Sunday, August 4, 2013

Standing at the Crossroads

Kathie searches for life over the Greer Lakes
What's more beautiful than the birds we seek?  Well, I can think of three things......the people, experiences and the landscapes.  I find myself in a very strange position now.  While discovering birds, I am not truly paying attention to those other three elements.
Rufous Hummingbird
For me, it has been about discovering lifebirds. I am truly a chaser, explorer and photographer at heart. Do I enjoy it all?  Or is it just about finding the lifebirds?  I actually do enjoy the birding part very much when I know there's a target bird in the area.  For a relaxing bird outing, I plan a walk every week to a local area and just count birds for fun. But with all other outings, there is a plan.
Abert's Squirrel
Lifebirds require time and money now.  It's an investment and dipping is not an option:)  Over the course of the year, I've scheduled more out of state adventures PLUS another jaunt to Northern Arizona.  My two years in Arizona have been very rewarding but this hunger is not satisfied.  I want to know more and I want to see more.  Perhaps with time and age, this will die down a bit.
Butler Canyon Trail
On this beautiful trip to the White Mountains, we saw so many wonderful birds.  However, weather was not on our side.  It had been a fantastic run this entire summer and finally, the weather caught up with us and downpoured during our second day in Greer.
Common Raven
What is my personal desire behind this sacred quest of birding?  Simply to know more.  I'm not trying to do a big year in AZ, the US or the world. So then what's the compulsion?  It's the detective work behind the birds and the places they are found.  Take the terrible CSI shows on TV and apply them to real life and it's exciting.  Instead of who killed________(fill in the blank with outrageous character name), it's.......where in the world is___________(fill in the blank with cool living bird name).  It then becomes a game and a challenge.  And in the process a valuable learning experience.
Lewis's Woodpecker

I had studied our target birds for this particular trip around Pinetop-Lakeside and the Greer areas.  I always write down their primary locations seen while gathering other documented sources like the bird calls, habitats found and personal accounts.
Sometimes, like on this trip to the White Mountains, I just wish I had more time.  But don't we all feel that way about certain things?  It always feels rushed.  Like with my friend Gordon and crew a couple weekends ago.......
We all spent a weekend together birding and I remember that we began on Saturday morning. We had the WHOLE weekend! But when we looked at our clocks, everyone was shocked by how fast the time had passed. The next thing we knew, it was Sunday and time to go home!  How can I compare this experience?  Well I suppose it's a lot like a torrid love affair or new relationship.  Every exciting waking moment is spent with this unknown person and it's intoxicating. It's a period that seems to speed up time making one hour blur into the next.  The participants experience this cloud nine phase:) But the big question for myself is, "Am I in the honeymoon phase of birding?" If so, two years is awfully a long time to experience this feeling of absolute happiness.  So back to the story of our  extreme birder group. When we stop our observations, we'll look at our clocks and say, "What??!!!  We've been doing this for 2 hours??!!!"  Yes. Our stomachs grumble. And then hunger becomes a molestation.  It's a required necessity forcing us to waste time eating when we could be searching for birds. To combat that frustration, we'll eat outside or near hummingbird feeders to justify our human limitations.
Over rolling hills and fields of flowers we roam, searching for those elusive birds.
We carefully inspect the flowers that hummingbirds so love.  Maybe I'll finally get a picture of a male Calliope feeding.  Instead,I observe a brilliant Rufous Male feeding from these wildflowers above and below.
The clouds begin to roll in and Kathie spots the Clark's Nutcracker while I'm observing American Robins on the same tree!
Clark's Nutcracker
Another lifebird is found!  But the clouds would roll in and foil the rest of our plans.  All the research that I had done was for nothing.  Well not for "nothing" for it is now in my mind.  Several birders have said to me, "Slow down."  And yet they continue to chase many rare birds as well.  Time does not wait for any of us.  I am in constant battle with myself to do better, to see better, hear better and to know more. When I'm not birding, I'm reading, writing or researching information.  This is what a chaser/birder does. And while I'm not a twitcher, I still feel a strong pull to explore even when I'm not able.
This blog is about the personal experiences behind the birds.  As a younger Ken Kaufman wrote from his book Kingbird Highway, "The most important bird was always the next one, not this one"  And while that sounds terrible, it's true of chasers and twitchers.  For me, there is no escaping this feeling.  As I am reading more about people's personal accounts on birding, I feel a bit relieved that it's not just me that goes through this internal struggle of balancing it all out.
Gray-collared Chipmunk
I have spent my whole life missing the details!  I want to know more.  Every venture needs to count as exploration continues into the outer regions of Tucson and beyond.  So I stand at the crossroads.  The road becomes a much trickier place to navigate and the stakes are much higher.  More to come.....


  1. i like your two little 'varmints' you featured. and i hope your birding passion lasts for years.

  2. Great post and some great photos. Nice to see more than just the birds. Sometimes we have to stop and smell the roses, or should I say the wildflowers?

  3. Chris, it seems you have become addicted to birding. I could see you and Kathie both doing a big year! If you make a movie I will watch it! I enjoyed this post and the photos. What is your next target bird? Happy birding and have a great week ahead.

  4. Ha!!! There are so many Eileen. In the immediate area, it's the Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Black Terns, Olive Warbler and Hermit Warbler. But migration has begun to trickle a bit and that means there are always birds coming through our area:)

  5. Fascinating! I got addicted to an Osprey nest in Lolo, Montana on one of those cameras. I watched them birth and eat from their mom and watch their dad bring in fish from the Bitteroot River and the first flight......I was totally mesmerized by those birds.

  6. Your obsession makes sense to me...anyway, nature is the garden of wildlife!

  7. Just being in nature is so fulfilling for me, the birds are bonus along with the tree.
    So what is your target for the North Rim?

  8. Great post and photos Chris - your passion and dedication just shine through :) Keep enjoying your birding and good luck with all those lifers still to be seen.

  9. HHHMMMmmm ... let me think. Compulsive behaviour? Check. Obsessive behaviour?? Check. Hang the expense??? Check. Pedantic attention to detail???? Check. Congratulations, it looks like you've got a world class addiction, my friend!!

  10. I adore that little rufus hummingbird!

    Yes, I think we must pay attention to details. There is so much to be discovered!

  11. The good kind of addiction that's what counts!

  12. Your passion is very compelling Chris, will there be an outcome at some point..a book, do you take video? I do like the wa you nd off your posts...more to come..nice :))

  13. Sounds like you are going to make some HUGE decisions in your life..... That can be hard when battling what you want to do with what you think you need to do... Good Luck whatever you decide.


  14. Holaaa!!!.. Qué bosques tan maravillosos.. Repletos de vida y color.. Un cordial saludo desde el otro lado del charco.. ha!!!..

  15. You have been on an amazing adventure and I am amazed at how many birds you have added to your life list. My quest is going much slower than yours...not a BIG YEAR for me....yet. :))

  16. Chris, I do not think this obsession will go away, though you will need a break from it from time to time. Every time I tell myself I'm done, I see a bird and quickly go back! Though, for awhile I got lazy, then you came along and challenged me to do better and learn more. So, now I am off to the races again, but I still want to take time to enjoy the birds I see and the environment I see them in. Life is too short and the world is too full of wonder to miss it all! But I think you know that. And, you will never run out of birds to chase! I am so impressed with all you have learned and the skill level you already have. As I said before, you are already better than me in some areas and I am so proud of you! Fly, little fledgling, FLY!

  17. Its the same with getting a photo of a specific bird Kathie. Once you got one, you are always looking to get a better one.

  18. You are lucky! Not many people these days have a passion. None! Wherever, whatever and however, your passion leads you will be one of life's bonuses. Enjoy and savor the moments!


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