Monday, May 26, 2014

On Karma and Cactus

I used to believe in karma, I really did. I don't really believe in karma now. Long story behind it, but suffice it to say I don't buy in to that shit anymore. I mean, I do believe that you're more likely to have a positive response if you put out positive vibes and vice versa, but I don't think there's some dude refereeing that shit. I think good shit happens and bad shit happens, and all that shit happens randomly. Disagree if you like; I don't mind. 

Hepatic Tanager is a badass Tanager. I don't see this bird enough.
So, my first night in Arizona was spent at a shady Red Roof Inn in east Tucson. I was to meet Laurence from Butler's Birds at 4am and after unintentionally breaking up a drug deal at 3:45am as I loaded my car, I picked up some shitty Denny's coffee and waited on Laurence. He had been kind enough to offer to join me for a couple days of SE AZ birding, and he had a pretty serious itinerary.

Plumbeous Vireo - contender for most ubiquitous bird in SE Arizona canyons, and loud as fuck.
We started the day by dipping on Sinaloa Wren; fair enough, don't think it's been seen since before we got there. After that we made a quick stop to knock Montezuma Quail off both of our heard only lists. That was cool. Things got pretty sick after that. Miller Canyon was nuts, giving me my first looks at Red-faced Warbler, as well as nesting Northern Goshawk and Spotted Owl. Then came the hummingbirds. So, after all that we booked it over to Proctor Road near Madera Canyon for Buff-collared Nightjar. That bird called, and it was awesome, despite the presence of four large, white vans, about 30 tour participants, and an incredibly obnoxious tour leader.

Montezuma Quail
This is my life look at Northern Goshawk. Invigorating and painful.
This is my life look at Spotted Owl.  Invigorating and painful.
Anyways, after nightjarring, we headed in to town for a quick dinner before our planned owling and camping up in Madera Canyon for the night. Thing is, after dinner, car trouble happened. Not mega car trouble, but something that we embarrassingly couldn't fix by ourselves, which meant that we had to leave the steed at a shop and hike a mile and a half or so to a hotel that specialized in "Pancake." Disheartening to say the least.

Phainopepla held true to its history of giving me good looks and suboptimal photos.
After 5 or 6 hours of sleep, we hiked our way back to the shop, missing the Lesser Nighthawks that had kept us entertained several hours previously. As the car was being repaired, Laurence and I pissed around looking at birds behind the shop. And then I got a cactus stuck in my leg. I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but it was fucking deep and I was less than enthused.

This is a cholla. They are normally very beautiful, when not firmly entrenched in ones leg. Many thanks to Laurence for extricating this fucker from my flesh, one horrific thorn at a time.
Rufous-winged Sparrow - Underrated? I think so.

So, here's where the question of karma comes in. I paid the blood price and I saw good birds. I had sick looks at many of those good birds. Are those things related? Are they random happenstance? I have no idea. All I can tell you is that I felt like those birds were earned, and that's a good feeling. And, while all the birds above are "good" birds and a treat to see, I think the catalyst to my ramblings is the next bird, the high prize of Arizona, Elegant Trogon. Despite hordes of poorly adorned nerds hiking the canyon, to my knowledge no one else saw this bird that day in Madera but myself and Laurence. Might other birders luck have been helped by car trouble and a cactus in the leg? One can only speculate.

I don't think birds get better than this. It's downhill from here.

Oh yeah, and some dickhead stole my bike while I was gone.


  1. Seriously? Cactus in the leg? Dumbass. Now karma will come stick me with a cactus itself I am sure.

    Mad jealous of the quail.

  2. Yeah man, nobody else did re-find the Trogon that day. In fact, there have been almost no reports of them in the Santa Ritas for a little while now, though there are more from other areas, almost like the Trogons are ditching those over-populated/birded areas. It's easy for me to say because my legs remained immaculate, but that Trogon was worth it, and honestly considering our angles and lighting I think your shots came about pretty tops.

    The Rufous-winged Sparrow singing is sick--in some ways that's my favorite sighting and definitely the best crush of the trip, maybe after the Hummingbirds.

    It's never a good trip if there's not a little blood. I can't believe you trusted me with a pliers with so little alcohol in my blood too. You're a tank man, a Big Red Tank.
    No post-op photo of the leg?

    Looking forward to the remaining Chiris stuff. That weekend was phenomenal, car trouble and all included.

    I miss 'Pancake'

  3. Yea, Trogon was worth it and "it" wasn't that bad. Thanks again for the surgery. I too miss "Pancake".

  4. That Trogon is some bird, and the agony only makes the victory that much sweeter. Plus it gives you a good story that often outdoes your great photos. Your Yellow Rail story still makes me laugh when I think of it.

    Laurence leads you out into the cacti and doctors you up too? That's one hell of a guide. Of course, maybe if he stopped calling the Cholla a teddy bear cactus people wouldn't get so close.

  5. Yea, Laurence should be leading those hoards of geriatric tourists as opposed to the lady we ran in to. Laurence, do you know CPR?

    1. A fate worse than death...

      I have the know-how, but not the will power. However, I can put people out of their misery, and in the end, is that not more merciful?

      P.S. I had pancakes this morning...and it just wasn't the same.

    2. Hahaha. It's because you were fucking around with the pluralized morph.

  6. Thankfully no one tried to "reach out and touch" the Trogon before you crushed it. Awesome find.

    1. Yep, I carry a machete ever since the Yellow Rail. Next time someone tries to touch some shit, I'm getting a hand trophy.

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