Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Twitcher's Diaried Thought Process

Wednesday, 05/07/2014

12:31pm: Notice an interesting post to the Arizona Birding group page. Bird has yellow legs and yellow on beak, but doesn't look quite right for Pectoral or Least Sandpiper, which means it's something really good. Patiently await further opinions, try not to embarrass oneself. Become tense.

12:42pm: Try not to start grunting and panting at work when the ID of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper becomes consensus. Wipe sweat off of brow and trace elements of spittle off of chin. Become twitchy.

1:03pm: Start thinking about scheduling. Family time and girlfriend's birthday, heavy work load, Mother's Day...yeah yeah nothing that can't be skipped, or won't be there next year same time. BUT A SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER IN ARIZONA!?!? Fifth state record. Become excited!

1:07pm: Finally look up Rimmy Jim Tanks on a map. Discover that it is 2hrs. 45min. north of you, and this bird seldom stays put for very long, especially when it is so far from the coast. Become depressed.

2:04pm: Receive confirming texts from birder friends already chasing towards the bird. Become envious and depressed.

3:19pm: New hope: begin contemplating leaving at 3:00am to get bird at 5:15am, then drive back and show up for work at 7:45am to teach children math and history and science and responsibility. Wear slacks the whole time and dark wool socks that can pass as dress socks--yeah yeah save time that's friggin' brilliant! Become cautiously optimistic.

3:21pm: Realize ridiculousness of earlier plan. Become depressed.

3:22pm: But it's a SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER! Reassess earlier plan, tread water for a bit, and decide it's feasible. Become reinvigorated.

3:45-5:30pm: Continue dwelling on the possibilities of the chase and receiving updating texts from other twitchers. Become distant, distracted, and prickly to everyone else around you.

5:31pm: Reveal to others what you're thinking of doing. Become surprised at the supportive reaction of everyone. Realize that life is good, Short-tailed Sandpiper or not. Become content with not chasing this bird, at least not until the weekend. There will be others, some day, and you wouldn't even have time to enjoy it. Become resigned to the fact that it will probably be gone soon anyway.

Thursday, 05/08/2014

6:31am: The bird is still present. Forget about yesterday evening's pleasant contentment! Begin thinking about an absurdly early Friday morning chase. Become a gross combination of distracted, optimistic, pessimistic, sharp, dull, and probably a little bit gassy.

6:45am: Get dressed for work. Put underwear on wrong side of pants.

7:00am-8:00pm: Closely monitor all reports without realizing how much of your life and happiness is now dictated by the capricious whims of a peregrinating little shorebird. Become a zombie.

          9:22am: Bird still present...trying to focus on other things...

Courtesy of theoatmeal.com

16 comments:

  1. Dear Laurence Butler,

    Yes. My same sentiments! Grrrrrrr! But instead of 2 hrs and 45....try 4 and half hours! I have a job. My friend needs my support because they lost a loved one. I get out of work and by the time I get there....the sun is already gone:( It's Wood-rail all over again!:) Good luck!

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    Replies
    1. Oh that Wood Rail...at least it was too far for me to even consider as a possibility. This is just within the limits of being a tease.

      Maybe a freak tornado will blow it farther south for us.

      Delete
  2. And?? How does the story end??

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    Replies
    1. TBD!
      This was live updating almost. We'll see the reports this evening.
      Still contemplating that early Friday drive...

      Delete
  3. Nice post Laurence. I know these experiences and thought processes all too well. And that means only one thing...you are truly a depraved junkie. Of birds.

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    1. Just this evening I went back into a decrepit alley where I paid a man in a trench coat $50 to show me an alternate plumage Red Phalarope...

      I know it's wrong...but I also know I'll be back tomorrow and need to see two.

      Delete
  4. Oh man. Rewind two weeks and shift the time frame back a couple hours and this was totally me, except I ditched my teaching job and went out and got that Eurasian Wigeon. Substitute teachers - ever heard of them? Don't worry about teaching responsibility or lack thereof - kids these days need to witness passion.

    There better not be any more vagrants popping up around me. Then we'd be fighting the war on two fronts as the warblers are blitzing all over right now. Plus I'm out of comp time.

    Drive safe in the morning.

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    Replies
    1. Cheers Josh but I think I'm going to sit this one out : )

      The risk and the quality of the sighting don't compute for me, ultimately, especially as I'll be doing a ton of birding with this upcoming weekend. Maybe if it were a bigger, cooler bird like a Garganey I'd make the chase!

      Delete
  5. Should I laugh, or cry?! Did you go?! Loved the post; risk the job, find the bird! Ok, ok, maybe not super realistic but…Did you go?! Waiting for Saturday before the crack of dawn?! Will you even sleep? By the way, skip the girlfriend's birthday and you'll rue the day you ever fell for feathers.

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    Replies
    1. No. I totally chickened out and went to work, social obligations, etc. like a sucker.

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  6. Having read the chase post before this one, I know how it ends! I saw you updated, but hadn't been at a computer as I've either been at work, or in the field, or crashing (fortunately not the car). Now that I've read both the update and the comments, it seems you've captured the essence of the obsessed birder. Well done.

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    1. And the essence of such a birder after the weekend? More exhausted than when it started!

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    2. I find I get an energy boost for each cool bird I see proportional to the coolness of the bird.

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    3. Well said Kathleen, it's an important but delicate ratio. There are certainly some rare birds that aren't so cool, and chasing them is uninspired just as the sightings. The Sharp-tailed, luckily, is not such a case : )

      Delete
  7. Great post, sad and funny at the same time. At least this story had a good ending for ya! A great ending I should say. This is how I felt when the Lesser Black-backed Gull showed up last year. I had to wait three days before I could see it. Once I saw it, it soon left for good a few hours later...

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    Replies
    1. Phew! Yes I haven't chased any gulls in AZ, in part for that worry on their transient habits, but next time there's a LBBG I'll be hitting the road I think.

      This was my longest twitch to date, as I never made that Wood Rail chase, but there is a certain, romantic allure.

      Delete