Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Wrap-up

Battling 75 mile per hour winds, I tried to protect my eyes from airborne gravel while my bared legs stung from the grit being constantly thrown against them.  Sometimes I was reduced to a literal standstill, my burning legs barely able to keep me from being thrown backwards.  I only opened my eyes wide enough to recognize a pair of Red-tailed Hawks and a single American Kestrel, my only birds of the run.  As I wove out a 6.65 mile course along the mountainous dirt roads surrounding our house earlier today, I ruminated about the year that was quickly coming to a close.  I mostly thought about running, which is what normally occupies my thoughts on runs.  But in the process of thinking about my training, the races I've run, the races I plan on running, and the upcoming track season, birds were also omnipresent.  These two subjects, before completely alien and separate from each other, have now become almost completely intertwined throughout the course of the year.  I cannot go on a run and not also be birding.  After all, I've been obsessively birding since the age of six, while the running bug didn't bite me until a mere 1.5 years ago.  Birds have kept me motivated to train ("If I don't run, Bunny Rabbit might beat me!"), and the Sweaty Sanderlings have kept me birding during cross country season, a time when birds might otherwise get lost in the fray.

Regarding numbers, I finished with a total of 202 species.  I ran a total of 1273 miles.

Oh yeah, I got a haircut.

Welch here:  Sometime soon I'll be writing a 2011 recap, which will include our trip to the Nike Cross Regionals - Southwest Race in Arizona.  I finished the year with 214 species and 1,111 miles.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flaming Fall

Having been suffering from the dreary college application process, my SWSA list has not grown much recently.

And it didn't seem like that was going to change.

This morning I peered out the window--the sky was a bleak shade of gray, and I could see water droplets hitting the nearby pond. "I won't see much today," I thought.

I pulled on some shoes and went out the door, my mind busy planning a 12-mile loop on the dirt roads around my house. Having selected my route, I realized that the sky that the sun had pierced through the clouds, highlighting the flaming maples lining the scenic road. A cool autumn wind ruffled my hair. I quickened my pace, spurred on by the glorious fall day.

I heard the faint calling of White-throated Sparrows. I slowed slightly, and a flash of white caught my eye. A Red-headed Woodpecker briskly tore apart an ash tree.

This species has gotten much more common in my county in the last several years, perhaps do to the large number of dead and dying ash trees.
A bit further on I came upon a flock of American Pipits, a lone Palm Warbler, and a couple Eastern Meadowlarks--time for them to head south!

Pygmy-Owl After Dark

Due to the unfortunate reality called “school” that affects most people my age, I have not been doing too much dedicated birding lately.  However, because of the demands of being in the midst of cross country season, I have been running in excess of 40 miles per week, providing excellent opportunities for “Sweaty Sanderling” birds.  Despite this quantity of running, I have only seen two new SWSA birds since my last posting to this blog in July . . . Red Crossbill and Northern Pygmy-Owl.  This post is written to commemorate the finding of the latter species.

My cousin was visiting from Austria and we spent a day exploring Rocky Mountain National Park.  We returned home late and missed our XC practice on that fateful day of October the 3rd.  An overly tired Welch, stiff from a long day in the car insisted we run after dinner.  This was inconvenient in many ways . . .  one, it doesn’t feel to good to run after a meal, and two, it was nearly dark.  But I had to run, and run I did.  A half-mile in, I felt like puking due to the unseemly amount of elk, beans, vegetable stir-fry, and other delicacies I had consumed only minutes earlier.  The feeling didn’t subside until I finished the 7-mile slog of a run, but I would find it to be well worth the discomfort.

In the rapidly fading light, I passed our driveway, dropping off Welch, who had a shorter distance to run.  Here, I heard a lone Green-tailed Towhee meow its final salute to the passing day.  I kept running.  Soon after, I heard another call, this one welcoming the night.  This, my friends, was the call of one of the most awesome birds on planet Earth, the toot . . . toot . . . toot of the Northern Pygmy-Owl.  I hollered for Welch, but he had already retreated into the well-lit interior of the house.  “Sucks for him,” I sadly thought as I finished my run.
SWSA Totals
Miles Run: 957
Species: 184

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tejano Trudge

I went running this morning, and it reminded me that there's a blog that I'm supposed to be writing on. So here I am. I've only run twice in the past 5 weeks, mostly due to a large amount of time spent in Texas and getting my wisdom teeth taken out, which made moving from the couch unadvisable for a few days. This morning's run was completely uneventful except for one new SWSA bird, the belted kingfisher.

I was only stupid enough to go running once while I was in Texas. It was hot and during Camp Tejano itself there was no time to go running. While I was staying with my grandparents afterwards it was hot and humid, but there was plenty of time. I headed out to Emma Long Metropolitan park with my grandparents. I ran and birded while my grandparents sat in the shade, drank coffee, and ate banana bread. I found 35 species in the park while running and 12 new SWSA birds. Scissor-tailed flycatchers and black-crested titmice were everywhere. I didn't run for long because it was already 95 degrees in the shade (it got up to 106 in the shade that day). I was also just being wimpy and sitting under a tree eating homemade banana bread while listening to western kingbirds sounded better to me than running.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Maine-iac Running

I had intended to get in regular runs while attending the Hog Island Audubon Camp, not only to add to my Sweaty Sanderling list, but also to keep in shape for a 5K I was running two days after I returned to Colorado. As it turned out, however, there were absolutely no chances to lace up on the island. The schedule was packed, and the fractured network of trails on the island could be utterly bewildering if one strayed from the main path (as I have a tendency of doing). In fact, one of the attendees of the adult Field Ornithology session decided to go for a quick jog through the woods behind the main campus, and nobody saw her for another four hours. I resorted to running between buildings and of course, I was hoping that something cool would be in sight on the adjacent Muscongus Bay, like a Black Guillemot, but this only happened when I was walking between buildings!

I did manage to get in a quick four-mile run while staying at the Seitz residence the morning before camp started. Speeding along a busy rural road with absolutely no shoulder whatsoever, I instantly started picking up new SWSA species. Eastern species that I rarely encounter were now calling on all sides . . . Northern Cardinals and Eastern Towhees leading the pack. In fact, the towhee was a lifer for me! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird flitted from flower to flower in a blooming shrub; a Prairie Warbler trilled somewhere off in the distance; an Ovenbird gave its loud, eerie call from somewhere nearby in the thick oaks edging in on the road; an adult male Eastern Bluebird peered down from its perch on a nearby power line; and a Red-eyed Vireo called from some fruit trees in someone’s front yard. I even heard what could only have been a distant Mourning Warbler, but as I am unfamiliar with their song, I missed out on that lifer possibility. I finished the run with six new SWSA species, and one lifer.

Oh, and by the way, Hog Island was awesome! If you ever have the chance, do it!

Atlantic Puffins on Egg Rock Island
There is absolutely no running allowed here, as there are active nests on the ground everywhere.

SWSA Totals
Miles Run: 525
Species: 182

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Incapacitated Sanderling and the 5K that wasn't to be

I had a brilliant idea. Sign up for my first 5K! I've been stalling for a couple years. So, I picked one out, registered, and was ready to go. I even started doing some hard-core interval training to speedify myself.

Then I injured myself.

I don't really know what it is--tendonitis, it feels like--but after two weeks of not running, I decided on Wednesday to go for a run since I was feeling better. I felt great during the run--but the next morning, when I woke up, I was painfully reminded that there is no such thing as a happy ending. Regretfully, I had to skip the run, which was today.

Last week, every time I remembered this sad fact, I cursed extensively, luciously, and creatively under my breath.

I have vowed to not run for a month. In the meantime, I've decided to become a bodybuilder. Just kidding.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sweaty, Bloody, Sanderling

We jumped off the road and into the shrubbery, ran, or rather fell, across a small creek and then ran/waded through hip-high murky water. A flock of Blue-winged Teal and Mallards circled overhead. The Swamp Run had begun.

The Swamp Run involves running across a couple miles of woods, creeks, and uhh...Swamp ending at the house of the high school Cross Country coach.

We swam across a fast-flowing creek, then came to a seemingly impenetrable stand of cattails, but we ran through them anyway. I exclaimed in surprise as my leg sank a couple feet in the mud as we tried to cross a stream. I managed to grab a nearby tree and hoist myself out of the slime.
We ran through a wet meadow of sedges interspersed with showy purple irises. Soon the purple was joined by the red of blood dripping from my knees as the the sharp sedges cut across my skin. 2 Sedge Wrens called.
We cut into some wet woods and were immediately met with a cheerful and malicious welcoming committee of Deer Flies and mosquitoes. I sprinted ahead, hoping to outrun the fierce motes. A sharp pain shot up my leg. I looked down and saw a barberry spine neatly implanted in my shin.
I had a dilemma: Run slowly and carefully to avoid the thorns and be eaten eaten alive, or, sprint ahead and have the skin torn off my legs by the abundant roses, Prickly-ashes, raspberries and barberries. I chose the latter.
The sound of Red-eyed vireos, Ovenbirds and pewees echoed through the forest, occasionally joined by my howls of pain as my skin turned to shreds.
I broke out of the forest and came to another swamp, with its robust population of Poison Sumac. I dodged between them, concentrating on trying to avoid the smooth shiny leaves. A Whoop of joy from behind me made me look up to see the road that was our destination. We hollered in exultation as we sprinted with new energy across a mowed lawn and up to the road.
I looked down at my knees, shins and ankles. They were unrecognizable--covered with scratches and bleeding freely. A friend exclaimed, "that was the most painful experience of my life." We all heartily agreed. However, I had added a species to my SWSA list: Sedge Wren.

Later, on seeing the state of of lower legs someone asked me why I had decided to partake in such a run. That's a good question.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Taco Bell + Trail Run ≠ Fun

In retrospect, eating two deliciously-disgusting 7-Layer Burritos from Taco Bell twenty minutes before a semi-difficult trail run probably wasn’t the best idea. However, after the effects subsided (the effects being extremely painful abdominal cramps and the need to stop every 300 feet to wait out the nauseating sensation of needing to heave beans, rice, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato all over the place), Welch and I got some pretty good SWSA birds.

We were running on the Lion Gulch Trail to Homestead Meadows, which is situated in Larimer County right between Pinewood Springs and Estes Park at an elevation of 7335 feet. From the road, the trail takes a steep downhill descent to a tributary of the Little Thompson River, which it follows for three miles up canyon to “Homestead Meadows,” a mountain park chalk full of old homesteads, all of which have been abandoned since the 1930’s. In addition to the historical value of this site, the habitat conflagration of lower-elevation Ponderosa Pines and higher-elevation firs along with a smattering of Quaking Aspens make for some superb birding.

One of many dilapidated structures.

After the Taco Bell side-effects had subsided and I was able to concentrate my full attention on birds and footing, so not to have a rocky wipeout, I started picking up birds instantly . . . a Western Warbling-Vireo doing its “Figure-8” call from the Narrowleaf Cottonwoods along the creek, a Cordilleran Flycatcher pseet-ing from somewhere on my left, and a Western Tanager warbling its husky robin-like song from somewhere up the hill. Once we actually got to the meadows, we really started racking up the list with Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dusky Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, and Lincoln’s Sparrow all making their appearance.

As we trudged back up the final hill to the parking lot (it seemed a whole lot shorter coming down…), we calculated the total of new Sweaty Sanderling species . . . six!


But that was two days ago. This evening, Joel and I took the pain and did our third trail run in three days. This time, our trail of choice was the Antelope Trail nearby our hometown of Lyons. Although we often drive/run by the turn-off for this trailhead, I’ve only been past the trailhead once, and that was only for a few hundred yards. After the first mile of twisting-turning, uphill madness through juniper enshrouded slopes (complete with Spotted Towhees, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers), the view opens up into a huge foothills meadow with a sizeable Black-tailed Prairie Dog colony. The trail skirts along this, however, and traces the edge of the Ponderosa forest. We scored two new SWSA birds, a Rock Wren calling from an isolated jumble of granite boulders and a Yellow-breasted Chat running through its eccentric collection of odd noises and sounds. The chance to explore new territory was well worth the pain and our now-dead legs.

I’m thinking about a nice, short, flat run tomorrow…


2011 SWSA Totals:

Miles Run=465


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

East Meets West

We live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and thus we generally run among western birds. This spring and summer, we have about three weeks of work for the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. From June 2-9, we did our initial survey and this put us in the company of not only some of our everyday bird species, but also some birds considered to be eastern, as well as the expected Great Plains specialties. Our atlas blocks are far enough from home that we live on the road (eat, sleep, work/observe birds, and of course, run).

Running Wheat Fields

We ran most days and this took us through several habitats - wheat fields, short grass prairie, tall grass prairie, sand hills, and riparian. We imagined we'd be running on pancake flat terrain, but that was hardly the case.

Arickaree River


Western Kingbird - Joel Such

Eastern Kingbird - Marcel Such

Orchard Oriole - Joel Such

Western Meadowlark with Nesting Material
by Marcel Such

Ring-Necked Pheasant - Marcel Such

Grasshopper Sparrow - Marcel Such

Common Nighthawk - Joel Such

New SWSA Birds:
Ring-necked Pheasant
Wild Turkey
Northern Bobwhite
Common Nighthawk
Red-headed Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird
Western Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Cassin's Sparrow
Lark Bunting
Grasshopper Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Great-tailed Grackle
Orchard Oriole

Monday, May 23, 2011

No school + Migration = Running

School is officially done for the year for me and I'm so relieved that I can't stop rubbing it in everybody face. I decided to celebrate not having to wake up early and do school with waking up early and going running/birding. I've been operating off mostly sugar and lack of sleep the for past month. As Delmi can attest, I get extremely talkative and hyper without enough sleep. I started off down the nature path close to my house, which has been getting a surprisingly good migration the past few days. Almost immediately I mopped up most of the common warblers that were not on my SWSA list because of my sad lack of running during the migration.
Soon I had three vireos, nine warblers, two flycatchers, and one cuckoo among other birds. Tomorrow I'll be heading out to the country to run around some flooded fields, so hopefully I will get some shorebirds, ducks, and the second county record of a Wilson's Phalarope.

New SWSA birds = 15
SWSA total = 137

Friday, May 20, 2011

Warblers (and such)

Spring is awesome. On Tuesday, I decided to warm up for my bio final by doing the five-mile Reed's Lake loop. Fifty-seven species, eighteen warblers, and one very frightened young mother with a stroller who I nearly ran down because I was overly focused on a singing Canada Warbler.

Yesterday, I put in another run and added a few more SWSA birds, including Yellow-breasted Chat, Bell's Vireo, and Black-chinned Hummingbird. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, there was a flight back home to California between those two runs...

SWSA= 174

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sorry CO boys

Respect your elders, or be obliterated.

I went out running for the first time in almost two weeks last night. Since my last run, a LOT of new birds have come in, and I scored nineteen new SWSA birds. Goodies like Veery, Barred Owl, Common Nighthawk, Chestnut-sided Warbler...SWSA = 153

Panting as I finished off my seven miles, I tried thinking of how different SWSA would respond to the situation. If BR was with me, he would have been like, "Ahhh nice little warm-up, now let's put in fifty miles!" Masai would have said, "I've been waiting here for you for two hours. You're slow. Hey, where's Welch, let's beat him up!" Pippin would have drawn upon her vast reserves of power hidden in her hair and punched a random passerby in the face. Delmi probably would have tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. Osama bin Laden would be like, "Oh man...wait nevermind I'm still dead."

Oh, and Rosy would look puzzled and say, "Huh? What's the Sweaty Sanderlings?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Migration So Far

I guess I should actually post something about all of the stuff I've been seeing on my recent bi-pedal exploits, instead of running the risk of banishment. We're sorry to hear about the Skinky's recent injury, but I am happy to report that my knee hasn't bothered me at all for the last week. It seems as though I've left that regrettable experience in the past (*knocks on wood*).

On a five-mile run this afternoon, I saw an incredible total of thirty species, of which three were new for my SWSA list . . . Yellow Warbler, Lazuli Bunting, and White-throated Swift. Those first two were new for my regular, non-running year list, and the swift, well, they’ve been around for a few weeks, but they’re kind of hard to spot while running. On a six mile run yesterday afternoon, I saw my first SWSA Bullock’s Oriole. On May 5th, I had my first Broad-tailed Hummingbird of the year. On May 4th, I had my first Colorado and SWSA Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Previous to that, though, I’ve lost track of the dates. The new SWSA birds that I remember are Vesper Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, White-faced Ibis, and Barn Swallow. Adding everything up, my species tally currently stands at 135, one more than the crippled Skinky. Welch is unsure of his exact total, but I believe that it is at least half a dozen ticks longer than mine.
2011 SWSA Totals
Miles Run: 400!!!
SWSA Species: 135

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I've come to the conclusion that the central aim of running is to injure yourself; it seems that I'll be fit to run for about a week before incapcitating myself for another three weeks. This time, it's something with my right foot--possibly a stress fracture. It's slightly swollen and hurts to walk on, but it seems to be getting better. I've been out of the game for a week, and probably will be for a couple more, which means I'll miss out on a lot of migration. [insert a few more paragraphs of whining and complaining]

Before my latest accomplishment, I added a few more, the highlights being Rusty Blackbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Virginia Rail, and Yellow Warbler.


Thank goodness for swimming.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gnats Beware, They're Back!

I glanced out the window, rain poured down in sheets of cold iron.
I continued with my homework. On next looking out the window, I saw that the sky had cleared, and the sun now shone brightly, its rays leaving a evanescent sparkle on the grass. I laced my shoes and was off, running down the Waterloo-Pinkney trail. I was immediately gratified to hear the first Yellow Warbler of the year,
soon joined by the first Black-and-white Warbler and numerous Palm Warblers. Spring seems to have taken its time arriving this year. Trees are still bare, except for the occasional non-native not adapted to this environment.
I saw the occasional Hepatica blooming along the trail and brightening the brown earth with its brilliance.
A soft defiant "Pheeshz!" made me look up. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher dove at an invisible insect, while Towhees and Swamp Sparrows called from the distance.

Checking my list after returning home, I noticed that i'd finally passed the century mark! Coming at 106 species.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fish Hatchery Madness

There wasn't much running going on at GTBC. However the Jasper fish hatchery ponds we ran twice. Not a serious run, but it took about 30 minutes each time, so I might as well post about it. There was some stopping, but quite a bit of running. The first time was on the during scouting. We were informed that this would be a powerbirding spot, so running was in order. That first trip around the ponds we scored some very good species, including our only hummer of the scouting days, cedar waxwings, spotted, pectoral, and solitary sandpipers, most of the egrets and herons, some swallows, and a very territorial yellow-throated warbler. We would have also gotten a lifer reptile if we could have determined whether the alligator snapping turtle we came across was alive or sleeping. Once we got back to the van Chip treated us to a rendition of his cedar waxwings song, and we moved on the Martin Dies Jr. Park.
On the big day, many of the birds were the same, except a nice hooded merganser that was a far pull, and no spotted sandpiper. There was also a nice least sandpiper. When we got back to the van it was somewhat after 9 if I remember correctly. (I have no real remembrance of time on the big day). We did take more time than we were allotted on this run, but the birds were good and some of them, like the solitary sandpiper and the hooded merganser, we got no where else. Chip had fixed us cream cheese and strawberry jelly on bagels, bananas, and yogurt while we were running. It was our only "meal" of the day until IHop at 11:30 that night (unless you count eating two bags of jerky and one bag of dried mango as meals). Once again we headed off Marten Dies Park and the rest of the big day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

i want to reconcile the violence in your heart

So yeah...just about every time I go running, I get some song or another hopelessly stuck in my head, to the point that I attempt to wheeze it out as I run along. I managed to go running twice this week; unlike Masai, I haven't even done a Big Sit, unless you count the one I did on the white plastic throne yesterday.

i want to exorcise the demons from your past.

This week has been decidedly spring-like, with lovely south winds that have brought in lots of migrants.

i want to recognize your beauty's not just a mask...

On Wednesday, I decided to do some loon-spotting as I ran. So, fighting through a pesky stitch, I ran by the spot along the shore of Reed's Lake where I ate my first slice of college pizza. And sure enough, the pizza's magic was still present! I'm still not sure whether there was any connection between the loon and the pizza, but hey...I got Common Loon for my SWSA list.

you caught me under false pretenses, how long until you let me go?

This morning was downright warm, warm enough that gnomes and hobbits were emerging from the swampy woods to engage the drunk ferrets in glorious battle. Their shrill shouts and clash of weapons was nigh on defeaning...I could barely hear the Eastern Phoebes, Chipping Sparrows, or Myrtle Warblers that were all new SWSA birds on account of them.

if we live our life in fear, I'll wait a thousand years just to see you smile again.

SWSA = 124. Muse addiction = ∞

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Big Sit of the SWSA World

If you know anything about the odd competitions birders device for themselves and their peers (Big Years, Big Days, Bigbys, Sweaty Sanderlings…), you’ll know about the Big Sit, where you hang out in one spot for 24 hours and count all the birds you see from that one 10 foot diameter circle. Yesterday, I competed in my first ever track meet, something I perceive to be the Big Sit of the running world. How could this be? One is extremely sedentary, while the other is a spectacle of physical strength and stamina. What they have in common is confinement. At a track meet most everything happens on or within a 400-meter oval and my mission is to run 3200 meters (roughly two miles, or eight laps on the track).
I whipped past the lap counter, briefly noting the two remaining laps it denoted. Excellent, I thought, this is a whole lot easier than I thought it would be. As Welch has already reported, I fell on ice while running four days before the beginning of track season. The throbbing flashes of pain that had erupted in my knee whenever I tried to run had kept me out of action until now, nearly a month later. My speed wasn’t quite what it was before the accident, and my aerobic capabilities had definitely been affected by the many days when I was unable to hit the road, but at least I was running pain free now. As I directed my thoughts back to the present situation, I reached the far side of the oblong circle of fake asphalt, and once again the guy behind me tried to pass. I instantly matched his pace until he grudgingly fell back behind me again, unwilling to completely exhaust himself quite yet.

My "shadow" was right behind outside the frame of this

We had been in this position for the entire race, two freshmen runners halfway through the pack of nearly thirty high school distance runners. Whenever he passed his overly ebullient coach, he would try to pass me up, but I would put him back in place after another twenty meters. As we approached the lap counter again, I saw that it still read two laps. In a normal, un-exhausted state of mind, I would have just assumed that the person counting had lost track of the laps or had forgotten to update the sign. But as I was steeping in my exhaustion-fogged brain, I assumed that I must have miscounted and that there must indeed be two laps left in the race.

Hugging the inside of the curve, I resigned myself to the unanticipated extra lap. Approaching what I thought was the 600 meters-to-go mark, I braced myself for the expected speed surge from the guy trailing me. Sure enough, he appeared on my shoulder seconds after we passed his screaming coach. I matched his speed, expecting him to drop back behind me after a few seconds, as he had every other time he had tried to pull this maneuver.

But instead of the expected, he kept speeding up. I let him go, thinking that if he was planning on keeping that pace for an entire 500 meters, I had no plans to commit suicide with him. He was going to burn out after another thirty seconds and I would be able to easily catch and pass him in the final lap. But he continued accelerating, and I realized all too late that he was sprinting to the finish, a mere 100 meters away. My lips curled back in a snarl as I entered sprint-or-die mode, arms pumping and legs spinning. I didn’t catch my quarry, but I did pass two other people in the last stretch. I crossed the line in fourteenth place with a time of 11:47.35 minutes.

I ended my race looking like a rabid bi-pedal Howler Monkey.
How many birds did I see or hear? Zilch during my race. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any birds at all in the stadium area besides a handful of starlings and House Sparrows. Only when I left the high school to do my two-mile warm-up run through the neighborhoods of Johnstown did I see birds, though only in the forms of Eurasian Collared-Doves, House Sparrows, American Robins, and American Goldfinches.
2011 SWSA Totals
Species: 117
Total Miles: 232

Friday, March 25, 2011

how can we sleep when our beds are can we walk when our canes are can we run when our feet are blistered

My feet, shod for the entirety of the winter, have become soft. On one of my recent runs, I lost a slab of skin the size of rectangular quarter from the bottom of one of my behemoths (i.e., big toes). Then, I did a 6.5 mile run, and gave myself a beautiful blood blister on this tender patch of skin. I expect to be incapacitated for at least a week until it heals, since just walking on it is painful...curse you, fivefingers! At least my calves have finally accepted the concept of fivefingers and no longer explode into protest the morning after the run.

But was it worth it? Oh yeah. Ten new SWSA birds, with goodies like Summer Tanager, Violet-green Swallow, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Lawrence's Goldfinch. I'm at 115; I need to catch up with those Colorado Criminals. They're Such wimps; I mean, seriously, complaining about a little ice and snow? That's like something I'd do!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bugs, Birds, and Train Tracks

Over the past two weeks, I've run three times. I just haven't taken the time to post about them until now. The first run was a beautiful, 55 degree day. I ran along the river, hoping for some good gull action. There were gulls, and because it was my first river run of the year, all of them were SWSA birds. There was also a flock of scoter. As I ran down the path, contemplating the meaning of life and how to get my APHG work in on time, I started noticing that the benches along the path were moving. Then it hit me. Most literally, I ran straight into a large swarm of winged termites. I immediately turned around and ran back the way I came. However, it was just a few degrees warmer than it was when I started and it seemed like every single termite colony in the general area decided to take today to send out their winged devisions. When I finally got back to the car, I picked over 200 of them off me.

The second run was very non-consequential in comparison. I ran around a local lake, and was rewarded with some widgeon and ring necked ducks, both SWSA birds. The only thing that made this run of any note was that managed to slam my leg into the car door when I was exiting, creating a 3 inch long cut. That was admittedly not my finest moment.

For my most recent run, I decided to run along the train tracks. Train track birding is better than road birding in my opinion. The first thirty minutes were very successful. There were wrens, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos, red-wings, gnatcatchers, and the like. At one point I started hearing a train. It took me a full 5 whistles of the train to realize that, oh, right, I was on a train track. I got off the track a good two minutes before the train came and ended up running through some farmer's field for a few minutes while it passed. Overall, the winter is done and the birds are coming back. There are birds to be seen now, even in PA.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Winter

Mountain Bluebird

Weeks before, it was cold, snowy, and dangerously icy.* Now it is spring . . . 60° F, tender green grass sprouts, and budding willows. Best of all, spring migration has brightened the landscape with colorful birds returning for the upcoming breeding season.

The last weeks of winter only provided a few new SWSA birds: Northern Harrier (seen on the first run back in Colorado as it was getting mobbed by a couple rambunctious crows while flying over the snow-covered outskirts of Lyons), Pine Siskin (seen at a birdfeeder in Lyons), White-crowned Sparrow (heard along a ditch just above Lyons High School on the same day as the Pine Siskin), Mountain Bluebird (bright male seen on a 10 mile run in our neighborhood), Clark’s Nutcracker (a few fly-overs during a 3 mile loop in our neighborhood), Red Crossbill (a dozen or so type two crossbills chirping in a dense section of Ponderosa Pines), Cooper’s Hawk (an immature female flew over while running on the track at the Lyons High School).

On the 19th of March we stopped at Walden Ponds near Boulder, so Marcel could go birding, while I ran at Walden and the adjacent Sawhill Ponds. Both sites are the product of a land reclamation project at an old gravel mining operation near Boulder Creek.

American Wigeon

Tundra Swan (a bird that has been around Boulder County all winter) and American Wigeon

Bird List for when I was running at Walden/Sawhill Ponds:
Tundra Swan - New SWSA Bird
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal - New SWSA Bird
Gadwall - New SWSA Bird
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Common Goldeneye
American Coot
Killdeer - New SWSA Bird
Greater Yellowlegs - New SWSA Bird
Ring-billed Gull
Eurasian Collared Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch

2011 SWSA Totals
Miles Run=200

*An example of “dangerous ice:”
After about 7” inches of snow fell on the ground, we were out for a run and Masai’s feet suddenly slipped out from under him. His abrupt slam onto the road resulted in some injuries. He’s been struggling with his knee ever since and has had to suffer a severely curtailed running schedule, which has resulted in his missing the first three track meets of his season.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

hawk, wren, warbler, grackle

Number eight fled in panic ahead of me, bounding up and down and then disappearing into a clump of bushes on the side of the trail. Number nine was heard only, rustling in some dried weeds just to my right. Rounding a corner of the trail, I almost wet my running shorts when number ten shot underfoot.

Counting the cute, fluffy namesakes of BunnyRabbit is one of my past times when running. I honestly have no idea how this many manage to survive when the landscape is overrun with coyotes and Great Horned Owls, but I routinely tally double digits when I run in the flood control basin near my house. My all-time record is in the low twenties; this morning was mediocre, with only eleven individuals.

Apart from quadrupeds, it was an average run. I noted four new SWSA birds, all gimmes: Red-shouldered Hawk, House Wren, Wilson's Warbler, and Great-tailed Grackle. My calves are sore (again); I think it's time to start wearing my fivefingers to class to get used to them.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sudoroso Playero Areneros

I wiggled into my fivefingers and hit the trail, picking up the usual species as I ran: Booted Racket-tail, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Russet-capped Warbler, Beautiful Jay.

Wait! Usual? For Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador, that is.

Pelting rain was also usual, and it was pouring. My fivefingers squelched down the trail, leaving barefoot tracks in the mud. I turned onto the road, also made of mud, and ran through the “town” of Tandayapa, picking up a pair of White-capped Dippers foraging in a fast flowing, and very muddy, creek.

I did not see any new birds for nearly a half mile. Finally I came upon an actively foraging mixed flock. Buff-throated Saltators, Golden-naped and Blue-gray Tanagers hopped casually among the raindrops.

A bit later I turned around, returning to Tandayapa Lodge.

I was thoroughly drenched, my back, hair, and shoes were plastered with mud, and I had added a good number of species to my SWSA list—I had filled all requirements of a good run


Friday, March 18, 2011

seriously people


Or, better yet:


My excuse for not posting in over a month: I haven't run in over a month. My excuse for not running in a month: uhh...icy sidewalks?

On Wednesday afternoon, I emerged from my bio lab to a gorgeous, sunny afternoon with temps in the sixties. I had an hour before my next class, so I threw in a short run around campus. It was awesome. And I even got a new SWSA bird: a heard-only Sandhill Crane, which also happened to be new for my campus list.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sweaty Sanderlings Hit Southern Florida –- Jan. 25 to Feb. 8

Photos by various members of the Such family.

The Real McCoy - a non-sweaty Sanderling

Slash Pine Flatwoods
Date: January 26
Location: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Martin County

An easy 4.5 miles on sandy backcountry forest trails, this run was our first introduction to the hot and humid world of running in Florida. We logged an incredible 18 species (well, incredible based on past standards), sixteen (!) of which were new SWSA birds. Highlights were a calling Red-shouldered Hawk, great looks at a Pileated Woodpecker, and Masai’s much-belated lifer Palm Warbler. We also got Florida’s only endemic bird, Florida Scrub-Jay, though not as a SWSA bird.

Florida Scrub-Jay

Atlantic Coast Beach
Date: January 27
Location: Juno Beach Area, Palm Beach County

This morning we had another new experience…running barefoot on the beach. Welch and I had originally intended to only run three or four miles, but we ended up running nearly seven miles. Maybe it was the ocean breeze. Again logging 18 species, but this time of the completely different beach suite, we bagged 13 new Sweaty Sanderling species. Highlights were four species of shorebirds and five species of gull (six if you count terns). All of the Floridians that managed to brave the 55°F “cold snap” were all bundled up in multiple down jackets, and completely shocked to see two teenagers racing down the beach, frolicking in the shallows, both clad in nothing more than a pair of split shorts. One couple went so far as to inquire whether or not we belonged to the Polar Bear Club. We continued running, shaking our heads in confusion.

Ruddy Turnstone

Northern Everglades and Cypress Swamp
Date: January 29
Location: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Palm Beach County

After a morning of devoted birding, Welch and I managed to find time for a quick four-mile run on the Marsh Trail. Slogging through the incredible heat and humidity was tough, but well worth it. We managed to produce an incredible 30 species, seventeen of which were new for our SWSA lists. Highlights were Glossy Ibis (a lifer earlier that day), Sora, Purple Gallinule, Caspian Tern, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Before our run, we also found a couple of Limpkins and Snail Kites (both lifers).

Snail Kite

Red-shouldered Hawk

Slash Pine Flatwoods and Freshwater Wetland
Date: January 31
Location: Pinelands and Anhinga Trails--Everglades National Park, Miami-Dade County

A couple of quick runs on trails in Everglades National Park produced 16 species, four of which were new SWSA species (Pine Warbler, Wood Stork, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night-Heron).


Ocean Channel in Florida Keys
Date: February 3
Location: Long Key Channel, Monroe County

This is actually a view from a kayak off of Grassy Key, but you get the picture . . . water and sky!

On this four-mile slog from Conch Key to Long Key through the most oppressive humidity and heat imaginable, we only managed to produce six species, with one new Sweaty Sanderling species . . . the truly magnificent Magnificent Frigatebird. Oh yeah, and we weren’t running on water, nor risking our necks on the highway, but were on the old railroad bed converted into a pedestrian trail.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Freshwater Canal and Everglades
Date: February 4
Location: Shark Valley--Everglades National Park, Miami-Dade County

We spent the evening of February 3rd and the morning of February 4th at the Shark Valley area of Everglades National Park. It was the perfect place for a nice run along a canal loaded with birds and alligators! We saw 21 species of birds on our run, with four being new SWSA birds – Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Horned Owl, Limpkin, and White-eyed Vireo.


Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Green Heron

Salt Water Estuary along Gulf of Mexico
Date: February 6
Location: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Lee County

Our four mile run on the Wildlife Drive at the legendary J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island just off of Fort Myers produced 30+ species, of which 9 where new SWSA species. I say “30+,” because I forgot to record the second half of the checklist, due to my own infinite forethought and wisdom (or would that be stupidity?). Highlights from the run were large numbers of Roseate Spoonbills, an assortment of Semipalmated and Piping Plovers, a few Dunlin, a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers, and a racoon family in the parking lot.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

Defecating Osprey

Gulf of Mexico Beach
Date: February 7
Location: Alison Hagerup Beach Park, Captiva Island, Lee County

The day before our departure from Florida, we ran on the beach at the end of Captiva Island (one island farther out than Sanibel). When we birded the area earlier that morning, we recorded 19 species, including Masai’s lifer Parasitic Jaeger (that Welch didn’t see because he was distracted by seashells). On our run, however, we only managed to find twelve of the aforementioned species, of which three were new SWSA species – Black Skimmer, Royal Tern, and Sandwich Tern.

Royal Tern

So, we’re back home now and new SWSA birds are harder to come by. The night we arrived home had me dashing down the front steps in -15°F temperatures and slogging through a foot of snow in flip-flops. The heat and humidity are now just a hazy memory.
2011 SWSA Totals
Miles Run=145