Chasing rare birds

Today I did something I hadn’t done before; rather than go to a place I knew to be good for general birding, I chased down some rare bird sightings, to mixed success. Being fairly new to all this I had only just found out about a mailing list for regional bird sightings. A few days ago the Seattle Audubon Society had posted about a snowy owl who’d showed up in Edmonds, WA. Using the mailing list I was able to narrow my search to the marina park, to which I arrived about 30 minutes after sunrise on this cold (~25°F) morning.

Unfortunately, the owl was nowhere to be found. I knew it was a long shot, as it hadn’t been seen since Friday (two days ago), but a number of other birders had taken the same gamble. Nobody had seen the owl. Still, there were some interesting species to be found, including a large and hungry flock of pine siskin:

A male pine siskin forages for seeds

A male pine siskin forages for seeds

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The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

(post title blatantly stolen from Richard Feynman’s book of the same name)

During the gray cloudy months that constitute winter here in Seattle (or really, the Northwest in general), I find it both therapeutic and useful to do a lot of research on places I plan to go in the next year or two. Useful because there are a lot of things good to know before I go; therapeutic because learning new things about places I plan on going is some of the best daydreaming fuel there is.

If you’re not already familiar with it, WikiTravel is a really good source for travel research. It’s not as refined as Wikipedia (particularly if you’re looking at less-traveled-by-Western-travelers type places, there are a lot of empty stub articles) but there’s a lot of useful information and links that would never show up on Wikipedia, and it’s organized in a way that makes more sense for travelers than for someone simply looking for general information. Today I was looking at the entry for Belize, as I’m currently leaning toward my winter 2016 charter sailing trip being there. Rather than the sailing and coastal information I normally look at though, I decided to see what I (and my friends) would be able to see if we took a few days of time on land before we started the sailing trip.

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How birding and photography have changed my approach to the outdoors

If you’ve known me for a few years previous to this blog post, you’ll know that this whole birding and photography hobby is actually relatively new. In fact, getting into it was something of an accident: in September of 2013 I purchased my first DSLR. Originally I’d gotten it because I’d just left my job and was taking a several month break before looking for a new position. I’d also just adopted the second of my two parrots, and really wasn’t satisfied with the photos I was able to take with either my smartphone (at the time and still as of this writing the excellent HTC One) or an older Panasonic Lumix.

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I want this to be me

Egmont Atoll

You can find some pretty inspiring or intriguing stuff just looking around at satellite views on Google Maps. Like this cruising catamaran, anchored on the southern end of an incredibly remote atoll in the Indian Ocean. (it’s called Egmont Atoll, and you can find it–and that catamaran–right here: 6°40’54.0″S 71°23’02.9″E). As best I can tell based on the scale of the satellite image the catamaran is somewhere between 30-50′ long, which puts it into the category of catamarans I have experience sailing on, and the kind I want to someday own.

I found this a few months ago, and my first thought was what inspired the title of this post: “I want that to be me.” I want that to be my boat, out in the middle of nowhere, nobody but me and my crew for hundreds, maybe thousands of miles in any direction.

Someday it will be.

On planning a sailing vacation

Some of the things covered in the American Sailing Association’s 104 certification course (“Bareboat Cruising Standard”) probably won’t seem surprising after you hear about them, but really aren’t things people think about when they think of how amazing a sailing vacation might be.

I’m talking of course about the planning stages: there’s a lot to do. I could run down a pretty extensive list and most of the items on the list would clearly be common sense. Things like planning flights, provisioning for the trip, and getting all the money put together between the people going on the trip aren’t all that different from other vacations.

But then you really get into the planning and realize just how much there is to do, and how far ahead you need to do it.

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