It's Family Circus, but about birding.
October 5, 2014 10:10 AM   Subscribe

 
As I started reading that, I found it barely comprehensible, but the further I got in, the more it all started to make sense. And yet I still know nothing in particular about birds.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:27 AM on October 5, 2014 [19 favorites]


I've spent a ton of time around birders and this is fantastic! So many pitch-perfect notes: the disdain for exotics, the eBird review anxiety, the intense dislike of amateur or annoying birders, the blurry feeder pictures taking over bird mailing lists/forums, the gull misidentifications... so many good times.

Incidentally, I knew a couple of eBird reviewers and they are exactly as skeptical and curmudgeonly as portrayed here (in the best possible way though).
posted by dialetheia at 10:34 AM on October 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've been passing off my blurry photo of a Pileated as an Ivory Billed for years...
posted by HuronBob at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


The van one is perfect. Just perfect.

Do you guys want to hear about all the Sharpies we saw on the hill the other day even though it was so foggy? And the dark-morph Broadie! Guys? Hey...
posted by rtha at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


"You'd think these idiots could use a real Bald Eagle call, but no."

/rolls around in floor cackling
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on October 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


My first reaction is to laugh disdainfully at birders. My second reaction is to realize that if I ever actually got into birding, I would disappear down a deep, deep hole, and become the most adamant and obnoxious birder ever to bird.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:02 AM on October 5, 2014 [31 favorites]


My dad was a professional ornithologist and I knew every bird in North America by about age 10, so this hits home for me.

Also, by age 10 I had an almost pathological hate for The Family Circus, so this hits home for me.

And in case you are wondering, the landfill jokes are accurate.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:05 AM on October 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


It's a shame the first one is so vulgar. Kind of limits the people I can pass it on to.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2014


I don't feel limited by excluding people who wouldn't find the phrase "taking a dump on a tanager" amusing in this context. I'm not sure I even know any.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:38 AM on October 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I know nothing of birding or Family Circus, but this was fascinating, thanks. I even think I got a few of the jokes. (Still not sure why an exotic is not a desired bird for some reason).

I did wonder what an empid spuh was, so finding that out was interesting too. Good post.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:39 AM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't feel limited by excluding people who wouldn't find the phrase "taking a dump on a tanager" amusing in this context. I'm not sure I even know any.

Truth be told I don't know why I think that imagery is inappropriate for 12 year olds while asshole and bullshit are just fine. But there we go.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:45 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Due to my Dad's lifelong love of feeding the birds, we have a lot of bird books and such around the house. Therefore I love this, but I'm also glad I never got into actually keeping a list. I like to look at birds. I wouldn't want obsessively keeping track to turn my love of birds into this.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:48 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


And in case you are wondering, the landfill jokes are accurate.
While not the same hotspot that it used to be for the coveted Tamaulipas crow, once a target bird of the Brownsville Sanitary Landfill, the dump is still well worth a visit for south Texas birding.
I remember Brownsville when it used to be cool.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:54 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


My wife is a fairly serious birder and I've tagged along on some fairly hardcore birding expeditions, and I am ROFL at this.
posted by localroger at 11:54 AM on October 5, 2014


My favorite birding spot around here is a sewage treatment plant.
posted by rtha at 12:02 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ha, this makes me want to learn how to identify gulls.
posted by isthmus at 12:05 PM on October 5, 2014


If you really hate life, go for learning both gull and empid IDs.
posted by rtha at 12:10 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


You have not truly felt the usefulness of the Futurama suicide booth until you've been with a group of 10 hardcore birders who are standing around a spotting scope arguing over the identity of ducks on a pond.
posted by localroger at 12:34 PM on October 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


I LOLed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:38 PM on October 5, 2014


I've always felt like birding was one of those gerunds that sounded like a felony. Birding, looting, pillaging...
posted by selfnoise at 12:52 PM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


As I started reading that, I found it barely comprehensible, but the further I got in, the more it all started to make sense. And yet I still know nothing in particular about birds.

Yes!!

Also, I think going gulling at a landfill would make a fine date.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:53 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is so so wonderful.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:27 PM on October 5, 2014


Like rtha (whose profile describes him as a "hawkwatcher") I was amused by "You'd think these idiots could use a real Bald Eagle call, but no."

The routine cinematic attribution of hawk cries to bald eagles should stop -- it's not fair to the hawks and eagles deserve to be known as the squeaky, petulant-sounding (albeit photogenic) carrion eaters they really are.

Can anyone explain to me, though, the joke about "So I can count Attu but I can't count Hawaii?" That one sailed right over my head.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:00 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


My second reaction is to realize that if I ever actually got into birding, I would disappear down a deep, deep hole, and become the most adamant and obnoxious birder ever to bird.

After seeing "The Big Year" movie, which was just absolutely charming as a story of the different ways we love while being incidentally about birds, I read the book they based it on, which was a little different but still charming, and I realized I know absolutely nothing about birds, and the more I looked the more I wanted to know. . .

SO one day I went to a local lake to do, like, real birding shit and identify birds, and felt immediate frustration trying to identify a goddamn duck. I already have a taxonomic obsession with the requisite exercising of taxonomic ethics in another field, and I knew right then and there if I kept wrestling with IDs of those birds on that lake there was no going back.Then a really cold gust of wind hit me right in the face, and that was enough to say, fuck this shit, I'm just gonna call 'em ducks.

These (hilarious) comics are definitely evidence I made the right decision.
posted by barchan at 2:05 PM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love having birds around, but I know nothing about them. I recognize obvious ones like cardinal and hummingbird and mockingbird, but otherwise, not so much. We have huge flying dinosaurs out here. Some are hawks, and some are probably buzzards, but recently construction started near me, and I could see this huge nest on top of an ancient tree that was slated for removal. I called a local birding group who were able to identify the nest as an active golden eagle nest, and knew who to call at the wildlife agency to get the road path shifted so as to not impact them. Which is cool. I'll never be one, because I'm not good with details, but I'll always have a warm spot for birders because I get to see eagles most every day, thanks to their dedication.
posted by dejah420 at 2:13 PM on October 5, 2014 [13 favorites]


Can anyone explain to me, though, the joke about "So I can count Attu but I can't count Hawaii?" That one sailed right over my head.

Attu's an outlying Aleutian Island. For purposes of some counting stats (e.g., life/year lists of North America), any Alaskan land is counted as on the continent, whereas HI is not. Attu is much farther away from the continental U.S. Both have distinct fauna from most of North America. This makes some people very upset. Pretty sure rtha is not a him, btw.
posted by one_bean at 2:14 PM on October 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


We do bird-feeder bird watching, and since we've gotten serious about identifying birds it's been really fun. Now we know what are common and uncommon birds in our area, and are able to identify more and more of them by their call. Identifying birds is tricky, because they vary. Sometimes it takes three field guides and an internet search to find a bird that looks like what we saw, and common birds at weird angles or in unusual light can impersonate rarer birds—we have a blue jay with no crest hanging around and the first time we spotted it, it was wet from rain, and neither its profile or its color was the normal thing.

My youngest kid is a bird-watching prodigy. Since he was about 4, he's often been the first one to spot a new bird, and he is good at identifying them. Once when he was about four, he told me he'd seen a bird with a "long-beeked bird with a cheetah-colored" chest. I wasn't able to identify it, but when my partner got home and the kid described it, my partner said, "a northern flicker?" So we looked it up and the kid confirmed that's what he saw. We thought "cheetah-colored chest" was a really good description.
posted by not that girl at 2:22 PM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Attu's an outlying Aleutian Island. For purposes of some counting stats (e.g., life/year lists of North America), any Alaskan land is counted as on the continent, whereas HI is not. Attu is much farther away from the continental U.S. Both have distinct fauna from most of North America. This makes some people very upset.
Ah. I'm familiar with where Attu is (I'm on an Alaskan island, too, though a considerably less remote one at the opposite end of the state) but the geographic isolation argument hadn't occurred to me, partly because even though Attu is way the hell out there it's at the end of a distinct island arc that shares some degree of connection to the North American continent, whereas Hawaii is North American only politically, not in any geophysical terms.
Pretty sure rtha is not a him, btw.
My apologies. I didn't know one way or the other, so I chose the generic default pronoun, which I recognize is a practice some people disagree with. In any case no offense was intended.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2014


Dear Internet, please combine Family Circus with the following hobbies:
Dwarf Fortress
Eve Online
Chip Tunes
1D fandom
DOTA2
posted by hot_monster at 3:02 PM on October 5, 2014 [19 favorites]


The routine cinematic attribution of hawk cries to bald eagles should stop -- it's not fair to the hawks and eagles deserve to be known as the squeaky, petulant-sounding (albeit photogenic) carrion eaters they really are.

I just recently re-watched a bunch of episodes of Northern Exposure, and they mostly used bald eagle calls! In a lot of scenes there are no birds visible - the calls are just background noise - but somebody knew enough to foley in bald calls and not redtail calls, which pleased me immensely.

(Also, I'm a her, yup.)
posted by rtha at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


YAMWAK: (Still not sure why an exotic is not a desired bird for some reason).
I finally figured out "Tell me when I can open my eyes. I don't want some bullshit exotic for ABA 500." thanks in part to this blog post from 10,000 Birds.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:26 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Pretty sure rtha is not a him, btw."

Reeeeeeeeally hard to tell, though, with the lack of differentiation in the male and female red-tailed hawk plumage.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2014 [27 favorites]


Anecdotes in this thread keep lovingly reminding me of one of my all-time favorite short films "Regrets, part 5: Hobbies" (via)
posted by churl at 3:40 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've always felt like birding was one of those gerunds that sounded like a felony. Birding, looting, pillaging...

"You stand accused of gulling at the landfill."
"Awww yerhonor, I only gulled once."
posted by Wolfdog at 3:54 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I never heard of the big year until the movie, but I've been joking to my husband that it is something we should do. But start local. I am not a birder, but I do get excited when I see something new, and have to rush to the interwebs to try and find out what it is. We had a Spotted Towhee one summer (unfortunately I think the neighbors free ranging cat got it.) And at a job a few years back, there were some unusual ducks in the drainage pond behind the parking lot. Frantically, I searched for what species, and found out we had a Eurasian species the Smew, which is rarely seen in the US. I delightedly and excitedly told my coworkers. I've never got a more disinterested looks that day. If only I had known.

(I think I might secretly be a birder.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:59 PM on October 5, 2014


Uh oh, I might not be the birder I thought. I saw a Eastern Towhee, not spotted (name remembered wrong, not misidentified, I swear.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:09 PM on October 5, 2014


I'm not really a birder, although I am involved in bird education, outreach and conservation. I was kind of hoping for something that would have more general appeal and possibly make birding seem more fun and approachable. I was disappointed, but obviously they were going at it from a totally different angle.
posted by snofoam at 5:02 PM on October 5, 2014


My brother is a world class ornithologist, so of course I forwarded this to him....

I've been on birding trips with him all over the place, and yes, sewage ponds are always a birding hot spot; prolly cause it's a good quiet waypoint for migrants.

He has all kinds of stories like those in the Circus comix. He even pulled the descriptive differentiation thing on me once with a reference to "buff alula quills" or somesuch....

He was just in Japan and someone on a birding trip just said, "Blakiston's Fish Owl? I already have that on my life list..." and didn't even raise the binox. Some people are pretty droll life-listers....

But from what (little) I know from being around birders, most of those are right on....
posted by CrowGoat at 5:22 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Bird" is a fun word used as a verb. Birb.

Is birding. Will bird. Has birded.
posted by JHarris at 5:43 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's even a book titled The Verb "To Bird"
posted by gingerbeer at 5:51 PM on October 5, 2014


Love it. Love it love it love it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:56 PM on October 5, 2014


JHarris: "Bird" is a fun word used as a verb. Birb.
It was my understanding that everyone had heard…
posted by ob1quixote at 6:06 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the classic Dysfunctional Family Circus including the scat jokes.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:07 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I misread the first one as "taking a dump on a teenager" and for one horrible moment, I thought I was in a thread where "birding" meant something completely different.
posted by xedrik at 6:42 PM on October 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


Aw, these are great! One of my first 'dates' with my husband was at a dump. And just the other week we had a romantic argument about what a little dark bird was. I scoffed at his suggestion it was a towhee; he scoffed at mine it was a wren. We both couldn't believe neither of us had packed binos or studied up on what birds we might see in Vancouver. Fortunately we were distracted by river otters.

It was a Fox Sparrow.
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:49 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I also hope there's a comic about the 'optimistic' counts of birds birders will give.
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:50 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is birding. Will bird. Has birded.

You may also appreciate the vernacular of the amateur herpetologist! To go look for reptiles & amphibians is to herp: is herping, will herp, has herped. I still can't resist laughing out loud every time I hear it.
posted by dialetheia at 7:00 PM on October 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


Ha, this makes me want to learn how to identify gulls.

Really, the most important thing to know is that there are theoretically two classes of gulls: assholes and non-assholes. No actual gull has been proven conclusively to fall in the second class.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 PM on October 5, 2014 [11 favorites]


As someone who worked in a gull colony for 4 years - OMG GenjiandProust you speak the ultimate of bird truths.
posted by primalux at 1:24 AM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


When I was in high school, birding was actually required in our freshman Biology class. I learned to really love casual birding, and carry it with me to this day. Even back then, I was exposed to the "serious birder" and vowed never to let myself get so far into the hobby that I lose the simple enjoyment of being able to look out my window at the birds in my bushes and see them as individual species and not just a "bunch of birds".

That said, I loved this one.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:03 AM on October 6, 2014


Oops. Darn it, why do I always confuse "birding" with "dogging?"
I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED.
posted by GoingToShopping at 5:45 AM on October 6, 2014


My undergraduate advisor, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, loved birding. He was a paleontologist who specialized in primates, creodonts, birds, and especially hyraxes, and as part of his job traveled literally all over the world in search of fossils. Which was also a convenient excuse for checking birds off of the Bird Guide for whatever obscure corner of the world he was in. He took me to Northwestern Kenya as a first experience in being a scientist in the real world, and packed The Birds of East Africa and would sit in the evenings in camp after a long day of prospecting for fossils in the Turkana desert, cataloguing what we'd seen that day. Hoopoes and bee-eaters and ibises and bustards. When we were walking through the desert, he'd sing "Buffalo weaver in the heart of Turkana!"

His enthusiasm wasn't limited to exotic birds! He had a party for his students at his house in Illinois, on a beautiful pond with a pier walking path, and supplied everyone with binoculars to go out birding. He made sure I understood that - as well as being beautiful in their own right - birds are as important to ecosystems as primates and to ignore them is silly. Plus, when your monkeys are napping in the middle of the day, birds are wandering around doing interesting things. So, when I headed off to Ivory Coast for my fieldwork last summer, I made sure to pack The Birds of West Africa to catalogue fishing eagles and bulbuls and nightjars and guinea fowl when I got back to camp every night!
posted by ChuraChura at 6:44 AM on October 6, 2014 [4 favorites]


(which is to say that these made me smile!)
posted by ChuraChura at 6:45 AM on October 6, 2014


To go look for reptiles & amphibians is to herp

A few of us go to eat at a local dive every night, and there's a frog who lives in the bushes outside who we see sometimes, and if we don't we look for him a bit, make sure he's okay and such. I guess that's herping too?
posted by JHarris at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


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