Monday, April 28, 2014

Birding Is Really Hard

Chuck-will's-widow, a long-awaited LIFE BIRD. I had no idea how freaking big these things were. Blucher Park, Corpus Christi, TX.

Despite the title of this post, I'm not about to pat myself on the back for being a legendary birder, or ramble on about the years of self-inflicted emotional damage birding has brought, or give all the gory details of the various life-threatening situations I've found myself in while in the pursuit of birds. When I tell you that birding is really hard, I mean it in an entirely different context.

Earlier this month I broke out of my habitual South Padre Island weekend routine to head a couple hours north to Corpus Christi, to bird with Nate of This Machine Watches Birds. The ABA just had a rally there, and specifically banned The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive from attending because, in the words of a representative, "His birding skills make our leaders look like noobs, he smells like sardines, and people tend to get blackout drunk around him". Which is neither here nor there, but if the ABA is going to have a meeting there, you know the area has potential.

Wasted potential in this case. The birding was...mediocre...well, somewhere between mediocre and shitty. We hit a bunch of different migrant traps and other spots, but it was windy and the wind had been blowing the wrong direction for several days. On the Gulf Coast in the spring, that means only one thing...

Life is pain.

But is it really? No. Aside from getting to hang out with some people besides my coworkers for a change (refreshing as hell), I got a life bird. And not just any life bird...a gigantic nightjar. So all in all, the weekend was GREAT SUCCESS.

Pardon my grain, but I think you can still infer some of this bird's sickness from this unworthy image. Truly bizarre. I can't get over the birds structure, let alone the crazy immaculate camo the bird is rocking. Blucher Park is known for being a good spot to track this species and Eastern Whip-poor-will (which we dipped on).

This was the first of many Summer Tanagers I would see this spring. Paradise Pond, Port Aransas, TX.

California can have great shorebirding, but what we get in rockpipers and Sibe vagrants, we lose in charismatic eastern species. Stilt Sandpipers is one of those birds that is usually missing from any given shorebird flock on the west coast, and it's great getting to see so many (often in full-blown alternate plumage) here in Texas. Hazel Bazemore Park, Corpus Christi, TX.

Migrating makes Stilt Sandpiper so sleepy.

Blue-winged Teal are common down this way, and are capable of inducing their own brand of facemelt when they feel like it. Just let them whip out a wing. Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas, TX.

American Oystercatcher. It's so refreshing to see a black and white oystercatcher and not have to double check that it is a hybrid...that gets a bit old after a while. Jehl must have gone mad. Photographed at Indian Point, Corpus Christi (?).

The American Oystercatcher: a creature cursed with cankles.

Eastern Willets are plentiful along the coast here. Those with higher GBRS rankings than myself have suggested that the Willets will be split one day. Californians have ignored the existence of this subspecies for many years, but any birder who finds themselves near the Atlantic Ocean should get familiar with telling the two apart. Photographed at Indian Point.

"Kedek kidirk kedeek kerdek." - Least Tern. The sound of Least Terns talking to themselves is music to my ears. They are small and seemingly prone to poor reproductive success, but they are energetic and bring life to any beach or wetland they visit. Photographed at Indian Point.

The humble Sandwich Tern is dwarfed by it's orange-billed relative of royalty. Photographed on Mustang Island.

Pollywog Pond was one of many boring/disappointing places we birded. "Birding is really hard", I told Nate during our stroll through some great but lifeless habitat, and I meant it. One of the few birds of interest there was this low-flying Swainson's Hawk, which repeatedly coursed back and forth low over the treetops.

Despite the regrettable lighting, I got a few shots that I like. Swainson's Hawk is one of my favorite raptors, and it's been nice getting to see so many again this spring. Wish I could say that about Mississippi Kites...birding is really hard.


  1. The Bourbon-fueled Bastard Machine Watches Birding is Hard?

    Anyway, you guys are getting carried away here with the Nightjar crushes and Stilt Sandpipers and what not. "Birding is hard."
    Yeah, tone it down a bit man.

    1. Nate was sitting on the better side of the car for Stilt Sand crushes...I think his shots are noticeably crushier than mine.

      I think "birding is hard" goes along perfectly with the increasingly popular birding mantra, "life is pain". I think "Valar Morghulis" might be the next addition to the BB&B lexicon.

  2. This all looks very familiar.

    In spite of the paucity of passerines and the undercooked steak, the Chuck was cool as shit and the Woodford went down quick and smooth. Good times, dude. Next mission: Golden-cheeked.

    "This is it. It all happens now."

    1. That steak was utter bullshit. I gotta pick out a bourbon to bring up.

  3. Its pretty cool to read someone writing about these birds I see every day as anything other than "same old shit".

    1. Well you know what they say...familiarity breeds contempt. Thanks though!

  4. congrats on your life bird! I especially love the least tern shot. I'm still waiting to hear "Kedek kidirk kedeek kerdek".... any day now!

    1. I wonder if they are going to take over Hollywood again.