I have a dilemma.....Do I bird the west coast or the east coast? That is a struggle I have. You see....to bird I feel I need to bring along my bins. My binoculars become an extension of who I am. A birder....
Wow….interesting dilemma. But how about this one.....I feel guilty as well, as here I sit in my country and listen to what is going on in Ukraine, or let’s not forget Afghanistan or the majority of Africa…In perspective, my worries are nothing as compared to that of life itself, as defined by attempting to live in other parts of the world. But sadly, as one is aside, far away….not connected to the suffering existing by someone else, be it in Ukraine or just down the street from me, as humans you see….we have really no capacity to do. We can appreciate and we can understand…we can object or cry out or give money or or or or, but bottom line is that here, it does little good for the results. Life just moves one.
What can I do is to continue to live my life knowing that life is so ever fleeting. I can live my life in the disguise of pretending that nothing is going on someplace else. I can live my life knowing that I walk the street while others cannot. I live my life simply by being aware of how others are forced to live and cope with their lives. I don’t have the political power or money or ability to change as history unfolds. That is where the guilt lies. How to live a life knowing that others have no choice in their suffering.
Yet is today any different from yesterday? Is today’s ‘self-guilt’ and inabilty to act any different from what happened in some country or down the street; 5 years ago, or 20 or? No, it doesn’t work that way. But I managed to live and make it thru life so far and again, what actions have I taken to ‘save the world’? Must I turn a blind eye to what occurs knowing that I can’t do anything about it anyhow? Or, do I ‘do something about it, knowing that it really doesn’t do any good, but I ‘act’ …I put forth some action, just because morally I know I should? Wow….quite the dilemma.
I simply don’t know…..I do know that how I live my life and what I do to help those around me, where I might have some influence or sphere of control, is what I should, can, must do. I can’t help what is being conducted in Ukraine today, but I can help my family as opposed to not thinking about helping them. I can help a neighbor as opposed to only thinking of my side of the fence. I can help my community. I can help where my ‘zone’ matches up to the zone in need of help. And that is what I do. No, as stated, it doesn’t help Ukraine or the like, but my actions do help myself cope with myself.
It has been awhile....a great while. Pete Dunne still remembers Sept 1st, 1976....as he stood alone on a table he constructed. There he was....24 years old, a pair of Leitz Binoculars ...cutoffs and a tee. Life was simple back then and so was the Cape May Hawk Watch. It has grown; since. That article always reminds me of how things begun, every time I visit Cape May and stand on that lovely platform now.
Now, here I lie, or walk....or more appropriately 'sit' in my old webbed-back chair I got from Deb's former mother-in-law. A hand-me-down none-the less, but better than a rickety table. I share my time between the east and west coast and right now, Here Lies Tubac Hawk Watch, in southeast Arizona......I am going to lay out the scene for you here, so you get an idea.
There are two tents in a large field, with a table under one of the tents. Stretched across one tent, towards the rear...is a banner showing the main hawk species found here. The highlight, is the Common Black Hawk, or perhaps the Zone Tailed. On the chain link fence is a board strapped with a tie-down and electric tape, is the board with a count from Yesterday and a Season total. The hawk watch season here is the entire month of March.
The counter is "Pete"....How odd is that, another Pete, but a different Pete. If you look at the video he is the one with a hat, pony tail, white tee, and jeans. His green Tacoma truck is in back and many times he counts from being perched on the tail of the truck. Pete is not a young buck ....not like the hawk counters at Cape May but a seasoned birder who just happens to love doing this kind of thing. He has been doing this since 2013 but the Hawk Watch has stayed about the same, just a western....low-keyed thing. Not going to change much and shouldn't ....for if it works, why change it?
Today, Wednesday the 3rd of March, had us warm to the low 80's with no wind in the morning. The sky, as you can see was blue with scattered clouds. Us, who all participate in this count.... scan the skies. When facing south, as the hawks approach.....we first catch a 'speck' of a glimpse with our binoculars, with that speck being miles away. The 'see-er' will yell out....got one. And then point out where along the horizon in comparison to the to tree line is the approach hawk. Early in the season it is just a 'one or two' thing. The hawks soar in the thermals and head 'north' for the summer. Pete will ramble on with some odd statement or two....pull up his bins and put the official stamp of ID on the hawk)s). He will keep track on his clip-board while another lady will enter into her phone. Sometimes the two do not mesh, as was the case this morning. I was chatting with a few others and staring at the board and I initially asked' ..."Any Black Hawks yet"...with a reply that yes, ...Tuesday there were two, and yet the board showed NONE for Tuesday. Thus, we found the discrepancy and the lady fixed. Apparently her program has Black Hawk and Zone-tailed all the way below all others, including the Unknown category, so something got screwed up in the official transfer. But the paper clip board ruled, and the board was updated to show 2.
But how about today.....? Nothing so far....one red-tail I believe. We talked....
Then a lady started to point out towards the west hills. A few miles away. Way up in the sky were a pair of hawks riding the thermals. They rode and rode....and north they went. Pete Id'd them as Common Black Hawks by the tail, body shape and what he said was a slight 'white' in the tail representing the tail band. .....Hmmmm..."Right, I told myself, from that far off?' I could almost see the black let alone the white they were so far away but hey, Pete has been doing this for a few years now as he spends every day in March....every day....every single day....for FREE (Hear that Cape May)....from 9-4, counting Hawks. So when Pete saids. Common Black hawk, yeah...I believe him. Actually they did look like Black Hawks as the next group of 4 played out.
Further south, approaching us....were a group of 4. "I" actually spotted these and if you look at the video, the trees way far back was the point of first sight. But the Hawks were much further away and couldn't be seen with the naked eye.... My 10x bins came in handy. Two were soaring above two others. The differences were obvious between the two on top (Red-Tails) and the two on the bottom (Black Hawks), so yes, Pete was right.
The day progressed....a couple of Coopers who breed around this parts (more than that do but these two just managed to show themselves) flew into the bushes on the east nearer the Santa Cruz River. Then a Red-Tailed came right near us and perched on a pole as if saying 'count me, count me'... But no, sadly....no count. The Hawk Watch only counts migrants coming from the south, up to the northern summer homes. A local yocal like the Red-tail gets no respect around here.
About a half hour more ....much closer and just in the open field came a low soaring Common Black Hawk. No ID really needed on this as it is very obvious it is a black hawk.
The 'black under' and the 'white band' at the tail is just a natural give-away. .....beautiful view. I was talking to a lady afterwards as I ran into her later on that day in another birding locale and was talking about it. She was there, but nature called her prior to that sighting and she, well.....she missed 'that target'... But I saw it....fantastic.
Like Cape May, there are two Pete's. Unlike Cape May, Tubac offers no 'super platform' stocked like a trout farm, tithering with scopes and binoculars. No young naturalists there to guide people the novice and no paid staff. Being here in Tubac..... you have a small community of birders, much like we find in the Forsythe Saturday Bird Walks. A group of people who embrace birding and yet, don't need the hype to bird, or to Hawk Watch in this case. Now, I must admit...when I first came to Jersey and ventured to the Cape May Platform, it was like a kid going into a baseball stadium for the first time. Utter Awe, simply utter awe. Yes, the platform at Cape May is simply inspiring to know that you made it to the 'big leagues', sort of speaking. But likewise if one ventures to Hawk Watch in PA. No platform other than what Mother Nature provides as one perches on the rocks. So Tubac, ....well, just another version of 'the' platform. Below is Hawk Count / Tubac and notice the column representing the species are not nearly that of what we find in Jersey. Yes, Jersey itself, be it Cape May or our own area in AAS, has a nice number of species to keep at eye out for. Again, each their own.
Click .....clicking.....click....pause.... Walk over and view out. No, I don't see a Little Black Dress but I do see a black bird, very lovely and very frightened and so utterly alone except for some nameless, well..... for now.... in the Mesquite tree in my courtyard, my house here. No fire escape to land upon, but only the twisted branches of the Mesquite as the moonlight, oh....perhaps wider than a mile it might seem, has come to rest upon and crossed, in style I might add....the dark color of this black bird.
I straighten.....and I too with a bit of style....I lean into the outside as my first look at a lonely one, again....not in a black dress, although perhaps someday that might be. Yet the black bird now, who sits in that Mesquite tree, criss-crossed with light from the moon, ....now appears to be just a dream. No bird...no black bird, just a dream-maker as I am fooled by the fold of branches. Oh, such a Heart Breaker I must admit; for where-ever you're going, I am going your way.
Like two drifters, we have become, one who is now further sunken into the branches of the Mesquite...though not of this world at present, yet 'off to see the world' is best to pre-suppose, for there is such a lot of world to see. Sometimes I sense, more so than think, that the bird and I, when together...we are after the same rainbow's end.
So I wait some more, ....just like one would be waiting around the bend in hopes of meeting their once 'huckleberry friend'....In the river of a moon, and me.....Hi.
I had....if you can scroll down one blog, .....a New Years birding resolution, but now, as I sit here and ponder a bit, and admittedly sometimes I just stare or take that big move and just leave to take a nap. Why not? But I want to simply 'strike that'...
No, no birding New Year's resolution for me. In fact, I really don't like the concept behind resolutions or the whole process inherent within.
So with that in mind; my 'striking' of any birding resolution just fits me. This is Jim, this is me. I am not you, nor them. "Winging it' ...is just plain old me. Too much planning creates Chaos. I used to plan, and in fact even have blogged on the perils of. I might have dwelled on all possible variables to the situation, which inevitably brought upon a written matrix to guide me to the best possible end result. In the past, as a younger man falling victim to 'what was supposed to be' or to the 'teachings of others', that dang matrix would just drive me nuts. Yes be it written on paper or done on (egads) the digital world of the computer, ....lines and columns and data would be collected or written upon. But I am telling you; Planning creates Chaos. Winging it creates Adventure.
So, no planning, no resolutions. Just pure 'winging' it. The term 'Winging' it' comes from the theater. Oh yes, "the theater, the theater....oh what happened to the theater". Forward to 45 seconds and listen to Danny Kaye.
But the term 'winging it' stemmed from the 19 century theater, way prior to Danny Kaye although I bet he was born pretty close to it. When an actor/actress was called upon to fill in for another, and they 'nay not the lines', well....they improvised, or winged it.
But as a birder.....winging it at least sounds very appropriate given the subject matter. If I plan and create a resolution as I did in 2017 with birding, I just confuse myself. My birding becomes 'birding with intent' and we all know that if you go looking for something, you shall never find. For instance, have you ever gone looking for a 'Road Runner' and found it? Or a Goshawk? Or just about any bird with the exception of the 'usual'? So when creating a resolution filled of that 'type of bird', I just set myself up for failure. Chaos...is derived from planning.
The year 2022..... Birding. I am just winging it. I have a pair of binoculars to look out the window....I will go birding when I want, when I choose. I will enjoy nature as natural instead of planned. I will hear the crunch of iced snow beneath my feet or feel the sponginess of moss. I will have bitter wind brush against my face or hear the boring yet melancholy call of a mourning dove. Alone or in a group. The sea or the desert or even a mountain might call. Do birds go in the ocean? Any continent might due, yet one. A pure chaotic adventure is the only One I might ever know. Yes, I might bird alone, yet it won't be lonely. Someplace in those last few lines hit upon this below. Anyhow, enjoy 'winging it'.
Two things....2....and only two my dear feathered delighted friends, just to set you down a straight fly-zone as we work towards the depth of 2022.
I was talking with Deb the other day as we reminisced about past 'turns of a year'. Remember in 2000, when essentially the technology world was going to fall apart since no one quite knew how computers would 'accept and address' the new century? But even as 2000 came, and went...and sadly computers were still with us, .... we then postponed the 'conspiracy theory' that the world was coming to a close since the new century doesn't technically start until 2001.
Speaking of 'world coming to an end'....what happened to that Maya Calendar thing?
Anyhow....2022 it is now, and let me ask of you; do you have your birding goals set? I bring that as a question---for a goal is not that bad of a thing to have. As I perused thru one of my old journals, and this one dating from 2017, this is what I found.
Birding goals for 2018 were in New Jersey: Northern Goshawk, Virginia Rail, Cackling goose, Brown Pelican, Least Bittern, Cliff Swallow, Sedge Wren, Vesper Sparrow, Kentucky Warbler, Least Flycatcher and Northern Waterthrush. Now being a relatively new-comer to the fine state of Jersey, those were birds that were on my jersey list.
Since that time I have seen the Goshawk, I have heard the Virginia Rail several times (not bad), seen the Cackling Goose as well as the Pelican and the Cliff Swallow, but have woefully fallen short on the rest. So, am I to just assume that the remaining are just carried over like some old accounting trick on taxes to the following year? Perhaps my tax situation has changed and that particular bird, while nice to have, is not on my list anymore.
Wasn't it Alfred Tennyson who said:
"Ring out, wild bells....to the Wild Sky."
If such is true, the wild sky being my upcoming cycle of birding would most likely include the 'rest' on that dated list from 2017. Looking at that list, I don't think the Sedge Wren at Jakes Landing will occur since I will be in Australia for the balance of the upcoming months and Sedge Wrens are winter wrens around here. The elusive Northern Waterthrush, so seemingly easy to find...has just not made a visual impression upon me. I really feel it is one of those types of birds that just 'appear' and are not sought after.
The least bittern? ...while nice...it might also fall under the same category of a bird not easily sought, but just accidentally found. I feel I have a shot at the Kentucky Warbler if I make a point to bird some of the 'tall' trees upwards. The vesper sparrow? ... That is asking for one. The flycatcher? Ditto...
So my list has dwindled down to the Kentucky Warbler. If I tackle just one....just one...and only that sole creature, well...I might have a chance.
The other thing I would like to do as a goal is to 'bird' at least once per week. That isn't asking a lot and is doable since nature, is nature creeps towards us with every step we take. Bird the wires, the bushes....the lawns, let alone the refuges or parks or the shore or mountains or the skies. I just want to document these within my journal as I reflect from day to day, week to week...and certainly they add up to a year.
The second thing I wanted to point to you; beyond that of your birding goal'.... is that of visiting the Bird Forum. I have supported this forum since 2006 and have used it to find birds here in the US as I travel, to discuss optics and equipment...to find birding pals in South America and Australia..to sell or buy birding cameras's / binoculars etc... Truly a valuable resource. I don't like to participate much on e-bird but find the Bird Forum a nice resting spot for my attention when inclement weather hits and I can't bird in the field. Give it a shot.
Bottom line...two things. Your birding goals and Birding Forum.
Jan 10th....my flight to Australia departs...I will be in a foreign land. As Robert Lewis Stevenson once wrote in an opening stanza of a poem:
Up into the cherry tree
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad in foreign lands.
Like all poetry....or art, what you perceive of the meaning differs from what others might think, thus, does it make a difference then of what he truly meant, or...in many cases, didn't mean but later was implied by scholars?
None-the-less, Australia is my cherry tree.....just me. I grasp and hold tight of the trunk as I meander thru various visa's and permits, designed to keep COVID away. I seek out a way to be in Australia where I have, what at times seems like....lost relatives. A portion of my family reside in Australia and I haven't had the opportunity since late 2019, to linger in that foreign land.
Yet now the measures to not just look abroad, as I have done that for awhile now, but to actually 'be abroad' ....exist. So I, now, in these weeks prior....lie in wait and gently bide my time, so yes, I am still just 'looking' for now.
When in Australia I will reside with my crew....my daughter....my grandkids. With me I will pack, a fine binocular meant to welcome in nature and to offer, as I hope... a seed to my grandkids to build upon as they too might learn to welcome nature. Actually they have learned, for they do allow nature to beckon upon them whether that of the land, plants...birds. But the binocular I bring to them as an offering of my visit, will allow a 3D or a 'birds-eye' view of just that; birds.
So a walk in the park....of nature and things....now has new definition... Lying while Birding:
I see it
so they won't keep telling you
where it is.
----Naomi Shihab Nye---
Well.....I took a short Hiatus but have found myself back to blogging.....Currently I live on both sides of our wonderful country and bird frequently SE Arizona as well as South Jersey.
Just the other day Deb and I were out taking a walk in the desert south of Tucson. The Freeport McMahon company (copper mining), has provided the locals with a natural birding area of desert habitat.
At this time of the year, the popular kid of the month would have to be White Crowned Sparrows. They are floating in just about all the cactus and ground cover, picking away at seeds. The juveniles are very bland looking and the easiest way to ID them is to see their close approximately to the adults. Bingo....you have them. Even if you are wrong and it ends up another type of sparrow, 90% of the time you are right. So just learn to live with it, I suppose.
We also birded Arivaca which is the image above. Just outside Arivaca lies the Buenas Aries National Wildlfe Refuge. Their are several locations to the Refuge and one of them is south of Arivaca and is where the refuge is attempting to introduce the Masked Bobwhite Quail which has most likely been extinct from the United States since 1900. But scientists have been working at Buenas Aries since 1985 attempting to introduce these back into the wild. Currently they have been unsuccessful in doing so due to the range, habitat loss....etc. If you are lucky, you might be able to view them as they are brought in from Mexico (imported birds, go figure) but....they are in an enclosed pen and I have never seen them.
But the good news is that if you are unlucky in your quest, your best bet is to head on down the road aways to the La Gitana, which just happens to be the oldest bar in the oldest continually inhabited townsite. So best to hightail it back to small community of Arivaca and seek out the tacos available at La Gitana Cantina
Simply put....my kind of place..... Stick around as we attempt to make it thru another COVID winter and hopefully will do some birding myself.
This was Polly.....born Feb 12th, 1919 and passed away August 16th, 2021. She was my mom.....
You know, a mom leaves a mighty large impression on a person....all the little things said and done and taught and scolded upon, as one lives life. It also seems that a mom does 'just that' their entire life. Their influence is not bestowed upon just the 'under 10 crowd' but throughout life, as long as we can stretch it.
But to go back....to when I was under 10, well....5 in this case. We were living in Stockton, California at the time. In our back yard we had fruit trees of all varieties, sticking up in the grass, sometimes with tall grass and fruit droppings nestled down or perhaps stepped on and embedded in the This was a haven for worms and insects. Birds too... and I only wish I could recall what species visited us. Yet I do recall one and that was because my mom told me once....she said' 'Jimmy jones (as she called me), when the Robins come in the yard, that means that spring is here', (apparently even in California at the time).
So my love of birds started with that statement and from then, a yearly reflection of that story as I view a robin anytime in the year. My mom started me in the 'bird business' and it has been a life long passion.
But my mom also taught me about nature in general. While I am not one that can rattle off like others might, I do appreciate and perhaps more so than others do, that of nature. My mom taught me how to pick up bees without getting stung. You see, it is crucial that you become part of the habitat. They 'find you' and you don't go chasing them. Once you are in their habitat, and yes, those same fruit trees that attracted Robins and worms and other things, also was an attraction for bumble bees. They stirred around the trees and landed on peaches and apricots; on and off the ground. As I would find a dry spot to sit on the grass, I would lay still and move my hand, ever so slowly to a bee resting on a failed fruit. My fingers would approach them and the fruit, and I would be that fruit. They would just transfer their body to my fingers and devour the juices stuck to my 5 year old hands. Birds and bees. My mom introduced me to that; of all things.
My mom was a naturalist in her own way....didn't really know the names of birds as she would ask me. She grew up on the Wishka, which was a polish community located on the Olympic Peninsula, north of Aberdeen, WA. Here, on the farm......she learned about nature. She was especially aware of cows, which to them....was part of life but also part of nature. She would tell me that as a kid, it was her job to bring in the cows, especially when it was going to storm. But bringing in the cows is no easy task, and although she had a portion of her 10 siblings to help her, they had to 'know the cows' and understand them. She had to know where they would be on the property and once there, how does a kid 'bring them in?". From the pastures, to the trails, to the barn..... so in some sense, she was a Cow Whisperer.
As an adult....she would go on 3-4 mile walks every day, even when she neared 100 years old. Her tales coming home always included something of nature. Perhaps the Kingbird resting on the wires before bellowing out it's call, or a snake on the path that she would spook and then, for some reason unknown to her, would be able to slither into a hole. I remember her asking me...'how does that snake know where that hole is, when they are both on the ground and the snake can't see the hole, like I can standing here?". I never had a reply. One time on her walks she was spotting by a mountain lion as it was nestled under a tree on a bluff. She just kept walking. Her walk passed near the Mill Creek River and fish ladders were in place and yes, she wondered about the fish. How do they know to swim to their place of birth? How can they jump those 'ladders'.... The osprey was another topic of thought with my mom. For days she would walk and watch and count the times the osprey made a dive for a fish, and she would tally up the times it dove and came up empty or bird in beak'.
Nature was part of my mom since she was a little girl. Just like nature has been part of my life since I too, was a little guy. My mom still talked of Robins and she even recalled me (jimmy jones) picking up bees and never getting stung.
Thanks mom..... you were such a huge part of my life and now, while passed, you still are. love jimmy jones.
I took a walk today....in the rain no less with Just a drizzle barely touching me it seemed, and yet this was after the entirety of a day in which no sun shone, just water falling.
I passed a man on my left as I walked, ....who had his red car pulled outside and he was here washing it. Strange I thought. I walked on.....
And next to him was a pine, ....still not showing signs of new growth but long in mourning for spring I suppose. Embedded within the boughs was a slight movement as it caught my eye. I paused my walk; it then occurred to me that the colors were of a titmouse as it just sat and watched me pass, but mostly I suppose it was looking at the man washing the car, in the rain. The bird most likely could witness him and me, at the same time. With their eyes on either side, I imagine they view 360 or close....
Moving further along....I passed some long, thin brown lines, strewn along the path haphazardly on the pavement. Worms....escaping their underground encampments which by now are mostly washed away. Worms escape to be on top and survive another day, as they have learned. And yet, someday...one day....they will perform that same act and perhaps will find the sun, suddenly escaping from the clouds, and emit heat upon the pavement and those upon it. At that time, the worm becomes scorched, will dry out....shrivel up.... and lay etched into the stone sidewalk as its last days caught up to it.
A long ways on and I come across goose poop..... wet now. I wonder if I could follow a flock of geese simply by following their trails? Do you think as such? Do geese poop in flight or does the act of flight tighten them up enough to not so poop? Not sure....
Around the bend I again look down and find this time, just water. It rolls around and is transparent and reflective as well. I often wonder about water as while we need it, we also discard it. My discarded water will become, one day.....years from now I am sure, ....water that someone else will drink. Just as I am drinking that of a lost soul, isn't that a strange thought....
Next as I continue to walk around that bend once more....as I repeat my steps....I look upon the trees, all laden with dead leaves or totally blank with only twigs silhouetted against the sky. But I see little water droplets, hugging the limbs where a bud will soon be, and begging for the wind to crop up, just so they can fall to the ground and settle in.
My walk.......not bad.
A mite in splendid motley clad,
I mark the field, I know the hour
When choicest morsels may be had;
When blooms are gay, when days are glad,
And thistledown wafts in a shower
To dance and drift and disappear,
I, who was not, am with you here.