Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Birds of Pokemon Go

Just in time for a year ago, a blog post about Pokemon Go!

I mean, shit, I'm writing for a Blogger site so who's worried about appearing timely, anyway?

Pokemon Go, the App that's sweeping the nation last year! As you probably read in a think piece, in Pokemon Go you walk around and try to catch these monsters. Some really smart people commented at the time about how close this monster catching was to actual birding. The idea is pretty much the same, and most of the monsters have antecedents in the real natural world.

And there are birds! Or, like, bird-esque things. Let's check them out and see if they're crap or real? Do you want to? No? Oh. No, we should. We should. Come on. I'll just post the pictures below and, like, talk about the real-life birds that they sorta look like. It'll take you like five seconds. OK I'm just gonna start.


Pidgey is the most basic Pokemon. It's so common, it should be a House Sparrow. It's not a pigeon, though, so I'm not really sure what that part is about. 

No, I'd say this bird is more of a finch or sparrow-type. Like maybe this Yellow Grassland Finch from  South America. Photo (c) Robert Ahlman

Pidgeotto and Pidgeot

Pidgy evolves into Pidgeotto and then in to Pidgeot, it's biggest, baddest form. Still nothing like a pigeon, but pretty badass. Lookie dem claws!

The closest real bird that I could find to Pidgeot is probably this Yellow Golden Pheasant, which is a domestic bird but hey we're talking about video game birds here. This pheasant doesn't look anything like a pigeon, either, but as we've established, that's fine.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Can you name the species?

Monday, May 22, 2017



-Breasted Birds

10. Red-breasted Merganser 
9.  Spot-breasted Oriole
8.  Red-breasted Sapsucker
7.  White-breasted Nuthatch
6.  Buff-breasted Flycatcher
5.  Rose-breasted Grosbeak
4.  Bay-breasted Warbler
3.  Yellow-breasted Chat
2.  Buff-breasted Sandpiper
1.  Red-breasted Nuthatch

-Billed Birds

23. Long-billed Thrasher
22. Ring-billed Gull
21. Thick-billed Murre
20. Thick-billed Kingbird
19. Thick-billed Vireo
18. Short-billed Dowitcher
17. Long-billed Dowitcher
16. Red-billed Tropicbird
15. Broad-billed Hummingbird
14. Long-billed Murrelet
13. Pied-billed Grebe
12. Smooth-billed Ani
11. Groove-billed Ani
10. Hook-billed Kite
9. Red-billed Pigeon
8. Black-billed Magpie
7. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
6. Curve-billed Thrasher
5. Yellow-billed Loon
4. Gull-billed Tern
3. Long-billed Curlew
2. Black-billed Cuckoo
1. Yellow-billed Magpie

-Capped Birds

8. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
7. Black-capped Gnatcatcher
6. Plain-capped Starthroat
5. Rufous-capped Warbler
4. Black-capped Petrel
3. Black-capped Vireo
2. Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
1. Black-capped Chickadee

Thank you. These rankings are 100% correct and not open for discussion because, as I said, they are perfect.

Hey! Do you know I'm still writing a weekly column for beginner birders over at It's a ton of fun, and it's called The Birdist's Rules of Birding!

Also, did you know that I was for some reason asked to include an essay in the radical new book Good Birders Still Don't Wear White? I was! Buy your copy here and feel good about yourself because a portion of each sale goes to the ABA!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mississippi Big Day - The Results

This past Monday, April 24, three friends and I made a run at the Mississippi Big Day record of 175 species. I ain't gonna lead you on: we didn't break the record. Everything needs to go right to set a Big Day record, and not everything went right for us. Migration just sorta didn't happen, and it was windy, and well certain species just didn't cooperate.

But we had a hell of a time, and saw some amazing birds, including one of only a handful of state records of Black-whiskered Vireo. Most importantly, we raised nearly $6k for the shorebird habitat conservation group a bunch of us work on, Delta Wind Birds.

The team was myself, and excellent Mississippi birders Jason Hoeksema, JR Rigby, and Hal Mitchell. Here are some photos and recap.

  • Midnight to 12:40 AM - Ross Barnett Reservoir, outside Jackson, MS.
Go time. We started out along the freshwater marsh, picking up two species we couldn't get anywhere south of these: King and Virginia Rail. We got them, and felt good heading out.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mississippi Big Day Attempt -- Monday April 24


I lived for a brief time in the big weird state of Mississippi. It's an incredible place, wilder and more beautiful than most people would believe. I loved birding there, spending most of my time among the overgrown catfish ponds of the northwest Delta region, but also exploring deep forests, muggy bayous, and the marshy coast.

After I left, some of my friends and I started a small organization called Delta Wind Birds, which works with duck hunting outfits and catfish farmers in the Delta to manage some of their lands for migratory shorebirds. Millions of shorebirds fly up the Mississippi River each spring and fall, and because the river no longer floods like it used to, stopover habitat for these birds is rare. Delta Wind Birds (or DWB), helps pay farmers and duck hunters to draw down water on certain ponds to the proper depth for shorebirds, providing food and fuel to thousands of birds.

DWB's annual fundraiser is a Big Day attempt, trying to break the record of 175 species set in 1989. The team just missed in 2015, hitting 170. Last year conditions didn't pan out and they ended at 167.

This year, they asked me to join them. Work be damned, I'm gonna go.

It looks like this Monday, April 24th with have pretty good conditions for the attempt. (NOTE: No guarantee of the day until it happens, it could be Sunday, it could be Tuesday.) I'm flying to New Orleans on Saturday and meeting the team -- Jason Hoeksema, JR Rigby, and Hal Mitchell -- in Jackson, MS. We'll scout on Sunday and then get out there at 12:01 AM on Monday morning listening for rails and looking for owls.


This is going to be fun as heck, but we're also trying to raise money to save shorebirds.

We are going to be doing our best to livestream and/or live tweet the whole day, so PLEASE follow along on my twitter (@thebirdist) and on the Delta Wind Birds Facebook page.


Thanks, and wish me luck!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cool Snowy Egret Behavior in Florida

I was down on the west coast of Florida for work a couple weeks ago and had time before my flight on Saturday to sneak out to the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It's famous, and so I wanted to check it out.

I had a goddamn blast. It was such a nice departure from the March birding blues here in DC to see tons of warblers, sandhill cranes, crested caracara and a whole bunch of up-close wading birds. March is the height of the dry season, and a lot of the deeper water at Corkscrew -- and all the birds that wade in that water -- were concentrated in just a few pools. Lots of species in close proximity: white ibis, wood stork, roseate spoonbill, and herons and egrets of all kinds.

I was particularly impressed with some Snowy Egret feeding behavior I had never seen before. The Snowies I'm used to fish with what I consider a pretty standard hunt-and-strike heron technique, which includes everything from just standing and waiting for a fish to actively hunting around using those cool yellow feet as stirrers or lures.

But a group of Snowies around one pond were feeding from the wing, flying low across the surface, dragging their toes into the water, and picking up fish that hopped out in front of them. I'd never seen anything like it. Here's are a couple videos (if you listen with sound don't mind all the shutter snaps, there were a lot of photographers on the boardwalk with me):

Cool, right? I had a blast there.

A quick stop later on in Naples for some sought-after Snowy and Wilson's Plover showed my something else I'd never really appreciated before: how well-camouflaged these birds are. I had seen lots of bird reports from this particular beach but didn't seen any birds at all until I stopped at an area sort of scattered with shells and sticks on other debris. "This looks like a perfect place for some birds to hide themselves," I thought. And I was right. There were a whole bunch of each species. Check out these pics to see how well they blended in. The top photo shows the area, and all of the birds are somewhere in there, Where's Waldo? style.

All of those images have two birds in them, can you find 'em?

Southwest Florida birding is the best, man.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Arizona Mexican Food and an Essay about Tacos

Hi friends.

I was honored to be asked to contribute an essay to Good Birders Still Don't Wear White, a sequel to the popular book by birders about birding. We were asked to write about something we love about birding, and so naturally I wrote about tacos.

The book is about to be released, and features a ton of probably-awesome essays from famous birders and also me. Go pre-order the book here!

In spirit of my epicurean topic, I wanted to update you, good reader, on the near-border delicacies I recently experienced on a birding trip to southeast Arizona. I'll tell you about the birds some other time (we ran the table on some great rarities) and instead focus on that even more elusive target for this Mainer: a good taco.  Here's what I had, with grades.

Mango Taco Truck in the Houston Airport

I had a super early morning flight from DC with a layover in Houston. I hadn't eaten anything all day and was rushing to my flight but stopped at this little stand for a chorizo-and-potato (I asked for it without egg) burrito, which was DELICIOUS. I know it's an airport and all, but this thing hit the spot. Chorizo done right is unbeatable. Grade: A.

Filiberto's in Arizona City, AZ

We were super hungry after dashing around Phoenix getting the rental car arranged and then picking up some Rosy-faced Lovebirds. We pulled into Arizona City on our way south to Tucson and snagged some burritos at Filiberto's, which is apparently a chain in the area. They were delicious. The biggest difference in good Mexican food that the crap I'm used to out East is fresh tortillas. Warm and floury and a little stretchy, fresh tortillas make all the difference, and these burritos were perfect. Grade: A

Taqueria Juanitos in Tucson, AZ

Another winner, this time in downtown Tucson. Delicious carne adasa, as I recall. We also loved the sign, which features the mascot of the restaurant, whom we named Mr. TacoFace FaucetPenis.

I mean seriously what is going on down there?

Whatever, it was great. Grade: A.

El Charro Tucson in Tucson, AZ

We went one night to this fancier, sit-down place. It's apparently the oldest family-operated Mexican restaurant in the United States, so props to that. They're famous for their carne seca dish, which is beef that's dried on the roof of the restaurant (in summer, at least). We had that, and it was not very good. I gotta be honest. It tasted like beef jerky tacos. Not my favorite. Grade: C.

Adolfo's Taco Shop in Willcox, AZ

Got some food here after a cold, windy couple hours of birding at Lake Cochise. We weren't quite sure what it was, but this place was our favorite food of the whole trip. Great tortillas, perfect burritos. Plus, this painting was on the wall, which I couldn't look away from.

He's looking right into my soul! Grade: A+

El Zarape in Nogales, AZ

We needed to eat so badly after our impromptu all-day 12 mile hike down California Gulch for the Nutting's Flycatcher. This place was listed as the best Mexican food in Nogales. It was just OK, I think. Grade: B+

Nico's Mexican Food in Tucson, AZ

Some final breakfast burritos on our way out of Tucson. These were delicious, but tough to eat as the driver. I should have pulled over. Either way, a great final meal. Until next time, border towns! Grade: A-

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