April 01, 2006

George Mason 58, Jeff Durbin 45

73 lesser yellowlegs
74 great egret
75 field sparrow
76 rough-legged hawk

APRIL 1, EAGLE BLUFFS, sunny, 55-70—Certainly that score is a fair result, because GMU has had a much better season than me. I went for 45 species on the day but had serious ID struggles with shorebirds and sparrows.

To honor George Mason's advance to the NCAA basketball final four, what better than an avian bracket in the Missouri River Floodplain regional? The day's highlights are in reverse order of seeding.

#16 young eastern garter snake in woods
#15 barred owl call
#14 groundhog moving within 10 feet of my car
#13 first field sparrow song of little big year
#12 white and sulphur butterflies proboscing common violets and other blooms
#11 dozen or so greater yellowlegs, tall, clean, elegant shorebirds
#10 shoveler, coot, and blue-winged teal domination of the water
#9 bright-blue-tailed (abdomened), green-bodied (thoraxed) common green darner dragonfly
#8 huge numbers of basking turtles everywhere: 35 hauled up on a gravel shore, 18 on one log
#7 one or two lesser yellowlegs flocks in muddy shallows, whose identification confused me to no end
#6 silent snow geese resting on a bar, 28 in flock
#5 abundant blue-winged teal in pools and channels, many standing on logs, our most beautiful waterfowl (honorable mention all-America to green-winged teal)
#4 nesting bald eagle stretching its wings over vast stick structure
#3 couple of dozen great blue herons, fishing, preening, resting, cronking, one flipping a sunfish down its throat
#2 juvenile rough-legged hawk in cattail shade on drained channel, then coursing over field
#1 cluster of six great egrets, including one losing and retrieving a large frog, dunking it repeatedly, then scarfing it down, frog lump visible in its neck

Who would win such a fictional tournament? I decided to run the MRF bracket through my simulator.

Not only has a #16 seed never beaten a #1, this may be the first case where the 16 could actually be eaten; the egret advances easily. So do the hawk, herons, teal, and lesser yellowlegs. In the first major upset, #13 field sparrow (a mechanical but pleasing song I can actually identify) mobs #4 bald eagle (a little passive in the nest). Then #11 greater yellowlegs (high energy, could execute full-mudflat press) overruns #6 snow geese (snows did not have "A" game of several weeks ago, when thousands showed up). Both eagle and goose favorites, it should be noted, are somewhat overrated traditional powers. In the 50-50 matchup, the shore-patrolling #9 green darner dragonfly prevails over the turtles.

In the next round, it's #1 egret gracefully defeating green darner, but the blue-winged teal, after dispatching with the field sparrow, upset the frog-dunking egret and move on to the final.

On the opposite side of the bracket, #2 hawk is lethal from the perimeter against #7 lesser yellowlegs. The #3 cronking herons have a huge height advantage inside against the undersized yellowlegs, then take out the rough-legged in the semifinal.

In the title game, teal versus herons, the teal outsplash and outfly the GBHs and take home the Birds of America trophy. The Blue-winged Beauties are champions!


Blogger amahia said...

Ah ha ha ha ha...!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad the Teal didn't have any Gators to "Dunk!"

What a great site. Keep up the good work.

Slick Willy


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