Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two lifers and a bank job

Last week was really off the charts. Work had sent me to the west for a week. Though I always miss my family very much it’s always nice to head to the land of western birds on someone else’s dime. Turned out things got a little crazy while i was there. Not only with work but with birds. Basically, it was akin to wining to lotteries back to back.

Bird one.
Brambling. An online friend, John Puschock, that handles the ABA rare bird alert Facebook page found out I’d be in Vancouver and told me about a Brambling that was right in the middle of South Vancouver. This I learned just prior to heading west so I was excited to get to see this bird. It was of course a lifer for me. I arrived Saturday evening, got settled in a hotel that quite frankly is way above my station. That’s how it goes when I travel for work. I sleep in building that normally would see me shot as I approach the front door. I had some dinner with a good friend that lives in Van. and went to bed as early as I could. With the time change I was asleep by 2am Toronto time. I woke at 4am Vancouver time and struggled to get more sleep. By 7 am there was no more fighting it. The combination of the time change and the excitement of seeing a lifer took over. I got up, ate fast and headed to the spot. After about ten minutes of wandering, I saw the bird. It was great. Showing very nicely even to the naked eye. A few more birders came along but more about them later.

Brambling by Richard Towell.

Bank robbery.
I was there to shoot a couple commercials for a client. I’ll post them as soon as I am allowed but I can say that we filmed a couple dudes doing a rather poor job of robbing a bank. That was fun as I’ve never robbed a bank before. Well, actually the robbing of the bank happens just prior to us finding our characters. The subsequent police chase is what we really shot. And man was it fun. We ripped around town with an SUV being chased by two cops. Right downtown Vancouver we were closing down streets and fish-tailing around corners, light blaring. No sirens but we will add that in later. Anyway it was fun and hopefully it’ll be funny to watch.

The rig to shoot from 24 floors up.

The rig we attached to the car to rip about the city.

The view from atop the building. The railing was about halfway up my thigh.

Bird two.
While I was in a production meeting, John sent me a message that I might need to take a long lunch that day. There was a possible Red-flanked Bluetail now showing in a park in Vancouver. I decided to wait until the next day and see if it got confirmed. By 10am the next morning, it was seen again and it’s ID was confirmed. SO, that day at lunch I was lucky enough to have a PA drive me out to the park. Upon arrival there were about 60 birders present. They had had the bird only moments before. Chances were good that I’d get this one too. We waited. Suddenly, it showed itself. With all the restraint I could possibly mustre, I gave my bins over to the non-birding PA that drove me to the park. She got the bird right away. I’m not saying she’ll be a birder but she made noises that only birders make when they see really rare shit. If she does indeed become more interested, her spark bird will be a RFBT. The feeling you got from your spark bird is a bit like that first hit of heroin. OK, not really but you do spend the rest of your waking hours dreaming of that same high again and it never gets to the same level as the first time. Like heroin. Either way, she will go many years before seeing another bird that’s even close to that rare. Unless she heads ten minutes down the road to the Brambling...

Red-flanked Bluetail by Langham Birder.

The other birders that showed up at the Brambling were a great and diverse group of dudes that were kind enough to let me populate that empty seat in their car and spend the day birding with them. We saw many species together and I feel like I made some new western friends over some western birds. I’ll let them identify themselves here if they see fit but meeting them made me see even more how diverse a group we really are. There was me, the punk loving Associate Creative Director, an Ophthalmologist, a graduate about to become a teacher and a dude that worked at the docks in Vancouver. We couldn’t be more different but so much the same too. We share that one thing birders all have; our addiction to seeing new birds.

Punk Rock Big Year
Paul Riss


  1. WTF*CK Red-flanked Bluetail!

    I gotta stop reading you blog you are destroying me. Congratulations on the Brambling too. There aren't that many things more satisfying than falling in with a good group and getting in a great day of birding, but a Brambling and a Bluetail are about as superlative as it gets, and on a business trip...for shame Paul.

    Of course, I hope to se this epic saga in tattoo form soon.

    1. it was almost worth getting tats of these ones. it's a pretty rare week when that happens. like so rare it may never again.

      i also met up with a friend that drove up from seattle to see them. such a great trip.

  2. Just read this today - a little late I know. Cool post and I feel lucky to have been able to see both these birds as well. Had a great time seeing some of the local birds with you. Most importantly, I'm incredibly impressed that you spelled "ophthalmologist" correctly! :)


  3. Sorry i missed this comment Randy. Been very busy. My dad is an Optician so Ophthalmologist is in and around my vocabulary. I'll be in touch next time I'm out west. Please be in contact if you make it to Toronto.