Wednesday, December 4, 2019

One Thousand Posts of BB&B (We Don't Need Their Scum)

Look at these unripe young nerds. Here is Cassidy and myself in Anza Borrego camping out with the 2008 BUOW crew, probably at a high %, a few months before the inaugural BB&B post in 2008. That was a good night. Little did we know that our lives would eventually interwine so much that we would eventually become blog bros.

We have arrived. We are here. We have really done it. We have reached the summit, planted our flag. The peak has been bagged...scumbagged, that is. This filthy, rarefied air is incredible.

The milestone has been reached. With this post, the bizarre bird blog nobody asked for, the bird blog nobody thought they needed, the bird blog of a generation has reached #1000.

One thousand posts...this is not something I take lightly. I'm not even sure how to go about writing this post, but clearly some kind of retrospective is in why don't we go back to the beginning, before post #1. Life has changed greatly since we first launched in 2008, when I took this sacred blog oath:

"Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children one child. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men birders. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch this blog, for this night and all the nights to come."

If this sounds strangely similar to the vows of the Night's Watch, it is purely coincidence I assure you. There was no Game of Thrones television series in 2008, after all, heheheh....

Right. Since BB&B burst forth into the Birdosphere, I have seen about twice as many species of birds, made many new friends, began and ended The Perpetual Weekend (what is dead may never die), visited and worked in some fantastic places, started a family. On a smaller, blogular scale, BB&B has acquired a coauthor, the singular Cassidy Grattan, who can write better than any bird blogger out there. I have become a better birder, leveled up with better gear and scraped together some rudimentary skills at taking bird photos. We have conducted a bunch of surprisingly good and readable interviews, started the enchanting Human Birdwatcher Project, and offered you Exclusive Birder Coverage that could be found nowhere else.

What has always set apart BB&B from the rest of the Birdosphere was not our love of birding and enthusiasm in discussing birds, but our willingness to take on birders themselves, their behaviors and tendencies, their follies and failures. Unlike most blogs, who will have you think that birders are the most pleasant group of people on earth populated with amiable novices thirsty for knowledge to be dispensed by steadfast, infalliable experts, BB&B resolved from the beginning to not blow smoke up your ass. You, beloved reader, deserve better than that. Our willingness to shine a light on the dark side of birding, to be the light that brings the dawn, is what cemented iconoclast status for BB&B.

It made us Birding Heroes.

In 2009 I had the great fortune of going to Midway Atoll to volunteer for USFWS. I can't even really begin to describe that experience in a little caption (you can check the BB&B nascent 2009 archives for our Midway coverage) but overall it was brilliant. Laysan Albatross is known as the flagship bird there and the love they get is deserved.

In 2010 I again hooked up with USFWS, this time spending the summer on Buldir Island in the western Aleutians. Unlike Midway, where there were dozens of people around and folks coming and going regularly, for most of the time it was just 5 of us on the whole island. Like Midway, the seabird situation was nothing short of stunning. These are Crested and Least Auklets, which would form giant murmurations. Auklet murmuration > starling murmuration.

Or Birding Anti-Heroes? Uncertain am I.

But that is where the uncertainty ends. Now, 1,000 posts later, I know birders now more than ever. My finger is on the pulse. For years we have preached our sermons, spread the tenants of good birding. You have listened, you have learned, although some were reluctant to face The Truth. BB&B has always been strong enough to hold a mirror up to the birding community though, where we have always spoke truth to power.

This is the way.

And who holds the power of birding? Sure, you could say it is The Bird Police, The eBird Reviewer, The Field Guide Author, The AOS North American Checklist Committee. Perhaps it is the so-called "Birding Elite", or the mysterious and obscene Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive. Perhaps it lies with other birding power brokers such as Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds.

In 2011 I connected with USFWS for the third and final time, but did the opposite of going to a North Pacific island...I went to North Dakota to work with Piping Plovers. In addition to spending a lot of time with plovers (which had a horrible breeding season due to region wide flooding) I spent many hours embedded with grassland birds. Baird's Sparrow is a very enjoyable species to come across while on the clock. Photographed on private property in NW North Dakota.

In 2012 I took my first trip to Costa Rica, with Dipper Dan, Frank and Stilt. Hella lifers. One of the fairly common birds that had a big impact on me was the Golden-hooded Tanager. I know they aren't the most facemelting tanager out there but they they struck a nerve nonetheless. Photographed at what is now known as Dave and Dave's Nature Park in the Sarapiqui area.

But they are just the beginning. Birding power is so much more than those few is all around us. It is, in many respects, the status quo. Power is wielded in mansplaining, obsessive compulsion to detail at the expense of the big picture, fixation on hybrids, the growing reliance on the Merlin App to make identifications. Power is reporting a MEGUH with little or no detail, causing widespread Fear and Loathing and sometimes Panic. Power is spamming listservs and FB groups for "likes" and web embarrassing. Power is whining, entitlement and butthurt. Power is the need to be Right at all costs. Power is someone wrongly telling you that you misidentified a bird, and power is stringing. Even photographers wield power over birders...just the other day I was sitting at the edge of a pond, off trail, minding my own business taking some Bufflehead pictures. A photographer walks right up to me, between me and the birds, causing them to scatter. Keep in mind that to do this had to go out of her way, and also have not the faintest idea she was being a huge floppy dick. She asks me if I had seen any Bufflehead. Incredulously, I motion to the group of Buffleheads behind me that are now swimming away. She looked confused and responded with "I don't think that's what they are". I walked away in disgust...she could have her Non-Buffleheads. And yes, the now legendary Santa Clara Stringer was also a photographer, she apparently did not even own binoculars. But I digress, the open feuding between birders and photographers should be a post in and of itself...

In 2013 I was lured back to North Carolina for the inevitable OBX pelagic trip, as up until then I had seen hardly any species of Atlantic seabirds. That situation has thankfully been rectified. Trindade Petrel was a huge unexpected bonus bird, something I wasn't even hoping for, and one of multiple lifers.

In 2014 we took advantage of the landlord's vacay home he had in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, and rented it out for a week or so. It was my first and so far only time in the southern part of the Baja Peninsula. Though not strictly a birding trip the birding was good and I learned that Xantus's Hummingbirds are awesome. Photographed in Todos Santos.

What is the common denominator here? These are all abundant traits and habits in birders (and photogs) that serve to turn off people from the birding community, to make the rest of us want to disengage from this scene of sorts altogether. People can be turned off to birds altogether, especially those right on the verge of being potentially hooked on birding. So while true power may look to you like a bird cop saying the record you submitted should be rejected, in reality it takes on many and varied forms.

BB&B was not the first blog to call out birders, to ridicule them (just think about us for a moment...we are asking for it), nor is BB&B the only one to mock them in the birdosphere (I don't think we've ever gone this far). I cannot take credit for that, but if you are reading this now you probably realize that our willingness to confront what is wrong with birding has really resonated with many BB&B readers. To that end, I believe we have been doing something Right all these years...perhaps we were needed after all.

2015 was the year of MAYNERAYGE. Spruce Grouse was one of my top target birds of the trip and we finally found one after putting quite a bit of effort. Hanging out with buddies and this relatively fearless, crippling bird is still my favorite grouse experience of all time. Photographed at Boot Head Preserve in Lubec, Maine.

In December of 2016 I made my last big birding trip before fatherhood consumed me. Dipper Dan, The Eggman and I went to Puerto Rico for Caribbean goodness and endemicos. It was not the birdiest trip but we did well with target birds and had many soul-satisfying views of the lovable Puerto Rican Tody. Photographed at Bosque Estatal de Guanica.

In 2017 I was lucky enough to see the Holy Grail of Vague Runts, the Ross's Gull. Out of all the rarities I have seen (and there have been some great ones), this one is on another level. When I think about the time in the setting sun I was lucky enough to spend with the doomed bird, the timeless Binary Sunset plays in my mind. We may never see its like again, and things certainly have never been the same. Photographed in Half Moon Bay, CA.

So much has transpired since post #1, when I took that first step into a larger world. BB&B has gone on to change lives, and I say that not with hyperbole, or for effect; we are in the real talk portion of this post. BB&B is now The Great Communicator of the birding world, The Tastemaker, The Taker of Temperature, the Birding Messiah at the top of Mount Olympus...ok that actually was a lot of hyperbole. What I should say is that I am proud of what we have done here over the years, and humbled that anyone gave a shit. It is with Great Honor and Immense Humility that I can say I've actually made friends because of this ridiculous blog.

TO ALL MY FRIENDS, who read BB&B (and even the ones who don't), you are loved. Thanks to Cass who has made so many great posts for BB&B over the last few years. Thanks to everyone who has offered their couches, spirits and company while I was on the road. Thanks to everyone who has invited me on birding trips, or have gone along on mine. Thank you to all whom I still owe hjs too, sorry to keep you waiting, I am in your debt. Thanks to Billy for not only understanding that I am a bird addict, but for enabling my habit...and for being a great mom to Annie, who just the other day said, unprompted in any way, "I love birds". That remains to be seen, but there is hope.

Most of all, thanks to Felonious Jive, The Great Ornithologist. I could not have done this without you, bro. You are a truly great birder, a real BROrnithologist. You are my ride or die.

You are my everything.

In April of 2018 I birded the Upper Texas Coast for the first time. The winds and weather were with us, as the lulls in migration were usually short and the birding generally varied between very good and absolutely fantastic. I got to see multiple Swainson's Warblers, which was a lifer and my only lifer for the whole year. Photographed at Sabine Woods.

In January of 2019 Billy, Annie and I made our way to Belize. It was our first international trip together. I won't claim it was the smoothest trip (traveling with a toddler is challenging) but from a purely birding perspective the itinerary delivered as hoped and overall it was very successful. Yucatan Jay was one of dozens of lifers. Also, Annie still occasionally tells me she wants to go to the jungle, so I think it left a good impression on her. Photographed at Crooked Tree.

What lies ahead for BB&B? The impossibilities are endless. It will likely be a long time before I get to post as often as I would like again. Seriously though, I need to thank you readers who I don't know well, or at all, which is most of you. Thanks to everyone who has been a friend of the blog over the years, left supportive comments here or on FB or IRL, has ambushed me while birding and told me the blog is good...or just absolutely punished me, I should be grateful for that too. I never thought I would get recognized by random strangers in the field because of BB&B, especially since I hardly post photos of myself. I really do appreciate all the love I've gotten doing this...I've never done this in an attempt to make money, promote some shitty book about a stupid big year, sell my photos or try to get people to try and sign up for some tour I'm guiding on. I bird for the sake of birding, I blog for the sake of blogging. Many bird bloggers have jumped the blogship over the years, but I intend to keep the old ways alive. BB&B will continue to be the shield that guards the realms of birders, and our watch has not yet ended.

See you next time!



  1. Good work on this milestone! I must say that reading your blog is one of many things that pushed me over the edge from "bird watcher" to "birder."

    1. Thanks Greg, glad I could help your addiction grow and flourish.

  2. Here's to another thousand! I usually read your posts after the NYT during morning coffee and I must say your posts are more uplifting in comparison.

    1. Thanks Jamie. No FAKE NEWS here, only REAL BULLSHIT.

  3. Need your help,please, heard about you from other birders near the refuge/Acadia. They said you frequent the area. Lost immature male red tailed hawk,last sighted at the oxbow marina entrance near over pass on Nov.14 th. Just found out about the sighting Saturday. I've been searching for him with no luck. He has leather anklets on and one short flying jess. If you sight him would you please report to Mass wildlife/Erik Amati/falconry coordinator in Westborough. Or Jo Ann at I would appreciate it. Thanks for the blog too,great find.

  4. Well, ya left me speechless on this one (difficult to do that)! You are a talented soul and we love ya!

    Here's to another 1000 posts, blood of my blood!

    Yours, Billy and Annabelle

  5. Thanks for keeping the old ways of bird blogging alive. I have seen a lot of birds because of you and for that I am eternally grateful. Cheers!! Side note- I recently noticed an eBirder in Portland named Anne Tucker and thought oh good, Steve's baby is out birding here. (I realize she's not still a baby and I also realize I have no clue what her last name is).

    1. Glad to be of service FJ.

      She's a Tucker. That is her. I thought she would not move to Portland before turning 3, but kids these days ya know?