Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Chip, chip, and cheery-o, European birders!

Now that I have a little "connection" at Princeton University Press, I get to hear about new bird books almost the minute they're hot off the press. So I just found out that there's a new edition of Birds of Europe, from Princeton UP. Those of you who bird on ye olde Continent, as well as those of us who watch David Attenborough's The Life of Birds and wish we knew what all those chaffinches and hawfinches and fieldfares are about, will want to check it out!

I've read about how the book is set up, and I'm definitely putting it on my wish list in Amazon: like my National Geographic US birds guide, it's set up with the text, range map, and description on facing pages. One frustrating thing about birding in Texas with Birding Mommy's Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds of Texas was the fact that it was set up the "old way," by which I mean the color plates and brief descriptions of major field marks are all up front, then the text describing the bird and giving nesting, habitat, etc. information comes next, and then the maps are all bunched at the end. I would never criticize the great RTP--and maybe it's because I'm just a beginner and have no memory skills--but I like all the info in one place! I've seen more field guides going with this organizational method, and it's the reason I bought the NatGeo guide and use it as my first go-to when I'm puzzling over an ID or need some range information.

Speaking of field guides and puzzling IDs, I was thrilled to see lots of Red-tailed Hawks on my way home through Ohio, and I had no trouble at all IDing them. Unlike those crazy subspecies in Texas, the ones with no belly band and an almost solid white underside in flight, these yankee RTHAs show their colors and make it easier for a raptor beginner like me to ID them.

If the field guide collector in your life (aka you) has a birdday coming up, be sure to give this book a look:
Birds of Europe: Second Edition
Text and Maps by Lars Svensson
Illustrations and Captions by Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterström

Monday, March 08, 2010

Settling in

Niblet and I are settling in quite nicely to our home with AB. We're still unpacking; well, I should say that I'm still unpacking. Nib was pretty much good to go once he got out of his cage. Here he is with his new siblings:That's Maya in the orange, Nib in the back eating, and Owen in the classic gray. They all get along swimmingly!

I also have some pics from my visit to RAPTOR with Susan Gets Native! Here's a little montage.

Susan showed me the freezer where they keep the raptor food:
and lest you worry that they might run out, there's also another box freezer full:
And if you happen to get poop on anything, never fear:Works like a charm, according to Susan!

I got to peek in at Lynne's favorite, Earl:
Here's Earl, begging us not to leave just yet--or trying to eat Susan; you decide. She said that Earl could probably bite through that big old glove, given enough time. Her beak is huge and sharp, so I don't doubt that.

I also saw Thirteen:So cute! She's just so tiny, and her feathers look so soft. Susan also let me handle some of her educational stuffed bird parts, and I held the feathered skull of a Short-eared Owl. The feathers were even softer than Niblet's fur, which was surprising to me.

I saw all the raptors, including Storm, Priscilla, and the rest, but photos are hard on the birds so I was careful to just peek in through a crack in the door or the mew and be respectful of the birds. It was a really cold day, and most of the birds were just perched and puffed-up, trying to stay warm. I bet they can't wait until spring!

I also saw some pellets:both fresh and not-so-fresh:
I wonder if I've ever seen a pellet out in the field but I brushed it off as animal poo or something. Because those white ones above look a lot like stuff I've seen. But who knows? I guess you'd have to see if there were little bones in it. I'd love to find a pellet in the field!

While driving to lunch, we saw this beauty:Red-shouldered Hawks nest all around Susan's neighborhood--pretty cool! Sorry about the crazy tilt on this one; Susan stopped in the middle of the road for me (after stopping and turning around and going back so I could get the pic, Mary!) and I leaned across her and shot the pic through the open window. Then we had to hoof it because of traffic, but I got the shot!

On the drive around Susan's town and on my way home, I saw tons of Red-tails, TuVus, and other raptors enjoying the bright sunshine on their wings.
Oh, to be a bird! Sailing above the fields and water,
the wind in my feathers and the world at my feet!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Niblet gets native!

The second day of our travels brought Niblet and me to a new city for both of us, Cincinnati:I said hello to Johnny Bench for my mom as I zipped through downtown. It's a big city--reminds me of Pittsburgh a bit.

Nearby is the cute little town where Susan, raptor and RAPTOR expert, lives with her family! Niblet was happy just to get out of the car and play with Lorelei and Isabel, Susan's great girls. Here are a few photos of them getting to know one another:
Susan checks out the 'tocksLorelei did us the honor of letting us stay in her pink room,
for which Nib and I are truly grateful!
Nib took to Isabel almost immediately, sensing a fellow quiet soul

Susan and I had a fun dinner at The Works, a pizza place with lots of local flair. Now remember, I've been out west and down south, so I haven't had a real pizza since last August! Susan served me the first slice:Wow, a perfect flip. No wonder she's a raptor educator and not a waitress.Yeah, "oops!" Upside-down or not, it was delicious!

More tomorrow, when I accompany Susan to the real RAPTOR facility in the RaptorMobile!I can't wait to meet Earl and the gang, though I've already been warned that I can't go near Earl or I'll get puked on. Eewww.

For now, though, it's a good night's rest NOT in a moving vehicle for this bunny:

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bye-bye to Texas birds!

As I mentioned in my last post, I took my Texas last birding excursions yesterday, and though we didn't see a whole lot of birds (it was a bit chilly until well after sunrise), we had a good time.

The habitat around San Antonio looks pretty much like this:a lot of brush, low grasses, cactus, live oak, and mesquite. The sheer number of birds is impressive; we must've seen about 75 Yellow-rumps at Braunig Lake alone. We also went to the Friedrich Wilderness Area, known as the easiest place (not to mention my last chance) to see endangered Golden-cheeked Warblers.

A few of the many Northern Cardinals we saw still looked a little pink:but they were singing their hearts out, as were the Carolina Wrens:

It's been over a year since I saw one of these:Maybe that's why it took Mary's checking the fieldguide when we got home to convince me that this was a Chipping Sparrow; the red cap told me "Chipping," but I kept trying to make it into something more exotic. That's the trouble (at least for me) birding in such a birdy place as Texas: I know that on any given day, I could see just about anything, from Bare-throated Tiger Herons to Painted Buntings, from Golden-cheeked Warblers to Roseate Spoonbills. I've heard that Lincoln Sparrows aren't too rare down here, but all we saw yesterday was Chippings. I heard a couple of Song Sparrows and one White-throated Sparrow too.

At Braunig Lake we saw this Osprey hunting from way up high:Boy, there's just no mistaking those markings and that M-shaped wing posture.

We also saw what I had thought at the time was a Broad-winged Hawk, but commenters woke me from my fantasy and told me it's just a southern Red-tailed Hawk:

We did see some lifers on the trip, though we didn't even hear anything sounding like a Golden-cheeked Warbler or a Painted Bunting. Still, some good lifers! We saw this Spotted Towhee kicking up leaves and stuff in search of food:That's bird #234, and coming in at #235 was this tough-to-identify warbler:

My first instinct is just say "Orange-crowned Warbler" down here, because they're everywhere, and he does have that faint streakiness on his breast. But this guy's eye-ring made me look twice--and plenty more times too.

We saw one at Friedrich and then this one at Braunig; these were the best pics I was able to get. His smaller size (definitely not the larger not to mention rare Connecticut Warbler), eye-ring, lack of wingbars, olive-yellow coloring, and gray head had me pretty convinced that we had a Nashville, Connecticut, or MacGillivray's Warbler, but Nashvilles have a yellow throat. This guy (or female?) has the gray hood of a Connecticut, but he just didn't feel that big too me. That left me with MacGillivray's Warbler, and we are on the eastern edge of his spring migrating path--though it's a bit early per Peterson. Still--the eye-ring looks like it is "broken, fore and aft" rather than solid like the Connecticut's or Nashville's. What do you think? MacGillivray's? If so, what a find!

We also saw some nice wildflowers, like this Rose Vervaine: and this phlox of some sort:
It doesn't have that white center like the Drummondii.

We also saw this huge Live Oak; Mary is included for scale:This tree must be at least a couple hundred years old. It formed a beautiful shady canopy of branches, and we stayed under it for a few minutes, just appreciating all it's seen during its long life.

And so I bid a fond farewell to Texas and my dear family. I'll miss everyone a lot; it's been wonderful to hang with the 'rents and get to know them again. But I guess I'm just a rambler by nature, never content to stay "home" for too long. And if home is truly where the heart is, my heart is in Pennsylvania and I'll be glad to join her once again.