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Showing posts from 2008

Off to the White Continent...

From--Home Base (for a few more minutes): Kim writes: Well, folks, this is it. Kenn and I are on our way out the door, onto a plane, and off on the adventure of a lifetime--ANTARCTICA! I got two words for ya ~ BABY PENGUINS! woooo--hoooo!!!! We'll make every attempt to stay in touch during the trip, but just in case we can't, my techno-savvy husband has some surprises lined up for readers of this blog that you will not want to miss--so keep checking in! Here's a link to our trip itinerary , so you can at least "follow along" if you'd like. http://ventbird.com/system/tour_departure/legacy_itinerary/904/509AN.pdf And here's a link the the trip writeup from the Victor Emanuel Nature Tours website to give you an idea of what this trip will be like: http://ventbird.com/birding-tour/2009/01/05/antarctica-south-georgia-the-falklands We wish you all the happiest, healthiest, birdiest New Year, and look forward to sharing it with you! I am soooo excit

Extreme Bird Feeding

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From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kim writes: While the weather here in northwest Ohio the last few days has been downright balmy, we suffered through a stretch of incredibly brutal weather for several days. Temps at or near zero, 25+ mile per hour winds, and everything was coated with a thick layer of ice. It was really hard to force ourselves to even go outside. Several Christmas Bird Counts scheduled for last weekend were canceled. You KNOW it's rough outside when birders decide not to do CBCs. As a result of the weather, I spent a great deal of time last weekend keeping the feeders filled at the Observatory. Turns out, that can be interpreted in a couple of ways, depending upon your perspective. What I meant by "filled feeders" was this.... A human's idea of "bird food"... And, here's what "filled feeders" means from a different perspective... Oh yeah! Look at all that bird food... This immature Red-tailed Hawk must be really desperate. It

Holiday Gift Guide: Binoculars the day after

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Second sight: binoculars from your past might be able to see into the future. From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: Holiday gift-giving this year may have been less splendiferous than usual, but it’s a safe bet that some birders received high-quality binoculars. Maybe these were gifts from partners or parents or friends, or some birders may have decided to splurge on gifts for themselves. One way or another, right now some birders will be looking at birds through brand-new lenses. Kim and I have some important advice for you. It’s not about what kind of binoculars you should have bought; we have our favorites, of course, but there are many great optics available today. No, this is advice about what to do AFTER you’ve tried out your new binoculars, gotten used to them, fallen in love with them. At that point, ask yourself: What are you going to do with your old binoculars? That’s assuming that you had old ones. If these are your first, congratulations! Just file this advice away fo

Happy Holidays from Kenn & Kim

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From "Home for the Holidays", Kenn & Kim write: Please accept some of our favorite nature photos as our gift to you this holiday season. Blue-footed Booby feet Clay-colored Sparrow Sharp-shinned Hawk Cardinal Flower A tiny seed that looks like a ballerina Connecticut Warbler A lovely American Goldfinch nest Pied-billed Grebe Blackburnian Warbler Blue Cohosh IO Moth Cape May Warbler Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season ~ and always, Kenn & Kim

Ice, Ice, Baby

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From Port Clinton, Ohio, Kenn writes: We braved the intense cold and the ice-covered roads last night to go to band practice, and then the weather socked us anyway: Sully, our lead guitar player, was called away for an emergency having to do with pipes freezing and bursting. The rest of the band spent a while working out chord progressions of new material anyway before calling it a night. At some point, messing around, I started playing the famous bassline from the hit "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Queen -- the same bassline that was lifted, essentially note for note, by Vanilla Ice for his hit single rap classic "Ice Ice Baby." Kim had performed this song a couple of times with her old band, Four Thorn Rose, not as a planned part of the show but to fill in time while someone changed a broken guitar string. Sure enough, as soon as I started playing the bassline, Kim jumped in with the lyric, delivering it with tons of rapper attitude: Will it ever stop, yo

Seriously Buzzed

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From Home Base, Kim Writes: I know that in the dead of winter in Ohio the last thing you'd think I'd be thinking about are hummingbirds. But yesterday, while looking thro ugh my collection of bad fuzzy videos, I found one that I thought I had lost. You can't imagine how happy I was to find this, in spite of its entry into the bad fuzzy video vault. I know the video is tiny on the screen (if anyone has suggestions on how I can make this work more effectively, please share!) it's sort of out of focus, and in general, kind of crappy, but please take a look at it anyway. I hope that as fellow birders you'll understand how blessed I felt as I witnessed this tiny creature growing, learning, and ultimately striking out on "his" own. Buzzed on sugar water delivered by his Mama, who took advantage of the feeder in our yard, "Junior" tests his wings. He would sit quietly for long periods, but, as soon as Mama brought him some sugar, he would become ver

Bird Photo Quiz Quiz

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From Birding Central, Kenn writes: Back when "publishing" always involved ink and paper, a Photo Quiz was popular in various bird magazines. A challenging photo (or two or three) would be presented in one issue of the magazine, with the answer(s) to be revealed in the next issue. Birders would study the photos and their field guides, discuss the quiz with their pals, then wait a month or two or three for the next issue to see if they’d gotten the answer right. Today, in the age of online publishing, photo quizzes are legion. There are literally dozens of "mystery bird" photos posted every week on websites and blogs. Followers of these quizzes wait only days for the answers, not weeks or months. Other things have changed as well: birders researching a tricky photo today are more likely to look for pictures on the internet, and a fair percentage of those online photos will be misidentified or mislabelled. And when the online quiz posts its answer, there’s a chance th

The CBC Shuffle

From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kim writes: We had a great time on the Toledo CBC, which is run by the Toledo Naturalists' Association, a group that can make any experience fun. Case in point... Check this out. I know it's kind of dark, but just look at my CBC Comrades as they seek to rid themselves of a "sticky" situation that we found ourselves in after we took a wrong turn down a VERY muddy road. Don't they l ook like some strange species dancing on a lek? * Note - There are a few females in the video, but they seem pretty unaffected by the displaying males. Hey Kenn, maybe next year we could do a CBC in, ohhh..I don't know...Key Largo?!

I'll be CBC-ing you ...

From under a pile of blankets, Kenn writes: Okay, picture this. It's Sunday morning -- yesterday morning, and we're out before it's fully daylight, standing in the soggy weeds along the edge of a soggy woods. The temperature is above freezing, but the only way we know that is because the wind-driven precipitation hitting our faces is rain, not ice. And my thoughts are running something like this: - According to a US Fish & Wildlife Service survey in 2006, there are approximately 81,400,000 bird watchers in the United States. - If that's true, then last year, there were 81,353,380 bird watchers in the United States who did not take part in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). But last year set a new high record for participation! Standing there in the freezing wet night and thinking about it, I'm reminded of the late lamented Rick Blom, who might have commented that "no one does this, and if you try it, you'll understand why." Still, we are

"Owl" be seeing you in all the old familiar places...

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From home base, Kim writes: Yesterday I spent a wintery day with a bunch of friends and colleagues at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area ( KPWA ) in Central Ohio. We were meeting to discuss plans for our Ohio Young Birders Club (more on that later) and we used the excuse to get out and do some birding. We were hoping to locate the White-winged Crossbills that had been reported in the area, but missed them. They're such nomads. I really admire that about them in spite of the fact that it makes them so darn hard to see. One neat thing we did see yesterday was a group of 20+ Eastern Meadowlarks. (These were the Eastern-Eastern Meadowlarks, not the Southwestern-Eastern Meadowlarks that Kenn discussed in an earlier post.) KPWA is one of the few places where you can reliably see them in Ohio in winter. They hang out near a barn that's used to stable horses, and roost inside the barn when the weather gets really rough. Really cool to see that splash of sunshine-yellow against a pre

Two New Birds

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From Rocky Ridge, Ohio, Kenn writes: If you’ve traveled much in North America, especially in the West, your life list may soon go up by two species. Something to sing about: we may have three meadowlark species. The October 2008 issue of The Auk, the scientific journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU), was mailed late, and I just received my copy. But among the technical papers in this issue were two that could affect how some birds are classified. One study presented evidence that North America has three species of meadowlarks, not two. Another paper gave evidence that the Western Scrub-Jay should be split into two species. Changes like this won’t become official until they’re voted on by the AOU’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (more affectionately known as the AOU Check-list Committee). This is the committee that establishes the standardized names and species limits that we see in field guides and bird checklists for North and Central America. But with

Old Friends New Again

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From Home Sweet Home, Kim writes: I've spent the better part of the last two days preparing a presentation about the trip we took to the Galapagos last November. Kenn and I will be giving the talk together (which is so fun!) tomorrow night at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge ( ONWR ). ONWR is the Observatory's neighbor, just a half mile west of the marsh that BSBO lives in. We have a very strong working relationship with the refuge staff, and we partner on many projects and programs. They're a great bunch of people and do amazing work maintaining habitat for thousands of migratory birds. I feel so blessed to have a refuge in our area, and most of 4500+ acres were purchased with Federal Duck Stamp monies! Every birder should be buying the stamp! My office chair kind of sucks, so as I was putting the talk together, I'd get up and check the feeders every once in a while just to move and stretch a little. Who thinks Kim should get a new office chair for Christmas?

Antarctica vs. Galapagos: clash of claims

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Adelie Penguins: Cool birds, but they're not in a biodiversity hotspot From Birding Central, Kenn writes: If you follow news of the natural world online, you’ve probably seen the stories within the last week: "Antarctic islands surpass Galapagos for biodiversity." The headline has been repeated on dozens of websites and blogs. Everyone is marveling at this news because the Galapagos Islands lie on the Equator, and the generally accepted wisdom has been that biodiversity is greatest in the tropics and decreases toward the poles. That the South Orkney Islands, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, should support more species than the Galapagos Islands is an idea that seems totally amazing. It would be amazing, if it were true. But it isn’t true. We live in an era when information can be flashed around the globe in an instant, perpetuated and multiplied a millionfold, whether it’s accurate or not. If it’s a remarkable piece of information and it seems to come from a

I wonder if Jimi Hendrix was a birder?.....

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From BSBO, Kim writes: One of the best things about working for a bird observatory (my Dad used to call it the Bird Factory.... isn't that funny?!)... anyway, one of the best things about working for BSBO is, of course, the birds! Our office is nestled just along the southern edge of Magee Marsh, and WOW, we get some cool birds coming to our feeders and water garden. Case in point, check out today's special guest. Ka -POW!! Aren't Fox Sparrows amazing? Like some fairy waved her magic wand and out pops a bird that's a combination of a Song Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, and Towhee. I'll never forget seeing my first one. I had been feeding and studying birds in my backyard for awhile, when late one fall I noticed a bird scratching on the ground and thought, Oh cool, a thrush! I grabbed the bins and was shocked to see that, no, it wasn't a thrush. It was some super-sized sparrow and it was rusty red, red, red, all over. It was a life bird for me, right there in my ow

The Finch Forecaster

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From northern Ohio, Kenn writes: This Common Redpoll was outside our window a year ago, in December 2007. It was one of dozens that came to our feeder that month, and one of hundreds that we saw in the general area. This month, we haven’t seen a single one. Redpolls are in the "winter finch" group, and they were the headliners last year. Common Redpolls (and a few of their pale high-Arctic relatives, Hoary Redpolls) were all over the central and eastern U.S. and southern Canada in the winter of 2007-2008. Pine Grosbeaks also moved south in good numbers. So did Red-breasted Nuthatches and Bohemian Waxwings, which are not finches but which are similarly erratic in their winter occurrences. We used to talk about winter finch invasions being "unpredictable," but that’s not accurate. These invasions are caused by changes in the supply of natural wild food in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska, and if we knew enough about what was happening there, we could make pr

Keep on Rockin in the Bird World!

From backstage : ) Kim writes: I wanted to add a bit to Kenn's post about our Friday night gig. The funkiest, most far-out part about our band is the way we came together and got this community ROCKED on to the fact that birds are a major driver of ecotourism dollars in northwest Ohio. Get this. In addition to me and Kenn, our 6-7-8-OH Band members include: On drums - Larry Fletcher, Director of the Ottawa County Visitors' Bureau; On rhythm guitar and vocals - Bob Hille, Ottawa County Treasurer; On rhythm guitar, keyboards, and vocals - Ron Miller, Lake Erie Vacation Rentals; On lead guitar - (and layin it DOWN, brotha), Pat Sullivan, a local entrepreneur How we all came together is a trip. Last spring I launched the “BSBO Business Alliance” initiative. For the most part, the local business community had no idea of the numbers of birders that are starting to pour into our Magee Marsh / Crane Creek area to witness the all-out binocular-burning migration sensation that pumps t

Rocking With The Mayor

From Port Clinton, Ohio, Kenn writes: A few years ago I was the keynote speaker at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska. It was in May, before the rush of tourists that flock to Homer in summer but at the peak of the shorebird migration. The crowd at the festival was getting an eyeful of huge numbers of birds, in addition to educational programs, the spectacular scenery of the surroundings, and the hospitality of the locals. In the spirit of America's last frontier, that was the first time I recall giving a keynote talk wearing jeans, sweatshirt, and hiking boots! But another thing that struck me about the festival was that the mayor of Homer recognized the value of having all these visiting birders in town. The mayor came to my keynote talk, said a few words of welcome to the crowd, and he even came out birding with us the next day. I concluded, right then and there, that it's a good thing if you can get the mayor to attend your special events. Tonight

These are a few of my favorite things....

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From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kim writes: As the Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory , a fair portion of my job falls into the "slightly less than fun" category. Budgets & spreadsheets, policies & procedures, and so on. But, one part of my job that I really enjoy is "shopping" for cool new bird and nature related items to offer in our gift shop. I've been working with Hugh Rose, our gift shop manager, for months planning our holiday strategy , and we found some neat stuff that I wanted to share. A bit about my shopping strategy... One very cool way that I prowl for new stuff is t raveling with Kenn. Being on the road with Kenn is more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. I get to meet so many wonderful people, see amazing birds, and spy on other organizations' gift shops. ; ) This fall we were in Cape May, New Jersey for Cape May Bird Observatory's Autumn Weekend. This is a killer event! Absolutely flawlessly organized, (Sheila & Mar

Feeder Highlight Reel...

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From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kim writes: In Kenn’s last post he offered great information about White-winged Crossbills, including areas to focus your search for them in the field. I just wanted to add that you shouldn’t rule out a visit to your feeding station! Several years ago a White-winged Crossbill visited one of my feeders (in central Ohio) for a couple of days. This individual went strictly for sunflower seeds, and had no trouble using that wicked-cool bill to reach through the screened sides of the feeder to pull out seeds, which it scarfed down like a champ! The feeder was a large hopper-style with plastic-coated wire sides. I actually got a photo of “my” bird, and--if you stop looking at the cool bird for a second--you can see the type of feeder I’m describing so rottenly. Aren't they just the coolest birds?! K enn and I don't keep life lists, per se, but we do keep a list of birds that we see in our yard. Ahem...Okay, we also count birds that we see FROM our yard. In f

Happening Right Now: Crossbill Invasion

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From Birding Central, Kenn writes: In the northeastern quadrant of the U.S. and adjacent southern Canada, this is shaping up to be a huge winter for northern invaders. I’ve written already about Pine Siskins invading southward, and that push is continuing, with flocks reported all over the east. Northern Shrikes have appeared in unusual numbers, and so have Snowy Owls, with many around southeastern Canada and the Midwest. Flocks of Evening Grosbeaks have put in brief appearances in several places. Now, just within the last few days, flocks of White-winged Crossbills have set the hotlines buzzing all over Ohio. Of all the "winter finches," White-winged Crossbills are the most nomadic. They specialize on cones of spruces, hemlocks, and tamaracks, using their trademark crossed bill tips to pry open the cones and get to the seeds. The map here shows their overall range in North America -- but they are never present throughout this range at once. They concentrate where there ar

Never again would birds' song be the same

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From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: It isn’t often that ornithologists get to document an abrupt change in the song of an entire species of bird, but this is exactly what happened less than four years ago. Moreover, it happened with a very common bird, the White-throated Sparrow. This beautifully marked native sparrow nests across the eastern two-thirds of Canada and parts of the northeastern United States, winters commonly in most eastern states, with small numbers throughout the west. It’s a backyard bird for literally millions of bird watchers. You would expect that a sudden change in its song would command the attention of legions of birders. But as far as I know, only one reference book has documented this change in vocal pattern. That reference (I must admit) was my own field guide. It was published in 2000 as the Kaufman Focus Guide to Birds of North America , with a brightly colored cover featuring a Scarlet Tanager. In 2004, however, the marketing department at the publis