Mad as a Hatter or Crazy Like a Fox?

-       Smoked Premium Alaska Sockeye Salmon

–       Chicken of the Sea tuna in water

–       Candy’s Corn Tortillas

–       Campbell’s Chunky Soups (2 cans)

–       Bush’s Best Vegetarian Baked Beans –Had to buy the beans in honor of Matt from Ohio, America’s top hobo birder-(see Matt’s Oct 19 blog - )

–       Green Giant Southwestern Style Corn

–       Wild bird seed (8 lbs)

The food and supplies are packed. Along with my Neos overshoes, Golite pants, gloves, mittens and all the other cold weather gear I’ve become accustomed to packing on many of my adventures this year.  So why all the gear? Where am I off to? Denver – Seattle –Anchorage – Nome- where I’ll stay tonight. Certainly becoming accustomed to this route – it’s the third time this year. Tomorrow morning I return to Gambell.  This time there won’t be a Wings tour.  No Rich Hoyer or Dona Coates awaiting to cook up savory meals. Neither Paul Lehman nor Jon Dunn will be there to help find rarities. My brother Bill remains in Colorado. No Rock Dove Tour available to help on this one. Even the heavy hitters are now all gone.  It’s just me, once again heading off on a wild and crazy adventure to a cold, desolate remote outpost at the edge of our continent.

I’m sure you’re all wondering “Why is going back there?” Yesterday, when I mentioned this little journey to my brother, Jim, who accompanied me to Gambell this spring, he replied without hesitation, “Only a mad men would visit Gambell three times in one year!”.  Now he could be right…maybe I am certifiably mad, but maybe I’m just crazy –like a fox. Please let me explain.

On Monday I received an e-mail from Paul Lehman that on Sunday afternoon Bill Fry and Larry Peavler saw the Oriental Turtle Dove on Gambell.   I found that interesting since the dove was originally found at least a week before that. But my attention was focused on the upcoming video shoot; I was way to busy to worry about it until Wednesday night. During the World Series, I kept thinking. What if? What if I could combine a chase trip with a trip to Nome for the McKay’s Bunting.  You see McCay’s Bunting was the other trick up my sleeve- one that neither Lynn Barber nor Bob Ake had opted for during their big years. Every fall McCay’s Buntings turn up in Nome and remain for the winter.  It’s just a question of when they arrive. I was skeptical that they would be in Nome this early in October, but I decided to call Peter Bente of Fish and Wildlife. Low and behold, he said that it had snowed a couple of times earlier this week in Nome and the buntings were now in. They’re being seen in the dune grass along the Safety Lagoon road and in Icy View subdivision a mile north of Nome on the Teller Hwy. Suddenly it became clear to me -go now.

But price was still a big obstacle.  A quick Internet search revealed that the best flight available was $1375.00 round trip from Denver to Nome.  I could not possibly afford to pay that much. But I remembered John Puschock informing me that one could buy miles with Alaska Airlines.  Bingo! In no time, I had purchased a round trip ticket from Denver to Nome (only one day in advance) for $525.  I was committed and I would try my luck at Gambell as well, even though there had not been any word from Gambel since Sunday.  The crème de la crème came during dinner with Linda at Chez Thuiy last night.  Hansen called from Gambell –the Turtle Dove was seen at 5:00 PM! He sweetened the conversation by adding that there was some other warbler-type bird in the near bone yard that no one could identify.

Now I don’t’ wish to count my chickens before they hatch, but I’m obviously excited.  Not only is there a realistic chance at two life birds (a wild turtle dove? really), but it puts all kinds of other Asian strays back on the chessboard.  Stay tuned. I have a feeling that things are gonna get very interesting.

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2 Responses to Mad as a Hatter or Crazy Like a Fox?

  1. Wow John! Have a great time and GOOD LUCK!

  2. Nick Block says:

    Go, John, go! It’s so exciting living vicariously through you when you put up posts like this! Good luck!

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