Saturday, July 30, 2016

July TFG Birding

If you are scope-less, shore-less, and/or south of the 49th parallel in July, your birding can be a dull affair. Many of the birds themselves are dealing with empty nest syndrome and can cope differently. Shorebirds deal with this by going on midlife crisis global tours from north to south. Flycatchers do this by making all sorts of incoherent and target-less vocalizations. Some birds, and some birders, cope better with the late-July doldrums than others.
Burrowing Owls spend a good amount of time subterranean anyway, and as such are less affected by the environment changing above them.

Acorn Woodpeckers, ever successful and gregarious, usually spend late July dealing with swollen family groups. The main problem is that dead trees do not directly replicate like ACWOs do, so sometimes the birds have to deal with overcrowding. 

Gray Hawks have to deal with much the same existential angst as always, namely, to attend Christmas festivities with Hawk family of Falcon family this year? Tough call.

Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers are especially grumpy come late July. I believe it is because their SE AZ woodlands are filled with one thousand and one shitty looking and sounding Western Wood-Pewees. I can sympathize. WWPEs or whatever the code is don't sound like Pewees and are very variable in plumage, but always drab. To make matters worse, the aforementioned Acorn Woodpeckers start to invade their cavities, or at least move into cavities near their own, and SBFLs are very protective and vocal about their neighborhoods.

If they cannot extricate or annoy the ACWO into leaving, Sulphurs often become irritated with each other, no doubt one blaming the other for leaving the cavity vacant and allowing the interloper  into their abode. It's trying times.

Even after some embarrassing displays of domestic distress, Sulphurs are still a Top 5 North American Flycatcher.

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds cope pretty well, in part because in places like Miller Canyon their food is provided for them and the rude Rufous Hummers are not yet unbearable. Life is always pretty good for Quetzalcoatl incarnate.

The end of July is tough. It's downhill now to the end of summer, to other journeys, work and hardships. It can be hard to get moving again, and sometimes everybody needs a little push.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer Carolina-ing

Another summer is wrapping up, at least in terms of vacation time, and as has come tradition now over the last three years, it's time to look back on some of the out-of-state vacation birds. An awesome May trip to Oregon yielded little real birding time and even fewer birds, and a couple weeks in Carolina was also preoccupied with many other worthwhile things, so in keeping with this year's new normal, there's not a lot to show for the birds, but we shall not go too quietly into that goodnight, not when the neighbors are obnoxious anyway.

Part of the birding dilemma in Carolina this summer was that I didn't get there until the doldrums of mid-July, which means the Warblers are as high as they are elevated, and most of the visible birds are immature caricatures--and before you ask, I did not get to the coast. One such bird that seems like a caricature but isn't is the Pileated Woodpecker, mightiest and punk rockiest of WPs this side of the Atlantic. 

Ever dutiful, I made one check-in trip to my local stomping ground in Washington, Carolina: Goose Creek SP, where one can get very crushy with PRWA and YTWA in June. Both of these warblers were scare to come by now, but a broody snapping turtle was pretty cool. By the way, you should watch this quick video of an alligator snapper biting a pineapple, and then never swim in murky water again. A young Pewee had no effect one way of the other. 

For part of Carolina time we stayed in the Asheville area, which truly does live up to its reputation for good brews, food, and music, and well as most exposed private parts per-park per-capita in the U.S. The proximity also enabled some lovely mountain hikes.

I'll quit whining about the lackluster birding, especially because the cataracts were 10/10.


Canada and Black-throated Green were the only Warblers I could pick up on the high trails (with a briefly vocalizing BTBW causing extra aggravation). That misty, haunting ridge forest, among the red fir and blankets of moss, is intoxicating nonetheless, and does still boast some vocal birds. Winter Wrens were seemingly everywhere along the trails, though getting them in decent light was yet another matter of inverse frequency.

The singular call of Veery was most welcome after a year away, and while some special sneaking was still required, I actually had much better views of this species than in previous years. 

 My salamander game was weak this time around, but how about a peeping Garter?

Although I couldn't materialize Eastern Screech-Owl, some of the best overall birding was in the relative lowlands around the property in the Asheville area. Indigo Buntings do not seem to stop ever. They were singing away on top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi, and singing away in even greater numbers along the yard-side woodlands. Matching them in sound if not by sight were Field Sparrows. They deserve respect to...I guess.

The best sighting of the trip was a Scarlet Tanager couple, a species I had only seen once before, and poorly, as a vagrant in Arizona. I had all of about 5 seconds in the rain with this bird at eye level but good gracious gravy what a looker. I don't even mind anymore that I've had to wait like 6 years and many east-coast trips to see this bird again. All is forgiven for your scarlet letter, Natanager Scawthorne.

How often does one get up close and personal with a Luna Moth? Not often in my case, so that was also cool.
But you're thinking, "Butler, you kiss-ass namby pamby, what is with this vacationing and no birds? We want better. We deserve better. We're already dealing with the 2016 election depression, Chinese aggression and destabilization in Europe, a lackluster Olympics, and now this pablum!? You are a cad and in better days, would hang by the neck until dead."
Well, I agree, and this weekend is a birthday weekend, which means I can go birding in SE AZ and not no one can stop me not no how. Solid.