Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Flashbacks

Like almost anyone who blogs about birding and/or nature, I spend some time reading blogs by other birders and naturalists. I like getting to know the person through their experiences and their art (writing, photography, drawing, what have you), I enjoy learning something new or re-learning something I've forgotten, I like to be entertained with excellent writing, adventure, and humor, I like to be brought along on a journey.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer at our pond. I never
really paid them any mind until after becoming a "dad."
Great summer entertainment!

If you've read any past posts here you'll notice a loose-but-persistent trend: my topics are pretty location-specific, focused in my yard most of the time. The subject matter is, to an extent, broadening to include more ecosystem-wide observations. The folder of plant photos on my hard drive rivals my bird folder, as does the insect folder. While birds will always be my primary fodder for posts, I anticipate writing more about these other taxa in season.

A fall Ovenbird in our yard - worth getting to know
deeper than just a yearly "tick." I may delve into
other taxa, but birds will always be my primary focus.

A little over a month ago Mike at 10,000 Birds wrote a piece exploring the nadir of his birding career. His reflection resonated with me because, like Mike, my focus shifted sharply towards family with the arrival of our daughter a few years ago. I'm happier being around the house observing what happens here, not out there, especially as my daughter continues to explore, learn, and experience with every turn. Oftentimes I find I'm living vicariously through her new, wide-eyed observations rather than my own. Still, it's always reassuring to find another soul in your situation.

That's me on an outing with my youngest
birding buddy, she keeps me (mostly) close
to home, but is almost ready for longer trips.

Exploring and making observations closer to home is never a bad thing. In fact, when starting the eBird project, this was an aspect of birding we hoped to promote: birders (or bird watchers, if you separate the two) censusing the birds at a single location day by day, week by week, season by season, ultimately year by year. Those are the data that are really valuable for spotting trends; all those snapshots make a very interesting moving picture.

An unknown-to-me hymenoptera at the Lab - I plan
to do more lunch-time nature walks at Sapsucker Woods.
No reason I should restrict myself to a single location, or taxa.

Finally, a blog post titled "Closing 2007," written by another Mike at Mike's Birding & Digiscoping Blog, also struck a chord. That Mike reflected on his list numbers, past "big years" and bird chasing, and convincingly concluded that local birding can be as, if not more, rewarding. Sometimes it takes someone else to translate those feelings to reinforce what you already felt.

An American Lady in our yard. Another
summer tenant worth keeping an eye on.

Unlike Mike (the 10,000 Birds one, not the Digiscoping one), whose birding career began very close to the arrival of his first child, I had a good 15 or so years of relatively little responsibility, just enough money, and and a handful of buddies in the same boat to facilitate a lot of birding and travel.

So I'm undertaking two-folded proposition.

I will continue to happily explore our four-acre plot of land, and airspace above it, and continue to narrate the ebb and flow of what the seasons bring.

Frequently heard, seldom seen during the summer months,
American Toads are welcome to our garden anytime!

But I'm also going to dig into my notebooks, photo albums, listing software, and whatever working memories I can muster and relive some of my own birding escapades. In addition to reliving those trips through the writings and experiences of others, I'm going to revisit my own trips and relive them directly.

"Friday Flashbacks," or "Flashback Fridays," or some derivation blatantly borrowed from every radio station with a classic rock format, will highlight experiences like driving my car into the Salton Sea, sliding off a snowy road in the Chiricahuas while searching for a Mexican Chickadee, almost stepping on a Short-eared Owl in Oklahoma, watching a Wallcreeper fly below us in the Swiss Alps, encounters with naked people, and so much more.

Ah, good times. I wish I was posting these in real time, as they happen, but I'll settle for a days-gone-by feel. And, to a degree, they're timeless. These are stories much like the ones I enjoy from the likes of N8 at The Drinking Bird, Corey of 10,000 Birds, Patrick of The Hawk Owl's Nest, and the many others who take us on their journeys. I hope I can bring you along on some of mine.


N8 said...

Looking forward to it! I love re-hashing old birding tales, can't wait to hear yours.

SLW said...

Old stories always welcome. Nice to meet you-- I was raised in the southern tier, so this will be a visit home for me.

For something different, drop in to Colorado sometime: Foothills Fancies...

noflickster said...

After thinking about this prospect over the weekend I'm more excited than I expected to finally write out some "essays" (using that term very loosely) about some of the tales I've swapped with friends and family over the years. Of course, enough time has gone by that I can embellish at will, poetic license and all, right?

n8 - While I prefer re-hashing over a beer in the company of someone else, I suppose I can drink alone with my dog in the room. Kind of the same, with fewer interruptions. Thanks for posting your tales, I still need that vicarious birding fix!

slw - Nice to meet you as well, if you're ever back this way give me a shout. I'll definitely check out your site, as I have lots of Foothill experience: I used to live in Boulder, then I used to visit my sister who wound up there. My then-girlfriend, now-wife and I used to make lots of trips to the southern Rockies when we lived in Arkansas. I miss the Flatirons terribly!


Anonymous said...


My bias says that you are on to something in promoting birding where you call home.

Home state, GA, has had a super year of influx of occasionals and exotics. But, to get those looks we all want requires expenditure of huge (and dwindling) resources. Yep, I'm an eco-freak ("light," admittedly--got lots of habits to curb).

Besides, isn't expanded surveillance the key? How do we know what's reported half-way across the state is not "waiting" for documentation only half a mile away?

BB in GA

birdchaser said...

Sounds like we're in similar boats, though my kids are getting old enough now to make the occasional chase with me--and work takes me out of town enough that I can get a little birding variety now and then.

I love the Friday Flashback idea. Time to dust off the old notebooks! Or at least go through my life list on eBird for some good blog fodder.

noflickster said...

BB in GA - Amen, amen, amen! The "think globally, bird locally" mindset is, I believe, catching on. A benefit, as more people subscribe to this way of birding, will be to see how uncommon "rare" birds really are, or if they happen more often than we realize. Expanded coverage, both in space and time (get out and bird your local patch repeatedly!), will show some birds certainly are rare (Ross' Gull, anyone?) while others are present more than we think.

BTW, I'm in your boat: eco-freak and still curbing habits. Slow and steady wins the race, I hope.

birdchaser - I hope I'm catching up to your stage of birding with kids: my daughter asks if "today is a bird count day" (meaning FeederWatch), this spring I hope to brainwash, er, persuade her to accompany me on "eBird Transects," then take her on some "megafauna" chases - like an owl irruption in southern Canada. It's all part of the 5-year plan . . . .

- Mike

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