Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Prep for Australia

My wife and I are headed to Australia for a vacation in just over a week now and I'm frigging pumped. I haven't birded out of the country since 2006 when I went to Ecuador with a couple of non-birding friends. I didn't see very many species on that trip, but also put no real effort in.

This is going to be different (don't tell my wife). I am going to see a ton of insane Australian birds, from improbable sounding families (shrike-thrush? emu-wren?? duck-parrot??? [last one not real]). I can't wait. We're spending a few days in the Cairns area in and around the Daintree rainforest, then a couple days down in the Whitsunday Islands, then a few days cruising around the Top End near Darwin and Kakadu NP.

Holy crap, I've got a lot of preparation to do.

Other than a walk or two with people at the Cassowary House near Cairns, where we're staying for two nights, I won't have anyone guiding me or showing me around. I prefer birding this way (I think), but it means it's all on me to make IDs.

I'm studying hard. Some friends at Princeton University Press sent me two stunning field guides to check out that are my nightly textbooks.

The first is the brand new Australian Bird Guide, by Peter Menkhorst and a crew of other authors. This thing is a stunner, fully illustrated with every bird seemingly ever touched a talon on Australian soil. This'll be the guide I bring with me in the field.

Friday, August 4, 2017


I had some time after a recent work trip to Colorado, and I used it to take on my arch enemy: the White-tailed Ptarmigan.

I lived in Colorado from the end of 05 to the end of 06, but never saw a ptarmigan. I took subsequent trips to the famous Medicine Bow Curve in Rocky Mountain NP at least once (eBird says once but I'm pretty sure it was twice), but didn't see a ptarmigan. I was going to see one this time.

I started with an early morning dash up Mt. Evans, just west of Denver. I got top the top -- an insane 14,130 feet -- just before sunrise. It was spectacular. There were two families of Mountain Goats just hanging out and a handful of Bighorn Sheep, each with cute youngsters that I would have tried to pet if not for the threat of taking an angry mother's horn in my spleen.

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 Audubon.org?? 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!


About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Blog Design | 2007 Company Name