Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Recipe for Good Birding

There are many different recipes floating around the interweb these days. Lots of them relate to gluten free muffins and bacon-infused such and such.
Of course, recipes do not only pertain to the culinary arts. Disaster gets its own recipes, and there are several different recipes all purported to create 'fun' (often booze and/or cosmic bowling is a primary ingredient). Following the same recipe won't even yield identical results, and maybe sometimes it seems unimaginative, but time and resources are precious; as birders and conservationists we want to make the most of them. There are common trends and expectations with a recipe, in our ordered universe, and this is no exception with the recipe for good birding. Obviously, I am no master birding chef, so this recipe may still need some work. Please contribute any extra ingredients you think essential for a successful day/outing of birding.

1 binoculars, camera and spotting scope to taste
2 cans of 'whoop ass', opened up when first hitting a trail and hearing bird calls
1 pint elbow grease, especially important later in the day in hotter climes
1 tbsp. Indefatigable optimism--the next great bird is hiding just around the corner
1 whole uniform--combine comfort with pragmatics, avoid blaring colors, try to dress 30 years older      than one actually is.
2 bags of cherries. If long driving is involved, this is the best road trip snack to keep one going at the wheel; it fights drowsiness and can be eaten continually without creating a feeling of bloating of gritty teeth and dehydration (compare with Cheez-its)
1 all David Bowie mix tape, if driving 80+ minutes.
1 bag beef jerky
3 lbs. trail mix, with M&Ms an essential subcomponent.

Directions: Mix together in a good habitat for a few hours before letting sit and adding beer, bourbon, Covington's Vodka, or Hennessy Gin afterwards (maybe during).
**Good habitat is essential. For best results, begin mixing just after sun-up, but recipe can provide optimal birding relative to time of day in all conditions.

As a case in point, this recipe was applied during heavy rain and fog around the Bolivar Flats and on the Galveston Ferry in east Texas. The conditions were very poor but the habitats were excellent. Elbows were greased up, various cans were opened, cherries were munched, and I still picked up two lifers in very poor and mosquito-infested conditions.
Always great-to-see birds included Roseate Spoonbills; nifty Lifer came in the form of Seaside Sparrow (not pictured) and nifty almost-lifer came in the form of Clapper/King/'Cling' Rail, because nothing is sacred anymore. Cling Rails...thanks Obama!


At the recommendation of great birder and friend Nate McGowan (another strong but optional piece of the recipe--having informed birder buddies or and/or their info) Butler's Birds utilized the drive-in Galveston ferry to scan for seabirds. Expectedly, Laughing Gulls and Brown Pelicans accounted for everything seen around the harbors.


Things got busier in the middle of the bay, where a rather boringly named fishing troller was brewing its own little pelagic birding trip--though they need a better recipe for bigger results. The same birds as were around the Bolivar harbor followed the boat, but of much greater interest were the eminently impressive and spectral seabirds flying higher in the sky.



Just biding their time and waiting to tyrannize the troll boat scrappers, ABA lifer Magnificent Frigatebirds soared effortlessly, and somewhat spookily, in the gloomy skies.


Driving west from Galveston, I stopped by Brazos Bend SP in the middle of the days, ostensibly the worst time for birding. Again I put the recipe to good use, and again the birding was surprisingly (or rather, not really) excellent. That recounting is for another time. There's yet more Texas left in these veins!

13 comments:

  1. Sunflower seeds - a snack that helps birds and birders ward off drowsiness during long migrations.

    Way to work up a couple more lifers! That flying pelican shot is pretty sweet, and you captured the sneaky essence of a rail in that photo of the King.

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    1. Cheers Josh. I was never very good at extracting the seeds, unlike so many birds, so I must admit to a prejudice there.

      I wish I had more Pelicans up close in my life.

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  2. For me a scope is pretty essential. Maureen's got the camera, so if I want to contribute any images to the blog, I usually have to digiscope them. Bug spray / sunscreen are sometimes important, but my hat and beard combo usually keeps me happy enough. Now if we can only figure out how to infuse birds with bacon, we'll be all set.

    I miss frigatebirds more than almost any other bird (I guess we haven't seen them since our Florida days, jeez). You're right about Spoonbills never getting old, too -- nice shots!

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    1. Ooh...the bug spray and sunscreen are good mentions, shall we say regional additions to the general recipe?
      I don't do much shore birding in Arizona (which may require its own recipe anyway) so I can't say I often put the scope to use. Plus, my binoculars are almost as good when factoring in the clarity to magnification. At any rate, I certainly wouldn't argue against it.

      Come next Thanksgiving, a bird will be infused with bacon, if not before. Science has not need begun cross breeding pigs and chickens eh? Where does all that grant money go!?!? Thanks Obama.

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  3. Nice post, I like the intro and the recipe is great. I know all about the epic bag of trail mix!

    Congrats on the lifers Laurence! Too bad that sparrow is elusive. The frigate bird is awesome, I would love to see that!

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    1. Thanks Tommy. These eastern ammodramus Sparrows are elusive indeed. Seaside's the only one I've seen, and there plenty to chase with the camera now.

      Frigatebirds are so cool, lightest bird in proportion to their size or something like that as well, like the next stage in evolution.

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  4. Nice stuff, dude. I can't think of much better birding than Anahuac to Galveston via the ferry. Where did you see that rail? A lot of the rails in that area are Clapper (or God forbid "Cling Rails") until you get a bit further inland.

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    1. Hey Nate,

      This Rail was around the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. I've heard of the Cling Rail worry in the area, and would have left this bird alone as far as IDing attempts go but it (or a nearby Rail, which is possible too) vocalized (before showing itself) in a way that was pretty flush with King for me.
      That being said though I figured it'd be an even split or so between the two species. This is unsettling news...I...I...followed the recipe and everything.

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    2. I have no idea at all--how would a 'Cling' Rail vocalization come off?

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  5. It looks like I've been missing an ingredient all these years--cherries! Who'd a thought? Will add these to my routine in the future.

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    1. It's a must! Rainier if you're lucky and they're on sale. In fact, then you should just stay home and eat cherries.

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  6. Again, we saw lots of Roseate Spoonbills, but none that provided such great shots. Awesome.

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    1. Time time and yet more time. You really should consider unemployment, Mike.

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