alas the gull is no more. This put a damper on my trip this last weekend but it all worked out in the end. I did not get to see the gull but I saw nearly every other bird that we could have seen in the Minnesota area. All except the ruffed grouse, but I will see that another time.

This trip started like all birding trips in my family, very early. We drove and drove and after hours we reached Aggasiz national wildlife refuge. After passing by an abandoned house we came across a flock of sharp-tailed grouse. To be honest I could not see them until they were pointed out to me. I was so sleepy I could barely see a hand in front of my face but the idea of new birds helped to wake me up. We were pleasantly surprised when one of the sharp-tailed grouse turned out to be a prairie chicken. This is a picture of a sharp-tailed grouse.

We were so pumped up by the two-for-one that we went to find a northern hawk owl.  About a mile from the Canadian border there it was, sitting on the top of a tree in clear view.

We drove around in the hopes of finding a great grey owl, but all we got was stuck. Yes stuck, I had to get out and push which was a new experience for me. My dad, ever the gentleman, didn't leave the car. He did let us go out to eat for lunch at subway since we had seen all the target birds for the day. If any of you know my dad you will realize how rarely he goes out to eat, he is a hardcore birder, he does not waste good birding time on food.

After lunch we went through Warroad, and while there we came across a flock of ghost bohemian waxwings. I call them a ghost group because like an aberration they vanished into thin air. We drove all over Warroad and never caught sight of them again. It did not faze me as I had already seen them and at that point I was carsick and sleepy. I woke up a little bit when we came across a small group of pine grosbeaks.

Sax-Zim Bog: We were on the lookout for a great grey owl and after our easy find with the hawk owl we were sure we'd find it. Things didn't go quite as planned. We searched the places where owls had been found previously but we found no trace of them. I was disappointed. After a few hours of driving we gave up and went to Marie Lou's feeders to pick up an evening grosbeak. We found them. We had to make fun of some other birders, however, as they were scaring the grosbeaks.

I was rejuvenated somewhat by seeing the evening grosbeak and so we headed to another feeder to try and see the boreal chickadee. There was already three cars there when we arrived and by the time we left there were about eight. I had fun watching my dad talk about his birding prowess, but the cold got to me and I had to go hide in the car with my dog for a while. The boreal chickadee did not show right away but we had no lack of birds to look at since the grey jays were being very photogenic. The boreal chickadee finally showed after a half hour and was received by a large group of birders armed with their various types of cameras, one man even had two.

We resumed our search for the owl after that but to no avail. It was midafternoon by the time we gave up and started searching for a black backed woodpecker. My butt was numb and we had been in that car for over five hours at that point, I was stir crazy. So I was happy to be able to get out of the car each time we tried to call a black backed woodpecker. We used my mom's beat pill to call them but received no response. It was after one of these calls that we heard a thump on the side of the car, I asked my dad what it was and he responded that Bridget must have bumped something. Bridget is our dog. We continued driving and were planning on meeting up with one of my dad's friends when we decided to stop and call for the woodpecker again. It was then that we realized what the thump had been, it had been the speaker. On our drive back to where we had heard the thump, I couldn't help imagining that everyone we had passed might have picked up the speaker or god forbid run over it, we were lucky though, the bright red speaker was still there and my mom had one less reason to murder us when we got home.

The day was long and exhausting. I had given up on seeing any new birds and I will admit I started day dreaming while looking for them. I was not allowed to read or listen to music so I was insanely bored and my dad and I continuously fought over the radio. I was shocked and pleased when my dad's friend sent us a picture of a great grey owl. She had seen it in the opposite side of the bog however, so we had nearly twenty minutes of driving to get there. My dad put the pedal to the metal as we sped down the main road, going 100 mph at times. We made the twenty minute drive in closer to ten, it was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. When we were within sight of his friend's car we saw a great grey owl.

We were overjoyed and could not be more thankful to Julie, my dad's friend. We offered to buy her dinner and drove to a diner in Cotton, MN. It was a pleasant evening and being outside of the car after driving all day was a welcome change. I stole my dad's food while he was talking to Julie and almost fell asleep after eating. We still had an hour drive to our hotel after that though.

The next day started earlier still as we were meeting a Facebook friend of my dad's named JG. He was going to help us find the blacked backed woodpecker. He seemed to be a nice guy and helped us out when our dog spilled my dad's coffee all over my seat. We offered to give him the dog in exchange for his help, but...he refused. It was not long after that when I caught a glimpse of something in the woods and saw the woodpecker. We all shared a group hug as this was my Dad's 400th bird for 2016 and my 237th bird. JG seemed overjoyed to be with us for this monumental occasion and was even more excited than we were about it.

We were all quite happy as we drove off to Superior to see a snowy owl. The snowy owl hadn't gotten the memo that we were looking for it, however, so we were unable to find it. We also could not find the gyrfalcon which may or may not have eaten the ivory gull. 

I was very hungry by then and strong armed my dad into abandoning the search for a snowy. My dad showed me the place where he claims to have proposed to my mom on the way to one of his favorite restaurants. I say he claimed because my mom insists that where he showed me was not in fact where he proposed. That raises the question if he did not propose to my mom there then who was he proposing to? 

During lunch I had a struggle with the wait staff, they were so prompt and quick that I could not get more than half of my overly strong tea down before they refilled it. Which may not be a bad thing but I had had enough tea and wanted to finish the cup. I never could. The food was good though but my dinner companion didn't allow for much conversation, he was writing his own blog at the time. Once I had finished my food I snuck off to look in the tourist shops. I loved looking at all of the cool glass works in one of the shops and I was able to hide out there for a half hour before my dad found me. He had wrongly assumed I'd be in the candy shop, I had hardly given that shop a glance. 

We headed back to Superior to try again at finding the snowy owl. It was by a stroke of luck that a gyrfalcon was sitting on a pole off in the distance. It was too far for me to get a picture, but I was so relieved that we had found it. If only the darned snowy would show up then we could leave! It was after this that my dad started getting superstitious and since we had listened to exes and ohs right before we had seen the great grey owl, he decided we needed to listen to it again to find the snowy. I was forced to buy it off ITunes and we listened to it again and again changing the words as we sang. It did not work right away, JG had rejoined us with his daughter and a few hours had gone past when we listened to it a final time before going and picking my mom up from the airport. This time when we turned around to re-drive the same road there was a snowy owl sitting on the post we had been driving past for hours. The song worked! I give total credit for the bird showing up to Elle King. Her song is my dad's good luck song and maybe mine as well.

We went to pick up my mom after seeing every bird on our list of needed birds. Life was good and we got celebratory frosties from Wendy's. I had mine with my dad's french fries, if you haven't eaten milkshakes and french fries than you are missing out. My dad forgave me for stealing his fries since my salad had BBQ sauce on it, do not ask why Wendy's decided to ruin my salad I can only speculate. One of the things I came up with is that the workers got high one night and decided that BBQ sauce went well on salads-it doesn't. Besides the nasty salad and car sickness the trip went good. I finished the day with a bird count of 243. It was a good trip and while I was sad I had not been able to see the ivory gull, I was happy to have had a good weekend of birding. 

With love,