Thursday, April 5, 2018

Who..? Where..? What HAPPENED!?!?

It has been over 14 months since Butler's Birds last posted, which is fairly reflective of a pretty fallow period of birding, excursioning, and adventuring over that time.
This is NOT to say the last year has been uneventful. So much has changed. Species have been split and lumped. Thayer's Gull Gull is no more. Rivoli's Hummingbird is vogue. Bottle rockets and fire crackers are still more heavily regulated than assault rifles (ok that's not a change). Amazon, Tesla, Google, Chase, and Facebook now seem to control most of the world. Norway reminded people that it's very good at Winter sports. Tottenham won at Stamford Bridge.
More locally, Butler's Birds is now a Butler brood. The wife and I hatched a Red-Headed Chubby Thigh, on whom I blame most of my lack of bird-blogging and sleep deprivation as well as my constant delight. He is crawling and pulling up and large and has 3 teeth.


During these months away, I have missed birding very much, even when able to squeeze a little in here and there. Although weekly birding and blogging will be a thing of the past, I am committed and confident in getting more regular again. I will be taking my birding fiber.
Being so long removed has its consequences. I am no longer #1 in Wayne County, NC, nor was I even top 3! It's been over a year since I lifered on anything.
I also got, like, really bad at birding. During a recent visit to North Carolina, I was shocked and appalled and how many calls and songs with which I had to reacquaint. I was confusing NOCA songs with CAWR, and calling Semi-palm Sandpipers Westerns. Why am I confessing this? I don't know, half seeking absolution and half seeking condemnation.

Ideally, I could go through a get-my-shit-together birding montage, coached by a raspy voiced over-the-hill formerly great birder who would put me thorugh a series of rigorous exercises in that would show steady, sweaty improvement, IDing first skulky sparrows and then empids and then nocturnally migrating thrushes by their flight calls.
Then I would win a head-to-head birding competition against an evil Russian birder, who had killed my good but platonic friend Apollo Creed in an earlier birding competition.
But, since I had no montage, grizzled trainer, or Russian nemesis, it was just slow and steady, back to
basics, one foot in front of the other...

Apparently I say "...For Pete's sake" now. How domesticated : /

Swamp Sparrow was a nice county bird, one I have seen only a handful of times generally. While not fully crushed, I spent enough time with this bird to include it in the next installment/update of the Salute to Sparrows, the American Idol of the emberizid world and perhaps the most worthwhile thing I ever did with this bird blog, (any time one can make birding more judgmental or exclusive).

As you may have heard, 5-Mile Radius birding patches and competitions are totally hot right now, may they always remain that way. Although I have not really put it o good use, I have a pretty diversified 5MR in Phoenix currently, now in range of the Salt River, which could net over 90 species on a good day.
However, the 5MR from our home base in North Carolina was...disadvantageous. One definite downside to the rural scene is the distance between amenities. It's more than 5 miles to the nearest grocery store, and 3.5 to the nearest convenience store. Similarly, all the hotspots in the county are 7+ miles away from home base, meaning a 5MR expectation for this area would be...30-40 species on the best of days? It doesn't lend itself to head-to-head challenges, unless we switch it up to golf rules to who can seen the fewest birds in their 5MR while still trying hard.
It makes birds like a Red-shouldered Hawk, found in the same shoe-sucking Swamp sparrowing slough, very valuable indeed.

And yard bird Waxwings are even better, if not really accommodating.

Also of interest in the area (and also out of 5MR range) was an old orchard, complete with decrepit silo containing nesting Swallows and an impressive bone pile.
To add to the atmosphere, it's also just down the road from an old insane asylum...

Carolina Chickadees have a cool sort of echo call or whistle--4 notes total--a sort of 'tee hee tee haw'
Strangely, I hear this often in NC, but have not encountered nay recordings on it on the birding apps. Another confession: try though I did, I couldn't not visually distinguish between CACH and BCCH--not that one has to in NC but...still.

It would be nice to explode onto the bird blogging scene with a fantastic post full of witty observations and face melting photos, but we're just not back there yet. Were we ever??
We'll see what the weekend brings.
Hello again Nerds.