PLEASE tell us where we can read some Bird Drama

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

if you want to READ Bird Drama, you have to join your local birding society’s facebook page, wait for the big migration seasons (early spring and late fall) and wait for someone to pull Some Bullshit.

This is nowhere near as good as expiriencing it firsthand by actually joining your local Birdwatching group and waiting for Deedee to bring up that it’s improbable that Deborah-with-an-H has seen a solitary Pinion Jay two years in a row as normally they travel in large flocks and then your tech-savvy Millenial ass can teach everyone how to look at archived photos and reverse image searches and not only has Deborah-with-an-H submitted the same photo two years in a row for her point count, the original image was taken in New mexico in 1999 by a completely different and EXTREMELY pissed off birder because Deborah’s antics have caused his local group to question his records and he ends up taking Deborah to court for violating the copyright of his wildlfile photography rights and he wins for several thousand dollars and instead of paying up Deborah runs off to vermont with the guy in the bird group she’d been cheating on her husband Ted with but Ted is cool about it because Deborah’s antics were cutting into his birding time.

so right now? join the Facebook group, and when you’re vaccinated for the plauge, join up IRL because birdwatching is genuinely enjoyable as a passtime on it’s own but the Drama is A+

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“What birding means to me,” by Alice SunWhen I was growing up…

Friday, January 10th, 2020

“What birding means to me,” by Alice Sun

When I was growing up birding wasn’t cool. I mean, it was cool, but other kids didn’t necessarily know that, and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing it or promoting it. I did it on my own for the most part, or by sneaking off with a small group of already committed adults. Partly that was me, but partly it was the time.

That’s changing. Kids are waking up, I think, to the idea that conformity = death. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to relate to the world on your own terms, to find — and what’s more, be open about — the parts of the world you love. And if those parts of the world are under threat, it’s even more important.

Kids today are smarter than I was.

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Jameson Lake, Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, 2018-01-05So, if…

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Jameson Lake, Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, 2018-01-05

So, if you’ve followed me for a while you know I get really into the bird thing late in the year when the Christmas Count comes around. This past year I got super into it, helping Rob (the founder of our local Christmas Count) organize things, which mostly meant letting him do the hard work of contacting everyone and lining up participants while I did the fun part: scouting (i.e., birdwatching).

We were in the home stretch when a slight hiccup occurred: The Thomas Fire. It burned through the majority of our count circle, forced evacuations of large parts of the Carpinteria Valley, and kept those who stayed behind indoors due to the horrible air quality. We basically had no choice but to postpone the count to Friday, January 5, the last day of the count window.

By the time the rescheduled count rolled around the fire was contained and people were getting their lives back together. The firefighters had done a great job, keeping the fire mostly out of the human-inhabited coastal strip. But inland it had burned unchecked.

We normally work hard to get a team to Jameson Lake, a freshwater reservoir in the northern part of our circle. It’s hard to reach even in the best of times, but it’s worth it; there are birds there we just can’t get on the coast. But this year it was completely inaccessible; no one was being allowed in except firefighters and Forest Service personnel.

Then we got a break: Alan, the dam caretaker at Jameson Lake for the Montecito Water District, is a birder. He’d arranged for us to go in back in November, before the fire, for a scouting visit. Now he’d started going back in for damage assessment, and he scheduled ones of his visits for count day. Even better, he pulled some strings and got permission for a carload of us to go in with him.

So it was that I, along with two other volunteers (Deborah and Taylor, aka @quickthreebeers) got to spend count day out of cellphone range, exploring a burned-out landscape that was eerily silent: no other people, and very few birds.

For the most part it wasn’t great birding. But it was a fascinating look at the aftermath of the fire. And in terms of the citizen-science mission of the Christmas Count, it was a wonderful opportunity to gather data on which birds were there (ducks, woodpeckers, and SO many Dark-eyed Juncoes) and which were gone. I’m really looking forward to going back over the next few years to see the area come back to life.

As I mentioned, we were out of cellphone range all day, so it was only after making the three-hour trip back at the end of the day that I was able to touch base with Rob, and get the good news about the overall count: It went great. We got 155 species, just 3 short of our all-time record.

This is some video I shot of our trip to the lake.

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the-eldest-woman-on replied to your post: the-eldest-woman-on replied to……

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Bartram’s Garden has both! The good bad of being a very urban nature center. They do the bird count every year and if I could tell birds (apart from catbirds, redwing blackbirds, and like, starlings) I would totally do. It’s one of my maturity goals. The end of year bird count. And, I guess, being able to identify birds.

Since I’m in the midst of a series of classes for beginning birdwatchers I’ve been thinking about this. Something I’ve tried to convey is that birdwatching actually is super forgiving of beginners.

I’ve tried to compare it to learning a musical instrument. If you’re learning to play violin or clarinet I imagine there’s this whole initial phase you have to go through where you’re working at it, but the actual thing you’re producing isn’t very close to the intended result. (I could actually be completely wrong about that, by the way. I don’t play anything myself.)

Birdwatching is very much the opposite: From the beginning you are legit doing it. Birdwatching is about, well, watching birds. And even as the most newbish of newbs you will, in fact, be watching birds, and will have access to the same pleasures that experienced birdwatchers get from it.

It’s true that correct identification is part of it, and as a beginner you’re going to be challenged by identifications that will get easier as you gain experience. But the challenges you face as a beginner aren’t fundamentally different from the challenges you’ll face later on. You’re just experiencing them with a different class of birds. Learning to solve those challenges is half the fun, and it’s a challenge you’ll keep facing no matter how far you progress.

The other half of the fun (or more than half, at least for me), is the beauty and wonder I feel from just watching the birds, which is totally available to everyone regardless of their level of experience.

Oh, and about the Christmas Count in particular: Some of the new birders I’ve been talking to have expressed hesitation about doing the Count. “I don’t know anything,” they say. “I won’t be able to help.”

Not true. When we organize the count we make sure that there’s at least one experienced birder in each group to handle the finer points of identification. But in a group of five or six birdwatchers, even the least-experienced person can make a big contribution. It’s all about eyes and ears. When the experienced folks are staring at something through a spotting scope, a group of white pelicans (say) could fly directly overhead and they’d never know it. But if a member of the group is scanning the landscape, they can say, “uh, hey; guys? check this out.” (This exact scenario happened with my group on count day last year.)

So, in summary: Watch birds. It’s awesome, and it’s awesome right from the beginning.

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Best hobby or best hobby?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Best hobby or best hobby?

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Hi, your Secret Santa here! It’s finally December! What’s your favourite thing to do during this time of the year?

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

I like trying to uncover secrets by analyzing regional spelling variations!

Dad joke.

No, actually, one thing I look forward to all year is the Christmas bird count. This year our local count will be on December 18. I love having an excuse to spend all day birdwatching. I could do that any day, of course, but doing it as part of an organized effort that produces useful citizen-science data, and has the added fun of being a competition in which our local small-but-doughty birb fandom gets to measure itself against the nationally-ranked powerhouse up the road in Santa Barbara (spoiler: we lose) is fun.

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acryptozoo: Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus…

Monday, May 25th, 2015


Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Saw one of these in Santa Barbara County yesterday! It was my first-ever time seeing one. There was what I thought was a black-headed grosbeak singing in the top of our neighbor’s sycamore, so I grabbed the binoculars for a quick look, and there he was, plain as day, rose breast and all. :-)

I annoyed my fellow Getty-bound companions by taking the time to submit a sighting report via eBird before we left.

That’s the thing about bird-watching: You just never know.

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dduane: luckstergal: bellisadinosaur: This baby owl hit our…

Sunday, April 21st, 2013




This baby owl hit our window. Gave us this look the whole time – Imgur




Oh sweet heaven, what an expression…

Some pedantic bird-watcher points:

This isn’t actually a baby, but an adult owl of a species that doesn’t get very big. My guess is that it’s a Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus), which has an adult length of about 10 inches. If I knew where and what time of year the OP saw it I’d feel more comfortable about the ID, but it looks a lot like a Boreal.

The whole idea of non-human organisms having “expressions” is interesting. As social apes we’ve evolved to put a lot of stock in emotional states as revealed by things like eyebrow position. Other social animals (think domestic dogs) can certainly convey emotional states to humans, though it tends to happen more via body language than facial expressions.

There’s no doubt that people can consistently read what appear to be emotional states from some birds’ facial expressions, but it tends to be hard-coded in the birds’ facial pattern. In some cases birders use it to help distinguish similar-looking species. For example, Cooper’s Hawks have a “severe” facial expression, while Sharp-shinned Hawks look more “surprised”.

Still, I owned a pet lovebird once that definitely got a pissed-off look in his eye when he was angry. So maybe this owl really is conveying an actual emotional state via its face.

Anyway: Ooh, cute!

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wifeinkorea: bird outside my house. i think it is some sort of…

Sunday, March 10th, 2013


bird outside my house. i think it is some sort of morning dove… still waiting for the bird book to come.

I took a look at Wikipedia’s List of Birds of South Korea (which is not a bad resource for you to check out while you wait for your field guide, though it’s not going to be nearly as good as having a consistently formatted collection of pictures for you to browse through, which the field guide should hopefully provide). Since I agree with you that that’s a dove or pigeon of some kind, it sounds from the wiki page like you have eight species to choose from.

Some of them look very different from this bird, and some are uncommon or local to forest habitats. But your photo looks like an urban setting, which makes me think you’re probably looking for a common species. And actually, there’s a candidate that jumped out at me right away, because it’s a species that has successfully invaded my neighborhood here in Southern California over the last few decades: The Eurasian Collared Dove. Your photo looks a lot like one of those.

It could be something else. Both the Oriental Turtle Dove and the Red Turtle Dove seem like they could be possibilities. A field guide would be helpful, since it would probably include more information (range maps, notes on habitat and abundance) that could help exclude either or both of them.

But if I had to put money on it, I’d bet it’s a Eurasian Collared Dove.

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animalstalkinginallcaps: IS EVERYONE BLIND? IS THIS THE MOVIE…

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013




I have seen this IRL. It was when my wife and I were living in Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra. There was a lek out near the Mammoth Airport, and one chilly morning before dawn the two of us drove out there with our friends Kitty and Paul. (The sage grouse do their insane neck-bubble display most enthusiastically right around sunrise.)

We got out there and set up my spotting scope and waited, and then the sun came up and the grouse started bubbling and it really was quite magical. And after about a minute and a half, when we each had had a chance to look, we all said, more or less simultaneously, Jesus it is so fucking cold do you mind if we yes please dear god let’s go.

So we did.

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lifeofjardini: Look how some of them are just called Bird. And…

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013


Look how some of them are just called Bird. And then some are just called Another. Definitely cataloged by a professional ornithologist. ahahaha hilarious.

As a child I tended toward loneliness. Being able to identify birds by ear was a comfort; I could enjoy their varied personalities and feel a little less alone even when an outside observer would have been unaware that the shy kid in the corner was actually surreptitiously birdwatching.

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