Monday, January 31, 2011

Triple Rainbow!

I recently got back on campus in Ithaca, after 38 glorious days of winter break, and I have now gone on three runs in one month! That's beating my normal run frequency by a factor of 18 (a decade ago, I couldn't even count that high). As a little reward for braving the early morning cold and forcing my now chiseled figure to travel two gigantic miles, I saw a bird. Actually, I saw 37 birds in 11 species, but one was supremely enjoyable, and that was a flyover Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was one of only 5 gulls that morning (the others were all Herring). Its majestic arc across the cold, blue sky was like a triple rainbow emanating from a flying bag of skittles. It was delightful.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Recent Ramblings

The last two weeks have been rather bird-less, and I have only succeeded in adding 3 new species my SWSA list.

Though they are a fairly respectable 3, or 2 at least.

Last week my run began innocently enough; I was running an easy six mile loop, when a terrific harrumphing broke the silence of snowfall. Four Wild Turkeys flew over my head, then immediately plummeted onto a cornfield, having apparently exceeded there daily allowance of flying.

A couple days later I was running a 12 mile loop when a I saw a Crow. A very large Crow, that somehow seemed to resemble a Frittilary. Maybe it was a new species of Frittillary. "Much Greater Frittillary Speyeria muchgreaternus.


It came closer and turned into a Short-eared Owl.

A few day later I had just begun running when I came across a spruce not only covered with cones, but also with pink furry lumps: White-winged Crossbills.

SWSA Totals: Miles run: 240
Species seen: 40
(not a very good ratio.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Feels like -7

You know how has that stupid feature under the temperature that says "feels like ____"?

Well, this morning, 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

A Shrike of Good Fortune

An intensive morning of pirating the lakeshore and the wastewater left me pretty beat. It involved floundering through waist-deep snowdrifts, marching into twenty-five mile-per-hour headwinds, and getting my face bitterly washed in snow under orders of a cruel, maniacal tyrant. Granted, the expedition had its high points--not one, but two Hot-N-Readies, as well as a couple shivering snipes, three Green-wingers, and a Merlin.

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

Wet Wallcreepers?

What about rock climbing? You sweat, and Wallcreepers, like Sanderlings, have two wings, a tail, and a bill. The similarity really is striking.

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.


Pulling Ahead Of Welch

Today I pulled ahead of Welch by a single species.  For the past few days, Welch has been on a forced running break, doctor's orders.  He is still paying for his sledding escapades.

Summarizing my recent runs:  On a 5.5 mile run in Lyons on the 18th, I got two new SWSA species - American Goldfinch (finally) and Northern Harrier.  Then on a 3.6 mile run in my neighborhood yesterday I got another two SWSA species - a Canyon Wren and a White-breasted Nuthatch - tying me with Welch.  Today on a 4 mile run in my neighborhood, I got a single new SWSA species - a couple of calling Clark's Nutcrackers.
2011 SWSA Totals
Species = 43
Miles Run = 48.82

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

pain and torture.

so. yesterday was my first daylight AND outdoor run since, like...Christmas. I still haven't quite gotten used to my calves dying before my quads even start to complain, but -- this will give me a head start for when the roads dry off enough to bike. On a sad note, the snow is pretty much off the roads, which means I can't leave more mysterious five finger tracks around my neighborhood. (The highlight of my life, pretty much, was when a friend of my mom worriedly asked her about these strange footprints she'd seen in the cemetery; I'm proud to be responsible.)

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

Of Rage, Anger Management, and Ptarmigans that Perspire

Dear Masai and Welch,

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.

The Perfect Storm

Photo by Joel Such

I think I am the luckiest guy in the world right now. Why? Today my mom suggested that Welch and I run at Golden Ponds in Longmont while she went to a dentist’s appointment. We did a couple of laps around the lakes, scoring many new SWSA birds. With a bit of open water, we finally got our first waterbirds, other than Canada Goose, on our running list. As soon as we set out, we got Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, and an excellent male Wood Duck. As I got half way around the first pond, a couple of birders came into sight, identified as the serious type not only by their binoculars, but also by their dedicated attention, the bazooka camera lenses, hats from popular hotspots in Texas, and the pishing noises they were making. As I slowed down to ask if they were seeing anything good, I thought they looked slightly puzzled as to why a runner (there were many about) would be interested in what they were seeing. As I continued running, it occurred to me that one of them looked vaguely familiar . . . maybe Larry Semo, Chairman of the Colorado Rare Birds Committee. Though I correspond with him here and there over bird related matters, I’ve only met him once and that was a couple of years ago.

Wood Duck - by Joel Such

After a couple laps around all three ponds, I saw the aforementioned birders again, this time sprawled out on the bank of a partially frozen pond, looking at a mixed flock of dabblers, divers, and geese. As I approached, I asked again if they had any good birds. I got the affirmative. A Tufted Duck! At this point I was almost positive it was Larry Semo and he handed me his binoculars, and as I looked at the bird in question . . . I asked things like “Have you eliminated possible hybrids such as Lesser Scaup x Tufted Duck, etc." He said, “Oh, you’re Marcel Such.” After a while, I took off again for another lap around the lake to get this Colorado mega-rarity on my SWSA list. As I rounded the last bend in the trail and as the pool of open water came into view, I sighted the odd Aythya duck with a tuft of punk feathers among the many adjacent Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, Northern Shovelers, and American Wigeons. Score!

Tufted Duck - by Joel Such

by Joel Such

by Joel Such

by Marcel Such

This Tufted Duck was a lifer for both Welch and myself, and the third Colorado state record. The last Colorado record was in 2000. When our mom arrived later, we were able to nab her camera, get our binoculars, and witness the onslaught of birders arriving to see this cool rarity.

Thanks to Larry Semo and Steve Mlodinow for finding this great bird, and for letting us view it at closer range through their binoculars before our mom arrived back with our gear. It was Steve’s first day in Colorado (he’s moving from Everett, WA to Longmont), and Bill Schmoker recommended they go to Golden Ponds as a place to study Canada Goose subspecies. We usually have to beg our parents to let us chase things, so the way the day panned out was a perfect storm in our minds!

2011 SWSA Totals
Species = 37
Miles Run = 35.7

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On the Road Again!

A few days ago I could barely walk thanks to my sledding accident. Today I took a big step by taking a super easy short run! I jogged 0.4 miles at a 12:30 minute mile pace to a neighbor's house and then walked home their old dog, who will be our house guest until tomorrow. I managed to see 9 species in that short distance with two of them being new SWSA birds, a Golden Eagle soaring overhead and a White-breasted Nuthatch. The five minute run was very productive for winter and the snow and ice is slowly melting with temperatures in the forties.

2010 SWSA Totals:
Species = 29
Miles Run = 18 miles

Score Two

This morning, on a 7.1 mile run on the edge of the plains north of Boulder, I succeeded in scrounging up 12 species, two being new SWSA birds (Blue Jay and Red-winged Blackbird).  Other highlights were two Brown Creepers, a super close Townsend's Solitaire, and ten American Tree Sparrows. 
2011 SWSA Totals
Species = 24
Miles = 32.7

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Show Must Go On!

Repeat after me:  The Sweaty Sanderlings are not afraid of heat, cold, mud, rain, pain, or ridicule over running shorts.  
Say it again!  And let us add to that  . . . or lack of species diversity.  I will be out bright and early tomorrow, running my overly optimistic heart out.  Wish me luck.

Raw Heels

It is a good thing that Skinky is calling a cease-run until spring, because I have ripped a 1" square, very thick layer of skin off the back of my right heel, rendering me fairly incapable of even putting on shoes. So even with 4 inch snow outside, I am doomed to flip flops for the next week. The only up side is that it makes my mom and sister almost puke just looking at it. I could have fun with this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Yes, I saw (er...heard) four Hairy Woodpeckers on my run this afternoon. This, I firmly believe, is enough to constitute a thoroughly hairy run.

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.

Brilliant Buteos

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.


While Skinky may take lessons from Gimli, I’ve always been drawn to the elves . . .

Knees high.  Quick feet.  Light footfalls.  Stay on the toes.  Don’t slip.

As I churned through the five inches of new powder on the trails behind the high school, I unconsciously started visualizing Legolas the elf, skipping effortlessly on top of five feet of snow down the slope of Mount Carcaras, his feet only clad in thin leather shoes.  “I wish I could run like that,” I mused.  Even with my quickest feet turnover, my quads were already burning with the effort of pushing through more resistance than usual.

At nearly two miles into my run, I had seen nothing, but then the silence overhead was finally broken by the discordant honking of a flock of Canada Geese.  Then, as I entered the Saint Vrain River riparian corridor, the busy chick-a-dee-dee-dee of Black-capped Chickadees intruded upon the monotonous noise of feet crunching on snow and ice.

And then I finally got a new SWSA bird, an American Kestrel hovering over a section of Boulder County Open Space grassland.  Excellent, one species closer to Welch.  Then, swerving off of the trail onto a partially plowed road, the soft scheeps of American Tree Sparrows alerted me to a winter sparrow flock crossing the road and diving into a skunk bush.

In the final stretch before the turnaround point, half a mile up a steep, icy dirt road, I finally heard the raspier and less musical shick-a-chee-chee of a Mountain Chickadee as I broke from the cottonwoods into my native Ponderosa Pines.  I ended the 4.75-mile run with five species, one of which was new.

Running Companions:  Coach Akers and Coach Roberts
2011 SWSA Totals
Species = 22
Miles Run = 22.6 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gimli on Running

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

Second Injury of the Year Belongs to Welch

So, the Sweaty Sanderlings have suffered a second injury of the year, this time sustained by Welch. The saga is recounted below. . .

I was inside, placidly minding my own business - working on schoolwork - when my mom asks me to go outside to check on Welch, who was goofing off and sledding on our treacherous north facing slope (Welch's reward for shoveling a square mile of snow). I stepped out on the back deck and yelled, "Are you okay?" His faint reply was "can you help me with something." Grumbling and taking my time in protest, I tromped downstairs, leisurely laced up my snow boots, and slogged through the foot of snow towards the sledding hill. As I rounded the bend, I saw Welch on the ground near the garden, his face flushed red with cold. I asked again, "Are you okay?" This time he said, "I think I broke my leg." Oh, crap.

Turns out that on his first run, nearly an hour before, he hit a rock only about 20 yards down the slope at what felt like 40 miles per hour with powdery white snow blasting his face and eyes. His high speed impact sent him flying through the air another 10 or more yards. Feeling "the worst pain in my life" he gave one yell for help and started crawling down the 200 remaining yards of hill. None of us heard that call for help, of course, as we were enjoying a warm, toasty house with no windows open to the single digit weather.

After I struggled to get him back to the house, we carefully stripped him down and accessed the damage. He was shaking all over and a little bit blue from his time in the snow. With no real swelling in sight, we decided that his leg wasn't broken, but that he likely sustained a severe groin pull and a bruise to the gluteus maximus and tail bone. This will put him out of the running business for a while. Perhaps I will pull (no pun intended) ahead of him in this flying leap (again, no pun intended) for glory.

Snow Fail

While running today I saw just about as few birds as I possibly could without actually running on the treadmill. All the local park's running paths were still three inches deep in snow and so running through the neighborhoods of town was necessary. To sum up, I saw three birds (American crow, northern cardinal, and American kestrel) The very nice looking kestrel that sat on the top of a tree for a few minutes while I ran towards it was the only thing that made this run worth while. Now I'm just sitting inside and hoping for weather warmer than 10 degrees.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Track Practice

Two days ago at a Lyons’ preseason track practice, Masai and I heard a Western Scrub-Jay up on the shrubby hillside at the beginning of our 10-minute warm up. A few minutes later we saw another dive down off the top of a bare deciduous tree with a peanut. This was our first SWSA Western Scrub-Jay of the year. Instead of doing a threshold (near race pace) workout with Masai and his fellow high school runners, I ran three and half miles by myself through Bohn Park and Old South Road in 28 minutes. I did not see or hear anything of interest in Bohn Park, but saw three new SWSA birds on Old South Road with Canyon Wren calling on the sandstone cliffs, a Song Sparrow barking somewhere in the willows along the Saint Vrain River, and the best, a calling Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Near the end of my run, I saw an American Kestrel (my 5th SWSA bird of the day) swoop right over Masai's head while he was running on the track, which he happened to miss. Also, Canada Geese were busy mowing and fertilizing the softball fields. Even though it was in the thirties (balmy by recent standards), I could not stop my watch, as my fingers were numb and useless. I ended my 5.9-mile run netting 13 species with 5 being new SWSA species.

Birds Seen/Heard While Running:
Canada Goose – 50
American Kestrel (new) – 1
“Red-shafted” Flicker – 2
Western Scrub-Jay (new) – 2
Black-capped Chickadee – 4
Brown Creeper – 1
Canyon Wren (new) – 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (new) – 1
American Robin – 3
European Starling – 9
Song Sparrow (new) – 1
Dark-eyed Junco – 10
House Finch – 2

2011 SWSA Totals:
Species = 27
Miles Run = 17.6
Time Running = 149 minutes
Masai adds:

During my threshold workout, I was unable to devote much attention to birds. But, I still got the aforementioned Western Scrub-Jay, and also a couple of calling American Tree Sparrows (something Welch didn’t get).

SWSA Totals:
Species = 21
Miles Run = 17.85


Learn from your mistakes.

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

Bountiful Buntings

Snow Bunting © 2011 Harold Eyster

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

Almost Abysmal

After three days of having one of the worst sore throats in my life, I finally made it out to go running again today. The only problem is that as soon as I feel fine, the weather decides that it hates all living creatures. The snow was coming down fairly hard the whole run, and there was lots of ice on the partially cleared roads. By halfway through the run, my shoes were soaked.

I almost made it all the way to robotics class by the time something happened. You see, I was going running to robotics class a very roundabout way because it's too close for a real run if you go strait. Thankfully nobody there minds if I'm all nasty looking when I come. But the point is I was almost done when, oh snap, some black ice decides to get right in my path. Up to this point I never thought that birds had a sense of humor, but as I sat there for a few seconds on the ground all the chickadees and titmice in the whole area came to laugh at me. I saw at least 15 individual birds in just those five seconds alone. Even one vulture decided to circle overhead at that moment just to see if I was dead yet. I ended with just 3 species.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I went for a run this morning. And didn't see a single bird.

Granted, it was dark, and I was inside on a treadmill. But still, that's pretty bad.

Wish me luck in working up the courage to brave the cold...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

40° F = SLUSH

This afternoon I ran down on Lyons’ slushy roads and trails. Starting at the Lyons Middle/High School with XC Coach Akers, alumni and former State Champion Andrew Roberts (he runs for CSU now), plus a couple other Lyons' runners, and Masai of course, I only noted European Starlings and House Finches. After the next mile or so I lagged back to an easier pace and started to see/hear new birds - Dark-eyed Juncos fluttering up from the bank of the road, Black-capped Chickadees around every corner, the raspy chick-a-dee-dee-deee of a Mountain Chickadee, and a flash of a Flicker’s orange wings.

We worked our way through town to Meadow Park and followed Old South Saint Vrain Road almost to the far end (that’s when I got behind) and cut back to the school on a dirt road. Birding hotspot Old South was the most productive area where I saw three new Sweaty Sanderling birds - a Downy Woodpecker, three American Crows flying by the towering sandstone cliffs, and a total count of three Brown Creepers heard here and there. My total count for my 44 minute, 5.4 mile run was a measly nine species!

Birds Seen/Heard While Running:
Downy Woodpecker (new) – 1
“Red-shafted” Flicker – 1
American Crow (new) – 3
Black-capped Chickadee – 9
Mountain Chickadee – 1
Brown Creeper (new) – 3
European Starling – 2
Dark-eyed Junco – 20
House Finch – 4

2011 SWSA Totals:
Species = 22
Miles Run = 11.7
Time Running = 101 minutes
Species/Mile = 1.88034188…

Masai adds:

Concentrating on finding birds while at the same time trying to keep pace with Coach Akers and Andrew resulted in my missing all but four of the species Welch found, with only a single new SWSA species, a calling Brown Creeper. I ended the 5.5 mile run with, wait for it, four species!

2011 SWSA Totals:
Species = 19
Miles Run = 11.85
Time Running = 1:42 Hours
Species/Mile = 1.60337552742616...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Dipper Day (plus more ice)

American Dipper - by Joel Such

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.

We ended the run with a total of 14 species (11 of which were new!), a couple less than expected, but a good total nonetheless. By far the best bird was an American Dipper found in one of the few open stretches of water (Welch was practically jogging in place while I sprinted back over from the other side of the bridge to see it).

Also, as a side note, I’d like to state that it is not possible to do a morning run in Colorado at the moment. It’s generally about 5 or 10° below zero (Fahrenheit) in the morning, and accordingly no birds. “Warm” around here at the moment is 25 degrees, and the afternoons show the peak in bird activity.
Canada Goose (new) – 12
Eurasian Collared-Dove (new) – 4
Belted Kingfisher (new) – 1
“Red-shafted” Northern Flicker (new) – 10
Black-billed Magpie – 3
Common Raven – 1
Black-capped Chickadee (new) – 7
American Dipper (new) – 1
Townsend’s Solitaire (new) – 2
American Robin (new) – 6
European Starling (new) – 10
Dark-eyed Junco – 20
House Finch (new) – 10
House Sparrow (new) – 20
Total SWSA Species (for year) = 18 (19 for Welch)
Total Miles Run = 6.3
Species/Mile = 2.857142857142857… (3.015873015873016… for Welch)

Snow and Ice . . .

"Harlan's" Red-tailed Hawk - by Joel Such

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.

On the other side of the half-mile long icy-slope-of-doom, we were relieved to finally start hearing/seeing birds (other than the Munchkin Nuthatches) . . . a few Dark-eyed Juncos and a couple Mountain Chickadees. We managed to tally an incredible nine species (eight for myself, having missed a calling American Goldfinch that Welch heard). Note: I only had three species for my last run of 2010. We know, a bit of a let down from Pippin’s 10, the Bunny’s 20, and Skinky's 69, but we do our best. The highlight of the 3.2 miles of slipping and sliding was a “Harlan’s” Hawk accompanied by a typical Red-tail.