The mental zone

Three weeks in and its time to get my head in order. It’s been full on, intense full on, 3am starts, 10.30pm to bed, sleep deprived, adrenalin-rush bird surveying. Whether it is the long drive, the ‘bush whacking’ in the boreal tundra, or the logistic and planning sessions you have to be on your toes and you do get drained. No time off just focused intense work. Would I have had it any other way? No. Its bloody magic, but you have to take stock, and today has been that mental and emotional time.

I was more than solid on the field identification of North American birds. If I see it I can pretty much ID it, but the songs have been a steep and tricky learning curve, and most of the counting is song biased.

Birding today was excellent. White winged Scoter, American Tree, White crowned and Fox Sparrows, lots of Blackpoll and Orange crowned Warblers, Pine Grosbeaks, Sharp tailed Grouse displaying. All this made up for Christian gripping us off with a Lynx on the road. There was no sign of the forest blazes that had raged overnight, but the temperature has now hit the high twenties and the biting bugs are starting to emerge.

This afternoon a three hour kip and heavy water rehydration session, with a good phone call back home and some downtime, and things seem better. I had struggled this morning through sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion – hallucinations and paranoia were kicking in – and with others too. We needed rest.

It is easy to lose the plot on hardcore trips, and silly small things can get taken out of proportion, but we have a great level of banter and teamwork among the crew (aka ‘The Peanut Gallery’ in the back of the truck). Erin and Rebecca splitting off down south seems a long time ago now. Trevor and Rheanna (affectionately known as ‘Soup Dragon’ due to a fetish for eating cold soup and porridge from a can or bag in a moving truck) are going to knock off the squares by road between Thompson and Gillam. Jennifer who joined us departed after just 10 short days. Shame she couldn’t make it further north but her work life took her back to Ottawa (keep the birding passion going lady, it’s in your blood and bones. Your a natural)

Since we have moved 300km NE from Thompson to Gillam – the end of the road. Literally. The train track goes north, but not the road. It acts as the launching pad for me and Christian and four wildlife ranger ‘bear monitors’ to canoe and survey between here and Churchill on Hudson Bay. Wapusk National Park, a site with no road access, is one of the focal points. That means camping of an ultimate basic nature. So natural that we will have to carry all waste with us. Yip – that means pooing in a bag and carrying it for a fortnight. Looking forward to that! It means armed ‘bear monitors’ protecting us from any nomadic Polar Bears, perhaps the ultimate land predator. It means no wifi, no mobile phones, no outside contact till the end of the month. Back to mother nature leaving only footprints – we can leave them cant we?

This will perhaps be the most extreme thing I have ever done, but I am relishing the challenge. Once in a lifetime chances get spoken about a lot, but this truly is one. Physically I feel good, bar having become a mobile buffet to the local mosquito clouds, it is just a case of mentally preparing now before the next phase. Here we go……………time to get focused.

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