Bird chasers #14 W. Washington

black turnstone

Seattle-Neah Bay WA October 26-28 2014.

John, a friend I know in Washington called a friend and said he was looking for a hobby, the friend answered, “Maybe try Coin Collecting?” Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself and maybe that is just birder humor. Before I went, last week was a birding eventful one in my archives. I found a picture of bird #679, a Mangrove cuckoo from a trip in 1994 in Florida which I had passed over, passing over a MANGROVE CUCKOO?!!!!???  How is that possible?

mangrove 3

  and talking to Jim, one of my trusty Travelin’  Twitchers about it, We reminisced about Wilson’s storm-petrels off Virginia later that year seen, I hadn’t ticked that bird either…so #680, so I left on this trip on a high note with two Psychiatrist’s couches ticks, since I was crazy to overlook them 20 years ago.

This was really a business trip, and my first Olaf event was realizing I had packed my wife’s pants and not mine for the convention.  I couldn’t figure out….had I gained that much weight?  Why was the belt loops missing and the zipper backwards?  Then our booth at a convention was next to the almost clothing optional body sculpturing booth and I saw definitely no women’s pants on that model there….so maybe I should have gotten my legs done?  They say I look good without pants on……I could look cute in a skirt…couldn’t I?

Although I had dangled some feelers out for birding nothing really substantial floated in, except I knew I could get my Black Turnstone here. Mindy from my office mined the booth after a good day of recruiting and I went to Alka Point/ Beach and spotted nothing, it was high tide, birds were gone, Sunday strollers and joggers were abundant. I took more pictures of tourist couples from Asia using their camera than I saw birds. I walked and walked and finally I spotted a shore sandpiper……..surfbirds, well they are cool. surfbirds I kept going, and got a good view of Seattle. seattle I spotted the rarely seen, Horned PVC Owl on top of a building

DSC_8364 (2)I should rarely sees it moving, (it is plastic) and finally at the last of the rock riprap I spotted a woman with a camera. Oh no, not another picture, I thought. “See…see the seals!” She pointed quietly. Yes I did but I also saw 2 Black turnstones under them…..Bird #681 black turnstones2 Word had gone out last week about a Northern Wheatear in Seattle but alas it had left so I was wondering what to do and then at dinner, a report of a Eurasian Hobby, came out from the extreme NM corner of Washington state, Neah Bay came in a hard to get code 4 bird, it is hard to get in Alaska but even harder in lower 48.

Local birder, and Alaska birding Guru, John Puschock is a Facebook friend of mine and graciously accepted my invitation to carpool.  Reversing the situation, I have once said I’ll go pike fishing with anybody as long as they don’t get in my way and contribute something for gas, in this case I drove.  It was nice having company for the 14 hours we were on the road.  I’m not sure if John thought so, but I would have hated to make the trip in his ancient F150, and so at least I was worth something.

We took off at 0330 from Seattle and drove into the decrepit village of Neah Bay, the most NW settlement in the lower 48 states at dawn.  We drove through town and then out in the valley a few miles south to look for the bird.  We drove around, took numbers of a couple of birders and fanned out.  We chased falcons, unfortunately, the wrong kind.  Around 10 we found ourselves making a vigil on the road side of the sewage treatment plant when John half dozing, I got a call, they had it and then where?  150 feet away on the other side of a little patch of trees at the base of a hill behind the treatment plant….we said colorful words to color the gray skies and went in search of a flying falcon in the direction of town

Downtown, I spotted a small falcon over the car, I narrowly missed a accident as I pulled into the post office, John and I snapped pictures, and then we cahsed it through town, but alas on inspection, ….Just a Merlin, falcon #2, the wrong falcon….more colorful words darkened the gray sky

We spotted some surf and black scoters out in the sound.DSC_8374 (3)the white on this surf scoter is the ID point and then we went back to check on those making the vigil.  Nothing!  We drove more roads and found nothing but an abandoned elk head in the road.DSC_8367I hope it wasn’t the elk that lost it and there was a body running around without a head.  Was this some omen like that from Scarface?  Was the ‘luckiest birder in the world’ loosing it?

John and I discussed a “Dipping Out scale” of which the most frustrating points of birding are scored. The score cumulates over a lifetime and maybe severe psychosis occurs at some point, 200 hundred points? maybe like a hundred, maybe you get credit for actually finding the bird and so your goal is to end up zero

10 point Not seeing the bird and everyone else who is along looking does

8 point Seeing what is probably the bird but never well enough to actually call it

6 point On way to seeing it and having car trouble, so don’t get there and bird leaves

4 point not going when you are thinking about it and everyone sees it

2 point going and not finding it

Nemesis birds and Code ones are double the score. We were on our way to getting a credit of 9 points, for the near miss, only 9 pints because we probably could have seen it but it wasn’t that close. So the frustration level in the car was rising. John was approaching a total GI system shutdown and I was having diuresis. Our caffeine levels were low, and well you could cut more than the fog with a knife. We went and lookd for the Tropical Kingbirds in the village. That took a minute of our time. We found four of them. What a tropical bird like this one is thinking. “Hey mates, lets go do fall in the pacific northwest. Let us see how Russell Wilson is throwing…” It makes no sense. DSC_8393 It was lunch time. Our choices were stark, forage on shore with the crows and gulls or go to the mini-mart. Apu in the Simpsons would be suspicious of this mart. The food was picked over. All that was left in the pizza warmer was a ¼ inch slick of grease. I took the two chicken strips over fries, I figured that since it had been warmed 4 or 5 times the bacteria had largely been killed but was nervous after throwing a fry to a prospective Northwestern Crow, it flew away and left it and even the immature glaucous winged gull just squawked at me. It must have been unsafe, these guys will eat anything. DSC_8395 (2) I tried to wash down the taste with some yoghurt and some odd granola sh&t in it and almost gagged. John came out of the porta-john, one in which he described needing to do yoga to use, and decided for the full purge option by taking the mystery stick in a bag to eat. It was a religious experience because John had to have faith it was food and even God didn’t know what it was. Looking at it made me me think even Coke Zero looked bad. We drove back to the Sewage treatment plant, at least near their laggons we’d be cool of both our systems erupted. John relayed to me along the way that even though he had no idea what he just ate, it didn’t go down that bad. We got out, three birders there, no Hobby…….. I was sick of taking out my camera, and John too left his in the car. John noted the red crossbills on the tree and then over the ridge without warning it appeared.  The Eurasian Hobby

Time seems to slow or even stand still when you are looking at a rare bird, if someone had said we had witnessed it for five minutes I might have believed them but it was closer to 30 seconds.  There it was, reddish underbelly, white face, whisker, perfectly marked and perfectly seen….bird # 682!

Wow!  I was a little unclear what elite type A birders do when they see birds.  Was it long past emotion for a new bird, were these guys beyond that?  Was it a handshake, a high-five, a “good show chaps!” or just a grunt and go on to the next.  I’m sure my lowly total of 682 was well beneath everyone, John was at something like 793.  I could sense other felt the uncomfortable situation and in the end I did nothing.  I was just happy it wasn’t a nine point addition instead of subtracting 4 for the code 4.

It was evident I have good timing, we were back a few minutes before the second showing of the day and a few minutes later when we were going to look for it in a tree that the rain started from Tropical Storm Anna.  We drove around, got another view of the wrong falcon, the Peregrine and left.


It was some after 7, when we had ridden the ferry back to Seattle that I was tucked back into the hotel having bid John adieu.  It was a long but worthwhile 16 hours.  I even survived the food!

I slept in my last day of Seattle drove up to the foothills of the Cascades and found a waterfall and did some light birding

I found a golden crowned kinglet

goldencrowned kingletI walked up to a waterfall

DSC_8416I called in a Pacific Wren

pacific wren

and it rained, rained and rained….but is was fun.

My year list went up to 486, I had added two life birds reconnected with an old contact, and well saw a place of the world I had never been…so Hello Seattle!

It was a fun meeting, and well I had woman’s pants with, I think John was surprised I wanted to leave my pants on during the birding and wrote on Facebook that he was wanting to see my junk just for old time sake (ala Attu) but we got lost in the excitement and it got forgotten about.  I guess it is good to go birding with pants on….for a change, that is!

To my ‘new’ hobby!  and all with Pantless trips!


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