Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Caption Contest #3

Your caption here.

Yes, that is a timber rattlesnake I am holding, halfway stuck into a tube. Yes, my eyes are closed. Yes, I have a mustache in this photo. I'll explain more tomorrow. For now, send in your clever captions, blogzillas. A fabulous prize to the winner!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

My First Bird of 2009

It took some doing, getting a "choice" initial bird of 2009.

First I had to make sure, as I rose out of bed on New Year's Day, that I did not look out the window. That's hard for a bird watcher to do. It goes against our very nature.

Then I had to find my blindfold—a brown handkerchief with birds printed on it, a gift from a friend on a birding trip to Peru. I thought this well-traveled doo-rag might help my Good Bird Karma on the first day of a new year. Blindfold in place, I slowly made my way up the stairs to the kitchen. I shouted for Phoebe to help me make my coffee and to locate my personal bird finder, Julie Zickefoose.

While the coffee brewed I sat down at the kitchen table to wait for my birding year to commence. Phoebe laughed when I told her what was up—she understands the depths of my obsession. Liam thought it was cool and asked us to blindfold him, too. That would have to wait.

Waiting but not in vain. Do I look happy to be blind folded? Photo by Julie Z.

Julie entered the kitchen, got me my coffee, grabbed her binocs and started calling out birds.

The conversation (if you can call it that) went like this:

Julie: "My first bird was a cardinal. I suppose that's too common for you, huh?"
Me: "Yep. Nice but booooring!"
Julie: "Junco?"
Me: "Mmmm. That's OK, but I'd prefer..."
Julie: "Robin!"
Me: "That's a good one!"
Julie: "Let me get it in the scope for...DANG it just flew!"
Me: "Bummer."

This went on. We adjourned to the birding tower, me still blind folded. The hypothesis behind the move was that the height would give us (or at least Julie) better visual command of the farm, thus increasing our chances of finding something I'd accept. The pressure increased.

And the bird sightings continued:
Mourning dove (no), starling (no way!), house sparrow (no #[email protected]&^% way!), Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker, song sparrow, white-breasted nuthatch... all turned down my Mr. Picky Pants of the Birds.

An hour passed. Julie started mumbling comments under her breath. I was holding out for something special. Like the irregularly appearing sapsucker who'd been at the feeder, or a fly-by pileated, the sharpie we'd been seeing... something slightly more interesting than an everyday feeder bird.

Julie: "White-throated sparrow?"
Me: "YES! That's a good one!"
Julie: "OK it's in the scope. No, wait! OK! No. Ok! Hurry, while it's still there!"

I removed my blindfold but kept my eyes shut until I felt the familiar sensation of rubber eyecup hitting my glasses, pressing them back against my nose. I opened my right eye and there it was, a beautiful taniped-morph white-throated sparrow! Species #1 for 2009.

White-throated sparrow (taniped morph) photo by Drew Weber. Thanks Drew!

Me: "Awesome! Thanks!"
Julie: "Remind me never to do this again, OK"
Me: "And now for my SECOND bird..."

Happy camper: A good first bird of 2009! Photo by Julie Z.

Happy Birdy New Year to everyone!

I think I'll keep a year list this year! But I'm getting rid of the blindfold.

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