Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post #81 - A return to bike birding! Am I a hypocrite? Bonus humminbird video.....

Trying to stay apolitical.
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!


video

Whew, made it - no politics. Amazing.

13 comments:

  1. That is an awesome video and I bet such an amazing experience!

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    1. Yeah, it was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime-type experience. The hummingbirds would just land on me while I was watching the feeders. I hope all is well in KS!

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  2. Hahaha, let it out, Dorian, let it out! I understand, I've been trying to stay fairly quiet on Facebook, when I just really want to rage!

    First of all, good lord, no, you are not a hypocrite!!!! Second, that video is amazing! I don't think I would have been able to stay as still as you did. You didn't even flinch!

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  3. Yeah, I want this blog to be haven from all the political noise/nonsense - even though its really hard to keep quiet with so much idiocy out there.

    I don't see myself as a hypocrite either, but I feel I should hold my own feet to the proverbial fire periodically so as to keep myself honest. Looking forward to more biking in the future....stay tuned on that front!

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  4. Dorian, I've thought about leading a local bike bird trip here in Oregon, but I'm nervous about how to do it. I'd be interested in a post with your tips. My favorite birding area here has a bike path through the local wetlands, but I have trouble keeping bird walkers from getting run over by other bicyclists--the thought of keeping a group of bicyclist birders in a tight group without any "problems" is challenging.
    Vjera (who had lunch with you in Springfield when you were birding Mt. Pisgah for Red-breasted Sapsucker)

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    1. Hi Vjera - great to hear from you! I most certainly remember out Eugene lunch! Looking at the other comments below, it looks as though you aren't the only one with interest in planning bike-based birding trips. I will certainly try to work a post on this exact topic in the mix in the next few weeks, so please stay tuned!

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  5. I regularly bird by bike and have led trips on my bike. But, I usually park it and walk. Participants arrive by car, bike or walking. I'm curious what bikes you use when you do a bike tour far from home. Does everyone have to rent a bike? Bike rentals, besides usually being incredibly expensive, are not found everywhere. Thanks

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    1. Hi Michel. Thanks for the note. I think the trick is finding a good route. If its too short, its more productive/easier to do it on foot. What I've found is that people kinda forget about birding once they get onto the bikes. Sure they want to see birds, but they're so awestruck by the novelty of the bike they just go along and enjoy the riding segments between bouts of birding. I'll try to put together a formal post on this in the next few weeks!

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  6. I regularly bird by bike and have led trips on my bike. But, I usually park it and walk. Participants arrive by car, bike or walking. I'm curious what bikes you use when you do a bike tour far from home. Does everyone have to rent a bike? Bike rentals, besides usually being incredibly expensive, are not found everywhere. Thanks

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  7. What an amazing experience the hummers had to be! Folks familiar with you know that your ecological theories are put into practice as much as possible and that's the best any of us can do. So, carry on and share the adventure with us.

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  8. Thanks FFG! Yeah, I try to do what I can to minimize my footprint knowing that getting to zero is impossible. If we call cut down even 10% of our overall resource utilization (gas, food, stuff, etc), it would make a huge difference! More adventures to come, for sure!

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  9. Fabulous video Dorian! If that hummingbird gets enthusiastic with its tongue you'd be french kissing a hummingbird!

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    1. I know, Fred. Sonia might have something to say about me kissing anyone/anything else! I hope all is well up north!

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