Monday, September 22, 2014

Rarity Reactions - the Acceptable Methods

It's been far too long since I've met a good rarity.  I have found myself moping around campus, dragging my feet with the angst of a depressed 13-year old who just realized Fall Out Boy is not the greatest band on Earth. I need a rarity - something awesome. When I finally satisfy my thirst for rare birds, I will likely perform one of the following celebratory displays of raritiness. Such displays rival the lekking Andean Cock-of-the-Rock in terms of sheer beauty and elegance, and are used by many birders across the country. The following can be considered "acceptable" in some circles, and are used by the Birder's Conundrum team on many occasions:

The Relief - A wave of relief washes over the observer.  Usually happens when you've dipped previously, or really need the bird for your state list.  Most intense Relief occurs when one has at defeated their nemesis.  Muscles relax as the birder enters a zen-like state.

The Fist-Pump - as memorialized by that infamous Esquire article, explaining how birding is being made cool by "aggressive, fist-pumping birders - frat boys with binoculars." As someone who has personally witnessed fist-pumping birders (myself included), I must admit that they are certainly not cool.  Nevertheless, the Fist-Pump is an acceptable celebration for seeing a MEGA, a lifer, or just a locally rare bird.

A Clay-colored Sparrow in the Southeast is certainly a fist-pumpable bird. Fort Fisher, NC.
Photo by Lucas Bobay. 
The Rarity High-Five - A favorite of the Birder's Conundrum team.  Usually led by a "I got a (insert epic bird here) in the scope", a few quick glances, and a look of utter amazement.  The high-five itself isn't anything special, but it makes the observers feel even more accomplished about their sighting.

The Shakes - Birders are a naturally nervous people, and the sight of a bird they've been longing for can make their already-feeble bodies go haywire.  Combined with caffeine, can cause hospitalization.  Occurs with exceptionally beautiful birds most frequently, i.e. the Resplendent Quetzal.

This quetzal would initiate shakes in any birder.  Photo by Lucas Bobay. 
The Run (A Form) - No destination.  It often involves the tossing of a hat, followed by a strange and awkward run/dance.  This is best performed when others aren't around.  May be combined with other reactions, especially the Fist-Pump, to create an epic display of birdnerdiness.  Suitable for any good rarity.

The Run (B Form) - With a purpose, i.e. getting another person or a camera.  It's generally common courtesy to alert others of your sighting, and even better practice to photograph the bird.  Sometimes birders performing the B Form find themselves performing monumental acts of strength.

The Glimpse-and-Charge - A flash of a bird catches the eye of a wary observer.  The birder knows - it's a good one.  Instead of trying to creep up on the prize (like a rational person would do), the birder all-out runs to where the bird landed.  This charge can involve barreling through other people, crashing through marshes, jumping over electric fences, and/or wrestling bears. Utilized by the Birder's Conundrum team when they found a Western Kingbird in South Carolina.

The "I'm Out" - "I just won." Both hands are placed above the head, as if being arrested by the police, while a look of utter disbelief crosses your face. If an earlier conversation was something like "I bet we find (insert rarity) out there", and you then proceed to find that rarity, you can use this form.

I told my dad Oregon Inlet, NC would be a good place for Snowy Owl. It was.
Photo by Lucas Bobay
So, next time you find a particularly exciting bird, remember these celebrations.  It may exile you from the rest of society, but at least you'll feel exponentially more satisfied about the Citrine Wagtail in your scope.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Birding with Non-birders

At one time or another, all birders have had to face the problem of trying to bird in the company of non-birders.  Others will ask: "Can't we just go for a hike...without birding?" The answer, quite simply, is no.  Birders will always bird when given the opportunity, from hiking in pristine wilderness to driving down the highway.
When I am birding on a trail I take my time.  The rest of my family will be half a mile up the trail from me because I've just located a mixed flock and am pishing my brains out.  I lose track of how long I've been staring into the trees, especially when there is a Townsend's Solitaire staring back at me. 

I tried to get a picture of a MacGillivray's Warbler (lifer for me),
but this is the result when being hurried along by my family.
It's difficult to bird in secret when in the company of non-birders, so we have developed a list of tips for birding with non-birders.

1. Use your keen observation skills to find a cute, non-bird, creature to distract the group while you find more interesting animals (e.g. birds).

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel- the perfect distraction while I go find an American Dipper.

2. Make the group want to go to a birding destination by enticing them with mind-blowing scenery.

Little do they know, a Townsend's Solitaire is lurking in those shrubs.

3. Just Keep Truckin' 

When everyone else stops to look at a tree or at a mountain that the whole group has seen a hundred times already, just keep hiking. This gives you a good buffer zone so if you locate a mixed flock or find a good bird, you have time to get a good look in before the group catches up. 

4. Use Guilt.

This one is sort of mean, but if you're looking at a bird and a non-birder comes over to tell you to keep moving, act all exasperated and pretend that they just scared off some cool bird. 
Example: "Hey! Let's keep it moving!" "Ahh! No! You just scared off a ________! Ugh!"
This usually makes the non-birder feel bad and let you keep birdin'.

5. Whatever you do, don't go to a sod farm.

Take a minute.  Look at this image.  If you think this looks like fun, then you are definitely a birder, no doubt about it.  Driving two hours to stare at grass is not a family-friendly activity.