Monday, January 12, 2009

My First Bird of 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

It took some doing, getting a "choice" initial bird of 2009.

First I had to make sure, as I rose out of bed on New Year's Day, that I did not look out the window. That's hard for a bird watcher to do. It goes against our very nature.

Then I had to find my blindfold—a brown handkerchief with birds printed on it, a gift from a friend on a birding trip to Peru. I thought this well-traveled doo-rag might help my Good Bird Karma on the first day of a new year. Blindfold in place, I slowly made my way up the stairs to the kitchen. I shouted for Phoebe to help me make my coffee and to locate my personal bird finder, Julie Zickefoose.

While the coffee brewed I sat down at the kitchen table to wait for my birding year to commence. Phoebe laughed when I told her what was up—she understands the depths of my obsession. Liam thought it was cool and asked us to blindfold him, too. That would have to wait.

Waiting but not in vain. Do I look happy to be blind folded? Photo by Julie Z.

Julie entered the kitchen, got me my coffee, grabbed her binocs and started calling out birds.

The conversation (if you can call it that) went like this:

Julie: "My first bird was a cardinal. I suppose that's too common for you, huh?"
Me: "Yep. Nice but booooring!"
Julie: "Junco?"
Me: "Mmmm. That's OK, but I'd prefer..."
Julie: "Robin!"
Me: "That's a good one!"
Julie: "Let me get it in the scope for...DANG it just flew!"
Me: "Bummer."

This went on. We adjourned to the birding tower, me still blind folded. The hypothesis behind the move was that the height would give us (or at least Julie) better visual command of the farm, thus increasing our chances of finding something I'd accept. The pressure increased.

And the bird sightings continued:
Mourning dove (no), starling (no way!), house sparrow (no #$@&^% way!), Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker, song sparrow, white-breasted nuthatch... all turned down my Mr. Picky Pants of the Birds.

An hour passed. Julie started mumbling comments under her breath. I was holding out for something special. Like the irregularly appearing sapsucker who'd been at the feeder, or a fly-by pileated, the sharpie we'd been seeing... something slightly more interesting than an everyday feeder bird.

Julie: "White-throated sparrow?"
Me: "YES! That's a good one!"
Julie: "OK it's in the scope. No, wait! OK! No. Ok! Hurry, while it's still there!"

I removed my blindfold but kept my eyes shut until I felt the familiar sensation of rubber eyecup hitting my glasses, pressing them back against my nose. I opened my right eye and there it was, a beautiful tan-striped-morph white-throated sparrow! Species #1 for 2009.

White-throated sparrow (tan-striped morph) photo by Drew Weber. Thanks Drew!

Me: "Awesome! Thanks!"
Julie: "Remind me never to do this again, OK"
Me: "And now for my SECOND bird..."

Happy camper: A good first bird of 2009! Photo by Julie Z.

Happy Birdy New Year to everyone!

I think I'll keep a year list this year! But I'm getting rid of the blindfold.


On January 12, 2009 at 6:33 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

It is a good thing that you paint here an accurate picture of what it is like to live with Bill of the Birds. Your fans need to know. Truly, I think there is no better illustration of the difference between us as human beings. I raise the blind on New Year's Day, and the first bird I see is fine with me. Hey, I'm wasted from the party the night before. You, on the other hand, stagger upstairs with a blindfold on and embark on a Quest for a Good Bird that involves three other people and stretches well over an hour. I bow to your...magnificence. Or drive. Or something. I just bow, love.

On January 12, 2009 at 7:08 PM BLRem said...

lol!!! Loved the post, Bill, and loved your added comments, Julie. You two really have a lot of fun together and it's hard to read a post by either of you without sporting a smile...

Bill, the blindfold thing is hilarious!!! How exciting, once the blur leaves your eyes ;)
And Julie was really good to indulge you ....sounds like you were on your way to a fun, bright new year. Glad you both got your birds in your own perfect way - Happy 2009!

On January 12, 2009 at 8:31 PM KatDoc said...

I will have to check the ABA regs, but I think that is completely cheating. First bird of the year should just be a coincidence, the first one you happen to see (or hear) not one that is hand-picked for you.

[This from someone who got up before dawn and drove to where she could hear owls in order to get a Good First Bird for 2009.]

And Julie, you are just enabling him, you know.

One question: How the heck did you climb the ladder to the tower in a blindfold?

~Kathi, still laughing at Bill, who is certifiably insane

On January 12, 2009 at 8:40 PM NCmountainwoman said...

To be a REAL first bird sighting, you have to take your chances and live with it. I can't believe a man who has been so brave in other endeavors would stack the deck on his first bird sighting. You are otherwise so clever that I'm certain there is some rhyme or reason to your practice. Please share it with us.

The thought of Julie (wasted from the party the night before) leading you up the stairs and patiently waiting for "just the right bird" is hilarious.

On January 12, 2009 at 9:13 PM Dave Lewis said...

I thought I was condolences to Julie...

PS-The word verification was'butwire', does that have something to do with my blog?

On January 13, 2009 at 1:10 AM caroline said...

I have two friends who drove 3 hours from the Black Hills to the Missouri River to see the yellow-billed loon visiting South Dakota, so they could count it as their first bird of 2009.
They were miffed beyond belief when they had been studiously avoiding noticing any feathered creatures along the way, a mob of rooster pheasants flew practically through their windshield. Hard to pretend you didn't see them. So boring in SD, but better than some who had to tally a starling or House sparrow.
They did get to see the loon, by the way.

Caroline at 44N 103W, who counted a chickadee as bird #1. The Townsend's solitaire was right on his tailfeathers.

On January 13, 2009 at 6:33 AM Jayne said...

Well, I can certainly understand not wanting the first bird to be a starling or house sparrow! LOLOL... would loved to have been a fly on the wall for the festivities!

On January 13, 2009 at 9:42 AM dguzman said...

Ah love... Makes you do crazy things for your picky-pants spouse. Even for over an hour!

Hey! My word verif is bumble!

On January 13, 2009 at 9:51 AM Rondeau Ric said...

What's so unusual about a blindfold and picking the year bird? Sounds normal to me..... considering it was BOTB.

My first a bluejay, 2nd a mature bald eagle flying along the beach.

On January 13, 2009 at 11:46 AM robin andrea said...

Now that's a new year's day ritual I've never considered. I didn't pay attention to what bird I saw first on the January 1st, but I just checked my iPhoto and saw that I photographed a red-shouldered hawk that day. I'd say that was a fine first day find.

Great story here. The visuals are terrific.

On January 13, 2009 at 1:55 PM Cindie U. said...

I was laughing as I read this, but loved the fact that Julie was the first comment. You two are wonderful. I enjoy your blogs and look forward to meeting you at a bird event in the future.

PS. Mine was Mourning dove...boring, but I didn't cheat.

On January 13, 2009 at 5:21 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

All the ladies on the blog say YEAH!

Please continue to give him a hard time, people. I am LOVING IT.

On January 13, 2009 at 6:43 PM cyberthrush said...

Bill, you would appear to have a severe and untreatable case of congenital avian-obsessive, anal-compulsive savant syndrome... CONGRATULATIONS!!

On January 13, 2009 at 9:25 PM OpposableChums said...

I spent New Years in a house on an island off the coast of Maine. Sitting bleary-eyed at the table on the morning of January 1rst, trying to wash the cobwebs out of my brain with strong, black coffee, I heard my brother say, "Hey, Jase, there's something BIG out there."

I turned around, my eyes widened, every muscle I owned grew taut, and I lunged for the bins.

A Rough-legged Hawk. My first, and my first bird of the year.

Omens, anyone? I think this is gonna be a goooooood year...

On January 14, 2009 at 6:22 PM Bill of the Birds said...

These accusations of cheating sting my sensitive nature. But at least I had a good bird to start 2009! So there!

On January 18, 2009 at 6:42 PM Mary said...

Ah, yes, all fun. Very funny! But, if I were part of the family, I'd give you 10 minutes. Flat.


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