Monday, June 22, 2009

Third blogiversary!

My photo of a Screaming Piha which will be used in Spiny Software's newest birding application for iPhone -- and for which I was paid twenty whole dollars!
Am I now a professional photographer?

So today is the third blogiversary for this little bird bloggy, which started as a way to document my fledgling efforts (heh heh) at learning about birds. It seems like a million years ago now, as my life was dramatically different then: I was living in the Marsh House with Kat, working with a Peterson's guide published in the 1930s (which I got for a quarter at a book sale!), trying to build my own spotting scope, and trying to figure out what the heck a "meme" was. Ah, the memories!
Back then, my first lifelist had 44 species on it -- including a few mistakes -- calling a house finch a purple finch, etc. Silly me. I also counted the great horned owl my dad brought home -- the owl that chased me around the backyard. I don't count that one now, as he was captive.

I also named what I thought were the top ten most beautiful US birds -- it was, looking back at it now, kind of a silly list! Here it is:
1. Cardinal
2. Indigo bunting
3. Dark-eyed junco (incredibly cute)
4. Red-tailed hawk
5. Mallard (male--sorry, female)
6. Snowy egret
7. Barn owl (love that face)
8. Bluebird
9. Rose-breasted grosbeak
10. Ruby-throated hummingbird

I gotta say that my choices today would be quite different. Here they are, in no particular order (except for the Blackburnian--it's my favorite):
Blackburnian Warbler
Painted Bunting
Eastern Bluebird
Hooded Warbler
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Varied Thrush
Tree Swallow
Indigo Bunting

I know that's only eight birds -- but I wanted to just list the ones that came into my mind without looking at a list.

So -- three years into it, and I have over 200 (barely) birds on my lifelist. I have a decent spotting scope and my Leupold binocs that I bought at a flea market for $30 bucks (but which are worth quite a bit more, it turns out). I have a decent point-and-shoot digital camera, and I've taken some photos that I'm pretty proud of. I've made a lot of great friends, both online and in person. All in all, this whole birding thing has been one of the best things in my life, even when the rest of my life sucked.

Soon I'll be beginning to bird all over again -- a new place, a new field guide, and a new life. It's gonna take me at least another three years to document that process. I hope you'll stick around for it.

Thanks for the memories!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Future birding -- a cross-post

I posted about Illinois' Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and its potential for yielding some grassland lifebirds for me, on my California Dreamin' blog. I don't post too much on that blog, but I should probably start. I was hoping to bank some of my research and plans for my California move.

If you've ever driven I-80 across the country, please feel free to visit that blog (or this one) and leave your travel tips in the comments. I'm hoping to see a Prairie Chicken (greater or lesser) somewhere along the trip west, so if you know where I can see one within an hour's drive of I-80, please let me know!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Out standing in their field

Sorry this is so blurry -- it's on super-zoom on a cloudy day. I often see this turkey (or many like him) on my way to and from work.

This guy looks like a cow version of that shepherd dog Sam from the Wile E./Ralph Coyote cartoons.

Apparently, this goat often sits or stands on these cows. I think he's standing on this cow or one right behind him. He's definitely not on the ground, though. The other day, the cow was standing and the goat was curled up on the cow's back. Sadly, we just got laying-down cows today, which must mean more rain.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Programming note: If you'd like to read about my latest bird-related dream, I sent it to Kyron's Dream Birding blog, which is a fascinating cache of bird-related dreams by different people. If you ever have a bird dream, maybe you could send it to him. And yes, my dreams are often that crazy.

Some cool pix from Baby G

My best friend Gretchen takes a lot of pictures with her camera phone and sends them to me. I thought I'd share a few of them with you because they're always pretty great.

Yesterday, a request came over the birding listserv asking for help with an injured Ruddy Turnstone. I gave the guy the name and info for our local wildlife rehabber, for whom Gretchen volunteers. This morning, she sent me this photo of the very Ruddy Turnstone in question!

She's helping to take care of him!

Gretchen lives out on some property owned by a local greyhound rescue organization, and she gets to hang out outside for a lot of the day, working with the greyhounds--she works there. She sees some pretty cool stuff out there:

This is "Albert" (her name for him), a toad she found and described as the biggest toad she'd ever seen. Not ten minutes later, I got the following photo with the text "toady tricks:"

I replied, "That Anthony, always fooling around!" She was pleased with my name for the smaller guy. How she got these guys to pose like this, I have no idea. Maybe she's a toad whisperer.

She's also seen some great birds out there, like this Ruffed Grouse:

Here's a photo of her mom's HUGE dog Remus, who was too big for Gretchen to kidnap:
This dog makes Domino, a normal-sized dalmation mix, look like a puppy. It's a BIG dog.

She also sends me funny things she sees, like this, with the text "hee hee:"
That Gretchen, always fooling around.

Still and always, however, my favorite Baby G photo will be this one of Domino:That's one sweet old gal.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Work ducks!

The courtyard ducks are growing more bold each day as they get used to being around humans. Everyone's been very respectful of the ducks as Mama leads them to the pond for their water time. Here are some pics I took during break:

Monday, June 01, 2009

FINALLY! A Scarlet Tanager!

Friday afternoon as I was waiting for AB (my girlfriend) to get home, I wandered across the street from her apartment into the fringes of the Toftrees state gamelands. I took my binocs because I knew I'd heard a Wood Thrush from that direction on several mornings, and I was just hearing the crescendo of an amazingly loud Ovenbird.

I looked up, trying to locate the Ovenbird in my binocs, scanning the treetops for movement, when I spotted it: a dark red bird with jet-black wings. 'OHMYGOD it's a scarlet tanager!' I just kept whispering that sentence over and over as I watched this beautiful male SCTA preen and sun himself. Of course I didn't have my camera! That would've been too perfect! But I did get to watch him for about ten seconds when he decided he'd had enough of that branch and flew away.

Wow. So worth waiting for! I never saw the Ovenbird--I was too excited to even remember the Ovenbird (I've had great looks at them before).

Coming in at 201 on the lifelist: Scarlet Tanager!

I'm going back there tonight, and you can bet I'll have my camera.

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On a depressing note, read this. Of all the disappointments we've suffered since Obama took office, this one really hits hard.