Will This Machine Nate be able to find a Least Grebe tomorrow? Who cares? Two people do...very, very much. Photographed at Sabal Palm Sanctuary, Brownsville, TX.
Last year, Flycatcher Jen of I Used To Hate Birds (Portland, Oregon) and Nate of This Machine Watches Birds (Austin, Texas) faced off in a brutal competition....the Taken For Granted Challenge. The rules? Each birder gives the other birder a list of species that can be reasonably expected (perhaps even taken for granted) to occur in his/her home county; Jen gave Nate a list of birds to track down in Travis County, Nate gave Jen a list for her to track down in Multnomah County. Lists were exchanged less than 24 hours before the day of the Challenge. The day of the Challenge, each birder set out trying to find as many of their assigned species as possible in a day...and get a photo of each.
2013's TGC event ended in a bitter defeat for Flycatcher Jen. I think she almost quit birding. Nate found 2 of his assigned birds, while Jen found only a paltry 1. She wore the humiliating loss like an albatross around her neck for months, and vowed never to do anything like this again...because she hates it. With a narrow but decisive defeat, she was forced to mail Nate a 6-pack of local beer.
Much like the Emperor counseled Luke Skywalker, for the past year I have encouraged Flycatcher Jen to embrace her hatred..."Good, good...let the hate flow through you" and "your hate has made you powerful", and so on. After months of training, I was not surprised to learn that Flycatcher Jen was up for a rematch...but I was shocked to be notified that it would be I, #7, assigning lists for both Jen and Nate. So here I am, in the middle of a Jen and Nate sandwich...just what I always wanted. I have a passing familiarity with both Travis and Multnomah Counties, so I guess that makes me vaguely qualified for this sort of thing. And so, as referee and friends of both lovely yet hate-filled individuals, I am proud to present to you the 2014 Taken For Granted Challenge rematch: I Used To Hate Birds vs. This Machine Watches Birds. Neither Jen or Nate have been notified of what is their birding homework for tomorrow until this blog post went up. So without further delay, here are Nate's birds.
1. Least Grebe - a quality ambassador for Texas.
2. Field Sparrow - because Field Sparrow.
3. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - an even better ambassador for Texas.
4. Pine Warbler - Austin is a east meets west type of place. This is a bird of the east.
5. Harris's Sparrow - A mid-continental specialty.
Oh Jen, Jen, Jen...wouldn't you just love to spend the TGC trying to track down a Thayer's Gull? HAHAHAHAHAHA. Photographed at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA. HAHAHAHAHA.
Jen's birds are:
1. Tundra Swan - a wonderful fowl of the water.
2. Horned Lark - I only look for Horned Larks to find longspurs and Snow Buntings. Jen will have to look for Horned Larks to find Horned Larks.
3. California Quail - representing the West Coast.
4. Mew Gull - mew mew mew mew mew mew.
5. Purple Finch - Nate has never seen one.
In the event of a tie, the person who saw the rarest bird during the day (as scored by eBird's Target Species feature) for their home county in the month of December will take home 2014's TGC trophy. The loser will mail the winner a 6-pack and compose a very, very special blog post in honor of the winner.
Tensions have been mounting for weeks now. Both Nate and Jen have been preparing by talking shit to each other at every opportunity, and each competitor has been on a steady diet of steroids and PEDs for months. Jen has procured a sizable quantity of cocaine in order to keep her sharp during the competition (which may or may not be related to her recently-publicized adoration of Katy Perry), while Nate has obtained several syringes of pure adrenaline that he will plunge into his own heart every four hours.
So to This Machine Nate and Flyctacher Jen: The hate is swelling in you now. Give in to your anger. It is unavoidable.
It is your destiny.