Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm an alien?

There were a few questions where I didn't like any of the answers, so I just picked the one that amused me the most. So am I really an alien?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Look out--it's another cross-post! Don't Stop at the Top!

I submit to you the rare cross-post between here and the angry impeachment bloggy, because I think this is an important issue. Hope you don't mind the brief political rant here at beginningtobird. Back to the birds soon, I promise!

Today I'm participating in Write to Marriage Day, a blogswarm against Proposition 8 in California. I hope any Californians out there in birdybloglandia will VOTE NO on Prop 8. Just remember--vote all the way down the ballot, because the propositions are at the bottom of the ballot.

As you all know, my own attempt at marriage didn't work out so well, but I will always support the right for two consenting adults to get married--whether I ever decide to go there again or not. "Civil unions" are merely the latest example of our country's propensity for trying to foist "separate but equal" institutions on us.

Perhaps the solution is to keep "marriages" in a religious context; if you get hitched in a church, we'll call it a marriage. If you want to be legally joined, with all the legal benefits (and drawbacks) therein, we'll call it a "civil union." Period. That would certainly uphold the idea of separation of Church and State, which is a separation I believe in.

Whatever the eventual solution to what is, in my opinion, a non-problem--I hope you'll join me in recognizing that the marriage of two people of the same sex does absolutely nothing to "weaken" the institution of marriage or any other silly right-wing talking points. I think enough straight couples weaken that institution all on their own without any help from the gay side of the aisle, thank you.

So vote no on Prop 8 -- unless you believe this:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cape May!

The female half of the table (minus Laura, who hadn't gotten there yet, and minus me who's taking the picture)--L to R: Susan Gets Native, Birdchick, Beth the Lurker who owned up to her lurkiness AND positively ID'd lifer Lynne as Hasty Brook, said Lynne of Hasty Brook, and KatDoc of Katdoc's World (all links in the sidebar).

The male half of the table, joined by Birdchick who's everywhere that birders are!--L to R: John of DC Birding Blog, Birdchick, and Jay Davis of Birdjam.

Well, my whirlwind trip to Cape May included getting lost on the way there AND on the way back, but I made it there and back again in time to have my breakfast with The Kid. More on that later; first, the birdy roundup.

I should go ahead and confess that I got ZERO pictures of birds, even though I did end up with two lifers: a black-crowned night heron (spotted by KatDoc) and a lesser yellowlegs (spotted by me, and confirmed by the Hawkwatch Platform person). Both were too far away to get decent pix of.

I did get some pictures of these lifers, however:
Lynne, doing a Lifebird Wiggle (TM BOTB) after seeing her first black vulture:Kathi, rolling up her Ohio State sleeves and preparing for what would turn out to be a Penn State victory--sorry, KatDoc!:and John from DC Birding Blog! (not John Riutta, who didn't attend--my bad)Sweet sweet birders, all of them!

I also saw a life reptile, a black/rat/something snake that no one could ID with any certainty:He was very zig-zaggy: Here are Laura from Somewhere in NJ, Jay, and Susan outside the Grand Hotel:and lest you think I only got pictures of others, here's one that someone took of me and a certain nerdy Birdchick:Wow!

So--I made it back Saturday night/Sunday morning, in the rain and the fog, getting in at about 1:30 a.m. On Sunday, I had breakfast with Em (whose pic doesn't go on the blog or it would be mobbed by her fans). We had a great time, and she thoroughly approved of my new digs and my new wheels. It was, however, a bittersweet experience for me; I loved seeing her and talking with her about how her life is going, but I was reminded of how much my life has changed in just a few short months. My sense of loss was palpable. Still, she told me I'd always be her "other mother," and it felt good to know I'd see again in her just a few weeks (Thanksgiving). And, ever the wise one, she told me that life just goes like it goes, and we can't change things once they've happened. That's one smart kid.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Today's the day for ol' Cape May!

this photo shamelessly taken by and stolen from Laura at Somewhere in NJ; this is some of us last year at the 2nd Avenue jetty in Cape May. From left to right, Susan in the water, me and Birdchick digiscoping, and Jay Davis from Birdjam looking cold and pensive as he walks down the beach

So I'm squirming in my seat at work, trying not to watch the clock as the day slowly moves on. I'm all packed up and ready to hit the road after a quick gas-up. Last night, gas was down to $2.85, though it may have gone back up for the weekend, as it often does. I sure hope not, because I'll be kicking myself if I have to pay more pennies today because I didn't feel like gassing up last night.

Such are the concerns of today's driver. When I started driving in tenth grade, gas was 79 cents a gallon. What was it was you first started driving?

Tomorrow morning, I'll be birding with Susan Gets Native, Laura H in NJ, KatDoc, Lynne from Hasty Brook, and -- thanks to my high school bud Liz Gordon--her hubby Jeff Gordon! Pretty exciting! I tell you, birding here in PA, usually on my own, is always fun. I get to walk around some of the prettiest woods Nature ever made and see and hear birdy magic all around me. It's the most exciting and yet calming thing, a paradox you fellow birders probably all understand.

But going to these festivals is such a blast; birders from everywhere come together, share their knowledge, joke and laugh and drink and eat, spot and help others spot birds of all sorts, and pretty much just have fun. There's nothing like it. This will be my second Cape May trip, and my third festival overall. I know that once I get there, I won't want to leave.
more silliness from last year, with Laura helping me take my own self-portrait for some weird reason

Meeting people whose blogs I've worshipped from afar is a real charge; birding with them is like... well, let me put it into a literary context. Let's say you've read Shakespeare's plays all your life and you just love him. One day, you find a room in a library you've never visited, and in the room, sitting at a table, is William Shakespeare himself, just hanging out and reading a book. You walk into the room, sit across from him, and talk about books, plays, movies, and what have you.

That's what birding festivals are like for me. I read these people's blogs and admire their photography skills and their birding field craft; I learn about their lives, which are all just as crazy as mine; and I realize how much alike we all are, no matter where we live or what we do. So when we get together, we're already like old friends who've travelled together and hung out at home with crazy kids and pets together, and gone out and birded together. They'll all laugh when they see themselves described in an analogy as the birding equivalents of William Shakespeare, but hey -- they're being modest, just another thing that makes them so cool.

I probably won't get to blog again until next week, so have a good weekend: see some birds, hang out with friends, and read a good book by your favorite author.

What would you write about?

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Are you thinking of writing a 50,000-word novel? Can you finish it in 30 days?

If you could (or are!), what would you write about?

P.S.--this is a rare double-post, here and at the Impeachment blog. It's not often that the worlds of backyard birding and political turmoil collide, so try to ignore the resulting sonic boom. I can't wait to compare and contrast the comments from both sites!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The loneliness of the long-distance flyer

Last year, when I was driving back home after experiencing my first Fall Migration at Cape May, I remember being overcome with sadness as I watched a flock of cormorants winging their way south over the highway. I told this story here. Prior to that moment, I had just never thought about how many birds die during the migration. Beginning to bird, indeed.
Photograph: Eric Hosking/Corbis

Well, this morning, I found this story of a migrant that reminded me of the happy fact that most birds DO make it, and they make it FAR.

I won't see a bar-tailed godwit in Cape May this weekend, but I know I'll see two lifers, Lynne and KatDoc, and I'll again see some of my favorite birds: Susan Gets Native, Laura H Somewhere in New Jersey, Birdchick, Patrick Belardo from the Hawk Owl's Nest (aka Mr. Thousand-Watt Smile), and John Riutta the Born Again Birdwatcher. I'll be checking these gems off on my lifelist, playing in the waves, watching some birds, and thinking about that bar-tailed godwit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A flight with the flock

I'm doing a little fall migration of my own this Friday. I'm driving to Cape May on Friday after work (trying to get out early!) to meet up with some of The Flock! I'll finally get to meet Turkey-Vulture-fan Lynne and vet-to-the-stars Katdoc, and I'll get to see Susan and Laura again! I was hoping that Matty McMatterson would make the drive with me, but he's got some business to attend to here in town, so it'll just be me. I'll spend Friday night having pillow fights and prank-calling people with The Flock, and then after a full day of birdy nonsense, I'll drive back to PA. I've got a breakfast date with Em on Sunday morning, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her. It'll be the first time since--you know.

Anyway--getting excited! I'll finally have some good birdstuff to post about. The Bew River fest (in April 09) seems so far away right now, but this little trip will be just what some doctor somewhere ordered for me.

I needz to see some bewds!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stayin' alive

I know it seems like I've disappeared, but I've been kinda swamped in political and journalistic pursuits (I volunteer for a local community paper, Voices of Central Pennsylvania) lately.

I'm still on the fence about whether to go to Cape May (just drive up for a day or something, just to hang out with The Flock when they're not on guided walks). But that's the first weekend Em will be in town since--you know--and we have a standing date at the Waffle Shop (a great locally owned place). So I just don't know if I'll make it.

As for birding around here, chances are pretty rare right now. There are some upcoming hawk watches, but while that last one I went on was cool--I think that was only because I'd never been to one before. Other than that, the local bird club and other birdy pals aren't planning any other field trips. I think we'll start to get some good ducks in November, but in the meantime--the bird pickins are slim.

I'll try to wander around outside soon--I'm definitely missing it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The State of the World's Birds report

click for larger--screen capture of map in report

In case you haven't seen this, birdy pals, it's a report titled "The State of the World's Birds" done by an organization called BirdLife.

I'd never heard of this organization, but the report is fascinating (if depressing). It claims to be "a brief summary of the information available on BirdLife’s State of the world’s birds website. Using the most up-to-date analyses, it outlines why birds and biodiversity are important, what we know about the changing state of the world’s birds (STATE), why birds are declining (PRESSURE) and what can be done to improve their status (RESPONSE). It presents and lists a small sample of the case studies providing evidence for these messages and examples of BirdLife’s work. For more detailed information on these and other case studies, visit BirdLife’s State of the world’s birds website and database at"

The weird thing is this: I got to the last page, where the heading read, "BirdLife comprises more than 100 conservation organisations working together to promote sustainable living as a means to conserve biodiversity." Then there was a collection of little logos from all these countries--but no USA. I don't get it. Is this organization for real? Is it just not needed here in the USA? (as if!) Does anyone know more about BirdLife? I'm just curious. I mean, I'm not exactly up on the latest info on birds and stuff; I'm just a backyard birdwatcher who tries to go birding elsewhere whenever I can. Still--anyone ever heard of them?

Anyway--the report contains so much information, some of it simply mind-blowing. Did you know that, according to Birdview, "Human uses have been recorded for one purpose or another for 45% of the world’s nearly 10,000 bird species. Over a third of species are kept as pets and around one in seven is hunted for food. It is difficult to know how many individual birds are used, although it is estimated that between half a billion and one billion songbirds are hunted each year in Europe alone, for sport and food." HOLY CRAP. I knew that parrots and other exotic birds are huge dollars for the pet industry (hey, I watched Romancing the Stone; I know all about those parrot poachers down in South America!), but songbirds hunted "for sport and food" in Europe? Are they eating finches over there or what? Shooting warblers? What is going on over there!?

Go check it out. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

No birds, only buns

I still haven't gotten around to going anyplace to see any birds. I've only seen the crazy starlings that hang around my house in the early morning, making crazy high-pitched noises. These guys are way noisier than the starlings at the Marsh House. The chimney swifts seems to be leaving, however, which is good. One or two swifts is really cool. Six or seven? A delight. A flock of ten or more, all cheeping at the tops of their little birdy lungs all the time? Kinda annoying, actually.

So the other morning I was feeling kinda headachy and sick, so Niblet took it upon himself to give me a little TLC, in the way that kitties and doggies usually do: he slept next to me and snuggled me.

I wanted to stay with him all day long, but I had to go in to work.

I'm hoping to get a little birding in this weekend. There's a marsh right near Penn State called Millbrook Marsh that's supposed to be pretty decent, and I'm hoping this cold weather and rain will drive some shorebirds down a little.