Sunday, March 5, 2017

Three Strikes and I'm Out!

Friday morning I decided to run around East Galveston Bay and see what I could find for early migrants and maybe a lingering bird.

I started at Anahuac NWR and Spring was in the air. I hadn't been there in about three weeks and most of the trees are leafing out and the mix has changed a lot. Fewer Common Gallinules, more Little Blue Herons. I did have a small flock of Snow Geese and a few Greater White-fronted Goose flocks. I was hoping for a Green Heron, American Bittern, or a Purple Gallinule. No luck though.

I headed around the bat and planned to work the Bolivar Peninsula for maybe an early Pectoral Sandpiper or a Little Gull. I started at Rollover Pass. Plenty of birds, Lots of Marbled Godwits but no Whimbrel mixed in. On the gulf side there were thousands upon thousands of Lesser Scaup migrating north. In about ten minutes I estimated about 10,000 passed be. It was an almost continuous line of birds flying by maybe a half mile out. One of the coolest things I've seen.

I was hunting for Little Gull and my strategy was to scan as many groups of Bonaparte's Gulls as I could. Plenty here at Rollover pass too but no Little Gull. I did find a Least Tern for Year Bird 315.

One of the best places on the Upper Texas Coast to find Bonaparte's Gulls is to watch the barge trains in the Inter-coastal Canal. Groups of Bonaparte's Gulls follow the push boats in good numbers. I drove to the end of Yatch Basin Road and didn't have to wait long for a barge to come by. Perhaps 40 Bonaparte's Gulls behind this one, but no Little Gull.

Since there were no barges in sight the moment I decided to move on. I headed a few miles down the road to Tuna Road. This road is poorly maintains because there is nothing at the end but its got some old asphalt and lots of oiled gravel and is usually not a problem to travel. There was a big pothole and I took it slow and had no problem going though.

At the end I watched two more barges pass with their flocks of Bonaparte's Gull. No Little Gull. That's the trouble with finding rare birds, they are actually rare.

Stuck on Tuna Road!
Time to move on. I headed back down the road not too worried about that big pothole. I did take it slow again and but not as cautiously and likely much more centered. Trouble as the car ground to a stop, wheels spinning. I tried rocking out at first thinking its just a little mud, but it wouldn't move, I had zero traction. I got out and determined that I was high centered. From the look of the front wheels they maybe were not even been touching bottom.

I keep up a AAA membership and was more amused than anything at this point. I called and a wrecker was on the way I figured I'd be out in no time.

While I waited watched more barge trains. Lots more Bonaparte's Gull. Mixed in with the Forster's Terns I did find a basic plumage Black Tern for Year Bird 316. Got to make lemonade when you can.

The wrecker took about 45 minutes to arrive. I was amused by all the Clapper Rails calling while he back up, seemingly responding the the beeping off his truck in reverse. He eyed the deep muddy water I was in and asked if I have the tow hook for the car. I thought you're the wrecker driver you should come with the gear to do this. He explained that many cars come with a large eye-bolt that screws into the front bumper for situations like this. We looked and checked the manual my car didn't have one but I found the point where you attach it.

This driver didn't want to try anything else, said I didn't have the right equipment and left me there.  I called AAA back and they said they would get another driver since this guy never did anything didn't even investigate what he could do.

About 20 minutes later AAA called back and said the told to the driver and because he said it was impossible to get the car out in his opinion there was nothing they could do but send a commercial recovery service and I would have to pay out of pocket. I said lets hold off on that.

I called a nearby dealer and asked if there was a service they could send that had the tow hook. They recommended Nissan Road Assistance. I called and because my car was just a few months old the warranty still covered a pull out, no charge for the service!

A few minutes later I got a text with the ETA of a wrecker. I called to make sure they knew the situation and sent the driver some pictures. The driver said "I don''t see a problem getting you out". Excellent news.

A few minutes later I get a call from Nissan saying the driver cancelled. Well crap! The Nissan supervisor said she was looking for another service.

In the mean time I started looking for a place to get a tow hook and located one at dealership. I figured if I got the hook any wrecker could pull me out. I found one and my lovely wife got ready yo get it and bring it to me. She going to have to brave the entire Gulf Freeway to get it to me, Did I mention how much I love her?

A few minutes later a pickup truck came down the road. By now I'd been there about 3 and half hours with no traffic on the road. The driver asked if I was stuck. I said you bet but its going to take a wrecker to get me out. He said I have a wrecker, and it was only 10 minutes away.

I called Nissan and asked if they could contract with this guy since he was onsite and said he could do it. They said since he wasn't on the list they couldn't but I could pay out of pocket and submit it for reimbursement, but reimbursement wasn't a sure thing. While talking to Nissan I got another text message that a wrecker was on the way. I decided I would go with the wrecker onsite that knew the situation and not wait the hour plus it would take to find out they might not think they could do it.

My new favorite wrecker driver went and got his wrecker. He had a plan too. He had a flatbed wrecker  and he lowered the bed to the ground and attached a pulley at the ground and put the cable through it so it would be parallel to the ground. He crawled in the muddy water and found a safe point to attach the hooks and stationed me to watch and make sure he wasn't damaging my bumper. With the car in neutral he slowly inch by inch winched me out. In about 5 minutes I was solid ground just really muddy for my troubles. It took three tries but I was out!

The muddy waters hid a really deep hole. about 3 inches from my tire I could stand and the water didn't cover my boot. Next to the tire it was over my LaCrosse boots. I am definitely ordering a tow hook for my car, seems like a very good investment. I did get two new year birds today. If you never get stuck you're not birding hard enough!