Thursday, June 14, 2007

Weddings, Sex, and The Adventures of Wetsuit Boy

My birding opportunities this weekend were constrained by my sister's wedding—to keep this discussion bird-related, I'll only mention that she wore a headpiece containing what looked like Snowy Egret plumes. I hope they just came from farmed ostriches or something. She looked utterly stunning—who would have thought that the little punk who used to call me "Inspector Spithead" would make such an elegant bride? The mind boggles.

Glenn and I managed to slip away from the family compound (and from way too much food and wine) on Sunday morning. By Sunday afternoon, we made it to Bolsa Chica, where we tried in vain to find the Pacific Loon who had been hanging out there. We settled instead for an afternoon of tern-watching.

A large flock of Elegant Terns was fishing by the floodgates, while a single Forster's Tern sat on the fence watching them. We noticed this last spring as well: one lonely Forster's Tern trying in vain to scare off the other birds. A couple of Black Skimmers were also hunting in the area; I never get tired of watching them.

Down by the footbridge, the Least Terns had started nesting in the fenced-off area. There was also some hot and heavy breeding action going on:

Who says family entertainment has to be dull?

Glenn got Tuesday off, which allowed to make up for our birdless Saturday. We spent a few uneventful hours at San Joaquin and Huntington Central Park, then headed back to Bolsa Chica with one of Glenn's photo buddies. Several other photographers were there, all trying to capture shots of the Elegant Terns in mid-air battles for fish.

While watching the terns, we ran into a Fish and Game biologist who was trying to figure out what to do about an illegally parked car by the floodgates. We were all really glad to see him since on any number of previous visits to Bolsa Chica, we'd seen any number of people behaving badly: letting their dogs run loose around nesting birds and letting kids throw rocks at birds, for instance—and every time, we'd say to each other "God, I wish a ranger were here!"

And even though this guy wasn't a ranger, he was sympathetic and happy to entertain our rants. And his presence gave the photographers a chance to diss their archnemesis: Wetsuit Boy.

Anyone who frequents Bolsa Chica on weekends has probably seen Wetsuit Boy. You can't miss him: he's the guy in the wetsuit with a big camera who crawls over fences and stomps into the marsh to take pictures. The other big-lens guys thought he was just an obsessive eccentric until they found out that he was using live feeder mice, tied to his car, to lure kestrels and kites to close shooting range. Of course, Glenn and all the other big-lens guys want the perfect shot, too, but none would dream of hurting or manipulating the birds to get it. For them, photography is a sport as much as an art, and stunts like this are bad sportsmanship.

The Fish and Game guy was, indeed, familiar with Wetsuit Boy. He told us that WB had been cited a few weeks back for wading out to one of the islands where the terns were breeding. He managed to frighten off the adult terns, which allowed a flock of crows to swoop down and help themselves to tern chicks for lunch. His excuse for this? He was a Baptist preacher (!) and was taking photos for a book promoting Christianity.

Am I the only one who's fed up with moral midgets who use Christianity to justify or excuse their bad behavior? Don't other Christians find them embarrassing? As for Wetsuit Boy, I will lay upon him the worst curse one could put on a photographer:

May your sensors be eternally coated with dust.

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