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Showing posts from February, 2009

Antarctica, Day Three: Carcass Characters

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From home base in Ohio, Kenn and Kim write: Our first landing of the trip was on the morning of January 9, on Saunders Island in the Falklands (see previous post on "Punks and Saints" posted on Feb. 18). That afternoon we made a second landing, on nearby Carcass Island, also situated in the northwestern part of the Falklands archipelago. Carcass Island isn’t as grim a spot as its name might imply; it was named for a British ship, the HMS Carcass, that visited the region in the 1770s. Today the island is mostly occupied by sheep farming, but it still has a lot of birdlife. Undoubtedly there’s the occasional real carcass around (sheep fall victim to a variety of mishaps, after all, and various sea creatures wash up dead on the beaches), so there’s an open niche for scavengers. A common scavenger here was the Striated Caracara. This bird also occurs in southern South America, but it’s easier to find on the Falklands than anywhere else. The adult Striated Caracara always seem

The Days Are Just Packed

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American Oystercatchers on the beach at Jekyll Island, Georgia From Jekyll Island, Georgia, Kenn and Kim write: Okay, we admit, we stole that title from an old Calvin and Hobbes collection. But it totally applies to our current situation. Ever since we arrived at the Bird Education Network conference on Sunday -- or, actually, ever since we left home to go judge the Ohio Wetlands Conservation Stamp contest early Saturday morning -- we’ve hardly had time to blink, let alone attend to luxuries like blogging or sleeping. By a most amazing coincidence, on our early morning flight out of Columbus on Sunday, we wound up sitting right next to our dear friend (and wonderful artist / author / blogger) Julie Zickefoose. She was headed to Honduras, we to Georgia, and fortunate fate put us not only on the same flight but even in the same seat row. We talked about birds and families and writing and music, and never has a three-hour plane flight passed so quickly. Here at the conference we m

Georgia Geography

From home base in Ohio, Kenn writes: It just occurred to us that we should ward off any potential confusion caused by the popularity of the name "Georgia" in geographic terms. We're in the process of posting, gradually, about our recent Antarctic trip, and one huge highlight of that trip was our four-day visit to South Georgia Island. But we're about to have a four-day visit to an island in south Georgia -- or I should say, in southern coastal Georgia. And these are two different places. South Georgia Island is beautiful, rugged, and remote, isolated in the far South Atlantic at the edge of the Antarctic region. We didn't see anyone there except a couple of British researchers and the other passengers on our ship. The island that we're visiting next week is also beautiful, but not so rugged or remote. It's Jekyll Island, Georgia, and we're going there for the conference of the Bird Education Network. We'll be seeing lots of people there,

Antarctica, Day Three: Punks and Saints

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From Home Base, Kenn and Kim write: We should state up front that the Falkland Islands (or, as the Argentinians would call them, Las Islas Malvinas) are best classified as part of the subantarctic region, not part of Antarctica itself. The islands lie east of the southern tip of South America, and we actually had to travel somewhat north from Ushuaia, Argentina, to get there. After being out at sea all day on January 8, we had the Falklands in sight by very early in the morning on January 9, and we made our first landing of the trip at Saunders Island, in the northwest part of the archipelago, early this morning. Ferried ashore in the Zodiacs, the sturdy inflatable boats that are a mainstay of adventure cruising worldwide, we got an eyeful and earful of wildlife on Saunders Island. This fabulous first stop presented a series of spectacles that kept us gasping with delight for the entire morning. Magellanic Penguins (about which we wrote in our post of Feb. 6) were in the water and o

My eyes have seen the glory....

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Kim writes: Some of you may be wondering why--outside of a few random photos and thoughts--I haven't really attempted to describe the Antarctic experience. In fact, I've been wondering about it myself. Certainly time is a factor. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't. In the Kaufman Universe, life moves at warp speed. But, time (or lack thereof) is not the real problem. It's the trip itself. Unlike Kenn, I was not born with the "travelin' bone." I grew up on a farm in rural Ohio and throughout most of my childhood no one I knew ever went anywhere, to speak of. If someone actually went someplace that required a SUITCASE it was a really big deal! Funny story---When I graduated from High School one of my Aunts got me a set of luggage. Of course I accepted the gift graciously, but inside I was thinking, "You gotta be freakin kidding me with the luggage, right?" (Sorry Aunt Connie! You're the best.) Now, you might think that marrying someone li

GBBC!

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This White-throated Sparrow is just waiting patiently to be counted ... From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: Here's a shout out to ace birder Rob Fergus, who writes the very popular blog over at The Birdchaser and who is also one of the principal organizers of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The GBBC is going on right now, through Monday the 16th (Presidents' Day), and it's easy for anyone to get involved. You can count birds from the comfort of your kitchen window, or you can trek out into the wilderness, and your results will help to give a valuable snapshot of what's happening with birds all over the North American continent this weekend. It's the second-most-fun thing you can do on Valentine's Day (and it may be THE most fun thing you can do on Presidents' Day). It's a great activity for families -- if you're a parent with kids who are lukewarm on birds, get them involved in helping to count and then let them enter the data online an

Antarctica, Day Two: I.D. At Sea

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From home base, Kenn writes: (now that I've been so cutely interrupted by Kim's last post ... That's the thing about Kimmer, I can't stay mad at her for more than a few seconds at a time.) On January 8, when I got out on deck around 5 a.m., we had left the Beagle Channel itself but the islands of Tierra del Fuego were still visible off the stern. Dozens of Sooty Shearwaters and Greater Shearwaters, plus various other seabirds, were around the ship. The last of the land soon disappeared behind us but we would continue to see large numbers of seabirds all day. Most seabirds are beautiful creatures and amazing masters of flight, and in addition, many of them present fascinating challenges in identification. Check this out. I know you can’t see much detail, but this is an unaltered photo taken from the rail of the upper back deck of the ship, with six seabirds captured in the same frame. From left, they’re a young Wandering Albatross, a Brown Skua, three Greater Shearwat

Down With the System

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From Home Base, Kim writes: I woke up this morning thinking about the Antarctic trip. Not that that's unusual. I've thought of little else since we got back! But, last night Kenn and I had dinner with our dear friend Delores Cole. You might recall that I mentioned in an earlier post that Delores was on the trip too. Of course the main topic of conversation was the trip, and we spent a lot of time talking about some of our favorite experiences. So, naturally, I dreamt about it all night, and woke up feeling all energized by thoughts of icebergs, glaciers, whales, and of course, penguins. So, I've infiltrated the "daily trip reporting system" (an approach that I had to convince Kenn to use) to insert a few gratuitous and completely random photos. I'm sure Kenn will be TOTALLY fine with it! He really understands me and my "quirky" ways. He's always so understanding and tolerant. Plus ---he's not here right now! : ) Kenn doesn't normally l

Birders Rock, version 09.2

From Port Clinton, Ohio, Kenn writes: When we came back from the Antarctic, with a million things to do after a month away, I wasn't that thrilled about the fact that our band had a performance scheduled just over a week later. But as it turned out, our gig last night was a total blast. The band has a new sound system and it inspired us to play our hard-rocking best. Our month without practice seemingly was erased by three intense sessions in the last week, and in fact we were able to add several new songs to the set list. Kim was amazing as always, and no one who heard her soaring vocals would have guessed that she was fighting off the remains of a cold. Once again, Mango Mama's in Port Clinton was packed for the event. This town provides great support: the mayor was there again, and three county commissioners, and a couple of hundred other people who know how to have a friendly good time. I was pleased to see that once again, in addition to having a couple of serio

Antarctica: Day One, Beagle Channel and Magellanic Penguins

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From home base in Ohio, Kenn writes: On the afternoon of January 7, after a day of birding around Ushuaia, we boarded the Clipper Adventurer . By about 7 p.m. we were under way, cruising east down the Beagle Channel. That might sound like a specialized offering on cable, but it’s actually a narrow strait of water running through the southern part of Tierra del Fuego. It was named for The Beagle , the ship on which Darwin traveled. Captain FitzRoy of The Beagle was responsible for exploring this waterway at the southern tip of South America during two voyages in the 1820s and 1830s. During the evening we were mostly admiring the scenery -- just as Darwin did when he arrived here in 1833 -- but of course we were also birding, and people who stayed on deck late enough saw the first penguins of the trip, the first of the eight species that we would encounter. These were distant views of swimming birds, and observers were startled to hear that these mysterious distant "ducks"

We interrupt this Antarctic Expedition to bring you an important message

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From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kim writes: Just when you thought baby penguin pictures were imminent, I take us off topic to share some really uplifting, inspiring, and hope-inducing news for anyone who cares about the future of birds and birding. While we haven't talked much about it on the blog (not yet!), Kenn and I devote a large portion of our time to a program called the Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC). I won't give all the club's nitty gritty here. Just check out the website that's chock-full of information. Ohio Young Birders Club The club is something that Kenn and I helped form about 2 1/2 years ago, with the hope that we could build a community of young birders, and offer them the opportunities and experiences that would foster their interest in birds and nature. The ultimate goal being that some of the students would someday pursue careers in bird and conservation related fields. Here are a few of my favorite field trip pictures. Studying Virginia Rails & S

Antarctica: Day One, Pre-trip Birding in Ushuaia

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From home base in Ohio, Kim and Kenn write: In terms of overall bird diversity, there tend to be fewer species as you go from the Equator toward the poles, and fewer species on islands than on equivalent mainland areas. Because of these basic trends, a trip to islands of the Antarctic region won't produce a huge list of bird species ... huge numbers of individuals, yes, and fascinating creatures to watch, but not a huge amount of variety. So birders headed for the Antarctic usually take advantage of South American stopovers to add more birds to their total trip lists. We've already written about some of the birds we saw around Buenos Aires, and we saw more on the official pre-trip to Otamendi on January 5, but things really got underway on January 7th in Ushuaia. This city, located on the Beagle Channel in southernmost Argentina, prides itself on being at the "end of the Earth" -- or "Fin Del Mundo," as the signs say on the edge of town. Ushuaia has becom