Sunday, April 28, 2013

Migrants, breeders, and summerers, Oh My!

I have no musings to offer today, only cool migrants that have been working their way through central Texas.  Time is short as I am getting ready to bird the shit out of Big Bend in a few days, and I've been relatively successful at procrastinating things this weekend.  Migration has been early and strong here in Austin, and I've found myself with a somewhat respectable county year total of 211, thus far.  Here are some of the more cooperative migrants, breeders, and summer residents of the last couple weeks.  See y'all on the other side of West Texas.

Hooded Warbler - pretty snazzy looking dude.  One of my favorite warblers.
Barred Owl fledgling
Red-shouldered Hawk on nest - the mate had just brought this lizard.  Nom nom nom.
Wilson's Phalarope - I could live to be 500 years old and never get sick of looking at this bird.

Summer Tanager - everywhere right now.
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 
This bird made me and Sam wonder if the two of them were scouting a nest site. 
Blackburnian Warbler - Shit picture, I get it.  But it's a Blackburnian.
Black-throated Green Warbler 
Golden-winged Warbler - again, shit picture, I know.  But this was an awesome bird.
Quite a few Golden-winged Warblers around the last few days.  This was a life bird for me, just a couple of miles outside the Travis County line.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Deep questions about ridiculous things

So, here are some examples of the types of questions that run through my head rather frequently... "Why do people so easily forget the 1987-1993 Houston Oilers, and how amazing and ahead of their time they were with the 'run and shoot'?" "If I'm driving from Austin to Houston at a set rate of speed, can I use math to determine the exact minute I'll pull into the driveway of my destination?" "How much of an impact can a major/minor key switch have on a piece of music?" More often than not, I have answers for these questions... "Because of that playoff game." "Most of the time, yes." "A big impact." 

Broad-winged Hawk - the only perched migrant hawk I've seen this year.
Blue-headed Vireo - some of these dudes have been confused for possible Cassin's in Texas, lately.
First Scissor-tailed Flycatcher of the year.  If this bird doesn't knock the wind out of you, I think it's safe to say that you lack a soul.
But yesterday morning, I asked a question which I'm not sure I have the answer to. Here's what went down.  I picked up the Yard Bird King of Travis County (henceforth referred to as AJ), and drove to the super secret nightjar spot before sunup.  As we stood there, at 5:45 in the morning, out in the middle of nowhere, with Common Poorwills and Chuck-will's-widows singing all around us, I posited the question, rhetorically at first, before it started to fester in my brain, "Why is everyone in Austin not out here right now, listening to these nightjars?"

Northern Parula
Louisiana Waterthrush - been having fun watching these birds fly up and down Bull Creek.
AJ was a bit struck by the question and said so, which is probably why it sat in my head for the rest of the day.  So, at first the answer seems obvious, right?  "Because it's 5:45 in the morning and you're listening to (and not even looking at) birds."  But how obvious is that answer, really?  So, in my head, this blurs the boundaries of what is absolute and what is relative.  This is a constant struggle for me because I don't believe in absolutes in most aspects of life and existence; I only believe in absolutes trivially, and dependent upon cultural and societal customs and norms.  For instance, I absolutely believe that making the conscience decision to dine at Applebee's is indicative of one surrendering all ambition and appreciation of the things that make life worth living.  

Red-eyed Vireo - first of year.
One of two Canyon Towhees that were causing a ruckus.
Ash-throated Flycatcher - first of year bird.
To apply that to that topic at hand, I absolutely believe that, given the opportunity and exposure, every human being on the planet should be fascinated/borderline compulsively obsessed with looking at, listening to, and studying the birds around them.  It amazes me that there aren't 1000 people in my way every time I go out.  Please take note, I most decidedly DO NOT want these people to suddenly become aware of the birds around them.  I like my secret birding spots, and I love the isolation that these spots provide.  People talk way too much without conveying any useful information, and while I understand that's something I have to deal with in some aspects of my life, it would be a damn shame for that to enter the sanctity of my birding world.  

Rock Wren - pretty jazzed to have this bird pop up right in front of me.
Four of about three hundred Franklin's Gulls seen at Hornsby.
But that doesn't draw me away from the fact that I feel like I'm getting away with something here.  That I'm onto some shit that's flying just under people's radars.  That if people would look up just once, they'd realize that they've been missing out on a pretty breathtaking show.  And after some deep contemplation and self searching, I realize why that terrifies me so much.  Because, if the other option were true, if people knew that there were Painted Buntings, and Golden-cheeked Warblers, and Wood Ducks all around them; if they knew that and they just didn't care; well, that means that I'm nothing more than a red-headed, binocular toting weirdo.