Monday, December 19, 2011

Rollin'......And Not

Christmas.  It can be so much to so many. Bad family photos.  Superstitions.  Eating too much.  Drinking too much.  Horrible wastes of electricity.  I could keep going.

I wont lie. The gift exchange is nice. I like getting gifts.  I know what I want for Christmas this year.  More on that later.  

For some, like me, the Holidays are also a time to do some birding.

Maybe I have mentioned it already in a previous post, but in case I didn't, the Christmas Bird Count is basically the granddaddy of all bird surveys. On the designated day during the Christmas Holidays (hence the name), teams spread out across a circle 15 miles in diameter.  Each bird is counted (both as a species and individual).  Year after year, numbers can be compared and trends can be detected. Good fun, really. 

So, with the Anchor Bay CBC lined up for this past Saturday, the day started at some stupid hour of the morning.  After the one hour drive, buddy Don Sherwood, co-worker Natalie Ray, and I were near Harson's Island for our traditional 6am breakfast.  Karl Overman joined us, making the team four deep. Harson's Island was our section of the count circle.

Two birds stood out.

The Gray Catbird was simply a super find.  Normally, this time of year, this bird should be in the deep southeastern United States and places like Texas.  While not unheard of this time of year, this bird was certainly comfy in a bush full of berries. I suspect he will be around for a least a few more days.

Eating lunch in San Sousi (the tiny “town” on the island) gave us a chance to study another super bird.    The Iceland Gull, originally spotted by Natalie,  was drifting down the channel.  Backwards.  No real explanation for that one. Seemingly perfectly content, it never budged, flinched or flew. Bizarre if you ask me. Ducks tend to at least sometimes look like there doin' somethin'.    (For you non-birders, notice that the bird does not have black wingtips.  That was a big clue to us that it was not a run-of-the-mill gull!).

55 species is not a bad for a day's work, er....I mean day's fun.  Other nice birds for the day include both Eastern Screech and Great Horned Owls, Horned Grebe, and Carolina WrenHooded Mergs were cool, too.  With the super additions, like the Gull and Catbird, nobody can complain about the day.  

We rolled right along, as you might say.

Well, yes, we can. 

A few months back, I secured a new ride.  Chevy was interested in buying my Saturn Aura and letting me use some money towards a new car. After running the numbers, it would have been stupid for me to pass it up!  With all the positive press the Cruze was getting, I went for it. 

All in all, it is a slick little car.  Chevy put some serious thought in to it so it could get better gas mileage. Tweaks in the aerodynamics were made including cool, little grille shutters that close when the you are in cruising speeds and underbody panels that improve air flow beneath the car.

Plus, the car was designed to be lighter.  Welds were shortened, backseat armrests were ditched and the spare tire was dumped in favor of a can of fix-a-flat and an air compressor. After all, you lug that spare tire around and hardly ever use it. 

It all adds up. Trust me.  Gas mileages run from 35 to 43 mile per gallon depending on what I'm doing.  You can't beat that!

But, ooohhhhh, that spare tire.  You can see where this is going, can't you?

A long story short, horrible sounds came from the wheel well as a chunk of whatever poked my tire.  Pulling over (and swearing a bit, too!), the rear tire was flat.  Very flat. Hugely, immensely flat.  Fix-a-flat does nothing when it pours in the nozzle of the tire and gushes out the hole the size of your finger.

Rolling no more.

Two hours, a tow-truck and a quarter of million dollars later, the car was dumped at the dealership.  Monday morning, they can find me a new tire.

This will all look familiar to them.

A few weeks ago, I was driving and picked up a chunk of metal.  The tire?  Hugely flat. The tow truck.  Time lost.  The exact same story.

Yes, folks, two flat tires in three weeks. 

Frustratingly, I had to bail out of Sunday's Clinton CBC. No can do if car no go.

Fortunately, when  I bought the car, I bought the tire insurance.  Chevy used the low roll-resistance tires from the Volt on the Cruze.  Quite expensive, as I understand.  Any tire replacements or wheel replacements are covered.  So, outside of tow trucks and all, this is costing me a few pennies a month.

So, good birds were had. No complaints there. But dammit, this tire thing is getting old....

This all brings me back to my Christmas wish - maybe Santa can bring me a puncture proof tire that contributes to great gas mileage.


Julie said...

We missed you guys at the count tally for the Clinton CBC. No conflicting parties attended.

Also, evidence strongly suggests that Midwestern catbirds winter in Central America (the ones in the U.S. are more likely from the eastern seaboard). RRBO's catbird study may shed some light on this, if we get a few returns on our catbirds outfitted with geolocators.

Paul said...

Yes, the dinner (and the count for that matter...) would have been fun!

Later that day, my head started to hurt. Bad. Had that happened during the count,I doubt would have stuck around for the dinner.

As for the catbird, thanks for the tidbit. I did not know that!

By the way, closer examination of the Iceland Gull photos show it has a very heavy bill. Turns out it was a Glaucous Gull. Oooooooops.