Showing posts from March, 2009

Meeting Kindred Spirits over Coffee

From back home in Ohio already, Kenn writes: I had a whirlwind weekend, giving three talks in two days, in three very different settings. On Saturday I would get to address an audience of about 300 at the "Shreve Migration Sensation"; on Friday night it was a smaller audience of the top movers and shakers of Audubon’s statewide organization in New York; but in this post I want to talk about what happened Friday afternoon. The Friday afternoon event was a small gathering, by invitation only, organized by Nancy Castillo and Lois Geshiwim, owners of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Saratoga Springs, New York. These two had decided some time ago that they wanted to promote the idea of shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee. They had started using their store and their website to educate their customers about this issue, describing how coffee grown in traditional shade plantations supported large populations of native birds, while factory farms of sun-grown coffee would support essen

Raising Nonprofits

Image Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. ~margaret mead From Home Base, Kim writes: Well, this logo pretty much sums up a large portion of my life over the last ten years. At our banquet last Saturday night, I used the analogy of an adopted child. I didn't give birth to BSBO --but I couldn't care about it more if I had. When Kenn came into my life, he took a look at my "child" and saw a lot of potential. And, while the kid needed a lot of work, he could see that the foundation was strong. So, Kenn became the totally supportive step dad; fully engaged in raising this "child". No offense, of course, to those who are raising actual humans. I admit that I have no human babies of my own. So, I can't speak with any authority on the challenges of parenthood. But, I gotta tell ya...raising a nonprofit is no cakewalk! You invest your heart and s

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

It's spring, the Red-winged Blackbirds are all pumped up and making music, and so are we. From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: In my most recent book, Flights Against the Sunset (published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008), there was a whole chapter ("Nightland") that was an extended essay on sleep deprivation. None of our friends were surprised about that. For Kim and me, sleep is usually pretty far down the list of priorities. There are always too many other interesting things to be doing. Right now we're a little more crazed than usual. This weekend is the big annual banquet / celebration of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), and we've been swamped with trying to prepare for it. The observatory has a great staff and a lot of wonderful volunteers, without whom nothing would ever happen (come to think of it, I'm a volunteer). But still, Kim has been going like crazy all week, like a hummingbird on overdrive, dealing with a zillion details relating to the

Sage Stuff

Two male Greater Sage-Grouse in display mode From back home in Ohio, Kenn writes: When Bruce Ackerman picked us up last Saturday morning at our hotel in downtown Boise, Idaho, it was a good two hours before daylight. But we didn’t complain. We were headed out for a fabulous opportunity to watch Greater Sage-Grouse, one of the truly iconic birds of the American West. Kim already wrote about our encounter with those birds, so this post is just to describe some of the other aspects of the day. I had birded with Bruce Ackerman before, just a few years ago in Florida, when he was president of the Audubon chapter in St. Petersburg. Now he’s the president of the Golden Eagle Audubon Society (GEAS) in Boise -- he gets around! Also along this morning were Mike Morrison, one of the stellar field birders of GEAS, and David Hazelton, the chapter’s field trip chairman, known to his followers as "All Day Dave." Rounding out the party were Dr. Jay Carlisle, research director of the Idaho B

Grouse Business is Booming!

From Boise, Idaho, Kim writes: When Susan Hazelton from Golden Eagle Audubon (GEA) in Boise, Idaho contacted me about having Kenn give their 2009 banquet address, my first reaction was, “There’s no way we can do this!” Kenn and I had decided that our 2009 schedule was full enough, and that we just couldn’t accept any more requests. But, when Susan told me that the proceeds of the banquet went to the Idaho Bird Observatory (IBO), we both agreed, “We have to do this!” (Oh…and it didn’t hurt that she mentioned the possibility of seeing Greater Sage-Grouse!!) Greater Sage-Grouse are birds that I've had no experience with. I just haven’t spent time in the right places with the right people. That all changed this morning! Several people from IBO and GEA took us out to search for grouse. David Hazelton, one of GEA’s top field trip leaders, had done some scouting yesterday, and, in spite of the fact that it’s pretty early in the season, he found several birds on a few different leks. We h

Brew the Right Thing

From home base in Ohio, Kenn writes: Last weekend, Kim was posting updates while I was away in Massachusetts promoting shade-grown coffee. She promised that I would provide more info on that, so I’m here to make an honest woman out of her. Black-throated Green Warbler: often winters in coffee plantations in Central America If you read Bird Watcher’s Digest (and you should!), you may have seen my column in the Jan / Feb 2009 issue, talking about coffee. To recount it briefly: as a birder in my early twenties, I spent a lot of time birding in Mexico in winter, and I soon found that coffee plantations were great birding spots. These were farms growing coffee the traditional way, in deep shade. The growers (usually family groups or villages) would clear out the undergrowth in native forest and plant coffee bushes, tending to their crops by hand. My friends and I found that such spots were full of birds, both local tropical species and many migrants from the north. All winter I could enj

Kenn's Totally Caffeinated Adventure

From Home base, Kim Writes: I thought I'd give an update on Kenn's progress with the Birds & Beans project this weekend. Kenn is one of the "Voices for the Birds" on the project. I love the sound of that! The dude has done some pretty amazing things, but, I have to say that I am particularly proud of his involvement with this project. He's just insanely busy right now, but committed to invest his time for this cause anyway. Thanks to all of those who showed their support by commenting on the blog, and eMailed me privately to help me cheer him on! It's been great hearing from people around the country who are already "up" on shade-grown coffee. Although, as my good friend Dave pointed out, some people might need to consider the sanity of others before consuming too much! I hear ya Dave! The staff at the bird observatory will not allow me to drink much coffee. Picture a kinglet with a caffeine buzz. T-R-O-U-B-L-E! But, when I do, I always drink

Shake your shade-grown pom-poms!

From home base , Kim writes: Kenn will be in the Boston area this weekend giving a series of presentations on the importance of shade-grown coffee to migratory birds. I won't go into detail about the project in this post; I'll let Kenn fill us in when he returns. Instead, I'm writing to ask all of you to join my "Cheer Kenn On" Committee! Help me show support for this important issue--and for Kenn this weekend! Here's how you can help: I challenge each of you to do a bit of research on this subject this weekend. And, if you're already a shade-grown coffee expert, why not make a point to share the concept with someone new this weekend. Better yet--share the idea with your favorite restaurant or coffee house! I'll keep you posted on Kenn's progress throughout the weekend. Kenn and I don't ever like to be apart, but I'm cheering from the sidelines this time because the band has a big gig this weekend. Those of you who know us, or follow our bl

Antarctica, Day Three: Beautiful Female on the Beach

From home base in Ohio, Kenn writes: We already wrote about some of the birds we saw on January 9, our first full day in the Falkland Islands (see previous posts on "Punks and Saints" and "Carcass Characters"). But I haven’t yet mentioned my favorite bird of the day. First, some background. The South American geese of the genus Chloephaga make up a very distinctive group, apparently not closely related to the well-known geese of the northern hemisphere. They are fantastically patterned birds, and in some the females and males are strikingly different in appearance. For example, above is the male Upland Goose, from Saunders Island ... And here is the female of the same species. In the afternoon of January 9 on Carcass Island we had our best close studies of another goose in this group, the Kelp Goose. This all-white bird is the male. Sort of blah, right? Just another white bird. Looks kind of like a barnyard duck. Now here are the male and female Kelp Goose toget