Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Heat And The Clear Blue Skies

One of the many, many Broad-winged Hawks that passed overhead this spring.

April 15, 2011. We are near the end of the peak migration period here, and as an estimate have recorded well over 230,000 migrants so far…I would like to exceed 250,000 before I leave in two weeks, but I’m pretty stoked on what we’ve done here. Last year’s total for this site was under 156,000 for the whole season, so that swells my inner nerd with pride. Especially since I was surprised to find myself being the Lead Counter. That’s a lot of time up on the tower. A LOT. I now feel impervious to the effects of sunlight and shall never get sunburned ever again.

Looking southeast from Swainson's Hawk Bird Observatory.

I was lucky enough to see three (3) Swallow-tailed Kites sail past over the last few days. Things have not been the same ever since. The aesthetic hegemony Swallow-tailed Kites have over almost all other life forms cannot be denied. I look forward to meeting more of them.

Some Mexicans lounging around at sunrise. At top, a Yellow-winged Tanager, a Social Flycatcher on the right and a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher below.

The Mississippi Kites appear and disappear with a flourish. I only became acquainted them during the Summer Of Steve Y2K9, while crossing the country from Ventura, CA to Somerset, PA. Here, like the Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged and Swainson’s Hawks, they can form huge swarms on their journey north. But, they are swarms of joy, flocks of facemelt, kettles of ecstasy. They move with such style and unpredictably that they are the funnest thing to watch here. When they decide to quit a thermal and hed north, they all move in a huge mass, instead of breaking off one bird at a time like the others do. When they stop to take the elevator to the top of the next thermal, they usually take their time more than the birds, so they spend a little more time with us before they continue to seek the horizon. May you be fortunate to meet some of these birds in the coming weeks.

Seagull Steve with the budding mustache of spring (how embarrassing).

Things are simple now…I am in the proverbial groove. I no longer am the only one on the tower every day, which is nice (although I have taken to sleeping next to it, under the stars). My counting skills are reaching a peak accuracy. I have achieved that rare state of mind to expect the unexpected (a necessity here). Plans have been made for my departure and how to do some bonus coastal birding. Now if only my stomach can muster the strength to make it through….

California does sound good now. Friends, music, girls, cool weather….especially food. Different food. A myriad of foods. Lots of fresh things. Salads. Comida sin tortillas. No more fucking mystery meat! The disappointment amongst the two gueros here is quite tangible when a bizarre looking plate is amiably plopped down in front of us.

Gringo 1: “What is this?”
Gringo 2: “Um, intestines.”
Gringo 1: “What is it from?”
Gringo 2: (sighs) “It doesn’t matter.”.

A juvenile Brown Jay in the killing tree. The Mexican name for Brown Jays is Pepe. Something to ponder.

I won’t do a lot of birding while I’m back in California but I think I’ll be wielding the Leicas over at Mono Lake for a day or two, which is something I highly recommend. When you get to town, just ask anybody where The Grub lives and he will show you many Sage Grouse and purchase you great quantities of drink. For free of course…he is a philanthropist of sorts. Everyone knows him.

When I do get out birding here, its difficult to complain. I got my lifer Barred Antshrike today (finally!) and, unexpectedly, my first Red-legged Honeycreeper. The image of that bird is seared into my retinas (which feels good), and is not something I will soon forget. I also got to add Canevet’s Emerald, Spot-bellied Wren and Blue Mockingbird to my Chavarrillo list this morning.

Wow. This was a really bird-heavy post. Hope everyone’s ok.


  1. Glad you've hit a groove and congrats on the huge #s and crazy nutty amazing birds. I must say, though, red-legged honeycreeper is SUCH a good example of someone naming a bird for a feature of said bird that is SO beside the point, it's nuts. Hello, CRAZY CRAZY BLUE! Like, say, ruby-crowned kinglet. Didn't see sad crown for YEARS. Anyhow, sweet birding, thanks for sharing. =)

  2. oops, "said" crown. What would a sad crown be?

  3. A sad crown...maybe one thats kind of limp? Like an orca's dorsal fin in captivity.