Saturday, September 10, 2011

All the Birds We Saw this Summer

It can strike anywhere, anytime. It can be when I'm in the car with Jason, or spending time with friends at the park, or having a conversation with my sister, or walking across BYU campus, or at Disneyland, or at home alone, or even (I'm not making this up) in my dreams. 

What is it?


And not planned, "I'm going to go watch birds for a while" bird-watching, but head-turning, conversation-cutting-offing, I-absolutely-must-identify-that-species birdwatching. 

It's like this:

but with birds. (Funnily enough, my cousin Ashley also referenced this clip on her blog this week, but in reference to her three-year-old and butterflies. She also posted the funniest clip ever, which you should probably watch, especially since it's only like three seconds long.) But honestly, it's like that. Jason and I have made the comparison many, many times, after we'll have been talking together in some nice conversation that's just flowing along when all of the sudden my head will snap to the side and I'll yell "Bird!" and then all I can see or think about or look at is the thing with wings outside my window.

It all started about a year and a half ago, when I took a super cool class with an impossible assignment. What was it? Ornithology. Ornithology is the study of birds, and it turned out to be one of my favorite classes I took at BYU. We learned all about the biology of birds (which basically comes down to a couple key principles about the reduction and centralization of mass so that birds can fly), and we were also given a (truly) impossible assignment that forced us all to become birdwatchers.

The assignment we were given was to identify 200 different species of birds during the semester, and none of us realized at the time, but it truly was impossible. The only people in our class who even came close to that number all took a week-long birdwatching vacation together in California. I got, I think, about 130 species, and I got an A on the assignment. So, I've come to realize that our teacher and his TA were never expecting us to get 200 species. What they were expecting, however, was for us to become neurotically obsessed with every single bird that was within 2 miles of where we were standing. Anything that flew past our head, or our window, or we could see way off in the distance, we had to identify. We had to know if it was a species we already had, or if it was something new. Most of them, after a while, were birds we already had, but we couldn't stop identifying them, because the small chance that it was something we had not yet added to our list.

I didn't realize it at the time, but four months of near obsession with every single bird around me was not something that could easily be shaken off after the semester ended. Ohhh no. No, to this day, every time a bird is within my range of vision, I drop everything I'm doing and watch it like a mad-man in an attempt to identify it. I have finally accepted this as a permanent compulsion the class ingrained into me, and I really have come to enjoy birdwatching and even identify as a "birdwatcher."

Anyway, these are the birds we saw in California this summer. It's not a complete list, but it's most of them. I want to note: we never went birdwatching as an activity. These were birds that happened to be wherever we were. So yeah! If you have any interest in bird species, enjoy. :)

Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Acorn Woodpecker
Brewer's Sparrow
Wood Duck
Isn't she pretty?

Red-tailed Hawk
Brown Pelican
Canada Goose

Double-crested Cormorant 
At Disneyland, of all places.

Marbled Godwit
Greater Yellowlegs
Amazona Green parrots
Ring-billed Gull

Helmeted Guineafowl
These three guineafowl had eighteen babies!

Mourning Dove
Eurasion Collared-dove
Rock Pigeon
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Swan (Chinese) Goose
Remember this guy?

American Crow
Common Raven
Western Gull
Various hummingbirds
Various Swallows

House Sparrow
These two sparrows were really interesting. The male (the one on the left) kept getting breadcrumbs (from like fifteen or twenty feet away), flying back, and feeding the female on the right.

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