Monday, August 10, 2009

(Southern) California Dreamin'

[From a few weeks ago]... I was with two other guys in the coastal chaparral of southern California (a place I have only been birding once in real-life). We were hiking along, several hundred feet from shore, primarily for wildlife/nature photography. Our elusive quarry at the time? A dove. (Can anyone tell me what dove sp. could possibly be worth the effort in this habitat? Ruddy Ground Dove?)

Heading back down towards dune and shore, we encountered birds worthy of our cameras' attention. I, on the other hand, encountered camera troubles - mostly slow/flakey autofocus. The first scene we shot was a male Calliope and Anna's Hummingbird sharing a perch.

Calliope Hummingbird (Selaphorus calliope)

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

I was able to get a few shots off before they both departed, but did not feel confident they would be keepers.

Moving on, I noticed a something taking place near the water's edge below - two mixed-species shorebird flocks going at it after a fashion. Their movements and interactions looked like two rival gangs feel each other out, replete with posturing and machismo. Those defending their "home turf" (I'll call the "Sharks") consisted of a female Red Phalarope, a Semipalmated Plover and some Least Sandpiper. The "Jets" comprised a Willet, a Greater Yellowlegs and few Sanderling. "The Jets are gonna have their day... toniiiiight. The Sharks are gonna have their way... toniiiiight." Though entertaining, the conflict was brief, and the two groups quickly went about their separate ways.

The "Sharks"

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)


Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)


Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)

The "Jets"

Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)


Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)


Sanderling (Calidris alba)

By this point in the dream, daylight was waning, and had achieved that very desirable "magical glow" this photographer loves to shoot.

The next scene took place next to a gate in a chain link fence, which gave access to the back dunes. Nestled together, at the foot of a bush growing against the fence, was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and another female Red Phalarope
. Not only were they ostensibly sleeping, but they were bathed in golden light. (It was as beautiful as it sounds). I was able to snap off what felt like a few good shots, as the scene screamed "photography me NOW!". But, as I was just about to pull the trigger on a frame-filling close-up, the Buff-breasted awakened. It wasn't slow about it either. Before I could react, both it and the phalarope were filing out of frame, and out the gate.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)

The last scene was of the Buff-breasted, Red Phalarope with a healthy helping of Least Sandpiper and Sanderling, all congregating about some tidal pools along a rocky shoreline.

The lens on my camera was not that big, and was fairly "slow" at that. All this meaning I had to get close any hope of a good image - and fast, as the "magical" light was fading. I scrambled as quick, and carefully, as I could toward them. At one point, the phalarope settled down on the rock, next to a pool; with the ocean and a full moon in the distance. ( Another very memorable tableau). Luckily, I was able to get a few shots of this, before the light faded and the dream ended...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Dreambirding Experiment

Over the past couple of days, I've been brushing up on dream induction, and recollection techniques {more on that at a later date}. The reason? Simple - the bird dreams seem to be drying up.

As best I can tell, one thing that affects my dreambirding frequency is intense new bird-oriented experiences. For example, I recently spent time in the St. Louis area. While there, I studied a few books about birds found around the world. I also made four visits to the world class St. Louis Zoo. I was blessed with the opportunity to spend several hours studying their scores of exotic bird species. Exquisite! Perhaps as a result, I had some of the most interesting bird dreams I've had to date during that time of rich real-world experiences.

Before bed tonight, I'm going to give some time to Rosair & Cottridge's "Photographic Guide to the Shorebirds of the World". On Saturday, I'm going to checkout Austin Avian Rescue at J & M Aviaries. Sunday will find me paying visits to a few pet stores specializing in birds.

Austin Avian Rescue & Rehabilitation

Will any or all of these novel experiences trigger dreambirding? your bets now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

From Dreambirding to... Birds Dreaming

Birds' brains do not have cerebral cortexes, like mammals. They do have something called the hyperstriatum however. New evidence suggests that, despite this structural difference, birds have evolved the capacity to dream - at least the Zebra Finch has. How... cool... is... THAT!?!

Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)

Humans sometimes dream of flying. Do birds dream of playing the piano? Eating a taco? (Grackles, gulls, and corvids do just fine at that already, eh?) Driving? Capturing humans and putting them in cages? Take a gander at the links below, talk amongst yourselves, and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dreambirds of Fancy

My middle brother, Jarrod, teases me about being the obsessed birder I am. Typically, he asks if a certain species is on my lifelist - inevitably an absurd name he makes up. What he comes up with is hilarious, so I share the laugh. How downright goofy official bird names can seem reminds of a recent dreambirding first. All species I dreamed of were fantastical, made up... loosely based in reality. A bit ironic that only now are these dreams drifting away from reality, eh? Regarding these new "species", I'm going to let it all hang out and make up some names for them... where's Jarrod when I need him?

Slice of the Texas "Hill Country" - a common sight west of Fredericksburg

I was birding in the "Hill Country" of central TX with my long-time, real-life, friend Shawn Ashbaugh. The landscape was Live Oak savannah; a sight most prevalent west of Fredericksburg. I was in the open when Shawn called to me with a find. In the dream, this bird was a vagrant from northern Mexico. Nice going Shawn! Beautifully colored was this songbird, and like most others, very active - so not the best look. Head was probably green, though not brightly so. Back/scapulars were a cobalt blue, edging of the secondaries grass green and the rump an electric violet-purple. Tail feathers were also edged with green. Que linda! I'll call this one the - "Violet-rumped Leafbird". Of real-world species, it most resembled a mashup of...

Emerald Tanager (Tangara florida)


immature passerine from american tropics, yet to be re-identified

= "Violet-rumped Leafbird"

Time with this exquisite little one was all too brief, as it soon disappeared into the canopy for good. Immediately upon turning around, I spotted a second fantasy bird - perched nearby on a low branch. Resembling a European Robin, it looked much more like a Catharus thrush (e.g. Swainson's) with the robin's unmistakable auburn frontside. "Orange-breasted Confusing-Thrush" sounds about right to me.

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)


Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

= "Orange-breasted Confusing-Thrush"

The last bird caught my eye as it flushed from branches to my right. It wasn't "ugly", per se, but it definitely looked like evolution gone a little wrong. As with the other birds, the view was exceedingly brief. This guy gave the added challenge of being on the wing. Oh well, I'll take what I can get. This gem looked like the visual hybrid of a Worm-eating Warbler and a Short-eared Owl. I like the way "Short-eared Worm-eating Owl" sounds so I'll stick with that moniker.

Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorus)


Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

= "Short-eared Worm-eating Owl"

I dig the novelty of these dreamcreatures, if only because they're birds. Truth be known, though, the more bizarre a dream is the more unsettled it makes me. Feedback always welcome...


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