Trying harder to stay apolitical.
Must remain apolitical!
Damn, this is hard......
This past week I traveled to Harlingen, Texas for the 23rd annual installment of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival (RGVBF). This was my second trip to the internationally recognized birding event. Last year, I gave the keynote talk and led 2 bike-based field trips, one at Bentsen State Park and the other at Resaca de la Palma. Those outings were the first biking trips the festival had ever run, and the feedback afterwards was so positive that this year the festival organizers scheduled me for 4 trips! This year's installments were no different, and participants really seemed to enjoy themselves on the bikes. If you are on the organizing committee for any birding festival, please do consider adding a bike trip or two if at all possible. It is a great way to bird, and it offers participants a nice break from the driving and walking that necessarily characterizes the vast majority of festival field trips.
Anyway, rather fortuitously, an Amazon Kingfisher appeared at Zacate Creek in Laredo just 2 days before the festival commenced. The individual represented just the 3rd ABA record, the first being from that same Zacate Creek in 2010 and the second being from north of Brownsville in 2013 (red dots, above map). The species is thus a really rare bird in the ABA area, and, as it stuck around for following few days, I rented a car one afternoon and drove to Laredo to collect the wayward individual for my ABA list. The round-trip drive drive was 365 miles and took about 6 hours. I had stunning views of the bird, and I used an entire tank of gas in the process of getting there and back.
Amazon Kingfisher - ABA seen species #713 -
A heavily cropped record shot in questionable light
A participant on my field trip the following morning inquired about a potential disconnect between my bike-birding and my bird-chasing. The implication was that my bird chase was not in-line with my environmentally-sustainable birding tendencies as exemplified by bike-birding. It was a completely valid question, asked without prejudice, and I did my best to answer it. First, let me say that I fully acknowledge that bird-chases such as the one in which I engaged are certainly not eco-friendly as they suck up a fair amount of gas. That being said, I rarely - if ever - drive during the week. I actually go out of my way to take public transportation to work every single day here in LA so as to offset the driving that I do while birding. So yes, while a bird chase such as the one above might seem incongruous with my own environmental goals, the reality is that no one is petroleum or carbon neutral. I do what I can to minimize my daily impact and, on rare occasions (3 times in the last year), drive long distances in the name of bird chasing and/or listing. The questioner felt satisfied with my answer as did the other 7 field trip participants. I figured I would share the exchange with you as I found it a worthwhile discussion. I'll leave it up to you to decide if I'm a hypocrite or not.....
Lastly, here's a fun video from Colombia last week. The first bird to appear is a Great Sapphirewing, the second largest hummingbird in the world. When it departs, a smaller but no-less spectacular Golden-breasted Puffleg appears. It was an incredible thrill to have the birds feeding right in/on my face!
Whew, made it - no politics. Amazing.