The Category is “Shorts”

Friday, August 21st, 2009


Intro: “57 Seconds”

An editor at a big newspaper made a small discovery. This was in the recent past when big newspapers were big. The editor discovered that some people liked short articles better than long ones. He researched pieces of varying length. Short won. Out of this knowledge came a little column called “Got a Minute.” It was 160 words or fewer, about everything and nothing, and ran on Sundays for four years, eventually becoming the popular book, In a Chicago Minute. The Two-Fisted Birdwatcher (writer of that column) figures the same logic applies to stories on a website. So, we offer this category called, simply, “Shorts.” In it, you’ll find nothing that takes more than a minute to read. About as long as it took you to read these words.

A new Short…

“Point of View” (53 seconds)

If you’re like me, this “watching” thing is addictive. But my interest has made me the butt of jokes. Even my family says I’m cuckoo. Hey, c’mon, watching is fascinating. You wonder about “flocking” behavior. How odd. And dietary habits—some understandable, others kinda gross. Instinct plays a role, sure. But could “intelligence” be involved?  It’s fun wondering about this. So I’m into watching. But I admit sometimes it goes too far. I get distracted. This can be dangerous! Like yesterday, I screwed up. It was late. But I’d been so absorbed in watching a Pigeon-toed Baldie that I lost concentration, and hurrying home in the dark I banged my right wing on a branch, snagged a tailfeather (ouch), and smacked my beak into our tree so hard that I’m still seeing little humans spinning around my head!

And three old favorites…

“Maine sweatshirt” (54 seconds)

It’s a wintry weekend and you’re going birding. Crossbills have been reported. You want to wear your warmest sweatshirt. The one with a hood and the word MAINE across the chest. Your wife got it at the university there, knowing you’re a fan of any place where there are Bald Eagles. You can’t find this shirt, and yell into the next room, “Honey, where’s my MAINE sweatshirt!” She doesn’t hear you, so you try again, louder, as you walk through the house. “Anybody seen my MAINE sweatshirt?” Your kid comes up and asks, “Dad, don’t you have, like, a second choice?” You answer that you really want your MAINE sweatshirt. You can’t understand the funny look he gives. A minute later you race after him to explain, but he’s out for the day, probably telling his friends that his dad had a main sweatshirt and couldn’t find it.

“Lost!” (51 seconds)

Birders know this. Even two-fisted ones: It can take less than a minute to get lost in the woods.  You duck into the trees to find nature’s natural bathroom, and when you bushwhack back to the trail, it’s just not there. Suddenly there’s nothing but more trees, and now there are brambles.  Spiders and ticks. Coyotes, foxes, feral dogs, a rumored cougar that was sighted recently; gangsters’ marijuana fields, daytime owls (the worst of omens) and circling vultures.  You have to find the trail!  You go left and it’s not there.  Then right, but you’re heading deeper into strange unmarked woods.  And you’re not even in true wilderness! There’s a suburb nearby. You can almost hear cars in the distance over your pounding heart.  So you run, knowing you’ll eventually get out of the woods, unless you run in a circle.  Then you’ll never get out, so you run faster, crazed.  All in the time it takes to read this.

“Two-Fisted Major Leaguers” (56 seconds)

This is about Orioles, Blue Jays, Cardinals, you know, ball teams. Okay, this time we’re not talking birds. But we are talking “Two-Fisted.” Guys in the majors who never wince, say ouch, jump around in pain or rub a booboo.  Even though it’s hard to keep your cool when a rock-hard baseball thrown by a rock-hard pitcher like Randy Johnson (see our Viewpoint, Baseball and Sudden Death) slams into your ribs at 90 miles an hour.  Or maybe the ball hits your elbow, hip or thigh.  Hits with a force that can chip bone, bruise muscle, bust veins and cause a black-and-blue mark that’ll last a month.  This kind of body shot can make a guy want to scream like a little girl.  But what do Two-Fisted hitters do when this happens?  They glower at the pitcher for a moment, then jog to first with dignity.  And they DON’T TOUCH the spot that got hit.  Not touching the sore spot is the ultimate Two-Fisted rule.  And these are the ultimate Two-Fisted guys.

You’ve seen our shorts. Now let’s see yours.

These four are just for fun. Each is a little tidbit of something or other. Maybe there’s a bird-watching angle. Maybe not. Point is, there’s always a Two-Fisted perspective. And there’s always the shortness. You can read these things in under a minute. Not exactly as short as a “tweet” (a word we were never entirely comfortable with–and we’re into birds!). But short enough to provide a quick read. Enjoy. And come back for more. We’ve got plenty of shorts to post here. Plus, we’ll put yours here, too. Just send them in (under 160 words, please) by using the “reply” box below the comments. Reading can be fun, but sometimes you just want it quick.

Shorts, Page Two: “Bunched-Up Shorts”

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009


This is a continuation of our “Shorts” page. If you haven’t seen the original, take a look. It explains how we learned that some people like reading short things instead of long ones. Out of this knowledge came a newspaper column called “Got a Minute.”

Same logic has to apply to stories on a website, right? So, here you go: A bunch of Two-Fisted Birdwatcher “Shorts.” And each takes less than a minute. Time ’em; you’ll see.

“Emu.” (30 Seconds)

Based on a Chicago Tribune story, August 19, 2011

SHE: Hey, there’s something in the paper about an emu on the loose near Colfax, Illinois. HE: Imagine some unsuspecting birdwatcher seeing that. SHE: Pretty amusing. HE: You shoulda said emusing. SHE: Why? HE: It would have been amusing. She: Emusing, you mean. HE: But you didn’t say it. SHE: Just did. HE: Not at first. SHE: I’m not finding this conversation amusing. HE: But there’s an emu on the loose. SHE: Sorry I mentioned it. HE: I’m not. I’m emused. emu


“The Boss’s Birthday” (60 Seconds)

We came across a quote by Bruce Springsteen the other day, and it struck a chord. This guy, who’s called The Boss by his fans, said, “You write the song just for yourself, but it’s no good unless you play it for somebody else.” Why mention this on a site called Two-Fisted Birdwatcher? Two obvious things come to mind. First, Springsteen’s a two-fisted guy, so he belongs here. Second, birds sing but it doesn’t do them much good in terms of mating or defense unless somebody hears. But neither of those things is why we liked his quote. Here’s the real reason: Our little website is an example of just what he’s talking about. We write essays, stories, observations, jokes, the whole thing, for ourselves. We need to get this stuff down. But it’s no good unless you see it. Like you’re doing, right now.

“Big and Two-Fisted” (59 Seconds)

Two-fisted bird watchers, say six-nine, 300 pounds, have a Darwinian advantage over the rest of us. We know this. They know it. Everybody knows it, which is somewhat embarrassing. Big guys can handle regular guys in a fight. But better, they can prevent a fight…You’re birding with your buddy, a gentle soul who’s six-nine and a half. In the middle of nowhere some local hero in boots and tats makes a remark about your binoculars. One thing leads to another and maybe a little shoving’s about to start. Then your buddy clomps over in his size fourteen hiking boots and you all know the fight will never happen. It’s the way of the world, the common sense of wild places and the law of the jungle. Bigness rules. Size matters. Might makes right. We instinctively know this. Does this mean two-fisted bird watchers are lucky they’re big? Yeah, it does.  And if we’re friends with one, we’re lucky, too.

“Pina What?” (54 Seconds)

A tropical drink is not a two-fisted drink. Sorry.  It comes in a fancy tall glass or maybe in a hollowed out coconut.  There’s a flamboyant wedge of pineapple and a cherry on top.  And don’t forget the little paper umbrella.  Not two-fisted things.  One problem: The drink tastes pretty damn good.  A mix of tropical fruits frozen like a milk shake, and laced with rum.  These flavors suggest the wild calls of jungle Cockatoos, Scarlet Ibis and Keel-billed Toucans. You can even get 151 proof rum that will knock you on your butt.  But still, you just don’t feel right about holding the frilly glass and sipping from it. You just can’t order it.  So you get a two-fisted beer, and laugh at the other, more delicate drinkers as they twirl their little umbrellas.  They might not hear you laughing, though.  Not over their own laughter.

“Skunk Heaven” (56 Seconds)

Your dog’s your birding pal. Way better than a birding club. Just you and him, a great team. One May morning you’re looking for warblers and have seen a Black-Throated Blue (first time for you), several Black & Whites and you’re hearing a Yellow-Breasted Chat when your dog finds a skunk and the world changes. The skunk sprays chemical hell into your dog’s face.  That’s not the worst part. Your dog LIKES it. This dog, who will now smell skunky for a year, LIKES it. No backing away. He gets an “I’m in heaven” look, inhaling deeply. The mutt’s in ecstasy. Since a dog’s nose is countless times more sensitive than ours, why do dogs LIKE bad smells?  They roll in dead squirrels and goose droppings. They wear odors proudly, like medals.  You don’t have to explore jungles, dive under the sea, or go to other planets to find the weird.  It sleeps at the foot of your bed.

“Everglades Kites and Slime Food” (60 Seconds)

The Everglades Kite likes snails. It’s got a unique bill to gouge them out of their shells. This kite is getting rarer because the snails it eats are getting scarce as the Everglades shrink. If the Kite’s missing dinner, it’s understandable. What’s not understandable to two-fisted  food lovers is why humans eat snails. Slugs with shells! They move by sliding on mucus.  The mucus comes from inside, right?  So when we eat snails, we’re eating their little mucus organs, along with spare mucus, right?  We’re not Everlgades Kites. This is a pretty unfathomable food choice for us, considering that we’re brainy animals and all that. Why would we eat a mucus slug? The answer: marketing. Marketing utilizes the power of a stylish description: Escargots. This fancy French word gives snails a mystique akin to the mystique enjoyed by foreign films, which can also be unfathomable.  Maybe we need subtitles with our gourmet pretensions. Let’s leave Escargots for the hungry Everglades Kites and order a pizza.

“Whoa. That looks familiar.” (59 Seconds)

We were in the mountaineering outfitter store, Erewhon, recently, looking for a new pair of binoculars. And there on the counter was our Two-Fisted Birdwatcher logo, mounted in a plastic stand. What?


How’d our logo become a sign? A while back, we ran off some posters at Kinko’s and dropped them off at the mall, just for the hell of it. They got pinned to bulletin boards in Starbucks, mainly. And I guess Erewhon got one. This store puts up all kinds of posters.

But we had no intention of having it inserted into a clear plastic stand and displayed to tout binoculars. We’re not in the binocular business, or any business, for that matter. We’re just in the business of writing about birds, nature, ideas and fun. But now that we see it being used that way, we gotta say, it was an unexpected kick. Glad we had our camera phone handy.

Shorts From Readers…

The Two-Fisted Birdwatcher is a two-way street. We invited readers to share their shorts with us, and they have. Below are a few recent examples. Got something two-fisted to say? Send it in. Maybe there’s a bird-watching angle. Maybe not. Just try to keep it under 160 words. Use the “comment” link below, or our contact page. Meanwhile, here are some shorts from readers…

An Australian short (47 Seconds).

 By Anthony Kelly, Tookgarook, A wetland in the suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

This is not a typical short, but when we got this email in our “Contact” box, we wanted to use it. There’s no bulletin board on Two-Fisted Birdwatcher, but hell, a message from Australia is not going to be ignored around here.

What follows is the note we received, as it came to us. We looked at the video, and enjoyed the scenery as well as the activism involved. We present this link for anyone who wants to take a look, and maybe get involved. And we thank Anthony for sending it.

Anthony Kelly wrote:

Hi Two fisted Bird Watcher –

Would you be interested in posting this link to a new Australian short documentary on your site? It’s about an avid birdwatcher trying to protect a local wetland.

Tootgarook: A wetland under-recognised and under threat. (8:00 minutes) HD


Thanks if you can. There are links to further info an action under the video itself. It will be of enormous help to us here.


Anthony Kelly


“A theme emerges?” (45 Seconds)

By Marc D.

A theme has emerged from several of your most recent “Daily Sightings” blog posts on Two-Fisted Birdwatcher, especially “News Break” on July 21, 2012. It’s your need to escape the world, and dwell alone and oblivious, at least briefly. Your July 19 entry, “Hobo,” expressed this urge, too. Writing about the “Jaguar” (July 5), the solitary beast that shuns man and his works, i.e., civilization, also asserted that impulse. And of course the post on June 29, “Woodpecker Toes and Vodka, about business meetings and alcohol. Booze may be an aid to relaxed loquacity and camaraderie, but set to another purpose, it can be the great escape medium – to numb the senses and the mind, and to create a brief, carefree oblivion. Be sure to return when you enter the real and metaphoric woods, which you so frequently write about.


“The Blue Cardinal.” (60 Seconds)

By Mark Morgan, Lexington, Kentucky

Recently, there was talk of a blue Cardinal. We wrote about it in our Daily Sightings category. Whether or not blue Cardinals exist remains an open question. However, in some places, apparently they do. As we learned from Mark Morgan. Let him explain…

A bit of background…the University of KY school mascot is a bobcat (wildcat…locally known) and the school color is royal blue and white. The University of Louisville mascot is a Northern Cardinal (however, I doubt many fans really know that…”just a red cardinal…the Kentucky State bird) and the school colors are red and white. There is a strong cross state basketball rivalry between the schools. The University of Kentucky beat the University of Louisville this past season and went on to win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Anyway, after the U of L loss someone sent me this photo of the Louisville cardinal that had turned to “wildcat” blue. So…that’s the back-story to this blue cardinal…

“My Kestrel experience. And a link.” (50 Seconds)

By Michele Keane-Moore

Your blog alerted me to a snowy owl encounter that was posted on the North American Birding website, and I really appreciated knowing about it. It was called “Lucky with a camera.” In this spirit, I was wondering if you’d check out a post that is currently up regarding American Kestrels.


It is my post that Nate Swick graciously put up on the ABA site, and I’d love to share this experience I had with the kestrels with all interested birders. Thank you for your consideration of this request.  I love reading your blog, and have had occasions that I consider to be my own ‘two fisted bird watching’ moments while birding with my yellow Labrador…Best,  Michele

 “Something big.” (50 Seconds)

By Shelton Harlow

Just saw the most intense thing on the lake…(Falling Creek Reservoir, Richmond, VA).

Every now and then I’ve seen this cormorant on the reservoir.  All one can see is a long bird neck floating above the water.  Then it dives beneath the surface to chase fish and resurfaces 20 to 30 seconds later, not too far off. Just follow the new wakes and you an spot the bird on the surface.

This evening, however…

While watching the cormorant cruise along I saw it move its head suddenly to the side and there was a large splash!   I thought it had suddenly seen a fish just off its side and had dived for it…20 seconds passed…30 seconds…two minutes and NO Cormorant on the surface.

Something BIG just ate a 3 to 4 pound bird on the surface of the lake!


“Northern Bobwhite Moves In!” (50 Seconds)

By Roberta and Gary Morris

Imagine a bird never seen in your region suddenly appearing regularly in your own backyard! Northern Bobwhites are occasionally reported in southern Cook County, Illinois, and are regulars in Iroquois and Kankakee Counties, but have never been seen in Lake County where we live.

However a beautiful female has become a regular visitor to our property, feeding on dropped seeds under our feeder and drinking from and bathing in our fountain.

There is the feeling by some that a game bird like the Bobwhite, when seen or heard where it is not commonly found, must be a release from a game farm, and that this makes it not quite as “kosher” as a bird born in the wild.

Who knows? Who cares?

We’re not letting that possibility diminish our enjoyment of this new “backyard” bird and welcome those who would like to come by to see  it.

“Nerdgasm in Big Sur” (60 Seconds)

By Matt Loisel

On Highway 1 with my beautiful fiancé…

She craned her neck, but turned back without a report. I pressed her because I could see hesitating. She described with incredulity the mirage she hoped was real. We pulled over.

The Central Coast mist crept over our bird, just a black boulder among white ones atop the cliff. But only a condor could be mistaken for a boulder here. We trained our lenses on it.

No Turkey Vulture. This thing was impressive.  Beyond doubt, it was a California Condor. We were able to identify the breeding pair, Cosmo and Amigo, and their adopted son, Fuego.

We shared the experience with two friendly hipsters, a breed more rare than the Thunder Bird. It was stunning though somehow sad. Akin to haunted treasure at an estate sale, something precious long ago that will never be yours.

Maybe we’re not meant to enjoy this bird. A relic of the Ice Age that grew enormous on the carcasses of titanic mammals. Then it kicks in – nerdgasm – and I’m simply grateful for the high.

“Hearings” (60 Seconds)

By Tara

I would like to read about “hearings” just as much as “sightings”.  I am new to this site, so maybe there are articles already written here about the sounds of the birds, and I just have not discovered them yet.

Regardless, every morning I wake around, oh, five-ish, I guess… you know… right before the sun comes up.  And I hear the most wonderful bird callings.  I wish that I could identify the sound to the bird.  My most favorite is when I hear a near-distant call, and then half-a-minute later, I hear the distinct call again from a far-distance.  And this goes on for about a half hour or so…   I love it…   but I do not know what kind of bird it is.  I think it is an owl, but not sure.

How wonderful it is to wake up in the morning listening to birds calling to each other from far distances!  I love it.

“Beatles: Bird Food For Thought” (58 Seconds)

By “Mr. Peterson”

The Beatles were into birds. Not in a geeky ornithological way. They wrote “Blackbird,” during the civil rights movement. On that record, a bird impressionist whistles the sound of a true British Blackbird, a member of the thrush family. Two-fisted bird watchers – we notice these things. There’s also the sarcastic, “And Your Bird Can Sing,” the bird being a swingin’ Sinatra who famously beat the Beatles at the Grammys. There’s “NorwegianWood (This Bird Has Flown,)” where the protagonist fails to conquer an elusive English chick. Later, John sang a self-referential “Free As A Bird,” from the grave in the 1995 reunion single. Let’s review: a “bird,” refers to blacks, girls, Frank Sinatra, and the Beatles themselves. Except for Paul, who was a walrus – John clearly states that in “Glass Onion:” “…the walrus was Paul.” Then again, what did Paul name his band after the Beatles broke up? Hmm.

“We Clever Chicks…” (42 Seconds)

By Pandy

Gentlemen, not all birders are of your species…unless you’re just considering the one with opposable thumbs.  We, who don’t wear “shorts”…not even on the golf course, where “birdies” are highly desired…wish to make our presence known (as though you could ignore the female…with her duller colors….I think not).

We clever chicks, with our designer vests and fabulous eye for color and composition, are out and about with fantastic cameras and discerning ears for warbles in pitches you won’t notice when there is ambient noise.  We may or may not know the name, genus and species of what we’re observing…but our appreciation is great and our memory long.  Lead on, gentlemen….show us what you’ve got…..

“Okefenokee Dawn…” (60-seconds, or so)

By John Shauger

I arrived at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on a winter day. The friendly park lady said the road was closed. If you come tomorrow at 6:15, I’ll let you sneak in. I told her, “I’ll be here before 6:15.”

Getting up at 5:00 is easy for me. I brewed a stiff coffee and drove to the gate. The helpful park lady was early. I got my camera ready. The glow of the moon was enough to see the road.

It took an hour to reach the boardwalk. A quiet walk to the viewing stand took another hour. No reason to hurry, every reason to be quiet. My heart beat fast. Birds on the pond were making sounds from a jungle movie.

I started shooting. There were Sandhill Cranes. Ice was forming. One took a step. He slipped but gained his balance. What fun.

Hours later, I headed back, camera ready. I saw movement. I hid.

John S. Pileated

In slow motion my camera came up. It was a Pileated Woodpecker. I fired shot after shot. He saw me and flew off. I was excited. The shots were good.

I returned to headquarters to thank my park lady friend. They contacted her by phone & said, “There is a guy here with a shot of a Pileated Woodpecker.”

“Must be John”, She replied. I laughed.

“Bird Dinner…” (45-seconds)

By John Shauger

It was winter but it was the Everglades. I sighted a large bird on the pond & focused my camera. Started shooting. Three shots per second. Snap, snap, snap. The bird moved. Fast. “Bummer”, I said out loud. Blurry image, I thought.

Two weeks later as I reviewed my Everglades photos there were my “blurry” bird shots. As I was about to delete them I noticed the reason the bird was in a hurry. A gator attack.

Two of us were lucky that day. The gator got a meal & I got a series of action photos of the bird going down. Very cool!

Now you see it...

Now you see it...

Now you don't.

Now you don't.

“On Grump’s Gripe” (a short poem)

The following poem was sent in response to some comments under the “Let’s Change Stupid Bird Names,” article in our Guest Essays section. We don’t normally see much in the way of poems or poets around here, but this one nailed the two-fisted mind set, and we thank the creative writer, credited below, for sharing it.

“On Grump’s Gripe”   By Abe ZionFor Molly’s poem I’ve patiently waited Mulling the gripes of Robert the Grump Who tends to become quite agravated By some yellow warbler’s icteric rump Misnaming a warbler is really quite horrible Repugnant to birding humanity The bird in question does not even warble Confirming taxonomic insanity If Collared Doves are Eurasian And a Northern Shoveler’s a duck It may offer a birder occasion In confusion to mutter “WTF!” Bob Grump has a valid complaint To taxonomy’s blatant neurosis Driving the bird-watching saint Into certifiable psychosis Instead of a Loggerhead Shrike I suggest a tuxedo-clad bird Sporting a stylish vanDyke That’s my last birding word.

“I would have saved the dove.” (60 Seconds)

By Melinda Weiner

I was counting birds at my feeder for the GBBC (Great Backyard Bird Count), when a Coopers Hawk swooped down and took one of a pair of Mourning Doves.

Alas, it was all too fast to react to. Maybe that’s good.

I’m new to birding and haven’t worked out the exact rules, but I sure have a long history of intervening…..okay, maybe interfering….in bird drama.  I think that it was probably bad to rescue a pigeon being mobbed by desperate crows during sub-zero weather, and I was suitably punished, [dive-bombed by crows and accidentally locked outside without a coat].

I know its okay to shoo ducklings crossing a busy highway to safety, although state troopers may not agree.   I realize that the hawk was hungry, but……..I would have saved the dove.

“Two-Clawed Man-Watchers.” (50 Seconds)

By John Shauger

The Everglades Park sign warned that vultures ate rubber off cars. Perched in the trees surrounding me were a dozen Black Vultures observing me set up camp. They were man watching… and waiting.

I was there to photograph Everglades birds over four magnificent days. Visiting the birding hot spots, my routine was to shoot until noon, then download images to the laptop. Afterwards, shoot until evening, and download again.

I was having a fantastic time….until noon on the third day.

J. Shauger Vulture

Two-Clawed Man-Watching vultures robbed me. They swiped my camera cable.

My venture was ruined after three perfect days. Next morning I left the Everglades.

On the long drive home, instead of grumbling about the thieving Black Vultures, I laughed repeatedly.

“Two of your Didn’t Sees…” (A response to our blog entry, “My Loss,” April 24.)

Photos by Abraham Zion

Abe emailed these shots after reading about imaginary birds we never saw on a day when basketball had a stronger pull than the wilds. This Western Tanager and Northern Flicker were on our list. Good to see them here. Thanks Abe.

Western Tanager - Abe Zion

Flicker - Abe Zion