Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wake Up

I have fallen asleep, snuggled, nearly smothered, under a warm blanket of textbooks, papers, and problem sets. Occasionally, I will stir in my sleep--scan through a flock of waxwings on the way to class, or perhaps even throw my binoculars in my backpack for a quick walk around campus. But then I yawn, rub my eyes, and slide back under the covers. Sometimes, I sleep deeply, engrossed by Plato or phospholipid bilayers. Other times, I toss and turn, tortured by wild fantasies of birds that are beyond reach.

Consciousness has become a rare state for me; if I'm lucky, I feebly stumble from my bed once a week. Lifting my binoculars to my eyes, I flex my atrophied muscles and remember my former freedom from the drowsy fog. But, even these token moments cannot last; the bed calls urgently, and I wearily burrow into the heaps of responsibilities, assignments, duties, and expectations.

On Saturday, after a particularly long spell of dormancy, I wriggled out of my cocoon and journeyed to Grand Haven with my girlfriend Alison. Grand Haven is much like other river mouths in western Michigan--it does, perhaps, offer better than average pier scrambling--but, for the last couple weeks, it has harbored an outcast, a wandering pilgrim of the arctic: a Black-legged Kittiwake.

Twitching--as you may recall, I spend considerable energy bashing it. Well. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Indeed, it was--before we had even pulled to a stop, we had spotted the kittiwake sailing lightly above the parking lot.

We spent a lot of time watching that kittiwake. I was wide awake by now. Scoters, goldeneye, Snow Buntings...distant memories of another life, when consciousness was my normal state of being. All too soon, the sun sank. My eyelids sagged; I battled the weariness, but, against my will, I crawled back into bed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Day in the Life of a College Birder

8:00 A.M., Incidental Observation

Holey buckets, it's cold. Eggs...real eggs. It's been way too long. I can't wait for spring break. Granola is only so good when you have it for breakfast every morning for one..two...three...four weeks in a row.

American Crow--1
Black-capped Chickadee--1
American Goldfinch--2
House Sparrow--1

8:52 A.M., Incidental Observation

Oh, hi Alex! Yeah, I'm going to class. Science Building...chem. Um, I've got...Blankenspoor? He's okay. Dude, I know, that snow day was frickin' sweet! Alright, see you later, have fun in lab.

American Crow--1
Northern Cardinal--1
House Sparrow--1

9:53 A.M., Incidental Observation

Yeah, Margeaux, I'm going to chapel. You? I knoooow, that guy treats us like kindergarteners...seriously, how many times is he going to tell us that to succeed in chemistry, we need to do the problem sets? Hey--Downy Woodpecker! Huh? Oh, nevermind. What class do you have after this?

Downy Woodpecker--1
Black-capped Chickadee--1
House Sparrow--2

10:23 A.M., Incidental Observation

Oh man, it's too nice of a day to head straight for the library for that date with my chemistry book. I'll take a five-minute detour. Mmmm, sunshine! Hey, what are you doing buddy?! Watch where you're driving! Bleh. Library, I can't escape you!

Black-capped Chickadee--4
Tufted Titmouse--1
Red-breasted Nuthatch--1
Northern Cardinal--2
House Sparrow--2

11:30 A.M., Incidental Observation

Aw, man, I'm starving! Time for a toasted bagel with peanut butter, a spinach salad with honey mustard dressing, two slices of pineapple, a banana, and milk. Hey, I wonder if I can make it the entire fifty feet from the library to the cafeteria without seeing any birds. Shoot, nope!

House Finch--1

4:10-4:36 P.M., Traveling Count, 0.25 miles

You can't go climbing after all? Bummer. That's okay, I'll just go for a walk before dinner instead. Alright, man, see you around! Yeah, tomorrow at four sounds good.

Mourning Dove--3
Downy Woodpecker--1
American Crow--22
Black-capped Chickadee--3
American Robin--5
European Starling--2
Cedar Waxwing--18
American Tree Sparrow--1
Dark-eyed Junco--7
Northern Cardinal--2
House Finch--1
House Sparrow--11

5:38 P.M., Incidental Observation week, I think I'll try a combination of the kalamata olive sauce and the artichoke hearts on my bruschetta. Argghh! It's so cold. And the architecht who built this library was a moron, because it definitely is designed to allow the greatest possible amount of snow to blow off its roof into people's faces below. Oh hey...starlings.

European Starling--4