Showing posts from April, 2009

... maybe that should be Saffron Oklahoma Bustards

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: the classy State Bird of Oklahoma From home base in Ohio, Kenn writes: In a previous post (April 16) I mentioned that two friends and I were planning to try to break the Big Day record for Oklahoma next week. On either April 26, 27, or 28, depending on last-minute decisions about weather, we hope to find more species of birds in one day within the state boundaries than anyone has before. As I write this, my friends Jeff Cox and Jim Arterburn are driving from Tulsa down to Lawton, in southwestern Oklahoma, for final scouting of the area. Soon I’ll be getting on a plane to go join them. I’ll be flying into Dallas - Fort Worth, not into any Oklahoma airport, and that’s an indication of how far south our route will be. The last two times that Jeff and Jim and I broke the state record, we were birding the northern tier of counties, very close to the Kansas state border. This time we’re doing a southern route, barely north of the Texas line. That option gives us

Great News About Young Birders

From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn and Kim write: This past weekend, the Ohio Young Birders Club -- a group that has been very important to us since its inception -- had a fine field trip, seeing a wide variety of early spring migrants with the bonus of some rare Smith’s Longspurs. The bad news was that both of us were swamped with work (preparing for the month of May, which we call May-hem around here) so that we personally couldn’t go on the trip. The good news was that the field trip went fine without us, since the Club has a lot of adult support now, and a lot of keen young members. At the end of the weekend, we had another piece of most excellent news from another state: our friend Kevin Loughlin wrote to tell us about the successful second meeting of the new Pennsylvania Young Birders Club. Kevin, who runs Wildside Nature Tours, is a world traveler, professional photographer, and accomplished birder and naturalist. It’s inspiring to see that someone of his stature is taking the time an

Bio-Man and the Saffron Bustards

From an airport someplace, Kenn writes: Okay, I’ll give you a million dollars if you can figure out what this post is about, just from the title. Ha. I didn’t think so. To explain it, I have to give some background. First, you have to know that there’s a phenomenon known as a "Big Day" among birders, an attempt to identify as many different bird species as possible in one calendar day. It’s purely a game, with no scientific value or other redeeming quality whatsoever, producing a score which is of interest to no one except the participants. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. I tell people that Big Days are my one vice: I don’t smoke or gamble and I almost never drink, but I do enjoy the rush of that 24-hour race against the clock to find as many birds as possible. Second, you have to know something about Oklahoma. It’s a great state for birds, since it straddles the center of the continent and it gets birds typical of both the east and the west within its borders. But in term

Along the Oregon Trail

From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: The last few days were like a blur, almost, inspiring me to think of a new title: "Blur-ding with Kenn and Kim!" Friday night our band played at Mango Mama’s in Port Clinton, and it felt like one of our best performances yet, but we didn’t have time to bask in the afterglow of a rocking fine time: I had to hurry home, in most un-rockerly fashion, and sleep for a couple of hours. At 3:45 a.m. I was leaving the house to drive to the Cleveland airport so I could fly to Boise, Idaho, get into a rental car, drive three and a half hours west into Oregon, and arrive in the town of Burns in time to set up and give the Saturday evening keynote talk at the 28th annual John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival. If you’re familiar with the concept of bird festivals, that figure will have caught your eye: 28th annual? Has any bird festival been around that long? There are now hundreds of bird and nature festivals all over North America, but most of them hav

That Time of Year

From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: For several years now I've been very interested in the whole subject of molt. This is the process wherein birds develop a new coat of feathers, generally by dropping a few feathers at a time, with new feathers growing in their place. Birders may not notice the molt unless they look closely, but it's a universal phenomenon among birds. Especially among smaller birds, it's generally true that a healthy wild bird will replace every one of its feathers at least once a year. Birders may not notice, though, unless the new feathers are strikingly different in color from the old ones. The timing of the molt for most species is quite predictable. Right now, for example, here in northern Ohio, the American Goldfinches are starting their spring ("prealternate") molt. It's most noticeable on the adult males, who molt from very dull to very bright colors. This bird was outside the windows at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory yesterda