Saturday, December 19, 2009

Aspiring Ornithologist sees a MacGillivray's

Oh my--not a single post in November!

First things first--guess what? Changed my major.
Yup, after more than 3 years struggling along in RIT-NTID's American Sign Language--English Interpreting program, I finally threw in the towel. Had to admit that it's just not the career path for me. I love signing, but it comes a little slow to me--the other day I signed "year" instead of "hour" which, take my word for it, shouldn't be happening at this point. Pretty spazzy. Interpreting just isn't what I'm passionate about. Now, birds on the other hand.....

It may seem reckless and brash to base my new academic ambitions on something I've only been doing for about a year and a half, and maybe it is. But you know when you just.....know? Gotta go with the gut on this one. I can be down in the dumps like nobody's business, and if I happen to hear a nuthatch laughing a little way off, instant huge smile. Everything else fades into unimportance, momentarily falls to the bottom of the priority list. As some of my birding friends say--I've got the bug.

So, no more ASL major. Pending approval of my proposal, I'll be a Multidisciplinary Studies major. A committee has to look over the academic plan I've proposed for myself and give me the go ahead. I've never had to have anything approved by a committee before, has a very intimidating tone to it. I chose Multidisciplinary in an effort to salvage the credits I've already earned--don't want 3 years of college to go to waste! Essentially though, from here on out, I'll be focusing on Environmental Science and Biology.

It begins, folks. I'm goin' for it.

.....but none of that is really about birds, is it? At least not directly. Wouldn't you rather read about the MacGillivray's Warbler that graced Boston with its presence? Towards the end of my Thanksgiving break I finally realized that I should take a look at the rare bird sightings for MA--I haven't gotten into a good habit of checking regularly. Apparently there was a Barred Owl hanging out in town, as well as a MacGillivray's Warbler! So off into Boston I went. Drive to a T station, subway into town, foot from there. And what did I realize 5 minutes after I arrived on the Common? My camera battery was back home in the charger. D'OH! Briefly chatted with a couple of birders, easily identified by the binoculars around their necks. Apparently the Barred Owl hadn't been seen so far that day, so some of my frustration melted away. Long story short, I went back home and gave the trip a second try the next morning--making sure that my camera battery was in the camera this time.

I checked the Common again for the Barred Owl--no luck. However, it was a simply gorgeous day outside. Lots of adorable families--young couples with cute little tykes dressed in bulky red-and-green sweaters, trying to get the boys to stop chasing each other with willow branches so they can take the family photo for the Holiday card. Little babies in strollers all bundled up in puffy down-filled coats everywhere. It was just plain lovely. Great people watching time--a November day graced with blue skies on the Boston Common.

After a brief loop around the Common I set off for the Public Gardens, where the MacGillivray's Warbler was reported to be hanging out. Once there I simply looked for folks with binoculars. Found them pretty quickly. :P
gorgeous day at the Public Gardens

There was an Orange-Crowned Warbler keeping the MacGillivray's company, so I got 2 lifers that day! Got good pictures of both birds, too.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay around long because I had to drive back to school in Rochester that same day! (It's a 6-8 hour drive depending on weather, traffic, etc.)

Other than that birding expedition, I really haven't been out too much I'm afraid. Saw my first Long-tailed Ducks for this Winter the other day at Irondequoit Bay, but didn't stay long. I did miss those beauties, though. Really good to see them again. Can't wait for all the other Winter Anatidae favorites to arrive in greater numbers.

My brother convinced Mom to let us open a gift each early, so I already have two fantastic Christmas bird-related presents to spend time reading through: A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See it All by Luke Dempsey and the National Geographic Complete Birds of the World. I have a bunch of reading to catch up on for my Intro to Environmental Studies class, so I'm trying not to get too sucked in to A Supremely Bad Idea. I'm only a few pages in, and I like it quite a bit so far. Already made me laugh out loud. It's written by a Brit, so it's potential awesomeness is increased 10-fold. The National Geographic Birds of the World goes through every bird family on earth, and even just flipping through looking at the photos was mind-blowing. Curious about some of our more um, er, "interesting-looking" feathered friends? Try looking up some members of the Cotingidae family, like the Bare-necked Umbrellabird or the male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Also take a peek at the Wreathed Hornbill; it's very.....distinctive.

That seems to be quite enough for now, I'll just briefly mention that I did ask Santa to bring me a scope for Christmas, and I'll be participating in the Newburyport CBC again this year on December 27th! Visit to check out your local CBC's and to either join a field team or become a feederwatcher. Happy Holidays to everyone! And as I like to say.....

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.


  1. Congrats on the lifers and best wishes with the change in studies.

    Hope you have a great Xmas & that Santa answers your wish.
    Cheers, Frank.

  2. Yes! Congrats on the lifers! Love the photos.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year 2010!

    Birding in Maine

  3. Hey, neat birds!
    Congrats on making the shift towards ornithology. As long as you stay passionate about it, you'll succeed. The scientific theory behind birds and birding may at times be boring but a day out in the field will always remind you that you work for something that's fun.
    Happy New Year!

  4. That "Supremely Bad Idea" book - not very good, really, and I say that as an exiled Brit who got into birding while living in Texas. Try "The Big Year" instead. Or try Kenn Kaufmann's "Kingbird Highway". Or The Snow Geese" by William Fiennes.

    Regardless of that, nice photos of the warbler, it was number 559 on my life list, never thought that I'd see one.

  5. Congrats on the lifers!and the change of major..I know you are a true birder at heart and will somehow fit that in...
    its taken me a long long time to catch up with blogs..being on the road and sporadic here i am..a bit late..

  6. Thanks for the book recommendations, David! I'll add them to the (very long) list of books I want to read, although Kingbird Highway was already on there. So little time, eh?

    Hope life on the road is treating you well, Dawn :)