Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I've Driven Across Deserts, Driven By The Irony
One of the most frequent questions I get from nonbirders is the classic "What's your favorite bird?". I get it annoyingly often, but its pretty relevant I suppose. I usually just point to the frigatebird tattooed on my leg and give a quick, vague description of what they're all about. A lot of people have actually seen them, since they are usually soaring overhead at beaches and islands in tropical places around the world. But since I've done this too many times, I am not going to divulge more than that. My colleague recently directed me towards this a piece of poetry that can sum it up far better than I, an excerpt of which is below:
Thou born to match the gale, (thou art all wings,)
To cope with heaven and earth and sea and hurricane,
Thou ship of air that never furl'st thy sails,
Days, even weeks untired and onward, through spaces, realms gyrating,
At dusk that lookist on Senegal, at morn America,
That sport'st amid the lightning-flash and thunder-cloud,
In them, in thy experiences, had'st thou my soul,
What joys! what joys were thine!
- From Walt Whitman's "To the man-of-war bird"
Substantially worse than having to answer this question all the time is the fact that people who may know a few birds think its a cormorant. As a birder....I find this mildly offensive. I mean, yeah they're the same color and I guess superficially they have a similar bill structure.....but a cormorant tattoo would be fucking weird man. Maybe someone could pull off a Red-faced Cormorant, or some sort of exotic shag (yeah, I just said "some sort of exotic shag", deal with it). But really. Cormorants arent waterproof, are not graceful, can't soar, make terrible noises, carry a lot of parasites, smell bad, etc. I suppose they do have the iconic Christ-on-the-cross pose when they are drying their wings.....but Anhingas do it better.
Below is a strange, yet hilarious video of a Great Frigatebird from Nihoa in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. I don't necessarily condone this, and I'm pretty sure its illegal, but I have to admit I might be tempted to try it out myself....it doesn't seem like the bird particularly cared. The birds nesting on Midway are often pretty friendly, but they don't let you get this close....thanks to whoever conducted this "scientific experiment"...I think.