There I was in line beginning to board my flight from Salt Lake City home to Denver. Everything was “nice and easy”. A rather uneventful four day journey to see the Himalayan Snowcock had added #693 to my big year numbers. As I mentioned in my last blog the only reason I saw two on Monday was that a helicopter flew into the mountain cirque surrounding Island Lake at 9:15 AM and after having flown ¾ of the way around the bowl flushed two female snowcocks (#693). Gary Matthews did find one yesterday after hours and hours of scanning by four people, but in a total snafu, it was gone before anyone else could see it through his scope. Hopefully the B.C. boys had better luck today. By the way, I’ve now learned of better ways and places to locate the snowcocks; if anyone is interested they may contact me off line.
Anyways, Gary and I left Elko this morning at 7:00 AM Pacific time for the 220-mile drive east on I-80. It would be an easy drive, then an short flight to Denver followed by an easy drive home before rush hour. Today was Linda’s first day at her new job (still at Fairview High School) so it would be interesting to hear about it. Tomorrow I would fly standby to St. Louis, bag the Eurasian Tree Sparrow and return home to see what develops over the weekend. But as Tina Turner said in their rousing cover of Proud Mary, “We don’t ever do anything ‘nice and easy’”.
The phone actually rang while I was in line to board. Things were about to get very interesting. It was John Pushock calling from Seattle. He had just got off the phone with a birder who was watching “to close to focus” the Thick-billed Vireo in Mattheson Key south of Miami. The vireo was still there! Now for the fifth day! That’s all I knew as I boarded the plane. During the flight I remembered what Carl Goodrich had mentioned, often Thick-billed Vireos would hold longer in the fall than in the spring. I knew what I had to do. And I had to do it now-tonight! I turned to Gary who was in the same row, “I need to go to Miami, but I don’t have any clean clothes”. Gary turned back and replied, “What’s more important a Thick-billed Vireo or clean cloths? He was right,of course, besides I’d be with Larry Manfredi tomorrow, not Tina Turner herself. Nice and easy was simply not going to be in the forecast. As we deboarded the plane I explained the situation over the phone to Linda and she got on the bandwagon as well. “Don’t worry about dirty cloths, you can always do a load of laundry at your motel”. I’m sure she didn’t realize that my last load of laundry at the Travelodge in Florida City had been interrupted by a successful Fork-tailed Flycatcher chase.
Of course, now I had to figure out how to make all this happen. Having a wish and executing that into reality isn’t always one and the same. Most likely there would be complications. First off, I called Larry Manfredi. We would try for the Thick-billed Vireo tomorrow and then try for the American Flamingo on Friday. Next how do I get there today? Gary went to baggage claim and grabbed my luggage, while I went to United to check for standby opportunities. No way was I going to get to Miami tonight. Probably not tomorrow either. I checked Southwest for a one way ticket, figuring I’d be able to at least return via standby. They had a flight traveling direct to Ft. Lauderdale, scheduled to depart in 2 ½ hours, but ouch it was expensive. $436… one way! That wasn’t going to work. My name is Vanderpoel, not Vanderbilt. But then the ticket agent said that if I purchased the ticket on line I could get it for $189.00. That was more reasonable. Neither Gary nor I could connect our Apple laptops with the Denver Free Wifi and as you readers know, though I now have an Apple I-Phone, it’s still a mystery to me. So I called Bill Vanderpoel and he booked the flight on line for me. As I write this, we are two hours out of Ft. Lauderdale.
Now I don’t know if I’ll see the Thick-billed Vireo tomorrow.
I don’t know if I’ll see the American Flamingo on Friday.
I don’t know when I’ll get home to Niwot, CO
I don’t know if I’ll beat Lynn Barber.
I don’t know if I’ll beat Bob Ake.
I don’t know if I’ll……..
But I do know one thing. If I don’t, it WONT be because I did the rest of my Big Year “nice and easy”. Stay tuned!