Monday, December 27, 2010

Someone's Gonna Love Me Someday

White-faced Ibis are plentiful around the south end of the Salton Sea.

Another Christmas, in the books. There's nothing like smugly sitting around the dinner table and watching my mother chastize my father for being wasted. I've learned long ago that I would rather avoid drinking around my mother, if simply to avoid her sharp and merciless tongue. That said, she gave my pops giant bottles of Ketel One Vodka and Bombay Sapphire Gin for Christmas, so what does she expect?

Anyways, I'm back in San Francisco, where I can spread out and act human. I returned to find the sliding door of my Man Cave mysteriously wide open and trash and food spread all over my kitchen. Since my door opens onto a backyard, I reckon this can only be the work of raccoons. There were also mouse turds scattered around, so I'm sure helped out too. Great.

Loggerhead Shrikes are experiencing declines in much of their range, but there are still plenty in the deserts of California. Bugs, lizards, rodents and birds must all fear The Impalers.

Screwbean mesquite.

My Medium Year is almost done. It seems that I have 406 on the year, or exactly 400 NIB. NIB, of course, stands for Non-Introduced Birds, and is very fashionable among California birding circles. Of course, there is no such thing as a truly fashionable birding circle anywhere, so the wisdom of the NIB philosophy is in serious doubt.

For those who aren't acquainted, introduced species are those that exist someplace (purposefully or accidentally) specifically because humans helped transport them there. They have done well in their new home, and now have self-sustaining populations, and may or may not have spread across a wide area. European Starlings, Rock Pigeons and Ring-necked Pheasants are good examples of this. Birds like starlings and House Sparrows will displace native birds, and as a result they have earned the ire of birders and biologists alike. Savvy? People who consider themselves purists often will not include these species on their lists.

This is all an old argument of course (to count or not to count them), with the other side claiming that by that logic birders should not count things in artificial habitats (i.e. sewage treatment ponds, everybody's favorite habitat), and like it or not, these exotic species have become a part of the ecosystem. Frankly, I don't really care, as its all nerd-semantics. Arguing about bird lists? How embarrassing! Personally, I swing both ways...

Gambel's Quail, a fixture of the American Southwest.

Ross' Geese, a fixture of my heart.

If you are wondering, my number 400 NIB bird was the LeConte's Sparrow at the Salton Sea. That is a very sound bird to occupy that coveted number.

Again people, 400 species between The Gulf of California and Attu Island in one calendar year is nothing to brag about, but I feel good about it. Alex (Arex) Wang, who lived on Buldir Island with me, is rumored to be sitting at 495 or something like that, which is a lot more impressive...but going to Florida and South Texas will do that.

I would like to officially announce that next year will go down in the history books as El Año Tranquilo, due to the amount of time I will be spending south of The Border....not only do I have an Eastern Mexico road trip coming next month, but starting in February I will be living in the mountains above Veracruz, counting northbound migrant raptors. Did I mention that yet? Stoked. 

More on that soon. All of today's pictures are from the Salton Sea.

This is kind of an iconic scene in the Imperial Valley. Snow and Ross' Geese in front, geothermal energy plant in back.

Ring-billed Gull. 


  1. Uh so the new gig sounds pretty awesome. Sufficiently jealous of that too, huh. My field season will be in shithole, MS. I'd feel like an ass if I didn't do my husband's field work for him, but being in MS that long might just kill me. That screwbean sure is cool, as is that Ross' shot. Sweet.

  2. Yeah, Im getting really stoked about it! Its the perfect amount of time too. Im sorry youre mired in the south for the summer, whats the project? Oddly, a friend of mine did something very similar...she was stuck in Arkansas for a couple years working on her husband's Bobwhite study.

  3. I am praying you can access the internet there, 'cause birds of eastern Mexico? Have very little idea of what you'd see there. Congrats on the great assignment! btw: perfect ring-bill shot!

  4. @BB - I already looked into it and cyberprospects look pretty dim...BB&B might have to go into torpor. That said, a dude who did the same gig last year said he had over 200 bird species while he was there, so I'll be busy trying to get pictures of weird birds I probably cant identify.