Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Las Aventuras: 1000 Life Birds

To boldly go......

Turquoise Tanager 901 in Trinidad
 When I began this journey, I thought it would be just about the birds, but it isn't.  Life has a way of reminding us that all things are finite. The birding world works in loose circles.  Eventually, everything and everyone connects. 

the historic halls of Asa Wright
 Walking the hallways of Asa Wright last year in Trinidad was like taking a step into the past with thousands of other birders and nature lovers alike. 

910-Rufous-tailed Jacamar in Trinidad
 On the trails around the island, I'd discover birds at my own pace.  Some where difficult while others were easy.  

I had heavy thoughts last year and they continue into this year.  Along the way, you meet people who have made an impact on your own life while searching for the world's 10,500+ birds.  During my research, I'd find old records from birders who are no longer with us.  Sometimes, I'd erase the digital record of that person and replace it with my own discovery.  And I didn't want to erase their name from the "last seen" category because that person had meant the world to so many birders, including myself.  

920 Green-backed Trogon in Trinidad
 I am given hope by the growing number of younger birders. Their excitement is contagious. Momentarily I forget about all the research that other birders before me have shared with the world and enjoy my own observations of the new birds.  There, in that space of time, I carefully memorize their calls and behaviors because I may never see that bird again. 

I share a delicious rum on a boat while observing thousands of Scarlet Ibis and American Flamingos, absorbing every second of my visit.  Is this how the others before me felt when they saw their first birds?

Sunset at the Caroni Swamp
 While visiting new areas, I research texts, listen to podcasts, pull up data from ebird and investigate each and every bird.  I have so many questions for so many people who know their local birds the best. 

930-American Flamingos
 The years pass and I lose a birder friend. Then another.  And another.  There is a sadness there.  I am "me" because of their knowledge.  I use their information to guide my journey.  Sometimes we cross on a secret forest path only once and will never see each other again. 

The miracle of this birding life goes beyond anything I could have dreamed of.  After each place I discover, I leave behind my own data trail for future generations.  I am 46 now.  I began this journey in my late 30's.  Time weighs heavily on me.  We don't have all the time in the world.  It took some time to reach a thousand.  How long will it take to reach 2000 or 3000?

940-Masked Cardinal
We travel long stretches and explore new life and new civilizations for the chance to observe new birds.

I stand in unknown lands and know that my time is precious and limited.  I have to make it count.

The time differences, sleep schedules and exhausting treks all pay off when we find our target birds. 

950-Zebra Dove O'ahu, Hawai'i
 I sit watching a luau in Maui and think to myself, "Never in my life would I have been to this place if it hadn't been for the birds."  But here I am.  Here we are. And I am so thankful for this moment.  This special experience.

Along the way, we meet all kinds of wonderful people.  And while the world seems to be falling apart around us, I see wonderful human people erasing the doubts I have about this planet. 

960 Gray Francolin on Maui, Hawai'i
 We birders see things that most people don't even know exist. But the birds guide us.  Sometimes into uncomfortable areas. Sometimes into sacred quiet spaces.

Elevation is my kryptonite.  The White-tailed Tropicbirds, Northern Fulmars and White-tailed Ptarmigans have made me question myself as we go above and beyond the clouds and walk along the edges of sea cliffs.

1000 life birds. It's no joke.  I can't believe I have been so focused on that number.  Now that I've reached it, I find myself relaxing a bit. 

970-Eurasian Skylark on Maui and in Llangoed, Wales
As I prepared for my trek to Wales, I found out that a prominent birder, Bill Thompson III, had passed away from pancreatic cancer.  The man was a hard worker and he was a wonderful caring person. We ran into each other in Arizona a couple times, but it was his podcasts that I listened to in my car that made me smile. Today birders are celebrating his memory.

980-Carrion Crow, Wales
 While I was in Wales, I crossed the 1000 marker and looked over at my new friend Steve and told him that I had hit a thousand. 

I love birds a lot, but I've really come to cherish the moments I get to spend with friends old and new.  Each moment counts.  It's all we got. 

990 Eurasian Blue Tit
 Over the past year or so, I've had to say good-bye to a lot of wonderful people who have helped me climb the ladder to finding and understanding birds. The thing about birds is that you don't have to be an expert to love birds.  You can be a doctor of birds or just a regular person who loves birds.  Their experiences, from both technical and personal sides, have shaped my understanding and appreciation of birds.  

1000 Eurasian Bullfinch
I'll continue to share my passions until I can no longer do so.  It is what we do.  Over the next several months, we'll explore Wales, Texas, New Mexico, Maine and Wisconsin.  And once and awhile we'll stop and see some Arizona birds:)  Until next time.....

Monday, March 11, 2019

To Russia With Love

My idea of LA traffic:)
The mission to find 10,000 plus birds in this lifetime continues.  Today's trek takes us deep into the heart of LA. 

LA Traffic's version of traffic
It was an unexpected trek, or hiccup, in the overall scheme of things. Sometimes you just have to do it. The trek to Los Angeles from Phoenix can be a little over 6 hours by car.  And the traffic is the challenging part.

Allen's Hummingbirds are quite common along the coast of California
I have been buried by home and garden projects, house chores, bird books and research, lecture prep and travel work.  I don't mind a single bit of it, but it's the reason I took a break from blogging last week.  There just isn't any time.  Over the past several weeks, I've been out with lots of great people finding Arizona birds, but it was time to get back in the race. This trek was all about one bird, the Red-flanked Bluetail.

I had wanted to observe this bird but I didn't want to drive alone to LA.  Then Gordon mentioned the trek and it was done.  I'll be honest.  I'm still recovering from the weekend, but it was worth the chase.

Indian Peafowl at their best
The Bluetail has been hanging around the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library for about 3 months. It's the second record for California with most records up in Alaska.  So this bird is a long way down the North American coast. The bird is native to Northern Europe and this particular Bluetail may have crossed over from the Russian side into Alaska and then down as they do migrate in their home range.

Bewick's Wren
We stopped along the way and had some fun birding, but it was this Red-flanked Bluetail that became our target. We arrived to the library in beautiful weather.  Everyone has seen this bird and posted pics of it everywhere. But for both Gordon and myself, we needed this lifebird to just give us a little excitement again.  The last time we both added new birds to our life list was in the summer. Sometimes when things get a little slow, all I need to do is just chase a new bird to feel that adrenaline again.

With a little patience and being surrounded by wonderful people, we found our thrushy flycatcher acting bird. While we were there, the bird was secretive and always hid in the shadows, but that's because I believe the bird is a Russian spy:)

Red-flanked Bluetail
So like the guy who calls himself the US "president", I did a little colluding with a Russian bird.  It's not quite the same. Plus I don't think I'll go to jail for it:) 

Kurt and Gordon chat.  I catch Kurt in mid-thought.  These guys are great.
Anyhow, my work really begins to pick up over the next 4 months.  Like every spring I've been doing this, I always feel a little antsy.  I am an explorer at heart wanting to understand the natural bird world and how it relates to people from different cultures and societies. I get to put on my birder's ambassador hat this upcoming week.  Stay tuned for more!