Sunday, December 8, 2013

Crushing Year Birds With The Inner Circle

I started this whole Crushing business so that I could be super lazy with my blogging. That is why you have not seen a Crush in many a moon. For this I am sorry. All I can do is promise to try harder.

Since leaving the Island, I have gotten something like 35 State Year birds. The accumulation of State Year Birds has consumed my entire being. It is all that I think about. I have spent an enormous amount of time and energy on Sierra Yankee Bravos. I have had help from family, friends, and the hyper-secret society known as the Inner Circle of California Birding. As I write this, I have 18 days left to add to my CA 2013 list. This is a very small amount of days. My list stands at around 415, and I am hoping for at least ten more before I fly to Mexico fro the last week of 2013. Here are my Crushes of some post-SEFI birds. Most are Yankee Bravos, but not all.

Savannah Sparrow, Salt Springs Valley. Not a year bird. Not even a rare bird, but I thought that it was interestingly buffy. Buffiest Savannah I've ever seen. 

Scarlet Tanager, San Diego. 

This is a top secret Inner Circle San Diego bird. If you would like to see it, you must either check every Coral Tree in Mission Bay, or learn the Puppet-master's Secret Handshake.

I had to pay twelve bucks for this State Year Bird. It was foolish of me to wait until November to see a Common Poorwill, but this was the Crushiest Poorwill I've ever gotten to see. Totally worth it. LA Natural History Museum.

Just one more of this stunner. Kimball said that this bird is quite pale and is likely not the typical subspecies seen in S. California. I know little of such matters, but trust in this information wholeheartedly. 

Mmmm... Life Birds. So delicious. Oscar Johnson and family kindly shuttled my friends and me around Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands a few weeks ago. It was ridiculously fun. We saw the Jays on Santa Cruz and I found the first Island Record for Scarlet Tanager a few minutes later (not sufficiently Crushed for blogging purposes).

Masked Booby, Long Beach Harbor Buoy. This is one of two MABOs that roost every night on a buoy near the entrance to the Long Beach Harbor. They are awesome, and you can see them by buying a ticket on a whale-watching boat. Again, totally worth it. We saw Blue and Fin Whales as an added bonus.

I think it was Jon Feen who spotted this totally typical American Coot at my birthday party in Earvin Magic Johnson Park. Compton, CA.

Outright State Bird. Also another birthday bird. Philadelphia Vireo at Legg Lake. Quite drab for a Philly.
I shocked the birdwatching community to its very core by finding and Crushing this Blackpoll Warbler at Legg Lake this fall. Los Angeles will never be the same.

I will never forget this day. The Inner Circle accepted me as one of their own. They introduced me to Puppet-master McCaskie, taught me the Handshake, issued me a personal Com-link unit, and allowed me to bask in the glory of this beautiful Wood Thrush somewhere in Southern California. 

The bird just kept walking up to me on the lawn like a lost puppy, so I did what came naturally. Crushing. This little booger had his face so Crushed in that by the time I was done, I don't think he could fly straight. Hopefully, the bird survived the Crushing process.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Farewell SEFI Crushes

I feel the need to post a final installment of Crushes obtained on the Island of Farallones.  The quality of the birding increased pretty dramatically at the end of my stay. October was quite decent. There was one bird wave that produced about a thousand landbirds. They were all common western migrants, except for the first island record of Williamson's Sapsucker. A juvenile Sandhill Crane spent at least a week on the island. We dubbed her "Craney", we fed her mice, and taught her to forage in the dirt and under rocks for inverts. Then there were some other decent birds here and there to finish off my fifth fall on SEFI (Brown Thrasher, Great-crested Flycatcher...none were Crushed). Here are some memorable highlights that I did Crush:

Craney would walk up to anyone and chirp incessantly, begging for mice. The sound of her cute chirping induced strong parental instincts in all humans on island, and everyone totally fell in love. That was when I stepped in and Crushed her face just after she took a drink from our bird bath. 

In bright sunlight, Rufous Hummingbirds often squint to shade their tiny eyes from the harsh solar glare. I like to take this time to Crush while their guard is down.

Generally speaking, you know you are dealing with a Crushed bird when a molt limitis as obvious as on this Tree Swallow.

I have heard that certain ex SD listserv owners become very upset when a banded bird ruins a potential Crush. They think it makes the Crush less Crushey, I guess. Certainly doesn't matter to me. I think that this banded Brewer's Sparrow looks just fine.

This Blackpoll Warbler knew his time had come. He bravely stared into the perfectly circular and endlessly black void of my Crusher lens as the relentless Crushes battered him in the face.

Another brave bird. Boldly facing down the Crusher, full well knowing its flattened fate. Short-eared Owl.

Bottom line, this bird = Crushed. But what species is it? I know what I think it is, but there are some out there who disagree. Please chime in with your opinion.

After Craney finally left, and after I stopped crying over the loss of my dearly adopted Crane foster child, Goosey (an Aleutian Cackling Goose) showed up. Goosey was still hanging around the houses when I left the island and I haven't asked if she stuck around. Significantly less charming and charismatic than Craney, but still good. Especialy for Crushing.

These are the guys that make all the Crushing possible out there. Castañeda, Tietz, Musher, and Rutt (Curry not pictured due to height. Couldnt fit her in the frame without fetching a ladder.) Thanks guys, and sorry for crushing you so hard in black and white.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

From Lowest Valley to Highest Mountaintop

Peaks and Valleys. 
Mostly Valleys. 
The least birdy Fall in recent Farallon history. Every once in a while, the Shit Times were punctuated by times of great Joy and Prosperity. The first moment of joy came on my little sister's birthday, Sep 29th (Happy Birthday Kayla) in the form of a Vireo that was Yellow and Green. This is of course impossible. Any Globally Ranked Birder knows this species is found only in South Texas. I wonder if South Texans know about Crushing. This one certainly does now:

This Yellow-green Vireo has been one of the best birds of the Fall on the Farallones this year. It's pretty messed up that I would repay him by just Crushing his face into oblivion. Dear Mr. Vireo: I'm sorry for Crushing you so brutally. It really did mean a lot to me that you showed up here and let me look at you. I appreciate your sacrifice in ways you could never imagine.

Pretty Clay-colored Sparrows like this are very easy to separate from Brewer's Sparrows, but we often get birds that are exceedingly tricky. Thank god for simple, straightforward Crushed Sparrows like this one.

Check out the hallux on this bad boy. He's probably gutted hundreds of prospective Crushers. I wasn't scared. Crushed him anyway.

This is the prettiest Lapland Longspur I've seen on the Farallones. He was nearly blown over by the gale-force winds, and I took his brief moment of helplessness to deliver this Crushing blow. The bird sustained the most devastating Crushing on his left primaries, with substantial Crushing also occurring on the rump and median coverts. The bird is currently in critical condition, probably in a plowed field somewhere along coastal California. 

Northern Elephant Seal, right fore-flipper. As you can see from the flatness of the flipper, this seal was Crushed so badly, that a salve of orange stuff was applied for speedier healing. Just kidding. It's seal shit.

And then, just like that, the Vireo flew away and we were in for a long, low valley (shit times). There was a small peak of Joy two days later when a very special Crane appeared, and then we had to wait until October 4th for more Prosperity, but I will save that story for when we meet again.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Crushing Away the Dull Days

I have had a very slow couple of weeks since we last spoke. Motivation to Crush has been low due to lack of birds and an excess of fog and wind. Still, I have managed to make a few Crushings here and there. The secret for success during these comfortless times is to greatly lower your standards when looking for Crushing victims. Anything becomes fair game at this point. Here are the wholly unremarkable Crush subjects from my last few weeks on the Farallones.

When all seems lost, I usually go spend time with the hauled-out Northern Elephant Seals. They have the uncanny ability to lift one's spirits on the gloomiest of days. Sadly, this individual was brutally Crushed only moments after cheering me up with her hilarious kelp mask.

On dull days such as I am experiencing, it becomes necessary to Crush abysmally common birds such as this Red-winged Blackbird. I don't mind. It helps people to find the simple beauty of their mundane everyday lives.

Warbling Vireos sometimes engage in their own kind of crushing. This one is crushing a Cormorant Fly while I Crush its face.

Black-throated Gray Warbler is among the finest of all warblers. Also one of the most cooperative when it comes to Crushing. This one served itself up like a lamb for slaughter.

One of the few vagrant warblers I've seen on the Farallones this year is this Chestnut-sided Warbler. It is the only vagrant warbler that I have successfully Crushed, which is exceedingly abnormal for a man with a camera on the Farallones in September.

Yesterday, I basically won the lottery. I was gifted with the chance to be in a boat next to a Great White Shark while it ate a Northern Elephant Seal. I was a bit too close to Crush the shark with the Crushing equipment I was carrying, and this was my best one. 

*No animals were harmed during the crushing of this web log.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Puffin Crushing

In the house on SEFI, there hangs a photo of a Tufted Puffin taken by Ron LeValley some years ago. To call it a Crush would be an understatement. I can see it right now from where I am sitting, and I almost pity that poor bird for the brutal and shocking manner in which his face was crushed in by Ron. 

Over the last few years I have tried unsuccessfully to Crush a Puffin with Ron-like force. Sometimes, early in the season, you can perch up on on of the cliffs near the Puffin burrows and aim your Crusher at them as they fly by at eye-level. Usually, this results in some pretty decent shots (not crushes) of Tufted Puffins in flight. I went Puffin-Crushing today on Lighthouse Hill and got my best so far. It's a far cry from the famous LeValley Crush from the good old days, but it still ranks highly among Puffin-Crushes all-time.

Tufted Puffin, looking a bit anxious. Perhaps the Crusher I was pointing in its direction was intimidating.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Crushing 101, An Introduction

Let's face it.  Most of the photographs that people take of birds (myself included) belong in the garbage. Frequently, this does not deter people from sharing and showing these photos to hoards of internet users of the world wide webs.  Isn't it time we had a place where this type of behavior wasn't allowed? A place where only the best photo in a thousand would be permitted to rear its beautiful head?  A place where average-quality shots of rare birds for documentation purposes were strictly prohibited.

I present to you the latest and greatest from Handsome Dan (AKA Dipper Dan, AKA Don Mastwell, AKA Old Man Dan) of TPAD fame.  A brand new place to find All Things Crushed.  Please enjoy.

The basic concepts of Crushing are simple:

First, buy an expensive camera.  Next, get as close as you possibly can to a facemelting bird and press the buttons on your camera until said bird is Crushed into a two-dimensional image.  It's that easy.

Costa's Hummingbird, Angeles National Forest.  In the rain.  Visible raindrops add bonus points to any Crush.  Plus they show that the photographer (Crusher) was out in the shit, getting the job done.  No matter the conditions.
Grace's Warblers, in my experience, are not so easily Crushable as this one. It flew in and perched about 20 feet in front of my face, as if to say "Please sir, Crush me into a completely flat, 2-dimensional object known as a photograph."  Sometimes a bird just needs to be Crushed.

Crushing is performed all over the world. In the UK, birds are Crushed on the left side of the road. The effect is still the same, however, and results in melty faces. Great Crested Grebe, London.

Eurasian Kestrels make nice Crushes. This one was in Richmond Park, London. 

While not a prerequisite for Crushedness, the rarity of a bird does add strength to any good Crush.  Also, Crushing rare birds that your friends have never seen in their lives is enormously satisfying. Northern Shrike at Quail Lake, L.A. County.

Jay. The complexity of its wing coverts makes up for the simplicity of its name.  Jay makes for a fairly melty Crush, even though it is a common bird in London's city parks.

Most Crushers know that the Eye is the most crucial part of any good crush.  An out of focus eye immediately removes a photograph from the Crushed category. Volcano Junco, Cerro De La Muerte, Costa Rica. 

Magenta-throated Woodstar. Crushed. Crushing birds that come in to feeders (Geri Birding) is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to obtain Mega Crushes. You can also enjoy a meal and a tasty beverage between Crushings.

This is another Geri-Crush. Speckled Tanager, Costa Rica.

Crushing birds is muy fun, but can have its limitations. Basically, not everyone wants to look at photographs of birds. Even if said photographs are actually spine-tingling, tooth-grinding, crippling Crushes of unreal proportions.  So from time to time you have to Crush other stuff.  Like this White-faced Capuchin at Carara NP, Costa Rica. Hell, you could even crush a frog, a snake, a dragonfly, or a person.  I plan to Crush all kinds of stuff in the coming years.

That just about wraps up Crushing 101, An Introduction.  Now that you are familiar with the basics of Crushing birds, I look forward to sharing future crushes.

Until next time my Crush Bros.