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Food Chain Game

food chain game

My sister and I sat on the porch swing sipping cold white wine.  One or the other of us would reach out a foot to push against the floor to keep the swing in motion. The view from the wrap-around porch at the Glacier Park Inn B&B was spectacular.  Vaux’s Swifts darted overhead, a Pileated drummed, the shadows lengthened.  It was a peaceful, gentle time of day.

“You can’t eat me!”

We stopped swinging and looked at each other.

When we came back in, we found out that the other guests were playing a raucous  version of Into the Forest –  Nature’s Food Chain Game.  It is a card game of who eats what and is in turned eaten by what with death and decay being the trump card.  We watched as Millipedes ate grass, were then slurped by Frogs and Toads, who were in turn crunched by Shrews, who soon got gulped by Owls, that met an untimely end by a Bobcat.  What happens to the Bobcat?  Nothing. Only Death and Decay.

food chain cards

But the point of the game is not be the predator and eat everything in sight. Every plant or animal card has energy points.  Whoever has the most energy points wins.  It is a laughing and learning game.  On the spot, I decided I had to have it.

If you are looking for a fun, learning experience that involves eating worms, this is the one for you.


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Wordless Wednesday

Tiger Swallowtail

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Birdy Christmas Presents

Ever since the bears destroyed my favorite squirrel-resistant feeders back in the Spring, I have been in the market for uber-sturdy bird feeders. And lo and behold, Santa brought me 3 all-metal birdfeeders-2 tube feeders and a tray. I knew he was following me on Twitter for a reason. :0) I know, I know, they are not bear-proof, but perhaps they will be the teensiest bit bear-resistant. At least they will not break completely when in contact with bear teeth. Santa also brought me a Water Wiggler. It deters mosquitoes but entices birds. Super thoughtful of him.

I also got an oak tree camo T-shirt and sweatshirt. I have been pondering the question of wearing camo while birding for a while. The interesting thing about procuring camo in the flatland is that every store has many habitat patterns and styles. Now, I can blend in when I bird. I wonder if it will make a difference….

And you know I bought myself a digital Rebel with 2 lenses before the holiday, right? I hope to have time to play with it over the next week.


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Birding at Sandia Crest


Every time I mentioned that I needed to see Rosy-Finches, I was told I had to go to Sandia Crest.  The first time, I had no idea what or where Sandia Crest was.  From mid-November through March the 3 species of Rosy-finches are supposedly there at the gift shop cum restaurant.  Lest you feel out of the loop, let me fill you in.  Sandia Crest House is in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the very top of Sandia Mountain at 10,678 ft.  The tram will not get you there by the way, you have to drive up or hike the rest of the way up from the tram stop.

I was told seeing the Rosy-Finches was a sure thing, that they were there in masse.  But, you know how these sure things go, right.  I went up the day after a snowstorm, confident I was going to be ticking them off my list. With all that snow, they would surely be at the feeders. When we arrived, the staff said they had just been there and that they came about every 30-40 minutes.  Great. We sat down to wait, and we waited, we ordered lunch, and waited some more.  After an hour and a half, only 2 Black Rosy-Finches had come to the feeder.  I bounced up and snapped a few shots through the windows.  We went back to waiting.  Finally after 3 hours, we threw in the towel and went down the mountain to try for Pinyon Jays and Scaled Quail (which I did not see either).

But as luck and the birding gods would have it, my conference ended early and I was able to rent a car and quick, quick, scoot back to the mountain on the last day I was there.  The sky got darker as I drove out of town and more threatening as I drove up the mountain.  When I stepped out of the car at the top of the mountain, the wind was whipping around and the clouds looked like snow.   With an eye to the sky, I negotiated the icy walk to the Sandia Crest House.

I was not in the restaurant at a table facing the feeder for more than 10 minutes before a large swirling flock of birds came in.  I grabbed my bins afraid they would take off before I had a good look.  The feeder swayed with the wind and a tray full of birds.


The Black Rosy-Finch is very distinctive looking, no problem identifying that.  The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is brown over all with dark-centered crown feathers that fade toward rear. Of the 3 subspecies of  Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, 2 of them were at Sandia Crest, the interior (Gray-crowned) and the costal (Gray-cheeked or Hepburn).  They are all 6.25″,  slightly larger than a House Finch.


Now a Bird Quiz.  Can you tell them apart?

Oh yeah, there were also Mountain Chickadees, Gray-headed Juncos, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, White-breast Nuthatches, Steller’s Jays and Ravens .

For detailed info on the Rosy-Finches at Sandia Crest check out their website.

All my photos were taken through the plate-glass windows, so they are not as crisp as I would like, but the birds were skittish whenever I opened the door.


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Gift giving for the aging bird lover

While browsing the book table at the local bird festival way back in the summer, I came across the large-print version of the Peterson’s guide.  I picked it up to flip through thinking of my mother but more my sister.  She is always searching for her reading glasses.  The descriptive paragraph has much less information but the picture of the bird, the map and text is large enough to read without glasses. This is perfect for the kitchen when a flicker of movement out the window pulls your eyes away from the tedious chopping of sticky dates for all of those Christmas cookies.  (You do keep binoculars on the kitchen counter, right?)

I immediately called sis on the cell phone to ask if she thought this might be a good gift for mom for Christmas. She loved the idea. But you and I both know who will be using it most…not my 77 year-old mother. Good thing we also bought her a new … oops best not say.  Ya never know.

It is nice to be from a family of bird lovers.


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Jonathan Trouern-Trend will speak at the 5th NJ Meadowlands Festival of Birding

Knowing that I love all things birdy, a few years ago, a friend gave me a small birding book called Birding Babylon: A Soldier’s Journal from Iraq. Originally written by Sergeant First Class Jonathan Trouern-Trend during his time north of Bagdad as an online journal, parts were later published.  I found it fascinating to read of the war and the birds he was seeing.

He is going to be giving the keynote speech at the Meadowlands Festival of Birding this Saturday, Sept 13th.  I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say and maybe to get my book autographed.

Are you going to the festival?  Maybe I’ll see you there.  Sigh. If I don’t get lost.


Filed under festival, Local schmocal, migration, Uncategorized

Crows Never Forget a Face

Quick put on lipstick, crows can tell us apart.  Did you see the article in the New York Times about a study using masks for banding crows and the ruckus they put up after the fact?  It is fascinating–go read it.

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On a birding boat ride on the bay (huh, how do you like that?) during the Kachemak Bay Shorebird festival a Bald Eagle threw all these Black-legged Kittiwakes into a swirling cloud around Bird Rock.  It was a sight to behold!

Check out Skywatch Friday in other parts of the world.


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Monk Parakeets

I stared at the movement in the grass.  I inched closer.  What was that?  The grass seemed to be moving.  One step more and the grass exploded with green wings.  I stood mouth agape.  Parakeets.

I watched as they dove squawking into the trees and like all parrots, disappeared.  Several minutes later, first one, then another flew back to settle on the grass.  They appeared to be eating or collecting grass.  Could they be nesting in July?   I have seen them in Florida before, and in New York, and in Punta del Este, Uruguay, but I never tire of them.  Being from the northeast, they seem exotic to me.

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I Like Gulls

Heerman's Gull

Heermann's Gull

Can we talk about gulls for a moment?  I know some birders eschew them, won’t even look at them, call them names like sea rats, G-U-11s, but, truth be told, …shhhh…I sorta like them.  Maybe it’s because growing up in the flat land, we didn’t have any.  Or they are a visual reminder of the sea.  I like their brashness, their insistence, their laugh, their size.  Yes, they are frustratingly confusing.  Yes, they have a several year maturity rate so there are lots of in-between plumage variations.  Yes, they loaf around garbage dumps and shopping center parking lots, the tops of lamp posts on the Tappan Zee Bridge and oddly enough even at the beach.  I am by no means an expert in picking out the juveniles but the adults are not that difficult.  With closed eyes the call of a Laughing Gull always and forever will remind of the Jersey Shore.
My favorite gull (is it terrible having favorites?) is the Heermann’s Gull from California.   I love the soft ombré of their fashionable plumage, going from white through shades of gray, ending with tidy black stockings.   And the red beak, what a color, as red as the best lipstick.  I think they are absolutely the most beautiful.


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