Global Big Day

Hiding roadrunner
Hiding roadrunner

Time got away from me again. I ahead no idea it was over a week since I last put fingers to keyboard for a blog post. A week ago today Burt and I were out on our annual Global Big Day bird census. Every year birders around the world get out in the same day and take a snap shot of the birds. It’s a big deal. Burt and I submitted 11 checklists and covered about 40 miles, 6 of them on foot. Baja numbers were way down this year which is what it’s felt like all winter. Burt and I managed to see 41 species, down from 47 last year and far from my goal of 50. The results for Baja California Sur for 2017 were were 30% lower than the census after the Class 4 hurricane (Odile, 2015) and and barely half of what was seen last year. Now three years isn’t a trend and a lot depends on where our birders were able to go but it is still sobering. I conclude more attention is needed in this valuable and unique habitat.

Then Burt had his birthday. Say high to Social Security, Burt! Also up, he’s going to buy the $10 lifetime national park pass before that program goes the way of the Dodo. Not that I’m complaining about raising the pass to $85. $10 is a ridiculous small amount and can’t cover the cost of issuing the darn pass. But we’re going to get in there and get one anyway. Life on Social Security isn’t extravagant. Lucky for us we can still work.

Tuesday is our projected exit date from El Pescadero. Last week we rounded up the kids for one last class with us but it wasn’t really with us. The organization that brings the English teachers to town had a special event that coincided with class time so the kids got to do that instead. It was a science fair like party focused on how the body works. I saw some successful demos that were fun and instructional: Making a fake set of lungs with a plastic cup, straws, and balloons, and the electric stimulation of muscles, and the passage of food through the digestive tract. Building neurons with pipe cleaners, not such a hit. The kids were not really getting the neuron thing. On the upside they seem to like their pipe cleaner sculpture. I was sad we couldn’t have a special class to review all we’ve learned this season but the kids did like the workshop. Meanwhile English classes will continue with Yvonne and Ale. The kids will have to walk to get there. I hope they do.

Yesterday Burt and I went on the proverbial wild goose chase, or maybe it was a snipe hunt. A while back a ranch friend told me she had seen a new bird up at the cemetery of her remote village. She said it was a big blue bird with a crown. I took her report seriously. She is an older woman and has lived in the mountains her entire life. She lives off the land every day. I presume she knows her birds. I showed her some photos from iBird and she picked out a Stellar’s Jay. She was certain the Stellar’s Jay was now living near them. The Stellar’s Jay has never been reported in the Baja so this was exciting news. If we hadn’t been visiting with my dad, Sara Gay, Jen, and Robin, we might have gone out right then to see if we could find the bird. Instead we drove home. As we passed the cemetery I wondered if the story was true.

This week Burt and I tried to figure out what to do with our last free days. I mentioned the report of the big blue bird with a crown. Chances are it was a false report. Even if it was an accurate report birds are hard to find. See the groove-billed ani story of a while back. We decided to give it a go. There’s also reports of a golden eagle flying around the mountains. Maybe we’d see that. So instead of lounging around home and maybe paying some tunes or going for a swim we all piled into the Exploder for a head banging, hip and back aching two hour ride up into the mountains. Short story: no Stellar’s Jay or golden eagle. We did see a lot of nice birds. Several that weren’t on our Global Big Day list. The red-trailed hawks were everywhere. There were some Cassin’s vireos and scrub-jays mercilessly attacking a red-tailed hawk in a tree. The heavy onslaught had rumpled feathers and possibly injured the bird. There was another RTH eating a lizard that must have been twice its length. The tail alone was as long as the bird. Lizards are shoved in head first and eaten whole. The bird kind of gags it all down inch by inch. I couldn’t help wonder what it felt like to go head first into the gullet to meet up with the gizzard full of grinding rocks while still alive, acid burning your tough lizard skin as nose meets the grinder. Bad day.

A good day birding but no new discoveries. Yet. And the lesson was, we should get up high for the census to get some birds nobody else saw.

Sunsetting. Time for owls?
Sunsetting. Time for owls?
This year's sunflower. Creepy smile.
This year’s sunflower. Creepy smile.
Last class with us.
Last class with us.
remote controlled muscles.
remote controlled muscles.
Cemetery gate. Looking for the scrub jay.
Cemetery gate. Looking for the scrub jay.
Blue flowers
Blue flowers
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Puerto Viejo visit

The view east from the Pacific to the Sierra de la Laguna.
The view east from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra de la Laguna.

Here are a couple of pictures from our hike to Puerto Viejo or Old Port. When this area produced commercial amounts of sugar cane the shipments left via rowboat at this port. Large shipping vessels anchored off shore. There are bits of old infrastructure to admire such as the stone quay and dry set rock fences and roads and even the remnants of a turtle cannery but I am always blinded by the dramatic landscape. Here the last vestiges of the mountains crash into the sea. Sea lions blubber about on the rocks below while verdin, black throated sparrow, and a cactus wren sing courtship songs. Sometimes the wind carries the sea lion’s grunts and groan all the way up to our perch. The cardon cactii stand watch like lighthouses on cliff edges.  The palo verde, nipped by the harsh salt wind, grows close to the ground with octopus like tentacles.

Traditionally visitors approached this area from the north but a recent hotel development has caused confusion (putting it mildly) and animosity about access. Guards and scary looking dogs patrol the area now and a massive amount of vital mangrove habitat was destroyed, threatening the endangered Belding’s Yellowthroat. Best to steer clear even if the road is open. We decided to see what the walk was like from the south and found it to be easy and rather more pleasant because we could avoid all views of the unsightly hotel and its environmental destruction. Yes, our heads are firmly in the sand. From where we parked and walked there was very little evidence of the massive development all around. The area remains a very wild pocket, one of the last, between Todos Santos and Cabo San Lucas. Scat all around and game trails onto sheer cliff faces indicated coyotes and/or bobcats make regular excursions into the deep canyons.  I hope the area stays protected.

Recently I took my rings in to a guy to be resized. Abel works in an 8′ by 8′ space behind a rack of shoes in Todos Santos. I showed him my rings and asked if he could resize them. He wondered why since they appeared to fit fine and I explained that when I exercise my fingers swell and recently they were swelling so much the rings hurt my hands. I was worried he wouldn’t be able to resize them because one is white gold and the other is palladium but it was easy. Right then and there he put them on a thingy and beat them with a hammer. Beat, check, beat, check. Twenty minutes later they were cleaned polished and just a little but bigger. Thank you, Abel.

Burt and Elvis admire the view.
Burt and Elvis admire the view.

The cliffs above Puerto Viejo. The headlands are bwtween las Palmas, San Pedrito, and Cerritos beaches.

Abel the jeweler of Todos Santos.
Abel the jeweler of Todos Santos.
Abel resized my rings.
Abel resized my rings.
Anahomy and her landscape of the rocky end of the Baja Peninsula.
Anahomy and her landscape of the rocky end of the Baja Peninsula.
A change in local politics has us locked out of our classroom. Somebody didn't get the memo.
A change in local politics has us locked out of our classroom. Somebody didn’t get the memo.
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Hula Hooping Around

IMG_7379
Spadefoot backing into a hole as he digs.

Like everyone when it comes to exercise, doing chores, flossing, I sometimes wonder how time gets away from me. I keep meaning to write about something, anything, nothing, but find time is flying by faster than I can keep up. In less than two week we are leaving Mexico. I can’t even think about it. It hurts my head and heart. I don’t want to leave. Last everythings are rolling by. Last art class, last Spanish lesson, last fiddle lesson, last tennis game, last taco. This is a fact of life on the road. We are always saying good bye to people and places we love. On the flip side it is hello to new ideas and experiences and more friends.

This week we hosted our last art class. Burt brilliantly came up with the idea to make hula hoops, or, as they are called here, hula hulas. When we told the kids about the idea a week ago they were not enthused. “Vamos a hacer hula hulas!” I was met with blank stares and half smiles and silence. I figured it was their usual fear of the unknown or, maybe, they didn’t know how to hula hula. The only way to fix that lack of hula skills is to get a hula hula and practice. So Burt and I ignored the tepid reception and plowed ahead. You cannot let the ill-informed or inexperienced stop a great idea.

It’s been very cool here this year. The whole winter has gone by and we still have not had a day break 90 degrees. Friday was more of the same. Sunny weather. Cool shade. Warm sun. Burt and I prepped and waited. And waited. Nobody showed up on time. Maybe making hula hulas was a really bad idea. A few minutes after 3:00 some kids wandered in. Burt explained how to make a hula hula with irrigation tubing and a coupling. Irrigation tubing is widely available in our agricultural town. It’s cheap and easy to find. The kids used the saw with Burt’s help to hand cut the pieces. If you’re thinking of making your own you want a hula hoop that has a diameter of somewhere between your belly button and shoulder. Bigger and heavier is easier. Circumference equals 2 x pi x radius OR pi x diameter. Measure your diameter (the distance between belly button and shoulder) and multiply by 3.14. That’s how long the pipe needs to be for a nice hula hula. The hula hulas were connected by Burt. It takes some strength to force the pie over the coupling. The kids took the circles for a test drive to make sure they worked. Hula hulas made. Now their eyes started to twinkle. Next I showed them how to decorate using pretty electrical tape and sticker.

More kids showed up. Tape was wrapped. Hand eye coordination and color theory developed. Hidden hula hula skills were revealed. Fun was had. Then all of a sudden one kid says, “Do we get to keep these?” and I was aghast. What did they think this was? Slave labor for my personal hula hula sweat shop? That my mini-minions were making toys they couldn’t keep. Was this why they were ambivalent to the idea? Of course you get to keep your hula hula. It’s YOURS!!! I reassured them that they were building their own toys. Suddenly there was much more excitement and a rush of ideas on what could be done the next time we make hula hulas. I felt pretty silly for not explaining to the kids that the hula hulas would be theirs to keep. I also saw a yawning gulf between the culture of entitlement I come from and how a lack of opportunity can keep a person from even imaging something might be given to them. Mind blown.

Any ideas for next year? I want more things we can make and share. Come on people. What did you make as a kid?

Spadefoot. Somebody woke this guy up.
Spadefoot. Somebody woke this guy up. You can see the pink spade right by his wee toe.

 

The figure 8 move.
The figure 8 move.
Guillermo rocking two hoops.
Guillermo rocking two hoops.
Germany is still working on her skills but she made tremendous progress during the hour.
Germany is still working on her skills but she made tremendous progress during the hour.
Guillermo has a dynamic and economic motion. He can make the hoop move.
Guillermo has a dynamic and economic motion. I think he should join the circus.
Decorate your own hula hoop.
Decorate your own hula hoop.
IMG_7350
Team El Rincon with homemade hula hulas.
Irrigation piping for hula hoops.
Irrigation piping for hula hoops.
This year's mega-flower. Fourteen inches and nine feet high.
This year’s mega-flower. Fourteen inches and nine feet high.
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I need an idea

So the interwebz all hinky again. I can’t play a game of online Bridge and I can’t upload a photo. Phooey. I’d have been out here sooner if I had anything interesting to report. Mostly it’s the same old, same old life in Baja California Sur. The foggy and cool spring air is holding. We have yet to break 90 since our arrival in January. Our noses are starting to turn northward. In three weeks we’ll shut up the rumpus room and hitch the gNash. We have to get to a kennel in Jackson, California by June 3. That’s when Elvis and Olive go to boring boarding camp and we head to Europe. Europe should be good for the blog ideas but I won’t be bring my laptop so there will be a three week hiatus in posts. Sorry. It’s just too much. Maybe I can figure something out on Burt’s iPad. No promises.

Recently I’ve been forced to consider the nature of truth and fact as it relates to my life. We all have politically and personally. I’m not a fan of fantasy but like all humans I occasionally find myself up the river denial and believing a false narrative. I was sharing a story yesterday (a ripe, juicy bit of lore) where I realized I no longer knew which details were fact or fiction. Was the guy naked? Did he break his penis? Did it matter? Ahhh…You haven’t heard that story. Maybe, if you remind me, I’ll write it up and leave it to tide you over while I am in Europe. As I was considering this story and how I wish to tell it news came to me that the Eagles (yes, those Eagles) are suing a boutique hotel here called The Hotel California. A myth has grown up around our hotel that it was the inspiration for the 70’s era Eagle’s song Hotel California. It’s not. A quick Google search links to many, many interviews and direct quotes from the song writer about the meaning of the Hotel California. It is not a place. It is symbolism. It is art. It is social commentary. It is not a hotel in Baja California Sur. I knew this in high school. But people really want to believe the place exists in the real world so they perpetuate the falsehood. This belief benefits the hotel. Is that their fault? Have they fostered the fake news? I don’t know. Many people have an opinion regarding this lawsuit. The news has been out less than a day and hundreds are weighing in. What I find most interesting is most people are weighing in without reading past the headline. They don’t even know why the Eagles have decided to sue. They haven’t read the press release nor the court filing but they have an opinion. They aren’t lawyers but they have an opinion. They are not the Eagles, or the Hotel California owners but they have an opinion. Here’s the LINK. Decide for yourselves

I read the press release. I think it’s an interesting claim that might have merit. I also think it’s up to the courts to decide. Maybe it is frivolous. Maybe it’s not frivolous and the Eagles are being ripped off. I don’t know the law. I really, really don’t know how the law applies in Mexico. I do find the entire situation entertaining.  That’s unusual for me. I usually hate this kind of melee. Here’s a fact. The traffic in front of the hotel is awful. People by the scores line up for their photo while locals try to run errands and go about life. Selfie sticks block the sidewalks. You can’t even walk by without ruining somebody’s perfect shot. While I don’t have an opinion on the lawsuit I do wish people would stop walking into traffic for their photo ops.

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Time Alone

Our newest student
Our newest student

I am wrapping up 48 hours of alone time. After Dad’s visits and a concert and a massive trip to the beach and Jen and Robin it was time. Burt and Jen and Robin went surfing and camping for two days. I was invited but I decided to stay home and do as little as possible. I welcomed the girls back to their music and English classes on Tuesday. I went to my Spanish lesson. I watched TV and I slept. I hardly even ate. Bread and butter. Some cheese.

The big event of my alone time was taking the Olvis to the beach and birding for a few hours alone. Spring migration has emptied our wild spots. While I saw a lot of individual birds, I counted only 13 species. For the same spot the numbers are down from nearly forty in February and more than twenty two weeks ago. Just like the ex-pats that winter here the birds have headed north to more temperate weather. I hear from friends on facebook that they are seeing my orioles, orange-crowned warblers and common yellowthroats at their feeders this week. It makes me happy sad. Soon we will be headed north, too, and maybe we’ll see some of our feathered friends.

Today Burt and Jen and Robin will return from tehir adventure just in time to help me take all our kids to a live performance in Todos Santos. Instead of class we are going to see a play about the ocean performed by kids just like them. My friend Rocío Maceda wrote and produced the play. She has come to many of our Gypsy Carpenter’s shows so I am delighted to bring a huge audience to her event.  Speaking of the Gypsy Carpenters, here are some pics from our house concert. If you look carefully you can see my dad in the audience. House concerts are a great way to share live music. Thanks, Lorna and Donna for having us.

The doo wop gals.
The doo wop gals.
Half the room
Half the room
This baby kept the business end my way.
This baby kept the business end my way. He lives at the beach where I regularly bird.
Getting ready for the show.
Getting ready for the show.
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To the Mountains

Ramona explains how she makes the pottery.
Ramona explains how she makes the pottery. She uses a small stone to make a smooth finish.

Yesterday was warm and sunny and the whole fam-dam-ily took a road trip up to the remote ranchos in the mountains to look for pottery. Dad and friend in one car and Burt, Jen, and Robin in another. I bounced back and forth. I’m not sure dad enjoyed himself. He seemed a little subdued. It might have been an upset stomach or just the really rough roads through very remote desert.

Our first stop was to see Ramona. At 70 Ramona doesn’t produce much these days but her pieces are more whimsical than other local artists. There are pigs, cows, turtles, chickens and other local species transformed into jars and bowls and serving vessels. She explained to us that she was hoping for a new oven because her current one was too big for her to fill these days. She wanted to be able to fire smaller loads. Ramona uses pitaya cactus wood as her main fuel. It doesn’t take much time to form a simple cup but the finishing takes a lot of rubbing with a smooth stone over many days. She does a little bit every day until the piece is smooth and dried just right for firing. If she does too much work one day the piece will dry too quickly and crack. Ramona learned how to do this from her great-grandmother.

Next we went to the locally famous guy’s house but he wasn’t home. Marcos makes bigger and more finely crafted casseroles and bowls. You can drop a substantial amount of pesos at his house. I figured it was our lucky day to not be tempted. Our last visit was to our friends at the end of the road. We don’t even know their names but they call us friend and we’ve been many times. The main man in the photo below has never smiled for us. Until now. The ladies were all unpacking a bunch of cups and bowls for us to look over and I wondered why the man of the house wasn’t showing us his wares. This guy embodies strong, silent type. I knew he wove lariats and riatas and horse accoutrements.  Last year I bought a key chain from him. The hand of the car I call it. So this year I gathered my gumption and asked him, “And where is your work?” I got a flicker of a smile for remembering. He quickly tried to conceal it and he headed off to get his stuff for me. This year I bought a bull’s head made of pig teeth. He makes this stuff to sell down in Cabo San Lucas.

The women asked how our walk (recall the death march to Titi Mountain?) went earlier in the spring. I told them how far we made it and that we were looking for birds. I always say we are scientists studying birds because it’s easier to understand. This brought a piece or unsolicited news. The older woman and the youngest kids had seen a new bird in the area. A blue bird with a crest. I showed a picture of the very common California Scrub Jay and they said, “Noooo, not that one. That one doesn’t have a crest.” I searched for jays on my phone app and found a mainland bird, the Stellar’s Jay, dark blue with a prominent crest.  I showed them this picture and they said, “Yes, that one has been here for a couple of years. It’s new here.” Hmmmmm. We could be real scientists after all on the brink of a new discovery.  I have no doubt they know what they see. These people are living straight off the land. They pay attention. Burt and I hope to head back up in a few weeks and see for ourselves.

This is a tied piece of work made to look like a bull's head. The 'horns' are teeth from a hog. I don't remember his name. He never smiles. Except once.
This is a tied piece of work made to look like a bull’s head. The ‘horns’ are teeth from a hog. I don’t remember his name. He never smiles but he let me take this photo.
Gallinas.
Gallinas.
We found a rosy boa on the road.
We found a rosy boa on the road.
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Fun in the Sun

The gang's all here
The gang’s all here

So much happening here. Dad is over in Todos Santos staying with his new friend. Jen and Robin are here in the rumpus room. We have a show to practice for. We’ve been to the beach. We went to the mountains. More later. Photos by Evely Cota and Sara Gay Dammon.

Germani and me check out the horses.
Germani and I check out the horses.
Lucero, Janexi, Frixia, Paola
Lucero, Janexi, Frixia, Paola
Dad and Sara Gay
Dad and Sara Gay
Frixia is a ham
Frixia is a ham
Maria Jose
Maria Jose
My vogue-ing teens.
My vogue-ing teens.
Run run run
Run run run
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Putting on the Bunny

Easter crowd
Easter crowd. Jesus is behind the sheet but pretend we don’t know.

With a little trepidation and much curiosity Burt and I joined Bridge friends to attend the Todos Santos Catholic Easter Service. Our buddies told us it was a very moving community event full of dancing, singing, and fireworks so we decided to give it a go. I’d heard of sunrise services but here we have sunset. Jesus is resurrected early in Mexico. All the better for the fireworks. It’s been a very long time since I attended Easter mass. I remember it all very solemn and sad. Jesus died…he suffered…Mary wept…Cut to Mexico.

The community gathered in the plaza outside the church. The church is too small for everyone and, well, you know, fireworks.  We waited under the palm trees as the sun sank into the Pacific and the sky darkened. First up was the mini-bon fire right behind our seats. A large candle was lit and the folks nearest to the candle lit their individual candles and shared the flame person to person through the crowd of over 1000 people. I teared up. Nothing beats good ritual. Next a group of young people were confirmed into their faith right next to us. The padre was a man I met in yoga. The yoga friendly priest was in charge of the whole event. He made the sign of the cross on the teenager’s foreheads. Then their parents and god parents traced over the cross with their own fingers. I don’t remember this from when I was confirmed. My confirmation name was Vanessa. The flame was carried to the front of the plaza. The procession followed. I recalled my star turn as an altar girl when I took a wrong turn carrying the crucifix and headed down a side aisle on Easter Sunday. Embarrassing. Our kid last night got it right. That wrong turn might have signaled my destiny as one who could not do what is expected.

The service proceeded in Spanish. The first reading was Genesis. Here again I was surprised. Is this faulty memory? I always remembered it as the last supper, Judas, Mary Magdalene. Heavy stuff. The origin story in Spanish was a delight to hear. God liked what he saw and he rested…From there on the readings were all about the natural world and how it sustains us. This was some seriously subversive stuff compared to my memory. The resurrection as metaphor for humanity and our survival on this planet. This yoga doing priest had my attention. For a little while. The I started burning myself with dripping wax. Right when I despaired for my clothes and skin the priest told us we could snuff our candles. There were so many readings. I grew alarmed. When was the homily, when was the communion? Oremos (let us pray) indicated it was time to stand. We sat and stood, sat and stood. This I remembered. After about seven different reading with songs and prayers interspersed the action picked up. Attendants started handing out balloons from large garbage bags and the crowd grew restive. Some people had noodles and others globos. We twittered and waved. The father admonished us to settle down. Hold your balloons still, it’s not time to party. Yet. Another song. We hummed along. The group playing music reminded me of my mother’s stint in a 7 guitar Jesus band in the seventies. Aleluya! That’s how you spell it in Spanish. Another reading. Balloons held quietly.

I have to confess (it’s that time) I missed the big reveal. I was looking at my balloon when the crowd cheered. I looked up and the sheet shrouded Jesus was in full view and lit up and the sign next to him burned bright with a fiery Aleluya! Wave your balloons and sing, sing, sing. Fireworks blasted. People cheered. We danced in our spots. This went on for fifteen minutes. The mass was not over but remembering the early exit from childhood Burt and I headed home.

What a fiesta.

The flame
The flame
The flame was passed candle to candle.
The flame was passed candle to candle.
Fireworks
Fireworks
More balloons. Now we see the balloon inspiration for that Gypsy Carpernter event a couple weeks ago.
More balloons. Now we see the balloon inspiration for that Gypsy Carpenter event a couple weeks ago. The brightly lit thing that resembles a flame in the center of this photo is the Jesus statue.
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Going Pro

Size matters
Size matters

I boldly secured my first professional bird guiding job and immediately came to have second thoughts. Firstly, do I know what I am doing? General anxiety about competence plagues many people. Me? Not so much. I’m usually thinking we’ll figure it out somehow. YouTube videos and the internet can help with almost any scenario. Identifying birds in the field with clients watching is high pressure. This was worse than joining a band and standing on stage for two hours and not knowing a single song. My next major concern was the condition of our vehicle. The Exploder has a skin condition, electric windows that require manual assists and a second helper, passenger doors that don’t open from the inside, and the dirt was two years thick. Last week my dad surmised that dirt might be the only thing holding it together. Thirdly was the mystery of the persons behind the email. Would they be world class amateurs looking to expand their list? Would they be aggressive, fit, sparrow-chasing maniacs? Would they ask what every call meant? Did they want a deep biological interpretation of bird behavior? Were they uptight, unfit, vegans? Blind, deaf, and argumentative? Boring? Turning a hobby into a paying gig…People dream of this but I know it is fraught with problems. Number one is the clients.

I prepared by looking up some troubling species and considering the most interesting birds to see. Swifts, swallows, warblers, flycatchers are all difficult. The verdin, woodpeckers, and yellowthroats are flashy and fun. Many raptors have migrated so that makes it easier. Then there’s shore birds. My client expressed an interest in this area and I truthfully told him we don’t have many in our immediate area. I left out the I suck at them bit. I also went out and birded my local patches to see who was still here and where they were. The pre-trip excursions got my brain and eyes warmed up. They are also fun. I also gave myself pep talks. I imagined Peg and Rose Ann telling me I could do it. I chose not to actually call them because I didn’t want them to have to lie. I figured I could just pretend to have their unmitigated support. It worked.

Then I had my man get the car washed. He was soooooo nice about this. I popped it on him with little warning and he got it done without complaint. Maybe not asking for a clean car once in all my years of marriage netted this result. Mostly I think it was because Burt is usually a wonderful man and likes to see me succeed.

Burt was a bit surprised at my chuzpah. For years he’s been facetiously claiming to be a professional birder and here I was turning into one right before his eyes. At first I had no intention of asking him along but the day arrived and he was free and I knew it would be more fun for everyone with Burt on the team so I hired him. I was right.

At 7:30 yesterday we picked up our Canadian clients and headed out. Right away we knew we’d hit the jackpot with John and Aleitha. They came to Todos Santos from Yellow Knife, in the Northwest Territories. That’s some 30 hours of driving north of Montana. People from those extreme parts of the world are not phased by a shabby car with amenity problems. These particular people were funny and light hearted and very good natured. Our day began with a positive sign. On the highway to bird spot number one we saw a Cara-Cara. Life bird in prominent display. And a huge, charismatic carrion eater to boot. You can’t ask for a better start. Burt pulled a quick u-turn and assisted with the mega lens and I knew it was going to be okay.

We did the bird loop at Las Palmas and hit downtown Pescadero. We ate lunch. Split for a siesta. Laughed a lot. The clients asked us how many trips we did a week. Burt was evasive. I presumed they meant personal trips so I said 2 or 3. Later I realized I might of accidentally lied. Or was it on purpose? The brain and my intentions are mysterious. We regrouped at 5. Birded the dam. Uh oh. Shorebirds. Swallows. A freaking vireo. Things got sorted out with the help of iBirdPro. Darkness came. We called in a handful of elf owls. They even flew near us. If we’d had a flashlight we might have seen them. We always have a solar powered flashlight in our car but guess what? Cleaning the car has its downsides. The flashlight was still on the kitchen table. We forgot to return it to the car.

At our 9:30 PM pizza dinner in a mood of post-birding delight I confessed (after being handed a baggy of bills) to our new friends that they were my first paying clients. John and Aleitha were surprised and delighted. Aleitha even said she was honored. Can you get any luckier than this?

I learned a couple of things. A laser pointer would be nice to have. A flashlight, duh. Some snacks are good. And I do know enough about the birds here to lead a productive and pleasant tour. I am no bird expert but I know my patch. And we made two new friends. And life is always better with Burt.

Don't do this.
Don’t do this.
Bald headed baby doll bird. Best sight of the day.
Bald headed baby doll bird. Best sight of the day.
Bi-pod Burt
Bi-pod Burt
Size can be a problem.
Size can be a problem.
La Presa Santa Ines
La Presa Santa Ines
Elf owling looks like this when you forget the flashlight.
Elf owling looks like this when you forget the flashlight.
Where's the flashlight?
Where’s the flashlight?
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