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My Life’s Birds: #373

February 24, 2010

August 12, 2002 – Alger Co, Mi – The summer of 2002 was an odd one for me.  Dreams of graduating college in four years were put on hold as a late occurring major switch at school had me taking summer courses and living in scenic Kirksville, Missouri, for the first time over the break.  The three months were a mix of working wretched jobs for little to no pay and taking courses for my new Anthropology major, which was less a passion and more a clear path out of school with a diploma in my hand.  After a certain point, your priorities change and mine had switched hard from graduate with honors to just freaking graduate, the honors part having long since written off to failed expectations.  Once summer classes have concluded, however, I was left with a short period of time before the fall semester started up.  My parents were offering a ride on the family vacation to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan so I decided to tag along.  After all, with a career washing dishes at the local steakhouse offering little in the way of personal and professional advancement, something had to give.

Books have been written about the angst felt by the twenty-something, whether or not it’s justified, and in some ways those years between the comfort of home and being pushed out of the nest are as awkward as any in the far more eulogized teenage years.  From my viewpoint now I would have probably described myself as a tad self-indulgent and suffering from a chronic lack of motivation, but, to be kind, that assessment may have more to do with the nearly 10 year distance at which I can place myself.  Your younger self is nearly always found somewhat wanting in the cold light of age, especially when you find yourself on a vacation in the midst of nesting warblers with scarcely any awareness with which to appreciate it.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I was so completely unaware that I’d miss a pair of Sandhill Cranes in a grassy field just off of the road.

We pulled off and watched as the birds, slightly alarmed but still calm, slowly stalked out of the ditch and into the field proper.  They were likely of the Lesser Greater population, the birds of slightly smaller larger stature that summer widely across Canada and the northern reaches of the United States.  So I guess I wasn’t completely unaware of the nesting species of the area.  They just had to be nearly four feet tall for me to pay attention.  I suppose that says a lot about me a younger person anyway.

photo from wikipedia

  1. February 24, 2010 8:39 am

    Oh, the beautiful, magical UP!! Where exactly did you go?

    And are you quite sure about the “Lesser”? My impression of the birds there was that they belong to the Greater group.

  2. Nate permalink*
    February 24, 2010 8:45 am

    @Jochen- We came in through Wisconsin and visited Pictured Rocks Lakeshore and Mackinac Island before going back south through the main part of the state. I still regret being so close to Kirtland’s Warbler territory and not realizing it to take advantage.

    I’m not sure at all about the Lesser, I only assumed looking at some range maps. So you’re probably right.

  3. February 24, 2010 9:18 am

    Oh, never mind Kirtland’s, it’s just another one of those warblers that you’re up to your neck in around the Great Lakes in May … *YAWN*
    I know, I should really stop repeating myself over and over again before people start yelling 🙂

    And about the Lesser/Greater: I might probably be right or I might probably be wrong, I frankly would not consider myself in a position to say for sure.

  4. February 24, 2010 10:29 am

    Yupp, Greater.
    See here:

  5. February 25, 2010 12:37 pm

    I’m not sure the lesser/greater question is answered. Overlapping ranges and out-of-bounds breeding are shown as prevalent, and size variations call into question subspecific identification as opposed to interbreeding and/or natural size variation. Hindsight and armchair review probably don’t address the ID, especially since six subspecies with well out-of-range breeding have been documented (the number of subspecies is in question–something that makes the ID even more precarious). Besides, range and distribution maps are oversimplified generalities–false prophets if you will–that represent not what wildlife is doing but what people are seeing. There’s a difference. A big difference. Hence the near unprecedented arrival of a handful of first-in-North America bird species in Texas this winter. It’s statistically doubtful that at least five species visited the continent at the same time in the same season for the first time ever. But read into that this truth: I’m no expert. Take my opinion with a grain of salt at best. I’m just saying that the ID is only as solid as sandhill crane; everything else is an assumption at best.

    And I won’t yell at you, Jochen, but I will say this: yawning at anything in nature says a great deal about a person. Pedestrian does not mean unexceptional; it does mean narrow-focused anthropocentric appreciation, though, which makes a statement, yes, but not about the warbler.

  6. Nate permalink*
    February 25, 2010 12:56 pm

    @Jason- You’re probably right that there’s no way to be completely sure. Especially when talking about a sighting that occurred several years ago by an observer who didn’t think to take detailed notes. I remember the birds fairly clearly, but as nothing more than Sandhill Cranes.

    And as for Jochen’s penchant for yawning at warblers, I think it has more to do with his trying to convince me that the area around the Great Lakes is the best place ever, something he’s been on about for some time. 🙂

    If there’s one person who can appreciate a good new world wood-warbler, it’s Jochen. Especially considering the dirt-colored feather dusters they consider “warblers” over in Germany. Am I right, Jochen? 😉

  7. March 1, 2010 10:19 am

    @Jason: yes, Nate is right, quite possibly I wasn’t really being serious about the warbler and it might have been a tiny piece in the big puzzle of getting Nate to visit the Great Lakes, despite me sadly not living there anymore. I don’t think I have ever yawned at anything of the natural world except when I was really very tired after a long and wonderful day out in the field 🙂

    @Nate: Browns and greys are beautiful, Nate, and I have no idea whatsoever what you are talking about! 🙂

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