Saturday, May 7, 2016


Birding Accidents Blog...maybe that's what I should call this. I managed to squeeze self-injury into what little birding I was afforded today after work. This happens more than I want to admit and is probably a good reason to bird alone. I decided to shortcut-it through some bramble down a steep slope to get to where I was hearing warblers. Despite carefully cutting at a diagonal down the incline, the earth gave out from beneath feet. Ungracefully, with a twist of my ankle and knee, I crashed down the incline onto the trail. I was still standing but in too much pain to bear weight on my left leg. Standing in place so as not to appear in excruciating pain in front of the trail walkers, I waited for their passing before cussing aloud and limping off my injury. Looking down at my hands I noticed blood coming from cuts across my fingers. Grabbing the thorny shit to brace me on my graceful descent decorated my hand and arm with some lovely cuts and scratches. I AM GRACE.

I worked all day (work is not conducive to birding). A case of bird-envy was facilitated by peeking at birding reports around Wisconsin throughout the day. Warblers had reportedly moved in as I predicted. However no dripping scenarios have graced Wisconsin yet this year. 

I keep encouraging myself to turn it all off...the emails and glances at the Facebook birding groups. I tell myself to simply get my ass out birding and see what I will see. Who gives a (f-beep) about what everyone else is seeing? Bird envy is bad news. Birdlust is bad too. Birding toward a number is the worst. Yet most of us fall victim to it. These targets we set for ourselves impart a competitive spirit onto birding whether it be with others or ourselves. Migration is often qualified by numbers, be it warbler species, FOYs or total species. We summarize our birding accomplishments with  statements such as"I found X species of warblers of today." The worth of our birding seems defined by how many warblers species or shorebird species we can find. Summarize. Compartmentalize. Categorize. 

American Redstart, CamRock County Park, Dane Co: 1 point
But there's also a quality factor. Certain bird species appear to be "worth more." If Wisconsin warblers were assigned a value based on a 3 point scale, it might go something like this:

1 point: Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-White Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Tennessee Warbler
2 points:Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Canada Warbler, Wilson's Warbler
3 points:Kentucky Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Kirtland's Warbler, Prairie Warbler,

Yellow Warber, CamRock County Park: 1 point 

When I finally got out to bird this evening I was initially afflicted with both birdlust and bird-envy. CamRock County Park in western Dane County felt like a warbler void as opposed to the "warbler heaven" a birder friend of mine texted me about earlier.

I gave myself the pep talk. "Chill the (f-beep) out...Stop it with the FML shit."  Really I care little about how many warbler species I see. But it's a bitter pill to swallow when I feel I'm getting skunked in the migrant department. What's in a number anyway? Does it define the caliber of birder I am? Perhaps so.

After my brief negative moment, like clockwork, about two to two and a half hours before sunset. the bird activity picked up. I eked out (drum roll) thirteen warbler species in "onesies and fewsies" as I tripped through the woods this evening. The onslaught is yet to come. Until then we birders will muse about whether we'll experience any "dripping"days or will the birds just pass us by for better skies to the north...

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