Earlier today I was on the phone with John Puschock of Zugunruhe Birding Tours. We were discussing details of next week’s tour trip to Barrow. However, John is also one of my blog readers and in fact enjoys following Big Year blogs ever since he helped Lynn Barber with her Big Year in 2008. So we chatted briefly about my Big Year. John said something that confirmed suspicions that I ‘ve had for several months now. When I mentioned that I hoped to add several new birds, he answered, “I hope so…these “Big Year” blogs get boring if there aren’t new birds” There you have it. Some of you…maybe a lot of you want to hear about NEW birds I’ve seen RECENTLY. I can wax poetically about the meaning of life, why I’m undertaking this quest; humorous stories about Jon Dunn or Rock Dove Tours or my thoughts on next year’s election. Boring! Admit it. What you really want is fresh meat. All right, this ones for you.
After an hour delay in the departure time and first stopping at St. George, I eventually arrived in St. Paul at around 4:00 PM. I was optimistic (I almost always am if not on a pelagic trip) for two reasons. Doug Gochfeld, the St. Paul Island Bird Guide, had e-mailed me last night to let me know that 1) the number of Bramblings on the island had swelled to three. He had hoped to entice them to stay by spreading the rest of his bird seed at several sheltered spots and 2) that the winds were now blowing out of the west.
Doug and Bruce Mack, a birder from South Carolina met me at the airport. Fifteen minutes later we were rolling in Doug’s SUV and headed towards a lake. A Red-legged Kittiwake was bathing along with seven or eight Black-legged Kittiwakes. It was number 715 for the year. We birded one of the marshes and had six shorebird species including Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. Then it was dinner at the cafeteria. I’ll discuss the food here later; for now suffice it to say I was looking forward to the halibut.
After dinner the three of us drove out to the northeast part of the island and eventually ended up at Hutchinson Hill. Almost immediately Doug spotted the two Bramblings he had located yesterday. We were off to a good start – #716 for the year.
We ended the birding day walking slowly and carefully through the stacked crab pots. It always deserves a careful look. On a treeless island they approximate bushes for rarities to take shelter in – I mean it’s the legendary home for North America’s only Brown Hawk-Owl. Doug had found a Taiga Flycatcher here four days ago. We walked slowly each taking a row. Several Gray-crowned Rosy Finches were roosting on some of the higher stacked Two thirds of the way through the crab pots I spotted a bird pop up 3 feet into a crab pot and then move right. My heart raced a beat. It certainly wasn’t a Rosy Finch! Could it be? As it turned out, it was just a Pacific Wren. But tomorrow that same row of crab pots might serve up some fresh meat for you viewers. Stay tuned.