Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Big Year Movie and Beginning Birding

I'm way too exhausted right now after spending all day celebrating my solar return and being on this planet 29 years, or maybe I'm just in a food coma. Anyway, the blog post I was going to write tonight isn't going to happen until tomorrow, because I can't focus. But to clue you in to tomorrow's exciting post, today I did some birthday birding and was rewarded with the best rush of migrants I have ever seen in my two years of birding. It looked like the trees were raining warblers in two main pockets! I even got a birthday life bird, and some birding with one of my absolute most favorite local birders...but more on that tomorrow...

I instead felt like joining in on the birding blog blowup (and on Facebook birding pages) about the trailer that just came out about the upcoming movie The Big Year. It will be a movie about three birding dudes who go on their Big Year, and yes it is based on the book (from what I've read it sounds like 'loosely' might be added in there). I'm excited because I love Jack Black, he's enough to get me to go see almost any movie to begin with. A movie that might be about birding is even better, even though Hollywood has a history of being kind of mean to us. But we'll see...

The discussions seem to be focused on what this movie will do for birding and the birding world. I find the conversations fascinating and the range of predictions fun. My prediction is that it probably won't do too much to birding besides making it a bit more visible to the general public, which is nearly always a good thing. It might get some young impressionable people into birding, and to me this is the most important effect and the most likely. The movie looks like there is a lot of action, and action appeals to youth, and some kids might think, "Hell yes, looking for birds looks exciting!"

There are two concerns with this. For one, based on the trailer, birding isn't nearly as 'exciting' as what happens in said trailer. I have not nearly faceplanted while skiing in an attempt to see a hawk. Birding is exciting in its own special way, however. It is more likely to appeal to the Pokemon crowd rather than the crowd that is into extreme sports and explosions (although, I DO like destruction and explosions myself).

The other concern is the timing of the movie. If it is going to appeal to new birders, it is not coming out during the prime time of year for them to begin. October 14th is the release date, in the heart of fall migration. I've been birding for about two years (or is it three?) and today even I still found fall migrants daunting and the sheer number, difficult to keep up with! Being familiar with the common species seems the best way to know your fall migrants. All of these variables present serious problems for the absolute beginner, and I fear they would turn off a birding newb right from the start. Of course, there could be those people who let the idea marinate in their minds before starting, and they would begin in winter. I've heard a lot of skilled birders say that learning birding in winter would suck or does suck, though I have never asked why, but I don't doubt for most people it would. I began birding in late winter and found the small amount of species and having mostly commons as a base for spring migration that year incredibly handy (and I studied Sibley all winter).

The only thing to do now is to wait and see, and should I run across any new birders, to encourage them and maybe even guide them along so that fall migration doesn't kill their interest dead.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

One Ear Open

Despite having to deal with the annoyance of daily life in larger amounts lately, I've still had my ear tuned to the birds outside. Yesterday on my drive to work I had a nice view of a northern mockingbird flying right across my windshield (nope, didn't hit it), with its attractive white wing patches flashing. It actually made me jump for a second in alarm, but I've been fatigued every day this week so I probably wasn't quite awake.

This early afternoon, while working on my training, I had a black-capped chickadee repeatedly calling "chick-a-dee-dee; chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee" just outside one of the porch windows. My guess is he or she does not like the next door neighbor's outdoor cats any more than I do.

This afternoon while getting stuff out of my car, I heard quite a few strange calls at first. The most distinctive was a fluttering descending trill, which I immediately recognized as the Carolina wren! I couldn't find the little guy, which is not surprising as he was hiding in this enormous, supremely bushy evergreen in the backyard. He eventually started singing loudly, exuberantly. Note that this guy rarely sings "teakettle" but rather something along the lines of a car alarm (not the ones that simply honk). I really should look further into this specie's migration patterns. I know they only recently started staying up here late into the year, possibly not even migrating at all, but it still stumps me because I never used to see or hear them at all.

I've also taken vague note of all the huge American crows all over the roads. They have been snacking on the large amount of roadkill, almost all squirrels and chipmunks. I usually do a double-take to see if I've seen a raven, but usually no such luck. I get a kick out of them merely walking a little bit to the side of the road upon seeing my car from a distance, and then as my car draws near, they pick up a bit of speed and then eventually hop, stopping just outside the white line, waiting for my car to pass. Anyone who thinks a crow is dumb has simply not been paying attention.

Friday, September 2, 2011

So Busy!

I must admit to seriously slacking on birding this week. It's not a lack of interest thing, the end of August/September always picks up for me, even if I'm no longer in college. While summer is winding down and other people are getting ready for fall, my tempo picks up massively. Outside of training to become a transcriptionist (which I've had a blast with so far), putting things in motion to transfer my other job back up to my county (and working at it), getting Southern Adirondack Audubon all set up on Facebook, and seriously mowing through this fantastic cooking book I found, I simply have been distracted.

A Carolina wren has still been sticking around, although not as frequently singing in the early mornings, at least not so close to the window that he wakes me up. A downy woodpecker only shows up if fresh suet is put outside, and it tends to be gone within 24 hours. Those two black-capped chickadees I watched during Irene are still around, still perching in the ugly dying lilac bush and visiting the seed feeder regularly. Today I was surprised when I walked out to the porch to see a pudgy beady-eyed tufted titmouse perched on it. They are one of my absolute favorite birds of all time, so I was excited, but we also seem to never have them at the feeder! The bird could have been migrating through, or is maybe here to stick around during the colder months. Either way, it is welcome to stay.

I've also taken joy into watching the ring-billed gulls that are always foraging the Saratoga Hannaford parking lot. That store sells a lot of breads in packages without securely closing tops so there are always crumbs for them. Other food items get dropped by kids. One day I watched as one gull wolfed down about twenty pieces of popcorn in only a few minutes. I was jealous. I noticed they will also watch me and come near (but not extremely close) when I'm on break, much to my amusement, but I tend to finish all of my snacks. Today was a bit creepy though, one gull was blatantly tilting its head to stare down at me, and when I walked to the other side of the lamp post it was on, I realized it had changed position so it could stare down at me from a better angle. Just a bit creepy...