The Incubator

Hatching conversations about science

Hatching the Birdphiles

By Michael Wheelock, @MSWheelock

Northern Starling

Northern Starling

I like birds. Not in the casual “oh yeah, penguins are cute” kind of way, but in the “wow, look at the iridescent purple on that Northern Starling” kind of way (side note: Shakespeare introduced the Starling to North America. Well, sort of). Unfortunately, I’ve been caught up in the NYC hustle lately and haven’t had any time to enjoy this little hobby.

Flashback to mid-January-

I was in New Orleans to meet up with some friends, celebrate a birthday, and eat some alligator. On the last day of the trip, my girlfriend suggested we go for a walk in the local park. It was sunny and 75oF out (on a day when it was 20oF and snowing in NYC), so I was more than excited to soak it in. Things began normal enough, with small talk and puppy ogling (“that black lab was awesome!”). That is, until we got to the edge of a small pond and I saw this:

 

Domesticated Swan Goose (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

Domesticated Swan Goose (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

What is that?!

I asked my girlfriend for her iPhone and took a quick photo. She knew I liked birds so this wasn’t a huge surprise. A few minutes later, we took a seat at a small gazebo by the pond where I saw these:

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (photo: Michael Wheelock)

Pretty sweet. Still, I satisfied my birding urge with a few pics and managed to keep my cool. But woah nelly! It all went downhill after this:

Wood Ducks (photo: Michael Wheelock)

Wood Ducks (photo: Michael Wheelock)

“Oh wow! It’s a Wood Duck! I’ve never seen one in real life before!”. Now she knew it was serious.

Next up was this collection of ducks I couldn’t identify:

White: Domesticated Pekin Duck?, Black: American Black Duck Hybrid? (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

White: Domesticated Pekin Duck?, Black: American Black Duck Hybrid? (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

Then this guy who looks like a popular Mardi Gras mask:

White Ibis (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

White Ibis (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

Woah! Is that a Mute Swan?:

Mute Swan (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

Mute Swan (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

And what on EARTH is this thing (my girlfriend affectionately named it “uggo”)?!:

Domesticated Muscovy Duck (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

Domesticated Muscovy Duck (Photo: Michael Wheelock)

Lets just say that by the end of our walk, I had ogled way more birds than puppies. That’s when it hit me; I really like birds. Moreover, I really like sharing my experiences and (limited) knowledge about them with others. That’s when I decided to (re)open my twitter account, grab a camera, and put my birding pants back on!

On the “The Birdphiles”, I’ll be posting cool bits about bird biology and the local bird(ing) community at Rockefeller. You can also follow my most recent birding exploits at RU and abroad on twitter @MSWheelock #TheBirdphiles.

If anyone is interested in sharing some of their own birding experiences and expertise, just send me an email at Michael.wheelock@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Until then; keep your eyes on the skies, your ears to the wind and your field guide close at hand.

 

Michael Wheelock is a birder, basketball player, and graduate student at The Rockefeller University. Catch him on twitter @MSWheelock and follow his series #TheBirdphiles.

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2 Comments

  1. “Birding pants.” Awesome.

    I’d love to write up a brief post for your blog, sir. I could write about:

    – my feelings regarding bird song
    – identifying birds by their behavior
    – birding in the UK versus the US (and subsequent revelations)
    – intergenerational aspects of birdwatching (mostly stories about my dad’s birding habits, how they formerly annoyed me, and how they now please me)

    • Fantastic!

      One post is great, but 2 or 3 or more is even better! All of those topics sound great, and anything grounded in a personal experience, such as birding with your dad and explaining how your interest developed, would really help the audience connect and understand where you’re coming from.

      I say pick your favorite topic (if you can’t decide, just start writing!) and let me know when you have something ready for revision. In the meantime, keep me posted via email!

      And if you’re ever interested in going birding and writing up a joint piece, I’m totally down!

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