Quarantine is hard, especially when you don't feel particularly sick. My Covid experience was mild and I didn't even notice being sick till a day or two after getting tested when I started sneezing and blowing my nose nonstop. Jacob had all the fun stuff like a loss of taste and smell, extreme fatigue, headaches, body aches. Basically the whole Covid goodie grab bag.
Thankfully I managed to stay entertained during my quarantine and I thought I'd share my survival kit.
It's a quick read of Julia's beginning birding days in Toronto in her mid-30's, some of which was vey relatable to me. Some was just cringeworthy, like what she called a giant hummingbird. Here are a couple passages I thought most birders could relate to.
On getting her lifer Pileated Woodpecker: "But I held back tears because I felt loss almost as clearly as happiness. There's only ever one first sighting, and now I'd never be able to long for a pileated woodpecker sighting in the same way. I wanted to commit every second of the experience to memory, but I couldn't: the bird had appeared when we least expected it- and disappeared as soon as Monika had snapped a series of photos. In a sense it was pure luck, but in another we made it happen by doing what we had to do as birders: we showed up, we paid attention to the world around us, we scanned, we listened, we hoped, we imagined, we waited. For every ten target birds that elude you, there's one that makes a surprise appearance and that moment is celestial."
On birding sewage ponds: "There is nothing appetizing about sewage lagoons, but birds are besotted with the microorganisms in the sewage, as well as the insects that hang out amidst our waste. Nobody would choose to go there- unless they're a birder- and most people don't even know they exist unless they work in plumbing or urban planning or happen to live along a country road next to a plant and occasionally get a whiff of something foul. We birders stand in the midst of it and marvel at the strangeness of it all- at the fact that somehow this has become our life, that we derive pleasure from it in earnest, and that we're penetrating a secret pocket that nobody else has access to."
I was shocked to get to a part where she travels to Maine from Toronto to volunteer for Project Puffin only to meet my friend Frank who was on the trip to Mexico I did in 2016. The birder world is small sometimes.
The next book I chose was Jonathan C. Slaught's Owls of the Eastern Ice.
While I enjoyed the previous book I freaking loved this book. The author, from Minnesota, sets out to study Blakiston's Fish-Owls in eastern Russia and determine conservation plans for the area as logging increases. With the help of local scientists and others he is able to locate many nests and even capture owls to fit with GPS trackers. The book is well-written and filled with fascinating stories about this part of the world that is beyond foreign to me. There was never a part I skimmed because it was less interesting. I cannot recommend it enough. I was able to get an e-book through my local library and I pre-ordered a hard copy for my brother.
2. Backyard birds. Our Vancouver feeders are pretty tame in general and it wasn't great birding but I did at least one eBird checklist a day (gotta keep my streak going, Covid be damned). One morning a black-backed Lesser Goldfinch showed up which is pretty cool.
Birds of the World says this about them: "East of the Rockies and southward into Texas, adult males become progressively blacker-backed. The auriculars are also black on the darkest examples. This is the subspecies S. p. psaltria." eBird does not let you specify this subspecies but Nick Mrvelj let me know that iNaturalist does so I submitted it there.
3. Puzzles. Surely most birders have received a bird-themed puzzle as a gift at some point? We had this one laying around and I made some good progress on it.
4. TV of course. Jacob and I blew through the Queen's Gambit on Netflix which was excellent and I totally caught up on the Bachelorette.
That was about it aside from throwing toys for the dogs to chase. My first day free from quarantine I took the dogs for a long walk, hit up one of my local birding patches, then because that tired me out, I did a drive through Ridgefield NWR.
The ominous sky to the east with sun breaking through clouds in the west made for some dramatic scenes. That ended though and turned to just regular old rain. Before I left I managed to find a banded goose, my first of the season despite trying hard to find one.
I submitted the band to the Bird Banding Lab and received this:
Nine years old at least! One of the oldest ones I've found.
The next day I headed out to Lincoln City where Jacob already was because his quarantine ended earlier than mine. There had been a lot of coastal reports of Red Phalaropes so I first went out to the sewage ponds in search of some. Success! There were two hanging out.
Then I stopped at the nearby Siletz Bay Park (famous for being the site of the Common Scoter four years ago) and watched a Bald Eagle successfully catch a duck that was hiding under the water.
I scoped the tip of Salishan Spit where harbor seals lounge about but also gulls. A Black-legged Kittiwake was a pleasant surprise, maybe the third 5MR one I've had this year.
I returned to the Salmon River Estuary and my little goldeneye posse was still hanging out offering nice comparisons of Barrow's and Common:
I watched a kingfisher swoop down to the rocks here and fly off with a crab in its bill. I had no idea they ate crabs.
For Christmas Jacob surprised me with a new scope!
I was excited to test it out despite the steady rain all day yesterday. We went out to the Salmon River Estuary and it became obvious it was far superior to the scope I had been using for the last 8 or 9 years. FAR superior. It was pretty cold and wet and I look forward to further testing in better conditions. Yesterday's highlight was a herd of elk close to the road.
Most of the herd had moved from the field above to another field to the right, but these ones allowed some nice looks.
In case you don't believe it was raining, here's a Red-shouldered Hawk to convince you.
Lastly, back at the beginning of December I wanted to support a bunch of the artists/makers I follow on Instagram. At the same time, I didn't want a bunch of stuff. So I planned to do a blog giveaway to thank those of you that read my blog. Then Covid happened and the stuff sat in a box until now.
Here's the deal. If you're interested in winning a little pile of fun stuff then leave a comment or send me an email (email@example.com) with your name and email address (plus any particular items you are interested in) and I will use one of the many internet-based pickers to choose three winners. Then I will mail you a small pile of stuff. Here is what I have:
Items you could win:
1. Hummingbird notecards and Birding is for Everyone sticker from Liz Clayton Fuller
2. Elf Owl and bat pins, Tufted Puffin sticker, You're Too Coot notecard from Laurel Mundy aka Tinyhousebigwoods
3. Snow bird notecards and oystercatcher sticker from Sleeping Owl Studio
4. Various owls and snow notecards from 100owls
5. Various wood-burned ornaments, a large wood-burned sunset, and various stickers (penguin, snow globe, Christmas lights, flower, heart, hot cocoa) from Sunni at tworabbitsart
6. One bag of whole bean Scarlet Tanager dark roast from Birds and Beans bird friendly coffee.
6. And yes those are two free McMenamins coasters in the middle that came with Jacob's takeout once. Both have a snail on one side and an owl on the other.
If you enter I encourage you to specify anything you might want from this pile! I will pick the winners on New Years Eve around 4:00 p.m. Pacific time. If no one enters then I will be sad you don't want me to be sad, right? Ok.
Hope you all are staying dry and healthy and finishing this wild year strong. Thanks for all your support this year!!