Sunday, June 19, 2016

Here Is Stuff

Swainson's Hawk


Hudsonian Godwits

Smith's Longspurs

Blanchard's Cricket Frog

Blanchard's Cricket Frog

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Existential Crises, The Sodium/Potassium Pump, and Glorious Bird Crushings

This Grasshopper Sparrow, as well as all of the other birds in this post, was extremely accommodating during a rainy ten hour day of birding on the east side.
It has become both something of a running joke and a source of internal conflict how infrequently I have been birding of late. In addition to the general moroseness my lack of birding has installed in me, it has also brought about a certain amount of shame. Not necessarily a disproportionate amount, as with so many other shame tinged aspects of my life, but enough to cause me existential discomfort. I wish that I could say that I have devised a plan to reconcile this shortcoming, but alas...I have as yet been unsuccessful. 

Lark Sparrow, a bird whose back streaking I may have never really noticed/appreciated until now. 
This Upland Sandpiper was one of the small proportion that are seen; the vast majority are heard as nocturnal flyovers.
You see, birding for me is something that needs to be balanced. It is often a constructive effort to be sure, but this pastime of mine (ours?) also has a nasty tendency to lend itself to overindulgence and the line between those two states can become virtually invisible at times. Don't get me wrong, I heartily enjoy birding, more so every day that I partake, but I (we) must also be cognizant of the fact that we are all much closer than we'd like to admit to falling into an irreversible state of madness. We all have a finite amount of free time in our lives, some more than others obviously, but it would be a tragedy if birding consumed more than it's fair share of our time at the expense of gainful employment, sleeping, nourishing, and socializing. I would even go so far to say that this may be what is so offensive about so many birders today. Overindulgence, bordering on obsession.

After seeing maybe 1,500 Red-shouldered Hawks, I finally had one sit still.
I assume this Summer Tanager was a very recent migrant, frantically eating and not residing at the very top of a tree.
You see, this is the root of the problem I've been trying to work out. Everything in life has to be balanced. Here is a metaphor. Your heart beats because of sodium and potassium. And although sodium and potassium have completely opposite goals and objectives, they must find a way to balance themselves out and work together (the sodium-potassium pump). If they don't do that, we don't live anymore. In my life, and some of yours, I would assume, I struggle to maintain the same sort of balance between the serenity of solitude I achieve whilst looking at birds and the sanity I retain from conversing, cavorting, and consuming whilst in the presence of those people whose presence I enjoy. Sometimes I am successful. Other times (the past year for example) I am not. Life is a struggle. Nothing is forever. Things change around us and we must adapt. If not, we will die. Or, we could all just write blog posts about it.

Spotted Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper

Monday, March 28, 2016

Birders are Stupid Assholes

Today was not a good day for Texas birders. Many Texas birders acted like stupid assholes today. Unrepentant, self-involved, stupid assholes. I realize that I may be speaking specifically about some of the people who read this blog, and that those people may stop reading this blog. Good. Fuck you. You're a stupid asshole.

Heermann's Gull - Half Moon Bay, CA 2014
Uggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh. So, what happened today, This Machine? Well, the internet blew up. What do you know? The internet blew up because a man from Illinois (a bird cop, actually), photographed a Heermann's Gull in Texas and didn't post anything about it until three days later. The nerve!!! This guy deprived countless birders the exhilarating experience of driving to the coast to tick another bird off their list. Instead, these poor busters had to stay in their homes, where their lives are filled with shame-masturbation, Mountain Dew, and sadness.

So yeah, who knows why this guy didn't report the bird immediately. There could be a myriad of reasons; I'd assume that he's just not a big lister/chaser and that kind of shit doesn't cross his mind. Fair enough. A bunch of these assholes have implied that he's a piece of shit for keeping it to himself, like he was being intentionally malevolent and had something to gain from not telling people, other than to not have to be around these obnoxious motherfuckers. They blew him up when he posted about it. Not, "Wow, nice find! Thanks for letting us know!" No, they were blasting his ass like it was fucking Galaga. Point is, this dude owes nothing to anybody. He's bird police, and he'll submit a report. But for the average chaser, who the fuck do you think you are? Do you think everybody's brain works exactly like yours? If that were the case, everyone would listen to Creed and no one would ever get laid because they'd be afraid of vaginas. That'd be a shitty world to live in. No, this guy doesn't owe those pricks anything.

Anyways, that happened today and it was nasty. Don't be those birders. If some random guy taking three days to report a rare bird gets you upset, then you've got problems, and you should probably take a step back. If not seeing a bird gets you fuming like that, you're kind of fucked. It's just a goddamn bird. Nothing is that important. That's all I've got.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Valley Blitz

Some of you may not be intimate with the geography of Texas. Let me help you out. Texas is fucking big. Like, really fucking big. Just because a mega shows up in the state, it doesn't mean it is in any way feasible to chase it. I wish that weren't the case, but it's hard enough for me to get a day off of work with a week or two advance; next day chasing just isn't in the cards. I also like to have some kind of balance in my life; I work at the children's hospital here, which is often an emotionally and physically exhausting endeavor. I need a day over the weekend to chill/rage/sleep/etc. Thus, I'm not often prone to driving 7 hours each way to chase a bird. But, what about more than one bird? Okay, I can do it for the possibility of seeing multiple good birds. And that's exactly what I did a couple weeks ago.

This Common Pauraque is the most photographed and most reliable bird in the Valley. I have photographed it numerous times. Notice that I have not named it. That's because I'm not an asshole.
Long-billed Thrashers are most often seen posing on barren branches in good light. This is fact.
Many people don't realize that February is one of the best times to bird the valley. Migration isn't roaring, but for some reason, a lot of those birds that are abundant just 20 or so miles south of the border decide to fuck off and head north in the second month of the year. Recently, those birds included Blue Bunting, White-throated Thrush, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, and several Northern Jacanas. Any and all of those birds would be new birds for This Machine. Naturally, I blitzed the valley, hoping to score at least one, but keeping expectations in check; I am good at dipping on birds in the valley. I was joined in my adventure my two close friends who are incidentally big fans of Bobcat Goldthwaite.

Clay-colored Thrush. At another spot, I saw one of these birds and called it out, and a lady loudly told me to make sure it wasn't a White-throated Thrush. Fuck you, lady.
White-Throated Thrush, a bird that we had all been quietly looking at and photographing for several minutes before an old man named Leo yelled out "There it is, on the left!" Goddamnit, Leo.
We only had daylight Saturday to look for the good shit, and a few of them were pretty far apart. Additionally, the geri presence was strong, which made it rather difficult to sit in one place at a feeder waiting for a skulky bird to appear amidst the smell of moth balls and the chic fashion of white socks pulled up high over pasty, veiny legs. Long story short, we went 2 for 4, which isn't bad considering the nature of the specific birds we were searching for. We also saw cool valley birds, which is something I can live with. Blue Bunting and Crimson-collared Grosbeak made brief appearances that day, but not in our presence. One man did call out a Blue Bunting while we were there, but it ended up being a leaf or something (high up in a tree, obvi). Because it looked blue, I guess? Anyways, that was Valley Blitz

Something cool about birding in the valley is walking around and hearing these things calling all around you.
I suffered without having seen an Ovenbird for way too long in my early birding career. Now, they are drawn to me. I am the finder of Ovenbirds.