Birding and Listing

Okay, how can someone look at this photo and still say that birding is geeky? Seriously, going up a mountain with your digiscoping equipment is geeky? That's my buddy Clay Taylor from Swarovski. He and Bruce Webb took me out in Utah to help me get to my goal of 500 birds.

Here's a lifer Clark's nutcracker. I needed so many basic western birds, it was easy for me to get twenty lifers on a trip--not too many places I can do that anymore. Alas, I only made it to 497, but I'm sure I will hit 500 before the end of the year. I'm going to Rhode Island at the end of July and the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival in November and there are a few species I can still get in both places. Once I reach 500, I may have to give Ben over at 600 Birds a run for his money...he wants to reach 600 by the January 2010. I'm booked for the Space Coast Festival and San Diego Festival next year already...there are several pelagic species that I

There are some challenges to me being a lister. For one thing, I can be kind of picky about how I like to experience bird species. One of the target birds was a black-rosy finch. And the way to find it was to scan the mountainside in the above photo for the flocks. If you're lucky, you might get to see a flock of blackish birds against the snow. But I'd rather have this kind of look at a black rosy-finch. And I don't know how much of an effort I wanted to put up for glimpse of tiny blackish birds.

Bruce, Clay, and I scanned the mountainside for well over an hour. I didn't see rosy-finches but I did get a look at a lifer mammal--mountain goat! Whoot. The longer we were there, and the less we saw the rosy-finches, I decided it wasn't worth it and we moved on. I think I lack the singular tenacity that many listers have and that will prevent me from really getting my list up to where it could be.

Another thing that can slow me down is digiscoping. Take this beautiful black-billed magpie. We have a small pocket of black-billed magpies that live in Minnesota. I've seen them several times and enjoy them. However, this one was perched so perfectly and in such good light that Clay, Bruce and I decided that we couldn't pass it by without trying to photograph it.

When I do see a new bird, like this red crossbill, I want to digiscope the crap out of it too, perhaps spending too much time with the species and "wasting" valuable minutes getting photos missing the chance to see other new species.

Here's a female crossbill--they were so much fun to watch fly in and take apart all the pine cones on the trees. There were so many and they were so close, it almost sounded like a strange bowl of Rice Krispies as they would snap apart the cones to get at the nuts on the inside.

This photo is blurry, but check out that scary looking bill!

You can really see that strange bill that so perfectly designed to get between the teeth on the cones and access the nut meat. And I couldn't just get photos, I had to digivideo the crossbills too:

We found my lifer crossbills when we arrived at the mountainside for the rosy-finches. Clay pointed out the crossbill and we spent quite a bit of time digiscoping and digivideoing them. Perhaps, the rosy-finches were all over that mountain side while we were focused on the much closer trees loaded with crossbills and moved on by the time we went to look for them. No matter, another bird for another day, I always say.

I've always thought that any day with time spent on a boat automatically felt like an adventure, but I think I'm going to have to amend that to include mountains too. Utah is an awesome state and I hope I get to back. The lowlands are beautiful and the mountains spectacular.

Plus, it's fun to be out and about in snow but not bundled up. I had on some pants and a short sleeved shirt and my Keens with no socks and was perfectly comfortable. I think this might finally be my last Utah entry...Have I blogged it out of my system?

Although, I forgot to mention the zip line that was outside of the Cliff Lodge where Amy and I were staying. I really wanted to do it, but I do have a fear of heights. But being the pack animal I am, I knew if I stuck with Amy, she would get my scaredy cat butt up there and on the ride. It was so much fun and I totally felt like a goshawk zipping in for prey--I even held out my feet as if trying to capture unsuspecting prey...

Good times.