Throwback Thursday: Armchair Lifers

In October of 2012 Jaime and I spent 10 days in Europe by way of London and Paris. It was the best trip I have ever been on. It also happened to coincide with the point in my life where I was making that awkward transition from “bird-watcher” to “birder,” so I was aware of all of the new and exciting birds around, but I was poor at actually knowing what they were (original blog posts here and here). Today I had to dig up an old tax return, and the flash drive that I needed to use had our vacation photos on it. I looked through them to reminisce, but instead I ended up with some armchair lifers that for whatever reason I couldn’t or didn’t identify at the time.

egyptian-goose-london-oct-2012

Egyptian Goose

The bulk of my bird photos come from Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park where exotic waterfowl abound. At the time, I had a hell of a job trying to discern the domestic from the truly wild, and I think my caution was well-founded. However, Egyptian Goose is one that I have since learned is all over the UK. This one doesn’t have any bands and has both halluces present, so there is no reason to think it isn’t one of the established population. If you look closely, you can also see some pigeons in the photo. Armchair lifer!

Ruddy Shelduck - London Oct 2012.jpg

Ruddy Shelduck

The next in line are this pair of Ruddy Shelducks. eBird has a smattering of sightings across the London area, but most of them seem to indicate that these birds are introduced and kept as part of a collection. Sorry Ruddy Shelduck, you look cool but you are not getting counted!

Mandarin Duck - London Oct 2012.jpg

Mandarin Duck

Mandarin Duck is a bird I specifically remembered seeing, because, honestly, look at it. However, I had somehow not featured it on my initial write-up. I put it on my list from the 2012 trip, and 2017 research shows that large populations are also well-established on Britain. Not an armchair lifer, but validated countable bird!

Red-breasted Goose - London Oct 2012.jpg

Red-breasted Goose

Red-breasted Goose is native to Europe, including the UK, but their numbers are seriously low. A chance encounter with tame, grazing birds like these certainly means they are part of a collection. Not countable!

Geese - London Oct 2012.jpg

Combo!

Here is a cropped combo shot showing Mute Swan, Greater White-fronted Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Rock Pigeon, and Tourist. I don’t even think I noticed the geese in the background at the time, and the internet tells me neither Greater White-fronted nor Bar-headed are countable anyway. I like the swan though, especially because it’s not an invasive species in this photo!

Lesser Black-backed Gull - London Oct 2012.jpg

Lesser Black-backed Gull

I have a few photos of gulls from the trip, including lots of the ubiquitous Black-headed as well as a few immature Herring that I didn’t want to ID at the time. But the most surprising shot was this decent photo of what is very obviously a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a bird that I have chased and dipped on twice in Indiana thinking that it would be a lifer. But it wouldn’t have been, because this bird represents my armchair lifer! The best field mark for this bird is the half of a pigeon hanging out of its mouth. I have come to learn that LBBGs are famous for hunting them at Hyde Park.

Tower Raven - London Oct 2012.jpg

Tower Raven

Next up is a raven I shot at the Tower of London. These birds are obviously kept, but they are cool anyway, so here you go. eBird shows that their wild counterparts are abundant in the UK but with a gaping hole in their distribution over London city proper. I suppose it would be tough to substantiate a wild bird appearing in the city when these guys are so famous.

European Goldfinch - Paris Oct 2012.jpg

European Goldfinch

Hopping the Eurostar to Paris, I had this photo mixed in with all of my others from Jardin des Tuileries. I distinctly remember trying to get a photo of the House Sparrow because I thought it was cool that they were in their native range, and indeed I have a bunch of blurry photos to prove it. This one, however, also has another bird in it that I have no memory of seeing at the time, and judging by my lack of other photos of it probably didn’t notice at all. My House Sparrow got photobombed by a European Goldfinch. Armchair lifer, and perhaps a bird even more embarrassing than my CBC Sharp-shinned Merlin.

I thought I would feel bad about retroactively counting birds this way, but I thought it was actually kind of fun. Does anyone else admit to doing this?

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Urban Birding

Last weekend the sun was shining, the bike was ready, and the motorless list stood at 98 species. So I headed to downtown Fort Wayne in the hope of hitting the century mark before the end of May with two reliable downtown birds: Cliff Swallow and Peregrine Falcon.

Cliff Swallow

Cliff Swallow

I had no trouble finding the swallows, but my camera was no match for them. Of the dozens of photos that I took, this one ended up being the best. Yikes. Cliff Swallow is a bird that is not reported very often in Allen County, but I know a secret hiding place where they can be found. If not for a river kayak outing last spring, I would not have known about the colony beneath the heavily traveled Harrison Street bridge where they can only be observed from below.

Municipal Architecture

Municipal Architecture

With motorless bird #99 under my belt, I followed the river back toward the city, stopping along the way to admire some outstanding municipal architecture. Is this Gothic building: A.) City Hall, B.) County Courthouse, C.) Cathedral, or D.) University?

Answer: E.) Water Treatment Plant. They don’t build them like this any more.

Peregrine Falcon Habitat

Peregrine Falcon Habitat

A nest of introduced Peregrine Falcons has been very productive for several years in downtown Fort Wayne. I have seen many birds at several times this year, including one doing epic battle with a Turkey Vulture above the streets of the city, but always when I had driven into town (side note: the dogfight ended in a draw, but I would count it as a win for the TUVU who was pulling off some incredible aerobatic maneuvers to avoid the falcon). On this day, PEFA would remain hidden among the rooftops, so my list frustratingly stays at 99.

Lincoln Tower

Lincoln Tower

As it is written in the Constitution, every single Midwest city must boast one marquee pre-WWII Art Deco skyscraper. Fort Wayne’s is the Lincoln Tower, built as national headquarters for Lincoln Bank, and completed one month before the stock market crash leading to the Great Depression.

One Summit Square

One Summit Square

The monolith behind Lincoln Tower is One Summit Square, or if you want to call it by its new name, the Indiana Michigan Power Center (ugh). This building has the claim to fame of being the tallest structure in the city, the 4th tallest in the State (this is Indiana… I’ll take what I can get), and the single greatest murderer of birds in the downtown core. Although I suppose the killings are not intentional, so I guess we can call them manslaughter. Or birdslaughter.

Black-Billed Cuckoo

Black-Billed Cuckoo

It doesn’t matter if you are a Black-Billed Cuckoo…

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Or a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. The shiny glass panes of this building will get you either way. In general, if you are in the genus Coccyzus, stay the hell away. For the record: I have neither of these birds on my life list.

Mad Anthony Wayne

Mad Anthony Wayne

I have nothing as good to offer as some of the fare being blogged about from Arizona or Maine, but I can tell you about my city’s namesake: General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. To appropriately honor him, the city has a statue and an NBA D-League team (2014 champions, baby!).

The Worst Pigeon

The Worst Pigeon

To keep things bird-related as this wraps up, I offer you the world’s worst Rock Pigeon. I have no idea if this thing was sick or incubating eggs, but it was sitting in the doorway of an insurance company in a pile of its own filth. Even though I have yet to crack triple-digits, I am glad that this was not bird #100.

A challenge for my reader(s): Correctly guess bird #100, and your name will live immortally on this blog!

Honeymoon Birding

This past Monday minus one year, I got to marry the woman of my dreams! Not only does she put up with this bird obsession of mine, but she actually embraces it, too! As anyone who attended our wedding can attest, there were birds involved. Is that love or what?

Stuff!

Stuff!

As I am sure you are all surprised to hear, there was also much birding going on during our honeymoon to Maine. Observe!

Common Eider

Common Eider

Common Eiders were everywhere! Including the dockside bar that we went to before our sunset cruise in Portland Harbor one night. One of them was so trashed that she came right up to our table, removed everything from it, and demanded that she take our picture all the while telling us how much she hates Tom Brady and people from Massachusetts in general.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

Though frequently seen in Indiana, Double-Crested Cormorants also abounded in Maine. We ran into this one at Wal-Mart, where we grudgingly had to go (twice) because we forgot to pack beach towels and I broke my flip-flops.

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

We got lost on our way to see Lenny the Chocolate Moose one day, so I had to stop and ask this Herring Gull for directions.

Osprey

Osprey

This Osprey forgot to keep putting on sunscreen because it was so cold with the wind blowing off the ocean, and it ended up getting really ridiculously sunburned.

Great Black-Backed Gull

Great Black-Backed Gull

This Great Black-Backed Gull paid $20 for a margarita and was so mad that it stole a pen from the bar when it paid its bill so that it could get even.

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

This Semipalmated Plover drove us around all week in a seafoam green Ford Focus.

Sanderling

Sanderling

Sanderlings finally convinced Jaime to eat a lobster… after an afternoon of pub crawling around Portland.

Rock Dove

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeons served us some excellent pastries at a French cafe downtown.

A Flock of Seagulls

A Flock of Seagulls

On our last day, we were so tired that we just decided to veg out! It was a great trip!