Monthly Archives: March 2008

Free, free, free

There is a contest to give away 5 free copies of The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature by Jonathan Rosen over at 10,000 birds.  If you have ever been asked the question, “Why do you like bird watching,” this may be the book for you.

The rules for the first 2 give-aways are simple.  Promote the contest on your blog or other social network (check!) or submit a photo 500 pixels wide by 250 pixels tall of birds in flight (also check!).   Easy.  If I can do it, you can do it.  Go ahead.  And don’t worry, I never win anything.


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Rusty Blackbird Survey

I saw a small flock of Rusty Blackbirds (for the first time in at least 5 years) on the lawn of my office building a few weeks ago. I flex late at work, so it was probably 6pm or so. I was waiting to pull into traffic and noticed them with a plethora of Robins (what is the collective noun for a load of Robins? But, I digress.) It was hard to miss that beady yellow eye. I was thrilled so see them again.Then last night I learned that there is a survey going on to try to understand what is happening with their population. What, you didn’t know there was a problem? Well, I didn’t know either. Or at least I didn’t know there was THIS kind of problem.

Rusty Blackbirds have experienced a dramatic decrease in numbers in the past several decades, with population declines estimated at 88% to 98% since the Breeding Bird Survey began in the 1960s!

Scientists are working to understand why this blackbird has plummeted in numbers, but they need our help. We are asked to submit our observations of Rusty Blackbirds throughout spring migration to eBird, and are especially urged to participate in a special Rusty Blackbird project from April 1 to 7. So, next week, researchers want us to submit information about habitat use, blackbird behavior, and flock size as part of their eBird reports, so that bird conservationists can gain a better understanding of preferred migratory habitats and how migratory habitat loss might be contributing to population declines.

If all goes well they can better tailor the survey for fall migration, and possibly do some target outreach during winter as
well. To learn more about Rusty Blackbirds and this special eBird tracking project. Click there.

Now let’s get out and find some Rusty Blackbirds.


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Wordless Wednesday



Filed under Photos, Travel

6-word Memoir Meme


I was tagged by Minnesota Birdnerd for a six-word memoir meme. I have never participated in a meme before. Here you go!

In between meetings, a desert surprise.

I’m also going to tag the following blogs that I read and really like:

Oak in the Seed

Musings on Nature


Born Again Birdwatcher

If you want to play here are the rules:

1. Write a six word memoir and post it on your blog with an illustration if you’d like.

2. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.

3. Tag 5 more blogs with links.

4. Don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.


Filed under Photos

#71 – The quotable I and The Bird

Clare over at The House & other Arctic Musings is hosting the I and the Bird carnival with appropriate quotes, lovely graphics and an engaging style. Pop over and see what I am talking about…

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Happy First Day of Spring!


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Wordless Wednesday



Filed under carnival, Photos

Mal de Mer



I reared my head up from where it was hanging over the side of the boat, fumbling for the binoculars tucked inside my jacket. Bracing myself against the rounded corner of the handrail, I looked up. There, hanging in the wind and looming large behind the boat was a South Polar Skua. It cocked its head this way and that, watching the Ship’s Hand chop fish and throw the bloody bits over the side. Its white wing patches and wedge-shaped tail were clear even through the fog. The boat rose and fell on the waves. My stomach rose and fell with it. I shoved my binoculars back inside my jacket, leaned over and puked up more white stingy foam. I had been puking on and off for 3 hours at this point.

I had decided I needed to embrace pelagic birding if I were going to be a serious birder. I had been on several trips out on the Atlantic: once off the coast of Maine to see Puffins and Guillemots; another time to Bird Island off the coast of Nova Scotia for Kittiwakes and hordes of Gannets wheeling above the cliffs. I had even gone on an overnight trip to the canyon off the coast of NJ. I had been whale watching many, many times in my youth. I considered myself a fair sailor. I always drugged up with Dramamine and had never had a problem. This was not even my first out on the Pacific. I had been birding on a whale watching boat off of Baja years ago. It was all good.

But boy, oh boy. Not this time.

Luckily, or rather, commiseratingly, half the boat was sick. One of the naturalists squeezed in next to me. “Does it help if you puke?” he asked. I looked up and groaned, “No.” “Swell,” he muttered, and then leaned over the side. We were all fighting for rail space and alternating puking and birdwatching. One guy was sitting cross-legged on the deck with his head hanging over the lower rail. He had a good view of the birds as they dove for the chum. He never even tried to use his binoculars.

I was clutching the rail on a cold rocking boat on the Pacific, but with my eyes closed, I gently swayed in a hammock on a porch in the Costa Rican heat. Finding a happy place helped but I kept half an ear on the banter coming over the loudspeaker for any sightings of life birds. I managed to see Rhinoceros Auklet, Northern Fulmar, Pink-footed Shearwater, Buller’s Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, South Polar Skua, and Common Murre as well as every one of the Jaegers. There were also Phalaropes, but since I had seen them before, I stayed in my hammock reaching out a foot occasionally to push against the ground to set it swinging.

But the mal de mer did end. As soon as I got off the boat, I was fine. Poooof! Just like that! It is an amazing thing.

My advice. You gotta get out there. But, go with the patch, not the tabs and keep staring at the horizon. And always tuck in the bins to keep the puke off them.


Filed under Travel

Wordless Wednesday



Filed under Photos, Travel

Birding without binoculars

I was sitting in a sunbeam in the hotel lobby overlooking the pool working on my presentation. My chair was comfortable and I had my feet propped up on the windowsill. I was really killing time.

The windows were at eye level with several trees surrounding the pool. As I sat watching the people below test the water of the pool then walk away; from the corner of my eye I noticed several birds flitting in the trees. My attention swung from would-be swimmers to the birds testing the poolside trees for early spring snacks.

A biggish glossy green Hummer popped up and buzzed the tree in front of me. I pressed my nose to the glass looking for any hint of color. I saw none. Must be female and she is pretty good-sized, about the size of a Ruby-throated. I extrapolated that she must be a female Anna’s. I looked around, got out a tissue and wiped my nose print off the window. Ew.

Several big dark gray-backed gulls flew by. One of them flew close enough to the window that I leaned back in alarm before it veered off. It had a single red spot on its bill. Ah, a Western Gull.

A Crow flew past, no wedge to that tail. I was feeling like Super Birder. 3 for 3 in California.

Then a skinny gray bird drew my eye hopping from branch to branch in the tree in front of me. I could not place it easily. Appeared to have a white throat, a darker cap, and a lighter patch on the rump. I continued to watch it as it sallied forth to catch an insect. Huh! Could be a Gnatcatcher or at least some sort of flycatcher. Maybe Olive-sided, they have a white rump thing, but I did not see any vest. The bird tantalized me as it flitted among the leaves. The Hummer buzzed it once. There was a big size differential.

My binoculars were in my room, of course.

I finally gave up and went to give my presentation. I still do not know what it was. When I got home, I looked in my Western bird books to no avail. How many times have you memorized field marks to look them up later? I do it all the time. Sometimes it works, many times it doesn’t. It always better to have the binoculars at hand and not locked in the room upstairs. A lesson I never seem to learn.


Filed under Travel