Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The Swallows of Capistrano (Cliff Swallows, obvi), by way of North Dakota.

It's becoming more and more apparent to me that I live someplace....someplace....not "enchanted" or "fucked up", but someplace inbetween. I am slowly becoming aware that my place place of residence, Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, is one of the premier places in the country to see a couple species of birds. Yes, I type this atop the world's Mecca for Baird's Sparrows and Sprague's Pipits. And if those birds are the Chosen Ones, then you may call me.....The Oracle.

Why The Oracle? Look dudes. I'm already a birdwatcher. A BIRDWATCHER. If I'm going to be offensively nerdy, I might as well get a cool pseudo-biblical name to go with it. And, for you uber-nerds, its also a nod to Halo.

Failing may also refer to me as The Gatekeeper. Because I'm pretty sure that I bird this place more than anyone else....I've got a finger on the proverbial Bird Pulse, and only I know what the good word is. All birds entering and leaving the refuge check in with me, and the international birder population is slobbering for this sort of access.

As Gatekeeper, I know where to find the world's most approachable Clay-colored Sparrow. The position has its perks.

Veery nice, I like!

Multiple email accounts of mine are being deluged with the same questions, day after day....where are the Baird's? Where are the pipits? Yes. It is I, and no one else, that can provide the one true path to these species.

Unfortunately, I can't tell these people very much. The beloved Auto Tour Route through the refuge, aka The Yellow Brick Road, is closed to vehicles. On top of that, there simply aren't many of these birds on the refuge this year. Why? I don't know. Prolly the rain.

Now don't get me wrong. I run into these birds on the regular, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who has arranged for me to wander all over private property on the prairie out here in my official capacity as Piping Plover seeker. It's great. Nothing soothes the nerves like being serenaded by Baird's Sparrows, Sprague's Pipits and Chestnut-collared Longspurs. The soundtrack of the prairie gets high marks from The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive as well. I do feel the smallest twinge of guilt though, that a lot of the birders here seem to be leaving empty-handed...

Blackpoll Warbler, where are you now? Alaska? You crazy.

Some Prairie Smoke in bud. I think there's a weed joke in there somewhere.

Gadwalls do these kinky, violent courtship flights. It makes up for being drab, I guess.

The BB&B staff is beaming that we've had more site visits in the last month than ever before. Yup. It's time to ride this shamelessly nerdy wave to birder fame and birder fortune. Birder fame, of course, doesn't get you the perks that normal fame does, but you know, since most birders are already wealthier than average, birder fortune is pretty good.

Red-necked Grebe. Horns up!


  1. You are seeing some rad stuff. Keep it coming.

  2. wow. Nice re: grebe. Having monitored shorebirds in San Diego in the winter for years, ONE day I'll get to where those guys are all dolled up for the dance vs. in winter camo. Great shots! Sparrow and warbler so cute!