Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Grub Part II: "I, Grub, Have Become a LISTER."

Welcome to the second half of our new interview with The Grub, sponsored by The Human Birdwatcher Project, who have always spoke truth to power..."birders are people too!" Catch the first half of this remarkable exchange right here.

BB&B: The animosity between you and another birder who has been mentioned in this space a lot over the years, Dipper Dan, is the stuff of legend and one of the great birder feuds of our time. How did this come to be, and do you have a message for Dan?

The Grub: The thing about "Dipper" Dan, or "Handsome" Dan, or "Hot" Dan, or Dan "The Awesome Guy With The Sailboat"  or "Soon To Be Married" Dan, or whatever other kind of wild bullshit people want to say about this man...the point is this: Dipper Dan has always felt that he is better than The Grub. This has, of course, been proved grossly false over and over again for many years now, but, blinded by his arrogance, hubris, and obstinacy, he still persists in this belief. Now, as far as birding goes, Dan is actually better than me...right now. But I am convinced this will not always be the case, and here is why: "Dipper" Dan thinks he is better than the birds too! And that is a losing strategy in the long run. 

Yeah I have a message for Dan...see you at your wedding!

[The Grub sounded rather menacing here...this requires some more explanation: The Grub was not invited to Dan's wedding, in fact I can't think of anyone Dan would be less likely to invite, as he had notoriously been trying for years to prevent his fiancee, Sultry Sam, from even having any contact with The Grub whatsoever. But in disastrous fashion, Grub did indeed crash the wedding as he threatened in this interview - see photo above.]

And I will also see you below me on the California list because before The Grub dies he will pass "Handsome" Dan on the California all time list! Don't believe me, Dan? Well no one would have ever imagined I would have seen more birds than Matt "Matt Brady" Brady in Mono County either, but the record stands for itself!

[At left is The Grub's prized trophy he was awarded for passing Matt Brady in the all time Mono County eBird rankings.]

So I know you haven't been doing this very long, but a lot of weird stuff happens while birding. Birders find dead bodies, people having sex, have rednecks freak out on them, get mugged, etc. Has anything like that happened to you yet? 

Well I was up in Seattle a few years ago and I had been birdwatching someplace, and then I was riding a bus back up town. I had my binoculars in my cargo pant pocket, and I think all you could see of them was a black cylindrical looking thing in my pocket. I get off the bus and I'm immediately rushed by two cops! They asked me if I had a gun! Evidently someone on the bus had thought I had a gun and called 911, all I could think of was they saw the binoculars. I didn't realize I had to worry about that when out birdwatching! Of course if I were black or brown that might have ended differently...

Yeah dude. Well, if you are going wear cargo pants in this day and age, you have to accept the consequences. Grub, I want you to look at what you said about rare birds in our previous interview, let's take a look.

[The below passage is an excerpt from the 2009 interview]

Around Mono Lake there is so much obsession for rare birds and birds that get lost. Every birder is stoked about poor birds who get blown across the country, thousands of miles from where they are supposed to be. You should have seen them racing down to the Mill Creek Delta for some kind of gull, something from eastern Canada and the northern U.S. It got blown across the U.S. and everyone talked about how ragged and fucked up it was. It couldn't really fly. It was all beat up and couldn't go anywhere else. People were getting off on this poor bird that flew the wrong direction. Everyone was so happy that this bird was dying alone, lost, from other side of country. Birders aren't about birds being in places they are supposed to be and enjoying themselves, they are about THE LIST. It's like bagging peaks, another thing that happens around here. It's a broish way to behave, to bag birds instead of enjoying them.

So now that you chase rarities constantly and are all about your county do you feel about about what young Grub said? Now you too get off on poor birds that fly the wrong direction.

One thing that eBird brought out in me was something that, as you can see above, I had been most critical of in my pre-birder days: I, Grub, have become a LISTER.

Of course I am going to go find that vagrant that has blown thousands of miles off course, I'm going to find the shit out of it! Pad that fucking county list goddamn it! I mean it's not like people want the birds to get blown off course, or to suffer, but it happens, and if I can see, say, a Long-tailed Duck that's kind of haggard on Mono Lake instead of having to travel to fucking Lake Superior or whatever, well that's fucking awesome. Also, I've since learned that not all vagrants are really that screwed just because they aren't where they usually are. There was that male Grace's Warbler here this summer though, hopelessly singing for a mate that couldn't possibly be found, boy was he fucked. But welcome to Mono County, I guess...

[Grub gestures grandly at our surroundings, apparently forgetting we are in Arcata and not Lee Vining. We had been in the bar for a couple hours now. The Common Redpoll in Aspendell, above, is one of the rarer birds Grub has successfully chased and one I am envious of.]

Young, confused, stupid Grub was a little more on point about Listing and the peak bagging aspect...  and I am now certainly guilty of participating. But let me put it this way: Listing is basically exactly like Pokemon Go, okay? I mean, it's really EXACTLY the same...ya gotta catch 'em all! And of course it's fucking stupid, you don't actually have to catch 'em all!  But which do you think is healthier and more productive, running around staring through your phone trying to catch fake monsters like a fucking moron, or running around trying to see actual creatures existing in actual nature...and then looking down at your phone and recording them on eBird like a moron?

But let me tell you, be careful when you get into Listing too much...especially when you aren't a Big Deal. Last year, in August 2017, I was birding with my friend Kurt, he's a pretty Big Deal, and by that time in the year, I had seen a lot of new shit. So Kurt says, "where are you on the Mono County year list? " And I had no idea that was a thing. So we looked it up, and I was in second place and only three species behind the lead! So from that point til the end of 2017 I decided to try to get the highest county year list, because boy would that piss some people off! And what happened next still makes me pause and look behind my shoulder because it taught me how serious these people are when you try to mess with "their thing".....

I'm not going to name my competition, because I'm not trying to get the shit beat out of me, but let's just say she has the highest Mono County year list every year, and last year I was her only competition. Throughout September-December, we were neck and neck, and by December 29th, I was astonished to find myself two birds ahead of her! I thought she might still win, but I had given her a real run. The next morning, December 30th, she had gained 12 birds, but had no new birds that day...she had saved old lists and purposefully waited 'til the last day to sandbag me! I had been strung along thinking I was actually in there, only to be given a great big 12 species slap in the face on the last day of the year! "Know your place, rookie!" was clearly the message.

[Grub looks dejectedly into the distance, ostensibly at a major victory that was once in his grasp, but inexplicably slipped through his fingers at the last possible second. Remarkably, his fantasy baseball league concluded in precisely the same fashion this year.]

She broke me down and now, though I'm once again in second place, I'm not going to dare try and mess with her... for one thing she's probably got another big wad of lists waiting to knock me over the head with! I get it, it's just like what they do to rookies who first come to the Big Leagues, you fuck with them remorselessly and put them in their place.

Speaking of rookies and getting fucked with, you are a new and enthusiastic birder - are you willing to admit you are probably misidentifying shit all the time?

Yeah I'm positive I'm misidentifying tons of shit. The more I've learned the more I've realized how far I had to come to get to where I am now. I've gotten a lot better, but yeah, I'm probably still one of the sketchier birders in the Mono Basin. It was a while before I heard the term "stringing", but now that I understand the concept, I try hard to not do that.

How would you say your artwork has changed in the years since your first BBB interview? Any avian influence in the last couple years?

Birdwatching is doubtlessly destroying my artwork, like the rest of my life. I've painted some birds recently, sure. I painted a couple of paintings involving the Green-tailed Towhee...I think it's one of the birds that's intrigued me as something that obviously has always been a part of my life, but that I wasn't very aware of until recently. I imagine them having always watched me and wondered when am I going to wake the fuck up. So I paid some homage to them in my stuff. The Lazuli Bunting is another one. I did one of a huge Lazuli Bunting consulting a woman [left]. I think birds are starting to take on certain symbolic tones, the towhee seemed to symbolize aspects of my childhood or where I'm from, and the bunting is some kind of consultant or adviser. I expect the damn Pinyon Jays to interject themselves next, I've been spending a lot of time around them recently.

In your 2009 conversation with BB&B, you spoke of poor health and the distinct possibility of death before reaching 30, which you have avoided. Are you pleased with this outcome? Or do you subscribe to the "life is pain" outlook?

It's even worse than I could have ever imagined, Felonious. Not only am I still here, but I turned into a fucking birdwatcher! It's like someone played a sick joke on me for being so over-dramatic back in 2009 that they were like, "Oh, what's the most ironic thing we could do to this pompous ass? How 'bout make him one himself!".  Life is most certainly pain.

Can you imagine where I might be in ANOTHER nine years? I'll probably own a $10,000 scope or something, and be going on pelagic trips all the time.

I'm absolutely terrified of what is to come.

That will do it for our talk with The Grub, and that will do it for BB&B this year. And what a year it has been! Admittedly we didn't get to do some of the events we had been planning, like "Cape May on Mescaline" or "Bath Salts and South Florida Specialties"....heck, we can't even put together the "Southeast Arizona Acid Trip Report" in any remotely readable form. And so it goes...if birding is hard, blogging is harder. But so what? Thanks for celebrating TEN YEARS of BB&B with us. See you in 2019! 


  1. Hey Craig in Montana, if you are reading this, I wrote you back but yer email address wasn't working! Anyhow the gist was thanks much and it's a Black-thighed Grosbeak, crushed in Costa Rica.

    1. Hi Steve,
      Yup, I’m reading. Thanks for the reply. I don’t know what went south with my email (I’ve had a couple failed attempts even at this reply, so it’s looking like operator error). At any rate, I just read the latest “The Grub” installment and you killed me again.
      Thanks for IDing the magnificent grosbeak on the header. Damn, look at the bill on that dude. That creature gives me another reason (in addition to the other birds, herps, and the landscape, okay and the moderate climate) to make every attempt to achieve a Costa Rica visit in this lifetime, but it’s a long hitch from Montana. In the meantime, I’ll strap on the x-country skis and look for the unrelated, but still cool, Pine Grosbeak here in the cold mountains. Thanks again for your blog; it’s a hoot.


      P.S. Southeast AZ is a powerspot for me, especially Barfoot Peak, so I’d encourage you to do that post, acid or not.

  2. I too am terrified. I have been resisting buying full on khaki outfits but I fear it is inevitable.