Monday, April 4, 2011

A Single Flourish Of His Tail

Sharp-shinned Hawks are common migrants here, frequently terrifying songbirds in the local neighborhood on their way North.

Sunday, March 27. The iconic Mexican sun is really living up to its reputation today…it is relentless. We are a rocking a 100% shadeless bird observatory (partially because the tarp that’s available fills my heart with hate, partially because you see a lot more birds when you can look straight up without obstructions), and the withering sun is causing the mind to wander…..what, exactly, does it take to die from exposure? What am I doing here, in this god forsaken place? When will I wake up?

Melodious Blackbird!

Not only is El Sol a source of physical discomfort for the hawk counter, it can cause great mental anguish as well. On most cloudless days it seems the big migrant flocks either choose different routes to take, or they fly so high that it can be impossible to spot them against a bright, big blue sky. Today seems to be a big exception. While its still morning here, I think we may already have our biggest flight day of the spring (15,600 was the previous high)….with over 8,000 Turkey Vultures cruising northward in the last hour alone, we should have a nice, fat total of TVs, Swainson’s Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks at the end of the day. Other birds going north include a Hook-billed Kite, a trio of Common Black-Hawks, a few Ospreys…..

Counting hawks is strange. It involves no physical activity whatsoever. That is pretty great for slothful people like me, but it also aggravates my mild (self-diagnosed) ADD. Ten and a half hours of counting….day after day….hours of boredom punctuated by massive, fast-moving flocks of raptors that come fast and low over the surrounding hills, as if to take us by surprise…it frays the nerves.

The glorious tower. Where I spend all day, every day.

Another thing that doesn’t help the situation is that one of the dudes I’m working with is a really good birder and is going out every day to the edge of town to band passerines, often finding birds that I have yet to see (Yellow-headed Parrots, Barred Antshrikes, White-bellied Emeralds, etc). I fiend for these birds….I am a junkie, after all. You don’t become Number 8 in the nation without powerful feelings for seeing as many birds as possible, at all times, at all costs.

Ok. Time to write some love letters. Keep your heads up, people.

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