Wolverine Hikes South America

People who know me know that I belong on the Trail. I've thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (twice),the Pacific Crest Trail and the mighty Continental Divide Trail. I've hiked many of the long trails here in Michigan including being the first to hike both the Ironwood Trail and the Great Lake To Lake Trail. In 2017, I hiked the Israel National Trail and the Golan Heights Trail. I was the first to hike the Baja Divide Trail in Mexico but failed miserably to thru-hike the Bruce Trail in Canada. I'm heading for Ecuador to attempt to hike the TEMBR.

The purpose of this blog is to keep anyone who is interested informed of my progress and to encourage those who are able to support me in this endeavor.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The BDT: Bird Nerd Edition

Warning: Unless you’re a total bird nerd like me, do not read this post. If you have to click away from this page to look up the word ‘ornithology’, then you should just stay away. If you’re not fascinated that a woodpecker’s feet are zygodactyl while a sparrow’s feet are anisodactyal then get out of here while you still can! I said beat it, hipster!

Anyone left? Didn’t think so. Ahhhh.... Time for some totally self indulgent writing about the birds I’ve seen so far during my hike of the 
Baja California peninsula. Ima do this as a ‘top ten’ list: 

10. Gila Woodpecker

These guys are loud and fun. They have a classic pattern to their flight that makes them easy to spot. 

9. Roadrunner

The cartoon roadrunner looks kinda like an osterich but really, they look, sound and act like a skinny chicken. They are very fast and very fun to watch. 

8. Pacific Loon

When I first saw one of these on the ocean, I thought it looked like a loon but I didn’t think they liked salt water. Then I heard that familiar call and I thought I was back in Maine!

7. California Quail

These things are everywhere and when a flock of fifty or more takes off, it sounds like thunder in the distance. 

6. Burrowing Owl

I love all the strigidae family but these little guys are especially cool. They have bright white eyebrows and unusually long legs. 

5. Turkey Vulture

It’s not their fault that they have weak feet! Otherwise, they’d be killing live prey like other raptors. Instead, they circle endlessly, looking for something dead to feast on. Tell this one at your next cocktail party: What did the flight attendant say to the vulture with two dead rabbits under his wing? “I’m sorry, sir. Only one carrion allowed.” Ha! See what I did there? I kill me...

4. Humming Bird

Ima let you down here (who am I kidding? no one is reading this!) when I say that I couldn’t really identify the different species of humming birds that I’ve seen. I looked at several lists of the species that are down here but they all seem to be in some kind of ‘winter phase’ where their plumage is darker and much plainer than usual. 

3. Prairie Falcon

One of the few species (other than humming birds) that can truly hover. If I spot one of these, I’m stopping until he is far out of sight. It’s like I can’t NOT watch. 

2. Brown Pelican

One of my new faves. They are so graceful, gliding just inches above the waves. When they spot a fish, the fold their wings in and dive bomb hard into the water at breakneck speeds. And that plumage.... I could go on forever about these birds. 

1. Harris’ Hawk

One of the only species of raptor to hunt in groups. I often see three or four of them, each perched at the top of a cardon cactus, scanning the desert floor for movement. Really beautiful, really aggressive...

If you’re still reading this, you should be embarrassed. And, if you dare leave a comment below, Ima call you out as a NERD!


Unknown said...

Nice photos, but I didn't know you had such mad drawing skills! :-)

Chris Hillier said...

I wish. Sadly both the pics and the drawings are stolen from the web. But I ave seen each of these species.

Unknown said...

Biology nerd and proud! Bethany and I want to the Arizona last week and I was not only pointing out the birds, but the other animals, insects, and plants. Can't get enough biology! We seen quite a few gila woodpeckers!

Chris Hillier said...

You get a pass for letting me use your stove in New Mexico. Hi, Bethany!

Pam Post said...

The gila woodpecker kinda looks like a cross between a Northern flicker and a red bellied woodpecker.

Unknown said...


Jennifer Tislerics said...

"Only one carrion allowed." LOL! I love watching birds, too. I don't know them as you do, but I like them a lot. Cool post - I love hearing about critter sightings!

Martha said...

Turkey vultures are amazing and beautiful. Know why they have red bald heads? So they can stick it into a dead critter to eat and non get covered in gunk. Know how they protect themselves after gorging on carrion...that's a bird nerd word for dead things...? They can't fly because they have eaten too much to get off the ground. If, as a non bird nerd, you should decide to approach a very full turkey vulture, they will throw up all the delightful dead and rotting things it has eaten!! Human fool. Aren't bird nerd facts fun?

Beaker said...

You didn't expect me to ignore a birding post did you,Master Ornith? I miss your bird lessons from on the CDT. Keep your feet pointed south and your eyes to the skies.

Chris Hillier said...

I agree. They have flickers down here, too, but they are much darker.

Chris Hillier said...


Chris Hillier said...

That is the corniest joke I know. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!

Chris Hillier said...

They also poop on their own feet because it cools them off as it evaporates.

Chris Hillier said...

Thanks, Beaker!

Unknown said...

I look forward to the day when I’m on Jeopardy and I get to use these factoids. Until then, I’ll try to sneak them in during conversation at work but I’m not sure anyone will understand lol.

Looks like a great hike (well, kinda :)), can’t wait to hear more details over a cold beer when you get back!

Unknown said...

Btw, there’s a song called Carrion on Fiona Apple’s album Tidal from 1996, and I now understand why it was so depressing and I always hit next when it came on. It’s taken me over 20 years to realize the meaning of that song, but your blog about birds in Mexico seems to have done the trick. 😉

Chris Hillier said...

Hey Boss! Thanks for the comment. It’s true that I’m full of useless factoids. Unless, like you mentioned, I was on Jeopardy and the category was ‘Birds of the Baja California Peninsula’. Until then, I’ll just keep writing about them.

Thanks for following my journey!

drcowboy said...

Pelican a pelican it's beak can hold more than his belly can... haha

Chris Hillier said...

That’s at least as bad as the ‘carrion’ joke. Thanks for the comment, Coyote!

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