Friday, November 21, 2008

Texas treasures 7

One last reminisce about the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival: The second day that I ventured out with Sharon, we drove west to Estero Llano Grande State Park. Sharon was on a mission for a rarity, with me as navigator.

The birds appears on Sharon's post, while I was transfixed with the dragonfly that she rescued from the pond. We're walking along a wooden boardwalk, with the nature center across the way...

when Sharon uses her scope tripod to move an overturned dragonfly from the water. Lookit the beautiful details and colors of this creature. (As always, click on an image to see a larger version.) Amazing!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Texas treasures 6

During the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival earlier this month, I got to bird with Sharon on two days. The first day, Friday, I joined her and Clay on an excursion to South Padre Island's convention center. Previous experience told me that Clay would insist on Whataburger taquitos for breakfast, and he didn't change his habit. Yum.

With Sharon behind the minivan's wheel, we crossed the causeway and took a right toward the jetty. The water practically teemed with dolphins -- an incredible spectacle. But nothing with wings went unnoticed, including the bee that landed on Sharon's spotting scope.

At the convention center, with a wall covered by Wyland mural...

we encountered Orange-crowned Warblers and a couple Black-throated Green Warblers. Lovely! Then they decided to bathe in the little puddle.

If you visit the convention center, give yourself time to really "set a while" near that watery spot. I doubt you'll regret it.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Texas treasures 5

While traveling to and from south Texas for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, I spent a fair amount of time in airports and on planes -- which doesn't bother me. Those scenarios let me catch up on reading, such as Luke Dempsey's book "A Supremely Bad Idea."

Dempsey's tales about "three mad birders and their quest to see it all" made me laugh and nod my head in recognition. It's a good read.

As a book editor, Dempsey knows how to string words together well. This bit caught my attention:

I knew very little about Florida. To me it was merely a gun-shaped slice of Africa that some time before I was born floated across the Atlantic and snuggled below Georgia like a cat under a bed.
Love it.

I was intrigued to read more of the story behind a photo that won an award (first place in the digiscoping category) in WildBird's 2007 photo contest, and the image appears in the book.

Out at sea, an osprey circled and suddenly plunged, plucking from the surf a good-sized fish, and we watched as it heavily flew back to land. Just when we thought the bird would disappear, it suddenly curved back and landed on one of the metal grills not a hundred feet from us. The fish still squirmed in the grip of the bird's talons, until the fish slowed its thrashing enough to start being eaten. By this point, we had our scoped trained on the spectacle and marveled at the amazing scenes the lens offered up. Donna took lots of photographs as the fish's mass decreased and the bird's increased. One of these would subsequently win first prize in a photo competition in WildBird magazine -- not to be confused with the less reputable British publication of the same name.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Gypsy moths affect birds' migration

Scientists at University of Missouri St. Louis revealed last week that gypsy moths affect the post-migration activites of Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Black-billed Cuckoos. In an e-mailed press release, the university said

Both the yellow-billed and black-billed cuckoos live over most of the U.S., but can fly as far as 100 miles to reach bursts or outbreaks of the "hairy" gypsy moth caterpillars. These outbreaks occur about every 10 years.

After locating an outbreak, the cuckoos settle in and raise their young, but do not return the following year to breed as many birds do. It has been suggested the cuckoos enter a "post-migration wandering phase" during which they simply fly until they find a good food source.
A paper about the study appeared in the October issue of the Ecological Society of America's "Ecology" journal. It also discussed the negative effects of gypsy moths -- introduced in America in the 1860s -- on native flora.

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Texas treasures 4

During the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, birders can bid on items in a silent auction. The tempting selection can include optics, stays at bed & breakfasts, guided outings and various books.

This year's silent auction, held Nov. 5-8, offered a collection of books -- autographed by the authors -- from Houghton Mifflin. Part of the collection's appeal stemmed from the predominant author, Kenn Kaufman, a prolific author who also contributes to WildBird's Advisory Board.

After making the winning bid, I came home with a heavy suitcase full of titles that'll go to the local Audubon chapter. I'm pleased to provide the various field guides, including the new fifth edition of the Peterson guide.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Texas treasures 3

WildBird has contributed to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival as a sponsor for a handful of years. In recognition of their financial support, sponsors receive goody bags that typically contain the poster and T-shirt featuring special artwork and other items that celebrate Harlingen and Texas.

This year's artwork showcases the talents of Shawneen Finnegan, who lives in Portland, Ore. She contributes her birding skills and artistic talents to various projects, and she's on the WildBird Advisory Board.

For this year's festival, the goody bag included an item right up my alley. Any suggestions for his name?

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Birders in the News

I like tracking the newspaper articles or online news stories that mention birders. The short announcements of an upcoming bird walk or presentation, printed in a small community paper, are nice, but the articles about larger events in mainstream news sources give me hope.

The more often that larger outlets mention birders, the better. With more of a presence in this nation, maybe birders and birding will seem like less of a quirky subculture (or not).

This week's roundup of Birders in the News:
Fairbanks, Alaska: Nancy Gigliotti, Susan Sharbaugh, Judy Williams, John Wright

Loveland, Colo.: David Bonter, Connie Kogler (a Birder of the Year candidate! Details in the right-hand sidebar), Deana Walker

Dublin, Ga.: James Tomberlin, Marshall and Laurie Jackson

Jekyll Island, Ga.: Gary Smith, Lydia Stone

Which birders did you see in the news this week?

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Hawaiian bird affects digital TV

According to an article distributed by the Associated Press:

HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii will switch to digital TV faster than the rest of the country to make way for an endangered, volcano-dwelling bird.

Most of the state will switch to digital TV on Jan. 15, more than a month ahead of the nationwide mandatory conversion Feb. 17. Federal wildlife officials recommended hastening the transition so that the Hawaiian petrel's nesting season on the slopes of Maui's Haleakala volcano won't be disrupted by the destruction of the old analog transmission towers nearby.

The nesting season starts in February, and the towers are being torn down before then, with new towers set up at lower elevations on the island for the early switch.

The Hawaiian petrel is a nocturnal, seafaring bird with a chirp that has been compared to the sound of a yapping puppy. Wires injure the rare petrels and city lights disorient them, contributing to their decline.

Biologists don't have an accurate count of how many of the species remain, but they estimate that little more than 1,000 nest on Haleakala, their primary nesting area. The birds don't breed outside of Hawaii.

I'm glad to see that accommodations are being made for the endangered bird. Hawaiian species have faced so many challenges to their survival that it's reassuring to see these efforts.

The Hawaiian Petrel link above goes to the Audubon WatchList, and the profile shows a red dot in the upper-left of the page. That red dot indicates "species in this category are declining rapidly and/or have very small populations or limited ranges, and face major conservation threats. These typically are species of global conservation concern."

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

I and the Bird #88

Rick Wright of Aimophila Adventures hosts this week's birding carnival, I and the Bird #88. His witty, concise roundup of links delights me, and his opening image of a Diaethria clymena, 88 butterfly, intrigues me. Enjoy his handiwork with a refreshing beverage next to your keyboard!

Want to share your most recent and most interesting blog post in the next carnival? Send your link with a quick summary to Y C (wee37 AT starhub DOT net DOT sg) by November 25 for the November 26 edition.

As our carnival leader, Mike, wrote:
NOTE: due to the American holiday of Thanksgiving, IATB will be published on a Wednesday, not the traditional Thursday. That means that you had better get your submissions in on time, turkeys.

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White-tailed Eagles photo

This incredible photograph of White-tailed Eagles won the "Animal Behavior: Birds" category in the in the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, organized by BBC Wildlife magazine and Natural History Museum in London. Photographer Antoni Kasprzak waited five hours near a dead moose until the two birds, a juvenile (left) and an adult, began fighting over the carcass.

You can see an online gallery of the winning images here. Among the "Animal Behavior: Birds" category, you'll see a WildBird Advisory Board member, Arthur Morris. His image of Western Sandpipers earned a "Highly Commended" notice, and details appear in the gallery.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the news: Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

I like to see how well local media outlets cover birding events. From my perspective, newspapers and television stations should send reporters to events that draw hundreds of visitors -- and dollars -- to their communities. Ecotourism can infuse an economy like that of south Texas.

"The Brownsville Herald" and "Valley Morning Star" covered the five-day Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival with a couple articles: November 6 and November 9. It would've been good to find more coverage in their archives.

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Texas treasures 2

Thursday's Birds & Beers at the Lone Star gave me the chance to meet more bird bloggers. BirdChick and Born Again Bird Watcher are well known to me, but The Flying Mullet, Round Robin, The Birder's Library and Birdspot stood out as fresh faces. You'll find some of their festival posts at these links; more might appear later.

BirdChick: Thursday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Birdspot: Friday, Saturday
Born Again Bird Watcher: Thursday, Thursday, Saturday
Round Robin: Monday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday
The Flying Mullet: Tuesday, Wednesday

Friday afternoon provided another chance to put faces to names and to gab about blogging. In addition to Thursday's group, we enjoyed the company of 10,000 Birds, Birdwatch Radio, Blue Lizard Birding, Eagle Optics and Jeffrey A. Gordon. Some of their festival posts appear at these links.

10,000 Birds: Tuesday, Wednesday
Eagle Optics: Thursday
Jeffrey A. Gordon: Friday

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Texas treasures

Leaving Harlingen at the end of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival always feels bittersweet. Although I enjoy returning to my SoCal abode, I want to stay in south Texas, explore more sites, watch more birds, eat more tasty food and spend more time laughing with fabulous birders.

This year, I came home with lots of goodies -- including the motivation to add Twitter to the blog after attending the birding blogger shindig on Friday afternoon. The Twitter updates appear in the right-hand sidebar and offers snippity updates about WildBird. I'm looking forward to giving readers a glimpse of the glamorous[/sarcasm] life of a magazine editor!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Bird tidings!

The hummingbirds chittered and buzzed in my back yard this morning as I got ready to come to the office. Black Phoebes chipped and dove from the telephone wires during my little walk from the patio door to the garage. Those sounds and sights make me smile as I get ready for a busy day in front of computers.

Today through Wednesday night, I'm on deadline for the January/February 2009 issue. Readers will find new sections and writers in the first issue of the new year. (Yes, the timing throws me off, too.)

Thursday morning, I get to fly to Harlingen, Texas, for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. It'll be my fourth year to enjoy the local birds, birders and cuisine. (Yes, the authentic Mexican food is a definite draw.) Posts from previous festivals appear in the November 2005, 2006 and 2007 archives.

At this year's festival, for the first time, birding bloggers will convene on Friday and gab about online publishing. Birdchick has the details. I'm looking forward to putting handshakes to handles.

Happy Monday!

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