Monday 20 August 2007

Tagged Again...

David over at Search and Serendipity has tagged me with a bird blog meme started by Cogresha from Earth House Hold.

7 nice and easy questions, and at the end I get to tag others, fair enough!

1. What is the coolest bird you have seen from your home?
Sounds like a simple question once I have established where my home is! And that might indeed be somewhat of a difficulty... And even if I reach a conclusive opinion on this first sub-question, it might be difficult for me in particular to define which bird species was "coolest". As Laurent pointed out to me recently while we were birding, I always start with "Now that's a very cool bird..." whenever he asks me a question about a bird species, no matter which one.

So it is not so simple after all.

I therefore will answer this question for my two most recent homes:

In Stralsund, Germany, where I have lived for the last 5 years before moving to Michigan and will go back to in a matter of a few weeks, this is probably the Caspian Tern. We lived right next to one of the ponds surrounding the inner city and these ponds regularly attract Caspian Terns during late summer/early fall. Yeah, that's a neat bird to see from your living room. Common Swifts or Barn Swallows are cool birds too, but are seen on a regular basis in settlements all across Germany and everyone can see them from their homes, but a Caspian Tern, that's cool.

Here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I have lived for the last 10 months, I would say the coolest bird species I have seen is the Turkey Vulture. There were other candidates, like Red-shouldered Hawk or the Peregrines nesting (without success, yet) nearby, but this is not about the most unusual or rare bird you've seen, it is about the coolest. And frankly, I think TV's are just particularly cool birds.

2. If you compose lists of bird species seen, what is your favourite list and why?
Just like David, I only really keep a life list and I haven't even updated that one lately. I suppose if you grew up in a region of Europe where international borders are merely an old road sign that's easy to miss as you drive by and where your "home patch" extends over parts of Germany and France, regional lists don't make that much sense so you just never get started on one. So, the answer to the first part of the question (which list) is clear: my only list, the life list.
And why?
Well, because it's my only list, but that's too flat for an answer.
Maybe I can twist that question a bit by asking myself why I keep a life list?
I think because I have always been a collector even as a kid before I seriously started to bird. My style of collecting however was always that I wanted to have everything - in the sense of a complete set - of what I was collecting instead of having as much as possible. And this is also the case when it comes to my life list: with the ultimate goal being to see every species in the world and knowing I have only a limited amount of birding trips to achieve this, limited by financial constrains as well as a general lack of immortality, I try to see every bird species in a certain region first before moving on to the next. To give you an example: traveling along the East Coast of North America would possibly lead to "only" around 50 lifers in comparison to very well over 150 if I went to the West Coast. But as I have already been birding in the North-East, I'd rather first "finish off" here by going for the fewer lifers than traveling somewhere completely different. That's my way of working on my life list and why I like it.

3. What sparked your interest in birds?
That's difficult. I'd say I went through the normal, average evolutionary process of being interested in animals as a kid (as far back as I can remember, through the inspiration of my parents), then getting interested in the birds at the feeders we had outside our kitchen window or at our grandparent's home and finally moving on to the colourful ducks along the river Rhine. However, the one thing that probably pushed me onto the path of what one could call "serious birding" was a holiday to Southern France when I was 10 years old with a bunch of other young bird enthusiasts on a tour organized by the German "Society for the Protection of Birds" (then DBV, now NABU).

4. If you could only bird in one place for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
Ha, easy: planet Earth! Why? Because I don't have access to other planets that I know hold birds.
Okay, that was a stupid answer, here's the real one:
I don't know.

Two spots come to mind, possibly three.

Steward Island off New Zealand just blew my mind completely, one of the most amazing landscapes and exciting birding areas one can imagine. But then again, for the rest of my life? New Zealand is wonderful, but bird diversity in rather limited, so I can imagine even Steward Island might not be fit to surprise me anymore after 30 or 40 years of birding only there, so that's the "possibly three".

Now, the two spots that come to mind:

First up, the surroundings of Lake Erie, with Crane Creek in Ohio, Point Mouillee and Lake Erie Metropark in Michigan and Point Pelee and Rondeau in Ontario. This is an area that would still be exciting after decades of constant birding as there is so much migration going on, the warblers in spring, waterbirds, raptors at Lake Erie Metro Park in fall,... so the only predictable thing to birding in this particular area is that it is completely unpredictable each day you venture out to seek birds.

But then again, the surroundings of Greifswald on the German Baltic Sea coast is mind-blowing as well. After all, this is an area where you can easily see 260 to 270 species a year within a 7 km (5 miles) radius around the town, you don't even need a car. And it's good birds as well, with 10's of 1,000's of geese, all sorts of raptor species, passerines abound and it is not so very unusual to see somewhere between 26 and 28 species of shorebirds a day in an area no larger than a square kilometre. That would also be a very nice spot to be trapped in, and even though I am sad to leave North America soon, I am also looking forward to being back at the Baltic again.

5. Do you have a jinx bird? What is it and why is it jinxed?
I don't really have one particular jinx bird at the moment. I do have difficulties actually seeing owls and rails and these two groups are mostly on my life list as "heard only"s, which is rather unpleasant. In Germany/Europe, I'd say Lesser White-fronted Goose is a bird that seems to be jinxed as it occurs in extremely low numbers but apparently regularly in fall amongst the 100,000s of Greater White-fronts we get along the Baltic Coast.
I once came across a very, very probable flock of around 10 birds but the air was too hazy to certainly identify such a high number of this extremely rare species, so I had to "let them go". Yes, that's one species I hope to see and if/when I do, it will be the result of more then 10 years of constant searching. And that's pretty jinxed to me.
Why is it jinxed?
Because I don't get to see it while most other birders do at some point in their birding lives. Why it doesn't like me is beyond my comprehension. I don't think I have done anything nasty to offend the species, and I try to be nice to geese in general. Go ask the goose!

6. Who is your favourite birder and why?
I don't have a favourite birder and am unlikely to ever have one as I didn't even have childhood heroes when I was a kid.
Because birders are humans and no human is perfect. I admire certain abilities of distinct birders, but I am sure that if I got to know these persons better, I'd find aspects in their way of birding I'd not be so fond of. So I don't look up to idols but I surely find inspiration in selected abilities of certain birders that exceed my abilities in this particular aspect.

7. Do you tell non-birders you are a birder? What do they say to you when they find out?
Birding in Germany is a very, very unusual hobby. Chances are that if you tell someone about it, they'll never have heard of it and be completely puzzled, not knowing what it is or how to respond. I therefore only tell others about my hobby when it is inevitable or when a conversation just happens to lead to our past time preferences. In this case I usually tell them birding is very much like hunting or fishing (which they know or have heard about) without the killing factor. If they then go on by asking me where the point is in watching something that you end up not eating, I ask them in turn what the point is of visiting a museum to look at a famous painting or traveling all the way to Paris just to stand there and look at the Eiffel Tower.
At this they usually say this was something of a different matter and a lame comparison and we change the subject of our conversation.

Okay, I am done, these were the 7 questions.
Now, to the fun part: I get to tag a few fellow bird bloggers!

I tag Larry and Wren! Go for it, I am curious!


Larry said...

I haven't traveled much, and don't really fit in to this category of birding.I enjoyed reading a little about your history.I may do this, but it may be a bit dull.

Jochen said...

You are right, Larry, many of the questions lure one into bragging about the places one has visited and the unusual birds seen there.
I know I have been very fortunate in my younger days when I got to travel a lot and am fortunate now that I have the opportunity to spend a year on another continent, even if most of that time is spent in a downtown apartment in front of a computer with nothing but House Sparrows and City Pigeons to keep me entertained.

However, I am more than curious about your birding background as we bird bloggers in general share so much through our blogs yet know so little of each other.
And Larry, I just can't see you writing up something DULL, no way!!
So I'd be very happy to read a bit about your birding background on your blog! Hope you participate!!