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Showing posts from November, 2008

Purple On The Rocks

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From northern Ohio, Kenn writes: Okay, the name of the "Purple" Sandpiper is an exaggeration. The feathers just have a faint purple sheen when they're freshly molted, all right? But these birds are impressive for deeper reasons than just their color. We were reminded of that during our day of birding the Lake Erie shoreline in blizzard conditions on Nov. 18. Kim already told you about our visit to Huron Harbor early in the day (see her post "Extreme Birding"). The highlight of the afternoon came at Headlands Beach State Park, east of Cleveland, where we found two Purple Sandpipers along the breakwater. The Purple Sandpiper is an incredibly tough creature. Its nesting range straddles the Arctic Circle in eastern Canada, mostly in areas that few birders ever visit. It stays in that freezing Arctic climate until very late in the fall. Then it just comes south to the colder regions of the Atlantic Coast, where it spends the winter scrambling around on coastal rock

Viva la Guia, Indeed! BEWARE--This gets kinda mushy!

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Kim Writes: When Kenn and I first started getting acquainted, it was a loooong distance relationship that took place almost entirely by phone. He was still in Tucson, Arizona, and I was in Carey, Ohio. I still remember the very first words he said to me when I finally got up the nerve to call him on the phone. In a very deep (and very sexy) voice he said, simply ~ “This is Kenn.” It took me a couple of seconds to recover and respond because my heart was saying, "This is the love of your life!" I love it when my heart's right!! After the initial “wow moment” our conversations deepened, and we shared things with each other that we’d never shared with another soul. I was totally in love with him after the first two or three conversations---and then he told me about the Guia ! He was fighting to get it published and facing some pretty serious adversity. The costs were mounting, and he sounded determined, but battle weary. I was incredibly moved by his vision and dedicatio

Viva la Guia

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From Cloud Nine over Ohio, Kenn writes: Lisa White, my editor for the last several years at my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, e-mailed me a short while ago with some very good news. First, some background. From the time my field guide to North American birds was published, in October 2000, I had this ambition to bring out a version of the book in Spanish. I'd been living in Arizona, traveling a lot in California and Texas and Florida, and I knew that I heard a lot of Spanish being spoken on the street. The latest census figures at the time showed that something like 28 million U.S. citizens spoke Spanish at home. Of course, I knew that most of those individuals were bilingual, and could use an English-language bird guide if they really wanted to. But my whole aim was to get more people interested in birds. So I figured, why not give them a bird guide written in the language in which they were most comfortable? The opportunity came a few years later. The publisher decide

The Luck of the Amish

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From Holmes County, Ohio, Kenn writes: When I moved to Ohio about four years ago, one of the big surprises for me was to learn that the east-central part of the state has a very active community of Amish birders. The Amish country centered on Holmes County, Ohio, attracts many tourists. This is partly because it's the most beautiful rural country you can imagine, and partly for the novelty of seeing the traditional lifestyle of the Amish people, living without electricity and traveling by horse and buggy. The lifestyle may be "simple" in some ways but there's nothing simple about the people, who are hard-working and savvy and well educated about the world. And some of them are extremely sharp birders, attuned to every callnote overhead and every flit in the thickets, aware of every bird in their surroundings. Some of Ohio's top birders happen to be Amish, and it's a pleasure and an inspiration to go birding with them. None of their beliefs prevent the Ami

Extreme Birding

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From Huron, Ohio, Kim Writes: You have the sense that a birding trip—any trip—is going be good when it starts out looking like this~ Today I did something that I’ ve wanted to do for years. I spent the day freezing my bird-loving behind off birding the Eastern Lake Erie shore line with a very fine group of boys. My posse included: Kenn Kaufman, Robert Hershberger (of Time & Optics LTD), Samuel Weaver, Phil Chaon , Jeb Chaon , and Ethan Kistler . Our first stop was the Huron Harbor. I have never seen so many Bonaparte’s Gulls in my life! Seriously. The place would have made Alfred Hitchcock run screaming. We estimated somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 at the end of the break wall. The sight and sounds of the massive flock were almost overwhelming; but at the same time, completely wonderful. “ Bonee ’s” are such sleek, elegant gulls. Alongside the Ring-billed Gulls in the area, they made the Ring- billeds look lumpy and dumpy. Yes, it sucked to be a Ring-billed at this

A Pretty Cool Day...Literally and Figuratively!

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From "Home Base", Kim writes: After attending the 75th annual banquet of the Toledo Naturalists’ Association (TNA) last night, this morning I loaded up 12 lucky TNA members (chosen from a lottery) and, along with Kenn and guest star Pete Dunne, I took them all birding to some of our favorite spots, i.e., Magee Marsh and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Believe it or not, this was Mr. Dunne’s first visit to our area. I took a photo just to prove he was actually here. He teasingly told me that he was going back to New Jersey and telling everyone that he hadn’t seen a single warbler, and that the place had been seriously overrated. I told him he had to come back in May. He told me he’d have to retire first. At some point during the trip I had this sort of weird experience where time and space were passing by in snapshot moments. I realized that I was driving this awesome bus owned by the bird observatory where I am the director, and I was chauffeuring two of the world’s mos

Birders and Rockers

From Port Clinton, Ohio, Kenn writes: So, yeah, we're crazed about birds, but that's not the only thing in our life. We're also crazed about everything else in nature, from butterflies to bats, from fish to ferns, from reptiles to rocks. Especially rocks. We spent last night rocking out with our classic-rock band, 6-7-8-OH, playing a major gig at Mango Mama's in Port Clinton. There were probably more than 200 people there at the peak of the night. Kim is the lead singer, and I'm not exaggerating when I say she's fabulous; people go crazy when she launches into hits from Led Zepplin or Pat Benatar or Bon Jovi. I'm the bass player, so I get to hang out on the back of the stage with the drummer and enjoy the scene from that perspective. The local paper did a story about the band a couple of nights before the gig, and it was the first time I'd seen myself referred to in print as "a noted bird expert and bass guitarist" -- no kidding! But there are

Galapagos memories

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From somewhere out in cyberspace, Kenn writes: Just looking at the calendar (and at the falling thermometer) and realizing that a year ago today, we were on the Equator, in the Galapagos Islands. I was one of the leaders on a tour organized by Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. Although I'd been there before, this was Kim's first visit to those famous and enchanted islands. The bird on the Galapagos that everyone has heard about is the Blue-footed Booby. And, admittedly, it's hard to ignore. Sailors in centuries past called these birds "boobies" because they seemed too dumb to be afraid of humans. Actually, they (like the other birds on the Galapagos) evolved in a setting where there weren't any large predators on land, so they have no natural instinct to fear us. What they do have is really impressive blue feet. Birders who come here are interested to see the Blue-footed Boobies, of course, but we also want to see everything else, and there are a lot of ot

Landing in The Valley

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From Harlingen, Texas, Kenn writes: What could be more festive than a big gathering of birders? A big gathering of birders in the southernmost tip of Texas! The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival , held every November in Harlingen, was one of the first birding festivals established in North America (2008 is its 15th year), and it's still one of the best. Kim and I were here together in 2004 and we're back this year because I'm giving the keynote talk tonight. Although, as I pointed out to the organizers, they don't have to twist our arms to get us to come here. For sheer variety year-round, the lower Rio Grande Valley is probably the single best birding area in the United States. It features a lot of species that you just can't find anywhere else north of the border, like the spectacular Green Jay (pictured here), a big colorful flycatcher called the Great Kiskadee (after its raucous call), the huge Ringed Kingfisher, the spunky little Least Grebe, and many mor