Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Slick

Bufflehead
I woke to not too many options on my plate for new birds in Alpine, TX. I gave Baird's Sparrow a solid effort and have to agree with The TOS Handbook of Texas Birds that it is rare to very rare, There just weren't a lot of solid birds left to go for. I could count the number of non-review species on one hand that might be in the state still I needed. Parasitc Jeager (2 reports in the last month),  Dusky-capped Flycatcher (no reports), Henslow's Sparrow (no reports), Baird's Sparrow (no reports), and Purple Finch (several reports). Nothing was very chase-able though.

My initial plan for the day was to check Lake Balmorhea for a rare gull or a Red-throated Loon, then check Imperial Reservoir for the same birds then head back to Houston and chase a Purple Finch the next day. Slim pickings.

Shepdawg and I decided to split up and he would take the dam and I would take the marshy end. Lots of Ring-billed Gulls around for a good omen I thought. A Buffehead hung close to shore and there were a lot of small grebes, another good omen.

Slick, real slick
Heavy equipment was using the levee at the West end of the lake to get to an oil project so it was really rough but I thought passable.  I made it to the north end and bad the turn. Then it got slick, I was spinning. I started working my way back to the levee. It was slow going but I made a little progress and got the car turned around. Two guys helped me push but soon it was no go. I was just spinning, but not dug in.

Good thing I renewed by AAA membership before I left Houston. I called and they said one hour. I let Shepdawg know what was going on and he decided since I had help on the way and there was really nothing he could do for me or even safely get to me he would head on to check Del Rio again for the Rufous-backed Robin. I bid him safe travels and he was off.

Eared Grebes
Ah well I could be stuck in worse places. There was a large flock of Eared Grebes that seemed to ignore me completely. A few Bonoparte's Gulls showed up. A small flock of Snow Geese landed for a new county bird for me.

After an hour AAA called back and they said they had someone on the way and wrecker would be here in 60-70 minutes. I wryly said cheerily "I'll be right here waiting".  Its funny really. I made 363 days with out getting stuck and I have been on some really bad roads and finally on day 364 I get stuck.

About 45 minutes later I see the wrecker heading my way. The driver gets out and walks my way. I meet him half way. He's afraid his truck will get stuck. Hey AAA, why did you send a wrecker service to get someone out of the mud who's truck won't get there?

The driver decided that maybe its dried up  enough in 2 hours that maybe if he just pushes I get going. He gets behind me and it works. We get both vehicles out and I sign the ticket and I'm on my way. I tried to get up to speed to get the mud out. Trouble was I had pounds of mud stuck inside the tires making it very unbalanced.

I got word that the Crimson-collared Grosbeak was being seen this morning. It was only 11:30 am now. Time to make a decision. I should go for the bird in the hand, the grosbeak. Wells up! its only 620 miles to Weslaco! I can be there by 10 pm! Wheels up! I was headed south.

There's your problem
I realized the mud was still a problem before I even got to I10. The mud had my tires so unbalanced that I couldn't drive more than 50 mph. I pulled over and was able to get some mud out with a stick (there aren't many sticks in Balmorhea its turns out, I really had to look for one). A little better, but I was not able to go more than 60 mph. I decided to limp in to Fort Stockton and look for a car wash with a pressure hose and clean it out.

Turns out there is no such thing in Fort Stockton, so I went through a drive through car wash. Better but still a problem.I pulled into the truck stop and found another stick and got about two pounds of dirt out of two tires. Much better I can do the speed limit, 80 mph here, and I'm off.

Its a long drive but I make it to Weslaco by 9:30 pm and I get some rest dreaming of finding five more species somehow tomorrow.

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