Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Well, that was fun...

and now it's time to finish the May/June issue, the beloved annual hummingbird issue. The March 8 deadline is breathing down my neck, so blog posts may be few and far between.

In the meantime, please let me know if the embedded videos (within the previous posts) and the Flickr photo badge (at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar) work OK.

Within the Flickr badge, click on any photo. Then click on the set's name, Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration, to arrive at the first image.

Yes, Pete Dunne appears to be levitating in some of the videos; technology isn't my friend in this scenario.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Texas search for ivory-bills

The Beaumont Enterprise interviewed John Arvin, research coordinator of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, about his upcoming search efforts in southeast Texas.

In Southeast Texas, a team of three people will look for the bird next winter and in the spring of 2007, when trees have lost their leaves. The search is funded by a $100,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant awarded to the bird observatory.

Arvin has already been approached by several people who want to be on the search team, but he has not made selections.

Off-topic: Have you signed up for GCBO's annual April event, the Great Texas Birding Classic? Act now!

Economic bonus from the ivory-bill

The Associated Press ran an article on Friday about the positive effect of ecotourism (aka nature tourism aka birding) on Brinkley, Ark.

If the ivory-billed woodpecker is getting a "second chance," as U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton put it, then so is the depressed part of Arkansas where the bird was rediscovered after being thought extinct for 60 years.

The Brinkley area, where poverty is prevalent and agriculture the mainstay, has become a tourist destination in the year since Cornell University researchers made the announcement.

Brinkley is the largest city in Monroe County, where 30.9 percent of people lived at or below the poverty level in 1999, the most recent figures available. The national number that year was 12.4 percent.

I sincerely like the idea that natural resources, such as the Big Woods and birds, could lure out-of-towners and reinvigorate small communities that provide services to them.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 12

Saturday's festivities concluded with presentations by Bobby Harrison, Tim Gallagher, David Luneau and Gene Sparling, followed by a book signing and very sweet cake. This was my third chance to hear Harrison talk about the IBWO, my second time to listen to Gallagher but my first opportunity to hear Luneau and Sparling.

An electrical engineer who teaches at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Luneau began reading about ivory-bills in 1991. The news about student David Kulivan's IBWO sighting in Louisisana's Pearl River Basin in 1999 prompted Luneau to visit "the Pearl" in 2000 and 2001 and to consider "How can technology merge with birding?"

Luneau participated in the Zeiss-sponsored search of the Pearl in 2002 with five other searchers for 30 days. They did not obtain evidence of the bird in that area.

The professor searched in 2003 in Arkansas with seven other searchers. They observed bark scaling that prompted the use of remote cameras to monitor trees.

The news about Gallagher and Harrison's February 2004 sighting reached Luneau on March 1, 2004, and "thus began the year of six lies and a videotape," he said.

Luneau played the infamous videotape twice for the audience, once with a close-up of the area in which the bird appears. "You can see the rowing motion in flight and a lot of white," he said.

Then Luneau shared images from the search team's efforts to re-enact his April 25, 2004, video using wooden models of an ivory-bill and a Pileated Woodpecker. The team did 33 takes of the re-enactment, the video of which prompted lots of laughter from the audience.

The professor made a point of emphasizing the duckhunting community's participation in this event. Hunters contributed to habitat conservation and restoration as well as funding for the ivory-bill search and recovery efforts, he said.

Then Gene Sparling took the microphone (that's him on the far right, talking to Jeff Bouton.) The kayaker who saw an unusual woodpecker on Feb. 11, 2004, said he just wanted to see the 1,000-year-old trees in Bayou DeView and "it was evident that this was different than other places in the Big Woods. This place is definitely something special," he said. "It's not hard to see that."

While his kayak floated around a bend, a large woodpecker dropped down and flew directly toward him. " 'My God, that's the largest Pileated Woodpecker I've seen in my life,' " Sparling said.

The bird landed 60 feet in front of him, and Sparling noted the long neck and the red crest that came to a sharp point. The thing that really caught his attention was the white feathers with a yellowish tinge.

"It made several, odd, herky-jerky motions of his neck and did a typical woodpecker peek-a-boo up the tree," Sparling said. "As he flew off, the wing profile was long and straight. It was as if his wings remained horizontal."

Sparling was familiar with with the ivory-bill's history and had dreamed about photographing the birds in Texas' Big Thicket. "I knew that was not a Pileated Woodpecker, and I knew the only other species was an Ivory-billed Woodpecker... but the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was extinct."

Now that some time has passed, Sparling said it's felt like a marvelous gift was set before him and he's assimilated two ideas from the incredible experience:
1. Believe that wonderful, marvelous things can happen. "Nature is more resilient than we humans can imagine," he said.
2. The most ordinary people can have an extraodinary effect. "The experts can guide us, but the collective efforts of us all will have the most impact," he said. "We're all on the same team; we're all for these woods."

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 11

On Saturday afternoon, members of the Cornell team began to share information in the audience-packed banquet room. After a welcome by Project Director Ron Rohrbaugh, Project Scientist Martjan Lammertink spoke about why ivory-bills are so elusive.

The species' size places it in an elite group of large woodpeckers, those that weigh more than 400 grams, Lammertink said. The IBWO ranks as the second-largest woodpecker on Earth amidst Imperial Woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker and Korean White-bellied Woodpecker. All four species occur in a narrow range of latitudes, and all are vulnerable to outside pressures on their habitat.

The species also share four distinctions:
* the need for very large areas in which to forage because of their foraging techniques
* "Big animals need big areas," Lammertink said.
* their temporary food sources (such as wood-boring beetle larvae in recently dead trees)
* their tendency to live in groups (prior to James Tanner's research, IBWOs lived in flocks as large as 12 birds)

Then Field Supervisor Elliott Swarthout took the microphone. He began on a light note by saying, "I am about to start my third spring here, and I have yet to see or hear the bird. So if you have any ideas, please let me know."

Swarthout described the two search goals:
* to find a nest or roost and "tie the bird to a physical location"
* to obtain better footage

So far, Bayou DeView within Dagmar Wildlife Management Area is the only spot with good sightings, and the team believes that the birds are nomadic and that the source population lives in White River National Wildlife Refuge, based on James Tanner's work. Swarthout said Bayou DeView receives consistent coverage by the 22 full-time searchers as well as the rotating 112 volunteers during the six-month season.

During the systematic search for cavities and bark scaling, searchers walk a grid to evaluate trees and rank any evidence, he said. Then a person or a remote, time-lapse or motion-sensitive camera monitors the tree.

The search also uses autonomous recording units for four weeks at a time, Swarthout said. The ARUs allow the team to obtain real-time data before using manpower, and they allow for follow-up on searcher observations.

In the coming months, the search will incorporate four ultralite plans in a 50-meter staged formation. The pilots will wear helmet cameras, and one ultralite with a fixed camera will film the landscape below. "We have some pretty high hopes for these guys," Swarthout said.

Then Rohrbaugh regained the microphone to discuss the question "Does an Ivory-billed Woodpecker make a sound if no one's there to hear it?" He said the only known recordings were made in 1935, and then he played the kent recordings from the Singer Tract in Louisiana.

With the ARUs, the search team can have "ears in the forest," Rohrbaugh said. The liability is that each of the 30 ARUs can record 500 to 900 hours per week, creating a project total of approximately 17,000 hours.

To deal with that, software searches the ARU hard drives for signatures similar to that of a kent or a double-knock, he said. After playing kent calls recorded in 1935 in the Singer Tract, he played possible kents recorded on Jan. 29, 2005 in the White River NWR. Then Rohrbaugh played them back to back, prompting applause from the audience because of the similarity.

At the end of his presentation, Rohrbaugh asked for audience questions. One woman asked about keeping hunters out of the search areas because gunshots scare away birds. Rohrbaugh said that's not going to happen because there's no need to do so. In addition, hunters have maintained this habitat for years, and they're the folks who raised money to pay for habitat conservation via the Duck Stamp.


Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 10

About noon, Steve M. brought news of a rarity. After gathering gear and installing me as navigator of the white Birdmobile, Steve set out to seek Smith's Longspurs at Stuttgart Municipal Airport (short u, not like the German city). During the drive, we saw Northern Harriers in flight, which was very cool.

Stuttgart carries a couple distinctions. It's home to the World Championship Duck Calling Contest, and the airport is large enough to land a 727. Steve learned from the fellow in the airport office that renovations will make the runways suitable for a 757. Why? So Vice President Dick Cheney can visit.

We began scanning the grasses. There was a lot of grass and a lot of sparrows. We encountered two fellows who were Cornell volunteers for the ivory-bill search effort; on their day off, they wanted to track down the Smith's. We shared information before going in different directions.

This was my first attempt to locate sparrows in grassland, and my respect for researchers and birders who do this voluntarily grew exponentially. Those little birds are such irritating buggers. We saw the more-obvious Eastern Meadowlarks (their brilliant yellow chests almost blinded me) and a few Short-eared Owls in flight, which was rad.

The two Cornell volunteers began walking into the same field that Steve and I had begun to scour. The pair walked from the south while we walked from the east. (Thank goodness I'd worn boots this morning to handle the water and the mucky orange mud.)

Soon, I heard one fellow yelling "Smith's! See the big white wingbars?" OK, if you say so. I picked up on the call, though, and used that to distinguish the Smith's from the Song Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows that Steve identified.

Eventually, the bitterly cold wind zipping across the prairie did me in. My discomfort overrode my enthusiasm for better looks at the four longspurs that landed a bit in front of Steve. I waited while he stalked them for a while. While retracing our steps across the huge runways, he voiced a longing for his motorcycles while I yearned for my Bimmer. Then we retreated to the warmth of the Birdmobile, where Steve turned on the passenger seat's heater. What a guy.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 9

In her Birding 101 talk, Sharon Stiteler began with a monologue about the addictive nature of the pastime. It can begin innocently enough and progress quickly into a desire for more, more, more.

In reality, Stiteler said birding requires only two things: birds and you. To get birds, try feeding them. She recommended sunflower seeds out of the shell, nectar and (surprisingly enough) oyster crackers.

The Short One displayed amusing photos to illustrate her points, and she conceded that by attracting feeder birds, you'll attract predatory birds who'll eat the smaller visitors.

Feeding birds can be as simple as spreading seed and corn on a deck railing, she said, or involve cute feeders and elaborate set-ups with many feeders on tall shepherd's hooks.

To go further, Stiteler said, you can offer housing, such as nestboxes, which require monitoring and cleaning. Nesting cups offer another alternative. You might find unexpected visitors, such as Hooded Mergansers in a Wood Duck box.

Birds occur everywhere, an idea that she illustrated with pictures of a Merlin chick found in a back yard, nesting Peregrine Falcons in the city, a Great Gray Owl sitting on a road sign, and a Bay Area guide at a dump in San Francisco.

The second ingredient in this activity is you plus optional equipment, like a binocular to really see the birds well. For better views, a spotting scope provides greater magnification. A camera offers the chance to preserve those sightings, as does digiscoping.

"Hip clothes" provide birder field marks. These include the ubiquitous khaki vest, pant legs tucked into socks (in an effort to thwart ticks) and duct tape wrapped around shoes (to outsmart chiggers).

Birding can occur anywhere you keep your eyes open, Stiteler said, because "you never know where that great bird is gonna be."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 8

A highlight of this festival was the chance to finally meet June and Harold Osborne of Waco, Texas. June contributes her expertise to WildBird as an Advisory Board member, and she writes the "View From a Room" column in each issue.

After many years of phone calls and e-mails, I loved being able to hear her voice in person and receive her generous hugs. It felt very good to talk with her and Harold for three days.

But to backtrack a bit: June and Harold invited me to see a Snow Goose spectacle on Friday afternoon. The previous day, they'd observed skeins of geese flying into a field and tracked them down on Hwy. 17 before the road reaches Cotton Plant.
On Friday about 5:30, we set out in their Suburban to look for geese. The sky was empty, and as the minutes ticked by, we wondered about the birds' location. Then the huge flock of white and gray geese appeared on the east side of the asphalt. When we rolled down the windows, we heard the commotion.

The fantastic spectacle encompassed hundreds of foraging, adult and juvenile white-morph and blue-morph Snow Geese. I really enjoyed it.

Then we returned to the Brinkley Convention Center for the evening's festivities: a fish fry and entertainment by The Greasy Greens. (You can see them next here.) The large band provided fantastic tunes--including the world debut of a song about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker--that brought the BirdChick, Bart S. and me to our feet.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 7

Pete Dunne was pished on Friday afternoon. He was so pished that he was vehement and stuttering at times.

During his "Pishing to Attract Birds" workshop, Dunne said Floyd P. Wolfarth introduced him to the technique. "So there I was, standing on Raccoon Ridge with God, when a flock of chickadees flew by. Floyd made this sound, and the chickadees put on the brakes to see who made it."

Pishing typically involves mimicking the scolding or alarm calls made by birds, and it apparently works better in the East, Dunne said. The basic pish sounds like a scolding Tufted Titmouse.

The point is to "get one bird to get excited and to bring its voice to the fracas," he said. The other birds are thought to react because they want to see what's going on, to see what's causing the disruption of their sleep/eat/preen schedule and to show off how close they can get (to a snake, for instance).

Dunne's pishing sequence starts with a basic pish, followed by a vehement pish, a pish with a rising inflection, a break in the pattern like a stutter, an Eastern Screech-Owl call, a squeal and a chip. He recommends practicing in the car -- as long as the windows are up.

The screech-owl call requires "a gob of spit" in the center of the back of the tongue, Dunne said. While whistling, he also recommended tilting your chin to find a good angle.

The squeal call sounds like mating wood frogs, he said. "It's all in the lips," he advised, before explaining that your index and middle fingers act as a resonator and a compressor.

Dunne developed it after watching a European Starling dying in the talons of a Cooper's Hawk. He said to use the squeal for only two or three seconds, then follow it with a pish "to let 'em know there's one survivor."

Certain situations require refraining from pishing, Dunne said:
* heavily birded areas
* while hawks are hunting
* when the temperature is below 10 degrees
* while birds are nesting and incubating.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 6

Jeff Bouton talked about digiscoping, the technique that combines a digital camera with a spotting scope to take pictures of birds. “These two pieces never were meant to work together, but they let you capture those moments in the field,” he said.

Digiscoping is particularly helpful when you see an unusual bird or one that stumps you in the field. With a picture of that unidentifiable bird, you can take your time later in figuring out its species name.

Another benefit of digiscoping: the greater magnification provided by the spotting scope. “You can really reach out and touch something that you can’t reach with a standard SLR,” Bouton said. Also, the magnification allows you to remain a greater distance from the birds and reduces the risk of disturbing them.

The magnification, however, does carry some requirements, such as a stable tripod, a stable camera adapter and preferably a cable release or remote release for the camera’s shutter button. Bouton also recommended choosing:
* a scope with a larger objective lens to allow more light to the scope’s eyepiece and the camera
* a scope with glass that eliminates chromatic aberration (aka color fringing)
* a fixed spotting-scope eyepiece that allows a wider field of view
* one of the newer models of digital cameras that has TFT for a more useful LCD, no more than 4-power optical zoom, a short start-up time and minimal shutter lag. For camera tips, he recommended Digital Photography Review.

Digiscoping can’t replace SLR cameras, Bouton said, but the quality of the images continually improves. That point became apparent to me during WildBird’s 2005 photo contest when a digiscoped image of a Purple Honeycreeper by David Drake received first prize in the international category.

This year, the photo contest includes a digiscoping category (which, ironically, replaces the international section). You can find contest details in the March/April and May/June issues.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 5

As promised, Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett of the Department of the Interior visited the convention center on Friday to deliver good news for local conservation groups.

In a standing-room-only room, Scarlett talked about cooperative conservation in which government and citizens work together. “Cooperative conservation is built on a mosaic of partnerships,” she said, “and Brinkley is a leader in 21st century cooperative conservation. It is your efforts that will keep intact the setting” for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

To help local residents continue making those efforts, President Bush requested $1.6 million for recovery planning, almost $400,000 for monitoring and about $200,000 for law enforcement. That request is for the 2007 fiscal year.

Scarlett also announced private stewardship grants to three conservation groups. Mississippi River Trust will receive $100,000 to restore 500 acres and enhance 2,000 acres of habitat that can provide food for ivory-bills. James Cummins accepted the grant.

Audubon Arkansas will receive $247,781 to reforest degraded habitat within 35 miles of where the ivory-bill initially was seen in February 2004. Ken Smith accepted the grant.

The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas will receive two grants: $71,269 to work with private landowners to enhance 350 acres of foraging area and $380,950 to restore 440 acres and transform agricultural fields into stream and riparian habitat. Nancy Delamar accepted the grants.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 4

Friday’s presentation schedule began with Audubon Arkansas’ state director, Ken Smith. He described Audubon’s mission and its programs, including its education program called Common Ground. It works with schools to educate teenagers about nature and get them into the field, and its partners include EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology), which provides useful gadgets that appeal to the youngsters.

Smith said the Common Ground excursions sometimes offer the first opportunity for some schoolchildren to see birds upclose and to use a binocular. One girl never had seen a duck fly, but when she observed a flock take off from a pond, she became really excited. “We might’ve hooked that kid into being excited about nature,” he said.

Aside from the educational programs, Audubon Arkansas contributes to scientific efforts such as the Important Bird Area program. That 2-year-old program identifies sites with significant numbers of birds and variety of species and a conservation benefit, and the state contains 22 IBAs.

A town sits near each IBA, Smith said, and that offers an opportunity for the towns to develop eco-tourism within their economies. I really like that idea – the possibility of developing jobs based on nature’s appeal to birders and nonbirders. Towns near IBAs with special birds can educate residents and attract visitors.

That’s the point of a joint effort between Audubon Arkansas and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Suzanne Langley described Sustainable Ecotourism for Corridor of Hope Communities, which encompasses towns from Augusta to Stuttgart.

Audubon Arkansas is working with towns, such as Brinkley, to learn what they need and what their challenges are, Langley said. Sometimes those needs can be met by already existing, free or low-cost resources from the local, state and federal governments. It’s a matter of educating residents about those resources and helping them see the benefits of providing services to birders who want to see the special birds within the IBAs.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 3

Today’s festival events brought news crews from Little Rock television stations. I got a kick out of seeing the trucks in the parking lot and the personnel inside the convention center. It would’ve been interesting to learn what they thought of what they observed.

The afternoon had to include some quackery, thanks to the IBWO that visited the vendor expo and stopped in Larry Chandler’s booth.

For dinner, Sharon Stiteler and I joined Steve M. at Gene’s Bar-B-Que. She and I had to partake in the “Ivory Bill Burger” as it was listed on the menu; it received a different name from the friendly waitress who brought signed and dated certificates verifying that we ate an official “Ivory-Billed Cheeseburger.” We also enjoyed fried dill pickles – yum!

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 2

Pete Dunne spoke Thursday afternoon to a packed room. After describing his first visit to Arkansas many years prior, the WildBird Advisory Board member related the story of the Small-headed Flycatcher and connected it to the 2004 rediscovery of the IBWO. The well-told tale elicited chuckles and guffaws from the crowd, particularly when Dunne shared the last comments from the odd blue-eyed boy in Greenwich, N.J.

The hour went by quickly, as it did when Steve Ingraham presented “When I Get Around to It,” full of images of sparrows, sandpipers and waders. Within the darkened room, audience members could test their I.D. skills while enjoying some of Ingraham’s digiscoped images and absorbing his humorous message that every bird is a life bird to be absorbed and appreciated.

Ingraham also described his “more vivid than life” ivory-bill dream set in an Arkansas swamp. If you see him at a festival soon, ask Ingraham for details about the female IBWO. It’s a good tale.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 1

The festival’s vendor expo filled a room at the Brinkley Convention Center when I arrived before noon. (The drive east from Little Rock on Hwy. 70 was delightful, by the way. I took notes on spots to revisit later for photo opps.)

Mayor Billy Clay welcomed everyone in the main hall and said the chamber hopes to turn the celebration into an annual event. Then Bill Holimon of Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission gave a presentation about the local endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and the possible effect of ivory-bill searchers on red-cockadeds.

The local area, known as the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, currently hosts two breeding groups of red-cockadeds, which require loblolly pine habitat. Only 800 acres of that habitat exist nearby in the Pine City Natural Area.

Holimon’s work with the endangered woodpecker provided lots of details and photos for the audience. We learned about their use of red heart fungus to determine the location of their nest cavities, the maintenance of man-made cavities with backpack vacuum cleaners(!) and the birds’ use of helpers (young males) to raise young.

Holimon floated the idea that folks who come to this region to look for ivory-bills will want to see the red-cockadeds. In that case, he offered suggestions to minimize the effects:
* Refrain from playing any tapes.
* Park by the boundary signs.
* Remain more than 100 feet from the roost trees.
* Leave 30 minutes before sunset.
* Avoid nest cavities between April and June.

Then Holimon drew 10 names from a bowl, and those 10 individuals received an invitation to join a RCWO tour with him. Two people – a husband and wife – opted to offer their spots on the tour to bidders in the room. A bidding war added a little drama and escalated the winning amount to $100, which will go toward the IBWO recovery efforts. It was an informative and dramatic beginning to the three-day festival.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Answering the call

The Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration will begin tomorrow. My flight to Little Rock should land about 9:15 a.m., allowing ample time to amble east on Highway 70 toward Brinkley before the mayor makes his welcoming remarks.

I'm looking forward to seeing familiar faces--Pete Dunne, Stephen Ingraham, Jeff Bouton, Sharon Stiteler, Bobby Harrison and Tim Gallagher--and meeting other folks on the presenters schedule.

This being my first visit to the Natural State, my anticipation about new sites and birds is high. If technology is my friend, I'll post many dispatches from the Delta.

Federal money for ivory-bill efforts

Hot off the e-mail server!

Deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior Lynn Scarlett will visit Brinkley, Ark., on this Friday during The Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration. At a 1 p.m. event, she will announce President Bush's request for more than $2.1 million for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker recovery effort in the 2007 federal budget.

Scarlett also will announce $800,000 in private stewardship grants to The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas, Audubon Arkansas and Mississippi River Trust for four projects on private land that are designed to improve habitat for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

"Elusive Ivory" painting courtesy of Larry Chandler

Avian personality tests

The Birdhouse Network--a citizen-science program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology--has initiated a Personality Profiles experiment. The project involves placing a harmless object on nestboxes.

We believe that examining avian responses to novel objects can help us understand why some bird species respond well and others poorly to environmental disturbance. A willingness to explore new features of the environment influences survival and reproductive success in European Great Tits and is thought to be coupled with physical and lifestyle differences across a range of bird species.

By gathering data for several species throughout the range of habitats in North America, we can explore the extent to which curiosity versus caution of novel objects is associated with:

* lifestyle - (city versus country birds),
* unpredictable danger - (high predation versus low predation habitats), and
* mobility - (nomadic versus migratory and residential populations).

To participate, you need to become a volunteer with The Birdhouse Network, receive a welcome packet and pay a $15 fee ($12 for Lab members).

Tree Swallow courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

L.A. County breeding bird atlas available in 2007

The first breeding bird atlas for Los Angeles County covers more than 4,080 square miles... which is part of why the effort began in 1995 and is just now nearing publication.

The project involved 200 volunteers canvassing 410 10-square-mile blocks between 1995 and 2000. They found 230 breeding species amid the landscape's freeways, parks, neighborhoods, woodlands, mountains and beaches.

The atlas's two authors, Kimball Garrett and Larry Allen, have worked on compiling the information before and after their day jobs. Their efforts will reveal data that might surprise some birders, including the ranking of Mourning Dove among the breeding species.

The aim of the atlas is to put a spotlight on the county's avian diversity and provide a baseline of information for future researchers.

"Twenty years from now," Garrett said, "people will be able to use this atlas to determine how things have changed."

Mourning Dove courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

More Emperor Penguins

A researcher from the University of Tasmania recently found a colony of about 5,000 adult Emperor Penguins and 2,500 chicks in Antarctica. The birds live on Siple Island, where previous explorers reported finding dirty ice.

Researcher Mary-Anne Lea and expedition leader Tim Soper found the colony while traveling on the Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov during December 2004 and January 2005.

"This is the 46th colony that we know of in Antarctica," said Dr. Lea, who is having a rare season off after 10 summers down south ("It's a pretty addictive place").

"There are probably more of them in that region, but no one's ever been able to put in the time to look for them," she said.

"That stretch of coast is very rarely travelled."

Bird flu overreaction?

Dear Germany:

Please don't call off the World Cup. We football aficionados really would appreciate it if you waited before making a possibly hasty or unnecessary decision.

Thank you very much.

an AYSO alumnus

Presidents' Day sunset

The holiday weekend brought the 2004 Birder of the Year, Jody Hildreth, and his wife, Kelly, to Southern California. We met last February when we converged in the lower Rio Grande Valley for four days of intense birding that added a few lifers to Jody's list. (You can read about that trip in the May/June 2005 issue.)

This visit is their first to California, and they began with the Salton Sea, of course. Then their itinerary took them to San Diego, where I joined them for dinner on Monday.

(Those are the Santa Catalina Islands.)

On the drive from Orange County to La Jolla, I pulled into a "view point" off the 5 South. Many cars filled the parking lot along the bluff, and a silent group of admirers watched the sun's descent. I enjoyed sharing the images with Kelly, who'll be able to watch the sunset before returning to New York (brrrr).

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Back Bay with Jan

The last two nights brought blessed rain to SoCal. As much as I appreciate the precipitation in this dressed-up desert, I hoped that it wouldn't infringe on plans to visit a preserve with a friend.

Thankfully, when Jan and I began walking the dirt trails at Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve aka Back Bay, this was our skyward view: lovely, puffy, dramatic clouds. They shielded the sun's warmth for a while but eventually acceded the sky to the hot planet. Jan and I appreciated the clouds' gracious dispersal, particularly as she now hails from Seattle -- where they experienced 27 days of rain in January. Oy.

This morning's dry skies likely helped Jan and me see as many birds as we did during our experimental morning. It was my first time to introduce a nonbirding friend to this activity as well as another opportunity to hone my skills at giving directions to a bird: "See the top of this flower stalk in front of us? Go up a little. See the branch in the mud that's shaped like a sickle? Go up about 1 o'clock. See the Western Grebe? It's got a white belly, dark wings, white throat and dark head."

Jan did her fair share of spotting, including American White Pelicans, White-crowned Sparrows, Great Blue Herons and an American Kestrel. When two herons flew by, Jan gasped and call them "majestic"; I liked hearing her appreciative response to the sight. We also watched a heron in the drainage ditch for a long time as it preened, and the kestrel also preened while we spied on him. (I took this photo through my 8-power binocular.)

We saw a handful of hummingbirds as they perched atop tall shrubs, fed and guarded their territories from interlopers. We watched a Rufous/Allen's flit endlessly amid tree branches for a while. Two or three Anna's delighted us by turning their heads at an angle to catch the sunlight and show their magenta gorgets. I gasped a couple times out of admiration.

Our morning meander also included Red-winged Blackbirds, American Avocets, amorous Mallards, Snowy Egrets, House Finches, American Coots, Great Egrets, Lesser Goldfinches and California Towhees.

After 90 minutes in the fresh air, we bopped over to a coffee house for warm beverages and baked goods. Sitting at a table on the outdoor patio, we enjoyed this view (on the left) and the warm sunshine that turned half of my face pink.

The wonderful morning at the preserve reinforced why I live in the third most-expensive place in the United States. As a SoCal native (are we on an endangered species list yet?), I can't put a price on the pleasure and convenience of this climate and the ability to do almost anything comfortably during any time of the year.

Apparently, the birds agree with my positive opinion of the Golden State, as 629 species currently appear on the Western Field Ornithologists' California Bird Records Committee's list.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Homer to halt eagle handouts

Homer, Alaska, hosts Bald Eagles by the hundreds, which seems really cool... until the large birds with 7-foot wingspans start injuring themselves or apparently eating pets.

The city council voted this week to stop a feeding program next winter. No longer will the eagles receive handouts of herring, halibut and salmon.

The ban on free meals does not affect Jean Keene, aka the Eagle Lady, until 2010. The Post says,
Her daily gifts of tossed, freezer-burned fish to crowds of begging, but fiercelooking, eagles have lured thousands of professional photographers from around the world to Homer. They shoot (and later sell) spectacular pictures of the birds while never straying more than a few feet from their warm SUVs.

Winter weather not nice for Whoopers

Last weekend's rain and snow on the East Coast caused "major damage" to the endangered species captive propagation complex at the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The weather also released nine Whooping Cranes and nine Sandhill Cranes from their pens.

The staff at the Laurel, Md., center worked throughout the weekend, but the storm almost destroyed the birds' flight pens completely, which could affect the current breeding season. The disruption of the Whoopers' activities and environment could reduce their egg production and hinder the center's efforts to reintroduce the Whoopers (above), which remain a highly endangered species.

Staff members recaptured most of the avian escapees by Monday afternoon, but the sandhills remained on the lam. Sandhills serve as surrogate parents to Whooping Crane chicks, so they're vital to the captive-propagation program's success.

For updates, check the center's website.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Habitat restoration for San Francisco Bay NWR

This week, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a document that's the first step in planning wetland habitat restoration near Bair Island.

The soil will come from ongoing dredging efforts around the Port of Redwood City and will restore habitat in the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one of the biggest urban refuges in the system and a host to 60 percent of the global population of the endangered California subspecies of Clapper Rail (above).

"This project will allow the two agencies to work together to create critical endangered species habitat while simultaneously benefiting the economic development of the Port and region," said Joel Plisken, the Corps' project manager in San Francisco.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Bald Eagle killer sentenced to five years in prison

Alfred Craft of West Monroe, La., recently received a five-year prison sentence along with a $50,000 fine, a bill for $11,000 in restitution to the state of Arkansas, and (I really like this part) a bill for the $23,000-per-year cost of his incarceration.

Craft's sentence stems from his guilty plea of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and his conviction of violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and three counts of witness tampering.

The charges developed in 2004 after someone tipped Arkansas Game and Fish officers about possible wildlife poisoning on Craft's farm in Izard County, Ark. The officers found several dead animals, including vultures.

Their report to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service resulted in a search warrant. Investigators found a dead Bald Eagle, deer and duck bodies, and sardines that might've been poisoned bait.

In the eagle's stomach, forensic scientists at the FWS forensic laboratory found an agricultural pesicide, Temik. It's typically used to control insects on rice, corn and citrus crops, and its use is legally restricted.

Is it just me, or do you think that Craft should spend a few years hearing eagle calls piped into his cell?

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Bid for birds' benefit

Get your credit card ready for a little exercise! An online auction, the 2006 Benefit for Birds, by Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania will support various conservation programs.

Items up for bird... I mean, "bid"... include an autographed two-volume collection of illustrations by Roger Tory Peterson, a hummingbird morning with Scott Weidensaul (I know someone who'll swoon over that possibility) and a Robert Bateman print of a Red-tailed Hawk.

The auction features more than 30 items, so you're likely to find something that appeals to you or would make a great gift for someone you know. The auction will end on March 7 at 6 p.m. EST.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I and the Bird #17

The festival season began recently. That means fun is on the horizon! My friend Sharon and I compared schedules and found that the first annual I and the Bird Festival coincided with some open days in our calendars. Woo hoo!

We perused the website, registered online for various events and looked forward to catching up with friends and making more of them. We also checked out the host city's karaoke offerings; it's a tradition.

On the first afternoon of the festival, Sharon and I checked in at the registration desk, picked up our packets with the all-important name tags and event tickets, and then mozied over to the opening-night mixer.

There, we found yummy appetizers (the stuffed mushrooms were particularly tasty) and refreshing beverages (I recommend the local microbrew). We also found some friends and saw some new faces, all of them eager to share tales. (We birders do like to talk!)

B&B told us about the freaky Chipping Sparrow that visited their back yard in the Texas Hill Country. He even brought photos to show us the odd bird.

His story prompted Pamela to describe a somewhat rare visitor to her neck of the woods, a Bohemian Waxwing. She, too, brought a picture that showed a good field mark and had helped her separate it from Cedar Waxwing.

Then we heard a "Hello! May I have everyone's attention?" Our group turned toward the voice and saw a fellow waving his hand. "Hi. I'm Mike, one of the festival organizers, and I wanted to take a minute to say 'welcome.' We have a few announcements, and then we'll leave you to enjoy the food and camaraderie!"

Mike stepped aside for Rob, who encouraged everyone to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. The first day is Feb. 17, and count sites aren't limited to back yards and extend to any location in North America.

Eli gave a friendly wave to the group and said, "Did you know that Darwin Day was last Sunday? I've got some video that celebrates the weird and wonderful natural world over here if you want to take a look." (Requires Quick Time)

One more fellow stepped forward. Dave said he works at a rehabilitation and education center in Anchorage, and he's keeping tabs on the possibility that the Bald Eagle could be taken off the federal list of endangered and threatened species. He held up a photograph that showed why he's concerned.

With the announcements over, the hum of conversation again filled the room. Joseph of the Bird Ecology Study Group related an amusing tale of two Mynas in Singapore.

Then Home Bird Notes shared the story of dabbling in the dark and the soothing effect it left on her. "Watching them on the water for a few minutes in the dark allowed me to forget the snow-panic shopping scene I had just left," she said.

As everyone in our circle smiled in agreement, I noticed that Julie appeared a little subdued. "How're you doing, Julie?" I asked. She said, "I found Ora Lee, our Orchard Oriole, silent and still in her cage the other morning." Then she told us all about the 16-year-old bird that came to her as an injured young 'un.

We raised our beverages in a salute to "the Methusaleh of orioles," and then we disbanded for the evening. The next morning would be an early one.

The day began with various workshops and presentations. Tai Haku gave a talk about Egyptian Geese in South Africa. He shared photos of some very cute goslings.

Ocellated followed with a presentation about bird banding. He shared a couple up-close photos, too.

Then Nuthatch discussed American Robins' winter range and their status in the northeastern states and Canada. Her maps and graph proved particularly helpful to me.

Wise Crow's presentation also included a helpful graphic: a map of migration pathways. It's pertinent to the plan of an offshore wind farm in the Texas Gulf Coast, about which he's worried.

On the other hand, GrrlScientist is ecstatic over the news about the recently discovered and rediscovered bird species in New Guinea. She shared some fantastic photos, and I appreciated the maps for those of us who might be geographically challenged (c:

Then it was time for the workshops--opportunities to improve our skills. For the gull I.D. workshop, Charlie used a lot of photos from his trip to the Choshi port in Japan, and he offered lots of practical travel tips, too.

Carel followed with a discussion of the various sounds made by birds' wings and the particular instances in which species use those sounds. His paintings added a nice visual touch to the discussion.

While giving a workshop on using a Wacom Graphics Tablet to illustrate birds, Carl relayed the story behind a Cooper's Hawk drawing. Quite a story and quite a drawing!

As mentioned before, we birders like to gab, and we also like to get out and bird. It was time to see some species and go on some field trips!

Sharon described her pelagic trip and the ginormous binocular used by the boat's captain. She also shared pictures of the boat's menu. Oy.

Duncan led a trip to the Green Gully in Gippsland, Australia. It included good looks at a nesting Rufous Fantail. What a great outing!

New Dharma Bums set the pace for a beautiful walk that included gorgeous views and mysterious sounds. Rexroth's Daughter said, "Straight out of the quiet forest came several loud piercing cries. Both bird-like and mammalian." I wish I could've been there!

Pelagic trips attract dedicated (and possibly insane) birders, reported Mike after his outing on the ocean. He picked Northern Gannets as his favorite species of the day.

Then Call led a trip to northern Florida, where wintering Sandhill Cranes appear to be staging for migration. I'd love to hear their "rattling cacophony" sometime.

Farther north on the East Coast, John led the way to Dulles International Airport in Virginia in search of a Snowy Owl. He noted that the airport security staff were cooperative and even looked through spotting scopes at the raptor.

After my day on a pelagic trip, I had fun sharing photos and a video clip of acrobatic Western Gulls with our growing circle of birding buddies.

The festival wound down soon after that, almost to our relief. Sharon and I always have a blast at these events, given the combination of birding and birders. Hopefully you'll attend a festival soon, too!

The next I and the Bird will appear on March 2 at The Birdchaser. Please send your submissions to Rob before Feb. 28.

(Bald Eagle courtesy of Randall Ingalls. The photo won second place in the flight category of WildBird's 2005 photo contest.)

Making a magazine 5

Did you know that magazine editors typically work two to three months ahead? The May/June issue has me in its grips.

This week's flurry of activity includes editing features and departments and columns (oh my), factchecking, rounding up photos from an errant columnist (ahem), and choosing photos for the features and departments.

The art directors and I agreed on two photos for the cover of the annual hummingbird issue. We're always pleased to receive submissions of birds in unusual positions 'cause we're so tired of "bird on a stick."

One of my favorite aspects of this job is selecting the images for each issue. Many talented photographers submit slides and digital images after receiving an issue's needs list, and did I mention that I love digital images?

While it's daunting to handle each of the 25-plus submissions, it's a huge delight to peruse the results of the photographers' skill and patience. It's also very gratifying that the photogs want their work to appear in the magazine.

And now, nose to the grindstone. Posting might be lighter during the next week. Have a good one!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reminder: Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend!

Ready to count species and the number of individual birds for the benefit of the birding community? The GBBC will begin this Friday and will offer prizes for the first time.

More details here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Comments sought about delisting Bald Eagles

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period on its 1999 proposal to remove Bald Eagles from the federal list of threatened and endangered species. Comments must be received by May 17.

The national symbol received federal protection in 1940. Unfortunately, the number of nesting pairs declined to only 417 in the lower 48 states by 1963. The last national census of the species in 2000 revealed approximately 6,470 nesting pairs. Today, estimates put the number at more than 7,060 pairs.

That increase resulted from individual, corporate, academic, nonprofit, tribal and government efforts on the local, state and national levels. The recovery process included captive-breeding programs, reintroduction, law enforcement efforts, habitat purchase and preservation, and nest-site protection.

“The recovery of the Bald Eagle, our national symbol, is also a great national success story,” said H. Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “The actions we take today reemphasize the management efforts that have proven so successful in recovering eagle populations. Should the eagle be delisted, we expect that the public will notice little change in how eagles are managed and protected.”

You can read more details about the eagle's history in this previous post.

The re-opening of the public comments period, the roughdraft of the National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines and the possible definition of the term "disturb" (which wasn't codified in previous documents) will appear in the Federal Register.

Comments about the proposed delisting can be sent to baldeagledelisting AT fws.gov or to
Michelle Morgan, Chief, Branch of Recovery and Delisting
Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420
Arlington VA 22203

Photo courtesy of U.S. F&WS

Analysis of the Luneau IBWO video

Did you hear about the new webpage that provides details galore about the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's analysis of David Luneau's video of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting?

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Team (which includes WildBird Advisory Board member Peter Stangel) met early last week, and that's when Cornell released the examination of Luneau's four-second video.

"Even after the original announcement of the rediscovery," said Cornell Director Dr. John Fitzpatrick, "we kept going over our evidence and finding new ways to put it to the test--not only to answer questions others might have but to continue to test the veracity of our own conclusions."

What do you think?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

San Diego Bird Festival 3

The pelagic trip out of San Diego's festival typically sells out. This year was no exception, and I barely got onto the boat. Thank goodness. I enjoyed last year's pelagic.

The jam-packed bus left Marina Village conference center at 6:10 a.m. for the short drive to H&M Landing. We boarded the boat at 6:30 and set off about 7 through the harbor toward Islas Coronados in Mexican waters.

Cruising toward the breakwater, we saw Eared Grebe, Sanderling, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Surf Scoter, harbor seals, Common Loon, Bufflehead, Peregrine Falcon, Brandt's Cormorant and Western Grebe with help from leaders Bob Miller, Pete Ginsburg, Matt Sadowski and Mark Billings. The captain, Myron, provided lots of information about the harbor's history and sights, including Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and the U.S. Navy submarine facility.

In the open water, chumming with popcorn attracted Western Gulls by the dozens and a few Brown Pelicans. (I do not tire of watching pelicans glide above the water and then use their feets as brakes.) Numerous Black-vented Shearwaters zipped by at a distance, a trio of Pelagic Cormorants flew past the stern, and white-sided dolphins periodically cruised next to the boat, their white sides visible through the water.

It felt delightful to be on the water again with the warm sunshine and the fresh air. A good way to clear the mind of cobwebs and to refresh the spirit! Around one of the three islands, the California sea lions that swam toward the boat and seemed to frolic just for our amusement looked like I felt--content, not in a hurry to be anywhere, curious, enjoying the mild winter weather.

On and around the islands, we enjoyed lengthy views of Black Oystercatchers (they're near the water in the middle of the picture, I promise; see their carrot-stick bills?), northern elephant seals, Brandt's Cormorants, nesting Brown Pelicans, and seven Brown Boobies, some on nests.

On the way back to port, we continued chumming off the boat's stern. Matt began holding up popcorn between his fingers, and brave Western Gulls dove for the yellow morsels. You can see one gull in action by clicking on this video link. (I apologize for the resolution; it's a learning process!)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

San Diego Bird Festival 2

Today’s field trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park included different habitats and a cool variety of species. I saw some great new birds and enjoyed revisiting some childhood haunts.

After leaving Marina Village Conference Center at 5:45 a.m., the bus traveled east. Along Highway 78, we—led by Bob Miller—stopped at Ramona Pond and watched two American White Pelicans feeding in unison as well as American Coots, Northern Shovelers and American Crows. At Santa Ysabel, the bus turned onto 79 north, and we saw a large flock of Wild Turkeys and Brewer’s Blackbirds.

Dropping toward the desert floor from Culp Valley, we spied Cactus Wrens, Phainopeplas and a gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk perched, with its back to us, on an ocotillo. Bob pointed out the light V on the hawk’s back, and I soaked up the bird before it flew to the left. Very cool to see a hawk soaring below you, like we did from the vantage point shown to the left.

Driving through Borrego Springs, we saw Greater Roadrunner, Anna’s Hummingbird and American Kestrel. The roadrunner spread its head feathers and soaked up on the sunshine, while the Anna’s perched on the telephone wire above the roadrunner and the kestrel scanned the brush from atop a telephone pole.

Along DiGiorgio Road, we also saw quail, at least a handful of them—one perched atop a bush while others scurried on the ground. Because of the perched male’s odd coloring, Bob identified it as a hybrid California-Gambel’s Quail.

The bus stopped at the Borrego Valley hawkwatch for a good spell, allowing us time to enjoy some birds and some information from Paul Jorgensen about the 3-year-old watch. It focuses on Swainson’s Hawks. We didn’t have any up-close views of that raptor, but we enjoyed a calling Greater Roadrunner, Western Meadowlarks, an Anna’s and the sight of Turkey Vultures leaving their roost to form kettles in the thermals.

A few miles down the road, we turned off Peg Leg Road into a large ATV campsite and disembarked to search for Sage Thrashers. We did find that species—Bob tallied it at 12 or so birds—and we saw Loggerhead Shrikes, a Northern Harrier as it coursed over the desert floor, Le Conte’s Thrasher and Sage Sparrows. I also enjoyed seeing black-tailed jackrabbits and a ground squirrel.

At the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor center, a White-winged Dove perched in a palo verde tree near our group. White-crowned Sparrows hopped about the ground, and a Costa’s Hummingbird perched on an ocotillo. (Isn't that ocotillo bloom purrrty?) He turned his head a couple times at the “correct” angle, and the sun lit up his purple gorget. Zowie!

A good-looking Blue-gray Gnatcatcher appeared on the other side of the visitor center, as did a Verdin with its bright yellow head and an orange-colored House Finch. Walking toward the bus, some of us were stopped suddenly by the sight of a Ladder-backed Woodpecker working a palo verde tree. What a gorgeous creature.

At Tamarisk Grove Campground, we sought Long-eared Owls and saw dozens of them roosting high in the trees. I could see six in one view.

Steve Brown graciously offered his spotting scope for me to take the picture below. I got a kick out of the birds’ different reactions to us; some birds remained plump, round, sleepy on their branches while others became tall and thin with their “ears” at attention. Am I the only one who thinks that the three (OK, two and a half) owls below slightly resemble pine cones?

I also got a kick out of the singing Bewick’s Wren. What a neat song coming out of that little bird.

On the way back to San Diego, we passed through Julian (known mostly for its apple pies but also for The Birdwatcher) and stopped at Dudley’s Bakery in Santa Ysabel. I really like to purchase local products while traveling, jumped at the chance to purchase the apple butter and pomegranate and raspberry jams, and can’t wait to try the apple amaretto spread.

The bus stopped again at Ramona Pond, where we saw many Killdeer and American Pipits. I briefly saw a small flock of Red-winged Blackbirds flying to the right.

Then we hightailed it back to the conference center and returned at 3:45 p.m. I visited the vendor fair, where various optics companies set up their wares. Because the room features large picture windows as well as outdoor access to the marina, festival participants can try out the optics, which is a great opportunity. Next time you visit a festival, try out the scopes and bins, preferably outdoors.

Friday, February 10, 2006

San Diego Bird Festival 1

After five and a half hours behind the wheel in great driving conditions, I pulled into Marina Village Conference Center, registered for the San Diego Bird Festival and belatedly joined the digiscoping class. That technique involves combining a digital camera, usually a point-and-shoot model, with a spotting scope to take photographs of far-off birds. (A digiscoping article appears in the July/August 2005 issue of WildBird.)

Bruce Webb for Swarovski and Stephen Ingraham of Zeiss described the basics of digiscoping, which Stephen clarified as the process of taking a picture of the image in the spotting scope’seyepiece, not taking a picture while using the scope as a telephoto lens.

Stephen also extolled the benefits of the activity, which has gained momentum in the last four years or so. “Becoming a digiscoper turns a slow birding day into a great day,” he said, because good images can make up for a low diversity of species.

“Digiscoping allows the average person to do what we’ve always wanted: to take that frame-filling photo of what we see in the field,” Stephen said.

The frame-filling photo comes from finding the right combination of products, which Stephen and Bruce discussed. They demonstrated cameras, camera adapters and brackets, spotting scopes, and tripods. They offered camera and scope recommendations and discussed remote shutter releases, megapixels, storage needs and photo editing software.

They also recommended reading the archives for the digiscopingbirds listserv on Yahoo. The group began in more than three years ago, so the archives contain considerable information that’ll benefit beginners.

The two-hour class included many questions from the attendees, who asked for more details after the class’s conclusion. That’s when I enjoyed this view from the sidewalk deck toward the setting sun. Don’t you wish you were here?

SHOT Show 3

File this under Sights You’ll Probably Never See at a Bird Festival.

a mechanized, talking dog

a “booth babe” named Christina who signs posters while wearing a corset and white leather chaps. She admits to developing a soft spot for rubber ducks after her boyfriend gave her a really cute one.

a vehicle parked inside the festival’s vendor area

a camouflage Harley-Davidson Sportster. I know some guys who'd like to get their hands on one of these.

a rubber duck and a grouse in the same tree

camouflage children’s attire in all variations and sizes, even onesies for the newborns

camo bedding

I really enjoyed my first peek into the shooting and hunting world. The day proved to be informative and entertaining. I don’t, however, mean to poke fun at that world by sharing these images, because I do respect the vast amount of money that hunters contribute to habitat conservation. Birders wouldn’t have access to as many locations if not for hunters' financial contributions.