Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Back From The Dead

Knock knock knock.


Um, hello? Is there anybody in here? Jesus, it's musty as fuck in here. Let's clear out some of these cobwebs and get back to fucking work.

Okay, thanks. Well, here we are. Elephant in the room, I know, but obviously I haven't posted anything here in a couple months. By far the longest stretch of silence since I started this thing up. I'd rather not get into the specifics of what's been going down, but know that shit is good, I'm energized, and I'm hopeful that we won't fall into a barren stretch like this again. It's weird, but with the exception of responding to a few emails, this is most I've typed into my computer in a long time.

Alright, birds...let's see what we've got. Well, Saturday was the Austin CBC, but I've recently come out as anti CBC, so I ate oysters and steak tartare and drank rye whiskey instead. I think I won. I may look into a different CBC this year, but honestly, I hate the commitment of spending all day in a specific, smallish area without getting to choose who's there with me. It's like that Sartre play, No Exit. "Hell is other people." (I know that's a loose, simple, and somewhat mistaken translation, but that shit just rolls off the tongue.) So yeah, no CBC for me. That said, let's get to some fucking birds.

Least Grebes bred a mile or so from my house. This is the first of two broods.
I found a Prairie Warbler this fall, with the legendary Thunderbolt Moreno.
Oh yeah, and I watched a Yellow-throated Vireo eat the shit out of a bug.

I saw this handsome Common Nighthawk whilst unsuccessfully searching for a Lesser Nighthawk. 
And this is a Yellow Warbler.
Okay, I've got some other things I could share, but I think we should start off a bit slow after such a long break. Kind of ease our way back into it all, you know? I appreciate your understanding. Until next time, nerds!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

No Jacana, No Cry

I was going to write this post about how I went to the valley and dipped on a Northern Jacana and how it sucks and blah blah blah. Fuck that whiny shit. I went to the valley and saw awesome fucking birds that most of you don't see very often. I wouldn't want to hear someone bitching about dipping on a Grassquit if they got to see Limpkin, Snail Kite, and Antillean Nighthawk. Dipping on birds is part of birding. If you saw everything that you chased, birding would be boring and you'd be an asshole. Or you could just say you saw it and be a stringer, which is exponentially worse. The next time someone complains about dipping on a bird when they see awesome other birds, punch them hard, right in the dick. That goes for me, too. Maybe I'd be into it. Anyways, here are birds that will make you jealous.

No bird is crushed harder and more often in the valley than Common Pauraque. The search for these birds is exhilarating. The crushing that follows is almost cheating.
Plain. Chachalacachachalacachachalacachachalacachachalaca.
Wood Storks are zombies. They walk among us.
Grey Hawk. Gray Hawk. 
I've never seen a Green Kingfisher and been bummed about it. Green Kingfishers are badass.
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Green Jay. I mean, look at this fucker. You can't hang out with this bird and be pissy about it.
Long-billed Thrasher. When was the last time you saw a Long-billed Thrasher? Too fucking long ago, right?
And, another Gray Hawk. Because it's a fucking Gray Hawk.
So yeah, that's my rant for today. Some of you may have noticed that my posts have become less and less frequent. Some of you may be concerned. Fear not; my lust for looking at birds and showing them to you whilst spewing foul language has not waned. I've just got some other shit I'm working on right now, and it's hard for me to get out more than once a week. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Terns are hardcore. Black Terns are hardercore. People who spend copious amounts of time looking at, studying, and photographing terns are birders. Birders are not hardcore. They are nerds. This will never change.

These are Black Terns. A limited amount of narration, I admit, but an amount that should no doubt suffice.

Black Terns. Hardcore.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Swallow Struggle

Swallow congregations are significant at this time of year, and may be a cause of great consternation for over enthusiastic birders. Normally, swallow identification is not that difficult, but right now, juvenile swallows are tripping people up, especially in light of the fact that a Violet-green Swallow was recently photographed amidst the local swallow hordes. Let us learn about swallows together.

What do you think of this bird? It's kind of fucked, right? Pretty drab, looks like it could be a few things. Let's get some perspective.
Does it look the the bird facing us on the left? I think it kind of does. And what do you know, it's hanging out with a bunch of Cave Swallows.
So, yeah. I think it's a safe bet that our mystery bird is a juvenile Cave Swallow, or at the very least a juvenile Petrochelidon (Cliff/Cave). Go back and look at it. You can see a little bit of orange coming in on the forehead, as well as some coloration near the base of the undertail coverts.

This is something that looks more familiar. If only all swallows looked exactly as they're supposed to look.
And this bird, which appears to be molting P6.

Here are a Cave Swallow and a Barn Swallow. I've seen people struggle with this identification, especially with perched birds. Besides the obvious difference in tail shape, look at the extent of the dark cap on the nape, the sheen on the back of the Barn Swallow, and the quantity and quality of white on the undersides.

And another look.
Now here's a juvenile Barn Swallow, for comparison with the Cave Swallows above.
And we finish with a Bank Swallow. People really shouldn't be fucking this up. Fortunately, and to my knowledge, this is not something that happens often.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Birding is Enjoyable Again

The more observant of you readers may have noticed a lack of posting recently from This Machine. I cannot lie, I have been in a mostly non-birding state. Maybe I'm still in a post MAYNE RAYGE hangover, maybe I've been fascinated by this novel (which I just finished and cannot recommend highly enough), or maybe it's just that Texas is hot as fuck right now, and there has been a significant dearth of birds, and the thought of going out in that shit and not seeing anything sounded like it belonged in the same realm as getting kicked in the nuts over and over. Hard pass.

Anyways, this past weekend made me like birding again. Why? You should probably know the answer to this, right? Shorebirds. Shorebird migration happens earlier than passerine migration. And, birders love migration. New shit. Different shit. Sign me up.

A juvenile Semipalmated Plover shows fine fringes on the upper parts, giving it a scaly effect.
Western Sandpiper
Most of the adult shorebirds passed through a month or so ago, so the majority of migrants now are juveniles, as with this Stilt Sandpiper. It's been awesome to see the plumage differences between ages.
For real though, shorebirds were great this weekend. I had 16 species on Saturday, which is the most I've ever had in this county in one day. Good ones, too, highlighted by a Piping Plover and a Short-billed Dowitcher.

So here's a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher, mainly evidenced by the patterned tertials.
Short-billed Dowitcher is a good bird in central Texas. So good in fact, that this individual has already been strung.

I also took this video, which is cool not so much for the feeding birds, but more so for watching the bugs they're feeding on move away in waves as soon as the birds got near them.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


This is a short post, but one that I'm particularly stoked about. Magnificent Frigatebird has been a "better view desired" bird for me for some time. I've seen them, but always at great distance, which causes much grief. This is the case no longer.

This has been a productive summer for me in terms of improving my views on birds of which I'd only had terrible looks previously: Bobolink, Glossy Ibis, and now Magnificent Frigatebird. Bad looks at good birds are painful. They can keep you up at night. Rectify that shit.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Fuck That Alligator" (A Trip Home To Corpitos)

"Fuck that alligator." How do you feel about that sentence? It's powerful, obviously. It's to the point. Nobody should be confused as to the information that you are trying to convey. Personally, I don't have anything against alligators; I don't think many readers of this blog would. Still, I like how confident it sounds. I can get on board with that sentence. were my last sentence. Like, ever.

Turns out, that was most likely the last thing a brave man said earlier this month, when sometime after midnight, he decided it would be a good idea to go swimming in a marina in Orange, Texas. There had been an 11 foot alligator hanging out, and advisories had been duly posted in attempts to deter drunk east Texans from swimming there. Our intrepid explorer, full of confidence and testosterone, need not heed warnings about a goddamned gator. This is America, and Obama wasn't going to take a moonlit romp in the water from him. So, despite the pleadings of marina employees, this man rationally gathered all the information at his disposal, his knowledge of living in alligator territory for his 28 manly years, and decided to say, "Fuck that alligator." It didn't work out. And thus, this man was the first Texan to be killed by an alligator in two centuries. (I'm not making this shit up, those were his actual last words, aside from the probable "Ouch" and/or "Oh no!")

This is a different alligator, obviously. I have no intention of swimming with it.

A little while back, I packed a bag and headed down to Corpus Christi, that dirty little city which turned me in to the man I am today. Birding was not a priority, but I did spend a few hours in Port Aransas and the surrounding area.

Common Gallinule at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas.
Roseate Spoonbill. People like spoonbills. 
Least Bitterns are often difficult to photograph.
I wonder how many Texans have perished in the gaping jaws of Willets. Surely, more than one in the last 200 years. 

Couch's Kingbird at Hazel Bazemore Park in Calallen.
Black-necked Stilt. Shorebirds at Hazel Bazemore don't often number very high, but they're usually cool with being crushed.
And, that's a small taste of Corpus. Birds are hard to come by in mid-July. I've noticed many blogs giving more attention to leps and odes. Makes sense. That's all I've got today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Kiss Me, I'm Iowa-ish

It's true. You may think of me as the quintessential Texan (assuming you even think of me at all), but I can not lie. I am half Iowa-ish. On my mom's side, from a small town next to another small town, next to another small town. I've been visiting Iowa sporadically for the duration of my entire life. One christmas in Iowa I got a Nintendo, the original one with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. One summer, an obscenely large woman somehow created enough downward momentum off of a diving board to spring her heaving body up in the air and onto my sister in the water below. We thought she was dead. She wasn't. These are all things that have happened in Iowa. And now that I'm a grown man and not content to bide my time swinging on a swingset or watching trucks drive by the front porch, I find myself spending free time in Iowa looking for birds.

This is one of the two Upland Sandpipers I saw at Dunbar Slough WMA.
Bald Eagle is a bird that abounds in Iowa, however many Iowans seem to not be aware of this fact.
Iowa is not all corn and soy fields. Iowa is only mostly corn and soy fields, but there are some patches with preserved prairie habitat, and this is where one looks for birds in the summer in the midwest. Too far east for Baird's Sparrow, there are not a lot of target birds for me in Iowa, but there are a few that I don't see too often. With the help of local birding dude, Matt Wetrich, I was able to see some of those birds.

Bobolink is as close to a target bird as I could get; a bird I've seen very infrequently and rarely well.
There are also many Dickcissels in Iowa.

So, on the off chance that you ever find yourself with time to kill in northwestern/central Iowa, there are a couple of places you should check out. First, Dunbar Slough WMA. It's pretty sick. A couple roads to drive and some spots to walk along the shoulder. Second is a very small place called Harrier Marsh WMA. It's really just a road to walk along, not more than a mile across, but there are a shitload of good birds, including a ton of Marsh Wrens that were doing this weird hunting/flight display type business that I had never seen before.

In Iowa, Ring-necked Pheasant is a bird that flies in front of your car on country roads.
Red-winged Blackbird is an antagonizer of Bobolinks.