Thursday, February 22, 2007

Father and Grandfather

One of these days I will do my own father and grandfathers post but in the mean time two of my favorite blogs have independently posted on this subject today. Steve Bodio talks about his father, artist and B-17 crew member here and Clare Kines blogs about his grandfather at Vimy Ridge in WW1 here. Clare, I hope you do make it back to that little spot of Canadian soil in France.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

More photos

I am putting up random photos from my trip. One of these days I promise I will fill in the holes in my narrative with more stories. But for right now two small boys, a wife, and a job I haven't been to in a month are consuming most of my time. Hopefully the photos will do for now. I also have been finding a few other blogs through the ones I regularly check and I have added them to my blogroll.

Fire-eyed Diucon - my first truly South American bird I ever found. One cold winter day in Punta Arenas in 1994. This one was photographed under much more benign circumstances.

Bar-winged Cinclodes

Chilean Swallow

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Home Again

I finally made it home yesterday after just under a month on the road (or on the sea, or in the air). I figure I slept in about 13 different places during that month ranging from an airplane seat to the back of a minivan in the Everglades and one airport floor. It's nice to be home!

Here are a couple of more photos from Chile. I would love to go back for a month (or more) and just sketch and take photos.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Photo Day

This photo is a Speckled Teal taken in Torres Del Paine in January 2007.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Ecosystem Shock II

Day 2 of my Everglades Trip. I planned on waking up early but despite my first fears of not being able to sleep on the floor of the minivan I wound up sleeping fine. By the time I woke up the sun was just peeking over the horizon and the interior of the van was getting decidedly funky smelling with the steamy environment bringing out the best of my still slightly guano covered field gear and my pile of dirty clothes from the last few days. I was glad that it was cool enough for me to travel with the windows open for a while. I stopped at Mrazek Pond again and the birds were lit wonderfully from behind (see my photo from the previous post). I wandered my way out of the park stopping at a few places on the way out including Mahogany Hammock where I was fortunate enough to pick up my only White-crowned Pigeon of the trip (and a new bird for me). One other bird that I wanted to try to see was the Snail Kite so I headed north to the Tamiami Trail and headed west across the northern border of the park. I wound up going back and forth along this highway a few times as I debated where to go. Finally, I spotted what appeared to be a kite just above some trees bordering the highway. I found a place to pull over fairly quickly and soon had a female Snail Kite wander into view for a quick look before it wheeled out of sight in the strong wind. I decided to stay at that spot for a while to see if the bird would return and it never did in the time I was there. I headed further west to the Big Cypress visitors center then returned back to Miami. I had decided that I needed to get the rental back during daylight hours so that I wouldn't be stressed about finding the rental return place in the early morning darkness. I wound up spending the night on the floor in the airport and completed my journey back to the somewhat frozen plains of Montana on Saturday. At least I only had to come back to Billings where the temperature was somewhat moderate. If I had returned home immediately I would have returned to temps much colder than I had experienced at any point in my trip to Antarctica.

A few avian impressions of south Florida. There must be a lot of dead things in south Florida. I saw more vultures there than I have anywhere else I have been. They were everywhere. One of the more impressive sights was the Black and Turkey Vultures coming off the roost at Royal Palm early in the morning. It looked like a dust devil had picked up a large load of graceful black plastic garbage bags and flung them in the air. I would recommend getting there early in the morning just to see this. I was also able to get some of the best looks I have ever had of a Black Vulture when one joined the Laughing Gulls waiting for food to be dropped from the picnic tables at the Marina in Flamingo. There were also an impressive number of Yellow-rumped Warblers. They seemed to be everywhere too. It made looking for other warblers and such a bit of a challenge as I had to try to overcome the urge to just call the bird I saw moving in the bushes another Yellow-rumped (it turned out they were mostly always Yellow-rumped Warblers anyway. If it wasn't a Yellow-rumped it was a Palm Warbler). The number and variety of herons was fun to see. A welcome change from what I knew was waiting for me at home and I was able to get very good looks at birds I seldom if ever see in Montana.

This was probably the best trip I have taken to Antarctica. I was able to visit places I hadn't been before, introduce someone (Thomas Mueller) to the Antarctic and participate in the experience being brand new again, enjoy one very smooth and another pretty good crossing of the Drake Passage (very important for someone prone to the Mal de Mer), and enjoy the longest stretch of temperate, sunny weather in both Torres Del Paine and the Antarctic Peninsula I have had yet.

As I noted earlier, I plan to fill in some of the blanks of my travels with text and photos over the next couple of week and also work on some synthesis of thoughts concerning Antarctic tourism, Antarctic wildlife, and other random thoughts generated by my travels.

Ecosystem shock I

I am back in Montana and it has been an interesting trip home. I left Ushuaia in the early afternoon after my fruitless search for the White-throated Caracara and the dump. Next time! Now that I know that it is such a popular destination and the cabbies are familiar with the request and know where to go, I will be sure to try again next time I am in town. This whole Ushuaia dump thing has led to some interesting connections through the internet. While doing a Google search a while back for more information on the dump (they had closed the old dump that I knew the location of and I was searching for more specific information on the location for the new dump) I ran across a blog by Clare Kines who had visited the dump a few years ago and had posted a comment about that in his blog. I found that Clare was also interested in birds and birding and had a very interesting blog about his life in the far north so I added his blog to my blog roll. Enough of that side bar and I look forward to visiting more with Clare about our common interests soon.
So... I wound up in Santiago at the airport for a few hours where the air conditioning was not working. So from a nice comfortable temperature in Ushuaia to the stuff hot airport in Santaigo. My overnight flight went well and coming through customs was a breeze this time. I had planned a couple of days in the Everglades this year on my way home so I picked up my rental mini van and hit the road. The weather outside in Miami was much like the weather inside the Santiago airport so maybe it was just good preparation for me. I find the Miami airport very confusing and the car rental operations are certainly in line with the overall confusion of the airport operations. The rental agencies are located in what appears to be an industrial area next to a shipping canal and I was unable to track the route the rental agency bus took to get there from the airport or figure out a way out of there that made sense. I was also worried about getting the car back there in the dark in time for me early flight on Saturday morning (particularly the Saturday before the Super Bowl). After spending a bit of time getting oriented from the car rental place I finally figured out where I was and began heading in the right direction. I made it to the Everglades National Park early in the morning and spent the rest of the day immersed in my first experience in south Florida outside the Miami airport. It was such a contrast to the life and climate I had been working in for the last couple of weeks. I spent time stopping at a number of sites along the road while driving through the park to Flamingo, where I had a camping site reserved. I had a wonderful time by myself, birding where I wanted and getting a good dose of birds that I rarely if ever see. Shortly after coming into the park I drove past a small pond with Anhingas and Wood Storks right along the road. Although I suspected that I would see more further into the park, I just couldn't resist stopping and taking a good look. Particularly since it was the first time I had ever seen a Wood Stork. It turned out I was right about seeing more later on (and then some). My next stop was the Royal Palm area and the Anhinga Trail. I soon had herons off all sorts feeding right near the trail along with more Wood Storks and alligators and turtles and... The abruptness of being immersed in the midst of this avifauna that I seldom see was a bit shocking but also such a treat. I got a bit of a taste of how Thomas Mueller, my fellow Oceanites researcher, felt during his first landing in Antarctica at Lookout Point on Elephant Island. I must had had the same awed grin on my face.
I continued to work my way south and wound up at my campsite with plenty of time to visit a few of the areas near the campground when the light and mid-day heat became less intense in the evening. I was even able to spot a couple of American Crocodiles near the marina.
Next post I will describe the rest of my time in Florida. Here is a photo I took of one of the Wood Storks at Mrazek Pond.