Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Crazy-looking Mexican

You know you're in San Diego when some crazy-looking Mexican thing pops up in front of you and you go brain-dead for about 10 seconds because you cannot reconcile where you are with what you are looking at. That's what happened when I "slung glass" at this White-collared Seedeater. Needless to say, it is a "plastic" bird,  and you'd have to be a real "stringer" to "tick" it. Dairy Mart Ponds, Tijuana River Valley, CA.

I'm really not used to this business of working in places that actually have people and culture. It's an alien concept to me. I'm even going to a punk show this week....the last time I did that outside of northern California was in San Antonio, Texas, in 2009 (Dead To Me/Banner Pilot!). Of course, living on the east side of the city, I'm awfully close to El Cajon, Lakeside, and several other towns whose denizens make you question what humanity really has to offer...right "bro"? Sick. But I know some good people who crawled their way out of there, so I can only talk so much shit.

I've been birding a lot and working almost as much since I've arrived here. The year birds have been coming at a steady rate, although I've been hampered by being a little stale with my ear-birding. Spring has certainly sprung for a lot of species already, but the vast bulk of migrants will be arriving and moving through over the course of this month. The one bird I really have my eye on is Gray Vireo, who nest about an hour away. This would be life bird....

By the way, is there any lingo out there synonomous with "life bird"? I mean, that's one of the most significant things in birding...is that all the slang there is? Referring to something as "new" or a "first" doesn't count, its just a basic boring description. We need to get creative, people.

Look at this thing! What a stubby bill. I can't believe it's called a "seedeater", what a bloody nondescript name. If you ever bird down here, be warned that a few do lurk in the area.

Meet my first Great-tailed Grackle of the year. Many more will follow...I even ran into a pair on the beach today, pretending they were Snowy Plovers. Kumeyaay Lake, CA.

White-throated Swifts are not hard to come by in much of southern California, but even a passing picture is reason to rejoice. Apologies for the "noise" by the way, I think some settings in my camera got reset after it went for a swim....damn you high ISO!

And here is one of my first Rufous Hummingbirds of the year. Not a diagnostic picture, I know, you'll just have to take my word for it. Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, CA.

For most of the state, Anna's Hummingbird is the only hummingbird species that hangs out year-round. I've never heard anyone spouting accolades about their vocal abilities, but Anna's are one of the few North American hummingbirds who actually sing.

Here you go, the first Phainopepla I have ever photographed. Hopefully the next one will be on a more photogenic perch, in better light, and substantially closer. Mission Trails Park, CA.

Whenever you are having a bad day, just be grateful you do not suffer from some terrible face disease that causes one of your eyes to swell shut. Then you would be easy pickins (pickens?) for a Sharp-shinned Hawk. This not-stoked House Finch and his concerned/repulsed lady-friend were at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, CA...and yes, we have orange House Finches.

I'm not sure where this fits in with the "Bourbon, Bastards and Birds" theme, but when I was a little kid I was STOKED to find lizards, whether they were common Western Fence Lizards like this one, or rarer stuff like leopard lizards and desert iguanas. An interest in herpetology more often than not is just another avenue to becoming a birdwatcher (how embarrassing), I can assure you.

Song Sparrow. The zoo, without a doubt, has the tamest Song Sparrows I've ever seen. They are so happy to be there, they actually sneak into cages. San Diego Zoo (wild bird).


  1. I have a friend who started as a young herpetology enthusiast and then became *gasp* an ENTOMOLOGIST! yikes. =) And now he's a professor/researcher in Hawaii. Doesn't THAT suck.

    NICE bird-age, wow. That seed eater is FREAKY. Don't think I even knew they existed. So nice to hear familiar great-birding-place-names of SD. =) I LOVE TJ slough and that huge and deserted beach. Have you seen a roadrunner there, yet? They also have v. cool snakes and plants.

    ANYhow, I'll probably visit SD end o' month and you are giving me a good list of places to visit whilst there. Happy monitoring!

    1. I have much to learn about where people look at birds around here...hopefully I'll get out a bunch before the field season gets too intense.

      No local roadrunner yet, but it will happen!

    2. Not that it is difficult to see a roadrunner or anything, but if you cross Dairy Mart road and drive around the sod farm, you are pretty much guaranteed a cooperative roadrunner. That valley is a weird place to bird; Magpie jas, cardinals, seedeaters (which I have never seen). You aren't really sure what part of the world you are in with all of the established escapees running around.

    3. Thanks for the info Nick...I did give that sod farm a scan, good to know we have access. Looking forward to more birding in the TRV!

  2. Looks like you're getting around a meeting the locals. that Seedeater looks and sounds to be about as dull and tepid dishwater, but hey that'd be a 'lifer' down here.

    Phainopeplas are awesome bro. Probs totes my fav flycatcher kinda bird ya know man? Solid.

    1. Tepidly feathered...sad, but true.

      Dan at TPAD put up a far superior PHAI picture right before me. I hang my head in shame.

  3. Cool photos. I'm out of touch with some of the lingo - "plastic bird" equals feral "non-countable" population of escapees? In South Texas, there is a native population though, right?

    1. Yes on both accounts...I haven't heard any Americans use the word, but its big across the pond I guess. Apparently the seedeaters here are not the same subspecies as the Texas birds, and (at least the females) are considerably different looking.

  4. good god, i'm so behind on this blog thing. i need to step it up. Your house finch comments made me pee a little bit. thank you. (a good pee)

  5. Good peeing...that's why I'm here!