Monday, February 14, 2011

When this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour...You're gonna see some serious shit.

Northern Pintails and other waterfowl form pairs over the winter. Photographed at Redwood Shores, CA.

More years than not, I find myself single on Valentine's Day. Although I usually chalk it up to being so intensely attractive that I badly intimidate the opposite sex......that may not actually be true. I will have a date tonight for a change, which is pretty nice, as last year I got drunk with another dateless friend of mine and watched Back To The Future in his living room....which I have no regrets about at all (I love you Brendan). It's a cheap date.

Although I think it is important to acknowledge the importance of people in your life that you are especially close to, I am totally on the Valentine's-Day-Is-Just-A-Bullshit-Frakking-Hallmark-Holiday train. But since that rant is totally cliche and played out, I will refrain from going down that well-traveled and deeply-rutted road.

I have never seen begging behavior in Horned Grebes before, but it seemed to be a result of horniness and not bugging a parent for food. Berkeley, CA.

Instead, I'll mention a very specific type of relationship....the seasonal biologist couple. The seasonal biologist couple (SBC) can be simply defined as two seasonal field biologists who are in a committed relationship that usually can be found working on the same jobs together, and thus doing the same things in the same places all at the same time. Now, there are a number of close friends of mine who belong in this category, so I don't want anyone taking offense....this is all coming from the guy who cannot seem to hold down long term relationships, after all (although for the record, it's not always my fault).

Since I have almost no experience being in these couples, I have had the (annoying) opportunity to observe them somewhat objectively over the years. My research indicates the presence of certain patterns. For one, these couples always seem to match....sometimes disturbingly so. I don't just mean clothes, I'm talking physical features and personalities too. I can think of a number of SBCs where they could easily be siblings, they look and behave so similarly. Frankly, its kind of gross. They often dress alike, and because they are often birders, this means they usually both look really, really boring. They look like oatmeal, pretty much. They look about as sexual as a piece of burnt toast, kitted out in outfits that can usually be traced to REI or other outdoor stores. Their musical tastes are often predictably similar to each other as well, although (fortunately) this trait tends to be slightly more variable. But, being seasonal field biologists, they invariably like older rock n' roll (but nothing too ballsy), some wimpy folk, weird but trendy indie rock, at least a dash of reggae and more than a little bit of that nebulous but off-putting genre we call "world music". Does any of this sound familar, SBCs?

Some animals, like these Red-legged Kittiwakes, do it on cliffs. Where will you be doing it? Photographed at Buldir Island, AK.

Lots of birds put in far more work at seducing partners than people do. It takes more than dinner and a bottle of champagne to win over a Red-tailed need to have moves too. And tail plumes. Photographed at Midway Atoll.

What else? SBCs are, of course, quite outdoorsy, but they don't really "go out" and do anything else together aside from grabbing a bite to eat. They are not really into films, they don't find themselves at shows very often and they more often than not don't party very hard. They are not prone to public displays of affection, nor do they even hint at any ability to flirt, which causes the observer to wonder how they became a mated pair in the first place.

Oddly, SBCs are known to get along together more than the average couple, and form strong pair bonds. Wildlife just melds people together, apparently. I don't understand it.....people can learn from them.

Aside from that last cheesey bit, I think I pissed off about half the people who read this. Don't worry friends! To borrow a term from across the pod, I'm just taking the piss out of you. 

Lets not forget there's more than one way to celebrate Valentine's Day....sometimes three is better than two. Gambel's Quail at the Salton Sea, CA.

Right. No matter what your relationship status says on Facebook, have a happy Valentine's Day everyone.


  1. burnt toast. oatmeal. I like it. Hey! Zac and I would be Sbcs eh ? but I don't take offense, i just almost peed on myself laughing is all. I don't think we look too much alike though...and the music thing doesn't fit too well (wimpy rock and reggae makes me hurt myself).

  2. Dude, awesome post! Aptly describes many a birding pair I've run into over the years. Also, in the 'Reactions' section above, is 'sick' a good thing or bad?


  3. Brady - Thanks dude. Sick is good for shizz. Its easy to avoid criticism when you dont leave an option for it.

  4. Too funny! We've been taken for siblings once -- brothers, in fact! (It was a dark and stormy night, and I was wearing a hoodie.) Just remember that looks can be deceiving ... ;-)
    Sarah (Mark's mate)