Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Catch-up: The Hinden-Bird

From way behind on blogging, Kenn writes: Okay, to set the scene, this was Sunday, April 26, and we were in the town of Idabel, down in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma. It was late evening. Jeff Cox, Jim Arterburn, and I were sitting in the motel, glued to The Weather Channel. We were trying to gauge the likelihood that our Big Day attempt the following day would be pulverized by weather. Storms were rampaging across the plains, and the commentators were having a field day with discussions of tornadoes and floods and lightning strikes, but these updates were inserted as interruptions in the regular program. That regular program was one of TWC’s funky specials: "When Weather Changed History: The Hindenburg Disaster." So while we waited for the return of the "Local on the 8s" and the detailed radar picture of the storms crossing Oklahoma, we were watching, over and over, grainy newsreel footage of the giant German airship crashing and burning in New Jersey in 1937, the mighty Hindenburg going up in flames. Reportedly in real life the airship burned up in about a minute, but on The Weather Channel it was burning up over and over, in excruciating detail, for a full hour.

In a masterpiece of understatement, Jeff made the dry observation that "This isn’t exactly a good omen for our Big Day."

Indeed it was not. We started at midnight, and despite the threatening skies we managed to hear most of our nocturnal targets: Whip-poor-wills, Chuck-will’s-widows, Virginia Rails, and more. When the gray dawn finally came, we continued to rack up notable birds: Neotropic Cormorant, Mottled Duck, Anhinga, local stakeouts that most birders wouldn’t expect in Oklahoma. But bouts of rain, and a stunning lack of migrant songbirds in the woods, continued to slow us down, and a slowdown was something that we couldn’t afford on this day. By the time we got to the western terminus of our route in late afternoon, a cold front had pushed through, with plummeting temperatures and a howling wind out of the north. We didn’t break the Big Day record for Oklahoma, and in fact we missed it by a mile. Of the three Big Days that Jeff and Jim and I have done, this was our worst species total.

I’m proud to say, though, that we didn’t just fail, we failed spectacularly. Our wildly ambitious route was one that certainly could produce 200 species on the right day, so I’m proud that we gave it a shot. We may have crashed and burned, figuratively speaking, but we had a great time anyway. If there were a category for competition in bad jokes and good laughs per day, we would have won that one hands down.

3 comments:

  1. So, what was the total? So sad, a bust for the Bustards...there's always next year!
    See ya soon,Dave

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  2. Well I guess you can look at it as a dry run for next time when you'll get cooperative birds and weather - Ben Warner

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  3. Just think of it as a practice run for a future expedition. :) If you are enjoying yourself and doing something you love, you never really crash and burn. Just a speed bump.

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