Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Seagull Steve has returned to the state of Texas in an attempt to rescue his friend This Machine Nate from the clutches of the vile Geri Birders.

Little does Steve know that the GERIATRIC EMPIRE has secretly begun amassing an unstoppable army even more powerful than the dreaded hordes that swarm South Padre Island.

When assembled, this ultimate army of Geris will spell certain doom for the small band of birders struggling to restore good identification skills to the birding galaxy...

How does that grab you? I don't really have the capacity to do an opening crawl in blog format, so this will have to do. Though the Jedi were obviously the protagonists in Return of The Jedi, the Geri are decidedly not the heroes of Return of The Geri. They are the rising darkness, and we are the light to meet it. 

Always in motion is the future, but I can see it now. The mosquitoes will be thick, and Geri will be thicker. Photographers (Geri and otherwise) high on bird lust and low on almost everything else will inspire anger, fear, aggression. When brightly colored birds in plain view within spitting distance are pointed out, Geri will struggle mightily to locate them and demand more instruction so I cannot enjoy watching the birds myself. Birds will be misidentified constantly. Black-and-white Warblers will become Blackpoll Warblers. Tennessee Warblers will become Philadelphia Vireos. Eastern Wood-Pewees will become Acadian Flycatchers. Ovenbirds will become Wood Thrushes. All Catharus thrushes will become each other. Red will become blue and one will become two. There will be squadrons of Geri to wade through at many of the sites, indeed, an army I feel I may not be able to defeat. But does it spell certain doom? Perhaps, but much like Lando Calrissian, Nien Nunb and Wedge Antilles defied the odds and destroyed the second Death Star, we may be able to find a way around the legion of Geri and get into some fantastic birding. That depends on the birds, the weather, our birding strategy, and a lot of luck.

Geri may be a force to be reckoned with, but a confiding Hooded Warbler can become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. 

Cheesy/stupid intro aside, we are excited to announce that BB&B will be returning to Texas this spring. Ostensibly, I will be leading a custom trip organized by the up and coming MAX REBO BIRDING TOURS ("No one can find Ortolans like Ortolans!"), and meeting up with famed Bicknell's Thrush expert and Jawbreaker scholar, This Machine Nate. But the real reason I am going is to bend the knee and worship at the altar of Spring Migration. Like most of you, I have never seen a proper fallout...I've been around for some good waves of migrants (what some would call "modest" fallouts perhaps, which seems oxymoronic to me), but not the genuine article...warblers littering the ground, ungodly hordes of exhausted migrants, too much for one birder to possibly take of the great climaxes of North American birding. I've been close enough to the real deal to develop a strong appetite for it though, and so I must head east.

I like to see Indigo Buntings. I like to see lots of them, at extremely close range. For the birder looking to get high on Indigo, spring in coastal Texas is the time and the place to do just that. 

Now, as you may have heard, I am the #7 birder in the's not like I am going into this situation blind. Even if I was going to spend weeks out there (I'm not), I'm not expecting to be so lucky, or for the birds to be so unlucky. I will be completely happy just to reconnect with a bunch of different species and be there when a decent number of newly-arrived migrants drop in to the woods.  I am expecting some slow, perhaps excruciatingly slow, days on the passerine front...but this is what one must endure to have the best chance at being around for an iconic migration event. Or just plain old good birding! It's not like I require 25 species of warblers in a day to be satisfied.

I found this Scarlet Tanager in the middle of the day ("best time to make for great birdwatch", according to one notorious birder), smashing a large moth in the middle of a suburban street with nothing resembling respectable stopover habitat in sight. I shot this crippling lens-cracker out my car window. No doubt this is a bird that meets all standard fallout criteria (tired/voraciously hungry/in weird coastal habitat/totally oblivious to people/facemelting), but unfortunately one bird does not make a fallout.

Aside from seeing a lot of birds and getting some crushing in, I do have one particular target bird in mind - Swainson's Warbler. I have never seen a Swainson's Warbler, and I hope to rectify that unfortunate situation by the time I return to California. While pretty much everyone else is looking up for yellow, green, blue, orange and red, I will be looking down for least some of the time. I am merely mortal, unable to resist the canopy-loving species, and one in particular has a special draw. If you are new to BB&B, you may not know that I dream about Cerulean Warblers more than any other bird, and I dream about birds with embarrassing frequency. I think it's a fantastic bird to dream about! Just last week, in a dream, I had male Cerulean and Blackburnian Warblers in the same binocular view...what a combo! You could even call it a dream combo. Will these birds make the jump from my subconscious to my binoculars in a few months? And if they do...what are the implications? Can anyone be ready for something like that? If you missed it from back in 2014, From South Padre Island to The Astral Plane: A Cerulean Warbler Vision Quest is a pretty good read. It is completely accurate account, with no fiction or exaggerations of any sort. Big lenses may be raised against me in anger once again, but I am not afraid...

Right. The mind begins to wander. Possibilities of glory on the scale of an exploding Death Star or failure the size of Alderaan seem equally plausible. Is my fate intertwined with that of the Cerulean Warbler? Is my entire life just a Franzenesque cliche? A lot of questions may be answered on this trip.

When the Geri-to-warbler ratio is askew in the woods, there will be no shortage of other great birds to look for instead. Upland Sandpiper is one of a great many shorebird species that use the area in spring, and I haven't seen them since the last time I was in the Lone Star [Beer] State.

Well, now you know the main plotlines we will be working with. Top priorities are freeing This Machine from the carbonite, lifer Swainson's Warbler, ask Cerulean Warbler about interdimensional travel and astro-projection. Eastern Whip and Black-whiskered Vireo are both needed birds as well, but I reckon a lot of luck would be required for either and my expectations for those are not high. Most of the time, it will be all about year birds! And our clients, of course...MAX REBO BIRDING TOURS is famous for going above and beyond to coddle (not cuddle) clientele, and this trip will be no exception.

I guess I should wrap this, considering nothing has even happened yet and it is still winter. The passerines in this post were photographed on South Padre Island, and the UPSA was in some ag fields north of Harlingen. All in Texas, obvi.


  1. First, the intro is great, don’t call it cheesy or stupid for a second. Once you start down the dark path...

    Second—deja vu of 6th grade algebra—what the fuck is going on!?
    I mean, awesome that you and Nate will join forces, especially as his site went the way of Alderaan, but isn’t Max Rebo that squishy plush elephant who played keys on Jabba’s pleasure barge?
    He has a Birding company now? Is this your guide company?? Did you manage to find a guide company that is that centrally geeky about Star Wars???

    Anyhow, best of luck with the rebellion. Don’t forget to pick up your power converters on the way.

    On my end: “It’s not that I like the Geri; I hate it. It’s just, there’s nothing I can do about it right now!”

    1. Oh you know Max? Did you meet at Jabba's palace? Yeah Max got into birding a few years ago and started his own tour company. I guided for him in Puerto Rico as well. Pretty much no one can understand anything he says...not in this system anyways.

      Excellent choice of quote!