Thursday, December 27, 2007

What's your best 2007 birding memory?

Definitely the best bird photo I took all year

Boy, it's like I suddenly got the urge to just blitz out some posts, eh? Anyway, I was wondering--just what was my favorite birding-related experience of this past year?

What was yours?

For me, it's a tough choice--birding with Julie Zickefoose in March or birding with the Flock in Cape May. Both events were so pivotal in my development as a birder, in learning more about birds and fieldcraft and seeing lifers -- in addition to the outright WOW factor of meeting people like Zick and Birdchick, who were my first two birding heroes when I started this whole birding thing a few years ago. (For a long time, those were the only two birding blogs I visited!) Now, in Cape May I also met many of the people on my birdy blogroll, which really cranked that weekend up to amazing levels.

But I suppose I should choose.... or not! Screw it! I pick BOTH of those experiences! So there!

I really tried to choose, but I just can't! I loved Cape May and meeting the Flock in person, and I can't wait to go back there (in February for our anniversary!) and see the Flock again (and meet those honorary Flockers who didn't make it to Cape May!). Back in the spring, going to my first-ever birding festival and having what proved to be an all-out warblerama with Julie pretty much topped my year, even more than Cape May (but just a little!). There are so many reasons: everything about that weekend was just plain magical--from the beautiful drive to Titusville PA to the drive back home, from hanging out with Julie and seeing so many warblers in spring plumage to just seeing for the first time what it was really like to be out in the field with other people who were just as nuts as I am for birds. Maybe it's just that whole "never as good as the first time" thing, but that weekend was (again, just by a tiny bit!) my top birding experience of this year, following almost simultaneously by the Cape May Weekend.


Yikes--cap head!

Kept the cap ON this time!

I wonder what the new year will bring.
So everybody -- let's hear it: your top birding experience of the year!

Will walk for birds

my backyard in the spring

Have you considered BIGBY for 2008? No, it's not a political slogan but an acronym for the Big Green Birding Year, a project started in Canada. It calls for reducing one's carbon footprint while birding by keeping a list of birds you see on trips that are taken exclusively under one's own power of locomotion. No cars, no planes, no big tours, etc. It's a neat way to get out there and bird your local environs while saving Mother Earth (and your wallet). I found out about it while visiting The Great Laura Erickson's great blog.

There's the Walking Bigby, in which you can only count birds you've seen while walking from your home or your work. There's a broader category, the Self-Propelled Bigby, where you can count birds seen while walking, biking, rollerblading, etc. That's the one I'm choosing, to encourage me to finally start using that bike I bought a couple of years ago and have only ridden twice.

Recently a third Bigby, the Public Transport Bigby, has been added as well -- for you city slickers lucky enough to have a decent public transportation system (train/bus).

So far, 75 people in Canada and the USA have signed up. Looking over the list of towns represented, I see Scappoose, Oregon (I'll bet that's Born Again Birdwatcher!) and my little village of Spring Mills, PA. Put your town on the map by signing up!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

PoP's Little Snowman

A little late but better late than never, I present this little snow(ice)man to PoP, who just wanted someone to build her a snowman.


He's about 2-1/2 feet tall, with crabapple eyes and maple-twig mouth. His nose is made of ice with a lot of cinder-dust on it. He ain't no Frosty, but I bet he doesn't come to life shouting that annoyingly sorta gay-sounding "Happy Birthday!" like the real Frosty, and he doesn't "thumpety-thump-thump over the hills of snow" either, which I always thought was a little weird and creepy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Happy Sad Times

The world is in a serious state of flux right now, and it's affecting me in all sorts of ways.

1. The weather can't decide whether it wants to be sunny and high 30s (yesterday) or snowy and low 30s (today) or just plain icy/freezing rainy (a lot of recent days). I miss the sun.

2. I ate or came into contact with something which caused a serious skin reaction, and I'm covered head to toe in hives. Itchy hives. Bad itchy. Last night, the bottoms of my feet were so itchy I almost began to cry; that's how itchy. I went to the doctor today, and now I'm as 'roided up as any baseball player. I have to wash all my clothes and towels and stuff with fragrance-/dye-free detergent, and hope that fixes it (along with the 'roids). I'm completely exhausted by the itching, the burning, the low-grade fever, and the constant Benadryl intake.

3. Somehow, by some magical alignment of the planets, I scored a 100 on my last calculus test; my average is now a 91, an A-. I actually emailed my professor and asked him if there had been some error! So I'm still working on my final exam (it was take-home) plus I have an oral exam (during which I have to work some problems for the professor, so he knows we know the material) on Friday. I really can't believe that I might actually make an A in this class. Remember when I would've been happy for a C? I guess it's true, the life motto I've had since my teaching days: "You're smarter than you think you are." That motto has carried me through a lot. When I told my dad (the civil engineer and math genius), I thought he was going to cry, he was so proud. *sniffle!*

my secret weapon!

4. My four-day holiday weekend is fast approaching, and I cannot wait! I'm going to bird my little heart out! We're baking cookies, making gingerbread houses, sleeping under the christmas tree, eating cookies, playing games--all the traditions we've established during our almost-six-year history as a family. (the sleeping under the tree thing is from my childhood) It's gonna be so much fun!

5. Next week, sadly, I only have Jan 1 off; however, we were just informed that we will be allowed to wear jeans and sneakers to work all week! Yay! Business casual sucks! Bring on the blue jeans! I'll be wearing my Disapproving Rabbits shirt, my "Finch better have my money!" shirt, my Cape May migration mainline shirt--I'll be throwin' down the mad birdin' lookz, yo!

Woo hoo! I love casual days. It's funny--in the summer, we're allowed to wear shorts (as long as they're not blue jeans shorts). So I wear shorts every. single. day. all. summer. long. That's my favorite time to come to work!

So our Christmas bird count was postponed until this weekend, and we're not going to Ohio after all until before New Year's, so I get to go. I'm so excited. I'm planning on taking lots of pics, so I'll mystify and amaze you for the new year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

LOLZ update

It's been a while since I put up anything from ICanHazCheezburger; this one seemed appropriate:

You go, gull!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tagged again

Tagged again by Susan Gets Native and her flu germs to do the following:

Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So, thus warned, proceed at your own risk. We'll call this the Anal-Retentive Random DG List:

1. After having to memorize all the auxiliary verbs in Mrs. West's Language class in 4th grade, I can still recite them all. I think it was the way she had them grouped that was just very rhythmic and logical, and it just stuck with me. (oh, okay: Is Am Are Was Were Be Been Being Have Has Had Shall Will Can Should Would Could May Might Must Do Did Does)

2. The only two common words I ever have a problem spelling are broccoli (or is it brocolli?) and "exaggeration" (or is it exagerration?). I don't know what my deal is with those two. Otherwise, I'm an extremely good speller and never use Spellcheck.

3. I love to wash my hands; not obsessively so, but I do wash them a lot. I'm also *kinda* addicted to Purell. I have even been known to slap Purell on my face (a la Aqua Velva!) if my face feels oily and grubby. I know--gross. No one ever said addiction was pretty.

4. I can type about 90 words per minute when I'm really focused.

5. I always have to put my right sock on before the left, and then my right shoe before the left. I read in a little folklore book (called The Hodgepodge Book) when I was in about 3rd grade that if you put on the left shoe first, you have to step backward in your own tracks, sit back down, and take both shoes off again and do it right-shoe first. Otherwise, you'll be unlucky.

6. When I collect and take out the trash, I have to wash my hands before, during, and after about 20 times. Sometimes, when I'm feeling especially freaky, I use rubber gloves.

7. I'm very susceptible to medicines that make one drowsy--Nyquil, Benadryl, Theraflu, whatever--make me fall zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

*snort* huh? wuzhappening? Oh -- yes. Okay--tagging 7 people. Sheesh.

Dr. Monkey von Monkerstein at Casa de Monkey
Patrick at the Hawk Owl's Nest
Fellow Pennsylvanian Donna at KGMom Mumblings
Rabbits' Guy at A Houseful of Rabbits
PoP at Morning Martini

Okay, that was exhausting--I can only do five. And those of you who want to participate, great--if not, that's fine too. "It's yo' thing, do what you wanna do."

Friday, December 14, 2007


I want everyone to know that I seriously disapprove of all this raptor talk!

This morning while driving to work, I saw raptors everywhere! Northern harriers, sharpies, Coops, kestrels, red-tails -- and I think even an osprey. I was driving, and it was pretty low light. We had sleet and ice all day yesterday, but this morning was dry -- cotton-batting sky over white fields and hills.

My question is this, for all you raptor-ologists: Because it rained/sleeted all day yesterday, did the raptors not get to hunt in that? I'm wondering if maybe they didn't get to eat yesterday, so they were all out in force today to get a meal. Which raises another question: How much do raptors eat in a day? Is a bird or maybe two mice enough?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Flocker memories

Laura H in NJ did a post with a photo from our big Cape May Autumn Migration weekend, and it made me remember how much fun we all had there. Who knows where the flock will go next--but I'm hoping we do that "everyone turns at the same time" thing that birds do so well. Magee Marsh? Somewhere in PA? Somewhere down south in NC? Who knows?

Susan Gets Native mentioned my crazy attempt at taking a photo of myself --I think this is the photo she posted on her blog of this moment:
Laura was just trying to make sure I got the lighthouse back there in the frame!
So I want to post the results. Most true artists try to convey something deep and meaningful, or perhaps the sad meaninglessness of life, in their self-portraits:
Me? Well, other than conveying the fact that I'm really getting way too many chins, I think the only meaning one can glean from this photo is the fact that I'm a Cowboys fan:
Oh dear. At least I have both ears.

So--in the spirit of spreading the embarrassment around, I'll include a incriminating photo of our Susan, with Birdchick in the background:

I'll drink to that!

Friday, December 07, 2007

A beautiful gardening post

My bloggy pal D-Cup wrote the most touching and wonderful post I've ever read about gardening's cycle of life and death. Check it out if you have a moment, and don't be put off by her banner--that's just how she rolls.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Birdy-spirit cleansing post

Sorry to burden you with sad birding stories of my childhood; boy, don't I have any GOOD birding memories when I was a kid? Perhaps my adult birding obsession is an attempt to deal with my unfortunate childhood scary experiences! Never fear, however; here's a little cleansing post for you and me.

You must check out Birdorable, brought to my attention by Patrick at The Hawk Owl's Nest. As soon as I saw this little guy, I emailed Lynne at Hasty Brook with the link:

This one's for you, Lynne!

Digging up a memory, then wanting to cover it over with lime

Don't I look like an only child here? No siblings!
I don't where my big brother and my sisters are, probably off to
the side somewhere, goofing around. This photo was given
to me in a little photo album by my godmother and aunt
on my dad's side, Elva. A few years ago, she gave me and my siblings
each a little photo album she'd made; my album has photos she took
or collected that kind-of feature just me or show me with
my family. I'm guessing she took this photo herself,
as I had never seen it in my mom's collection of family photos.

I was just at Julie Zickefoose's amazing blog, reading a great post with lovely pics about sandhill cranes in New Mexico. Juxtaposed with pictures of her adorable kids and these beautiful birds, she mentions a sobering truth (my emphasis):

The cranes walk along the roads atop the dikes at Bosque, and they often seem to stand vehicles down, in no hurry to clear the way. It's so good to see them rule the place, when they're hunted for sport all along their flyway. Yes. Sandhill cranes are shot for sport (and occasionally for food) in every state they migrate through. There are seasons and bag limits on sandhill cranes all along their migratory route. If you don't believe me, just Google "Sandhill crane hunt." If you're sensitive, don't. Most birders, who will travel hundreds of miles to watch their migration gatherings, don't know that these "ancient birds" that they admire so much are targets for hunters, and are as shocked as I was to learn it. I think they need to know it, and I often bring it up when I'm among crane fans, even though it doesn't do much for my popularity. Talking about crane hunting in such circles has roughly the same effect as cutting a giant fart at a cocktail party.... The thought of bringing these long-lived, monogamous, family-oriented and highly intelligent birds down for sport or roasting makes me physically ill.

So I click on the comments link and proceed to write about how much I hate the idea of a hunter bringing down any animal, yadda yadda--you know my my views on that--and I'm typing the word verification . . . and then it hits me: the flash of a very old memory. What is it? It was so long ago. . . .

I'm probably four or five years old, and I'm petting a crane. I think to myself in the present, "how could I have petted a crane?" But the memory is persistent; it flashes over and over until it is no longer a single frame but an entire movie: several frames running over and over on a loop. My little hand, petting the blue-gray feathers of a crane.

Suddenly the silent movie becomes a talkie: my father's voice is telling me it's a "heron crane." My sister Mary and I are petting the bird.

I'm sitting here now, knowing now that this is a Great Blue Heron I'm petting--and this heron was stuffed and mounted by my amateur taxidermist father. He kept it in his workroom, along with his bobcat skin and his mounted rattlesnake skin. Maybe my mother wouldn't let him bring this stuff in the house? I don't know. But the heron has been sitting in his workroom for a while, so it's dusty and a little worn.

I remember that I pet the bird every time I'm in his workroom, as I watch him cut wood to make cabinets, or sharpen his garden hoe on his bench grinder, or find a screwdriver to fix some loosened fastening in the house. I pet its soft slick blue-gray feathers, marvel at its long skinny legs, and stare into its yellow-with-brown-pupils glass-marble eyes.

Even now, I can smell the oils, the wood, the metal shavings, the paint and stain, the dust in that room.

And I can remember petting the heron.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Update on the Clouds post!

Check it out -- seems my cloud post, specifically the sunbeams/God's robe kind, has affected a broad audience -- everybody's feelin' it, even news photographers, as seen on Princess Sparkle Pony's blog.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

FeederWatch report, and a long-sought photo

The birds were all over the feeder this morning, and I got some decent shots, considering the dim morning light of a sun hidden by a cotton-batting sky. We got about an inch of snow last night and it's friggin' freezing out there, but that didn't deter my little bubbies from their seed.

Mr Cardinal was looking sharp:

As was Mr House Finch, with some American goldfinch pals:

Mr. WB Nuthatch made a rare stop at the seed feeder in between his suet-pecking, along with some more dusky-suited American goldfinches:

Then it happened: the Carolina wren whose "teakettle-teakettle" calls I hear every morning finally made an appearance!

I've been trying to get a picture (or even a sighting) of this guy all season! Finally he saw fit to pose for me. He even gave me a shot of his 'tocks:

To go with this shot of RT Hawk 'tocks I got last week while birding with Em:

'Tocks all around!

Late Friday Night Nibble

Apologies for the Sunday posting of the Friday Night Nibble.

Niblet really loves his "crack"--a special mix I get at the pet food store with dried fruit, nuts, and seeds in it. I've read that it's bad to give your bunny nuts and seeds, but the little guy really loves them! And he's been eating this mix (he gets a 1/4 cup each night as a little treat) every night for over a year now and he's healthy as a little horsey. Am I being a bad mother? He gets so excited when I go near the cabinet where I keep the crack; he binkies around me in circles, jumping and shaking his whole body with excitement. How am I gonna take that away from him?