Thursday, September 15, 2016

We’re on our way - Calibirdication Day 1

I had wanted to do a birding trip for some time, but finding co-conspirators can at times be difficult. Decisiveness is always a plus, making the making of plans that much more enjoyable. Having had the misfortune to have been coerced in to going to south east Arizona several times in the recent past, I was hungry for other locations. Sure I got a bevy of very sweet lifers on each of those sojourns, but man does not live by birding Arizona alone. Or even in groups...

You can check off birds any time you like, but you may never want to leave!
I started floating the idea of California and per usual, many were “interested” but few could or would commit. Funny thing that... but the first person with whom I got the plan to gel with is Lisa Shrimpke. Flexibility in dates was a big plus, and it turned out to be very helpful in getting in all the boat trips we wanted to do as well. Coincidentally, other QCBeasties were to be in California in roughly the same time period, but that never came to pass in a way such that we crossed paths.

I went through no less than 5 iterations of where to start and where to go next. Finally, what worked with the fixed schedule of the pelagics was starting in San Diego and doing a big loop from there. We headed east, then north, then west, and then back south.

We started in Sandy Eggo
There were a few more that we passed through, but the counties we actually birded in were San Diego, Orange, Imperial, San Bernadino, Los Angeles, Kern, Mariposa, Mono, Monterey, and Santa Cruz. Dang it’s a very big state. How lucky were we that the gas prices had fallen to levels many of us thought we would never see again, especially considering all the driving we did. 

This state is too big.

Of course a plan of this nature that entailed 2500 miles more or less over two weeks was construed by a few as “overly ambitious”. Not every place that we listed as potential sites to bird were visited of course, but a plethora of places was put in the itinerary in the event that plans had to be modified. And they always do have to be modified one way or another. Trust me...

My forte is logistics, because navigating distances and allotting ample time without forethought can waste the oh so precious birding time. That and making sure the place you want to visit is open when you will be there! Lisa’s forte was mining eburd. Together we put together an awesome itinerary. Arlene Rails found the all important brew pubs.  

As we were splitting expenses, I found an app on googull play that made doing the math unnecessary called 'Trip Expense Manager'. Also very helpful was a navigation app called 'Here' maps. Useful because googull maps only works with a live data connection, and that is something hard to find in the wilderness. Here's maps and navigation are available offline. 

In preparation, I had made an extensive map in 'googull my maps'. Great in places with data, not so useful in places without. I foresaw also listing the GPS coordinates of all the places I had mapped so that when needed we could still navigate to them, because paper maps are so passe. With a data connection its nice to see the places plotted and their proximity to the other places.

Other folks that expressed interest dropped out, but Jeff Critter eventually decided on joining up with us after revisiting Arizona {where else?} for his “warbler big year” and Arlene Rails eventually got the okay from work to get the time off and so it was the three of us for the Calibirdication, with Jeff also doing a small part of it with us at the onset.

Of course we had to fly there and back. We flew on Deltuh. What an awful company. Think of the most horrid expletives that one could utter such that you would be mortified if your mom heard them. Multiply that to the third power, and that begins to approach how much I despise that company. We were delayed 2.5 hours because they forgot to load dinners for the pilots. Nice. On the intercom they told us: “ You wouldn’t want to work without being able to eat dinner, would you?”  You cannot be responsible enough to pack dinner and I am to entrust you with the operation of an aircraft? Air travel is far worse than taking the bus. Oh yay. And this is not the fist time they screwed me over.  Lest I forget, their website wouldn't accept Lisa's membership number so we had to pay for checked bags. Fortunately on a long leg of driving I was able to call in and get it rectified. I was only on hold for 40 minutes, but it was along ride and the time was there to kill...

Need I say more?
Accordingly, we arrived later than planned and despite getting a bit lost in San Diego we eventually made it to our hotel where the staff of the Vagabond Inn was friendly and facilitated our passing out in short order in anticipation of the next day’s adventures commencing. 

I chose this place because of the proximity to the dock from where we would be taking a pelagic in two days; negating the need to find a place to park nearby as we could walk to the dock from the hotel. The cost was reasonable too, and when I told the staff we were birders and that we would be leaving much earlier than they normally set out the continental breakfast, they accommodated us! That's service!

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