Friday, May 11, 2012

What Have I Done?

Olive-sided Flycatchers win universal praise and admiration from all of the continent's birders. A high-elevation alcoholic, I have always considered their beer-craving cry to be synonomous with thin air and the smell of Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines. Stonewall Mine, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, CA.

Indeed...what have I done? It seems that I have locked myself into a terrible big year competition with someone who I feel is best referred to as a Kenny Bostick-type character. What's worse is that we plan on birding a lot of the same areas this year, and he will be making an east coast trip soon...which puts me at a severe disadvantage. While I toil in a tern colony, he will be face-to-face with Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and lord-knows what kind of warblers that may make their way to Matinicus Rock.

Win or lose, come January 1....things may never be the same. The stakes have never been higher, and ever since we made The Agreement, I have found myself locked in a constant state of anxiety.

Of course, neither of us plans to travel extensively just for the sole and embarrassing purpose of a Big Year, but it is another thing to motivate us to get out. I'm not really a competitive person, but this seems like friend "Bostick" is better funded than I for this endeavor, but he is also notoriously cheap. And so, we bird on a level playing field.

Today is my last day off until the 19th, when I will hop on a boat, snort some Bonine and stare at seabirds all day. So far I have decided to regain some of my humanity by sleeping in and cleaning the until then my eyeballs will be glued to Snowy Plovers and Least Terns.

Here's a few recent year birds.

Hermit Warblers are plentiful in San Diego County this spring. This comes as a great relief, since they are typically harder to find than their more abundant Townsend's and Black-throated Gray cousins. Like a number of other warblers, Hermits are terribly named...I could get behind something like "Golden-faced Pine Warbler." Any suggestions? Stonewall Mine.

Least Terns are the center of my life now. They are laying eggs like gangbusters, which means a lot of extra work. Bring it on, terns. Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, CA.

Calliope Hummingbird is another universally adored bird. The smallest hummingbird in the states, it is much sought-after throughout its range by legions of nerds. Yes, this is the same tree that the Prothonotary Warbler was is indeed a magic tree. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary, San Diego, California.

When "Bostick" visited last weekend, he was exposed to the shock and awe that is San Diego birding, where the birds just don't make sense. He did not understand singing Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos singing right on the coast, not to mention the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Little Blue Herons, Gull-billed Terns and multitudes of Red Knots. I don't blame him. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary.

This will not go down in history as the best Blue Grosbeak photo ever taken, but I think it's funny. This sort of photo is typically reserved for raptors. Tijuana River Valley, CA.


  1. Nice work Seagull. I must admit, I am not one of those birders who adores the Olive-Sided Flycatchers...I think they're kinda ugly, and I even think Wood Storks have their own aesthetic...I'll take an Ash-Throated any day.

    Way to get a nice shot of that nomadic menace the Hermit Warbler. I'd agree to your suggested name change too, but you'll need a lot of signatures to get that on the national ballot.

    Good luck with that there competition. If things don't go your way, just discover a single new bird species. That'll trump whatever quantitative advantage your opponent might gain. When you find that new bird, name it after some kind of Alcohol.

    1. Ugly?! You have spent too much time on the desert floor Laurence, the mountains will do you good.

      I think Golden-faced Pine Warbler is both accurate and inoffensive. It could win broad appeal. Hermit Warbler is nothing but a lie!

  2. I was rather excited to see my first Blue Grosbeaks in New Mexico, but your shot makes my photos look like complete shit. I might not even post them now. Jerk.

    So you must be the Jack Black of the competition? Brad something? Well, hopefully you will get to bang the chick from the Office at the end of the year...

  3. Oh I forgot about that why I'm doing this? It makes more sense now.

    1. Good Luck with your Big Year!

      I like the name "Golden-faced Pine Warbler", it seems more fitting than Hermit Warbler. But could ya please send some to Utah?? Would love to see and photograph them.

    2. Thanks Mia! Victory will be mine...

      Is Hermit a tough bird in Utah? least you can drown your sorrows in Rosy-finches!

  4. i think i know who bostick is, tell him i said hi

  5. Well I don't know if I'm right but if he is who I think, I saw met him around Tijuana last fall, looking for pipits.

  6. i told you i had the wrong Bostick.