Friday, December 30, 2005

Quackery 4

The time: November 2005
The occasion: a birding festival. Do you know which one?
The place: on the Eastern half of the country. Do you know the city and state?
The specific location: Do you know the name of the business?

That location proved to be ripe with props for duck photos. Can't wait for the next festival to expand the photo collection!

May the new year bring you and yours many opportunities for good birding and fun!

More additions to the aviary

This is Daisy May Dodo Bird, and she provides bright color at the front of my desk, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law. Daisy May's more than just a pretty face; she's a refillable ballpoint pen by Xonex. Her siblings, Polka Dot and Heart Throb, look quite dashing too.

This rubber duck wears his name tag at all times. He came back from Berlin with my parents after their recent visit with my sister, who lives in The Grey City. Just shows that rubber ducks have universal appeal.

Minerva joined the office aviary last week, courtesy of a nonbirding coworker, and her plumage appears to be all natural fibers. The amount of detail is very cool, as are the many ways that we can show our birdiness!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's those birds in cages!

I've heard doomsayers opining that avian flu aka bird flu is negatively affecting birding in North America. I don't see how or why that would be the case.

For instance, yesterday's piece links the spread of the H5N1 strain to domestic birds, not migratory ones. The article is a good long one, by online standards. Here's a sample to whet your appetite.
Since the early fall, however, there have been only scattered reports of more outbreaks. The disease has been glaringly absent, for example, from western Europe and the Nile delta, where many presumed it would crop up as migrating birds returned to winter roosts.

That suggests the strain has evolved to specifically exploit domestic poultry, whose short lives spent in tight flocks mean a virus has to skip quickly from bird to bird if it is to survive, said Hon Ip, a virologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

That also means that while the virus can pass from domestic to wild birds, the latter may not be suited as transmitters of the strain -- at least so far.

"By the timing of the spread and the pattern of outbreaks within a country and between countries, it does not make sense relative to a role for migratory birds as a means of spreading the virus," Ip said.
Read it all. Click on the NWHC link above, and stay abreast of developments. If we're informed, we can counteract those doomsayers.

More citizen science

Would you like to participate in a three-year study about birds' eating preferences? Project Wildbird, organized by Wild Bird Feeding Industry Research Foundation, wants more birders in Canada and the United States for the experimental phase of the scientific study of wild birds' feed and feeder preferences.

The experimental phase initially will focus on Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. The foundation will provide feed, feeders and guidelines.

If you want to participate as an individual or with a school or birding group, you can find details about the experimental phase here. Act now, and help beginning birders become successful at attracting species to their feeders!

Other information--such as details about the feed, feeder, hardware, digital cameras and software contributed to the study--appear here.

Additions to the aviary

Christmas usually brings new birds into my life--species of the ornamental genus. This year's holiday was no exception.

With thanks to Mom and my brother's mother-in-law, these birds joined my collection. The little owl with the nest now adorns the door to my office, while the fanciful, glittery hummingbird hovers above a variegated pothos on a bookshelf.

Did a rubber duck participate in the holiday festivities? But of course! However, the particular activity in which three ducks partook might intrigue you.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

1st annual The Best of Birding reader poll

As part of WildBird's 20th anniversary, we're initiating the first-ever reader poll of this industry: The Best of Birding.

We want to know what birders of all skills think of various backyard products, binoculars, spotting scopes, printed media, activities, destinations and online/digital/audio media.

The survey form appears on pages 43 and 44 of the January/February 2006 issue. We ask that readers tear out that page (photocopies will not be accepted) and mail the completed form before July 1.

What do readers get for their efforts? Well, if they vote for at least 25 of the 100 categories and provide contact info, they become eligible for some great prizes.

It is possible, however, for readers to disqualify their entries; the rules appear on page 43.

Wanna see those prizes? Behold!

Nikon Sport Optics has offered a Monarch ATB 8x42, a waterproof roof-prism bin made with exclusive Eco-Glass, a 5.3mm exit pupil and an 8-foot close focus.

Victor Emanuel Nature Tours donated a $150 gift certificate for one of its 140 tours to more than 100 destinations worldwide.

Houghton Mifflin
provided three books and a birdsong CD: The Grail Bird by Tim Gallagher, The Singing Life of Birds by Don Kroodsma, Wild America by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher, and Peterson Field Guides: Backyard Birdsong CD.

Droll Yankees offered two Yankee Family squirrel-proof feeders, one each for two participants. The line includes Yankee Flipper, Yankee Tipper, Yankee Dipper and Yankee Whipper.

So, if you have an opinion... and don't we all... here's your chance to share it and win a fantastic prize.

Just pick up a copy of the January/February 2006 issue (the one with the preening Northern Cardinal on the cover), turn to page 43, and start making notes about which squirrel baffle, 7x42 binocular, tripod, regional field guide, festival, national forest, listserv and other items fit your definition of "best."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Birding video on

Perhaps you, like me, do a little Happy Dance—if only in your brain—when you see articles or video segments about birding in the mainstream media. It's a pleasure to see the topic brought to the attention of the general public.

And because a picture is worth 1,000 words, I threw a mini-celebration upon finding a video on's Science & Space page about Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows, Calif. The three-minute piece, titled "Refuge a treat for birders," discusses the millions of waterfowl that winter at the refuge.

If the video's presence on pleases you as much as it does me, please give positive feedback to the network.

Quackery 3

The time: July 2005
The occasion: American Birding Association annual convention (Details about the 2006 convention here.)
The place: Tucson, Ariz.
The field trip: French Joe Canyon
The coolest bird: a singing Canyon Wren
The plant in the photo: unknown

Who can name that plant behind Park?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I and the Bird deadline: today

If you'd like to submit a post to the birding world's blog carnival, please do so today. Not tonight but today!

If you're unfamiliar with a "blog carnival," here's a description provided by the instigator, Mike: "I and the Bird is a carnival celebrating the interaction of human and avian, an ongoing exploration of the endless fascination with birdlife all around the world. It is also a biweekly showcase of the best bird writing on the web published on alternating Thursdays.

You'll find details about the carnival's 13th edition here. You can read this week's carnival on Thursday.

More MSM coverage of the Ivory-bill search

Did you catch today's Washington Post article about the activites in Arkansas? I'm pleased to see well-known newspapers covering the topic and continuing to expose nonbirders to the concept of habitat conservation.

The passages that caught my attention:
“It’s given us a renewed hope that all these efforts, all this work, can pay off,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast regional director for Fish and Wildlife. “It’s the story of how you can get a second chance.”

Hamilton and other conservationists are anxious to show that the recent sightings are not an aberration but proof that preserving and restoring habitat can sustain some of the nation’s most prized species.

Sam Stuart, a 25-year-old volunteer from Phoenixville, Pa., who arrived in Brinkley on Dec. 5, said that after a week in the woods, he now grasps the difficulty of the search.

“We all felt like we were going to come down and find it right away,” Stuart said. “Then you see the enormity of the forest.”

But thank goodness for the enormity of the forest!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Duck stamps as stocking stuffers

Stymied for a gift idea? Consider these reasons, offered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to purchase a duck stamp for someone on your holiday shopping list.

Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “duck stamps,” feature paintings and are not valid for postage. Originally created in 1934 as the federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Federal Duck Stamps now are a vital tool for wetland conservation, according to USFWS.

10 reasons why the Federal Duck Stamp is the perfect holiday gift

A duck stamp is:

· Food and Shelter for the Needy
The lands purchased with Federal Duck Stamp revenue provide the necessary habitat for ducks, geese and other wildlife. While partridges and turtledoves might not necessarily frequent wetlands secured with your Duck Stamp purchase, it’s nice to know they could do so in a pinch.

· An Investment for the Next Generation
If you wish to help ensure a place for our nation’s children to watch birds, hunt, hike and spend quality time outdoors, giving duck stamps is a wise investment.

· A Ticket to Adventure
The stamp provides its owner free admission to any national wildlife refuge open to the public that normally charges an entrance fee. The stamp is required for waterfowl hunting.

· Inexpensive... and Meaningful
The $15 gift category is littered with trivial, throw-away contrivances. The duck stamp rises above them all.

· Collectible
Stamp collecting is an exciting “hobby of the future” according to many philatelists (stamp enthusiasts).

· Money Not Wasted
You can take pride in the fact that 98 cents of every dollar of the duck stamp program revenue goes directly to purchasing wetland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

· Easy to Buy
You can pick them up at your local post office, through the mail, even online. Call your local post office to check for availability before going there to mail your packages. Purchase them at major sporting goods stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses, through Amplex Corp. (the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service distributor) at 800-852-4897 or though United States Postal Service mail-order: 800-782-6724.

· Easy to Carry
Fruitcakes, while resilient, cannot be carried in your back pocket. The duck stamp is eminently portable.

· Easy to Wrap
If you buy enough of them, you can even plaster the self-adhesive version all over a gift box for a quick and unique festive wrap.

· Joy
The joy of doing good for people and the outdoor world they love. The joy of spreading holiday music: the honk of geese, the trill of blackbirds, the whisper of wind through the marsh-grass.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Raptors and Radeaux

Raptors stand out as my favorite species group. This fall, Cape May Bird Observatory’s research and education center featured raptor artwork in its gallery, so I had to investigate.

Three paintings especially grabbed my attention: a Merlin (left), an American Kestrel and a Peregrine Falcon (a species that holds a special place in my heart). I vowed to learn more about the artist, Radeaux. (Click on the paintings for larger images.)

Coincidentally, Radeaux created the poster for International Migratory Bird Day 2006. The May 13 event will focus on the boreal forest, “the bird nursery of the North.”

But back to raptors. From Colorado, Radeaux graciously replied to some questions about his paintings and his birding.

The artist said his bird paintings are loosely based on his experiences in the field. “For example, the Peregrine and White-throated Swift painting [left] is about seeing an adult Peregrine carrying prey and flying in front of one of its offspring. It then dropped the prey, which turned out to be a White-throated Swift. I watched the young Peregrine catch the swift.”

The stylized image on the American Kestrel painting is from a pottery painting from New Mexico, Radeaux said. “I’ve identified the image as a kestrel. Archaeologists are wary of interpreting images too much, but as an artist, I have more latitude.”

Radeaux started painting birds in 1973. “I was a birder first and then an artist,” he said. “I started painting with no particular direction after college. I did a drawing of a Rock Pigeon, and it was so bad that it gave birth to a personal challenge to do a decent painting of a bird.

“It is still a challenge, but I am better at it,” he said. “The challenges in art keep me going as a painter.”

The painter began birding more than 40 years ago. “The first bird I noticed as a child (I can't remember how old) was a male Western Tanager outside our kitchen window,” he said. “My dad had a Peterson field guide, and I looked it up. I really got hooked on birding during a trip to the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge when I was a teenager.”

In addition to Monte Vista, Colorado contains many appealing spots for Radeaux. “Colorado has so many places with scenic backdrops, and the birds are a bonus,” he said. “As far as my favorite spot, I will have to say ‘there's no place like home.’

“It's not just that my home territory is convenient; the convergence of habitats in Pueblo County makes it the most biologically diverse county in Colorado," he said. "More than 400 bird species have been seen in the county.

“I regularly go to the Arkansas Riverwalk within the city limits; City Park, an old-growth park within the city; and Valco Ponds, a state wildlife area just outside the city.”

During more than 40 years of birding, Radeaux said the joy of discovery is the most rewarding experience. He narrowed it down to just three examples, adding “This is tough.”

1. Watching a Black-chinned Hummingbird gather spider web and carry it to a nest on my front porch. The same nesting season I watched a Mississippi Kite carry nesting material to a nest in my back yard. I then got to observe both the entire nesting season.
2. Finding the first documented record of Acorn Woodpeckers in Colorado.
3. Discovering the second nesting record of a Black Phoebe in Colorado.

“The joy of discovery is augmented by being able to share these findings,” Radeaux said, “whether it be by showing these birds to other interested people or by making paintings of the experience. Most of my rewarding discoveries become paintings eventually. Sometimes they become multiple paintings.”

Creating a painting for International Migratory Bird Day 2006 was a natural fit for Radeaux. “Our Audubon chapter, Arkansas Valley Audubon, has conducted a bird survey on International Migratory Bird Day for years.

“Years ago, I did some illustrations for some of the IMBD publications, and being asked to do the poster for this year on the boreal forest was a pleasure,” he said. “I got my first exposure to wood-warblers in the boreal forest in Canada and northern Minnesota when I was in college. The boreal forest is an incredibly sensitive and important place for birds and a host of other creatures.”

You can see more of Radeaux’s work at CMBO’s Research and Education Center (it currently displays some of his winter birds) and at the John Deaux Art Gallery, 221 S. Union Ave. in Pueblo, Colorado (719-545-8407).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Quackery 2

One of the great things about birding festivals is the opportunity to visit spots that otherwise might be beyond your endurance. Seriously, if you'd spent 12 hours birding on Wednesday and then stayed up late that night to visit with friends from around the country, would you start driving again at 5 a.m. Thursday to reach another far-flung location?

Thankfully, during festivals, bus drivers or trip leaders take the wheel in the early morning and allow participants to catch a few more winks. That's how my friend, Khara, and I found ourselves at El Rio RV Park in Chapeno near dawn during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

Also thankfully, Khara tolerates my quackery and held Fall (the duck) while Lola, the petite brown dog, sniffed him. Then Flash, the inquisitive black dog, came over to investigate and assume the canine "play" pose (known as "downward-facing dog" by yoga aficionados).

Obviously, in the presence of such friendly creatures, the duck took second place. He was, however, the center of attention in other circumstances that might come to light later...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hope for Laysan Duck

The state of Hawaii and other nearby islands and atolls host a number of endangered bird species, not to mention other critters and flora. In fact, the Hawaiian islands contain the highest number of endangered and threatened species within the United States.

Despite that depressing thought about paradise, good news does emerge occasionally from the Pacific. For instance, Laysan Duck was placed on the federal endangered species list in the mid-1960s.

Now, the species might be able to increase its limited numbers. Twenty ducklings fitted with transmitters appear to be thriving after being taken from Laysan Island in Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hunters preserved ivory-bill habitat

Let's applaud hunters and fishing enthusiasts, shall we? Those groups in Arkansas preserved the Big Woods area by purchasing the federal Duck Stamp, said Scott Simon of The Nature Conservancy.

The annual stamp costs $15 and, over the years, generated $41 million, according to Simon. He said that money purchased most of the habitat favored by the Lord God Bird.

Have you and your birding companions purchased Duck Stamps lately? Mark S. Anderson painted the Hooded Merganser stamp above.

UPDATE: The hunter-angle story also received play on the bottom fold of Nice to see the Ivory-billed Woodpecker search getting coverage in the mainstream media and raising the issue of habitat conservation.

Ivory-bill Bulletin from Cornell

Are you registered for news updates via e-mail from Cornell Lab of Ornithology? The most recent one provided links to various aspects of the current search in Arkansas, including pictures of the field crew and a journal by field technician Sarah Warner.

To sign up for the updates, visit this page and look for "Join Our eNews Group" near the bottom of the screen.

Also scrutinize this page for more details!

Image courtesy of Larry Chandler

Christmas Bird Counts!

The CBC season will begin tomorrow, Dec. 14, and will end on Jan. 5. During that three-week period, will you participate in a CBC?

If you're unfamiliar with the concept and its execution, this page provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the 106-year-old tradition and the cumulative value of each year's results.

To find a CBC count near you, visit this page.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ivory-bill coverage on

A quick glance just now at's homepage revealed an article about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker search.

That the article appears on the "top fold" of's homepage makes me smile. That it was distributed by Reuters news service makes me wonder where else the article appeared.

How much "play" is this story getting outside the birding world? Does it intrigue nonbirders as much as it does many birders?

I liked the last graf of the article. It sounds encouraging.
Signs describing the ivory-bill have weathered well in Arkansas, [U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spokesman Jon] Andrew said. "We have signs that were put up in April that have not one bullet hole in them -- which is a reflection, I think, of the community's reaction to the bird."

Thursday, December 08, 2005


If you've read blog posts from recent festivals or the Editor's Note in each issue of the magazine, you likely know that I take pictures of a rubber duck while traveling. It began years ago. There's no cure.

Business travel or pleasure, it matters not. Two ducks go into my backpack, and one migrates to my pocket for easy access during the day.

Most of the time, the sight of "an adult" quickly pulling a rubber duck out of her pocket, placing it on a sign/person/prop, taking a picture and furtively retrieving the duck amuses folks. Occasionally, that sight prompts raised or wrinkled eyebrows.

That reaction doesn't occur often among birders. Thank you for your tolerance... and in some cases, your suggestions and enthusiastic participation.

Nor did any disapproval of my duck habit become visible during a recent vacation in Tuscany. The passersby on this cobblestone street in Cortona just smiled indulgently while my college roommate and I set up the shot outside a gelato shop.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The military helps Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

Having just visited Florida and missed seeing Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, a story about Camp Blanding caught my attention.

Located near Jacksonville, Camp Blanding
has become an island in a sea of suburbanization. This isolated island of viable natural resources habitat supports a diverse population of flora and fauna. CBTS is within the historical range of approximately 100 critically-listed plant and animal species, all requiring various management techniques and procedures. Today, approximately 75% of these species have been identified as occurring on the installation.
(according to this source)

At the military facility, wildlife biologists from the Florida Department of Military Affairs have worked with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase the number of RCWO on the 73,000 acres.

Earlier this month, wildlife biologist Ulgonda Kirkpatrick drove overnight from Fort Stewart, Ga., with two woodpeckers and placed the male and the female in manmade cavities in separate long-leaf pine trees. After she removed screens from the cavities' entrances in the morning, the birds flew in different directions and began chirping. They soon flew around each other, and Kirkpatrick recorded their behavior in a notebook.

USFWS mandated that Camp Blanding host 25 active clusters of woodpeckers. The facility began receiving birds in 1999, and the recent delivery might be the last one because the species has reproduced sufficiently. In fact, Camp Blanding sent a female to a state park in southeast Florida earlier this year.

And that's good news.

Arctic NWR photo exhibit

If you live in or near Seattle, Wash., you might enjoy a visit to The Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture before Dec. 31. You'll find a photography exhibit called "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land" by Subhankar Banerjee.

The 49 photographs show the various ecological zones within the 19.5-million-acre refuge as well as its wildlife and human inhabitants. Some photographs appear on the Burke website.

You'll find details about the refuge here. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Is it just me, or is it cold?

No doubt many folks will scoff at the audacity of a Southern California resident who publicly complains about "cold" temperatures during winter months. They might think that I'm a weather wuss.

And they're right. As a native SoCal resident, temps below 50 fall outside my comfort zone.

But I might not be the only weather wuss. This morning, the back yard was devoid of the usual hummingbirds, Black Phoebes, Mourning Doves, etc. I didn't hear a thing during my morning routine, and I peeked out the kitchen window to see nothing in the trees or on the lines.

Then I looked at the grass... covered in frost. Ah, so that's how cold it was last night. No wonder the birds are slow to get moving!

Monday, December 05, 2005

To bird solo or with others?

Do you, like me, bend the corner of a page on which you find a sentence or a passage that "speaks to you"? I have bent many corners while reading The Ardent Birder: On the Craft of Birdwatching by Todd Newberry & Gene Holtan and have reached only page 46 of the 208-page paperback book.

The first bit to catch my attention is this, particularly after reading a lively debate about social birding on the youngbirder listserv:
To me, companionship in birding is vital. When I started watching birds some sixty years ago, John Kieran had just written in Footnotes on Nature, "It probably is true that a man sees more things and makes more searching observations in the field when he is alone, but there is a virtue in companionship that makes up for any decrease in the supply of clinical notes. A pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled."

What do you think about birding alone and with others? Which is more valuable to you?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Courtyard visitors

From the WildBird office, I can look into a courtyard that contains a giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicholai).

Not too many birds visit the courtyard. In years past, hummingbirds built nests and raised young in smaller ferns within it. We could watch them through the reflective windows without disturbing them.

Today, two Black Phoebes continually dip into the wall-enclosed space, land on the palmlike leaves of the giant bird of paradise and cock their crested heads while looking around the courtyard. Their presence is a delightful distraction, and I'm having fun pointing them out to my nonbirding coworkers.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

College birders

Birds need birders to preserve the necessary habitats, and birding needs young birders to carry out that work now and in the future. The current batch of birders--the majority of whom are older and/or retired--need to encourage the next generations to share their passion for birding.

College clubs, like the Brown Boobies at Brown University in Providence, R.I., represent ideal opportunities for the birding community to encourage younger enthusiasts. Is a community college or four-year university near you?

Please consider contacting its student affairs division to see if the campus organizations include a birding or an ornithology group. Offer to share your experiences and expertise with young adults who want to learn and take action of behalf of birds.

From the linked article: "Winton hopes that word will continue to spread, because the Brown Boobies have big plans for the future, including creating an on campus bird garden complete with flowers and bird feeders."

Are you the person who can help them create that garden?