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  • Writer's pictureJ. Darris Mitchell

My binoculars were stolen

ON Desk

Things have been progressing on my revision for The Crane and the Wolf! Very soon I will have all of the ingredients to send to the editor, then it will be sifted once more to become the finest of cake flour. At that point I’ll pop it in the oven of publishing and ship it out to all of you!


It will take time because time is precious.

But it will be out this year! Most likely in the first half!

I promise!

This bubblephone is short (except for the bird part LOL) so I can keep working on it!

Personal Note

My binoculars were stolen.

It was kind of my fault.

I left them in the car.

It was kind of my fault.

My wife did not lock the car.

It was kind of her fault.

My binoculars were stolen.

But mostly it’s the fault of the asshole who stole my binoculars.

My binoculars were stolen.

It was kind of my fault.

Bird of the Week

There is a phenomenon in birding that Chris Cooper (I think) coined as the Unicorn Effect. That is, once you have been doing it for a while, you start to fantasize about birds you’d like to see from the field guides, and when they finally appear, it feels like a unicorn stepping out of the forest.

This happened to me this week with a pyrrhuloxia, a bird I have wanted to see since I learned of its existence five years ago. I will admit, it is not the most spectacular of birds. It basically looks like a cardinal if the red color had all been drained to just the center of its chest, wings, tail, and the feathers around its bone-white beak. It is also known as the desert cardinal, and I have hunted for one dozens of times.

I don’t know why the pyrrhuloxia intrigues me so. I think it has something to do with me having absolutely no idea that it existed. As a kid, we often visited family in New Mexico, driving from Austin up into the desert mountains. At some point, I should have seen a desert cardinal, but I never even knew to look for one.

Upon discovering that they do in fact exist, I have looked in vain for one every single time I have been in the desert. I have visited the western tip of Travis County a half a dozen times just in hopes of seeing one. When one was appearing intermittently at Hornsby Bend, I made sure to pay special attention to where it had been seen, for naught.

Just last weekend, I had hoped to spot one out at Reimers Ranch, but was denied yet again.

I told of my trials and tribulations to a local birder and she deemed the pyrrhuloxia my nemesis.

Yes. My nemesis: the unicorn of the desert.

But then one showed up on the Barton Creek greenbelt.

This was different, I thought. This felt right. So I packed my two sons in the car, donned my wife’s binoculars (my binoculars were stolen), and headed downtown.

We arrived, unloaded, and headed for a bridge that other birders have been using as a landmark. Immediately, I saw a group of cardinals, and felt my heart go a pitter-patter.

Surely, this desert migrant would be here. As they say, birds of a feather flock together. I crept down the path, pushing one boy in the stroller and swearing oaths to the other that yes we could play soon if he would just give me five minutes to see just this one… special…

My breath caught. I raised my wife’s massive binoculars (mine were… you get it), and brought the bird into focus. It was—as expected—mostly gray. The bit of red on its crest is not enough to impress any cardinal. Its wings and tail were not particularly vibrant; red yes, but only lined in it. And yet, I was mesmerized.

I felt like Harry Potter trying out a wand.

I felt like Luke using the force.

Like Po, when he learns the ingredient to his father’s secret ingredient soup.

I felt like Bianca Belair must have felt when she won the women’s Royal Rumble last weekend.

Best of all, my four-year-old kid got it. He gave me a moment, let me revel in the simple desert garb of the desert cardinal, then he held me to my word, and we played like goofs for the rest of the morning before having French Fries for lunch.

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