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 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
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, Buffalo Trace, or Hendrick's 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 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!