Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Well, this morning, weather.com said it was -7; apparently, it felt like -7, too.
What, exactly, does -7 feel like? Nothing, really; it's too cold to feel your extremities. The spit and snot that spray onto your face crystallizes instantly, your hands go stiffer and colder than clavengers, and your fivefinger-clad feet suffer first-degree frostbite. Well, at least mine did.
It was the most unpleasant five miles I've run in quite awhile. Two new SWSA birds--Golden-crowned Kinglet and Red-bellied Woodpecker--were the only things motivating me to get back to my warm dorm. If I hadn't seen them, I probably would have collapsed in a snowdrift and died.
Instead, I took Pink Floyd's advice to Run Like Hell and polished off those five miles five minutes faster than I usually do.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Sadly, none of these were SWSA birds. The Lautenbachs and I, however, founded a new sport: pier-scrambling.
So, when I got back to my dorm, I was wet and in no mood for running. After I'd dried out a bit, however, I began to feel restless (and perhaps a tad guilty about eating half a pizza), so I slid into my tights and fivefingers and set out on a journey.
Certain people had mislead me into believing that fivefingers were "warm" for running through snow. False. My feet froze.
But it was worth it! For, as I was sprinting through eight inches of powder on the far side of campus, I looked up and saw...a SHRIKE perched on a tree in the middle of a meadow that I've always thought seemed conducive to shrike-seeing. And not only that, I saw my first American Tree Sparrows as a Sweaty Sanderling.
First order of business upon arriving back at the dorm was toasting in front of the fireplace for a few minutes. Then, when I stripped to take a shower (I promise, it won't get any more graphic), I was mildly surprised to find rivulets of blood streaming down my ankles. Shoot, I should have known better than to run through crusty snow in shoes that aren't really shoes!
Merely a flesh wound.
Friday, January 21, 2011
An Auspicious, Alliterated Appellation for this Addendum , in Appreciation of the Already Appointed Ambiance
I got fat. This became exceedingly apparent to me when, a couple of weeks ago, I went out for my first run since September. But it’s worse than that, because before my run in September, my last run was in May, and so on. Clearly, long distance running is not my favorite thing in the world. But that fateful January day, as I lain in bed late into the morning, under my warm covers of cotton and lipids (possibly even trilayers), I read the SWSA blog for the first time. I realized that it was a New Year and time to do something useful, and that these sweaty folk seemed pretty jolly about the misfortune of running. I immediately got up and dressed for a winter birding run. My sister (and her remarkably loud, swishing raincoat) joined me for a jog around the snow-laden trails of Saginaw Forest, a research property of the University of Michigan with a rich assortment of conifers atypical of southeast Michigan. It’s one of those places that are really beautiful to walk (or run, as it were) through but consistently have an irksome lack of birds. While birding there intently in previous visits, I’ve often turned up species totals under five, with individual totals under a dozen (and not just in winter).
But today was different; the fat kid was out for a run, God bless him, and all had come to see! First, two Hairy Woodpeckers called in unison, chanting “Go! Rosy! Go! Rosy!” Kinglets and creepers joined in, titmice and chickadees, and so on. A pair of strong-billed woodcreepers smashed their bills together like claves; then a cardinal chipped, holding up a wing ensconced in a huge, foam “number one” hand with my name on it. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that different from previous visits, but I was running, and that made every bird better! Soon enough I was sweating, and my strides were probably equal to those of a sanderling; needless to say, I felt pretty legit. After twenty minutes and an untold number of miles, I ended with a new PR: 10 species.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Ah well, I didn't see any birds, anyway, so I won't have the opportunity to bend the rules of the Sweaty Sanderlings as I am so fond of doing.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Anyway, on to the good stuff: I didn't really get anything unusual, and having the dog along didn't really help matters, but my measly 18 species were all new.
Oh. And do you ever wonder if orzo would look like maggots if you threw it up?
Monday, January 17, 2011
너 죽고 싶어?
Yup, that's right--my Korean has progressed admirably, and felicitously enough I just learned this new phrase (my third) last night.
Before my pathetic existence was so heartlessly ruined by the news of a Punk Dunk in Psuedo-Wyoming, I added the not-so-wimpy subspecies of the Greater Nuthatch as well as the Migrating Turd to my SWSA list on a pleasant five-mile dash around Reed's Lake. You know you're jealous.
In other news, Delmi and I decided that snowshoeing should definitely be included into this SWSA foolishness. Our rationale is as follows: you get sweaty. Trundling and tripping in snowshoes recalls the ambulatorial abilities of ptarmigans, which, like Sanderlings, are birds, and also like Sanderlings, are white. So therefore, birds seen by the Perspiratory Ptarmigans should theoretically be included on our SWSA lists. So...Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, Common Goldeneye, Bald Eagle....
It was worth a try.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
As it were.
6.5 miles, no new SWSA birds.
I formally declare the war over for the winter. Until spring comes, allowing us to return to our savage tussle, we shall bring an end to this meaningless snowy struggle that we have all been suffering.
It glared ferociously down at me, seaming to ponder over my edibility. Finally decided that, perhaps, I was not a small rodent, and might be a bit heavy to carry off in its talons, it resumed its preening.
But I kept glaring. Glaring with immense happiness. It was a Red-
shouldered Hawk, and although not all that uncommon, I always feel happy whenever I stumble across one.
Today I was my first biped chase. Someone had reported a flock of Lapland Longspurs, Snow Buntings and Horned Larks about four miles from my house. I put on my shoes, still soaked from yesterday’s melted snow, and hit the road. On arriving at the spot, I was rewarded by more than 100 Lapland Longspurs, with the added bonus of a couple dozen Horned Larks and about 50 Snow Buntings busily eating spilled corn.
I was amazed at the number of woodpeckers I was hearing. I tallied a total of 7 Hairies, 22 Downies, 6 Red-bellies and a lone Flicker, plus 12 White-breasted Nuthatches. Definitely the most Downy Woodpeckers I have ever seen on one run. I finished my run with a flock of Rock Pigeons and a flyover light morph Rough-legged Hawk.
SWSA Totals: 37 species, 102 miles
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I crunched down the gravel road. The humidity was such that I could see my breath, and sweat left my body in sheets as my five fingers and I moved through the cut in the jungle. But I ignored the clouds of biting insects and reveled in the fact that Many-banded Aracari, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, and Lanceolated Monklet – even Violaceous Jays and Golden-browed Sparrows – were species all likely to be missed by my fellow (relatively speaking, unsweaty) Sanderlings.
Wait. The above is just part of the legions of lies I’ve told in the last week, for there actually weren’t clouds of biting bugs at Yasuni. And no…I didn’t actually really go running in Amazonia. To spare the gory details, I’ve thrown up in more Latin American countries than most people will ever go to. Ecuador was no exception. While at Yasuni, I generally felt horrible enough that even normal birding took incredible willpower. So, Common Potoo is the only species on my SWSA list thus far.
However. I had the most ethereal experience my last night (and no, this has nothing to do with an extremely forward Policia Nacional at Quito airport...). Since it involved copious amounts of sweat and five fingers, I suppose it's appropriate to share:
We crunched down the gravel road, pinning trees, ditches, and the ground in the beam of our spotlights. Strange eyeshine, humidity, and the Brazilian Wandering Spider-filled jungle pressed around us, while my pizza-laden stomach added its patent threatening vocalizations to the night. Just three of us were determined enough to trade the luxuries of air conditioning and wireless for the foreboding drizzle. But who can be seduced by a hot shower when temptress potoos, Crested Owls, and Nocturnal Curassows lurk in the shadows?
I was particularly enthralled with the curassows. Mysterious, nocturnal, and poorly-known turkeys of the tropics, they boom out siren songs from high in the canopy. They're just the kind of bird that compels one to go out. Stalk. Beat the odds and DEFEAT.
"Hey, we should listen for a bit." -- A surprisingly complex concept, even though our activity of choice was primarily auditory. Our discussion of Candiru, Columbia, and TPL drew to a sudden halt as we strained to hear anything above the dripping jungle. Moths whirred by; a Crested Owl growled from the distance, and my obstinate stomach readily responded. But in the distance, Nocturnal Curassow booming emanated like some primitive tribal drum. Goaded by a primal hunting urge, we crept towards the low whooping. It accompanied us through a meadow promising to augment my 142-bite chigger collection, and taunted us as we paused, uncertain, at the edge of the jungle. Drawn by an invisible force, we plunged in. Carefully picking our way over logs and through vines, we stopped at the bottom of a gully and shone our lights into the canopy. Failing to pin the well-concealed bird in our beam, we cut our lights and stood in the oppressing dark. The curassow was so close that I could feel every note course through my body. It resonated within me, making my heart pound in unison, my head tingle...even chilling me.
Satiated, yet at the same time lusting over the curassow, we cautiously left the jungle. It would have been foolish to continue over trail-less, unknown terrain -- and somehow -- seeing the curassow would have almost detracted from standing at the bottom of a gully in a night so black you couldn't see your own nose, while being filled with the beat of the Nocturnal Curassow.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Keep breathing. That's the key. Breathe.
Gimli gives some good advice. I kept muttering these words of wisdom as I wearily plowed through the snow, trying to ignore the pain in my abdomen. To my horror, I realized that Gimli and I are actually remarkable similar. We're both rather plump dwarves with rockin' beards and a preference for axes.
Would you rather slowly die from exposure or a stitch? I finally decided that the stitch would be somewhat faster demise, so I continued running. And breathing.
그것은 너무 아파!! I moaned, Korean for "It hurts so bad!" Impressed? It's one of two Korean phrases I know...
The birds didn't help me much. They were generally silent and unsympathetic toward my plight. Cruel, stinging snowflakes whipped into my face and down my neck. In reality, I enjoyed the snow, but bear with me--I've got to try to make this sound as horrid as possible.
My toils produced only five new SWSA birds. All were thoroughly unremarkable with the exception of Winter Wren. I was pounding down an icy boardwalk when a small, brown mouse flew out from under my feet. I did a double take. Mice don't usually fly (unless they've been blown out of metal pipes, but that's a story for another day), and the combination of cold and pain had me delusional enough to suspect it might be a Winter Wren. And a Winter Wren it was, looking simultaneously cute and cold and wretched.
I kept running. And breathing. And tucking my beard into my sweatshirt--it gets irritating when it blows around so much.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Do not (i.e., do not) look at the weather before you go out running. I had prepared myself mentally for temperatures in the twenties. I was ready for it.
I definitely was not ready to go running in 6°F weather. I almost went back to bed, but then I realized I'd be like the Monkey brothers from Colorado whining about the cold weather. Taking a deep breath, I burst from my dorm and plunged into the dark, frigid morning.
Five miles later, I had seen only five species: Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Slate-colored Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, and Downy Woodpecker. All were new except for the corvid. Eighty-seven!
Next time, I'm not even checking the weather.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
It was snowing wildly; big silky flakes turned the air into a white commotion. I was running on a lonely dirt road. As I came upon a mass of brush, I started pishing.
Immediately a kestrel serenely cruised above my head, igniting movement in the surrounding shrubbery. The Bushes became alive with chattering American Tree Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows. Continuing, I spotted a flock of Robins and Bluebirds gorging themselves on a crabapple tree. Suddenly, out of the blue, or rather, gray, I heard the unmistakable chatter of Snow Buntings. I looked up and saw nearly 40 silhouettes against the sky. My reverie was abruptly broken when I stepped into a puddle, soaking my shoe. I looked up again and they were gone. I finished off my 7 mile run with a small mixed flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers.
SWSA Totals: 27 species, 52 miles
Friday, January 7, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
In an effort to get away from our usual low species density haunts in the foothills, Welch and I ran down in town this afternoon. Starting out at the library, we ran along the Saint Vrain River through Bohn Park, a loop up through the cemetery and back, totaling a bit over three miles. Almost immediately we started getting new Sweaty Sanderling birds . . . a calling Black-capped Chickadee, a couple dozen cheruping House Sparrows, a Belted Kingfisher's startling rattle, and a flyover flock of Canada Geese. And everywhere we went, we could not avoid at least an inch of solid ice or packed snow, and the usual slipping and sliding that accompanies it.
Being unable to hit the road on January 1st due to residual symptoms from an end-of-the-year virus, Welch and I were finally able start up our 2011 SWSA lists on January 2nd. Almost as soon as we turned out of the driveway – slipping and sliding on ice, and only miraculously keeping our feet on the road – a flock of Pygmy Nuthatches, the near omnipresent denizen of the Ponderosa Pine foothills of Colorado, started up their rambunctious piping calls. First bird of the run.