Thursday, February 28, 2008

Barrack Obama, Love God

Today, by an accident of geography, I found myself at a Barrack Obama rally. He was addressing a crowd directly across the street from where I work, and when most of my coworkers went I tagged along. I'm not a Democrat and have no intention of voting for him, but it did get me away from my desk for a while.

Beaumont is only a medium-sized city, and politicians on the campaign trail rarely stop here. Presidential candidates (particularly those with a decent shot at winning a nomination) don't visit Beaumont. They send their spouses instead. In the week preceding Barrack Obama's visit they were both here - Mrs. Obama and Bill Clinton. I drove by a Clinton event on my way to lunch one day. The contrast between the modest attendence at the Clinton rally and the overflow crowd that I stood in today couldn't be more striking. When Obama approached us it caused such a surge of onlookers that someone could have been trampled in the rush. Afterwards my coworkers (all women) were absolutely gushing over Obama, and it was Obamamania for the rest of the day. It was like the second coming of Christ. From some of the comments I heard it wasn't clear whether they wanted to vote for him or date him. Tonight Obama was the lead story on all our local news stations. Hillary might still be in the race, but you wouldn't have known it from the coverage I saw.

Last Saturday I did some birding on the Bolivar Peninsula. Lots of birds on the beaches. Also a lot of plastic crap. It's a real shame. "Don't Mess With Texas" they say. Why the hell not? Looks like everybody does. The maximum fine for littering in California is $1000. It's posted on signs along the highways. No $1000 penalty here - just a stupid slogan (which serves only one purpose - to make Texans feel like they are tough when in actuality they are soft as butter on this problem). For all the bluster and "Texas pride" people claim to have you would think they wouldn't treat their state like a big junkyard. In Texas the maximum fine is only $500 for a first offense...and that's in the very unlikely event that an officer catches you at it. I see people throwing garbage out of their cars all the time. Don't mess with Texas? Don't make me laugh. This state is covered in trash. Makes California look pristine by comparison, and California is the state you don't want to mess with.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

No I Did Not Go See the Elaenia This Weekend

This afternoon, while other lucky birders were on Padre Island enjoying the White-crested Elaenia, I was driving around Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge picking up mundane year birds such as Mottled Duck, Merlin, and Lesser Yellowlegs. It was a nice warm day but not buggy. The Skillern Tract presently has some excellent habitat for shorebirds and waders, and it was there that I had my best bird of the day, a Glossy Ibis (new addition to my Texas list). Sifted through a lot of White-faced Ibis to find it.At home I saw a male Rufous Hummingbird at our feeders today, and a green-backed Selasphorus hummingbird (probably another Rufous) was at the feeder by our kitchen window on Saturday.

Congratulations to Dan Jones of Antshrike's Bird Blog for finding the first North American record of White-crested Elaenia! It doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What's Your Dream Bird?

I got American Robin this week! Yeeeeeee-hah! Species #110 for 2008! To anyone with the temerity to attempt a big year in the same year as I (fools!), my best advice is to quit while you're ahead. It's pointless. I just got American Robin, didn't I? You may have a strong lead now, but I'm right behind you. Look over your shoulder. That's me. I'm fast on your heels. Getting nervous yet?

I think most birders have a dream bird, one they want to see more than any other. My dream bird is the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, a rare species of cotinga endemic to the mountains of Panama and Costa Rica. Not only is it rare and exotic, it looks rare and exotic. On my last trip to Costa Rica I made a long hike to a remote hut hoping to see it, but failed to locate the lek (yes, for courtship they gather at leks, sort of like grouse). Since then the umbrellabird has become my personal holy grail. A friend and I planned a trip to Costa Rica last spring, but fate intervened. It may be years before I get another chance, but someday I will go back to Costa Rica, trek deep into the rainiest rainforest, and find this amazing bird at its hidden lek.

Thanks to YouTube we have this stunning video of the closely related Amazonian Umbrellabird. Enjoy.