Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Let the (Re)counting Begin! [Fun & Games]

A couple of days ago I wrote that I was off to compete in the Superbowl of Birding with five BINMIPs.* Now, here in the balmy Southern Tier of New York where the highs are hovering at the 30*F mark, I've thawed enough so I can start typing about the last couple of days. "Balmy" may not be a word that comes to mind when describing anywhere in New York in winter, but it fits when compared to this past weekend in Essex County, Massachusetts.

Our goal for the weekend: have wicked-fun, in Massachusetts parlance, finding birds while hanging out with other bloggers. Couched within that prime directive was to participate, if not win, the Superbowl. Christopher, our host and captain, assembled a team he thought would mesh well, and he did an admirable job. He was like the Joe Jackson to the Jackson Five, only without the violence and emotional cruelty. Maybe more the Lou Perlman of Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC infamy? The creators of Spice Girls?

The point is, with respect to compatibility and birding prowess, Chris hand-picked a excellent group. In no particular order**, your 2010 Bloggerhead Kingbirds were:

The 2010 Bloggerhead Kingbirds: Christopher, Nathan,
Corey, Andrew, and John (unfortunately, cut off on the rocks).

Christopher of the Picus Blog. Not only was Chris was the mastermind in putting together the right people, as the only local he put the team on the right path. He scouted the area in the weeks (or at least days) before the Big Day, tracked sightings of hard-to-find and/or rare birds, mapped the route, and ultimately kept us all on schedule. Above it all, he actively tried to find birds that most interested the team - particularly those that would be lifers.

Christopher and John "shooting" waterfowl and gulls in Gloucester Harbor.

John of A DC Birding Blog. If you've read John's blog, which you really should if you're not a subscriber already, you know he is careful, methodical and thorough, with an attentive eye to detail as he scrutinizes a situation, whether it's researching a blog post or watching birds in the field. Those traits are especially valuable in observing and identifying birds, particularly during a competition. We could confidently leave each location knowing all things feathered had been found and given the once over before moving on.

Nate, the Drinking Bird. On his blog, Nate combines the all-too-rare ability of balancing serious topics with the right amount humor, even during a well-constructed rant. In person, Nate also combines the all-too-rare ability of balancing serious efforts with the right amount humor. Our dealings with frozen extremities, a near-painful lack of sleep, uncooperative birds, frustrating heat shimmers, and Massachusetts drivers were barely noticeable through the laughter. A few Dunkin' Donuts stops helped.

Yours Truly. I'm horrible with self-exploration, so as Forrest Gump would say, that's all I've got to say about that.

Andrew scans for waterfowl, gulls, and anything else of interest.

Andrew, the
Birding Dude. We maintained an enviable pace throughout the day, running in high gear well past the final buzzer, primarily due to Andrew's contagious enthusiasm. Andrew came closer to actually twitching with excitement while birding than anyone I've birded with before. Not physically, of course (maybe a little, due to the cold), but mentally his mind was resonating with the task of bird finding. In addition, Andrew kept us focused with periodic promptings about our species count, the point total, what species we needed, and where we could still find those birds. A few Dunkin' Donuts stops helped here, too. Finally, if past posts are any indication, the photos that will appear on his blog will be stunning.

Corey from 10000Birds takes a break from digiscoping.

Corey of 10000Birds. Corey reinforced all of the pieces I mentioned already - enthusiasm, humor, patience while scoping distant waterfowl. Hell, really, he initiated most of them. Corey brought - and I'm not sure it's the right word, but I think it fits - attitude. Most apparent through his driving skills in an area where even the locals don't know where they're going or how to get there, but also through frequent adrenaline-like shots of confidence as we scored some good birds and missed some expected ones. Dunkin' Donuts had nothing to do with this.

What goes without saying is each member's birding skills are stellar, a trait perhaps second only to our commitment to have a good time. As Chris affirmed before and during the event, we were serious contenders - we had the talent, we had the strategy, we just needed a little cooperation from the birds.

There's the line up, and a little behind-the-scenes look at the chemistry of the weekend. I will leave it to you to figure out who was the shy one, who was the funny one, who was the "bad boy," who was the sensitive one, etc etc ad nauseum.

The Bloggerhead Kingbirds scope the calm,
morning waters for a King Eider.

* What's a BINMIP? My cool, new acronym for "Birdbloggers I've Never Met In Person." Hope it catches on! And, with a bit more traveling, I'll need to use it less and less.

** OK, there is a particular order, but only the Bloggerhead Kingbirds will be able to figure it out.



corey said...

Ooo, ooo, dibs on being Sporty Spice if we are the Spice Girls!

You will now forget that I ever typed, and that you ever read, that.

Great post oh king of alcid spotters...

Nate said...

Mike of The Feather and the Flower. Though he was the only member of the team who had never met another Kingbird in person he took to the team like a Harlequin Duck to a windswept Massachusetts shoreline. Soft-spoken and contemplative, Mike brought an air of professionalism to the team that only an employee at the Cornell Lab of O could. His eye for birds in the deepest heat haze left the rest of the team gaping in amazement, but in a painfully ironic twist, the only alcid Mike couldn't spot beyond the curvature of the earth was the one he most wanted. Dunkin' Donuts was nice, but Dunkin' Dovekie would have been far sweeter. There's always next year.


I had a great time birding with you Mike and I could not have written a better tribute to you like Nate did, so I will just say I agree on all the points he made.

John said...

I enjoyed meeting you and birding with you this weekend! And I second what Nate wrote.

noflickster said...

@ Corey, Nate, Andrew, and John: as they're wont to say in Arkansas, "Shoot, y'all're gonna make me blush." I know my game was "upped" birding with you all, except for finding that d@mn Dovekie - you will be mine, Alle alle. Oh, yes, you will be mine.

@Corey - Spice Girl reference duly forgotten, though now I'm having weird images of "Sporty" digiscoping US soccer matches . . ..

@Nate - glad to know brain-dead tired can be construed as professionalism! That explains a lot of my day-to-day life, actually.

@BirdingDude & John - it was truly a blast meeting and interacting with you in person, in real time. Hope we can venture into the field again sometime in the near future!


nishiki_85 said...

Great post!

I'm putting money down on the Bloggerhead Kingbirds to win next year.

corey said...

@nishiki 85: I'll take that wager!

What, I'm not supposed to bet against my own team? Oh, well then, never mind.

Nate said...

@coery- That's the sort of thing that gets you banned for life from the Birding Hall of Fame. Watch it...

noflickster said...

Shocked, shocked, I am to hear this discussion about gambling on birding competitions! Let me know when you get to the use of performance enhancing substances.

dAwN said...

Great descriptions of the birder/bloggers..I have birded with Christopher and John and you have described them to a T!
I visit the other blogs.all different and great in their own way.
I have enjoyed reading everyones account of the day!!

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