About Me

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Hi there! My name is Tiffany Kersten, a 34-year-old professional bird guide and sexual assault survivor. I'm spending 2021 traveling, birding, and gifting personal safety alarms to women birders I meet on the trails along the way. I will be blogging about my experience with both the birds and the people - getting perspectives on women's safety in the outdoors from both men and women. It is due time these conversations are had.

GoFundMe

For every $50 raised, one additional personal safety alarm (retail $30) will be gifted to a woman I run into along the trails during my travels. The remainder will be used to offset travel expenses. If you are inspired to donate, you may do so here: http://gf.me/u/zk4n6t

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Plans: Cancelled, Upcoming, Pending

Yeesh. 

I'm a bit Type A. 

Before a trip, everything gets mapped out, planned, input into Google maps, campsites located when possible (Orangetheory Fitness gyms pinned in there as well, in case there's time). 

I was supposed to be on a pelagic trip off of Bar Harbor, Maine last Saturday. The staff made the call on Thursday morning - it would not be going due to large swells from Hurricane Larry, who was looming well off the coast. Bummer. I'll need a new plan for Great Skua - perhaps Cape Hatteras in December. 

I'm now planning for a trip through South California, up through the San Francisco Bay Area, and then allll the way up to Westport, Washington. I have pelagic trips scheduled in San Diego, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, and Westport. 

I thought I was all set, until I found out last week that the boat I'm supposed to get on out of Half Moon Bay is currently missing a propeller, and they're not sure when it'll be fixed. Half Moon Bay has been the hottest spot in central California in recent years, and to miss this trip would be a definite hit. 

So now I'm waitlisted for September 25 & 26 out of Westport, WA September 25 out of Oregon, Oct 9 out of Westport, and contemplating finding a way to get on a Ventura, CA trip October 2nd, as all three of the rarer species of boobies (Red-footed, Blue-footed, and Nazca) were seen in that area on the five day Searcher trip last week. My brain hurts when I try to piece together the potential options for me to be removed from the waitlists of said trips, and rearranging my car travels to get myself to the right places at the right time, all spaced out along the entirety of the west coast, so I'm not even trying. I'm just doing what I can to get onto waitlists, and piecing the rest together step by step.

I'm still sitting at 671 species and hoping to add at least 20 of the following 26 birds (along with any other rarities that might pop up) to my year list in the coming three weeks! 

Spotted Dove 

Bar-tailed Godwit

Ruff

Wandering Tattler

South Polar Skua

Long-tailed Jaeger

Scripp's Murrelet

Craveri's Murrelet 

Cassin's Auklet 

Sabine's Gull 

Yellow-footed Gull  

Red-billed Tropicbird

Black-footed Albatross

Short-tailed Albatross 

Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel

Ashy Storm-Petrel

Black Storm-Petrel 

Least Storm-Petrel 

Buller's Shearwater 

Flesh-footed Shearwater 

Short-tailed Shearwater 

Rose-ringed Parakeet 

Island Scrub-Jay 

Red-footed Booby 

Blue-footed Booby 

Nazca Booby 


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Great Basin Birding

 Wow! 

43 hours, three states, 802 miles, five year birds, three life birds, two life states, new friends, old friends. Amazing memories. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1SZxrcFWoT6QqV3j47-FCnESlEciMup2s

August 28th

I flew from McAllen, to Dallas, to Salt Lake City, arriving at 3 pm, and picked up my rental car. I'd reserved a compact car through Priceline...checked in at the Payless/Avis counter, and they sent me outside to retrieve my car. It was a Nissan Pathfinder. Three rows of seats and anything but compact! Driving a Chevy Spark as my personal vehicle, I had to recruit help from one of the staff in navigating my way out of the parking spot at the airport. I thought about complaining and trying to acquire a smaller vehicle, but decided it would be comfier to sleep in, if needed, even though it would be bad on gas. 

There was a small group of Tundra Swans 20 minutes east of the airport; apparently a landowner was feeding corn to the ducks, the swans came in last November and decided to stick around. I  headed that way immediately. I quickly realized I'd underestimated the scale of the map. It seemed I'd drive up this mountain road, park, and hike probably a short trail to get to the small lake. Well, it was a tiny manmade pond, visible as you drove along the road. I drove up another 1/4 mile to find parking, assembled my tripod (the Swarovski travel tripod comes apart into three separate pieces for easy packing), threw my scope on top and walked back down the road to the birds. There was a wedding about to happen! I  was digiscoping the Tundra Swans as people were walking right by them - they'd become habituated to humans and indifferent to people walking right next to them. A rather anticlimactic year tick, but a tick nonetheless. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1RQORL9fI7SZNnPRZKo-og7jGblr2YQBO

Next, I headed back into Salt Lake City. It would be a late night, so I needed to find coffee - I  planned to meet up with local guide Tim, who graciously offered to help me search for Flammulated Owl tonight. After trying for flam, I  would drive the three hours to Angel Lake, where I would meet some lady birders and we would try for Himalayan Snowcock the next morning. At the coffee shop, I met up with Marc, of Birding by Bus fame. Together with his wife, a few years ago, they did their own Big Year, traveling from Florida to Alaska and back, by way of a ton of other places, in their old VW Bus. Marc and I  birded some local areas together, before meeting up with Tim at 8 pm. Meeting with Tim, the three of us headed farther into the woods, stopping at a state park, where it was still a bit too light to try for the owls. We chatted about guiding companies - Tim has his own, Marc has just gotten started with his - and I am in the process of finalizing mine. Finally, it was dark enough to try for them. We tried several times at the first spot, in which we had no luck. I'd been stressing about this bird for a long time - I'd intended to get flam when I   went for Himalayan Snowcock a few weeks earlier, but a landslide cancelled those plans. Now, it was getting late for the owls - they get incredibly quiet this time of year. 

We navigated back to the parking lot and tried there. After not too long, one called, seemingly distant, a few single note hoots. We walked closer to where it was calling - across the road - and this time it was making a multi-note call, similar to the territorial call, but not spot on. Flammulated Owl! I did a silent little happy dance, excited to at least hear this bird well enough to be able to count it for the year! Tim surmised it was probably a young bird testing out its vocal cords. Soon after, a car drove by and flushed it more distantly into the woods. As much as I wanted to keep trying, to see if we could get a visual on another individual, it was time for me to head west to at least get a few hours of sleep before the snowcock hike the next morning. Down we went - into separate cars we went - and off west I went. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1huT3jDXY3ieA8MjQz6fleN2rS4PJk2uX

Year List: 668

August 29th

I arrived to Angel Lake Campground around 12:15 am - popped out of the car to say hi to Pat and Sarah, laid out my sleeping bag in the back of the car, and slept a restless five hours. A 5:30 alarm was timed perfectly with the first bits of light over the nearby valley. After coffee and some amazing homemade muffins, we were on our way! It took us about 70 minutes to make it to Smith Lake, where my friend Alex had pioneered with some clients a few weeks ago and heard a few snowcock, after the landslide closed the traditional spot at Ruby Lake, which remains closed for the foreseeable future. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1MBbRXE7hxQN3KxMK9OBmFCIflgweeaxO

After a bit of waiting, anticipating hearing the long, obvious bugle call, twenty minutes in, we heard a series of repeated notes, speeding up over time. We all commented on it, but passed it off as Chukar, which are also in the area. A Red-tailed Hawk had been sitting perched up in a tree along the ridgeline the entire time, which was surely contributing to the silence of the area. After about fifteen minutes, I decided to pull up the calls of both Himalayan Snowcock and Chukar - and we all looked at one another in disbelief as we simultaneously realized that the "rally call" we'd been hearing had been the Himalayan Snowcock all along! 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1swPsxm6vgSyVtIiFjKKVwa6N0OtSXKgy

We spent a bit more time in the area, hoping to get a distant look at one, but they remained silent since the first calls. I gifted my women companions Birdies, and we took some photos with the scenery in the background. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1zf715IcPXoL7ZKqarjJutP9GTAgcxZIv

We made our way down the mountain, and feasted on a delicious brunch that Sarah and Pat had prepared. There are so many logistics to manage on a Big Year, and often my eating habits are compromised. It was so great to not have to worry about food on this trip! 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1bpaNYpPbwQLAwIp4jdy0vB9fwpBXw0eP

The smoke was absolutely crazy, and even by 10 am, we didn’t cast a single shadow. 


We packed up, and headed the 2.5 hours to Diamondfield Jack Campground south of Twin Falls, Idaho, where we would try for Cassia Crossbill. We met my old friend from the Rio Grande Valley, Stephanie, there, who in the last six years, moved to New Zeeland, completed her PhD, and is now living in Boise. Upon arrival, the site was very noisy, filled with ATVs. There were a few Cassia Crossbills feeding in the pine overhead when we parked, but they quickly disappeared, and Stephanie didn't get a chance to see them. After looking around the area, we decided to drive a few miles farther down the road to Porcupine Springs Campground. They were overhead once again as we parked, and stuck around for great looks and videos. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1pdQYU2tUj3AI_vyvHTr1QRPihVSqxZO6https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1AtUNZ4t5eStW2o5-8PCjk5c950-VCEV7

Pat and Sarah took out the food again, and we had a late lunch- as well as celebrating with “lifer shots” - Snowcock celebrations for Pat and Sarah, crossbill celebrations for Stephanie, and both for me.

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1D9bJ7X9AvSOLiMvViXSy8tX00lcGsONN

 Just before 4 pm, Stephanie and I took off, heading eastward - a Little Gull had been reported in American Falls, Idaho, and we had time left in the day to try for it! 

We arrived shortly after 6 pm, and immediately I was thankful that I had a big vehicle with four wheel drive. Maybe the Universe knew I'd need it! After about an hour of searching, we found the Little Gull roosting with some terns and Franklin's Gulls - I took an awful doc shot, Stephanie peered through the scope a brief minute, and then boom - it was gone!

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1zfGUENP8ihCFyAv891wZz4U9TvzWR83g

It was a lifer for both of us (ABA #740 for me) and I was equally excited to have one fewer bird to search for in New England this winter, which is where I had intended on finding Little Gull. Of course, more lifer shots were in order. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1PouzG9lqHI7JK5apGr26IM3W0vFIT34-

We made our way back out of the reservoir, Stephanie and I parted ways; she, back to Boise, and myself, in the direction of Salt Lake City. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1iWTGf4ivxVOBrALqRX9PDLKVi83ppXkV

I wanted to get close to Salt Lake City, so I could sleep in a bit tomorrow before needing to be at the airport for my 10 am flight. I found Willard Bay State Park, just off of Highway 15, and set my tent up to the sound of traffic, and under the slight glow of the restroom lights - a site strategically picked so I wouldn't have to deal with a flashlight. I was thankful to have running water.  What a successful trip - all three target birds accomplished, plus two additional bonus birds! I washed my face and brushed my teeth, and quickly fell asleep. 

Year List: 671 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Outer Banks, Round Two

August 19 

It's been super convenient to live fifteen minutes from the McAllen Airport, and being a small one, there's no need to arrive more than an hour in advance. We have six gates! I  had been scheduled for boat trips on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but was already notified that the Saturday boat trip would be cancelled due to weather. 

I flew McAllen to Dallas to Norfolk, sitting next to a pregnant Honduran woman seeking asylum who the US Government separated from her husband at the border. I may share more of that absolutely heartbreaking story in a later post. 

I was meeting a friend from college, Justin, in Norfolk, who would join me for a beach weekend, and his flight was delayed. There was no food available after exiting security, so I Ubered to a nearby Mexican restaurant (the exact opposite of the gym), had an early dinner and hung out and waited. We drove the three hours to Frisco Campground, set up our tents, and slept - or tried to sleep. It was still 82 degrees, "feels like" 90. 

I woke up at 4:45, throwing on some clothes (I slept in my swimsuit atop a yoga mat), stashed a few more things in my backpack, and Justin took me to the marina. Tropical Storm Henri was offshore, poised to become a hurricane, and I was concerned that we might possibly not get offshore any of the three days, and my trip would have been a waste. Arriving at the landing, people were waiting in line; it was clear the trip was happening! I was overjoyed! 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1JN7Pc37yxZb-ppFjPW9C9dLPJeKCPAxJ

I was surprised to finally run into big year birder Jason on the boat, bringing all three big year birders together for the first time this year. Jason and I had missed each other by one or two days criss crossing the country multiple times, and even barely missed one another by a few hours once or twice. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1RaDizNI0hGYOXaE3-kqm777Pp_5tjahs

New for the year was Great Shearwater and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. Just around the time we started heading inshore, a White-tailed Tropicbird appeared from out of nowhere over the boat. It circled a few times, giving some great looks. Energy around the boat was renewed as the sleepiness of the lull in birding was shaken off. 

We returned to the dock, Justin picked me up, and we went to catch dinner with Matt, a North Carolina big year birder, who had also been on the boat. By the time we finished dinner, it was raining. Arriving back to the campsite, a whole corner of my tent was sitting under water, despite camping in the high-drainage sand. I feared what I might find when I got inside, but to my surprise it was incredibly dry! I highly recommend Stoic tents - I got mine for $100 on Steep and Cheap and despite costing much less than many quality brands, it hasn't let me down all year. Matt would camp with us all well the next few nights, and he set up his tent while it was still raining.The rain cleared, we crawled into our tents, and slept, much cooler than the night before, thanks to the rains. 

August 20 

It was a beach day - the three of us went to breakfast, Matt went off and did some birding, and Justin and I hung out on the beach, swam, drank a bit, and got dinner. There was a double rainbow during dinner! 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1WaiIKBXGTUnVNOZHNTZEfSc6fsULkYtB

It was an 8 pm bedtime once again - the 4:45 alarm would be for the both of us tomorrow, as non-birder Justin was about to experience his first ever pelagic trip. 

August 21

Meeting at the dock, boat captain Brian was more humorous than I’d experienced before. He made a joke about there being 14 life jackets, first-come, first-served, in the event of an emergency. Everyone must have been sleepy, because nobody laughed. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1ehFw-051ExWGeQzRFbqyd3yXWXKEbmt2

There were so many women on the boat - and I was especially shocked at the number of younger women! It was fun to meet teen birder Tatum from New York, who I’d connected with earlier in the year. I gifted them all Birdie personal safety alarms (see the Birdie Alarms tab of my website for the link if you’d like to purchase your own at 10% off- plus 10% of purchases go back into funding my project!). 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1OU_qUGYhjeWpP-p7drN-43WPu3HeFW9H

No new year birds today, meaning I  would probably have to count Trindade Petrel as a miss for the year, unfortunately. But it's all part of the game - you can't win them all! Several water spouts, and dolphins running with the boat kept us entertained throughout the day. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1rm3zhFIAsrrLW-CTQl_Ph3NLtGSKCZ2j

After an early dinner and one more evening in Hatteras, we our way back to the Norfolk Airport. 

Year List: 666

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Rufous-capped Warbler, Maybe?

August 12

Last week, I'd made arrangements with someone who knew the area, to go try for the Rufous-capped Warbler family on the 13th, in remote Ramanote Canyon, west of Rio Rico. Well, plans fell through, and he reached out today to tell me he wouldn't be able to help. 

Okay. Backup plan time. Big years are very much about having a backup plan- so far this year, weather has kept boats I was supposed to be on, off the water, with the latest challenge being the giant mudslide still present at the snowcock site. Some alternative plans work out, and some don't. 

I first thought of all the people I knew at the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival. The vast majority of them were leading field trips in the mornings, and I'd need to head for home first thing Sunday morning to spend a few days with my pup before heading to Hatteras for some pelagic birding. After checking in with a few people, I  realized I'd need to crowdsource - and posted an SOS message on my Facebook, asking if anyone I knew had four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle we could take - and - was available on Friday or Saturday morning. Simultaneously, I took a look at car rentals in Tucson. My last ditch effort would be to rent a vehicle for the day, and drag anyone I could find along with me for the hike, as the road in and hike are both remote, and sketchy in terms of vehicle damage, or a sprained ankle. Tucson had ZERO four wheel drive rental cars available, and the largest vehicle they had was a mid-size SUV. No bueno. 

I waited to see what the Facebook response would be, as that was my only hope. A Facebook friend named Josh reached out, saying he and his friend Holly would be happy to take me on Friday. Josh, being from Montana, said he was no stranger to rough roads. Clay from Swarovski wanted to join as well. The plan was set. 

August 13

We met at the hotel main entrance at 3:45 am, as we were all staying there as part of the festival. Josh had mentioned his Subaru was a little old, but I wasn't quite prepared for just how old. I got a little nervous about the idea of getting stranded out there, with no cell signal, but Subarus pretty much last forever, right? A few people had gone looking for the Rufous-capped Warblers in recent days, though they started around 10:30 am, and they'd had no success in finding them. We weren't even certain they were still around, but I was relieved to have a means to attempt. Lack of effort is something I've regretted several times already this year, including driving away from the Thrasher Spot in Buckeye, AZ, in February, prematurely. I'd been tired and frustrated, and thought, well, I'll just come back for LeConte's Thrasher in May. (I did, and got the bird, but not without driving six hours out of the way to do so!) 

The first hour of the drive was uneventful, but soon after pulling onto a gravel road, that was no longer the case. The road got rougher and rougher, until one would slightly wonder if it still qualified as a road at all. Josh drove it like a champ. Eventually, we got to a spot that a Subaru might not make it up. He pulled off the "road" and we'd walk the remaining half mile from there. This made our journey a four mile round trip hike - half a mile along the "road" and another 1.5 miles in; the route we'd take was walking the creek bed up, between cavernous mountains bordering either side. 

As the sun began to rise, I  quickly realized this place would certainly make the top 10 of the most beautiful places I'd been so far this year. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1veWsv55F5-B_PEfxq7sHE4_kKk3yf4Fo

The half mile downhill hike along the road was steep and crumbly, and the mile and a half up canyon included traversing many stream crossing, rock jumping, and thorny bush scrambling. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1PiBmUuEYx6TzDt34NFs18Bs-adEJ1cm2https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1S6BTGkLQ-JFDnIYse6c1mxU4ozbPL9kS

We made our way to the coordinates the birds had been seen at. Nothing. We hiked another 1/8 mile upstream. Still nothing. We relaxed for about twenty minutes and just waited. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1PulO1XOjfrBWqGaPcCEeURMbzm4kqVdu

Still nothing. We started to make our way back down, pishing a bit as we went. Then, we fell silent, and hiked. Comparing notes later, we pretty much simultaneously gave up. Right around that time, with Josh in the lead and me following, we heard a distinct call of two distinct tones immediately to our right. He turned around, we looked at one another, and I stated, overly profoundly - at the obvious call - "that was DEFINITELY a Rufous-capped Warbler!" Within seconds, the calling bird teed up on a dead branch, giving a great view for all of us to see. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=15VDc6q62GfQSlJnWz37T2qKSd17JL9tS

Holly had stopped just a bit back to apply sunscreen. Bad timing! But she still made it in time for a good but brief look at the bird. One of the fledglings was around, too, hopping through the thicker brush nearby. We spent about fifteen minutes with the birds, then continued on our way - we all had a birding expo to get back to! 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=158YJBP9aDpR_Gg8DIqoJt0f93oJvDtlm

(Note: For anyone thinking about going for these birds, use extreme caution on the road - a Subaru was the very minimum for making it down the majority of this road and back. There is no cell reception, and it is incredibly remote and gets hot quickly. Bring plenty of water and do not go alone.)

Year List: 663





Monday, August 16, 2021

Washington & Delaware: Rarities & Lifers!

Wow! What a crazy week! 

In the four days between working the Southwest Wings Birding Festival and the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival, I  had initially planned to fly to Boise, Idaho, to meet a few friends and try for Himalayan Snowcock, Cassia Crossbill, and Flammulated Owl. Well, as per typical Big Year drama, two weeks ago, a large mudslide closed the road in to the Ruby Mountains from the north, eliminating the access to the birds. 

I decided to fly to Seattle, and get Tufted Puffin, which I missed in June, along with missing the Horned Puffin that's been present, as bad incoming weather caused the boat to have to turn around instead of making it all the way to the island. I  had about a 50/50 chance of getting Tufted Puffin on my California pelagics in September, but flights were cheap and I didn't want to chance it. Thirty minutes after booking my flight to Seattle, a report of a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in central Washington came through. That couldn't have been more perfect! I had to hope the bird would stick around for a few more days. 

August 8th 

Saturday, August 7th, the Southwest Wings festival came to an end. I tried to get to bed as early as I   could, but my anxiety over getting enough sleep was counter-productive and I spent several hours trying to force myself to sleep and wound up lying awake. After about three hours of sleep, my 3:00 alarm went off. I jumped in the car and headed from Sierra Vista to the Phoenix Airport. I'd planned for two days - arrive Sunday, and head back to Tucson for the second bird fest on Tuesday. I  arrived, picked up my rental car, and made a beeline for Moses Lake, Washington, three hours to the east. There I met Jason, who I'd very briefly met in Texas in 2014 and was Facebook friends with. We walked out to the edge of the small lake where it had been seen, and found the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper within fifteen minutes, (lifer!) feeding on the mudflat, along with two Pectoral Sandpipers and lots of Western Sandpipers. This was only the second record of an adult in eastern Washington. Yesss! 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1AznhVO3siUykVDCc7I6eudEQPtYUfmEe

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1QyS5-ba16G8gglPRAoUYHpmybJLziffZ

I almost lost my mind when it saddled up right next to a Pectoral Sandpiper for perfect comparison!

Jason and I caught a quick lunch nearby, and then I headed off to try for Flammulated Owl south of Mount Rainier National Park. I'd arrive near sunset - timing was perfect - and then sleep in my car nearby, or continue driving to Canon Beach, Oregon where I would be sure to pick up the nesting Tufted Puffins there. I arrived to the Flammulated Owl spot, only to find the entire area closed due to wildfires. Feelings somewhat defeated, I drove to a nearby campground, where the beauty of the flowing river soothed my feelings of defeat.

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1Ezd7jjLINfQ4dy-2Z2tGtFM6qjdENqSQ As the sun set, I crawled into the backseat of my rental car- a Toyota Corolla. It was a bit more spacious than my Chevy Spark, but incredibly uncomfortable with no bedding. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1bgwEOpVMPAI8NjIH5Jd-Qf2IRm_KUn2K

I  managed to sleep a few hours, and then, despite a short and long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, leggings and jeans, and two pairs of socks, I  started to get cold. I  could have turned on the car for a bit, but didn't want to irritate my camp neighbors, so I got in the car and drove a few more hours. 

Year List: 658

August 9th

Still very tired, I pulled onto a desolate forest road for some more sleep, this time in the driver's seat, reclined. At one point, another vehicle driving in, parking for a bit, and then turning around, caused slight alarm. Still in pitch black, I restarted the drive to Oregon.

I arrived at Haystock Rock, Canon Beach, just before 8 am, meeting Hannah and Erik onsite. Realizing how much great time I was making, I'd already rebooked a flight out of Seattle for that afternoon, instead of waiting until the following day. Once I  parked at Canon Beach, I  googled the distance back to Seattle. 3.5 hours rather than the 2.5 I was anticipating. Yikes! This means I'd have about 30 minutes to spend with Hannah and Erik, and then I'd have to run back north. We chatted, caught up a bit, I digiscoped the distant Tufted Puffins, let another visiting birder use my scope for a few minutes, and took off. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=15m9xOA2LKj2Zxx8en4sc9_51wEWveNuy

I'd fly to Philadelphia rather than Phoenix. I'd realized, with condensing my Washington / Oregon trip into one day, I  had time to try for Little Egret and Curlew Sandpiper, both at the same place in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware. I'd only booked a one-way flight to begin with. I booked the return trip to Phoenix for Wednesday, while I was waiting for our plane to finish boarding. Car rental acquired, too. 

It was an afternoon flight, cross country, into later time zones. I  arrived after midnight, and checked into a hotel - a very rare occurrence for my year, but I desperately needed sleep after three hours of it each of the past two nights. High tide was at 2 pm - the best time to look for both birds, which could be feeding anywhere on the nearby coast during low tide, but flew in to the mudflats in the impoundments during high tide. That meant I could sleep in a bit. 

Year List: 659

August 10th

I allotted myself six hours of sleep - getting up at 8 am, and arriving at Bombay Hook around 9:30. For a Tuesday morning, I couldn't believe how many birders were there looking! Some birds I'd spoken with said the Little Egret had been seen recently, but was currently out of view. I walked about 1/4 mile down the dirt road, and sure enough, there it was! Lifer!

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=16MDEd6mJatZ104lcUwmixaigCQ5j-jiX

After enjoying the bird for about twenty minutes, I began the search for Curlew Sandpiper, a search that would continue for two more hours. Just down the road, several Mute Swans were present. Knowing I'd get them at the hawk watch in Cape May during the Cape May Fall Fest in October, there was an ongoing joke about how long it would take me to accidentally see this non-native, invasive species. It was my 661st bird for the year, and surprising I'd managed to avoid them thus far. 


Scanning through flocks of thousands of shorebirds started to get tiring, and the eye strain was real. Eventually, I was stopped by another birder, who told me the Curlew Sandpiper was just seen from the top of Raymond Tower. I hurried around the wildlife drive loop, back to the tower, parked, and half-ran, half-walked the 1/4 mile down the trail, with my Swarovski scope in tow. When I got to the top, I peered quickly into one scope- I couldn't see it and bumped one of his tripod legs in anxious clumsiness. A second birder offered me his - I  peered through briefly and couldn't see it. Finally, in the third birder's scope, I got a view of the bird. They gave me directions on where it was (the mud flats were vast, and the bird was distant!) and I  got my own scope on it. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1LjvUUPlnFbJRtyo1kNwSz6KmNYoHRh5J

When there's so much investment on the line - the flight, the rental car, the effort expended to drive, and simply the time investment of it all, each second counts when a bird is being seen. At any moment, a Peregrine Falcon could have come over, flushing all the birds, making it take hours to be refound, or even worse- never seen again, or at least before I'd have to leave. There was an enormous feeling of relief involved with getting the first look at this bird, especially after I'd driven 15 hours in each direction to try to see one in Mississippi last month. Little Egret, too, I'd spent nearly two whole days in Maine trying to find. 

I drove to Delaware City, Delaware, briefly visiting the American Birding Association headquarters, talking with Jeff, Kelly, and Kantinka, before driving to Philadelphia and flying back to Phoenix. 

Great Success!!!

Year List: 662

Friday, July 30, 2021

What a Week! Podcast, Presentation, & Keynoting!

Well, I've been home for almost a week, since my return from the Curlew Sandpiper dip, but life has been anything but relaxed - it's been a busy week on the publicity front! This week I interviewed with a local Spanish news station, gave a virtual presentation to Atlantic Audubon in New Jersey, and today my first Big Year podcast interview with Naturally Adventurous, came out! 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1MekVj28tNfW2lWj_-_vHgcWeChjBicnp

You can listen to the podcast here: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yZTE0NWEwNC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw/episode/ZTdlNTAwNzYtM2EwMC00ZGQyLTk3YTUtMDAxNmUyYWQ0NDI0?sa=X&ved=0CAUQkfYCahcKEwiAnrLNworyAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQCA&fbclid=IwAR07_pYR_1xGxezylEs5xCr_ZvKrPGsCWvLg-_7MwHtno09GBYPe-zXR_sY or you can search "Naturally Adventurous" and navigate to Episode 50 on any podcast site. 

Also, I've prerecorded a program for the Southwest Wings Birding Festival. There will be free access 24/7 anytime from August 4-7 at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeJ2gMmWUD0

Finally, if you happen to find yourself in New England next summer, I'll be a Keynote Speaker at the Acadia Birding Festival in Maine, June 3rd - 5th, 2022. https://www.acadiabirdingfestival.com My first experience at this festival was this year, and it is an amazing festival, not to be missed! Hope to see some of you there! 

In a few days, I'll be heading to Arizona for the Southwest Wings Birding Festival, working at the Swarovski Optik trailer at San Pedro House! From there, I'll fly to Boise for Himalayan Snowcock, Cassia Crossbill, and Flammulated Owl, then back to Tucson for the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival, where you can find me once again at the Swarovski Optik trailer! 

Crossing my fingers for some rare birds to show up in Arizona while I'm there - I still need a Rufous-capped Warbler! 

Year List: Still 657 


Monday, July 26, 2021

The First Real Dip...

July 21st 

A Curlew Sandpiper Report came through - a first state record for Mississippi! I took a look at flights. $800. Oooof. Drive time: 14.5 hours. Not enough to confirm it's continuance tomorrow and still get to the bird same day. I'd have to do some risk taking. 

July 22

The bird was reported again, by multiple observers, at the same location. If I left today, I'd get there after sundown. I decided I'd leave in the middle of the night, and drive straight through. My alarm was set for 2:00 am. 

July 23 

I was on the road by 2:15; I figured this would be child's play after a 22 hour drive last week! How wrong I was. I had trouble sleeping the handful of hours I tried to - it seemed the pressing stress of "have to sleep NOW" was counterproductive and resulted in tossing and turning for the four hours I laid in bed. 

Exhausted, and without any stops beyond gas and restroom - I travel with tons of snacks in my car, both non-perishables and fruit and veggies in my small cooler - I arrived at the location at 4:45 pm. My tiny car was unable to make it down the final half mile stretch, and a woman leaving in a truck, having had no luck with the bird, offered to drive me down. Scope in tow, I obliged. I started scanning, sweat pouring down me immediately in the full sun and ridiculous humidity. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1IkXZKnWJoJlG2Fzq1MlOhnfRgsEaMRqb

An hour into scanning, my heart was sinking. The bird had enough breeding plumage feathers, that it would be fairly obvious if it was here. All there was to do was wait, on the chance that the bird would fly in from an adjacent, non-visible field. 

No such luck. I waited until the remaining good light was gone from the sky, and headed over to camp at Enid Lake, where I slept a solid ten hours. 

July 24

I took my time in the morning; my tactic was a lazy one....stick around for a bit, and see if anyone else reported the bird.

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=192Aml9zYHl6wmDYv5mDFROiHjH-FQ9yr

 I showered at the campground, dawdled at the lake a bit, and made homemade apple & cinnamon oatmeal at my campsite. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=18z7TOTv1UABc-jifPwl-4gQHORRHhbW1

I packed up camp, and was on the road around 10 am. Still no word of the bird. There certainly were people looking, as it was Saturday morning. I decided to check out Martin Dies Jr. State Park in east Texas. There was no way I was willingly making a 15 hour drive back in one day. I'd get home on Sunday. 

Working on fixing my sour attitude, I  reminded myself how privileged I am to be able to sporadically leave town for three days for this bird - not to mention the whole year! I decided to turn the return trip home into its own separate adventure - I'd appreciate the next two days as their own little vacation, enjoying them for what they were, instead of staying in the mindset of it being a slogging trip back from a failed bird chase. 

Martin Dies Jr. State Park didn't disappoint, and I had a beautiful campsite right by the lake. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=17Ayi7uIjSaX0KboXAjDtjRmtFxfpMDyA

Finally, there was no rain forecasted, which meant I could sleep under the stars, with the rain fly off. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1UqruOAG6-InLfx4vpjS8xKXBWDuCEeyX

July 25 

I slept yet another ten hours, packed up camp, and did a little birding before driving seven hours southwest to home. 

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1U9mjv46qdE5zFN1O-SNZKxxwR8MIBU9W

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1GCBaFrYvE9iuaCMdWyktZDMV4A7nNbX3

“No matter where you go, there you are.” 

Year List: Stilllll 657