Archive for the birding Category

How Many Birds Make a Birder?

Posted in birding on 3 February 08 by mikevc

I am currently reading Of a Feather, a great book about the history of birding, that has inspired me to start actively birding again after not really doing so for almost a year and a half. In it the author discusses statistics that claim over 60 million folks are birders. He goes on to say this is a very liberal number. In its place he looks for a definition of birder that looks at how many birds folks can identify as to whether they are a birder or not.

“If you look at just those who can identify more that twenty sepcies of birds, however–itself a pretty generous definition of a birder–that figure drops to just 6 million, and those able to ID one hundred species number a few hundred thousand at best.”

This got me thinking. How many species do I think I–as a rusty birder at best–think I could identify sans guide. Here is my list:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Northern Mockingbird (As a Texan, I better be able to identify these.)
  3. Rock Dove
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Mourning Dove (As a child, I wanted one as a pet.)
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Mallard (I remember my Dad and I trying to catch one at Inks Lake to free it from fishing line that had gotten caught in its cracked bill and wrapped it shut; we didn’t succeed.)
  8. Common Loon
  9. Common Coot
  10. Brown Pelican (Thanks to years of visits to Galveston and the TX coast.)
  11. White Pelican
  12. White Ibis
  13. Great Blue Heron (I was obsessed with these guys as a kid; I even wrote a story about “Sam the Great Blue Heron.)
  14. Little Blue Heron (The green legs are a dead giveaway.)
  15. Roseate Spoonbill
  16. American Bittern (My favorite bird when actively birding a few years back.)
  17. Bald Eagle
  18. Black Vulture
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Wild Turkey
  21. Common Moorhen
  22. Killdeer
  23. Greater Roadrunner (Another one I saw a lot as a child…particularly on trips to Big Bend and the area.)
  24. Great Horned Owl (My owl knowledge is thanks to Jonah.)
  25. Snowy Owl
  26. Barn Owl
  27. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (There are a lot of these in my neighborhood.)
  28. Pileated Woodpecker (Used to see one frequently at the park down the street.)
  29. Carolina Chickadee (At least when in TX, elsewhere I get it confused with the Black-Capped.)
  30. Tufted Titmouse
  31. European Starling
  32. Eastern Bluebird
  33. American Robin
  34. Cedar Waxwing
  35. Dark-Eyed Junco
  36. Red-Winged Blackbird

So, that’s it. Better than I thought. I went through the Smithsonian Handbook: Birds of North America, a field guide I never really used, and covered names and tested myself. There are many others I got right but I honestly thought they were more guesses. I only counted those I was 100% certain of. There are many more where I can get to between one or the other and can only positively ID with a little help from my Sibley. I am not sure I will ever be good at IDing all those warblers and sparrows. Maybe, that is why I am such a fan of shorebirds and the fertile birding grounds near the Galveston/Bolivar area. Undoubtedly, this list clearly indicates where I have spent the majority of my time/life.

As I Age (34 or…)

Posted in banjos, baseball, birding, schmaltzy on 19 April 07 by mikevc

This past week has brought home to me the things that I really enjoy. I–of course–love my kids to no end; I am talking here about hobbies. Arriving a trifle early for a conference in San Antonio I hit a park to do some birding. I have not been birding in almost a year. I forgot how much I enjoy it. I even saw a Golden-Cheeked Warbler. My great regret is that neither my wife or my boys share my passion for birding. In fact, the only person who seems to dig it as much as I do is my brother (or at least he humors me) and he is in the UK. I remember fondly a trip we all took to visit my Ma and Sis in CA and he and I spent the whole trip birding. Oh well, I will see him and the whole family this August as we return to the west coast.

The second thing that reminded me of the things I love was a delivery. I got a banjo in the mail after having been without one for well over a year. I had sold my last banjo to concentrate on mandolin. What was I thinking? There is nothing I have found that produces sheer joy–for me–more than picking a banjo. In my youth I aspired to be a rock star. As fun as that was, I never enjoyed the instrument I played as much as I enjoy playing the banjo. As my wife commented when I got my first one, it is eerie how natural I looked and felt with the banjo around my neck.

So, all of this to lead to the observation that I will fit in quite well when I hit 60+ and find myself in a retirement community sitting on the porch picking my banjo w/ my binos by my side ready to site that elusive species that never made it on my long lifelist. My wife refers to my interests as the b’s: birding, banjos (or bluegrass), books, and baseball (she often adds boring). One thing that I love about my late 20s and now my 30s is the unapologetic embrace of things that interest me without any concern w/ what is “cool”.  Though I claimed to go through my teens and 20s w/ no concern for–and a shunning of all things defines as–“cool”, I was very much concerned with a type of “cool” independent of the mainstream but a “coolness” nonetheless (ENOUGH W/ THE QUOTATION MARKS).   Now, in full embrace of my sheer geekiness, I realize the importance of everyone defining for themselves what is and is not (one more set) “cool”.