Monday, August 25, 2014

Brown Booby Blown By

Rant time, friends.

I have just returned from a week's vacation in my beloved home state of Maine, with a few days spent visiting family in Burlington, Vermont and upstate New York.  Despite my usual tendencies I wasn't able to do a whole lot of birding (aside from successfully dashing after a Prothonotary Warbler to add to my Maine state list on the first day), and I was jonesing by the time the end of the week rolled around and my girlfriend and I were driving from Burlington to Saratoga Spring, NY.

But we were running late.  We had to meet my girlfriend's aunt in Crown Point, NY at 9am, and so there wasn't any time for me to check out Lake Champlain.  Because times are important here, let's run things down timeline style.

8:50am We cruise over the Lake Champlain bridge, connecting Vermont to New York.  It's a damp, smoky morning and I snap the below photo because the bridge is cool and there's some fog around and because I'm a goddamn artist.  This is the version I later put on instagram.  Only 10 likes, probably because there are no food or babies in it.

I frantically swing my head around as we crest the bridge and I can see the lake on both sides, looking for birds.  I don't see much on the water, but I see a large group of gulls on the NY side, in a park that I soon learn is the Crown Point State Historic Site.  Upon seeing the flock I make the whiny grunting noises commonly heard from pre-speech infants to indicate "want."  Though we are due at her aunt's in 10 minutes, my girlfriend says "sure, you can stop!"  By this time we are almost over the bridge, and I look quickly for a place to turn out to drive to the birds.  I don't see one (even though Google maps clearly indicates one).  Frustrated at the lack of immediate access and at the rushed pace of the morning, again whining like a child, I say "ahhhhhhhhh, forget it."  And keep driving.  They were probably just Ring-billed Gulls, I tell myself.

9:00am We're right on time for a delicious breakfast.  I see a Canada Warbler in the aunt's yard, a state bird for NY! (Woah, checking eBird right now I see that the Cedar Waxings, Carolina Wren, Common Yellowthroat and House Finch were also state birds!  Huh?  Didn't I spend my entire first 6 months birding in NY?  Anyway.).

sometime, like, a couple hours later I post that photo to Instagram during a break in the 90th birthday party for my girlfriend's grandfather an hour and a half south of the lake.

a very small amount of minutes later I check Instagram to see how many sweet delicious Likes the photo has received (as I said, not many).  Little orange info comes up to tell my it's received a few likes and, what's this? a comment.  I see that the comment is from my birding friend Doug Hitchcox, who said, and I quote: "There's a Brown Booby there right now!"

Come again?  What do you mean by "there"?  In New York?  In Vermont?  What's happening here? Confounded, I thumb my way over to and take a gander at the Vermont listserv, to find this, a post forwarded (immediately, as far as I can tell) from the Northern NY bird listserv:

Can you guys read that OK?  Do you see this?  OK.  So, at 9:39 am a birder from New York posts that he is looking at a Brown Booby - a Vermont state record, I believe, sitting in the water on the VT/NY border at Crown Point State Historic Site.  According the Mr. Chapin, the bird was originally (not sure when) found "with the gulls on shore on the NY side."  With the gulls.  With the gulls that I grunted at.  With the gulls that I knew I should be looking at but just rolled by like some moron.  Here's a photo.

I was in shock.  Still on a tight schedule, we had no time to go back up and see the bird.  A state record and awesome extralimital just out of view!  The odds of me getting so close are astronomical.

Birding is a game of inches played on an infinite field.  I'm sure I've blown by state firsts other times - I bet all of us have.  But you can't identify what you don't look for, so next time I'm going to look a little harder for that pull-off.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Inquiring Minds Want To Know: Answering Google Questions About Birds

The auto-fill feature of Google's search bar provides an incredible wealth of national sociological information.  What are people really wondering when we aren't worried about what we're asking? What are the answers we're searching for?  

Turns out it's mostly pictures of actresses' feet.  But sometimes it's answers about birds!  I began a number of bird-related queries and let the auto-fill tell me what the inquiring minds of this nation were pondering, and I'm here now to provide answers to what, clearly, and, sadly, are our most pressing bird-related questions.

  • Do Birds Pee?
Nope! Unlike mammals, birds don't have a urethra.  They turn everything into uric acid and let it all go from the anus.
  • Do Birds Have Sex?
You bet your dirty mind they do! Here's a gross photo gallery with proof!
  •  Do Birds Sleep?
Yes they do!  I've covered this topic in depth on another website.
  •  Do Birds Fart?
Wow great question!  I have no idea, so I had to go to Popular Science for an answer (and thank god they've got their best men and women on it).  The answer is that they could but they don't.  They have the anatomical structures for it, but lack the gas-forming bacteria in their guts that couch potatoes like you and I do. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Birds at Large: Commercials - August 2014

I've noticed a couple birds in commercials recently.  Time to tell you how crappy they all are.

Mountain Dew - Dale Earnhardt Jr. Call

Just a couple of dudes out duck hunting.  One guy blows his duck call indiscriminately and gets no response.  Frustrating!  His hunt-bro has other plans.  He breaks out his gas-spewing Dale Call and gives is a rev.  Out of nowhere, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car plows into the swamp!  It's a clear violation of the Clean Water Act, but don't worry about that, he does a bunch of donuts!  It'd be funny if they just shot him.

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