Saturday, November 30, 2013

Some birds are bigger than others

That title doesn't make any sense other than its keeping in line with the random Morrissey theme that this blog has accidentally fallen into.  Pay no attention.  The biggest bird in this post is an American White Pelican.  The smallest is a Winter Wren.  Hmm.  Actually, that's quite a disparity.  I'm feeling better about it now.

Marsh Wren
Merlin - lightest specimen of Merlin I've seen.
Swamp Sparrow - a new addition to TMWB.  Welcome!
Rusty Blackbird - shit picture of a good bird.  Tough bird in the county, there have been at least one or two at Hornsby for the last two winters.
A quick few hours of birding this morning was pretty productive, even with the range restrictions imposed by my being on call at the hospital.  Again, everything is pretty random and the only binding quality is that most of the exciting stuff I saw today is winter stuff.

American White Pelican - flyover group of 21 at Hornsby this morning.
Wilson's Snipe - partially salvaged from a severe overexposure.
Crested Caracara
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks
And a juvenile.
Speaking of winter stuff, This Machine is getting ready for a road trip in a few days.  I'll be working my way up through Oklahoma and Kansas and into the heart of Iowa for a long weekend with the family.  Target lists have been made, and birds are already being staked out.  Shit is about to get real.

Eastern Phoebe - this was one of the first birds that led me down the path of nerding.
Common Yellowthroat - this is a 1st winter male, as evidenced by the hint of a dark mask coming in.
Winter Wren
Nutria family - cute and disgusting all in one
Young Nutria
I'll see you nerds from the frigid midwest.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's too fucking cold

So, a couple things about me.  I'm from Texas.  Well, I've been here since I was two.  I'm a Texas boy.  I love George Strait.  I loved the Houston Oilers.  I love a lot of things about the place that I'm from.  To be fair, I sincerely dislike a lot of things about the place I'm from as well.

This has been a weird fall for Ladder-backed Woodpecker.  They seem to be pushing northeast in the county in greater numbers than I've seen before.
I added Ladder-backed to my hospital list a couple weeks ago.  I think this may be the same bird, which I found less than a half mile away.

I tell you this because I want to convey that my Texas upbringing has molded me. I say "fixin" and "reckon" and I'll choose Lone Star over quite a few other beers.  I love the spring, when the redbuds bloom and the sounds of tejano music float over the fences of backyard neighbors.

Gadwalls at a distance are just ducks, but up close looks always blow me away.
This brief life history is written to help you understand how horrible life has become now that winter is here and we've had a cold front.  Part of me has this romantic notion of retiring somewhere that has real winters.  Think Chevy Chase and Christmas Vacation.  I've never sledded down a hill, and I think that sucks.  But, and this is a serious but, I thought I was going to die this weekend.  Temperatures never got above 40, and it was raining cold, nasty angel tears that pierced my soul.  

Bewick's Wren - has never been very cooperative for This Machine.  This one bucked the trend.

Crested Caracara - has a tendency to make non Texas birders bitter, angry, and envious.

Of course, there was never a chance that I was going to stay inside all weekend.  If there was a vagrant scoter, I wanted to find it.  I was out Saturday and Sunday mornings before the sun came up.  And, I was a trooper.  I birded 6 or 7 hours both days.  But, yeah.  I really thought I was going to die.  It sucked.  I don't know how all of you northerners do this shit all the time.  Or how you survive without tacos.  So, yeah.  I got out this weekend.  I didn't find any Scoters.  It was still pretty fun, though.  Signed - Conflicted in Texas.

Chipping Sparrow- Yep, it's winter.
Snow Goose - shit picture of a new county bird for me.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Charming Birder

For the second week in a row, I have no thesis.  No unique experience, no singular object of my attention.  I'm lost in a world of Orange-crowned Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and American Coots.  I'm not quite convinced that Morrissey isn't a bird watcher, but if he is, I think he would understand.  What gets a birder stirred up?  Unexpected shit, right?  How I wish I could have all my avian needs fulfilled by Northern Cardinals and Carolina Chickadees.  But, I can't.  I need my fucking fix.  I've been living vicariously through Party Don't Stop! Jen for the last couple weeks.  Red-necked Grebe?  Northern Shrike?  What the fuck.  This is the shit that gets me through the dead times.  But, I'll keep plugging away at it.  Cool shit is just around the corner.  In the meantime, here is another dose of random shit.  Enjoy, nerds!

Least Sandpiper - I've been toying with exposure settings on my camera.  This was shot at 1000 ISO.  I don't hate it.
Vermilion Flycatcher - This snazzy fucker has been reliable at Hornsby.
I took this at 1600 ISO.  I feel like I can see some grain.
Downy Woodpecker - Super cooperative bird let me study its under tail. 
Downy Woodpecker - shot at f/6.3, the focal depth is pretty narrow.
Double-crested Cormorants are roosting all up and down Town Lake.
I was crushing these birds on a busy running and bicycle path, and they were not that easy to see.  Needless to say, I came off like a fucking weirdo.

Gadwall crush.
Ring-necked Duck smash.
American Bittern - not an easy bird in the county.  AJ spotted this one.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Odds and Ends

Man, I kind of feel like a dick.  I was on a roll with decent posts; Cali, pelagic, Longspur, Nelson's.  And now?  Now I really have nothing.  I've been scraping for content this week.  We're right in the middle between fall and winter birding.  There is stuff around (Red-naped Sapsucker, Sprague's Pipits), but they're not giving me great views.  Probably balancing my crush karma after that McCown's Longspur.  Fair enough, I reckon.

Golden-crowned Kinglet - I was happy to learn that the years of crushing drums at punk rock shows has not diminished my hearing enough to lose the high ass frequency in which these birds call.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - what do you know?  Another RCKI.  They've been here for a month, and I've probably seen about 15,000 of them.  They are pretty cute, though. 
Great Blue Heron - cliché shot, I admit.  I had hopes of crushing a Zonie here, but the fog kind of fucked that up for me.
There does happen to be a pretty badass bird within about 6 hours of me, but fuck.  I can't make that chase right now.  12 hours round trip is killer enough, but honestly, the thought of being around hundreds of other birders makes me fucking sick.  I know they're supposed to be "my people," but fuck.  There are some weird motherfuckers that chase birds.  Trust me.

Burrowing Owl - got better looks at Burrowing Owl.  So as to avoid disturbance to the owl, I made a super quick stop and will not be visiting this bird again.  And after all the shit that went down last year, I will not tell any of you Texas motherfuckers where this bird is, either.
Red-tailed Hawk - common bird, still a fan.
Anyways, ya'll are going to have to deal with this bullshit post, and I'm going to have to find some goddamned birds.  We'll see how it goes.  Until then, take care nerds.

Wood Ducks
Blue-winged Teal - coming into alternate plumage.
Canvasback - this lady is my first of fall.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Today was a good day

Today was a good day.  Those of you who know me know that I don't throw that word around loosely.  If a day sucks, I'll call it like it is.  I've been called "curmudgeonly."  But, yeah.  Today was a good day.  Today, I was afforded the completely unexpected opportunity to crush a bird that very seldom lends itself to crushing.  My suspicion is that this bird (and its two cohorts) just dropped in last night from migration.  I nearly stepped on them.  This bird gave me a bit of El Ojo, but wasn't really interested in moving too much.  I kindly crushed the shit out of her and left her alone.  So what's this crushworthy bird?  Well, it's a bird with a black T on a white tail.  It's a bird that many people see from a long distance in shitty weather.  It is, of all things, a McCown's Longspur.

One of two females seen.  Even in basic plumage, males would have strong rufous-chestnut coloration on the median coverts and a darker central breast.
The backsides and folded wings of sparrows and longspurs are often overlooked, but the patterns are pretty stunning.
Here's a decent look at the long hind toe which gave rise to the term "longspur."
Longspurs are often seen flying in the distance.  Tail patterns can help with identification on distant birds.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

TMWB on the FB and a GCKI

Yep, This Machine has set up an official Facebook page for extra musings and snippets.  Swing by and like the page to keep up to date with all of the foul-mouthed, whiskey driven nerder rants.  This Golden-crowned Kinglet will be very disappointed in you if you don't.