Monday, December 31, 2007

Top 10 nature moments of 2007

Tai Haku of Earth, Wind & Water started a lovely meme: top 10 nature moments of the year. He also posted photos of his moments.

My favorite incidents (not in any particular order):
1. Watching gulls, Black Skimmers and California Least Terns at Bolsa Chica State Beach while "reserving" a fire ring at 6:30 a.m.

2. Taking a digibinned photo of a Barred Owl during the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival in Florida

3. Kayaking during the San Diego Bird Festival

4. Hearing Black Phoebes, Bushtits, Anna's Hummingbirds, American Crows and Cassin's Kingbirds during my neighborhood walks

5. Seeing a huge dragonfly inside a shade structure in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. Where did it find sustenance??

6. Exploring Chicot State Park in Louisiana during the American Birding Association convention. Fabulous spot!

7. Visiting Cape May, N.J., again. It's got nature and more.

8. Perusing Chicago Botanic Garden in early June

9. Feeling Mike Bergin punch my arm after I pointed out a Long-billed Curlew at the Bolsa Chica wetlands

10. Watching the sun rise while at the Cape May hawkwatch platform and helping Clay Taylor get his desired digiscoping shots

OK, I'm going to cheat and add one.
11. Absorbing the delicious beauty that is Green Jays at Laguna Atascosa NWR in south Texas and seeing a baby javelina


Friday, December 28, 2007

Enter now to win a Swarovski binocular in late '08!

In each issue of WildBird, we pose questions in two departments: Birder's Back Yard and Lister's Forum. Readers whose responses appear in the magazine become eligible to win Backyard Birder or Forum Birder in that issue.

The winners in each issue will receive a certificate from WildBird, a copy of "The Songs of Wild Birds" by Lang Elliott and a copy of the new "Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America" (available in August) from Houghton Mifflin and a squall jacket from Swarovski.

In the November/December 2008 issue, all of the Backyard Birders and Forum Birders will become candidates for the Birder of the Year title and prizes. Want to know the prizes? A Swarovski 8x32 El and an expenses-paid guided trip to a birding hotspot. The 2007 winner will go to Costa Rica! Maybe the 2008 winner will, too.

So, how do you get in on this? The January/February 2008 issue posed this question in Lister's Forum: What is your favorite travel-oriented birding book?

Send your 300-word e-mail to wildbird AT bowtieinc DOT com on or before Jan. 3. If your response garners the Forum Birder title in the March/April issue, then you will become a Birder of the Year candidate and eligible for that Swarovski 8x32 EL.

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Operation Migration at Space Coast festival

From Florida Today:

Highlights of this year's festival are two presentations by Joe Duff, co-founder and CEO of Operation Migration, the nonprofit organization dedicated to saving endangered bird species like the whopping crane by introducing them to safe migratory routes.

"This is one of the most exciting things that (has) happened to the festival," said Harris. "He'll be showing us how the program works."

The program to teach whopping cranes to migrate by following ultralight aircraft has been called the "wildlife equivalent of putting man on the moon."

The cranes follow the pilots from Wisconsin to Dunellin, Florida.

As an ultralight pilot, Duff has racked up more hours of flight alongside more species of birds than any other human.
Duff will speak once on Jan. 25 and once on Jan. 26. You can find more details at Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I and The Bird #65

Welcome to the 65th edition of I and The Bird! As the year winds down, perhaps you -- like me -- will think of where you've been during the last 12 months and where you want to go in the next 12. Along with destinations, I typically think of how I got from here to there. Do we agree that the destination and the journey both contribute to the experience?

My favorite journeys typically occur in cars. Road trips have created fabulous memories, like driving to the American Birding Association's 2005 convention in Tucson, Arizona. Have you driven across the desert in late July? In a 33-year-old car without air conditioning? It's an adventure. The journey definitely added to my delight in arriving at the ABA host hotel.

Our journey through life involves a roll of the dice, no?

Delight, peace, celebration... those are the feelings that Rob the Birdchaser associates with birding. He recommends birding for peace when overwhelmed by our daily journey.

Bill Schmoker of Brdpics revels in the roll of the dice that brought an unusual oriole to a nearby home. With his close-up images, Bill shares a lifer and a state record for Colorado.

Liza Lee Miller of Chickadee Chatter celebrates young ravens in love with a photo and a simple poem.

At Living the Scientific Life, GrrlScientist says bright Blue Tits make better mothers: "Is it possible that females, like males, advertise their genetic quality by having more colorful plumages or more elaborate ornaments?" Click the link to read about a French study.

At Consworld, Con shares photos of a Pygmy Nuthatch sorting seeds from a backyard feeder. Visit again for updates of her photographic explorations.

Moe at Iowa Voice gives a good luck at a Red-bellied Woodpecker and relates where to find it and how to identify it. You can actually see its namesake field mark.

Wrenaissance Woman of Wrenaissance Reflections offers a photo of Mr & Mrs Northern Pintail. Look later for her progress on the Wrenaissance backyard habitat.

We sometimes share the road with predators.

Ecobirder shares images from lunch with Marcia, a Peregrine Falcon. His close-up photos yielded info from the raptor's leg bands and revealed her history.

At Pohinga Pete, Pete relates the challenges that "whio" face and shares fabulous photos of New Zealand's Blue Duck.

John at Born Again Bird Watcher shows how we need to consider predators' presence when we place feeders in our back yards. Thanks for the reminder to check our blind spots, John.

At Trevor's Birding, Trevor reveals great birding moment #32 involving a predator: "I also knew that this was one of the places we were definitely planning to visit. As the day approached I had a great deal of excited anticipation."

At The Owl Box Blog, Owlman reminisces about birds that create a soundtrack for our ramble through life. Take a peek at his poll, and cast a vote, too.

Tai Haku of Earth, Wind & Water said of some birds, "Also the brown, gold and (british racing) green head pattern just looks so old and british - its like it should be the interior of a rolls-royce." Go see for yourself!

An unexpected change in the itinerary sometimes yields wonderful surprises, as Duncan of Ben Cruachan Blog reveals: "I’m quite partial to a sausage in a slice of bread with plenty of tomato sauce, and set off looking forward to sitting above the lake at lunchtime eating a sausage and washing it down with a cool ale, oh yes, and I was looking forward to the birding too."

And sometimes we encounter exotic flora and fauna.

Some exotic species aren't so welcome, notes James at Birdman. In "Tanzanian Observations of Nature Supreme," he describes floral frustrations as well as more welcome additions to the garden.

Amila of Gallicissa provides a pleasing look at Brown Hawk Owls in his garden in Sri Lanka. Peek through Amila's blog for tales and photos from his adventures as a birding guide and Scrabble aficionado.

At Biological Ramblings, Nick talks about his study of Black-crowned Palm-Tanager and Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager on Hispaniola in the Caribbean: "Particularly interesting from an evolutionary perspective is the presence of several sister-species pairs: a pair of species that appear to have diverged from a common ancestor on Hispaniola."

At The Nightjar, Hoary Redpoll describes how a dream included directions to find Long-eared Owls. Amazing tale of what happens when we tune into our subconscious!

Another owl species rewarded Sharon of after a challenging Christmas Bird Count in Minnesota.

The Birdfreak Team at Birdfreak: The Bird Conservation Blog also participated in a CBC in northwestern Illinois: "...since we were doing a count, photography took a back seat and each of the birds discovered required a lot of work in the cold and icy conditions."

Perhaps the cold-weather birders would remain warm if they traveled with one of these.

Lillian and Don Stokes at Stokes Birding Blog give a visual glimpse of their CBC in New Hampshire. Their experience and tallies add to birders' roadmap for various species' peregrinations.

Bruce of Peaceful Societies discusses the growing enthusiasm for CBCs among the Amish of eastern Ohio: "Two brothers formed the first Amish CBC in 1989 and centered it on Ragersville, near the Holmes County border in Tuscarwas County, Ohio."

N8 at The Drinking Bird relates his ramble during the Durham County CBC, which included success at the NC State experimental beef farm.

Farther south, life on the road at The Flying Mullet tells of interesting finds in downtown Miami.

At Alis Volat Propriis, Leigh describes her first CBC of the season in Southern California. (Off-topic: Leigh won WildBird's Birder of the Year contest in 2005 and will appear in each '08 issue.)

Younger birders like Leigh sometimes experience a "tipping point" via a teacher, as Roger Tory Peterson did with Blanche Hornbeck. John at Birds Etcetera trumpets the valuable contribution of Miss Hornbeck of pointing the young RTP to a rewarding path.

Vern at Big Spring Birds tells of a Common Loon that took a wrong turn but received help from Good Samaritans and resumed its journey after an overnight rest stop. Thank goodness for generous fellow travelers.

At The Greenbelt, The Ridger offers photos from a Gray Day, Gray Birds.

On a cold and windy day, John at A DC Birding Blog found a lifer: Horned Lark! Perseverance paid off during his visit to Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

Some species appear entirely out of place.

At View From the Cape, Jason Guerard provides detailed directions -- with help from Kevin T. Karlson, Michael O'Brien and Karl Lukens -- to identify Lesser Nighthawks.

Patrick of The Hawk Owl's Nest revels in his bird of the year: " was such an amazing view of a bird that I thought I would have to travel 1000's of miles to see (and still need some luck)."

At 10,000 Birds, Mike, Corey and Charlie detail their top 10 nature moments of the year. How do they rate to yours?

Thank you to the many contributors who made the carnival possible! If you enjoyed their posts, please let them know by leaving comments on their blogs.

If you'd like to participate in the 66th edition of I and The Bird, please send the URL of your blog post to John at bornagainbirdwatcher dot com with the words "I and The Bird" in the subject line. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Please let me know if any links become wonky. Thank you!

Car photos by yours truly

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Friday, December 21, 2007

I and the Bird deadline extension: Dec. 23

Share your latest birding tales, insights, photos and revelations in the 65th edition of the birding blogosphere's carnival! Please send them on Sunday, Dec. 23, to ahooper AT bowtieinc DOT com.

This is my second turn as IATB hostess, and I look forward to crafting another carnival for your reading pleasure. My first venture into hosting appeared on Feb. 16, 2006. With your contributions, we'll create a stellar carnival together!

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Texas state parks improved in '07

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department reports that folks visiting state parks can see park facilities in better condition, more interpretive programs, reopened campgrounds and trails, and better customer service. As birders, have you seen evidence of these changes?

The 80th Texas Legislature passed House Bills 1 and 12 that provide $25.6 million for park operations and the hiring of park staff during the 2008-09 biennium. Lawmakers also appropriated roughly $52 million in bonding authority to fund major state park repairs, sending the measure to voters for approval as required by law. On Nov. 6, voters approved that constitutional measure, Proposition 4, which allocates $25 million to dry-berth the Battleship Texas to ensure its long-term preservation and another $27 million for major infrastructure repairs throughout the eight state park regions.
Have birders in other states seen similar financial resources put into their state parks and other natural areas?

Have you joined or donated to their state park foundations? For instance, my annual membership in California State Parks Foundation gives me a yearly pass to parks (which includes beaches) and a subscription to Sunset, among other valued items. It's completely worth the price tag.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I and The Bird: due Thursday

Have you participated in a Christmas Bird Count or plan to? Tell the world about your experience via I and The Bird!

Share your latest birding tales, insights, photos and revelations in the 65th edition of the birding blogosphere's carnival! Please send the URL on Thursday, Dec. 20, to ahooper AT bowtieinc DOT com. You'll see the new I and The Bird on Dec. 27.

Please tell a friend! The more, the merrier!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Debate about Texas birder continues

Sunday's New York Times contains multiple letters in response to an extended Dec. 2 article about Galveston birder Jim Stevenson, who left Texas after a hung jury resulted in a mistrial and someone apparently shot at Stevenson in his home.

I wouldn't have predicted that the trial and the defendant would receive such coverage in mainstream media. What's your take on the media's attention and the public's reaction?


Friday, December 14, 2007

108th Christmas Bird Count

The counting has officially begun! National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count will run from today through Jan. 5, 2008. To find a count circle near you, click here.

From National Audubon Society:
Welcome to the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the oldest and largest citizen science event in the world. For over a hundred years, people have gathered together during the winter holiday season to count birds. For many people, this is an annual tradition that has passed from one generation to the next. In the process, they have created a vast pool of bird data that is the most comprehensive available for mid-December to early January. It is a fertile source of information on the status and distribution of early winter bird populations and is studied by scientists and interested people the world over. And it all starts with you!

While there is a specific methodology to the CBC and you need to count birds within an existing Christmas Bird Count circle, everyone can participate! If you are a beginning birder, you will be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. If your home is within the boundaries of a Christmas Bird Count circle, then you can stay home and report the birds that visit your feeder or join a group of birdwatchers in the field. If you have never been on a CBC before and you want to participate in a count this year, including feeder counting, please contact your count compiler prior to the count and prior to signing up for the count here.
Do you participate in a count? What's the best thing about it?

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bird News Network

Perhaps BNN will become to birders what CNN is to millions of individuals.

From American Bird Conservancy:

(Washington, D.C. – December 13, 2007) American Bird Conservancy is pleased to announce the launch of the Bird News Network – BNN – a syndicated news service available at for stories about birds and bird conservation throughout the Americas.

BNN will also enable media professionals, birders, and everyone interested in birds and bird conservation to subscribe to an RSS news feed that will provide regular press releases and summaries of national press coverage on bird conservation issues. These releases will include regular video news webcasts as well as stories from American Bird Conservancy and its partners in bird conservation. Organizations, blogs and news outlets can also syndicate the RSS feed on their websites.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Detailed info about albatross

At the National Geographic website, you'll find "On the Wings of the Albatross," which offers a plethora of wonderful details. From the extended article by Carl Safina to the photo gallery with images available for purchase for $20 to the humorous "Growing Up Albatross" photo essay of molting chicks to the field notes from Carl Safina and photographer Frans Lanting, the site provides a sumptuous buffet of seabird information. Pull up a chair, and dig in!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hawaii's endangered birds finally get attention

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Hawaii's at-risk wild birds might get a dose of national attention -- and money -- with a new publicity push by the nation's two largest bird conservation groups.

The American Bird Conservancy and the Audubon Society jointly issued a list last week of the American birds they agree are most in danger.

The new Audubon/American Bird Conservancy WatchList identifies 59 continental and 39 Hawaiian "red list" species of greatest concern, and 119 more mainland birds in the "yellow" category of seriously declining or rare species.

"Neither of us had Hawaiian birds on the list before," said David Pashley, the Bird Conservancy's vice president for conservation and co-author of the list. "Historically, we've been as guilty as anyone" of overlooking the 50th state's birds."

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Birdboy in the news

WildBird's Birdboy columnist, Noah Strycker, recently received some newspaper coverage in The Register-Guard. Well done, Noah!

An excerpt:
He remembers driving along a southeastern Oregon highway at 70 mph in 2003, the year he graduated from South Eugene High School, “and out of the corner of my eye I see this weird-shaped bird.” Strycker had seen photographs of a scissor- tailed flycatcher before, but could that really be the Oklahoma state bird sitting on that power line? He made a U-turn, came back and took a photograph. Then he posted it online and birders began to flock, so to speak, from all over the state to see a bird that normally goes no farther west than Colorado and had only been sighted in Oregon maybe 10 times.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Black Phoebe delight

These Western birds often visit the trees, shrubs, plants and signposts around my home and the office. This morning, one of them called so loudly that it put a huge grin on my face.

See, I was barreling toward the office because it's deadline day times two. Our small team is finishing (or "shipping") two magazines today.

As my old sports car made a speedy left turn and Muse spilled from the stereo speakers, I heard -- through the open window -- that Black Phoebe calling from the trees on my left. I get a kick that the bird's volume overrode the car's engine and "Supermassive Black Hole."

You go, birdie. Crank it.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Antarctic oil spill threatens birds

Will birders rethink their desire to visit Antarctica because of the chance of endangering Adelie and Papua Penguins?

A passenger ship, The Explorer, struck ice on Nov. 23 and began sinking. The 154 passengers and crew had to evacuate onto lifeboats in the middle of the night before being picked up by a Norwegian cruise ship.

When the Explorer began sinking, it held about 50,000 gallons of diesel, 6,300 gallons of lubricant and 260 gallons of gasoline. The diesel fuel still is escaping the ship, which is 4,8700 feet below the surface.

Bad weather prevents cleanup crews from containing the spill. The fuel spill could cause 2,500 penguins on their way to their mating grounds to become sick, according to Chilean scientists.

Is the possibility of seeing these birds in their environment worth the possibility of negatively affecting their environment?


Monday, December 03, 2007

World Conservation Day

Today apparently includes the observance of World Conservation Day, begun by Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia. The society says it later adopted the phrase "Earth Day" after that observance began in 1970. Despite various online sites that cite the observance on Dec. 3, I couldn't find any organizations in the United States that observe World Conservation Day.

Ideally, we wouldn't need a specific day to consider and work on conservation, but I realize that not everyone shares birders' focus on the environment, wildlife and limited natural resources. Can you turn every day into a personal conservation day?


" 'cause gravity is opshunal"

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ultralight-led bird migration

From the Operation Migration website:

The Whooping Crane is the most famous endangered bird in North America. In part because it is large, distinctive, and photogenic and partly because, since 1967, Canadians and Americans have cooperated in a successful recovery program to safeguard it from extinction.

It is believed that approximately 1,400 whooping cranes existed in 1860. Their population declined because of hunting and habitat loss until 1941 when the last migrating flock dwindled to an all-time low of 15 birds. The wild flock has slowly increased to over 180 in late 1999. This flock winters in and around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf coast of Texas. In spring, they migrate north, nesting in Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the border of Alberta and Northwest Territories in Canada. This flock of whooping cranes is the only naturally occurring wild population in the world. Scientists have long recognized the risk of having all of the wild whooping cranes using one wintering and breeding location. With all the wild birds concentrated in one small area, the population could be wiped out by disease, bad weather, or human impacts. Whooping crane survival depends on additional, separated populations.

International Whooping Crane Recovery Team
The Whooping Crane Recovery Team (WCRT) is the governing body charged with responsibility of the species. Consisting of ten members: five Americans and five Canadians the team of ornithologists and biologists provide policy recommendations to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service. Primarily, the team plans actions to protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo natural flock and to establish two additional flocks in efforts to safeguard the whooping crane from possible extinction.

The team's efforts to establish a non-migratory Whooping crane flock began in Florida in 1993, using cranes hatched in captivity. In September, 1999, after searching for the best possible location to establish a second migratory flock, the team recommended that the flock be taught a migration route with central Wisconsin as the northern terminus and the west coast of Florida as the new wintering location. The WCRT sanctioned Operation Migration's ultralight-led migration technique as the main reintroduction method.
Each fall, an Operation Migration team leads a flock of Whooping Cranes from Wisconsin to Florida. Human pilots fly in ultralight aircraft while wearing baggy white clothing and remaining quiet to prevent the cranes from becoming domesticated.

This year's adventure began on Oct. 13. You'll find updates about the four pilots' and birds' progress -- or lack thereof -- in the field journal. New information is posted there as soon and often as possible. The entries include photos and lots of details.

If you want to support Operation Migration, visit its membership page.

Photos courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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Best hiking trails in the West

American Hiking Society recently announced the best western trails on land protected by the federal Bureau of Land Management. Just think about the birding possibilities on these recommended excursions!

Many BLM lands are unique and wild, offering exceptional views, few people, and a rare opportunity to experience the "wild west" in the same way the pioneers did hundreds of years ago. But, because many of these fantastic landscapes aren't very well known, it's hard to find information about exceptional hikes on BLM lands. To encourage people to enjoy and steward trails on BLM lands, American Hiking Society launched a search in summer 2007 for the "Best BLM Hikes" in the west.

Winning hikes feature midnight sun, knee-deep wildflowers, petroglyphs and the opportunity to experience traditional western lifestyles. Best yet, most of these hikes are part of a new system of BLM lands known as the National Landscape Conservation System – 26 million acres of the best places to experience the history and wild beauty of the west.
(Click on the system map to see a larger version.)

Among the best hiking trails are Virgin Peak Hike near Las Vegas, Nev.; Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliff Wilderness Trail near Lees Ferry, Ariz.; Continental Divide Trail near Rio Puerco, N.M.; Mill Creek Canyon Trail near Moab, Utah; Cow Creek Wilderness Hike near Great Falls, Mon.; and Little Blitzen Gorge Hike near Burns, Ore.

The AHS site includes a great hike checklist and a discussion of Leave No Trace principles. Good info for birders who venture outdoors!