Thursday, April 30, 2009

Last stop before Cape May

I'm leaving this evening for Cape May, for my long camping weekend with Gretchen. I thought I should once again check the weather--oy vey:
It's changed almost every day I've looked at it, but this is the worst by far. Rain all three days!? Really?
Well, I guess whatever happens happens. I've birded in the rain out there before, with the Flock two years ago (our first migration).
Just hope the tent doesn't leak.
I got a real bargain last night at Target: an inflatable mattress, twin-sized, with onboard pump (4 D batteries) for... get this!... $7.54! It was on clearance! SWEET!
I'll try to get some good pics!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Birdies all around me, but no time to see them!

oh no! rain, rain, go away!

This morning I opened up my email to find 171 emails from the PA birding listserv. I know--crazy! Still, apparently every warbler and bird that hangs out in PA just arrived this weekend, and everyone in PA saw them EXCEPT ME. I was busy toodling around doing things like having brunch and going to the lake with my new gal! I saw a few birds here and there, but nothing like the warbler fest that everyone else saw. It seems that while I was goofing off, having fun, the birds were arriving and unpacking their little bags. I've really got to get in on this action!

I'm wondering if I could possibly make myself wake up super early and do some birding before work. Hmm... I HATE waking up early--not a good trait for a birder. Wait! Come to think of it, I could take a couple hours of authorized absence time some day this week, go birding in the morning, and just come in at like 10 or 11 instead of 8:30! Now THAT'S an idea! My little gears are turning!

This coming weekend, Gretchen and I will be in Cape May, and I'm really hoping to get a lot of lifers. I may have mentioned this before, but I checked the Cape May list and found that 40 of the "common" and "fairly common" birds seen there in the spring would be lifers for me -- can you imagine? When I went to Cape May's Fall Weekend the first time (when I first met some of the Flock), I got 31 lifers. That's the most I've ever tallied, having gotten 23 lifers in Oil Creek in 2007 when I birded with Julie Zickefoose at the first Oil Creek Birding Festival. Ah, the memories of both of those weekends will be burned into my brain's hard drive forever!

So the thought of potentially getting up to 40 lifers in one weekend is quite exciting--what a challenge! That would put me well over 200--FINALLY. I think Baby G (that's Gretchen's street name! Mine is, quite fittingly I think, D-Thug) and I will pretty much exhaust every minute of every day birding.

OH NO! I just checked the weather for the weekend this morning at and was really disappointed to see that they have rain down for every day except Saturday. DANGIT! I'm hoping that changes as the week drags on. Keep your fingers crossed for us in Cape May, and for the Flock down at New River in West Virginia! Come on, weather gods!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A little weekend birding, and a work thing

On Sunday, my new gal and I went walking in the Toftrees state gamelands from about 4:30 to 6pm. We didn't see a whole lot, but it was a nice walk. Here's the list:
Eastern Towhee
Cedar Waxwing
Dark-eyed Junco (shouldn't they be in the hills and/or flying north now?)
Northern Flicker
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Song Sparrow
Tree Swallow
Northern Cardinal
American Crow
Common Grackle
Blue Jay
Eastern Bluebird
Canada Goose
Black-capped Chickadee
Mourning Dove
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker (heard)
The next day, someone reported seeing some Savannah Sparrows there, and I honestly think I saw one--but I just can't be sure that it wasn't a Song Sparrow. I didn't take enough time to really stare at him to make sure, so I'm not counting him. Also, the light was so crappy (overcast) that I didn't get any photos. I'm hoping to do some birding this weekend, when we're expecting some sun, so maybe I'll have some good pics next week.

- - - - -
Every year, my workplace has a Kids to Work day, and they always focus on environmental themes, which is pretty cool. This year, though I'm unsure of the theme, I found out that they'll all get a bluebird box kit and will be putting them together! I kinda wish I could snag one of those myself, but I'm sure they're all counted out. Still, it's nice to work for a company that cares about the environment.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Splotchy's Eye Meme

So my pal Splotchy said I could do his new Eye Meme, in which one should
1. Post a picture of your eyes.
2. Tag a few people.

Now... Look into my eyes.... you are getting sleepy... very sleepy...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bird couples--it's not all paradise!

Did you hear this story on NPR? It was on a few days ago, and when AB (that's the woman I'm dating; I'm trying to be discreet and only use her initials for now) heard it, she thought of me and my love of birds.

It seems some birds, though mated, will commit adultery (to use human terms) and that some bird couples try their best to thwart their partners' roving eyes!
Birds seem like models of monogamy — building their nests, hatching their eggs and raising their young together. But it turns out, in the avian world, adultery is not uncommon. And both males and females may have a wandering eye.

Ornithologists Nathalie Seddon and Joe Tobias of the University of Oxford have been studying the songs of the Peruvian warbling antbird. In their latest research, published in Current Biology, they report that an antbird couple will sing a harmonious duet when confronted by an intruding rival pair.

But if an unattached female enters the scene, the antbird "wife" starts jamming her mate's song. She interrupts her spouse with her own music, to his great frustration.

Dr. Seddon believes these findings could provide insight into the development of human music.
WOW! Imagine--these birds are just like those sad couples you see sometimes, where the guy is always checking out other women and the woman lets him know she's not happy about it!

Now I don't know if I agree with the idea that human music development might've been affected by these little displays of jealousy. That seems to imply --what?--that perhaps humans started doing this same kind of singing (?) when they experienced similar events in their own relationships? I don't know about all that. I'd have to hear more about this theoretized link.

Still--I find it fascinating that love relationships in the bird world can be so similar to human ones, even if the motives behind the actions might be different. I try not to anthropomorphize animal behavior; I'm guessing the female is only working to keep her partner in line to ensure that he's around to help with the brooding and care of their young, hence better chances of survival. I'm sure the female bird isn't thinking, "My GOD, he's looking at that Phyllis Antbird AGAIN! Doesn't he still love me? Is he gonna break my heart?" (hee hee) But the partner still sees something she doesn't like, and she sure lets him know about it. Pretty neat.

There is a big indicator that the writer of this story doesn't know a lot about birds; the lede of the story is kinda silly. We birders know that not all male birds stick around to help out the female after the necessary deed is done. Northern cardinals may mate for life, but I'd guess such devoted couplehood isn't that common in the animal world.

Still--this is some pretty amazing research, don't you think? Birds are so cool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Previews of coming attractions

It feels weird, knowing who reads this blog, to write about my plans for Cape May at the end of the month; after all, many of you will be taking your own adventure to West Virginia -- which I was supposed to do as well, until finances got in the way. So -- I'll write about the plans, but just know that my little birdy heart is still wanting to be in WV with the Flock at the same it wants to be in Cape May with Gretchen. I feel a little torn in two.
I love you guys!

That said, things are going well in preparation for the Cape May trip. We have our deposit down for a campsite at Beachcomber Camping Resort, 4 miles from Cape May. We're thinking that we shouldn't take Domino, because we probably wouldn't be able to bring her birding with us. Not that she isn't a great dog to bird with, because she is -- she stays right by Gretchen's side and is very quiet; she's a very mellow old girl. But I'm sure we probably couldn't take her on the boardwalk at CM Point, or to the Meadows, etc. So I'm kinda bummed, because I was looking forward to getting a picture of her on the beach--she would love that--but it's probably best that she stays home with friends.

So that's handled, and the campsite is handled, and we've outlined several birding trips we'll be going on to make sure we see as many birds as possible. We'll also ride the ferry to Lewes DE and spend some time on the shore there, as Laura said that's the best place to see shorebirds. It's gonna be truckloads of good birding, and I can't wait.
And by the way... remember how I said I wanted to meet someone who was actually interested in birds? Well, I did (update: and it's not Gretchen! She's my bff; this is another woman I'm referring to)--she's terrific! Things are kinda weird because I'm moving away in a few months, but in the meantime--we're just going to enjoy our time together. So if my posts get all gushy and happy, now you know why!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

No peents, but some other birds

Well, despite our efforts to find some woodcocks on Saturday, we didn't even hear a single peent. It was windy and cold, which might've had something to do with it. Still, we saw
Eastern Phoebe (FOY)
Eastern Bluebird
Ring-necked Duck
Red-winged Blackbird
American Robin
American Crow
Northern Cardinal
Turkey Vulture
Song Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Tree Swallow (added this later--I forgot we'd seen one--also FOY)

Then it just got too cold so we went home.

Perhaps my adventure that night led to my illness--I think I have a sinus infection now. The cold had still been hanging in there, keeping things snotty, and when I woke up yesterday I felt as though someone had punched me in the face. The soonest I could get in to the doctor's is tomorrow afternoon, reinforcing my opinion that it's easier to see the Queen than it is to see a doctor at my doctor's office. Grrr. Meanwhile, I'm completely plugged up and my face is killing me.

We'll try again next week for woodcocks, assuming I'm well by then.

I also heard an Eastern Phoebe singing across the street from my house, so that's a new yardbird for me. My yardlist is quite pathetic, but here it is:
Eastern Phoebe
Black-capped Chickadee (pair, hollowing out a hole in a tree near my window)
Turkey Vulture
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Sparrow
European Starling
Not exactly like the old Marsh House list, but still--not bad for in the city.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Weekend birding plans

Gretchen and I are going to Bald Eagle State Park tomorrow to look for woodcocks!

The park holds a birding festival (really tiny) each year, a woodcocks and grouse festival--and this year, it's April 18. So I figured that maybe the woodcocks are already there, especially because they were already calling at Middle Creek last month when I went there.

I hope to have some photos for you Monday!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Feeling proud

Back in February when I went to Texas, I went birding as often as I could courtesy of my sister Mary who was kind enough to take some days off work, drive an hour and a half from Austin, and wake up and drive me around at ungodly hours of the morning just to look for birds.

It seems, however, that I was not the only one who gained from our trips together. Mary is now beginning to bird too! She's gotten a new camera and some binoculars, and she's taking regular trips out to the many birding areas near her house. I couldn't be more proud when she calls me up to talk about where she went and what she saw. Even her boyfriend Jim is getting into it, calling her about a Red-headed Woodpecker who seems to be hammering out a cavity in one of Jim's oaks. Imagine: A RHWO as a yardbird! I told her to tell him I was jealous.

She's even sent me some pictures. She's still learning about the incredible difficulty of taking pictures of birds in the field, but she's trying hard. Here are a couple of pix of a mystery bird:

Any ideas? A wren of some sort? A big warbler? A vireo? Remember -- this is a Central Texas bird.

Some of her pics are really good ones though. Look at all these beautiful Northern Shovelers: (who are apparently Southern as well)
And here's a Carolina Chickadee:I had only seen Black-caps until I went down there.

And this one is for Lynne--I've never seen so many TUVUs roosting together in my whole life!
I can't tell whether they're all TUVUs or there are some BLVUs mixed in. But here's a little TUVU action:

It's so neat to find out that my enthusiasm for birding, as well as the beauty of the birds themselves, has taken root in other people. Kat was never very interested in it at all, but someday I'm confident I'll find someone who loves birds or is at least willing to just open up and let them win her heart.

It's also fun to pass along some of the things I've learned since I first was beginning to bird and started this blog. My advice to Mary so far has pretty much been "practice practice practice" with the camera and concentrate on fieldcraft (learned from Mike McDowell), and try to skulk around and get as close as you can (learned from the amazing birdstalker herself Mary in North Carolina).

I'm proud of Mary, and of my bff Gretchen who'll be birding Cape May with me at the end of the month, for their willingness to try something that most people think is for dorks and/or old people.

All photos courtesy of Mary Guzman.