|Prairie Falcon having a snack, Ramona|
I jumped at the chance to go. By the way there are similar counts taking place all across our great nation. I must admit that I have always wanted to study the curious species known as birders at greater length.
Not that I carry a grudge or harbor any animus but I was once remonstrated by a haughty San Francisco client for confusing a scrub jay and a blue jay and frankly the sting still hurts.
Our group plumbed an area known as the Escondido Section. I now know that this is like High Holy Days for Birders. We were one group of many and several birders in our group had birded our designated "patch" in prior years.
We had a reporter and a photojournalist from the U-T in our group as well as our leader, a very bright woman named Phoenix Von Hendy who obviously really knew her stuff.
We left at daybreak with a couple of Beth's friends, the wonderful Bill and Dianne Atkinson, and headed for our sector, the Santa Maria Valley of Ramona. After watching and listening to these people for a few minutes I quickly realized that the real fascination for me was the birders and not the birding. That I can do at home.
Birders are a bit different and well worth observing. I learned about "needing a bird", lifelists, forked tails (a sobriquet for those unfortunate ducks and geese who have had their plumage creased by hunters who are bad shots), all sorts of new vocabulary and concepts for my cerebral quiver. Birders are a flock apart, a bit nerdy but extremely precise individuals who seem to quietly tend their own nest yet, as I saw, can still get quite nutty over a nuthatch.
|lbb - little brown bird|
Not being able to add much of value on the academic side, I was reduced to making bad bird puns, a pursuit that I indulged in for the better part of the day. Nobody dumped me in a wood rat mound, although we saw many of them and I am sure that they were sorely tempted.
I got the big lens back from Sigma and this was to be my shakedown cruise. They had to change the contact positions so that the 50/500mm would work with my Nikon. Unfortunately the camera acted out all day like a petulant child. I think the autofocus might be askew. Alas, another disastrous day with the camera.
It was very interesting to me that bird behavior seemed to have such a vital role in the identification process, on a par with plumage and song. This song swallow is solitary, you must have seen this other swallow that lives in a small flock, that sort of thing. These birders are obviously all around students of nature.
|burrowing owl and dark cow|
I sat next to Mike, a great old guy who regaled me with stories about sighting a common blackhawk during the count of 1963, which another birder failed to come over and confirm. Would have been a real coup. The one that got away. We both laughed when I pointed out to him that he was talking about an event that happened fifty years ago. Some defeats one can evidently never forget.
As I have written before and now bashfully am quoted in the paper, San Diego is an epicenter for birding in this country, although getting a handle on exact numbers is quite tricky. I heard that they were ranked both first and second in number of species listed in the country last year. The number fluctuates, I guess depending on the whim of the birds and the independents, the birds known in the trade as vagrants. In any case I have heard that we have roughly 888 bird species in the United States, San Diego County is reported to have somewhere between 492 and 515 of the total number.
I really had a nice time and want to thank Beth for the invitation. She later said that she wasn't sure if she would be able to stand me for a whole day or words to that affect but I must not have been that bad as we all parted friends after a great day spent together. If I am to ascend to birder I see that I shall have to become more diligent in my study.