Monday, June 24, 2013

Bird Chasing or Twitching

Bird Chasing, or twitching, as the Brits call it, is when you hear of a bird that you haven’t seen before and you take a car, plane, boat or walk as fast as you can, in order to see it and maybe, with a little luck, photograph it.
I got into bird chasing when a vagrant Bare Throated Tiger Heron showed up at Bentsen State Park and people from all over were coming to see it.
20100102_64 copy
From that point on I was hooked.
I’m lucky to live in such a birding mecca, where I have gotten most of my life birds.  A life bird is a bird that you have seen for the first time and you add it to your life list.  I have 168 life birds on my list so far.
When I’m out bird chasing, I tend to feel a little like Elmer Fudd.
“Be very,very quiet, I’m hunting (insert bird of choice here)”.
I belong to Texbirds, which is a listserv that keeps me up to date on birds in the area.
A good example is when I read that the Varied Bunting was over at Bentsen State Park.
I biked over and rode the tram to the path where the bird had been seen.  It was hot, hot, hot, and it took me over an hour and a half to find it, but I finally did, with some help from another birder.
Varied Bunting 3 SBP

Varied Bunting 7 BSP 2013
Another example is the Painted Bunting,that I got to see this week, thanks to another tip from one of our Villagers.
Painted Bunting BSP 6
It’s kind of like being on a scavenger hunt.
Some people have asked me how I know the bird will still be there after being spotted by someone else.  Well, the answer is, I don’t. Typically though, unless it is migrating season, if you see a bird that keeps returning to the same area, singing or carrying nesting material, there is a good chance it will be there for a few days, anyway.
I had read that there was a Red-Naped Sapsucker over at Bentsen State Park.  Sure enough, it was right on the tree where it had been spotted previously, eating.

BSP Rednaped Sapsucker 20132
He only hung around for a few days.  I don’t know why he was there or where he went, but I loved getting to see him.
I’ve also had some ask me how I got the birds to sit still while I photographed them.  Tongue in cheek, I tell them that I thumbtack their little feet to the branches.
So there you have it,a brief description of bird chasing or twitching.
A fun movie to watch about chasing birds is The Big Year, with Steve Martin.