Saturday, October 27, 2012

350 Species...and so much more

What We Did On Our Book Tour Today 
by kimberly kaufman 

We began our day in Portland, Maine, where we did a radio show by phone with Jack Holcomb from Jack's Backyard on WEEU in Reading, PA. We then headed northwest towards North Conway, New Hampshire, where we led a nature walk at 3:00 PM sponsored by Tin Mountain Conservation Center.  Following the walk, we gave a program and book signing at White Birch Books

---And it was AWESOME!  

The radio show was great, the walk at Whittaker Woods was incredible, and the program tonight at White Birch Books was really fun. It was such a pleasure to meet Laura Lucy, owner of this lovely store. 

Our walk today was a real highlight of the trip for us, for a number of reasons.  
When we arrived for our walk, we were at 339 species, having picked up British Soldier Lichen and an Ichneumon Wasp at an information center just south of North Conway.  We hadn't set any high hopes for finding lots of things on the walk this afternoon as we'd never hiked these particular trails and had no idea what to expect.  And besides, we really just wanted to enjoy being outside with nice people on a gorgeous day.  

I love-love-love British Soldier Lichen!  
It's like a little world growing on top of this stump! 

The trails at Whittaker Woods are beautiful.  
On one section, the path perfectly frames a stunning view of Mount Washington. 
The photo doesn't do the view justice,
but you can see the pinnacle of Mount Washington in the distance.



While we hadn't set our expectations high, as soon as we set foot in the woods we started finding new and wonderful things for our 350 species list.  Partridgeberry, Yellow Birch, Indian Pipe, and American Witch-hazel. 
Bracken Fern, Common Juniper, and under a rotting log, this adorable creature...
...a Red-backed Salamander!
Oh, I was just so tickled to share this with everyone.  Many of the people on our walk had never seen a salamander, despite the fact that they walk these trails on a regular basis.  What fun to introduce them to their special little "neighbor!" 

The species kept coming: Red Pine, Bigtooth Aspen, and Beech Drops. It wasn't long before we realized that we were just one species away from 350! And then, in the fading light of late afternoon, in the shadows of a giant White Pine,  we found the lingering leaves of Starflower -- and we had done it!   350 species in 12 days - and in the midst of an ambitious book tour, no less!  

Our group of new friends pauses to celebrate our 
350 species accomplishment with us! 

Nature is so accommodating, so giving, so bountiful.  We needn't travel to pristine wilderness to find nature's gifts.  They are everywhere. On the edge of parking lots where the tough and rangy wildflowers refuse to yield.  Along the highways where Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels eke out a living.  Outside a school yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where a class of 6th graders discovered the lovely heart-shaped leaves of Shepherd's Purse. At the lights of the local convenience store where interesting moths and insects frequently gather. There is treasure out there - if we just go out looking for it. 

This quest for 350 species was nothing more than a silly game, of course, but it got us out there looking and searching at every opportunity. And ultimately, we found more than just the species we needed to reach our goal. We found hope and joy and new friends. And we learned a lot, too.  As my favorite person in the universe once said, "It's good to go on a quest. But it's better to go with an open mind. The most important thing we find might not be the thing we were seeking." 

Book Tour Big 350: Hurricane warnings

From Portland, Maine, Kenn writes:   So here we are in Maine, and suddenly Moose are cavorting everywhere. Or, at least, representations of them are everywhere. This guy greeted us at the first service area on the Maine turnpike.
In case you can't tell from this small photo, Kimberly is signalling two thumbs up, not some other kind of gesture that might be inspired by an elusive moose.
Aside from the silent moose, everyone we meet right now is talking about the approaching late-season hurricane, Sandy, and its possible effects on the region.  Of course we're keeping an eye on that as well.  But the theme yesterday (Friday the 26th) was of surprisingly mild weather.  The temperature reached the low 60s again, and even a few insects were active, adding to our trip tally.

We had been surprised, a week ago, to see a few Monarchs on Cape Cod and in Rhode Island. Yesterday, later and farther north, we were even more surprised to see a few Monarchs winging their way south on the coast of Maine. They have a long way to go to get to their wintering area in southern Mexico, and this late in the season they would seem to be pushing their luck. But we also saw four other species of butterflies on the wing yesterday (Clouded Sulphur, Cabbage White, Painted Lady, and Red Admiral), more than I would have expected for Maine in late October. We had seen all of those earlier on the tour, but other insects such as Carolina Locust and a pond full of whirligig beetles added to our total.

On Friday, after checking a couple of spots on the edge of Exeter, NH, that had been recommended to us by new local friends, our first destination was the Wild Bird Supply store in Freeport, Maine. The owners, Jeannette and Derek Lovitch, do a lot more than simply run a store; they support birding and conservation in major ways.  Derek's book, How To Be a Better Birder, published this year by Princeton University Press, is an outstanding resource that is getting rave reviews. Kimberly and I had planned to arrive early so that we could get out birding with Derek for a couple of hours before our scheduled book signing, so he took us out for a quick run to local habitats.  It was fun to explore the area, and it was also productive, netting new species for our list such as Greater White-fronted Goose and Pileated Woodpecker. 

Back at the store, a nice crowd showed up, and we were amazed and pleased that our friend Seth Benz showed up. Seth lives quite a ways up the coast, so it was out of his way to come and see us.  Our birding history goes back many years: back in the early 1980s, Seth and I and some other friends went birding together around Peru, Mexico, and other destinations. More recently, for several years Seth Benz was the director of the Audubon Camp on Hog Island, Maine, where Kim and I both had the privilege of teaching as instructors and where we took many of the photos that we used in the New England field guide.

In the evening we went to the fine nature center run by Maine Audubon at Gilsland Farm, just north of Portland.  By now we've given our program about the new field guide more than a dozen times, but we're still having fun with it; and we had a great crowd for the presentation tonight, including more friends that we hadn't seen for a long time. 

Very late at night on Friday we finished tallying up our trip list so far, and it came to 337!  We are getting very close to 350, and that's fortunate, because we are running out of potential species to add.  From here we head back across New Hampshire and Vermont, through country where most of the flowers and butterflies are done for the season... and besides, there's a hurricane on its way.  Wish us luck!

Book Tour Big 350: lichens, butterflies, and mussels


From Portland, Maine, Kimberly Writes: We've been blogging every night during our book tour through New England, updating readers on how we're doing with our 350 Species Challenge.  But after a very long, wonderful and emotional day on Thursday, we were just too darn tired, so we promised ourselves that we'd catch up soon.


Highlights from Thursday, October 25th.  
We started our day in Concord, New Hampshire and headed off for Exeter, New Hampshire.  We made a slight detour so we could spend some time on the coast, both to add species to our list and because we both love the ocean and the beach.  

We stopped for lunch at a great little place and splurged by ordering big bowls of Clam Chowder!  It was a little chilly on the beach, so we were both happy to have something warm and wonderful like delicious local Chowder. 











Just outside the restaurant was a small butterfly garden that still had some blooming flowers.  They were looking a little tired, but still had enough life left in them to attract a few late season Painted Ladies!  By this late in the season, every butterfly we see feels like a gift, and the Painted Lady was no exception.  

On the beach we found several new things for our list, including...

Sea Lettuce


Blue Mussels


And the aptly named Sunburst Lichen

Spending time on the beach was great and it helped put our list up over 320.  But we really had to move on, so after our lovely walk on the beach we headed for Exeter where we gave an evening talk at the Water Street Bookstore.  

Everything about the evening was perfect.  Water Street Bookstore is one of those awesome bookstores where charm and atmosphere flow from every nook and cranny.  The audience was warm and friendly and very complimentary about our presentation and about the book.  And the store's owner, Dan Chartrand, was a perfect host. 

Just when I thought the evening couldn't be any better -- it was!  

Dan told us that he had something for us, and he came out with this stunning flower arrangement. 


I couldn't imagine who they could be from, and then I read the card. Turns out, my wonderful, amazing family back in Ohio had arranged for these gorgeous flowers to be delivered to the bookstore for us. When I read the card and discovered who the flowers were from, I just broke down and cried.  It was the sweetest, most thoughtful and encouraging thing for my family to do, and I love them beyond words for this very special surprise. These beauties are now strapped into backseat of the Nature Mobile so I can enjoy them everywhere we go!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Tour Big 350: 300 in the rearview

From Concord, New Hampshire, Kim Writes: Well, we made it to New Hampshire where we gave a presentation and did a book signing tonight at Gibson's Bookstore.  Established in 1898, Gibson's is the oldest bookstore in New Hampshire, and might even be the oldest in all of New England. It was a wonderful night, and the nicest people came to our talk and stayed well after chatting about the book and nature in general. It's encouraging to see so many independent bookstores, like Gibson's!, that appear to be thriving and considered important parts of the community. 

Before leaving South Hadley this morning to head north, we took advantage of some precious free time to get outside and explore with friends who live in the area. Jamie Bishop and her son Galen joined us, along with Josh Rose, and we spent a wonderful couple of hours at one of their favorite spots in the area.  It's one of those birding spots with a really distinctive name that you don't forget.  They call the area "The Honey Pots," but no one I asked was sure just how it got this name.

We didn't have a lot of time, but with the extra eyes and the knowledge of these local experts, our species list for the Book Tour Big 350 Species Challenge surpassed the 300 milestone!  

Josh, Galen, Jamie, and Kenn look for insects among the fading plant life. 

Our walk took us down a lane to a community garden. I did what I always do when there are logs and limbs that have been lying on the ground for a while; I started flipping them over to see who or what was living below. We found some really interesting creatures to add to our list - and to our delight!  Once we had a look at who was under there, we gently put the logs back in place. 


Under a section of discarded landscape timber
we found 
some Camel Crickets!
  You never know what overlooked piece of debris
will make a good home for some tiny creature. 

Under another piece of discarded wood, Josh--who just happens to be an expert entomologist--found and identified a couple of Rove Beetles. 

I had never seen them before and they were fascinating.  Rove Beetles are part of the large and ancient family Staphylinidea, and Rove Beetle fossils have been dated back to the Triassic, 200 million years ago. 

The Rove Beetles were cool, but they reminded me a little too much of Earwigs, so I moved on to look at other things. (I really love insects, but Earwigs just creep me out so much that I call them "Slithering Ickwads." 

Josh is a real bug expert, but I did get to teach him something about photographing certain kinds of beetles.  It can be a challenge to get them to hold still for photos, but if you gently blow on them, many of them will freeze, and it worked today on our photogenic Rove Beetle.


I was happy to find a few Large Milkweed Bugs lingering 
in the remains of Common Milkweed.

                           
While searching for milkweed bugs I found some dried milkweed seed pods and took a few moments to appreciate the soft and silky fibers that help carry the seeds aloft on the wind. 


Next we have a bittersweet tale of destructive beauty.

Along the roads and fence rows nearly everywhere in New England you will find this unfortunately beautiful invasive.  Oriental Bittersweet is a real problem in this part of the country (and other parts of the East and the Midwest, as well), owing partially to the fact that it's so beautiful that people are reluctant to eradicate it. Trouble is, this beauty eventually chokes out everything else in its path. It's easily confused with our native American Bittersweet, which is losing ground across its range, so it's important to learn how to tell the difference before removing it. 

From the beautiful to the utterly bizarre...
STINKHORN! 

Much to my surprise, we found several Stinkhorns growing amid the mulch used to protect the roots of some of the plants in the community garden.  These things look completely obscene but they're just too weird to ignore.  And trust me: they earn the name Stinkhorn in a MAJOR way.  Kenn and I were at a naturalist rally in Tennessee a few years ago and found the spore of one of these things.  It looked like a small withered, wrinkly egg. Following the advice of a local naturalist, I brought it home in a paper bag and sat it on our kitchen counter so we could photograph it when it "hatched."  Oh, Dear Lord, did it ever hatch!  It took a few days, but then came the reckoning. I woke up one morning and was making my way downstairs when it hit me. A stench that was punch-you-in-the-face powerful. It smelled like every rotten vile thing you can think of all at once and the smell lingered and lived on in our house for several days even though we promptly evacuated it from the premises. 

Let's end, not with a Stinkhorn,
but with this sweet little Woolly Bear Caterpiggle.
It wasn't exactly energetic, but it was alive and well and posed nicely for a photo. Woolly Bears overwinter as caterpiggles, and I hope this one survives the winter and emerges next spring as a lovely Isabella Tiger Moth.

It was a day filled with fun, exciting discoveries, and friends old and new. I'm looking forward to another week of the book tour and more of the same! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Tour 350: Now it gets tough

From a cozy B and B in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Kimberly Writes: It was with a bit of reluctance that we left our lovely room at the Roger Sherman Inn in New Canaan, Connecticut, and headed for South Hadley.  We had such a fabulous time during our two night stay in New Canaan and we both wished we could stay a little longer.  We gave a presentation at the New Canaan Public Library yesterday and it was just wonderful.  A great turn-out, a diverse audience, and the local book store sold out every copy of the New England field guide they had and took several orders! 

Almost directly across from the Inn was a wonderful nature preserve and we walked some of the trails there a few times during our stay. We found several new things to add to our 350 species list, but even if we hadn't, the wooded trails were incredibly beautiful and we really enjoyed our time there. 



The species list keeps growing, but now that we've sort of knocked off the "low hanging fruit" we expect it get more challenging from here on out.  We're going out in the field tomorrow morning with some friends of ours who are local experts and we hope they can help us find some cool stuff to add.  

We surpassed the 280 mark today when we added Spotted Wintergreen, Hermit Thrush, Northern Lady Fern, Black Walnut, and a millipede lurking under a rotten log.  Returning back to our B&B after tonight's presentation, we added a Yellow-striped Armyworm Moth that we found under the porch light.  

Speaking of tonight's presentation...
We were honored to speak tonight at the fabulous Odyssey Bookshop here in South Hadley.  It's an independent book store about to celebrate its 49th anniversary!  The current owner/operator, Joan Grenier, inherited the store from her father, Romeo Grenier, a French-Canadian immigrant who arrived in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1923 at the age of thirteen.  Read more about Odyssey Bookshop HERE.   

Tonight was really fun and it was great to see so many old and new friends. I nearly fainted when Donald Kroodsma, author of the wonderful book, The Singing Life of Birds (and other awesome publications!) came up and introduced himself. It was such an honor that he came to hear our talk and he bought several copies of our book, too! Geoff LeBaron, longtime Director of the Christmas Bird Count at National Audubon came, too, along with several local naturalists and friends! 
Great friends, our book well received at a wonderful independent book store, and some time outdoors with friends ... life is good!

Can you tell that I'm having fun?!?!  :-)  Yes indeed, I'm enjoying the book tour immensely, and Kenn and I are both very grateful to the amazing team at Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt for arranging such a dynamic (and fun!) schedule! 

Here, in totally random order, are some highlights of the tour, so far! 

European Mantis
Separated from Chinese Mantis by the black and white "bull's-eye" on the inside
of the front leg of the European Mantis
While we were in the Cape Cod area we stopped to sign books
at the aMAZing Bird Watcher's General Store!
We even got to go birding with Mike O'Connor, the owner of the
 store and a super awesome guy!  

While we were in the Boston area we gave a presentation to several classes of 6th and 7th graders,
 and even got to take one class outside to do some nature studies using the new field guide.
Here's Kenn with part of his group of students

I call this photo "Wood Sandpiper Feet."
Obviously not the feet of the actual bird, but the feet of unprepared birders (me and Kenn!)  who were  really
determined to see this rare bird and willing to slog through the marsh in street shoes to get to it!


We've already had some wonderful experiences on the tour and we still have more than a week to go!  


Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Tour Big 350: shoe moth and other novelties

From New Canaan, Connecticut, Kenn writes:  Last night we reported that our big book tour list had soared to 260 species.  Today our pace slowed way down, but we added a few things.

Today we were dealing with people, mostly, not nature.  Kimberly and I both had to attend to correspondence related to a big conservation effort back in Ohio; we gave an afternoon program to a wonderful audience at the New Canaan Public Library; then we got together with our great friend Fred Baumgarten, with whom I had worked at National Audubon Society back in the late 1980s.  But when we got back to the hotel room, well after dark, we got a new species for the trip literally IN our room.
Velvetbean Caterpillar Moth: a southern species that wanders northward in fall, but hardly something that we'd expected to find in Connecticut.
We mentioned on the blog a couple of days ago that we had slogged through a marsh in Rhode Island to see a rare Wood Sandpiper.  Our shoes had gotten pretty skanky during that adventure, so today I had washed my shoes in the sink and set them outside on the porch to dry.  When we got back late this evening I brought them in - still very wet, still a bit rank - and after I brought them inside, we noticed a moth sitting on one shoe.  Some moths are attracted to bait such as animal droppings, carrion, or rotting fruit, so this moth's fascination with my shoe is not a good sign!

We've seen this species in the past, but couldn't remember the name. Fortunately, moth expert Ken Childs came through with a quick ID: it's a Velvetbean Caterpillar Moth (Anticarsia gemmatalis), a common southern species that invades northward in fall.  It's rare in New England, so we hadn't expected to see it here, and hadn't included it in our field guide!

Other new things for the list today included Red-breasted Nuthatch (finally) and Wild Geranium.  We're up to 265 now, but we'll have to average better than 10 new species per day from now on if we're going to hit 350 by the end of the tour.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Tour Big 350: We break 250!

From New Canaan, Connecticut, Kenn writes: If you've been following our story so far, you know that we're several days into the book tour for the Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England, officially published last Tuesday.  We are speaking and signing books every day for 15 days, traveling through all 6 New England states.  To make the trip more fun and more interesting, our friends at the publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) suggested that we should take on a challenge: identify at least 350 species of living things in the wild in New England before the tour ends.  Kimberly and I always like a challenge, so we've been working on this as time permits, dashing out to areas of good habitat to look for more plants and animals for the list. 

Fall colors seem to be near their peak in southern Connecticut right now. The maples are ablaze with red, with the oaks adding darker reds and browns and the birches adding yellow to the mix. Traveling around New England at this season is hardly a rough assignment.
Late October is a wonderful season for fall colors in New England, but it's not the prime time to find the widest variety of nature here.  Most flowers have finished blooming for the season, most butterflies have ceased flying, other insects in general are past their main period of activity, and some of the birds already have departed for the south.  If the weather had turned cold a week ago, we might be struggling to find enough variety to meet our goal.  But we've been lucky: the weather is unseasonably warm, so we've found several kinds of butterflies, frogs, and other half-hardy creatures. 

Kimberly spotted this Eastern Newt in a small pond at the Greenwich Audubon Center. Warm weather has kept the amphibians active; we heard Spring Peepers calling at several places.

Yesterday (as reported in a previous post) we saw a rare Wood Sandpiper and other choice things in Rhode Island, then traveled to southwest Connecticut to visit the Greenwich Audubon Center.  We were lucky to stay overnight at the center, so we got out to hike around there this morning before going to a guest appearance on BirdCallsRadio.  Later we went on to New Canaan, where we are giving a program at the public library tomorrow. Walking around the trails at the New Canaan Nature Center, we saw several new things for the trip list, including Wood Ducks, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and White-tailed Deer.
At the New Canaan Nature Center in Connecticut, we heard the odd catlike yowl of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and tracked it down for a look. Sapsuckers are migrating right now, so we had hoped to catch up with one.
As Kimberly reported two nights ago, we were at about 175 species before yesterday, but we hadn't had time to count up again until tonight.  Our trip tally now stands at 260!  Getting to 350 is looking more reasonable now, but it won't necessarily be a walk in the park.  We've used up most of the common and easy birds, trees, shrubs, mammals, and hardy insects, and we'll have to work for every addition from now on.  But with 9 days to rack up another 90 species, we think we can do it!  We'll keep you posted on our progress. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Tour Big 350: Wood Sandpiper and Audubon Greenwich

From Greenwich, Connecticut, Kenn writes:  It has been a long day and our eyes are barely open, but we wanted to at least mention a couple of highlights from today.

After last night's presentation to the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, we couldn't bear to leave the Ocean State without at least trying for the Wood Sandpiper that had been present at Marsh Meadows Preserve near Jamestown, RI, for the last several days.  This Old World shorebird has been found only a handful of times ever in the Lower 48 States.  So we set the alarm for 6 and drove down to meet our friend Drew Wheelan at Jamestown. 

Drew and Kimberly and I spent quite a while slogging around in the marsh on the west side of the road, in areas where the sandpiper had been seen on other days, and finally got the word that the bird had just been relocated on the east side of the road.  It took a soggy hike of half a mile to get to the right spot, but once we arrived, we had long, satisying looks at this elegant little wader. Kimberly even got some good digiscoped photos through Drew's telescope.  At least 40 other people were there looking at the Wood Sandpiper, and among the crowd we were delighted to run into our old friend Geoff LeBaron, who has been editor of all the Christmas Bird Counts for National Audubon Society since the late 1980s. 

Wood Sandpiper in Rhode Island on October 20, 2012. Digiscoped photo by Kimberly Kaufman.
The marsh area and bordering woods provided many other new species for our big 350 challenge: birds such as Saltmarsh Sparrow and American Black Duck, plants such as Marsh Elder and Winged Sumac, and even insects such as European Mantis. 

After a quick stop at the Point Judith Lighthouse, we left Rhode Island and headed west through Connecticut.  Our destination was the famous Audubon Center at Greenwich - one of the first Audubon Centers established, decades ago, and still a leader in nature education.  I had spoken there before, but this was Kimberly's first visit.  Arriving in late afternoon we hiked around, adding some more species to our list, then went to an evening reception and gave our program again.  It was another warm and wonderful audience, leaving us feeling inspired all over again.  We stayed up late after the program, talking with some of our young friends who work at the Center, and now I'm trying to write a quick blog post before I'm overtaken by sleep. 

We haven't added up our list with today's additions, but there were many new ones, from mammals such as Woodchuck to moths such as Lunate Zale.  Surely we are over 200 species by now.  We'll try to update sometime tomorrow!


Friday, October 19, 2012

350 Species - Challenge Accepted!

From Providence, Rhode Island, Kimberly Writes:  We began our day with a visit to the Cape Cod National Seashore.  In order to try and add some species to our list for the Book Tour Big 350 Species Challenge, we first hit one of the wooded walking trails and had great success, adding many plants, trees, and even some insects.  

From the woods we headed for the beach.  Both of us love the ocean, and with the winds really whipping out of the East/Southeast, we both hoped to catch a glimpse of a few seabirds.  We weren't disappointed.   There were squadrons of Northern Gannets everywhere, numbering in at least the hundreds.  There was never a point during our watch that we couldn't see multiple Gannets in the air. Interesting to both of us was the fact that they were nearly all adults.
Northern Gannets against a rolling surf
In addition to the gannets, we also had huge rafts of Common Eiders, three Scoter species (Black, Surf, and White-winged),  and we even had nice looks at a Greater Shearwater! We stayed longer than we should have, considering the rest of the day's schedule, but since we're driving the Nature Mobile Hot Rod we figured it was no big deal to make it on time! 


The Nature Mobile Hot Rod
Coz this is how we roll!

It was hard to tear ourselves away from an awesome sea watch, but we had to head for Providence to give a presentation for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island tonight.  

It was a packed house and the audience was wonderful. We signed lots and lots of books afterward, too!  Conservation giant, Drew Wheelen, came to hear our talk and Kenn and I were both honored to meet him.  Drew did remarkable work during the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and his bold and courageous work in revealing the real story of the spill's catastrophic impact on wildlife was nothing short of heroic. 

We enjoyed the evening immensely, and now we're back in our hotel room in Providence tallying our species list.  As of last night we were at 114, but with today's success we surpassed the 175 mark!  

200, here we come!  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Tour Big 350: Sightings in the City

From Boston, Mass., Kenn writes:  So far we've had very little time to walk around outside; so after 2 days, the species list from our book tour is still under 100.  But we've had some good sightings even in urban Boston. 
Red Admirals had a very good flight in 2012 - here's a photo of one from Ohio from last April. On October 17th, we saw a lingering individual in downtown Boston.

With our book tour happening so late in the season, we figured we wouldn't be seeing many butterflies or other insects, but Kimberly spotted a Red Admiral flying right past the car as we crossed a bridge on our way into downtown Boston. With temperatures predicted to reach the mid 60s on Thursday, we might see a few other butterflies down on Cape Cod.

This morning (Wednesday the 17th) we got to visit with classes at Pierce Middle School in Milton.  Science teacher Jeff Stoodt invited us to come speak to an assembly of 6th and 7th grade classes, and later in the morning we went out on the school grounds with one of his classes.  Jeff is one of those natural educators who loves to share ideas and fascination, not just facts, and his students were already energized with his enthusiasm, so we had fun exploring the school grounds with these kids.  And we found a number of new species for our Big 350 list.  As a group, we all used the new KFG to Nature of New England to identify Sugar Maples, Eastern Gray Squirrels, and other schoolyard life.  A weedy patch on the lawn revealed Common Mallow, Shepherd's Purse, Common Dandelion, and other new plants for the tally.  As I said, we're still under 100 species, but we'll try to have an exact count for you by tomorrow night!

Book Tour Big 350

From Cambridge, Mass., Kenn writes:  Our book tour for KFG to Nature of New England will take us through all 6 New England states, October 16-30, with public programs, book signings, media interviews, store visits, etc., so we're going to be somewhat busy for the next two weeks.  Our friends Taryn, Lisa, and Katrina at the publishing company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, decided that we weren't going to be quite busy enough, so they suggested a challenge: "Why don't you try to identify 350 species of living things while you're traveling through New England?" 

As evidence of how crazy we are, Kim and I immediately said Yes to the idea.  Why not, indeed?  New England is loaded with natural wonders; and even in late October, past the main season for butterflies and flowers, after many birds have flown south, we are still going to see a lot of nature over the course of 15 days.  So that's our listing challenge: the Book Tour Big 350!

We arrived in Boston late at night on the 15th, and on the 16th we were running around to 4 different stops, but on the fly we were identifying trees along the roadside at 55 mph: "Look! Eastern White Pine!" "There's an Eastern Sycamore!" "Hey! Shagbark Hickory!"  And of course we were seeing birds along the way: not only Herring Gulls and House Sparrows, but a variety of other things like Hairy Woodpecker and Brown Creeper when we pulled into the Mass Audubon center at Drumlin Farm at dusk.  We decided that we could certainly count anything we heard, so calling Carolina Wrens and Northern Cardinals made the list.  After one day, we have names of birds and trees and weeds scribbled on pieces of paper and we haven't been able to count them up yet (we have to be at a school this morning to give a program at 8 a.m.!) but we think we must be close to 75 species already.  Wish us luck!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Tour Schedule!

From on the way out the door in Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes:  We're heading to Boston to start our trip to introduce the brand-new Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of New England!  The official publication date is Tuesday, Oct. 16, and we will kick things off at the New England Wild Flower Society and Massachusetts Audubon Society before going on to events in all six New England states.  We are looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting lots of new friends as we travel through one of our favorite regions in the world!

Here's a preliminary schedule; we will try to update this with more information as we get more details.  We are immensely grateful to Taryn Roeder and her staff at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for making arrangements for this whole tour.


Here's our new "baby" - its official "birthday" is October 16th!

October 16 at Framingham, Massachusetts: 12:30 p.m. program and book signing at New England Wild Flower Society. More information is here.

October 16 at Lincoln, Massachusetts: 7:00 p.m. program and book signing at Massachusetts Audubon Society's Drumlin Farm. More details are here.

October 17 at Cambridge, Massachusetts:  7:00 p.m. lecture at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

October 18 at Brewster, Massachusetts: 7:00 p.m. program and book signing at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. More details are here.

October 19 at Bristol, Rhode Island:  7:00 p.m. program and book signing at the Environmental Education Center of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. More information is here.

October 20 at Greenwich, Connecticut: 6:00 p.m. reception, followed by a program and book signing, at the Greenwich Audubon Center. Please RSVP. More details are here.

October 22 at New Canaan, Connecticut: 3:00 p.m. program at the New Canaan Library as part of the library's "Authors on Stage" series.

October 23 at South Hadley, Massachusetts: 7:00 p.m., program and book signing at Odyssey Books.

October 24 at Concord, New Hampshire: 7:00 p.m. program and book signing at Gibson's Bookstore.

October 25 at Exeter, New Hampshire: 7:00 p.m. program and book signing at the Water Street Bookstore. More details are here.

October 26 at Falmouth, Maine: 7:00 p.m. program and book signing at Maine Audubon Society's center at Gilsland Farm. More details are here.

October 27 at North Conway, New Hampshire: Program and book signing at White Birch Books or Tin Mountain Conservation Center. Time to be determined.

October 28 at Hancock, New Hampshire:  Program and book signing at the Harris Center for Conservation Education. Presented in conjunction with Toadstool Bookshop and New Hampshire Audubon.  Time to be determined. 

October 29 at Keene, New Hampshire: 7:00 program and book signing at the Toadstool Bookshop.

October 30 in Montpelier, Vermont: 7:00 p.m. program and book signing at Bear Pond Books, in an event co-sponsored by North Branch Nature Center. More information is here.

Additional stops: More things may be added to this schedule at the last minute, but we will try to update as these things come up.

Our listing challenge for the tour:  Just in case we weren't going to be busy enough on this trip, we decided to give ourselves a challenge:  we are going to try to identify 350 species of living things while we're in New England on the tour.  That number would be easy to achieve in a few days if we were there in summer, when flowers are blooming, butterflies are flying, etc., but it will be more of a challenge in the latter half of October, especially when we're trying to keep a tight schedule.  Wish us luck!  We'll write more about this in a separate post, and we'll try to keep providing updates as we're traveling.    
This is what we look like BEFORE the tour!  It is possible that we will be slightly more bedraggled after 15 days, 6 states, and 350 species!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Help Protect a Globally Important Bird Area from Improperly Placed Wind Turbines


CITIZEN CALL TO ACTION:  Help BSBO's efforts to stop a wind turbine proposed for a Globally Important Bird Area in Ottawa County

We hope you will email your Name, City, State, Zip, and email address (with "RWE" in the subject line) to: ResponsibleWindEnergy@bsbo.org to support our efforts on the troubling issue outlined below. Your name will then be included along with an official letter that BSBO, along with other conservation organizations, will be submitting to local, state, and federal officials.

Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) has learned of proposal to place a large wind turbine at the Camp Perry National Guard facility on the Lake Erie shoreline, just a few miles east of the world-famous birding hotspot of Magee Marsh.   The Camp Perry facility itself includes wooded areas near the Lakeshore that provide important stopover habitat for migratory songbirds.

The site also lies directly between the Darby Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and the Navarre Marsh, site of BSBO's primary songbird banding research station, where we have banded more than 500,000 songbirds over the last 20+ years.  In other words, the site lies deep within one of
the most sensitive migration stopover habitats in the Midwest.

BSBO filed for all relevant documents from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources under the Sunshine Law. The documents show that both our federal and state wildlife agencies have listed multiple reasons why this site is not suitable for wind turbines.  Reasons cited in these documents include, but are not limited to:
- The site's proximity to an active Bald Eagle nest
- The high number of Bald Eagles that have been documented using the area
- The site lies deep within a highly sensitive area for migrating passerines, waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors
- The site poses high potential for impact on the Federally Endangered Kirtland's Warbler and Piping Plovers
- The site is part of a National Audubon designated Important Bird Area
- The site is part of a Partners In Flight designated Globally Important Bird Area
- The site is part of a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network designated area of Regional significance for shorebirds

* And most recently, in their comments evaluating the final Environmental Assessment (EA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ohio Department of Resources basically shred the EA, collectively calling out close to 50 erroneous and misleading statements in the document.

Based on this information, and the amount of data that BSBO's research has gathered to demonstrate the volume of migratory birds that rely on the stopover habitat in this region, BSBO's position is that this site presents high risk for migratory birds and it is irresponsible for the federal government to allow its installation on this site.

I want to be absolutely clear: BSBO is not simply saying no to wind energy; rather, we have expressed a sincere willingness to work with any and all stakeholder groups to develop alternate sites and alternate technologies that will allow us to support Responsible Wind Energy.  We are asking for your support of our position. Since the facility is part of the Department of Defense, there are some issues that we fear could allow them to proceed with this project in spite of the overwhelming comments against it expressed by the state and federal wildlife agencies.

Citizen action can have an enormous impact, and I encourage you to sign on to our efforts.  We met with National Audubon this week and their Chief Scientist has agreed to write a letter of support for our efforts, stressing the importance of responsible placement of wind turbines in Important Bird Areas.  We've issued this call to action to every conservation organization in Ohio (and a few in neighboring states).  Adding the names of concerned citizens will put those in charge of administering this project on notice that our very active birding community is watching, and that we hold them up to the highest possible standards as a federal facility. Here, in this area that is of global significance to migratory birds, we must ensure that the habitat these birds depend on is given the utmost consideration.

If you are willing to include your name in support of our position, please email the following information to: ResponsibleWindEnergy@bsbo.org  and please put RWE in the subject line.

Name
City, State, Zip
eMail address

Thank you,

Kimberly

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Black Swamp Bird Observatory Needs Your Help!


CITIZEN CALL TO ACTION: Help BSBO's efforts to stop a wind turbine proposed for a Globally Important Bird Area 

We hope you will email your Name, City, State, Zip, to: ResponsibleWindEnergy@bsbo.org to support our efforts on the troubling issue outlined below. Your name will then be included along with an official letter that BSBO, along with many other conservation organizations, will be submitting to local, state, and federal officials. 

Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) has learned of proposal to place a huge wind turbine at the Camp Perry National Guard facility on the Lake Erie shoreline, just a few miles east of the world-famous birding hotspot of Magee Marsh.   The Camp Perry facility itself includes wooded areas near the Lakeshore that provide important stopover habitat for migratory songbirds.  The site also lies directly between the Darby Unit of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and the Navarre Marsh, site of BSBO's primary songbird banding research station, where we have banded more than 500,000 songbirds over the last 20+ years.  In other words, the site lies deep within one of the most sensitive migration stopover habitats in the Midwest.   Many birders are familiar with the Camp Perry site since the public access beach on the facility provides important habitat for migratory shorebirds.  Local bird enthusiasts are also likely to recognize the facility as home to an active Bald Eagle nest visible from State Route 2. 

BSBO filed for all relevant documents from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources under the Sunshine Law. The documents show that both our federal and state wildlife agencies have listed multiple reasons why this site is not suitable for wind turbines.  Reasons cited in these documents include, but are not limited to:
- The site’s proximity to an active Bald Eagle nest
- The high number of Bald Eagles that have been documented using the area
- The site lies deep within a highly sensitive area for migrating passerines, waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors
- The site poses high potential for impact on the Federally Endangered Kirtland's Warbler and Piping Plovers
- The site is part of a National Audubon designated Important Bird Area
- The site is part of a Partners In Flight designated Globally Important Bird Area
- The site is part of a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network designated area of Regional significance for shorebirds

Based on these documents, and on the staggering amount of data that BSBO has gathered to demonstrate the volume of migratory birds that rely on the stopover habitat in this region, BSBO's position is that this site is unsuitable for a wind turbine.  However, BSBO is not simply saying no to wind energy; rather, we have expressed a sincere willingness to work with any and all stakeholder groups to develop alternate sites and alternate technologies that will allow us to support Responsible Wind Energy.  We are asking for your support of our position.

If you are willing to include your name in support of our position, or if you know an organization or agency that would be willing to sign on to the official letter BSBO will be submitting to all parties involved with this project, please email the following information to: ResponsibleWindEnergy@bsbo.org 

Name
City, State, Zip

Thank you for helping BSBO protect and conserve migratory bird habitat. 
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