Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Big Year: A Birders Review

When I compare the efforts and obsession of the characters depicted in the movie The Big Year and I think of my own efforts, I almost hesitate in calling myself a birder.  The movie was based on a book and the the book was written by one of the birders depicted in the movie.  I must admit that is the extent on my knowledge of the background of the movie but I was still looking forward to it with anticipation.  I even went to see the movie on opening night, something I'm not sure I've ever done before.

What is a "Big Year"?  In the world of those slightly obsessive bird watchers, called birders, there is an unofficial challenge some attempt, to see the most bird species possible in North America during one calendar year.  The movie follows the story of three men who are attempting a Big Year and meet at various bird sightings.  It delves into the world of birding while also keeping a human story line by showing the personal lives of each and how the Big Year attempt impacts those relationships.

I like it!   I really like it!  I went in assuming I would hate it, an entire movie, a comedy, devoted to making fun of something I have such a passion for.  The truth is, I'm not sure I would like it so much if I weren't a birder.  I admit that birding isn't the most alluring hobby for most, although it's not stamp collecting or anything.  The movie actually gives the world a glimpse into birdwatching without ridicule (well maybe a little), and is relatively entertaining.

I giggled at many points in the movie, most of the time over birder-esque things.  I think there could have been a little more slapstick comedy in it.  I mean we've all had some falls while hiking through the woods or been so focused on finding THAT bird that we've stepped in something unpleasant.  And while there were a few of those moments, mostly by Jack Black's character,  I think there could have even been more.  I mean seriously.... no one even got pooped on. 

The non-birding guy I went with said that he enjoyed it... but I think the thing he laughed at the most was when we got out of the movie and the first thing I did was to check my phone and the CT Bird Listserv to see if anyone had reported anything interesting.  Yeah, I think I'll laugh a little more at myself too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Window Strikes Again

Almost every morning that I drive into campus, I make a swing under what I have started to call the 'corridor of doom'.  It's not 1 but 2 floors of elevated glass hallway that connect two buildings here at work.  I guess I should clarify, two unoccupied buildings here at work.  I've asked if they would be willing to lower the shades all the time, at least until people move in.  Of course, the answer is that it is an impossibility because it's automatically programmed to close and open based on temperature in the blah blah blah.  I must admit to me it sounds like, the hallway is too pretty to keep shaded and I'm not going to put the trouble into figuring out how to do it. 

Casualties of the Corridor of Doom: Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Black-throated Green Warbler

One fall we had a HUGE fallout of Juncos and unfortunately many did not survive.  Luckily, that has been by far the worst accrual of death we have had due to window strikes.  I can't blame all the death on those corridors however; our building also has three ground-floor passageways with glass on both sides.  One side of one passageway causes most of the window strikes in our building and we've been lucky that we have gotten away with hanging newspaper on the windows and no one has taken it down.  Lucky except... there's a glass door with a glass header over it and the birds still fly into that. 

Last week I went out for a quick walk-through the courtyard and didn't see anything by the windows and was happily enjoying the White-throated Sparrows that have just shown up on campus, the American Robins feasting on random berries, and a Common Yellowthroat hopping around in the underbrush. 

Then as I was heading in the doors, here was this little bird sitting on the cold cement slab panting.  Ruby-throated Humingbirds are still migrating through Connecticut with mostly females and first year birds left.  Most of the hawkwatch sites count the Ruby-throats they see and by this time the numbers are starting to drop off with most of the birds already reaching the southern U.S. on their way to Mexico and South America to overwinter. 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird- female/ immature type

So why did I pick this bird up and not just leave it where it was to recover?  Hummingbirds burn a lot of energy and they have a very small body which doesn't retain heat very well.  I picked it up to donate some of my body heat while the bird was recovering.  After a few minutes of sitting on my open palm, it recovered enough to fly up to a tree branch in the sun about 15 feet above me.  I watched it for about five minutes but it was still sitting in the tree when I left, I figured it could probably do without the stress of having me still so close. 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird- recovering from window strike