Thursday, January 13, 2011


The term twitcher, sometimes misapplied as a synonym for birder, is reserved for those who travel long distances to see a rare bird that would then be ticked, or checked off, on a list. ... Some birders engage in competition to accumulate the longest species list. The act of the pursuit itself is referred to as a twitch or chase. A rare bird that stays put long enough for people to see it is twitchable or chaseable. -- Wikipdedia

I, and a number of other folks, went twitching this past Sunday. Clearly a form of insanity. There I was, wandering about a oceanside park on a very cold windy day looking for a small bird, an hour and half form home. While wandering about I ran into another twitcher (one of the other Steves who won in the DVOC photo contest). Neither of us had seem the bird. Bummer. 

A couple of other birders told us of some red-breasted nuthatches and we wandered over to see them before heading off to find other more twitchable birds. And as we were watching a small bird dropped onto the snow, no more than ten feet away.

This was the object of everyone's attention, a white-winged crossbill. It seemed oblivious to Steve and I. While I shot away, Steve went to get his camera. The bird waited. We moved around to get better light.

Umm ... tasty snow!

We waved other crazies over to see. Of course, as soon as we did that, the bird flew. But we relocated it up in a tree. And everyone was able to tick it off their list.

There were also red crossbills in the area. So Steve and I headed off to find them.

In this endeavor we were not successful.

While we watched and waited, there were plenty of these to keep us entertained. Flitting about from tree to tree.

A variety of sparrows also entertained us.

As did a curious fellow who seemed to think diving loons were harbor seals, sparrows where crossbills, and liked to hear himself talk. (I was not as enamored as he was.)

There was also a large flock of barkers that couldn't decide where the wanted to be. Every ten minutes or so lifting off and flying over. Only to go back a short while later. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Not unlike some of the other twitchers going from side street to side street and back again, looking for the red crossbills.

Steve and I wandered about some more, chasing eared grebe and razorbill (success) and pacific loon (nope).  We also looked into a report of an injured penguin ("Imagine that, a penguin. Here." a fellow walking the beach told us). Didn't find that one either.


What you ask, would lead an otherwise sane individual (shut up you!) to wander about in freezing weather to get brief glimpses of often faraway birds? How about TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS!

That is the prize in the Bob Billings Big Year Challenge. (A challenge I have no realistic chance of winning, making this even more insane.) My count is at fifty-three right now (and at fifty a month I'll get six hundred for the year!).  Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

It's true what they say then! A Twitch in Time saves Nine or eleven or however many of you there were! Wonderful Images Nutter!

Anonymous said...

Got the crossbill! Good for you. I've been debating on whether to head to 7 presidents this weekend or maybe barnegat instead. Weather and desire will determine the outcome. Very nice photos Steve.

Anonymous said...

Sending good luck vibes your way! I love that little nuthatcher...never have seen one...what cool markings! That last image is just breathtaking w/ that pink/purplish sky! WOW!

Julie McLeod said...

Interesting glimpse into the life of a "twitcher". Good luck in the challenge - you seem off to a pretty darn good start.

I love that final image with the crashing wave and the beautiful sky. Oh yes, and the BIRDS! ;-)

Lené Gary said...

This is a great post! What fun. The last shot took my breath away. Ahhh... to see the ocean, and what a beautiful view you share with us. Nice!