01/01/2020 An Omen
Dead Junco on our front step
It feels good to be home again, where I am able to get up without assistance from most of our chairs
and where I can use my remote-controlled bidet to clean up on my own after pooping. Neither
Darchelle nor I are looking forward to the coming year though. We'll take it a day at a time but I
doubt I'll be walking without assistance 12 months from now, and I expect to be on the ventilator
during the day as well as at night. My breathing continues to decline; this morning I found it
difficult to stand out on the deck for more than a minute or two without feeling short of breath.
Oddly enough I breathe more easily when walking than when standing still. Darchelle, Susan and I
walked around Green Lake this evening and I made it okay even in flip-flops though I wasn't able to
talk much and they had to wait a bit for me now and then.
Susan found the dead Junco lying on the bottom step in front of the house this morning. I think
maybe it struck the window and was able to flutter as far as the steps before it died. I do not
believe that it is really an omen indicating that I will die before the year is done, or even
that my birding days are over, but it is an interesting coincidence that the new year begins
with a dead bird at our front door. Sometimes it feels to me that I could die just as suddenly.
Complications of respiratory insufficiency, a fall, an abrupt deterioration in my ability to
swallow, a case of pneumonia triggered by an aspiration incident - the risks are present but their
likelihood is difficult to assess, so I continue to assume that I will still be around a year from
02/02/2020 Murrelets and a Dream
First of all, notice that today's date is a palindrome; it reads the same from right to left as it
does from left to right. It is the first date palindrome in about 700 years (since 12/31/1321) if
you use the American MM/DD/YYYY format, or about 830 years (since 29/11/1192) if you use the more
universal DD/MM/YYYY format. BTW, I didn't notice this myself; an article in the news pointed it
out to me.
Varied Thrush at Fort Flagler
After 30 days of rain in January, today was mostly sunny. We took advantage of the weather to go
out birding with Ed and Delia at Fort Flagler State Park over towards Port Townsend. We considered
Skagit Flats but I had read a forecast of river flooding and possible snow showers. Fort Flagler
offers a grassy point with an extensive gravelly beach and good scope views of the channel south and
east of Port Townsend. Three days ago it had both Murrelets. Marbled Murrelets, despite their
rarity, are relatively easy to find around the Sound but Ancient Murrelets are not a bird I manage
to see every year. They are typically well offshore and moving fast low over the water. Today was
no exception but both Ed and I were reasonably confident that at least one of the Murrelets we
spotted in the scope was Ancient, based on the darker overall appearance of the bird on the water
compared to Marbled Murrelets at similar range. Although the breeze was cold the light was good and
we found about 50 species for the day, putting me at 105 for the year.
On another subject, since the beginning of the year a new way for me to die has become available -
the Wuhan coronavirus. It is currently offered primarily to patients in China but experts are
saying that it should soon be more widely accessible here in the US. Just in the past week some
have begun calling it a pandemic. For most people the fatality rate is low, currently estimated at
about 1%, but among men older than 60 with compromised respiration it promises to be quite
effective. Given that the regular flu has killed about 10,000 people so far in the US in the past
year while the Wuhan virus is not killed anyone in the US yet, it may be premature to get concerned,
but while I did get a flu shot last fall there is no vaccine for the coronavirus.
Related to the subject of dying, I had a dream the night before last.
Daniel, Darchelle and I are in a car on a snowy road following a storm. Daniel is driving. When we
suddenly come to a fork in the road I recognize where we are and I want him to bear left up a hill
despite a small snowbank partly obstructing the way but he instead turns right. Blocking the road
immediately ahead of us a horizontal tank, cylindrical in shape with rounded ends, is sitting on a
low platform with a couple of plastic hoses attached to it. I immediately realize that someone has
set it up in response to the storm as a temporary water supply for the multistory old wooden house
just downslope below the road. I also realize that this road that Daniel has chosen is a dead end
but he does not stop. Instead he simply crashes through the obstacle, shattering the tank.
Angry that Daniel did not stop and I am now left to deal with the homeowner, I don't for the moment
care what might have happened to him. I am standing in the road above the house. A woman from the
house has come up to the road and is standing in front of me. She is wearing a faded blue and white
house dress and she is quite obese but the most striking aspect of her appearance is the beer bottle
protruding from her left eye. It is just the top 2 inches or so of a brown beer bottle with the cap
attached, and unlike her right eye it is angled downward as if looking at the ground in front of
her. I wonder if the top had been broken off and jammed into her eye, but if so, it was long ago
because the wound appears fully healed.
I expect that the woman will be angry but she seems calm, though she does mention something about
"law enforcement". She then draws my attention to Daniel who is lying on his back on the road some
distance beyond us. Sympathetic now, I can hear him whimpering in a small high-pitched voice.
Leaning over him I see that his pants leg is torn at the knee, exposing a hinged knee brace made of
gray plastic. The brace does not look damaged but the skin underneath it is scraped in several
places and seems to be wet.
The recent snowstorm places the dream in the context of my dying, that is to say since I was
diagnosed with ALS and separated from Susan. Beyond that, despite the striking symbols of the woman
with the beer bottle in her eye, the jury-rigged water supply tank and the knee brace on Daniel's
leg, along with my sudden and uncharacteristic (in my dreams anyhow) anger, I couldn't imagine what
the dream might be about. Daniel's actions did seem to be in character but to what they referred,
I couldn't say.
Regardless of the meaning of the specific symbols in the dream, I think it may be an attempt to work
out issues of anger and accountability for causing harm in the context of family relationships.
Note: another dream three weeks later
seems to explore some of the same
02/13/2020 Okanogan trip - Soap Lake to Brewster
A winter weekend in and around the Okanogan Valley in north-central Washington is one of the
highlights of a year of birding in the state. After rain in the forecast canceled their intended
visit to the Skagit Valley this weekend, Andy and Ellen called to invite us to join them in the
Okanogan instead. They would be coming up tomorrow but we left this morning instead, in part to get
over the pass before it started snowing. That we did, and after breakfast at Pioneer Coffee
Roasters in Cle Elum (where the coffee never fails to mildly disappoint) we pulled into the park in
Soap Lake around 2:30 PM. The lake was full of Ruddy Ducks, including a handful in breeding plumage
- our first year bird of the trip. After 10 minutes of scoping I found a couple of Eared Grebes
too. The lake was completely free of ice - good for ducks but not promising for those winter
visitors such as Redpolls and Crossbills which don't make it south to Washington in mild
Snowy Owl at Atkins Lake
American Tree Sparrow at Heritage Road
Aiming to reach Atkins Lake and its reported Snowy Owls before sunset, we stopped in the coulee only
at the Lenore Caves for Chukars (tick) and the Dry Falls overlook for Canyon Wrens (nope). The
ground was bare at Atkins Lake and the Snowy Owls stood out like big white rocks. Some of them
actually were big white rocks but with the scope Darchelle picked out three real owls while I tried
to track down a sparrow in the lakeshore weeds. Seeking closer views of the owls we drove 1 Road NE
across the north end of the lake, flushing Horned Larks and something small and brown that wasn't a
Horned Lark which although we pursued it across a stubble field, we were unable to identify.
Possibly an American Tree Sparrow. Our last scheduled stop was at the old homestead along Heritage
Road at 13 Road NE where the expected American Tree Sparrows popped up and sang when we played
recordings for them. The sun was setting and despite the low light Darchelle was able to get at
least one good photo.
On the way into Mansfield after dusk we spotted a buff-colored owl with long wings and stiff flight
off to the side of the road. We went back and played recordings of a Short-eared Owl and heard the
same call echoed back at us so we counted it.
We stayed at the Apple Avenue Motel in Brewster (better than I remembered) because The Inn at Gamble
Sands was full, presumably for Valentine's Day. We ate at Camperos because we didn't know better.
02/14/2020 Okanogan trip - Waterville plateau
Along I Road NE
Friday dawned bright and frosty. Heading back up to the Waterville plateau, we drove the back way
through Bridgeport searching for a coffee shop. We didn't find any but we did get photos of a very
dark Harlan's Hawk, a color morph I have only identified once or twice before, and actually didn't
identify this morning either until I studied the photos on the computer. It is currently a subspecies
of Red-tailed Hawk distinguished by its dusky tail, chocolate (not rufous) brown color with white
speckles. Someday it may be its own species again.
We scanned Bridgeport Hill Road for Sharp-tailed Grouse and drove I Road NE both north and south of
9 Road NE in search of Greater Sage Grouse, but found neither. When there is snow on the ground the
Sharp-tailed Grouse hang out in the Water Birch along Foster Creek but there was no snow on the
ground. We did flush a Golden Eagle along I road very close to the car, and very large.
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Great Horned Owl
666 American Coots
We met Andy and Ellen, and Joy and Kerry with them, at the Heritage Road tree sparrow spot then
continued on to Bridgeport State Park where I found a Saw-whet Owl in the very first tree I checked.
I don't recall who found the Great Horned Owl. I continued to search for other Saw-whet Owls but
without success. At Andy's Lake Pateros overlook the American Coots were all bunched up because of
the Bald Eagles circling overhead. I estimated 640 birds in an elongated group below us, counting
by hundreds, then came up with 666 (plus or minus 50 or so) counting by fives in the photo. We
whiled away the afternoon until suppertime studying ducks on the Okanogan River.
02/15/2020 Okanogan trip - Okanogan highlands
Bald Eagle and Horse
Rough-legged Hawk kiting
Birding at Beaver Lake
We spent Saturday in the highlands from Tonasket to Wauconda via Fancher Flats, Havillah and Hungry
Hollow, Nealy and Mary Ann Creek roads, then through Chesaw to Beaver Lake and Toroda Creek. We saw
lots of Rough-legged Hawks but no finches other than a flock of Snow Buntings around the town of
Havillah. We Spotted a swift Prairie falcon on Fancher Flats and found all three nuthatches along
Havillah Road then walked almost a mile on the Mary Ann Creek Road and saw only chickadees.
Northern Pygmy-owl - front view
Northern Pygmy-owl - rear view
The highlight of the day was a stop at Beaver Lake where we found a pair of River Otters and a
couple of singing American Dippers along with a photogenic Pygmy-owl which Andy summoned while
trying to rile up some little birds with Pygmy-owl calls. We had less success trying to find
a Great Gray Owl at dusk along Highway 20 near Wauconda, though we did spot a
Canada (formerly Gray) Jay
along Toroda Creek Road.
02/16/2020 Okanogan trip - Conconully to home
Sunday morning we tried for Sharp-tailed Grouse along Scotch Creek on the way up to Conconully but
there was no snow and therefore no grouse. There was a bit of old snow in town. Driving around we
found a half-dozen Wild Turkeys hanging out with some Mule Deer. A few years ago we found lots of
California Quail in Conconully but today there were none. We met up with a WOS field trip led by
Shep Thorp in town and I suggested to Shep that they try Hess Lake for Gray Partridge. We met up
with them again when we ourselves stopped at Hess Lake. They had not found Partridge so we didn't
even try, but Shep pointed out a flock of Rosy-finches that we had missed. That was nice. We
should have been a little more diligent with the Partridge; they were reported at Hess Lake after we
all had left.
The day being yet young we drove Cameron Lakes Road, called for White-headed Woodpeckers and scoped
for Gyrfalcons, but without success. We didn't find Bohemian Waxwings at the junction of Hwys 97 &
17 either. Then it was time for us to head home, albeit with one last stop at Lenore Lake where
Andy had seen Redheads on Friday. They were still there, along with our first Meadowlarks of the
Our fair weather forsook us outside of Cle Elum and we had heavy snow, though fortunately not much
accumulation on the highway, the rest of the way to North Bend for an extra hour of white-knuckled
02/20/2020 Lawn birds
Eurasian Wigeon #1
Eurasian Wigeon #2
I extended my birding streak through the week. Monday Darchelle and I checked out a report of a
rare Ross's Goose at Lake Ballinger. We found a white goose on the golf course but its large size
and the large bill sloping down from its forehead made it a Snow Goose, not so rare after all.
Continuing out to the Edmonds waterfront we found the Black Scoter I missed a couple of weeks ago.
Tuesday, Ed, Delia and I drove up to Arlington to look for a Swamp Sparrow at Portage Creek. We
didn't find it. Perhaps it was the unidentifiable sparrow fleeing for its life a foot ahead of a
pursuing Northern Shrike. On Wednesday Andy and Ellen came over to the west side early for an
evening meeting and took me up to the Skagit for the day. Despite searching most of the morning we
could not find either of the two Gyrfalcons reported on Fir Island and near La Conner. We did see
lots of Bald Eagles; Ed D, whom we ran into at Hayden
Slough, told us that a recent count had recorded 725 eagles on the flats of Skagit County. Ed
studies Cooper's Hawks in Seattle, where a year ago there were 40 known nests with 145
Today Darchelle and I walked around
Matthews Beach Park
where she photographed these two Eurasian Wigeon grazing with a tight flock
of about 60 American Wigeon. While I was watching the wigeon a crow waded into the middle of the
foraging flock which parted around him (you could tell he was a guy by his swagger) like the Red Sea
around Moses. The flock closed behind the crow to form a ring of still vigorously grazing ducks.
After surveying his enclosure for a moment, the crow darted over to one of the ducks and grabbed it
by the tail. The startled duck flew up but landed again a foot or two away and resumed grazing.
Having opened a gap in the ring, the crow turned around, returned to the center then casually
strolled out through the other side of the ring as the ducks parted to let him pass.
02/21/2020 Peninsula Pilgrimage
Glaucous Gull with Olympic Gulls
While we were in the Okanogan, someone spotted a Glaucous Gull on Ediz Hook
in Port Angeles. They are hard to come by in the course of a year
in Washington so today we drove out there with Ed and Delia. It was standing in the parking lot
with the usual gull flock when we drove up. It isn't always that easy. But we were lucky twice
today. A rare Pacific Golden Plover recently showed up at Dungeness Landing
so we drove over there and almost as soon as Ed had set the
scope up for me I spotted the bird a third of a mile away foraging with Black-bellied Plovers and
We had tried first for the plover at Three Crabs and while I was inspecting ducks I discovered one
I had never seen before.
American Wigeon x Green-winged Teal (hybrid)
Mussel Beach at sunset
The above photo of a hybrid American Wigeon x Green-winged Teal at Three Crabs
was taken by Bruce Domazlicki, a friendly birder from Sequim who
happened to be nearby with his wife when I first spotted the unfamiliar duck. I tried calling out
to Ed and Delia but they were down the beach a little ways and my voice was too weak to reach them.
After a while they came over and although I still had the bird in sight, Ed was not able to get a
picture that was any improvement over the photo Bruce took. I would have had Darchelle take a photo
but she was napping in the car and I was afraid that if I took the time to go get her I would lose
track of the duck, so with his permission, I am using Bruce's photo here.
02/24/2020 Causing harm
Sometime last week I had a couple of dreams about causing pain to others. The first dream was
more confusing than some - the sequence of events was not completely clear and some of the symbols
seemed to change during the dream.
I am doing something in a big house, perhaps working for the man of the house. I take three sticks
and stand them up in a big pot of sand. Three strangers, perhaps homeless people, show up at the
door and I let them inside. One of them is wearing a red and gray flannel shirt. The strangers
need shelter so they stand with the sticks, or perhaps they are the sticks, and I drape a sheet over
the top of the sticks like a tent. I touch a lit match to the base of one of the sticks. Fire runs
up the stick and becomes a small patch of blue flame flickering over the sheet so I try to beat it
out with my hands. While the strangers are in the tent I work on cleaning up, trying to shake the
sand out of an old wool blanket but the blanket is too heavy for me to handle all at once.
Eventually I get it folded up.
I suddenly realize with alarm that the strangers were in the burning tent and that they may have
suffered from the smoke. Checking on them, I see that their faces are completely black so I lift
them out and lay them side-by-side on the floor. They are straight and rigid and thin, like sticks,
or maybe like puppets because they are fully dressed. Their clothes do not seem to be harmed by the
smoke but I am afraid that the three strangers are dead. They had taken off their shoes before
getting into the tent so I look in the shoes to see if they left their wallets or other
identification, but the shoes contain only a few pieces of candy or bubble gum. One of the pairs of
shoes looks like women's slippers.
Worried that I might have killed the strangers, I find the man of the house and tell him about them.
I wonder if I should call the police and confess because if I don't they might accuse me of murder,
but if I do talk to the police they will ask me who the strangers are, and I don't know how to find
that out. The man comes back with me and pokes at one of the blackened heads, actually one of two
spare heads next to the bodies. The head crumbles into charcoal and the man says "Yup, they're dead
A man in a white sweatshirt is outside the house and wants to come in. Darchelle is ready to let
him in but the man of the house sees him and adamantly refuses. Darchelle wants me to go try to
persuade him to let the man in the sweatshirt in. I'm reluctant to talk to him because I'm
convinced that he won't change his mind but I'm also concerned that Darchelle will be upset with me
if I don't try.
I awoke feeling anxious about the whole thing. Free associating while still half asleep, I
identified the three strangers as me (in the flannel shirt) and Sarah and Eric, but as children, not
adults. The young man in the white sweatshirt I identified as Eric as an adult. The blanket with
sand in it reminds me of the old wool blanket I slept under when I lived on my own in Seattle prior
to marrying Susan.
Intending to help the strangers (who may in fact be my own family), I inadvertently caused them
grievous harm while trying to get my own life in order. My father was of no help to me as I tried
to deal with the consequences, but instead caused further harm by rejecting my younger brother. The
primary theme of the dream might be that like my father before me, I hurt those whom I love. A
secondary and less obvious theme might be that in believing the idea that I cause them harm, I am
overstating my power and understating their agency in our relationships.
This dream appears to be exploring some of the same themes as my dream three
. The following night I remembered a brief but powerful fragment of another and
apparently related dream.
I was with David N and feeling very sad because my
girlfriend Ali had broken up with me. That's all.
I awoke feeling the sting of rejection and pain of loss as vividly as I did when it actually
happened more than 50 years ago. That breakup and others back in high school made a profound
impression on me, influencing how I perceive the impact of my own actions on those whom I love.
But we are adults now, and they can recover, just as I eventually did back then. Right?
03/06/2020 Coronavirus Consciousness
What a difference a week can make! A week ago this (Friday) afternoon we drove over to Walla Walla to
celebrate Sally's birthday and to give her kids' rooms a surprise makeover. Some guy in Snohomish
County was reported to have the coronavirus but he was doing okay. We stopped at Selah Nature
Preserve to look for a Canyon Wren and found a flock of early Violet-green Swallows instead. We
reached Walla Walla in time for dinner with Richard and Donna. Saturday morning Darchelle got up
early to meet Sally at Weight Watchers and share coffee at the Whitman coffee shop. We took baths
while Darchelle's folks went to church, then we all drove up to the Alpine Outpost Inn at 5000 feet
in the Oregon Blue Mountains for dinner. Their parking lot was hedged in by six-foot snowbanks and
by the time we finished dinner it was snowing hard. A Kirkland woman became the first person in the
United States to die of the coronavirus. Four others, it was reported, were infected.
Sunday, while Ben and Sally and the kids stayed up at the Alpine outpost, Darchelle and Claire and
their parents along with Ben's father worked all day on the kids' rooms. The result was beyond
charming. Sally was delighted and the kids were thrilled. Back at Richard and Donna's that
evening, we learned that 11 people in Kirkland now had the coronavirus, the most of any place in the
country. Monday, 2 March we drove back to Seattle after a lingering visit with Sally and the kids.
Alarmed by reports of people already stockpiling food in Seattle, we stopped at the Costco in Yakima
and did likewise, though unfortunately we forgot to pick up Purel hand sanitizer. By the time we
remembered, a day or two later, no place had it in stock; even Amazon was out. We also stopped at
Roza Recreation Area
canyon to try for a Screech Owl. Not only did we hear two of them calling, but we also heard
calling Long-eared, Saw-whet and Great Horned Owls. By the time we arrived home, 18 cases had been
diagnosed in the greater Seattle area, almost all of them associated with a nursing home in
Kirkland, and six people had died.
By Tuesday morning Darchelle and I had decided that she should not see her patients in person after
this week until the threat of the coronavirus diminished. That seemed a little extreme until the
next day when one of her patients informed her that they had been to a ballgame a few days earlier
with the husband of a woman who might have been sick with the coronavirus. That meant that
Darchelle could herself possibly already be infected. Then King County sent out an advisory that
people over 60 years old or with compromised respiratory function should stay indoors at all times.
We celebrated my new (and still optional) reverse quarantine status by walking part way around Green
Lake to look for the recently and regularly reported Sora. Thanks to a young birder on a bicycle who
pointed it out to me, we found it, by which time the number of local cases of coronavirus had risen
to 39, with nine dead.
That works out to about 1 out of every 100,000 people in the greater Seattle area. It is not likely
that either Darchelle or I would run into any of them as we go about our daily activities even in
public. Except that the number of cases is much more reflective of the limited number of test kits
available to diagnose the infection than it is of the actual spread of the virus. Apparently the US
government and public health agencies have been woefully remiss in preparing for the coronavirus.
Although the CDC has stopped publishing the number of tests performed due to political
embarrassment, that number is probably less than 2000
(per The Atlantic
across the entire country. For comparison, South Korea has been testing upwards of 10,000 a day. The
political calculation here seems to be that if no one gets tested, then there won't be any confirmed
cases so there won't be any problem, right?. The stock market apparently is not buying that
argument; the S&P500 dropped 12% last week. FWIW a not unreasonable estimate of the actual number
of contagious individuals in the greater Seattle area might be in the neighborhood of 500.
At the ALS clinic last week (was it really just last week!) Dr. Elliott implicitly confirmed that
if I catch the coronavirus it will kill me. My FVC is at 21% (0.98L), supine 22% (1.08L), MIP -25,
FRS 25/48. Breathing capacity is adequate for sitting but barely sufficient for standing and level
walking. Supplemental oxygen would cause harmful carbon dioxide buildup so the only effective
therapeutic intervention for COVID-19 is not an option for me. Neither is wearing a mask; it impedes
my breathing too much.
Transmission data from Wuhan indicate that family members generally catch it from each other. But
how easy is it to catch out in public? Is it safe for me to go out to eat at a restaurant? To go
birding with Ed and Delia? Can Darchelle catch it by opening a door that someone with the virus
opened before her? If she then uses her phone before washing her hands can she get reinfected by
touching her phone afterwards? Is it possible to keep it out of our house? We feel besieged by an
invisible enemy. We have already decided that we will no longer travel by air, or use Uber. Should
we leave town? If so, when? And is it okay to stay in a motel or will we need to try to camp? And
the restaurant question again...
I expect to die of the coronavirus before the end of the year. But it is rather late in the evening
right now; after a good night's sleep I will not be so pessimistic.
Meanwhile, a disturbing dream last night:
I am in a full-sized blue van with Mom and Daniel and a very active little girl in a red dress. The
van is not moving and has only one row of two seats behind the driver's and passenger seats. The
cargo area behind the back seats is empty. Mom is standing behind the driver's seat, facing the
back seat and I am sitting in the other back seat. Daniel is standing between the two back seats.
The little girl jumps in the driver's seat then races back to the cargo area. Mom wants her to
settle down so she grabs her as she runs by, picks her up and throws her down into the back seat. I
am shocked by Mom's anger and I shout at her, "Don't do that to her! You are angry!" or something
to that effect. It occurs to me that Mom might have treated me that way when I was little and I
burst into tears, overwhelmed by sadness.
The little girl in the red dress seems to represent joy, or perhaps feelings in general, freely
expressed and unconstrained by fear or thought. Mom represents a more analytical approach to life
together with an aversion to the messiness and risk of unrestrained emotions. I have lived in
tension between the two, always drawn to people who seem to feel freely but always fearful of pain
and anger whether in myself or others. This dream appears to explore a source of that fear, though
I cannot recall any incident even remotely similar to what it depicts.
FWIW the blue van places the dream in the same general time frame as the wool blanket in my dream on
2/24, the period after college when I was trying to become an adult. I traveled to fairs and sold
Quick 'n Brite
cleaner out of a blue
Econovan. The little girl is inspired by my niece Katie. Daniel again represents me.
As of today the Times seems to have stopped tallying the total number of local cases, though somewhere
I inferred that the number is at least 90, with 15 dead.
03/11/2020 The Bull is Dead
When the Dow closed at 23,553.22 this afternoon the 11 year old bull market officially died; today
was the first time in 11 years that the Dow closed 20% below a previous high. That said, the market
is still about 15% higher than it was when we bought our house three years ago, and it would have to
drop another 22% from today's close to get back to where it was when Trump was elected. I don't think
it will go down that much, but I could imagine it dropping another 10% to 21,000 or so.
NOTE: Drop 10% it did, to 21,200.62, the very next day!
Meanwhile the coronavirus numbers in Western Washington are headed the other direction, up to 258
cases and 23 deaths as of yesterday. It is all a bit surreal. Darchelle is trying to wash her
hands whenever she comes inside after being out in public. We are trying to minimize our trips to
stores and avoid going to restaurants or coffee shops or the movies or the bank or the post office
or the barber. We are even trying to minimize in person contacts with friends. So far we are not
completely successful at any of this. Life still seems to be normal out there. Traffic is lighter
than usual but there are people on the streets and in restaurants and walking around Green Lake.
Daniel reports that business at John Howie Steak is about half of normal. Planes are flying overhead
but my nephew Silas, who visited this past weekend from Denver, said there were only 30 people on
his flight. But that is secondhand info. It is hard to radically change our behavior with nothing
around us seems any different, except for the news. Perhaps reading the news is the behavior which
I really ought to be changing. Hard to do though when the news is so exciting! And how can I be a
credible prophet of doom if I don't have the latest news to back up my scenarios?
Anticipating that by next week we might be required to stay at home, Darchelle and I drove out to
Westport yesterday and spent last night at the Glenacres Inn. At the time we did not realize that
the Westport city council had just issued an emergency declaration closing all motels and hotels in
town in an attempt to control a sudden influx of tourists. We asked for, and Steve gave us, a room
which had been unoccupied for more than a week. We paid online and neither entered the main inn
nor had any contact with anyone all weekend. Except for the guy who coughed (into his arm) as he
passed me on the boardwalk at Nisqually during our brief stop there on the way home... I held my
breath as long as I could after I passed him.
We drove directly out to the beach, arriving about two hours before sunset. There were more cars
and trucks than I expected, perhaps as many as a dozen in the first mile south of the Grayland Beach
State Park entrance with a few vehicles and a handful of people and dogs within the Snowy Plover
reserve area, which is open to public access this time of year. Most parties did seem to be
practicing Social Distancing; I noticed only one instance of three vehicles parked together and only
one or two groups of more than two adults. Once I saw all the human activity I did not expect to
find any plovers but I needed steps so we found a gap between other vehicles about a mile south of
the entrance and pulled up into the soft sand above the last high tide line.
Snowy Plover 1
Snowy Plover 2
Walking back into the older sand-drifted wrack line, I found a whole bunch of little bird tracks.
They could only be Snowy Plover tracks. Following them farther back into the expense of dry sand,
it didn't take long to find the birds, three of them. Darchelle joined me and got photos of the
plovers and of three Least Sandpipers along the edge of a nearby freshwater pond. She also
Snowy Plover tracks
My tracks with Frog tracks?
photographed a few other mysterious tracks in the sand.
We did a checklist
waited for the sun to set, hoping to see a green flash. As usual, a bank of clouds right at the
horizon thwarted us.
Sunset minus 4:08
Sunset minus 0:09
Sunset minus 0:05
The Mexican restaurant had cars out front when we drove by but we ate in our room. In the morning I
remembered a long narrative dream, though I couldn't recall how it began.
I am in a large room with other people including two attractive young women. I don't recall what
the young women looked like or exactly what they were wearing (running clothes perhaps?) but I am
pleased by their interest in me. They and I go into a smaller room to wait for a train, but I
briefly return to the large room to make sure I didn't leave my phone behind. On a bedside table I
see a brass padlock and another item, but not my phone. I don't know exactly when the train is
scheduled to depart and I am not too worried about it but the women go out to check then return to
tell me that it is leaving. I am glad they checked and I go out with them.
We board not a train but rather a large gray vehicle like a Hummer with several rows of seats. A
slender dark-haired woman helps me get up into the vehicle and take the one remaining open seat
which was saved for me. She tells me that she is glad I made it because they are about to leave. I
turned to the two young women who are now seated behind me and say to them "I am grateful to you
girls for getting me here on time." I feel a bit embarrassed, or maybe disappointed, that I called
them "girls", because it demonstrates that I am not of their generation so there is no possibility
of romance between us. A rather slender man somewhat younger than I am with curly hair and wearing
blue-gray pants and shirt gets out of the vehicle. He approaches the closed window on my side and
motions for me to kiss him goodbye through the glass so I lean over the middle-aged woman sitting
next to me and press my lips against the glass as he does likewise. He walks away and I feel happy
that I kissed him because the young women will think I am cool for doing that.
Darchelle is with me in the vehicle though I cannot see her. She asks me about the dream and the
two women and I tell her what has happened so far though I can't remember the first part of the
dream. We talk about the women too, the way we often talk about people and relationships.
We are on a tour up into the hill country with small farms like we saw in northern Portugal. I spot
a pair of large yellowish birds with stout beaks and long tails and I immediately realize I've never
seen them before. I tell Sarah, in the vehicle with us, that I wish I had my European bird book so I
could look them up but then I remember that we are not in Europe, and anyhow I have the Birds of
Europe on my phone. Maybe we are in Hong Kong because I have hiking maps on my lap for trails in
the mountains of Hong Kong, but I am not sure if that is where we are either.
We get dropped off at another waiting room, from which we follow the two young women (I think) into
a second room which has four different ways to exit - a doorway to the left, a stairway descending
to a lower level, a blue emergency exit door and an elevator. We don't know which exit the tour
group took. Suddenly Ali enters the room. She is
wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt and seems larger and brighter than any of the rest of us in the
room. Just then Roger barges in through the emergency exit door and announces "It's a floodpuddle
out there" before leaving by the door from which we all had come in. Roger had been with the tour
group so we now know which way to go. Ali immediately goes
out the emergency exit door, and after hesitating briefly, we follow her. A paved path extends
ahead of us across a broad lawn like on a college campus. It is nearly dark and raining hard and
large puddles extend across the path. Ali is already more
than halfway across the lawn but we will get soaked if we venture after her.
How did I get here? What happened? Where are we going? This dream explores these questions on
multiple levels. It is structured as a play with three acts. The central act consists of two
scenes in the safari vehicle while the first and third acts transpire in empty rooms with
different casts of characters. The movement from one room to another within these two acts
identifies them as periods of transition while the actions and symbols in the central act present my
personal transformation through those transitions.
References to running, birding and travel place the time context of the dream in the past decade or
so when I fully engaged in those activities. The two women recall the several younger women with
whom I ran from time to time during my marathons. The brass padlock reminds me of the locks on the
gates we opened on the Tunnel Marathon course. The lock was sitting on a bedside table with a lamp
like those in a motel room. The waiting room suggests a train station; the Hummer, a safari vehicle
(and also the boat on which I have been taking guided seabird-viewing trips out of Westport since
2013). The yellow birds appeared to be a cross between two species Darchelle and I saw in Zimbabwe
- Crested Barbet and Gray Go-away-bird - during our trip to Southern Africa. Darchelle grew up in
Africa. She joins me in the dream after I get into the safari vehicle and is with me in the dream
from that point on. Sarah, Roger and Ali appear in the
dream after that and indirectly indicate where to go next.
The characters in the safari vehicle offer clues to the meaning encoded in the dream. The
dark-haired woman who welcomes me feels European and familiar but at first I couldn't place her,
then I recognized in her our hostess at the Abbey/Château de Camon
where Darchelle and I spent a magical two days during
our trip to France. Everything just came together perfectly as if pre-arranged specifically as a
gift to us, and in some ways our relationship has been like that too. The man in blue whom I kissed
through the window represents myself but resembles Pastor McLarty, and thus symbolizes my belief in God.
The woman across whom I lean to kiss him looks like a church member whom we call "the church lady", but I associate her with
Susan. I don't see Darchelle in the safari vehicle
but she is present with me, almost like a part of myself, and we talk because that is what we do.
Sarah symbolizes the choices I made with Darchelle, having divorced her husband and married Roger a
few years before Darchelle and I met. We also visited them in Sweden before our trip to France.
To continue with the analogy of the dream as a play in three acts, in Act 1 I am alone and running
marathons, and finding a substitute for emotional intimacy in the companionship of other
(particularly female) runners. I am not looking to change my situation, not seeking to actually
engage in any new intimate relationship, but running leads to Act 2. I begin running with Darchelle
and realize that I am looking for intimacy and that I cannot find it in my running relationships. I
instead inadvertently find the connection I am looking for with Darchelle through our extended
conversations while running together. I also recognize (thanks in part to therapy) that the
demanding and condemning God to whom I subjected myself for 30 years was my own creation, a virtual
parent onto which I projected my own self-criticism. With that recognition I am empowered to
acknowledge Him as part of myself and choose to let that part go. Some might see that as kissing God
goodbye but I think of it as taking responsibility for my feelings about myself. Concurrently
(more or less) I embrace my passion for birdwatching, which is another manifestation of accepting
myself for who I am rather than believing that I must change in order to be okay. But things
change, and as my ALS continues to progress my health continues to decline. In Act 3 Darchelle and
I face a future in which the only certainty is that I will soon die. Roger almost died once, and
when he recovered, determined to pursue love with Sarah, as I have done with Darchelle.
Ali encouraged me in that choice but also talked more
freely with me about dying than anyone else, urging me to accept my growing dependence on others and
to give those who love me an opportunity to share with me as I progressed towards my death. We
actually have done that, in part through our wedding celebrations a few years ago, but I have kept
on living since then. At this point the way ahead remains dark but we are still together and the
play still continues.
Glaucous Gull with Western Gulls
Beached Bald Eagle
We lingered over breakfast in our room, talking over the dream. Sometime before lunch we drove down
to Tokeland and found the Willets then hit the beach again on our way back north. We found an
unexpected Glaucous Gull in the first little flock of Western Gulls that we came across. Rare, but
for once not a new year bird. We did find three of those - Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover
and Turkey Vulture - before turning in at the Bonge access road. That was a bit dicey because the
sand was deep and soft. At the marina in Westport we found 20 Marbled Godwits but no Kittiwake. At
Surfbirds with Black Turnstone (ur) and Rock Sandpiper (lr)
the groins at the north edge of town I found a big flock of rockpipers but concluded that they were
all Black Turnstones, not new for the year. Fortunately Darchelle got some photos which revealed
that my turnstones were mostly Surfbirds with a generous handful of hard-to-find Rock Sandpipers,
perhaps our best sighting of an excellent trip.
And now for the news...
The DJIA closed at 19,153 Friday, the S&P500 at 2,305.
Greater Seattle coronavirus stats are 1627 cases and about 90 deaths, with about 30,000 tests performed
statewide. The number of cases for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties combined continues to grow by
about 250% per week. Governor Inslee closed all restaurants bars and coffee shops a week ago. City
parks are packed on sunny days, and at least half the people out there appear to be maintaining the
recommended 6 feet of distance from each other, not including family members.
04/10/2020 Staying Home
Flowering currant in front of the house
First the news...
The DJIA closed at 23,719 yesterday, the S&P500 at 2,790. Both are up more than 20% from their lows
Greater Seattle coronavirus stats are 6621 cases and about 355 deaths, with about 110,000 people
tested statewide. The number of cases for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties combined is currently
growing by about 35% per week. Governor Inslee issued a statewide stay-at-home order on 3/24, two
and half weeks ago. Apparently it is working as evidenced by the slowing growth in the number of
cases. It is unfortunately not working as fast as anyone would like. The stay-at-home order has been
extended to the beginning of May but no one expects it to be lifted until June. Given that we in
Washington are ahead of most of the rest of the country in the progression of the epidemic, that
bodes ill for the economy despite the optimism of the stock market.
Trail to Promontory Point
Anna's Hummingbird on nest
Except for a couple of visits to Magnuson Park to look for the White-throated Sparrow on Promontory
Point and for a few walks around the neighborhood or in nearby Ravenna Park, we have been staying
home. We have ordered take-out from local restaurants a few times but we still have not been to the
grocery store since the beginning of March. Today for the first time we bought bread at Grand
Central and every two weeks we received a CSA box of fruit and vegetables so that helps. We have
not seen the sparrow yet and are running out of time because it will head north any day now.
Instead we found an Orange-crowned Warbler in a maple tree and a hummingbird building her nest in a
little Douglas Fir.
Anxiety about dying of the coronavirus has been largely displaced by anxiety about how Trump may use
the crisis to block the November election and install himself as president for life with the craven
support of the Republican Party. I woke up last night worrying about the Republican Supreme Court.
Reminding myself that I am dying and so need not be worried about these things didn't help. It also
doesn't help to recognize how privileged we are to have the luxury of worrying about politics
instead of how to get enough money to pay for the rent this month or for food this week.
04/13/2020 Happy Birthday Daniel
Let them eat Tortilla
I invited Daniel over for a beer on his birthday. I thought we might have some hors d'oeuvres too
but in talking with Darchelle we decided to make a little more substantial - Spanish tortilla, soup
and a delicious salad. Daniel went kayaking on the Sky (forgot his PFD and ran Boulder Drop anyway
but that's another story) so arrived a little later than we planned. On the way over he mentioned
his destination to Susan. I was on the phone with David so didn't get her message that she was
coming too. To say we were surprised would be to understate it a bit. It went well though, with the
possible exception of when Susan asked me if I recalled when Daniel was conceived.
04/15/2020 Social distancing
Several days ago I walked over to Cowan Park via the 20th Ave bridge and the trail along the south
edge of Ravenna Park. I did not encounter too many people through the neighborhood or along the
trail but 13th Ave NE along Cowan Park was a real obstacle course with people getting in and out of
their cars on one side of the street and walking in both directions on the sidewalk on the other
side. One young woman caused a pedestrian traffic jam while she photographed crab apple blossoms
along the sidewalk. One by one we detoured out into the street to get around her. I was concerned
not only about oncoming people but also about people overtaking me from behind because I walk slowly
now and had to stop every few minutes to replenish my oxygen supply by
Then two days ago we finally went to the grocery store. We got up at 7 AM, uncharacteristically
early for us, to take advantage of seniors-only hour at the View Ridge PCC. Driving east on 65th
blinded by the just-risen sun helped us to wake up. The store was not crowded though it was
nonetheless impossible to avoid coming within arms length of other people. Such intimacy was
alarming after being so careful for the past month to avoid it. We completely filled a grocery
cart. Tired of struggling to get enough air and to avoid other shoppers, I retreated to the car
while Darchelle checked out to the tune of $485. Now we have to wait two weeks to find out if our
outing will prove fatal or not. Darchelle was quite nervous about it last night because she had a
bit of a sore throat when we went to bed.
Social distancing even cropped up in a dream I had this morning.
I am walking on a waterfront promenade paved with large stones (like some city streets in Spain)
when I began chasing, or get chased by, four children who are I think dressed entirely in brown,
like little monks. I follow them into a house and continue to play a sort of tag or hide and seek
with them. The house is a long rambler and the main hallway running the length of the house
is partly obstructed with dead and dying potted trees, as if someone stopped watering them quite a
long time ago.
I sit down on an old sofa in one of the rooms. A black woman is casually sprawled on the floor in
front of me. Her face is open and round, her hair rather short and curly and I notice that she has
a short white goatee on her chin, like Colonel Sanders. Perhaps it is because of the goatee that
someone else in the room is saying to her "I didn't know that you became gay", but I am thinking
that they meant to say "trans" instead of "gay". I need to leave but I'm not sure how to say that
to the others in the room so I just get up and walk away. As I reach the front door at the end of
the hallway I realize I left my backpack behind and I'm somewhat embarrassed as I return to the room
to retrieve it but no one seems to notice. I forget something else and have to return again and
again no one seems to care. I suddenly realize that when I followed the children into the house and
sat in the room with other people I had completely forgotten about social distancing. As I am
opening the door to exit, Ben comes up and I exclaim to him "Man, it's really hard to remember about
this social distancing stuff" and he says something sympathetic in return, then shuts the door
behind me because I have a little trouble getting it to close.
I'm surprised to discover almost a foot of fresh snow on the ground when I step outside. It seems
to be nighttime though I can see okay. One lane of the street has been plowed so I start to walk in
the cleared area but have to jump out of the way when a young man guns his car backwards towards me.
Maybe he yells at me, I'm not sure, then he continues to race his car backwards down the street,
stopping at a house some distance away. I follow the car into his driveway and wade into the snow
as if to detour below the house then, realizing that the road veers up and to the right, cross
through a flower bed onto his driveway. As I do so a rose cane breaks off and sticks to my coat,
then a larger trunk of a small tree does likewise. The mother of the young man looks out of the
house, sees me and yells at her son "Did you do that to him?" referring to the debris sticking to
me. I assure her that I am okay then continue trudging through the snow along a fence which runs
along the road. Discovering that I cannot get through the fence to the road, I backtrack until I
find an opening to get back into the plowed road again.
I had thought that I was in Jackson but I do not recognize my surroundings. Ahead of me I see a
group of runners approaching. Much like my surroundings they appear to be colorless, a sort of
grayish flesh color, but when they get closer I see two Marathon Maniacs among them dressed in
bright scarlet and yellow gear. One is a Main Maniac but I don't recognize him so I don't say
anything to him. The other is being supported by two other runners, one on either side, as he
stumbles along like a soldier wounded in battle. I look for someone familiar and recognize Fran
Cunningham so I ask her what road we are on, and whether it joins up with Route 16 or some other
road I would know. She doesn't seem to want to talk but she does tell me that the name of the road
is Laurelhurst and that it does meet up with 16. As it approaches the intersection, our road
descends a hill covered with rough brown ice and both Fran and I skid down it on our feet but we
don't fall. Across the intersection there is a bus stop so I wait there with a couple of other
Lots of references to death, I think, in this dream, but I don't have a clear sense of a story it
might be trying to tell. The house resembles the ranch house in New Mexico which belonged to
Delia's parents, now deceased. The black woman seems to be a composite of Darchelle (short hair,
African background) and Susan (the Colonel Sanders goatee). The person talking to the black woman
seemed to be a church acquaintance from Auburn when the boys were young. The four children might be
Ben's quadruplets. Disregarding social distancing could prove fatal. The angry young man driving
his car backward would presumably be me; perhaps it is because of him that I twice detour off the
cleared way into the snow. Both snow and nighttime have referred to end-of-life in other dreams.
Fran Cunningham died (was murdered?) within a few years of graduating from high school. The wounded
Maniac is most likely me. through the encounter with the runners, including Maniacs, that I figure
out where I am and presumably, how to get where I want to go.
My best guess is that the dream is about how to die, and learning to live with dying. Leaving the
house probably represents leaving my first marriage through divorce, with echoes of leaving my
second through death. The sudden appearance of snow probably marks my diagnosis of ALS, the
backward driving young man my initial impulse to suicide in response, and returning to the road
after detouring through the snow my re-engaging with life despite losing my future. Although the
setting remains bleak and I remain alone (and no longer able to run), Fran reassures me that I am
not far from home and that I can get there.
Bathroom looking out at the trail
Inspired by reports from Eastern Washington by a few other birders, we decided to distance ourselves
from the social life of the city and escape to the east side. Darchelle booked us a couple of nights
at the Iron Horse Inn Bed and Breakfast
where they assured us that no one had occupied our prospective caboose for at least three days prior
to our arrival. I felt a little guilty that we were not staying at home, but not so guilty that I
didn't appreciate our first year bird of the trip, a Caspian Tern flying over the I-90 floating
bridge. We stopped at Hyak and found a Rufous Hummingbird sitting on a willow protruding from a
four-foot snowbank. Bullfrog Pond was pretty quiet but we spotted an Osprey and heard a Cassin's
Finch before heading over to the B&B.
04/16/2020 Pine forest
Lanceleaf Springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata)
Northern Pygmy-owl with nuthatch
Grass Widows (Sisyrinchium inflatum)
Eric's birthday today. With the excitement of being out and birding with Andy and Ellen, I forgot.
He would have been 63. He voted for Trump; I wonder if he would still favor him now.
In separate cars and with separate scopes we birded up Highway 12 as far as Bethel Ridge Road.
We did well until our late start caught up to us at Bethel Ridge and we were unable to rouse
our target Black-backed and White-headed Woodpeckers, or a Red-naped Sapsucker either. Instead
we woke up a fierce little Northern Pygmy Owl and some irritated nuthatches. Lacking birds,
Darchelle photographed some unassuming pine forest flowers instead. It was delightful to be out
with Andy and Ellen again.
04/17/2020 Sagebrush steppe birds
Black-necked Stilt and American Avocets
It is the season for birds of the Sagebrush steppe. They arrive early and breed early then go silent
in the summer heat. Between
Old Durr Road
Quilomene Wildlife Area
we found five new species, everything we hoped for except a Sagebrush
Sparrow. County Line Ponds
produced four more year birds but we could not find Blair's Tricolored Blackbirds at Para Ponds
nor have any Burrowing Owls been reported around Othello this spring.
04/18/2020 Sabbath birds
Ferruginous Hawk approaching nest
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler
We glamped in a
spacious wall tent
next door to Mount Hope Cemetery in College Place and were
charmed by a pair of Screech Owls tooting together during the night. I lay in bed and compiled
a bird list
dawn which included our first Evening Grosbeaks of the year. Church is now online and can be viewed
any time of the day so Richard and Donna joined us on an outing to Wallula where we showed them
Long-billed Curlews at Lambdin Road, the Ferrginous Hawks at 9 mile Canyon and Clark's Grebes out on
the river. At Millet Pondks
ran into Mike and Marylynn Denny who directed us to warblers and a Dusky Flycatcher in the flowering
willows. They had also seen a Black-crowned Night Heron but we did not. Perhaps the woman who
strolled out there ahead of us with her cat in her arms scared it off.
Mike Denny reported that the Great Gray owl is nesting along Jasper Road again this year so we drove
up there shortly before sunset. It was there.
Looking for Grasshopper Sparrow
We set up chairs on Richard and Donna's front lawn and sat in the sun with them for a couple of hours
this morning. We devoted the afternoon to chasing two sparrows, driving north from just east of Prosser
until we reached sagebrush
Sagebrush Sparrows, then driving south and east from Prosser up into the
Horse Heaven Hills
where we did not
find a Grasshopper Sparrow in the CRP grassland
. We may have been a little early for them. As with Durr Road two
days ago, the sagebrush was full of White-crowned Sparrows.
On the way home we drove up above Liberty and played for owls but heard none. We did not get home
until 1AM and the last few miles were tough.
04/24/2020 Hosting visitors
Northern Flicker bathing
First yard visit by White-crowned Sparrow
We find ourselves hosting more than birds at our birdfeeders. In recent weeks first one, then two,
and now three cute little rats have been visiting our backyard feeders. We are not pleased. After
exhausting the supply of seeds spilled onto the ground under the feeders by the birds, the rats
learned to climb the poles to access the mother lode. We installed baffles. They began to scramble
around in the bushes surrounding the feeders, breaking off branches and twigs in the process of
trying to access them. No problem we thought, until we spotted a rat on top of the suet feeder. I
chased it away then a couple of hours later, discovered how it got there. I watched as it climbed
up to the flexible leader of a ten-foot tall willow which stands some six feet from the feeder. As
it continued up the leader, the willow gradually bent down until the tip of the leader just happened
to come to rest on top of the feeder. The rat inched its way across the precarious bridge until it
gained its objective and its reward. Darchelle tied the willow to the fence and the rats
are grounded again, so far. Nonetheless it frustrates me to no end that I can't get out there and
exterminate the buggers. So far. Darchelle ordered a rat trap from Amazon today.
Meanwhile I hosted Mike Adair in a dream this morning.
Darchelle and I are lying in a big bed in the room in the house in Jackson which used to be my
parents' room when I was young. She is reading but I lean over to her and begin kissing her lower
back right above the hem of her flowery underwear. We would make love but suddenly Mike Adair
appears in the doorway. He is wearing a brown suit. I had forgotten that he was coming but I get
up to show him to his room. He seems unsure of himself and I am surprised to realize that I have as
much or more self-confidence than he does. We walk into a new addition to the house in place of Mom
and John's current bedroom, office and greenhouse. It is a large room painted entirely in white
with a bathroom and shower, also white, in one corner. The room has a shiny appearance everywhere
as if it is made of white porcelain.
Mike Adair seemed to be perhaps the most self-confident person I had ever met when I worked with him
at Microsoft and Expedia but he died in 2016 after suffering for several years with complications
from a severe stroke. In this dream I think he represents death, and illustrates how death
equalizes the living. No matter what we are in life, in death we are all dead. The ceramic quality
of the room for Mike suggests the permanence of death and perhaps also our loss of agency with
regard to dying. We can't choose not to die. The bed Darchelle and I are lying in is my parents'
bed. Just as my father left my mother when I was a child, so I will leave Darchelle through death,
symbolized by Mike Adair interrupting our potential lovemaking. But I am still living, and still
with Darchelle whom I love.
At the risk of some redundancy with prior entries I include this excerpt from an email I wrote to
Unlike so many people in this country and around the world, our lives really haven't changed all
that much as a result of the pandemic. I hang out in my office and read the news or create entries
in my online journal. Darchelle works from home two days a week. She putters in the garden rather
than in secondhand stores. She cooks tasty food and feeds it to me. We sit around and talk. We
stay up too late binge watching series on Netflix and Prime. Our latest indulgence is "Anne with an
E", and update of Anne of Green Gables. We like those historical and romantical dramas and are
enjoying this one very much. My only real objection is that although the background bird songs are
correct for Prince Edward Island, they really shouldn't have Robins and White-throated Sparrows and
Wilson's Warblers singing in the dead of winter, nor should they play the Downy Woodpecker call
quite so indiscriminately. Prior to "Anne" we watched "The Crown" and they did a very nice job with
the background birdsong in that one. I enjoyed refreshing my memory of the birds of the English
We've taken one break from staying home. Last weekend we drove east of the mountains, spent a
couple nights in a caboose in the Cle Ellum and a couple of nights in a tent in Walla Walla. Both
places were AirB&Bs which maintained a three-day gap between guests as well as thorough cleaning and
disinfecting, so we were encouraged by that but we won't know for sure if we escaped infection or
not for another week. That's our new reality - uncertainty. Can I get infected by someone
bicycling or running past me in the park? Is our takeout dinner safe? Is it okay to drop into the
grocery store for a dozen eggs or should we keep eating beans and oatmeal for breakfast for another
three weeks instead? Life has always been risky and in reality it probably isn't much more risky
now than before. It just feels that way. We are driving much less than we used to before Covid.
Perhaps that compensates for the increased risk from the disease, which according to my neurologist
will kill me if I catch it.
In Walla Walla we sat out on the lawn in the sunshine with Darchelle's folks and her sister's family
and mostly stayed 6 feet apart while we visited. The air was fairly warm and there wasn't much of a
breeze. It was pretty much like hanging out in their living room except we got a bit of a sunburn.
We also did quite a bit of birding. The urge to get out and see the new arrivals finally overcame
my reluctance to violate the stay-at-home order. Most, but not all, of the state's most active
birdwatchers are staying pretty close to home, and occasionally expressing at least mild disapproval
of those who are not. I call them the moralists, and the scofflaws, the hedonists. My friend Ed
tried to convince me that given my limited future, I was more justified than most in joining the
hedonists. I'm not sure I agree with him but on the other hand I would be more concerned about the
hit to my reputation if I knew that my future as a member of the local birding community were
measured in years rather than months.
I keep putting off writing instructions for my executor. Each morning that I wake up with a runny
nose (a known side effect of using a ventilator) afraid that I have the coronavirus, I swear I am
going to work on that document, then when my runny nose tries up after a few hours I lose
Daniel is practicing his sommelier skills on his housemates while his restaurant is closed. He is
studying for his Advanced Sommelier exam in October but takes a break now and then to go hiking or
kayaking or even backcountry snowboarding. Mostly alone I think; he is quite careful about social
distancing but has always enjoyed spicing life up with a little more risk than I am comfortable
with. Hopefully we'll get through this pandemic before that catches up to him.
Hopefully we'll get through this pandemic before it catches up to us. I fear that things will never
get back to normal though.
For David in Taiwan, things have pretty much remained normal. He and his girlfriend KC are both
working as much as ever, which in David's case is about half time. They eat out from time to time
and usually go for a hike on the weekends, and/or hang out with friends.
John and Mom are happily settled in Jackson and feeling quite safe. That feeling probably doesn't
fully account for their frailty, their risk of falling, John's multiplying health problems and of
course the possibility of accidental exposure to the coronavirus. There are no reported cases in
Jackson as far as I know but Sarah told us that the young man who is renting a room in their house
down in the field during their absence believes that he has Covid-19. John has fluid accumulation
around his lungs and in his legs for which he recently began to receive treatment at the hospital in
North Conway. He also has a serious laceration on each leg due to a fall and a collision with a
piano bench. One of them is infected, but that too is being treated. They have two close neighbors
each checking in on them at least daily, so that is somewhat reassuring. They are where they want
to be, and where they want to remain. We talked to them weekly and Sarah Skype's with them from
Sweden every few days.
I continue to gradually lose leg strength, core strength and breathing capacity. Nothing dramatic
but even gentle uphill walking is very difficult, so hiking is pretty much out of the question. My
current walking goal is 25,000 steps a week and I haven't missed it since the beginning of the year.
The brace which we reengineered during your visit last fall makes that possible.
Darchelle and I are delighted to have to hang out together all the time. Things could be worse.
Also, a dream. I've been remembering them more often in the past few weeks since I've been working
I am standing in a meadow at the edge of woods. The trees are very tall with fresh spring foliage
glowing in the sunlight. One of the tallest trees is an elm. I try to take photos but even zoomed
all the way out I can't quite capture their beauty. I hike up a broad green hillside, mostly open
pasture with scattered groves of aspen trees. I try to take photos of the aspen groves but cannot
find a good composition. A dog appears, a tall and slender breed which is all white with somewhat
curly hair giving it a rumpled appearance like a well-loved stuffed animal. Contributing to the
stuffed animal impression, it moves stiffly around me even as it playfully runs towards me and then
bounds away from me again. I give chase and we move down the hillside because I need to go in.
At the base of the hillside is a structure which is like a drive-through fast food place or an
mobile amusement park ride, the kind that folds up onto a trailer so it can be towed from one fair
to another. With the dog, I climb over the platform and through some crossbars, trying to take care
not to get grease from the skids on my clothing, and end up in a narrow hallway which gets smaller
and becomes a lighted tunnel ahead of me barely large enough to crawl through. An employee of the
fast food place comes in and retrieves the dog, but I remain trapped in the tunnel and wake up
feeling a bit panicked.
My best guess is that this dream is a brief and highly selective synopsis of my life with God. It
opens with me seeking to capture the beauty of nature through photography, as I did in high school
when a few American Elms still survived in the wild. Aspen groves on the hillside suggest a
subsequent context of college in Colorado. There follows a dalliance with a dog, which has
generally represented my belief in God in other dreams. The dog appears alive but resembles a
stuffed animal, a child's comforting toy. When I find myself facing a difficult situation, trapped
in a tunnel which in another dream represented death, the dog is withdrawn. For no particular
reason other than perhaps the context, the fast food place/carnival ride, which are both alien
environments to me, may represent the church. If so, then the employee taking the dog away may
represent my acceptance of the continuing ownership by the church of the idea of God. Another way
to put that is that in the situation in which I now find myself, I have been unable to come up with
a believable concept of God now that I have rejected the God promulgated by the church.
05/01/2020 May day
Socially distancing aka. Solitary Sandpiper
Engaged in essential activity
Purple Martin colony
We've been talking about chasing the Mountain Quail for a month now. I only know one place to go for them,
a regenerating clear-cut on the north side of the
quarry behind the Port Orchard airport
I never got down there last year so thought we should give it a shot this year but couldn't be bothered
until I realized that we could stop in Fife and probably pick up a Solitary Sandpiper (or two) along
Frank Albert Road
. We did not get
an early start, but did not for that reason miss the Mountain Quail. We missed them, I think, because
the quarry expanded and bulldozed away all the Scotch Broom in which the quail formerly lived. Darchelle took
a cute selfie of us in the former clear-cut. At least we got the Sandpiper, and the Purple Martins
along Ruston Way in old town Tacoma, and even the Green Heron in the park at the Cedar River mouth.
No photo, it was almost dark.
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
The Myrtle Warbler stopped by the backyard
and bathed in the stream a day or two ago.
05/11/2020 Where we are at
First the news...
The DJIA closed at 24,270 today, the S&P500 at 2,930. Both are slightly higher than a month ago.
The Dow is off about 18% and the S&P500 about 13% from their highs in February but on the other hand
the Dow is up 31% and the S&P 500 27% from their lows in March. Despite some volatility neither
index has changed much in the past month. Financial commentators do not agree on whether we are
enjoying the early stages of the next bull market or merely indulging in a dead cat bounce.
I lean toward the latter hypothesis, perhaps because I don't see my personal economic activity
returning to normal as long as the coronavirus is on the prowl. The economy won't substantially
recover until I and most other Americans feel safe to get out and start spending, and I don't think
that the market can recover until then either. With at most 5% of the population immune to the
virus, and without infrastructure in place to track clusters of infections as they arise, I don't
see how we can avoid additional waves of illness and consequent economic slowdowns.
The silver lining in this ominous cloud is that economic slowdowns tend to be disastrous for
incumbent politicians up for reelection. Not only the Trump regime but Republican control of the
Senate are at risk. It could prove to be the salvation of the Republic, though at a cost of 80,000
deaths to date in the US, a number which I believe will reach a quarter million by election day.
Hopefully I will not be one of them.
Greater Seattle coronavirus stats are 11441 cases and 693 deaths with about 256,000 people
tested statewide. All three of those numbers are approximately double what they were a month ago.
The number of cases for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties combined is currently growing by about
10% per week. If the current decline in our daily new cases continues, they will be down to their levels of early
March within about two weeks. The statewide stay-at-home order prohibiting non-essential travel is
currently scheduled to expire at the end of this month, although state parks officially opened a
couple of days ago, begging the question of whether a visit to a state park can be considered
Trail to Bottle Beach
Dunlin, Red Knots, Short-billed Dowitcher and Western Sandpiper
Red Knots and Dunlin
Shorebirds are staging at Bottle Beach State Park outside Westport for the next few weeks as they
migrate north. There are five species out there that I have not yet seen this year so in my opinion
a visit was indeed essential. Ed and Delia agreed so we drove out there in our separate cars on
Friday. Darchelle and I had considered spending the night so as to get an early start but the tide
schedule meant that we did not have to be there untill around noon, which we could manage. When we
arrived we found the parking lot still cordoned off but a car had parked along the highway across from
the old entrance so we did likewise. Out at the beach we found a half a dozen other birders and
photographers. I have no idea where they had all parked.
is always a
surprise. Today the surprise was hundreds of Red Knots instead of the more typical handful. The
gbirds were clustered as usual on the mudflat at the leading edge of the incoming tide. Along with
the Red Knots were smaller numbers of Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers, Western Sandpipers and
Black-bellied Plovers. Two, the Dowitcher and Knot, were year birds. We just missed a third target
species, Ruddy Turnstone, which was too bad because Bottle Beach was our best chance for them.
Fortunately Ed spotted one on one of the floats at the Tokeland Marina
. Scoping Graveyard Spit
a few minutes earlier, he had also found a flock of Whimbrels.
That made four out of five species found.
Around Westport the fifth shorebird I was looking for, a Wandering Tattler, frequents the intertidal
zone on jetties and breakwaters but when you go to look for one it often seems to be somewhere
else. That is where the bird I spotted was headed as I walked up the ramp to the observation deck
on the Westport breakwater
had the briefest of glimpses before it disappeared around the point of the nearest groin. Ed and I
set off to look for it but clambering around on the angular boulders of the breakwater is a risky
operation for me at this point. With a little help from Darchelle I made it up in one place but we
could not find the bird so we returned to the observation deck. While we were watching a Gray Whale
blowing just off the rocks, two more Tattlers flew in and landed right below us. Darchelle texted
Ed and Delia, 100 yards down the breakwater, about the "toddlers" and they came running back in time
to get a good view. Both Darchelle and Ed got photos. Those tattlers gave me a total of 237 species
for the year in Washington state so far.
The last couple of outings have been pretty challenging because my breathing is so limited. After
walking out to Bottle Beach I was so winded that I couldn't use the scope until I sat on a log and
rested for a minute or two. It was quite warm, 87F by midafternoon in Tokeland, which may have been
a factor contributing to my breathlessness, but I was continually panting anytime I was not sitting
quietly in the car. Fortunately I can recover by resting, but for how much longer, I wonder.
Difficulty breathing is already becoming a deterrent to walking, and by extension, birding.
Contemplating that left me pretty depressed all weekend.
05/14/2020 Montlake Fill
Bald Eagle studying goslings
Mother (or Father) guarding goslings
Mothers (or nannies) and children at the Fill
We walked around the Fill this Thursday afternoon partly to get out and partly to look for a
previously reported Blue-winged Teal. We encountered quite a few people so wandered off the trails
partly to avoid them and partly to inspect the ponds for the teal. I was struggling a bit to
breathe so we found a bench and sat for a while watching women with children enjoying the lakeshore
and waiting to see if a teal might emerge from the cattail marsh. Eventually two teal did fly out
but they were Cinnamon not Blue-winged.
05/15/2020 Cle Elum
Rufous Hummingbird at Hyak
Hiking behind Railroad Ponds
Seeking Red-naped Sapsucker and White-headed Woodpecker, both of which we missed at Bethel Ridge
a month ago with Andy and Ellen, we drove over to Cle Elum for the day. We missed them both again
but picked up five other new birds for the year and enjoyed strolling in the sunshine around
the railroad ponds
. On our
way home we stopped at Bullfrog
where Darchelle collected landscape rock while I went birding.
05/17/2020 Chasing Bobwhite
Blackbird on the firing range
A Quail but not a Bobwhite
Hermit Warbler woods
We hoped we might see one and maybe even get a photograph at the
on Joint Base
Lewis McCord but no such luck though I did accumulate a pretty good list, mostly by ear despite
a considerable amount of activity over at the firing range. We heard three different Bobwhite,
our most ever, but they were all quite distant and remained out of sight. On our way out of the
base we stopped to check out a previous report of a Hermit Warbler. I managed to get a distant
view high in a Douglas fir of a warbler with a gray back and a yellow face (I think) and a
quite different from the simpler buzzy song coming from elsewhere in the Douglas firs, and
which I assumed was a Townsend's Warbler. So I counted it, but I continue to be somewhat uneasy
about my practice of distinguishing Townsend's, Black-throated Gray and Hermit warblers by the
combination of habitat and song.
05/20/2020 Yesler Swamp
Mallard hen with ducklings
Great Blue Heron and Gadwalls
On a dark and drizzly Wednesday evening we walked the boardwalk through Yesler Swamp hoping
we might find one of the Blue-winged Teal recently reported in the area. No such luck though
the emergent grass along the far end of the boardwalk was alive with ducklings.
05/23/2020 Christmas Lake
Western Tanager female
Western Tanager male
Christmas Lake marsh
Yesterday we again sought Mountain Quail, this time in a clear-cut off of
147th St NW
. We heard one but
did not see it so did not take any photos. The Scotch Broom and other vegetation was wilted and
withering, apparently from a recent application of herbicide, so I doubt the quail will persist
there much longer. We did not linger either. A woman emerged from a nearby house and from a
distance gave us the stink-eye. Once again, we were glad we were not birding while black.
Today we were going to stroll through the woods below Rattlesnake Lake but the road was barricaded
before the pullout across the Snoqualmie Valley Trail where I had intended to park. We joined
numerous other cars in parking between the no parking signs along the side of the road and walked
an extra quarter mile up the trail to my original destination. From there we followed a trail into
the woods where I have previously found Swainson's Thrushes. I had forgotten that that trail led
to the shallow wooded pond and marsh called Christmas Lake
. We found my first-of-year Swainson's Thrush along the trail and
photographed Western Tanagers at the lake. We heard Townsend's and Black-throated Gray
warblers singing their typical songs from Douglas Fir and Big-leaf Maple respectively, but we also
heard a third song from the Douglas Fir which was very similar to the Hermit Warbler we heard a few
days ago down at JBLM. The bird would not show itself in response to recordings so I did not report
it. Hermits are rare in North Bend.
Walking on the uneven trail was tricky at times because my legs are weak and my balance not as good
as it used to be but I made it without incident. I think we walked about a mile and a half and I was
quite tired at the end.
05/24/2020 Black-backed Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker scaling
Black-backed Woodpecker posing
Me in the burn watching the woodpecker
We made another trip over the pass to Kittitas County today to look for woodpeckers - White-headed at
, Red-naped Sapsucker at the
Teanaway River bridge
and Black-backed along
Iron Creek Road
up near Blewett Pass.
We missed the first two and found the one which I considered to be least likely. I successfully stumbled
around the burn (1.5 miles up FR 9714 from Highway 97 south of Swauk pass) while Darchelle found the
previously reported Black-backed Woodpecker and got some excellent photos. We only saw the one bird,
a male, so I do not know if there is a pair.
With a little time to kill before prowling for owls above Liberty, we drove up the Old Blewett Pass road
as far as a hairpin turn with a spectacular view. While admiring that view we heard a woodpecker drumming
in the valley below us. It was a long and relatively slow drum which faded towards the end - a Three-toed
Woodpecker drum - and by triangulating on its location then studying satellite photos after we got home
I was able to determine that it was coming from along Iron Creek about a quarter mile below the burn.
Unfortunately we had not brought the bluetooth speaker with us so we were not able to call it effectively.
The only other woodpecker with a similar drum is the Black-backed but I do not think that bird would venture
a quarter mile out of its burn to do its drumming so I counted it as a Three-toed.
Above Liberty after dark the hills were alive with the sound of ORV's so we avoided the main road up
Cougar Gulch and took 116 instead. We heard one Poorwill near Nighthawk Knoll (that access road was
blocked by blowdowns) and one distant Flammulated Owl a little higher up. Good enough.
05/27/2020 The Backyard
Around the Stream
Chipping Sparrow in the pond
The Rock Garden
Anna's Hummingbird at the Hotlips
Under the apple tree
For a month now I have been doing almost daily checklists from our backyard. The Chipping Sparrow first
appeared about a week ago and is the first one I have ever seen in the yard. It is the 45th species this
year and the 69th species since we moved in three years ago. With its diversity of plantings and variety
of flowers in bloom now, the backyard is quite a pleasant place to hang out. The combination of seed and
suet feeders with the pond and recirculating stream attracts about 15 species of birds on a regular basis
with two or three more that fly over regularly and another dozen that show up occasionally. New birds
appear often enough to keep it interesting - 10 in the past month and 10 in April as well. Thanks to the
coronavirus, the ambient noise level has been lower this year which has helped. My increasing difficulty
with walking has also helped my yard list - I spend more time sitting on the back deck instead of birding
down in Ravenna Park.
Black-chinned Hummingbird near Windy Point
Cormorants at Millet Pond
Rainbow over Nine Mile Canyon
The discovery of a Black-throated Sparrow near Benton City yesterday altered our itinerary as we set
out for a four day birding trip with Ed and Delia to Kittitas County, the Columbia Basin and the
Walla Walla area. Instead of spending the morning in Kittitas County chasing woodpeckers, I decided
to head directly for the Black-throated Sparrow with only a brief stop near Windy point just south
of Yakima to look for a Black-chinned Hummingbird in the spot where Ellen showed me one a year ago.
The hummingbird showed up right where it was supposed to, thereby burnishing my birdfinding reputation
with Ed and Delia. We did not do as well with the sparrow; it apparently departed last night. We also
missed White-faced Ibis at the Millet Ponds although we did have nice scope views of Black-crowned Night-Herons.
At 9 mile Canyon the Ferrginous Hawks
were feeding two young under the echo of a bright rainbow.
05/29/2020 Blue Mountains
Gray Catbird along South Fork Coppei Creek
Great Gray Owl
Great Gray Baby
We introduced Ed and Delia to one of my favorite birding spots in the state this morning,
the South Fork Coppei Creek Road
It is just a narrow strip of riparian tickets along the creek and about a quarter mile of brushy hillside
along the road but it is good for a nice variety of birds, including three new ones for the year this morning.
Heading up the North Fork Coppei Creek Road
we stopped at the usual brushy hillside overlooks and heard two Green-tailed Towhees, my primary Blue
Mountain target bird, though we were unable to see either one. It took me a couple of years but I can now
reliably distinguish their song from the quite similar songs of Lazuli Buntings and Fox Sparrows, so I counted
the towhees. With almost enough time to spare we drove back down the mountain and up Jasper Mountain Road
to show Ed and Delia the Great Gray Owls nesting up there. The nest appeared empty but one adult and one
young one were hanging out nearby.
We returned to town early enough to visit with Richard and Donna on their shady front patio for an hour
or so before heading over to Ben and Sally's for supper. Sally ordered out some delicious Mexican food
from a new place she has been wanting to try and the kids led Darchelle on several treasure hunts before
we ate it. We lingered outside talking after the kids went to bed and until even the nighthawks went to bed.
05/30/2020 Columbia Basin
Redhead with Ruddy Duck
Coot with cootlet
We ate breakfast with Ben and Sally and the kids and Richard and Donna on the back patio, so we did
not get going until almost noon. That would not of been a problem as the birds we were seeking were
not morning types but our late start caught up to us later in the afternoon when a band of big
thunderstorms overtook us near Connell while we were looking for a Burrowing Owl. (No luck, but
we did call in a Grasshopper Sparrow
for consolation, and Ed and Delia found several pairs of Long-billed Curlews.) The most intense cell
passed far enough east of us that all we saw was some distant lightning and an ominous array of
mammary clouds overhead but the prospect of rain and the reality of wind jinxed our search for
Forster's Terns and Tricolored Blackbirds. Nonetheless we did very well on our first couple of
stops, with a Franklin's Gull and four White-faced Ibis, both difficult to find, at the Walla Walla
River Delta, and Wilson's Phalaropes at the Tyson ponds. Darchelle was delighted with six Barn Owls
at the Dodd Road borrow pit and I was delighted to finally get Blue-winged Teal at the Madame Dorian
pond. We didn't take enough pictures anywhere except at the little marsh pond off Dodd Road which
featured a very showy Ruddy Duck and a more traditionally handsome Redhead, along with baby Coots.
05/31/2020 Woodpeckers at last
Pygmy Nuthatch along North Wenas Road
We spent the night at a western-themed AirB&B in the town of Kittitas across the street from a
vacant western-style store with a big "Trump Headquarters" banner across its false front. Morning
was breezy and brisk but sunny. We met Ed and Delia at Days Inn, where they had stayed for half
what we paid, and caravaned to Starbucks before heading out the Umptanum road to seek a White-headed
Woodpecker in the pine forest north of the saddle. Andy had recommended that area to me in an email
after I complained about my difficulty in finding one.
We walked about a mile and a half of the gravel North Wenas Road through
the pine forest
. The air was
cool, the sunshine warm and the traffic light. Lots of birds were singing but though we played
woodpecker calls repeatedly, I heard a White-headed call only briefly and it was so distant I would
not have counted it except that we stopped again on the way back and heard the bird call more
clearly from the same area. In between we drove down to Maloy Road
and found a Red-naped Sapsucker almost immediately in the aspens
along Wenas Creek. So in one morning I picked up the two woodpeckers which I've been looking for
all month. We also picked up a much more difficult bird, a Northern Goshawk which Darchelle spotted
as it flew up into a pine tree along the North Wenas Road. Characteristically it did not linger but
immediately flew across the road to another tree then took off in rapid level flight through the
pines and was gone. It seemed smaller than I would have expected but that was my only reservation
about the ID. Darchelle, who had the best view, described it as gray above with a dark rim along
the entire trailing edge of the wing. She also noticed fluffy white undertail coverts. Both of
those observations, as well as the pine forest habitat and powerful flight, would indicate a
Goshawk. They are rare; it is not a bird I see every year. Nonetheless we may have seen two more
that afternoon up at Iron Creek
where Darchelle managed to relocate the Black-backed Woodpecker for Ed and Delia. We did not manage
to relocate Three-toed Woodpecker Darchelle and I heard drumming a week ago but failure to arouse a
woodpecker at 4 o'clock in the afternoon does not by any means indicate that it is not present.
According to Andy they are typically morning birds.
We arrived home in time for Darchelle to do some work in the yard while I got on the computer, but I
got quite cold without really paying attention since I'm used to being somewhat uncomfortable and
just putting up with it. My chill may have been the reason that my leg gave out when I stepped the
wrong way on some clothing at the top of the stairs. I collapsed in a heap on the landing but
fortunately did not slide over the edge. My left leg hyper flexed and was quite painful but as I
took inventory of what hurt I realized that my left big toe was also uncomfortable. It was
Darchelle who noticed my entire toenail lying upside down on the floor nearby. She had been taking
a bath but jumped out of the tub and got me up and seated in a chair in the bathroom where she
covered me with blankets because I was shivering uncontrollably, partly from cold but also from
shock, I think. I told her to get some gauze and tape and wrap up my toe, which was now beginning
to bleed and to hurt. She did that and also fed me a couple of ibuprofen and I began to settle
A note from the real world
The city of Seattle is under a 5PM curfew order in an attempt to restrain initially peaceful
protests which turned violent over the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday. We
don't see any impacts here in mostly white Ravenna but I-5 was closed and sirens still interrupt the
calm of the evening. The news is full of reports about demonstrations turning violent across the
country as police respond to protests about police violence with even more violence. The Floyd
incident seems to have triggered an awareness of injustice and demand for change among both Whites
and Blacks that have been building due to several other widely-broadcast examples of racial
inequality in the country.
Back on February 23rd a black jogger named Ahmaud Arbery was stalked and murdered by three white
men, one a former police officer, in a suburban neighborhood in Georgia. No charges were filed by
the local police department until one of the men involved released a video online more than two
months later. The video went viral and two days later the men were finally arrested.
On the night of March 13 police burst into the apartment of Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend in
Louisville Kentucky while they were asleep in bed. When Taylor's boyfriend, "standing his ground"
like white folks do, pulled out a gun and shot at the intruders, the police fired eight bullets into
Breonna, killing her in her bed, then arrested Walker for shooting back. The police were acting on
a "no-knock" warrant which they obtained by falsely claiming that Taylor was receiving drug
shipments in her apartment.
On Monday morning, hours before George Floyd was killed, a black birdwatcher named Christian Cooper
was looking for migrants in a wild area of Central Park in New York where off-leash dogs are not
allowed. When he encountered a white woman running her dog loose, he asked her to put it on the
leash and told her that he would offer it dog treats if she did not do so (what a great idea!).
Christian began to record the incident on his cell phone. She approached him and demanded that he
stop the recording, and as he asked her not to come close to him, she repeatedly told him that she
was going to call the police and tell them that an African-American man was threatening her. When
she did call 911 and told the operator that an African-American men was threatening her, Christian
said "thank you" and walked away. By the time the police arrived, the woman had also left the scene
but when Christian and his sister put the video online, the woman's attempt to use the police as a
potentially deadly weapon against Christian backfired. The video went viral; the woman's employer
fired her and even the animal shelter demanded that she returned the dog. The term "birding while
black" became a thing.
Widely reported recently are the facts that Covid-19 is four times more likely to be fatal for black
people than for white people. An encounter with police is far more likely to be fatal for a black
person then for a white person. The average white household has 10 times the net worth of the
average black household.
It begs the question, how are we to engage with this real world?
Perhaps because my sore toe woke me up from time to time last night, I remembered three dreams in
the morning. One was about walking around a bank lobby and another about bicycling in Jackson.
Neither of those dreams lent themselves to understanding but the meaning of the third dream was a
little more clear.
I am walking up wooden stairs with my arm around my wife or girlfriend who is quite a bit shorter
and younger than I am and is wearing a brown sweater. I realize that she is not Darchelle and am
confused when I remember that I am married to Darchelle. She tells me that she will not be with me
forever because she wants to have children, but I am okay with that because I am dying, and I think
I tell her that. We passed a tall young man who is standing on one side of the stairway and he
grabs my wife by her breasts, reaching from behind her, but that seems to be okay with both her and
me. Perhaps she will get together with him, I think.
We reach a landing where the stairway turns left and ascend a few more steps to the top of the
staircase. While we are standing there, two women across the hallway from us are nuzzling each
other. They are in middle age, rather tall, slender and attractive. I assume they are partners. A
young man comes up to us and offers us something like hors d'oeuvres from a round tray. Then the
young man who had grabbed my wife by the breasts comes up to the landing below us and begins talking
with us. He is affable and attractive, quite tall with a round face topped by an unruly wave of
orange hair. I feel a sense of relief that he seems to be a good person.
The young woman who is my wife in the dream reminds me of Caitlin, cheerful and upbeat with an
innocence about her. The tall young man who grabbed her reminds me very much of a grown-up version
of my nephew Judah. The two women who are partners reminded me of my therapist, and also of women
who partner with another woman after leaving a perhaps abusive heterosexual marriage. Overall I
think the dream seeks to resolve concerns about how Darchelle will fare after I die.
In the cycling dream:
I ride down to the village from the Davis farm on a bicycle with a faulty rear brake. I make it
down the hill without mishap despite the faulty brake, but once at the schoolyard in the village I
realize that I need to vote but have left my ballot back up on the hill. I do not have time to go
back and retrieve it so instead I go across the street and deposit a partial set of toy wooden
blocks in one of a number of large open wooden boxes. Someone else will have to supply the rest of
the set of blocks.
This dream appears to be about trying to wrap up unfinished business before I die. My disability
does not prevent me from doing that but I nonetheless am unable to accomplish everything I want to.
Some things will simply not get done and others though incomplete will leave a something behind to
perhaps be completed, or at least be appreciated, by someone else. Voting may represent things I am
responsible for, duties perhaps. The toy blocks recall my childhood when for a time I loved to
build things with them. They may represent the creative activities I have profoundly enjoyed such
as photography, writing, painting, polishing rocks and such. In all of these areas I would have done
more if I'd had time.
In the bank dream:
I am walking around a bank lobby naked from the waist down. My penis is conspicuously and
embarrassingly erect. I am unsuccessful in my attempt to contact the customer service desk due to
my nakedness and my erection.
While Darchelle is working I often go several hours without pants after using the bathroom because I
cannot pull them up again by myself. This dream appears to be a worst-case scenario where I need to
run an errand in that condition, perhaps expressing concern about exposure of shameful parts of
myself due to my disability, or perhaps expressing shame I feel about being disabled.
06/04/2020 North Bend
Mount Si from Three Forks Park
This afternoon we drove up to North Bend to chase a Least Flycatcher at Three Forks Natural Area
, though I hoped to pick up a Red-eyed Vireo and a Black Swift
as well. Darchelle hoped to pick up a couple of Sword Ferns and Goatsbeards along the recently reopened
Middle Fork Road, our usual plant collecting spot. It was about a half-mile walk out to the NE
corner of the second field where the flycatcher had been reported singing in the willows. It was
doing just that
when we arrived. Another birder had his long lens aimed at the bird making it
easy to spot. Darchelle got a few photos too. We didn't see the Red-eyed Vireo but I heard three
of them singing around the perimeter of the field. No swifts, either there or at Snoqualmie Falls
where I leaned against the railing and studied the sky for about an hour while people came and went,
including a family picnicking on fragrant Indian food behind me. That was not the only fragrance
wafting around the overlook; other visitors generally kept their distance but collectively seemed to
be more perfumed than usual crowd. I wondered whenever I caught someone's scent whether that meant
that I could also catch their virus, if they had any.
The sun had set by the time we started up the Middle Fork Road. Swallows were darting above the
treetops and above them another bird with long slender wings set in a bow sailed without apparent
effort on the wind - a Black Swift! Darchelle stopped the car and tried for a couple photos then we
chased it for a mile or so down the valley but did not spot it again. Just beyond the Maidenhair
Fern cliff we stopped and Darchelle was able to excavate a couple of ferns so we did not go home
06/07/2020 A Blackbird, an Owl and a Cloud
Red-winged Blackbird at Kahlotus Lake
Bullocks Oriole at Kahlotus Lake
Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds at McManamon Road
We drove over to Othello this morning to see a Tricolored a Blackbird but our quest proved more
difficult than I anticipated because there were none at the supposed colony below the
Kahlotus Lake Overlook
, nor could we
find any among the blackbirds feeding on spilled grain at West McManamon Road
. Darchelle finally spotted one sitting on the fence by the
afternoon we kept thinking that the Red-wings that we were looking might be Tricoloreds but when we
finally found an actual Tricolored we had no question about it. The shoulder bar is white instead
of buff and the red above it is crimson rather than scarlet.
Although I saw the bird on the fence, I confirmed the identification from Darchelle's photo. That
was typical of my day - The birds were usually too far away for me to identify without optics and I
was too short of breath to use the scope effectively. There were some memorable moments, such as
the Prairie falcon stooping on blackbirds at Kahlotus Lake, but generally I felt too physically
stressed to do an adequate job of recording our sightings in eBird, and that was frustrating. The
weather was challenging too, quite windy and sometimes rainy as well, but when the sun did come out
the contrast of bright landscape under dark clouds was glorious.
The four hours we spent searching for a Tricolored Blackbird left us little time for our other two
targets - Forster's Tern and Burrowing Owl. We tried for the tern at Lind Coulee and Perch Point
but found only gulls. We had more success with the owl. I considered it unlikely and probably
would not have chosen to try for it at all given that we would not get to the spot near Soap Lake
until after sunset, but Darchelle really wanted to see one so we drove up there. As we approached
the area whereI was it had been reported, a weedy boulder field near the Rocky Ford turn-off from Highway
17, I spotted an oddly owl-shaped rock balanced on the top of a four-foot boulder quite close to
the road. Just in case, I asked Darchelle to pull over and back up to where we could check it out.
The "rock" had just come into view when it flushed and flew away with rapid wing beats. It seemed
long-tailed like a falcon but it pretty much had to be a Burrowing Owl. Fortunately we spotted it
(or perhaps a second one) again, this time sitting on a fence post and looking more like a typical
As we were heading west up I-90 towards Ryegrass Summit from Vantage I spotted a large and luminous
cloud rising above the hills to our north. The sky was clear and the sunset had long since faded
leaving a faint glow behind a thin dark band of altostratus hugging the horizon. The color of the
mystery cloud was unlike any cloud I have ever seen, a cold pale greenish blue with a brownish cast
at the horizon. Were it not for that color and the somewhat fibrous texture it might simply have
been the city lights of Wenatchee reflecting off a patch of stratus, but the sky was clear all
around us and city lights cast an orange, not a bluish, glow. This cloud was in fact a rare
Noctilucent Cloud, as far as I know the first one I have ever seen. They appear an hour or two
after the summer sunset and are composed of water ice crystals in the Mesosphere 250,000 feet above
the earth where the temperature is about -200F, reflecting the light of the sun after the lower
layers of the atmosphere are in darkness. Very cool!
06/09/2020 Yard birding
Male Anna's Hummingbird
Juvenile Rufous Hummingbird
The male Anna's Hummingbird who considers our yard his territory has had to yield a bit to one or
two juvenile Anna's, perhaps his own offspring, as well as a juvenile Rufous which Darchelle
fortunately was able to capture in a photo. It is smaller and more golden green on the back than
the Anna's but I wasn't certain of the ID until I was able to catch a glimpse of the orange in the
tail. In other news the local juncos have contributed at least three broods of one or two juveniles
each to our back yard clientele. The Bewick's Wren has been working hard softening up seeds to feed
to its young. A flock of baby Chestnut-backed Chickadees have been perfecting their flight skills
in the backyard. There were seven when they first showed up on 21 May; now there seemed to be only
five but they are considerably more agile than they were back then. In mammal news I finally got to
see the rat swim across the pond. Darchelle told me about it about a month ago but I had not seen
it for myself. It makes the 6 foot crossing in less than two seconds so I doubt we will ever get a
photo of the phenomenon.
I have my favorite hangouts. In the morning I sit at the counter in the kitchen while Darchelle
makes coffee and fixes our breakfasts. We have been drinking a couple of new varieties of coffee
recently and Darchelle has been using the French press rather than the cone filter. Trying
different coffees "livens up our little lives" she noted the other day. Sometime during the day I
sit outside on the back deck for an hour or so and make note of the birds I see or hear, entering
them into an eBird checklist. I have a streak going on eBird of 45 consecutive days on which I have
entered a checklist. Probably two thirds of them are from the backyard. I only get a dozen or so
birds on a good day and they are for the most part the same birds each day with one or two
variations, so I don't know if my checklist streak is really legitimate, but it livens up my little
06/13/2020 Indigo Bunting
Offleash Dog trail at Marymoor
So does chasing year birds - birds I have not yet seen this year in Washington state. This Indigo
Bunting was #280. It was discovered in Marymoor Park in Redmond two or three days ago, singing on a
territory in the offleash dog area. The off leash area is actually quite good habitat, a tall grass
meadow dotted with clumps of Spirea and a few ash and cherry trees, and bordered on two sides by
dense groves of willow and cottonwood. It supports a healthy nesting population of Savanna Sparrows
and Lazuli Buntings among whom the Indigo Bunting seems to be holding his own.
We spent our first half hour at the park chasing the Lazuli Bunting pictured above nibbling on grass
seeds. I thought it might be the Indigo; Darchelle proved otherwise. The real Indigo was about 50
yards further south singing in the top of a dead Willow. The Indigo's song seemed to have fewer
high-frequency tones then the Lazuli song giving it a richer fuller sound though the distinction was
nothing if not subtle. In my experience with Indigo Buntings in New Hampshire I found that each
bird had its own unique song (with perhaps one or two alternates), so you could identify individuals
by their songs. This bird likewise seemed to have its own song. Once we fixed it in mind we could
follow the bird around its territory, and distinguish it from neighboring Lazulis, by listening for
it. While we were there we only encountered a couple of other birders but there were so many
reports on eBird for the following day that I think the birders may have outnumbered the dog
The East Meadow at Marymoor Park
This chase was successful. They aren't always. Wednesday afternoon (the day the Indigo was first
reported) after Darchelle's last session we jumped in the car headed north to Mount Vernon where a
rare Black-throated Sparrow was being seen in a horse pasture. We made it about 20 miles when
Darchelle noticed that we were almost out of gas and we both realized that between us we had neither
cash nor credit card nor even a drivers license. We had enough gas to get home but only if we
turned around immediately. So we did. By now it was rush hour and we couldn't get back up to see
the bird until around 7PM, so I decided to put off a second attempt until the next morning when we
could try for two other year birds also in the area. It was the wrong decision. The sparrow was
seen at 7:30PM but was gone by Thursday morning, so we missed it. For consolation though, we did see
(distantly through the scope) a beautiful and also rare American Golden Plover in full breeding plumage
out on the mudflats at Hayden Reserve.
06/21/2020 Inland Terns
Spokane, self-proclaimed capital of the Inland Empire, is a long drive from Seattle but time was running
out for finding the two inland terns - Forster's and Black - which nest out in that area and which
we missed and almost missed respectively last year. A recent report of the rare Eastern Phoebe which
was discovered north of Spokane about a month ago confirmed our decision to make the overnight trip.
Forster's Tern over Crab Creek
Clark's Grebe in Crab Creek
Black-crowned Night-Heron, North Potholes
Forster's Terns nest somewhere around Moses Lake but seem to range widely while foraging so on our way east
we stopped to check a couple of locations where they had been recently reported. We did not find them
at North Potholes (where Darchelle photographed
this Lark Sparrow
and the Black-crowned Night-Heron) but on our way out
Darchelle thought we might get another view of the lake from the end of Road C NE so we detoured out there
and she was correct. Road C NE ended at the waters edge underneath the power lines and offered a view south
down the marshy channel of Crab Creek
and that is where the Forster's Terns were foraging this afternoon. Although they were quite difficult
to photograph, Darchelle managed to get one good shot before we resumed our trip east.
Perennial Cornflower (Centaurea montana)
West Plains prairie at sunset
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia aristata)
The Black Terns were not where I had hoped to find them at Ames Lake along I-90 (somewhere around
milepost 252) so we decided to try for the Clay-colored Sparrow reported recently in the West Plains
area just south on US 2 west of Spokane. It is a known location for the species, which is relatively
uncommon in Washington, but the habitat is atypical. Clay-coloreds prefer open hillsides with a mix
of tall grass and brushy patches of snowberry and/or wild rose but West Plains offers only tall grass
and sagebrush - typical habitat not for Clay-colored but for the closely-related Brewer's Sparrow
instead. Nonetheless David and I
found both species there back in 2013 so I knew where to look, more or less.
Clay-colored/Brewer's Sparrow (hybrid?)
West Plains offers a pretty good patch of native-looking prairie along the north side of McFarlane Road
and irrigated fields along the south side. It has flowers. On a quiet Sunday evening it was a very
peaceful place, yet with a surprising amount of bird activity
We had no difficulty finding sparrows; several species were singing, but I did not hear any
Clay-colored songs among them. When we played a Clay-colored recording, a sparrow immediately flew
in and perched in a nearby sagebrush bush. It looked rather like a Clay-colored but when it sang,
it gave a Brewer's song, albeit one which started out with five dry buzzes very similar to one of
the typical Clay-colored songs. The bird had the pronounced cheek pattern of a Clay-colored but
with an overall grayish rather than buffy color. There was only a trace of the white median crown
stripe which is characteristic of a Clay-colored sparrow but absent in the Brewer's. I called it a
Brewer's but my best guess is that it was a hybrid.
Black Tern diving into Ames Lake
We returned to West Plains the following afternoon after successfully finding both the Phoebe and
Black Terns. We spent a quiet and hopefully Covid-free night at the Best Western Plus in North
Spokane then drove up towards Newport to chase the Phoebe before (a rather late) breakfast at Arctos Coffee shop
back in Spokane, where the
Macchiato, made with cream, was super yummy. Discouraged by our late start and the possibility of
missing the Phoebe, I might've skipped skipped the 40 minute drive north to look for it but
fortunately Darchelle insisted. The Phoebe, hanging out in verdant streamside tickets, responded
promptly to a brief recording of its song and Darchelle got photos while it repeated its call
several times for us. The Black Terns were equally cooperative but less amenable to photographs.
Darchelle tried while we parked uncomfortably on the shoulder of I-90 at Ames Lake.
Clay-colored Sparrow (probably)
Having done a little more research, I knew to look for the Clay-colored in the conspicuous brush
pile about 100 yards west of where we had looked the day before. The sparrow which popped up on top
of the brush in response to playback looked only a little more like a Clay-colored than the bird
Darchelle photograph yesterday evening. A little later she photographed it, or another one, out on
a sagebrush bush while I waited in the car because I was too tired to walk out there with her. She
thought she heard that one sing a typical Clay-colored song but unfortunately I had played the
recording at about the same time, so we don't know for sure if she actually heard it sing or not.
Whatever, based on her photos I counted it as a Clay-colored this time though I still suspect it
might be a hybrid. Darchelle also got a good Brewer's Sparrow photograph for comparison.
Selfie at Washington Pass overlook
We got the Redstart at Oso Loop
on our second attempt, this afternoon on our way to Winthrop. We also stopped at the Washington Pass Overlook
20, my favorite place to look for (and fail to find) Three-toed Woodpeckers and Pine Grosbeaks
though our visit today was memorable more for the urgency with which I needed to defecate than for
the birds we spotted. The road was gated and the bathrooms were locked and my ALS-addled legs do
not squat. Long story short, I did not poop in my pants but it was damn close.
Flower bed at Chewuch Inn
Lewis flax (Linum lewisii)
Scarlet Gilia and Penstemons
I had not reserved a place to stay by the time we rolled into town but fortunately the Chewuch Inn
had a room
and even a homemade breakfast in the morning. Darchelle was delighted with the place. We
ate our own supper sitting on a bench outside our room in the quiet of the early evening. While we
sat there under a little patch of Aspen with native wildflowers at our feet, Daniel called with news
that he had a new job as wine director and sommelier at a new high-end restaurant in Geneva New
York. He had been excited about the opportunity and after four interviews via phone and FaceTime
(one of which was on our back deck one evening recently), he knew that he was in the running but was
nonetheless thrilled to report that he had been accepted. For his career it is a great next step
but he has become close to his housemates and other friends over the past couple of years and it will be
tough to leave home in Washington. We were excited for him but a little alarmed
that he will be leaving in less than two weeks.
Dusky Grouse keeping cool
Dusky Grouse with fly
Western Kingbird nesting along Patterson Lake Road
Western Kingbird on nest
In the morning despite a late start Darchelle insisted that we stick with our initial plan and
drive up to Sun Mountain Lodge to look for a Dusky Grouse around the tennis courts. Again this year
she spotted it first. The past two years we have seen a hen with chicks but this time it was a male
who showed up and cooperatively permitted some close-up photos while it hung out under a pine tree
at the far end of the parking lot. At one point, while Darchelle was lying on her stomach to get
some eye-level shots, the grouse walked right up to her and looked as though he might hop up on top
of her butt for a better view, but he didn't. We also got photos of a pair of Western Kingbirds
nesting along Patterson Lake Road.
Boreal Chickadee in Lodgepole Pine
Boreal Chickadee foraging
I have never seen either Boreal Chickadees or Spruce Grouse up around Tiffany Mountain but others have
so we tried again today and batted 500. Had I been able to poke around in the remnant unburned stands
of Lodgepole Pine around Rogers Lake
we might have been able to find the grouse but my legs no longer do blowdowns. We didn't find any
Boreal Chickadees there either but we did find them in another lodgepole stand about halfway between
Freezeout Pass and Tiffany Meadows. They came in promptly to playback and hung out while Darchelle
tried for photos. She did pretty well considering how difficult they are, in my experience, to
photograph. The bird on the right looks particularly scruffy; that is actually one of the
characteristics I use to distinguish them from other chickadees - Boreal Chickadees almost always
06/27/2020 Eden Valley and the Okanogan Highlands
Dinner at Eden Valley Ranch
The view from dinner - Bonaparte Mountain
I was hoping for three species - Bobolink, Clay-colored Sparrow and Gray Partridge - in the Okanogan
Highlands. Andy claimed that the Partridge, which probably reside in the hayfields around the
ranch, sometimes call to each other right at dusk, so after supper (shared at suitably-separated
tables outside our cabins) we caravaned out to the main road to listen. We heard Great Horned Owl
babies begging for supper but, perhaps fearing to become that supper, the partridge remained silent.
We also heard and saw Common Nighthawks overhead, which delighted Ed.
Male Bobolink at Eden Valley Ranch
Lupine and Wild Rose along Fields Lake
Clay-colored Sparrow (definitely)
Yellow-headed Blackbird at Sidley Lake
Roadside flowers near Sidley Lake
Northern Harrier with mouse
When we arrived Friday evening our hostess Robin, hearing that we were looking for Bobolinks, said
she thought she had a pair in her field. She was right! Our companions found them right away in
the morning along with a host of other species while Darchelle and I slept in. I did
a partial checklist
of my own just
so I could include Darchelle's excellent photos of the Bobolinks.
Post-Bobolinks we drove the short distance to Fields Lake
where we found an indisputably Clay-colored Sparrow right where we
saw one (but neglected to eBird it) last year
Red-tailed Hawk above Salmon Meadows
Hess Lake Valley
California Quail along Hess Lake Road
Saturday afternoon we drove down to Conconully and braved the rocks and ruts of NF-3820 for about a
mile above Salmon Meadows
search of Spruce Grouse and Pine Grosbeaks. We parked at a trailhead and followed an old logging
track into the woods, where Andy was able to call in a whole flock of little birds including one or
two Boreal Chickadees, here
Darchelle, exploring a little farther into the woods, flushed a grouse but never saw it. I didn't
attempt to follow her; the half-mile walk on the logging road was challenging enough.
We stopped briefly at Hess Lake on our way back down into the valley but it began to rain so we
didn't get out and try to rustle up a Gray Partridge.
Female Bobolink at Eden Valley Ranch
Meadows along Dry Gulch Road
Tree Swallow along Dry Gulch Road
Sunday morning we spotted (and photographed) the Eden Valley Bobolinks again then birded our way out
Dry Gulch Road to Havillah road. Andy suggested that Darchelle and I drive in front in case we flushed
any Gray Partridge but unfortunately we got too far ahead to follow Andy's commentary on the portable
radios so we missed a few things. We all reunited on the Havillah Sno-park road where we ran into
Khan Tranh with a client and Andy called up a Pygmy Owl for all of us. Darchelle heard it first but
by the time it came in a squadron of Robins had also discovered it and shortly drove it away again.
Williamson's Sapsucker nesting habitat
Female Williamsons Sapsucker
Social distancing at Lost Lake
Red-winged Blackbird on Beaver Lake
Common Loon and baby on Lost Lake
American Widgeon on Beaver Lake
Williamson's Sapsuckers frequent the montane mixed-coniferous forest around Bonaparte Mountain but
though we had great views of a female near her nest hole, close photos of the male eluded us once
again. My best photo of a male remains this one
taken the last time I was at Lost Lake back in June of 2013. Lost Lake is aptly named but Andy
found it for us. We walked the nature trail at the south end of the lake while a Common Loon gave
its haunting call from out on the water. Feeling weak, I returned to the trailhead while the others
continued and accrued a slightly
. It turned out that the Loon had a young one to which it
fed a trout
while Darchelle and I watched and the others waited for us.
We drove east, more or less, to Beaver Lake
for our last stop of the day. There Darchelle and I were pretty
sure we had spotted a Tricolored Blackbird, extremely unlikely in that location, but Andy
straightened us out on the ID. You gotta admit that the wing bar is pretty white (not yellow), but
unfortunately the red epaulet is not crimson but scarlet. Darchelle and I returned home via
Wenatchee and Cle Elum while Ed and Delia took the North Cascades highway, which they had never
seen. We beat them back to Seattle by two hours but they had better scenery. Andy and Ellen spent
the night in Winthrop and found the Dusky Grouse at Sun Mountain Lodge in the morning.
Lyle is a small town in the Columbia Gorge about an hour east of Portland where Douglas Fir and
Bigleaf Maple yield to Ponderosa Pine and Garry Oak and meadows begin to compete with the forest.
Acorn Woodpeckers and Ash-throated Flycatchers like the pine-oak habitat so we drove down there to
look for them. The woodpeckers can be found year-round but the flycatchers are summer visitors and
will be quite hard to find once they've stopped calling sometime later this month. So as to get an
early start, we again spent the night beforehand at the Lyle Hotel where we had an exciting night last fall
. While Darchelle unpacked the
car we asked the proprietor about the Sheriff's visit but he did not recall anything about it. I
did not recall the intimidating stairway to our second-floor bedroom but it went fine, as did our
night in room 10, the one with the comfortable king bed.
Biggers Road meadows
In the morning we ate breakfast by ourselves in the dining room, just like last time, then drove
over to Biggers Road
original Acorn Woodpecker spot a quarter mile east of Balch Road. I thought we might get lucky and
find them there instead of having to hike up Catherine Creek like we did last fall. I would have a
lot harder time with that hike now than I did then. We got lucky. Before we had even pulled over
to the side of the road I had spotted both the woodpecker and the flycatcher. We hung out there
For another half hour while Darchelle tried for photos and we considered what to do with the rest
of our day.
Wild Turkey at Balch Lake
Mt Adams from Trout Lake
Cedar Waxwing in Lewis County
After a sunny stroll along Balch Road we decided to head home the back way via forest roads from
Trout Lake to Randle. Darchelle bought a few tops at a yard sale on the way to Trout Lake, where
we tried to stop for coffee and a snack but there were too many people. We stopped a couple of times
in the forest above Trout Lake to try to call in a Hermit Warbler but without success. Reaching
Randle, I realized we were in Lewis County, one of the only two counties in the state where I
have not yet seen 50 species so we went birding at a nearby hotspot
. The highlight was a Yellow-breasted Chat but I think it was
the Cedar Waxwing that put me over 50.
07/18/2020 Wylie Slough Peep Sweep
"Peep" is a generic term for any of the five small species of sandpipers which breed in the North
American Arctic and pass through the United States on their spring and fall migrations. Four peeps
frequent Washington, where southbound migrants start showing up in early July, typically adults
still in breeding plumage whose early arrival may indicate that their attempt to breed failed.
Semipalmated Sandpipers, the rarest of the Washington peeps, have been reported around the Sound for
over a week already, long enough for me to start worrying that I would miss them so we devoted the
past two days to looking for them. Western and Least Sandpipers, the two common peeps in
Washington, have also arrived and one or two Baird's Sandpipers have been reported as well though I
personally have never seen one of those before mid-August.
The four Washington peeps are so similar in plumage and behavior that I find that I have to
reacquaint myself with them each migration season in order to reliably identify them. The trick is
to scrutinize the two common species until I can recognize them at a glance, then the other two will
immediately stand out when I come across them. That is what we spent yesterday doing - studying
Western and Least Sandpipers through the scope trying unsuccessfully to turn them into Semipalmateds.
We committed most of a hot afternoon to a long walk at Eide Road near Stanwood then wrapped up the
day at Jensen Access where the high tide had pushed the peeps up against the dike, great for
close-up viewing through the scope. It would have been good for photos too had I not left the
memory card in the computer at home.
Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers
Today we drove directly to Wylie Slough near Conway, about an hour from home. The tide was low and
there were lots of shorebirds to scrutinize. Most of them were Westerns, which like to hang out in
tight flocks. They forage in a generally upright posture and have variably longish bills which
taper to a fine tip which curves down a bit. Adult breeding plumage shows quite a bit of fine dark
streaking on the breast and back with black, gray and buff coloring in the wings with generally at
least some orange mixed in and on the crown. Semipalmated Sandpipers are quite similar to Westerns
but the bill is short and straight and relatively stout at the tip. They also never show orange in
the plumage and the streaking below is limited to a bib across the upper breast. I could not locate
any of the latter through the scope but I asked Darchelle to photograph a group of four sandpipers
that were off a bit by themselves and of those, two were Semipalmated.
Baird's and Least Sandpipers
Least Sandpipers don't generally form big flocks but rather feed alone or in small groups. They are
the smallest of the peeps and characteristically forage with a forward lean, perhaps because their
bill is rather short. In breeding plumage they are quite dark above, mostly blackish on the wings
with buff feather edges forming thin whitish lines. Blackish streaking on the breast forms a bib.
I wanted Darchelle to get a few photos of them but when she showed me what she had, I suddenly
realized that one of the birds she had found was a Baird's. It was still in sight, right in front
of us in fact, and it was a very good-looking bird. They look a bit like a larger version of a
Least Sandpiper but pale feather edgings on the wings and back create a beautiful pattern of streaks
on the nape grading into fine scales on the upper back which grow larger towards the tail. I had
Darchelle take lots of photos, particularly when the Baird's and the Least cooperatively foraged
Bald Eagle pursued by Red-winged Blackbird
Seeing all four peeps, and even getting photos, in one day left me glowing inside, but the afternoon
was yet young so after wrapping up the checklist at Wylie Slough
with a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, a fearless Red-winged Blackbird
pursuing and actually alighting on a Bald Eagle, and finally a Peregrine Falcon which dove on the
peeps and sent them all fleeing to safer shores, we decided to try for an easy year-bird, a Black
Oystercatcher at Rosario Beach State Park.
Scoping from Washington Park
Rhinoceros Auklet with sardines
Olive-sided Flycatcher at Rosario Head
We didn't find a Black Oystercatcher. When we ran into stop-and-go traffic two miles before the
turnoff to Rosario Beach we turned around and drove out to Washington Park near the Anacortes Ferry
Terminal instead. It is a large forested park with lots of the rocky shoreline that oystercatchers
favor and they are reported to nest there. We drove the loop road and stopped near Green Point (I
think) to scope the Sound where we found lots of Rhinoceros Auklets with their beaks full of
sardines, and also a pair of Marbled Murrelets - my 200th species for Skagit County - but we did not
see or hear any oystercatchers. From there we drove the back way along the shore to Rosario Beach
where we walked out to the headland amidst a thinning crowd. No oystercatchers there either
although they were reported a day later just a half mile to the east.
It was a good day. The walking was difficult and the scoping was even more difficult, both due to
lack of breath, but the birding was great!
07/24/2020 Salmo Pass
Shedroof Mountain Trail
Juvenile MacGillivray's Warbler
After our visit last summer
I wasn't sure
we would be back. It has been hard to estimate how fast I will decline. A year ago we walked perhaps
6 miles. This year I struggled to make it 2. Last year we fared better with birds and photos as well,
our only year bird for the trip this year being White-winged Crossbills, identified by voice. We
searched for Spruce Grouse and Pine Grosbeaks, both present but neither easy to locate, and we
missed both despite two days of searching Salmo Pass, Salmo Mountain, Pass Creek Pass and Bunchgrass
Meadows. On the other hand we did find a few of the local specialties. In addition to the two
flocks of White-winged Crossbills we had at least one American Three-toed Woodpecker drumming at
Salmo Pass, and around Bunchgrass Meadows, a couple of groups of Boreal Chickadees and a Northern
The Crossbills' flight call was a quick soft "chichichichi", less harsh than the similar calls of
the ubiquitous Pine Siskins and lacking both the ascending "zieeeet" of the Siskins and the
pronounced "chit chit" of the few Red Crossbills in the area. That said, identifying White-winged
Crossbills by voice is for me a still a bit sketchy. I counted them, #293 for the year, but in my
mind they joined the Hermit Warbler from back in May on my marginal-sighting list for the year.
Fortunately I would be able to redeem them at Bunchgrass Meadows in October when Delia and Ellen
would get visual confirmation that White-wings were present so that when I spotted a group of five
flying overhead giving a more extensive rendition of their flight calls, I felt certain of the
identification. For future reference, should I have another opportunity, the crossbills' flight
calls can also include a thin metallic-sounding "key key key" along with the "chichichichi".
On the way home we spent the night in Davenport so that we could search for Gray Partridge and
Sharp-tailed Grouse in the native bunchgrass habitat southwest of town early the next morning. We
stayed at the remarkably kitchy Black Bear Motel and alarmed the neighbors by strolling out into the
middle of the street well after dark to view the fading Comet NEOWISE through our spotting scope.
"What the fuck are you doing out there?" two girls yelled at us out of their second floor window.
They sounded drunk. "We're looking at the comet through a telescope" we replied. We invited them
to join us but they declined. The comet was a fuzzy spot low in the sky to the WNW, barely visible to
my naked eye but quite clear in the scope with its triangular glowing tail.
The grouse hunt was a bust. I found my inability to identify the sparrows along the fence lines
quite discouraging. Not only could I not identify them without binoculars, but I could barely even
turn my head to look at them. I felt that because I had to leave so many birds unidentified, I
could no longer produce a quality checklist. Unable to photograph the birds, unable to identify
them, unable to even look at them, and now unable to record them in a checklist - I felt that I was
losing the pleasure of one of the few activities left that I have been still able to enjoy.
08/15/2020 Two dreams
I sat on these two dreams for two months before writing them down so have probably lost a few of the
details but because they ushered in a couple weeks of depression I thought it worth recording them
nonetheless. Each dream was sufficiently disturbing that I woke up frightened and alarmed afterwards.
The first was longer, more of a narrative:
I am trudging down a hillside in knee-deep snow approaching the floor of a narrow valley, really
just a wide gully. I am not alone; perhaps Sarah is with me. Our destination is somewhere on the
steep forested slope on the far side of the valley. Seeking a way to cross the small stream flowing
down the valley, we look downstream but encounter a cliff. Returning upstream I bypass a flat area
of slippery ice then clamber over several angular boulders to reach the edge of the stream where it
flows over gray stone ledges. A rusty iron crucifix maybe 8 inches long with pointed ends hangs
off of one of the boulders.
Stepping across the stream I find myself in a small crowd of people being adressed by a young woman
dressed like a Park Ranger. She is explaining that we need to have a ticket to continue. I know that
I received a ticket and I believe it is in my pocket. I pull a pile of little slips of paper - folded
grocery receipts and ticket stubs and such - out of my pocket but the only tickets I find do not have
the correct number on them.
Leaving the crowd I walk a short distance up the slope and look up. Immediately over my head is a
black egg case which looks like a lump of caviar. As I watch it begins to move and I am afraid that
wasps are hatching out of it but instead a spider drops onto my foot. I am sitting down with my
knees up and I am not too concerned about the spider even though it climbs up my leg but suddenly it
gets on my arm, runs up to my shoulder, leaps onto my face and with big jaws reminiscent of a set of
dentures or of teeth in a skull, it bites me right on the bridge of my nose.
The second dream was brief but powerful.
I am working on a project - to set up a rope noose for a hanging. David and Mom are standing
separately some distance away and I have explained to them in a matter of fact way what I am doing
and they do not seem alarmed. Unable to reach the cubbyhole cabinets overhead I step on a stool
which is shaped like a beach ball but colored green and blue like pictures of the Earth from space.
It is quite unstable but I am able to reach whatever it is that I need and complete my preparations.
Suddenly I realize that what I am doing is preparing to kill myself and that I really am going to
die, and I wake up shocked and alarmed.
10/08/2020 Chasing #301
Fire cleanup along hwy 410
Sarvent Spires from Sunrise
Admiring the sunset at Sunrise
Enlisting Andy and Ellen's help again, we set out on a weekend expedition to the northeast corner of
the state in pursuit of four candidates for my 301'st bird in Washington this year. Boreal Owl
seemed to be our easiest target, having been reported recently at Sunrise on the north side of Mount
Rainier. One potential hitch was that Highway 410 near Enumclaw was closed due to cleanup from a
fire, at least according to the DOT website. The alternative was an extra two hour's drive around
the mountain, but a friend of Ellen's had reported that every hour a caravan of cars was allowed
through the closed area so we took our chances Wednesday afternoon, figuring that worst-case, we can
drive around the mountain and still get to Sunrise not too long after dark. We caught the 5PM
caravan. On the way through, we discovered that the fire burned the patch of forest where for
several years the boys and I have hunted chanterelles. The boys have dispersed and I am no longer
able enough to hike up to the mushroom patch, but it was disappointing to realize that the patch is
probably ruined anyhow.
Bugling elk were serenading the sunset at Sunrise but after dark the owls were silent. We played
recordings of their calls at 7:30 with no response. About 10 minutes later when we played again
both of us thought we saw an owl fly in and we both heard rustlings and squeaky noises and the
flutter of wings but nothing which would confirm the identity of the owls. After that, silence. We
pulled into the Best Western in Yakima around 11:30 and watched the vice-presidential debate until
about 2AM. We came away with a deeper appreciation of Kamala Harris and considerable irritation at
Mike Pence for his persistent talking over his time in violation of the debate rules. Had to appreciate
the fly that perched on Pence's head though - it knew where to find the bullshit.
Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow at Wentel Grant Park
Song Sparrow at Wentel Grant Park
Andy and Ellen searched for vagrants around Potholes while we slept in. They were driving up to
Salmo Pass when we pulled into Spokane and stopped at a neighborhood park
where a White-throated Sparrow (our second most likely
candidate) had recently been reported. Great little spot for sparrows to hang out but we
couldn't find the White-throated. Meanwhile Andy and Ellen bumped into a small flock of Pine
Grosbeaks, another one of our targets, before a rainstorm chased them back out of the mountains.
Historic Washington Hotel
Shedroof Mountain trail
Together on the trail
Darchelle had booked a room at the historic Washington Hotel in Metaline Falls because we like
the character of those old Victorian inns. Unfortunately in those old inns the guest rooms tend
to be upstairs, and stairs challenge me. The stairs were indeed intimidating but with Darchelle's support
I took them one at a time with a couple of stops on the way to try to catch my breath and we made it.
The bed was a bit hard and the light a bit dingy but we slept well enough and I appreciated the long
carpeted hallway. I did my walking up and down that hallway and succeeded in making my step goal of
25,000 for the week. Perhaps for the last time.
We spent a pleasant fall day in the mountains above Metaline Falls, first at Bunchgrass Meadows then
at Salmo Pass, with Andy and Ellen and Ed and Delia, who made the long trip east to join us. We walked
some at both places; Darchelle shot this brief video of me
on the trail at Salmo Pass. We searched both areas for Spruce Grouse and Pine Grosbeaks but without
success then lingered at Salmo Pass until after dark to look for Boreal Owls but heard no responses
to our recordings despite near-perfect conditions. That made three strikes for the owls in three
different locations in the past 10 days. I don't know what that means. Actually I do; it means
that with snow poised to move into the high country, we won't get Boreal Owls this year.
Rainbow near Usk
Clearing the road
Saturday morning after a leisurely start we drove mountain roads in Little Pend Oreille NWR looking for
Spruce Grouse again. It rained. The grouse stayed home. Perhaps we should have done likewise. Actually
we considered heading home but decided to stay in Colville instead and try Albion Hill Road near
Sherman Pass on Sunday morning because Spruce Grouse live there too.
Andy's Three-toed Woodpecker
Sunday morning arrived sunny and crisp. We departed Colville two hours after the rest of our party
and caught up to them on Albion Hill Road, where little patches of frozen snow lingered in openings
and Thimbleberry leaves glowed in the sunshine filtering through Lodgepole Pines. And where,
unfortunately, no Spruce Grouse had been seen strolling along the road verges. As a consolation, Andy
spotted a sunlit Three-toed Woodpecker which obligingly drummed for us but despite several hours of
searching several miles of suitable habitat, none of us were able to rustle up a Grouse.
It was a long and challenging drive home. We ran into rain coming into Tonasket and drove through
mostly heavy rain from Omak all the way back to North Bend. We marveled at the extent of the Cold
Springs fire, which burned almost everything for 10 to 20 miles east of Highway 97 from Omak down to
Brewster then leaped the Columbia and burned another 30 miles south to Highway 2. The fire started
about five weeks ago and during the next 24 hours spread southward at an average rate of about 100
feet per minute. As we drove down the Okanogan Valley in the rain a smell of wet ashes hung heavy
in the air. Somehow, many houses along the highway had been spared, but some were not. Most of the
good bird habitat in the region was destroyed as well, along with 50% or more of the population of
Sharp-tailed and Sage Grouse according to preliminary estimates.
10/12/2020 Catching #301
White-throated Sparrow from behind
#301: White-throated Sparrow
While we were out of town, Sarah P reported a
White-throated Sparrow in her backyard just 12 minutes from our house. As of this morning it was
still present so we drove over there sometime around mid-afternoon to find it, and after standing
around for an hour or so, we did. A more strategic year-birder would have chased the rarer
Black-throated Blue Warbler at Lake Sammamish Park instead as quite a few people successfully did
but I find warblers generally more difficult to locate than sparrows so I settled for the easier
quarry and was grateful to get it.