Miss Magnificent

Hope you recovered quickly from Brad’s lava hike. In stark contrast, today’s post comes from the cold snow of Rochester, MN. We are up at Mayo for Linda’s annual heart checkup – which means ample time to get a post (or two) penned while we navigate Linda’s battery of pokes and prods. One positive, it allows me to continue researching a concerning phenomenon. It is a human behavior topic so it will be targeted for the mothership. Here is a teaser. We are historically social creatures, yet we are evolving to isolation as demonstrated by Waiting Room Entropy (which sounds a lot more appealing than my previous title Men’s Room Urinal Selection Principle link here). This is on full display in Mayo Clinic waiting rooms. Every grouping seeks to maximize space between themselves and others. It is an elaborate ballet as they cleverly try to disguise the task, hawking from the main aisles as they calculate the best spot. Circle backs are occasionally required when personal items are strategically placed. Quite fascinating to this life voyeur. Someday I’ll post the full multi-year analysis, but the New Year is fast approaching and I want to maximize distance between Ron and I’s “official” bird count.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

I can assure you Ron and I have not decided to start including Mosquitoes in our bird count – that blotch above is definitely a bird…well, not just any bird, rather a Magnificent bird!

Hit the jump to get a better view or our fork-tailed lady.

In January, Linda, Ron and I had the opportunity to bird one of my favorite Texas Gulf Coast locations, Port Aransas. We spent the morning birding the hotspot Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center and then hit a place further up the canal (believe the locals call it Charlie’s Pasture/Point). Now time for lunch, we picked up some food and headed over to Roberts Point Park at the other end of the canal. Divvied up the spoils and took the passenger seat in the RV – that lasted about 30 seconds until I saw the image above out the front window.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty decent internal bird profile library. Even more useful, the ability to quickly rifle through that card index to get me in the species ballpark. Beyond a good fanning, the only result was a Swallow-Tailed Kite (link here). Quite a ways off from its South America wintering grounds. Those also have white along the entirety of their body extending into the wings. Even from the long distance, I could tell the features were off. That left a potential longshot – “Ron, grab your camera!!” as I bolted out the RV.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

Took a few quick snaps of the speck confirming a long and deeply forked tail.. it just might be! Ron (Mr. 0.0) was on his on at that point as I put my run conditioning to the task. Thankfully, carrying an 11 pound camera is not required in my ultra races ha. Made it to the edge of the canal wall quickly bringing The Beast on target. Sure enough, it was the longshot.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

We have seen reports of the Magnificent Frigatebird during our winters in January. Very infrequent and at random points up and down the Gulf Coast shoreline. One of those cases where you have zero expectations of locating one even if some lucky birder spotted one the previous day. There it was, soaring high above me and based on the reactions of the other people in the area.. no one else cared. Wait.. there should be at least one other..{turning back towards the RV} there’s Ron FINALLY making his way, gasping, dropping to knees, clutching chest, “this is the big one, I’m dying” (link here). Kidding, for someone that despises the concept of running, his birding stamina is quite surprising.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

For at least an hour, likely more, Ron and I filled our tins with this appropriately named bird. A quick check of Cornell confirmed we were in the company of an adult female with white on the belly. Males are entirely black with the exception of a red patch of skin on their neck called a gular sac/pouch, which they enlarge with air to impress the ladies during breeding season – who knew goiters could be sexy!?!

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

For the entire time Ron and I had our long glass pointed to the sky with shutters slapping faster than a Three Stooges highlight reel (link here), no one else seems the least bit interested. Fishermen fished, dog walkers walked, baby strollers strolled, lovers loved and stalkers stalked (guessing on the last one). Maybe I am the abnormal one, but I’m always curious as to what others find intriguing. See two excited guys looking up in the sky, I’m gonna look – hell it could be flaming balls of ice or a 50 foot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (note, up until 10 seconds ago I would have sworn it was Sta Puf’F’) .

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

Eventually, Miss Magnificent decided to move further out into the gulf, beyond the reach of our glass. We said our goodbyes, “chimped” at our shots in the back of the camera and headed back towards the RV. That is when we were met by a binocular wearing couple coming towards us. “See anything?” “Yes, we just took pictures of a Magnificent Frigatebird”. The disappointment was easy to read in their face even before they admitted they had always wanted to see one (we knew exactly how they felt).

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

Not sure how we became distracted, but we found ourselves back at the canal – possibly showing Ron how the Dolphins race the huge cargo ships that pass through. One of us noticed that the Frigatebird was, once again, souring overhead – this time even closer. Slap, slap, slap, slap….wait, be right back. I went and found the couple, absolutely making their day. They were even nice enough to give us credit on their eBird report.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

Now that you’ve suffered through the backstory, how about we get you some interesting facts about our tireless flier. Not surprising that an ocean faring bird is accustomed to spending huge amounts of time on the wing – conserving energy by leveraging the natural wind patterns. The shocker was learning that their webbed feet are not paired with waterproof wings.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

So, how does a bird that isn’t equipped to land on the water and unable to walk on land due to stubby legs sustain itself.. answer… flying fish. Yep, they scoop up flying fish and other creatures daring to break the waterline. If that fails, make the other guy do the work, otherwise known as Kleptoparasitism. Cornell’s site describes this method as harassing another bird until it upchucks its meal and then fly down to scoop it up midair. This behavior earned them the “Man-O-War” nickname from early sailors. Overlooking the gag element, that is very impressive aerial maneuvering. Mothers teach their young this trick by dropping sticks in the air and having them chase it down. Not too shabby

It is getting late and Linda’s next round of tests start early in the morning. Will put a bow on this “magnificent” post and increment the “official” lifer counter now sitting at 322!

61 thoughts on “Miss Magnificent”

    1. Glad I could introduce you to this new species Luisella! One of those birds I’ve heard a lot about and very elated I was finally able to witness one in the wild. A big thank you for dropping in – have a wonderful weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely one of those +1’s I’ll remember forever. Glad we were able to help out the other couple as well – a pay it forward for all the other birders that have helped us over these many years. We need to get you down to Texas and give a big boost to your life count.

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        1. Those will definitely help.. especially if you get those Puffins – the Intrigued community is eager to see your shots of those cute critters as yours truly failed to deliver – admittedly, not my fault, but will gladly hold my letter tongue to support my marriage hehehe.

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          1. I’ll at least study a bit ahead of time for other opportunities in the area. NV may also provide some, but you probably already have those.

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  1. Miss Magnificent fly with forked tail. She is a magnificent bird. Magnificent shots.

    The ignominious isolating of social beings is a great research topic. Excellent men’s room etiquette post. When we lived in Madrid some of the public men’s rooms had women who collected a fee to pee from you. Often the urinals were one long trough, you stood on a grate and all the pee ran under you feet on it’s way to somewhere. Some times the stalls simply had holes in the floor.

    When were in Paris, a men’s room in a park actually had a line. When you got to the entrance, there were attendants who collected your fee to pee, credit cards accepted. When I walked into the rest room, there was an attractive young woman with a mop who greeting me. Since I have been standing in line, my back teeth were gasping for air. I got to a urinal and a Frenchman took the urinal next to me. While in mid-relief, the attractive attendant decided she needed to mop under my feet and my weeing neighbor’s feet., as well , Only the two of us in a wall full of men peeing. Both of us looked at each other like WTF? while we stepped over the mop and trying to keep our streams straight. I gave the young woman a tip on the way out. She has a horrible job watching men pee and listening to them fart all day. Making men step over a mop in mid pee must break up the monotony of being a men’s room maiden.

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      1. Thank you Steve! We were incredibly lucky to get the chance to experience Maggie – wish I would have thought to use that name in my title – throw in some Rod Stewart references ha. Probably dated ourselves with that Sanford reference, but one I find myself using over and over – used to watch that show with dad while growing up – millennials likely have no clue. Appreciate you stopping by and have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. I read your first line and just about woke up Linda from laughing so hard – that was the EXACT title I was using up until about 30 seconds before hitting the publish button and decided to shorten – great minds … ha. I apparently need to add a completely new chapter to my Urinal Etiquette instructional manual – hadn’t considered an “international” flavor before. This concept of a pee fee is fascinating…even more intriguing is the female who collects the fee. My guess is you do NOT look down in the grate scenario (yuck). I’ve heard of the literal hole toilets from my colleagues that had to travel to India and China – imagine you would have to have strong/flexible thighs hehehe. What a hilarious (hmmmm maybe more of a funny cringe) experience with the mop – not sure you could tip me enough to ever consider taking that mop job. Kudos for not crossing the streams – bad things can happen. Wait, I wonder if there was some kind of “Impractical Jokers” skit going on there .. see if you can get person X to pee on person Y and STILL get a tip – Sal, you are up first. Now I have to go do some research, feel bad undeserving the International male – oh, and there is a companion piece that has been in the works which analyzes the mental state of the party violating the etiquette guide – the one that chooses to take the urinal immediately next to you even though there are like 24 other ones available. Great comment Timothy, got me thinking!

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      1. While traveling through France, it was always interesting to see what the facilities offered. Some rest stops did not have indoor urinals. You simply peed on a wall with water flowing of the surface and waved at the people driving by on the highway. Our Spanish friend from the Canary Islands encountered her first hole in the floor toilet, and she came out screaming after she stood up and water came flushing from all directions. She said she thought she was going down the hole. A weird thing about toilets at the Italian rest stops was when you sat down, the toilet flushed, the cold water filled to the rim and tickled your fancy before it went back down to normal. When You stood up it power flushed your offerings away. Those toilets were too weird. In some of the older buildings in Madrid, Spain, they had toilets with tanks up round 7 feet, and a handle on a chain to flush them, but what was really strange was there was a shelf in the bowl your turds dropped on. When you pulled the chain, the truds dived into the bottom of the bowl before being flushed away. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of the shelf other than offering some bathroom entertainment. I was really nonplussed about that design.

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        1. A-MA-zing – the French out-door urinals reminds me of stories about the first overpass along the Chicago Marathon route – except without the courtesy of the water flowing unless Mother Nature decided to help out. I can DEFINITELY do without any of my body parts being tickled in a bathroom – that sounds SOOOO wrong. Zero clue on the “shelf”- think that was to offer some kind of personal “assessment” of your hmmm let’s go with project? “That’s a keeper” or ” Note to self, increase fiber” type of scenario.. or maybe that last chance to recover from an unfortunate incident with an expensive ring before pulling the chain…wow that is just weird. Now my head is spinning thinking about all the new chapters this information could manifest into. I do have a chapter already on bathroom design – new addendums for what NOT to include in the design. Along those lines, I do have a note on my things-to-do list to add a blurb in the design rules section about reinforcing sink supports based on walking into a men’s bathroom in the New York New York Vegas casino late one night and seeing a very “affectionate” couple. Would have placed a bet at the closest odds table the bolts would have pulled out of the wall – surprisingly held for the entirety of time I required in there. Secrecy in Vegas only applies to things you do ha. Thanks for the many international insights Timothy!

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    2. There’s one near Greenwich, below street level that has a glass ceiling of Frosted blocks. A bit eerie being so “exposed” while taking care of business.

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      1. What idiot architect/designer says to themselves…”Hey, how about about we add frosted blocks to this here bathroom thingy to give the impression of being trampled while taking care of business” Unbelievable. Contrast that idiot with the genius that bought a piece of the Berlin Wall to a Vegas downtown casino bathroom so I could take a whiz on it! Less of the first and more of the second is what I say ha.

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        1. Then there are those kiosk toilets on the streets of some European cities that are mirrored on the outside, but when you are inside them you see everything around you like you’re sitting in the open. There were also an interesting variety of restroom kiosks in Paris. Including planters for men to pee in along the river Seine.

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          1. Okay, you have now officially replaced my former bottom rung of the Buddhist circle of life – now it reads “evil doers upon death are reincarnated as a plant placed in a planter that men use to relieve themselves” – the Slugs are now rejoicing they gained a higher order.

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    1. Sorry Ted ha. In my defense she pretty much fell into my lap..err. glass, so I can’t take a lot a credit for the hunt. Keep your eyes up, never know when one of these sky commanders are going to cast a large shadow over one of your coastal marshes. Take care and appreciate you dropping by.

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    1. Thank you Cheryl, so glad I was able to share the experience! I’ve been eager to get this post out ever since we were lucky enough to tin it earlier in the year. Probably my second favorite tin only behind the Bat Falcon (first time in the US) we managed to see around that same time. Looked at the fast approaching new year and decided I better get those shots processed and posted. Take care and may your holidays be filled with joy.

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    1. Thank you Kelly – one of those birding experiences I’ll never forget. Your wake comment made me smile – always gets the heart pumping when I see those fins first break the waterline and then see the cargo ship coming their way. Most of the time I only see that fin and maybe a little bit of their backs when they are just playing around in the canal, but when they gear up for the race I usually get the full experience as they burst completely out the water – a sight to behold for sure. Appreciate you dropping in (and for the extra smile).

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    1. Noticed that, I’ve been having issues with valid comments getting scooped up by the spam filter as of late and figured it was another byproduct of that – no worries, all is good.

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    1. Definitely one of the prettiest tails in the birding world – the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher ranks right up there with that one, but nowhere near as large. According to Cornell, that is their main steering mechanism – an air rudder ha. Thanks for dropping in Vic, appreciate it.

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    1. You are quite welcome Tanja! Thankful I had the full reach of The Beast or the tins would have all looked like the Mosquito shot in the first image. Ron and I are always appreciative of others who help us out in the field and delighted when we can return the favor – so easy to overlook what might become your favorite birding experience. Keep looking up Tanja, never know what you might find out there …although in this particular case it would probably be beneficial to be standing near a coastline! Take care and have a great rest of your weekend.

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    1. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it captured in the tin, but Ron and I also got to watch her attack a Gull for its food which played out exactly as Cornell described it. Such a treat to see – day earlier or a day later and “No Magnificint for you!” Just to be ahead of the game, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s to you and your family.

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    1. Thank you Donna! Definitely one of those +1’s I’ll always remember. The 300 is proving to be a difficult task. Now at 294, but I’ve missed three birds I’ve gone after this week and looks like two others I planned to go after on Saturday are in jeopardy due to weather (big snow on Thurs and possibly Fri and then windchills sinking to -35 for the weekend. Not conditions I want to stand around in a field hoping for a reclusive Snowy Owl to stroll out in ha. Fingers crossed for opportunities during the week after Christmas. Appreciate you dropping in.

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  2. First I hop Linda is doing well. That sounds like a long tedious tiresome endeavor having to go through all those test. I to am a people watcher at places like that, watching how people interact is about the same as watching birds in nature.
    Now this is the most magnificent bird I think I have ever seen thanks to your photos and description. I have never heard of this bird and its uniqueness is beyond beauty. Thank you for introducing me to a new species that is fascinating and beautiful.

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    1. She is pushing through. All her Mayo tests came out good, but she still has a sinus infection she’s been fighting since battling Covid several weeks back. I think she will get all healed up quickly once we head south to warmer destinations. Glad I could introduce you to this incredible bird. If you happen to get over to Port Aransas on your travels be sure and keep at least one eye in the sky for anything soaring with a giant forked tail! Take care Sandra and appreciate you dropping in and joining the conversation.

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    1. You are quite welcome! I always tried to give something back to the readers who grant me their precious time to read my musings. I’ll admit I was pretty much in the dark about this bird prior to seeing it for the first time and then the subsequent research to confirm my suspicions on what it was – didn’t really reach much about it until then assuming my chances of seeing one was pretty slim… that’ll teach me ha.

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    1. I was doing some reading up on this bird since my post and learned that forked tail acts like their rudder in the sky allowing them to conserve wing energy during their long flights. Beautiful and functional! Appreciate you dropping by Sharon – stay safe!

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  3. In one of your photos, Maggie looks like she is taking a swan dive – prolly just the angle you caught her at, but still fun. I was back at Leonabell for just a short visit 2 weeks ago, saw the Whoopers there, but no Frigates. Fun post!

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    1. Glad you were able to at least see the Whoopers at Leonabelle, those are one of my favorite birds. Was the American Bittern still hanging out there (along with a massive Gator)? We’ll be heading there in a couple of weeks and looking forward to getting a decent amount of checks on our visit – so far the count is going really really well for the new year. Take care Sam.

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      1. We did see the massive gator (affectionately known as “Boots”)… sort of like sneaking up on a sleeping T-Rex. I didn’t see the Bittern. I did see a young YCNH, very cooperatively posing close to the walkway in the late-afternoon sun. Glad to hear your count is going well, fingers crossed for a personal best record-breaker!

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        1. I didn’t know his name was Boots – we call him The Pirate because he has a damaged eye – made me laugh at the T-Rex comment hehehe. Bummer on the missed Bittern, it has been there every single time we’ve visited. We’ll be there in a few weeks so I’ll see if it comes back. Missed a few birds I managed to get by this time last year, but so far ahead of my pace from last year thanks to a few good tins which includes my first Hook-Billed Kite at Bensen. Feeling good so far, but there is a long way still to go.

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