I had three wonderful days with my American family within its five-day August reunion – this time in Hot Springs Arkansas. Was so great to see Mum and Dad, both sisters, and all five nephews and nieces on that side of the family. Annie’s show-stealing almost-two-year-old boy is spitting image of dad Chris, who couldn’t make it this time. Chris and Annie run a successful business out of Duluth, where they live – I don’t know if they realise what a hot-spot it is for birders. Along with Vicki and Pat (recall Cassia Crossbill mission) and my nephew Ben, I managed to put in a few morning sessions in the Hot Springs area, finding a few nice birds to keep us interested. Nothing against Arkansas, a guy could probably get used to 100F+ temperatures and accompanying high humidity in the fullness of time. But for next year’s gig I’m pushing for an Anchorage-based get-together. Although the place is full of tourists, and prices are sky-high all summer, I can’t think of a more beautiful, nor birdy place to be.
Speaking of Anchorage – I’m ‘here’ right now, having given myself a day to try for a couple of needed birds (Spruce Grouse and White-winged Crossbeak (‘tick!’ and ”tick!’). I also needed to do a fair bit of organising and shopping (mostly for the native family I’ll be staying with,) for my first week of birding at Gambell -way out on remote St Lawrence Island within sight of Russia. As I indicated in an earlier post I find the must-do Autumn Gambell experience a little bit tough (not physically), and am breaking it up into segments this time ’round, with a five-day absence to participate in a mega-pelagic trip off San Diego at the beginning of September before returning to Gambell until a 21 – 24 ‘repo’ cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles, before returning to the islands yet again – this time at St Paul.
Late add to this post: Sunday 25 August. I’m stuck in Nome, Alaska after delays then cancellation of flight to Gambell. Maybe we will get out tomorrow morning. With some time up my sleeve, I did some rough calculations of what it will take for me to break current ABA Big Year record. The way I see it, I should get 24 more species in Hawaii (20 non-seabirds and, conservatively, lets say 5 additional seabirds). There are 9 Code 1 and Code 2 species awaiting me in continental area – I should see them all, though Boreal Owl may not be possible – lets call it 8. So with current count of 778, another 32 ‘reasonably expected’ species = 810. That leaves 27 species required to reach 837 for a new record. These will presumably need to come from three prospective honey pots: my five-day and three-day west coast sea trips; Alaska in the Fall (starting tomorrow); and the US’s ‘second’ winter of 2019 (November-December). That final ‘pot’ of continental blow-ins is advantaged at least slightly by the fairly ordinary results of the year’s ‘first’ winter – leaving room for species that have been reasonably expected in winters past. I’m not overly confident in any of these blue-sky forecasts, but as always, will give it my best shot, while trying to not make too many mistakes.