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Adventures

In which everything is a bird

My master’s degree is in natural resources, specifically ornithology or talking about birds. The great thing about studying these amazing creatures is gaining a very healthy respect for how amazing they are, including things like the fact that they can eat and sing at the same time (thus never having to worry about choking), that they have an extra cone that is sensitive to ultraviolet light, that every sense they have except taste are at least as good as ours and often better, many times so in the case of vision.

The intimidating thing about studying is that they are amazing, including things like the fact that they can eat and sing at the same time, that they have an extra cone that is sensitive to ultraviolet light, that every sense they have…

Basically, my task was to go out and try to count creatures that were far more likely to have noticed me long before I noticed them. If they wanted to hide, there is essentially no chance I was going to find them first. Also, common opinion of tracking birds is essentially that the only chance of seeing them is pretty much when they are moving. They are adapted in practically every way to fade into the background when sitting still.

Off I went with my trusty scooter Ompie, a microphone and recorder in the vague hope that I could use the calls of birds to help support my findings, and binoculars which only put me at a disadvantage of about 30 to the visual acuity of birds.

Bird watching strategy: move as slowly and quietly as you can. I gave myself an hour to make it up and down a hundred meter transect as that was the maximum distance I could wrangle out of a field in the mountains, so that was fine.

Unfortunate consequence: Except of course that moving slowly and silently is really more helpful in allaying the doubts of a bird that spotted you three hundred meters ago that you want to hunt it rather than any hope of sneaking up on it or going unnoticed.

Bird watching strategy: keep your peripheral vision open for movement since that is practically the only time your going to see a bird the size of a golf ball. At least golden snitches are shiny.

Unfortunate consequence: everything that moves looks like a bird.

Oooo….oh…nope…butterfly.

Ooooo…oh…nope…falling flower colored like a bird.

Oooooo…oh…nope…leaf that isn’t even actually falling.

Oooooo…oh…nope…traffic sign, and now I think I am just hallucinating motion.

I did see many birds, and managed to even spot over 1800 of my six target species (plus thousands of other non-target species), but I also spent a huge amount of time alone in the wilderness of Taiwan laughing to myself about leaf-birds and flower-birds, and squirrel-birds, and everything-birds.