Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Kim Writes: This is Reginald Anthony Luzader, or "Reggie" as most people call him. I call him, Dad. He called me,"Kimmer Dukous."
My Dad has Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's sucks.

Dad was diagnosed about seven years ago. He had been having a lot of difficulty with simple things, and my brothers and sisters and I insisted that he go see a Doctor. Dad didn't want to. I think he knew what they were going to tell him.

Here's Dad just a few precious years ago with his Great Granddaughter, Macy.

My Dad was kind of a hardass. He didn't see much value in reading or studying or anything like that. The way you won my Dad's praise was to work; hard. We lived on a farm. We grew row crops like soybeans and corn on the Luzader family farm, which had been in his family for a long time. It was a good fit; the thin soil on "the ridge" in Wyandot County and this stubborn family who didn't know any better than to try. More rock that dirt, the farm required all the family's stubborn determination to coax crops out of it's lackluster soil. As kids, my brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time picking up rocks and pulling weeds. To this day, we'll still yell at each other to, "Get out there and pick up rocks!"

Dad and I didn't get along so well when I was a kid. I was a mouthy, rebellious, rotten little thing, and the last thing I wanted to do -- was what I was told. (If I had a nickel for every time I said "You're not the boss of me," I wouldn't have to write grants for BSBO).

I was such a brat. Something my Mom still teases me about is the time that I said some VERY bad cuss words in front of my VERY religious Southern Baptist Grandma at a family get together. Everyone heard it, including my Dad, who promptly hauled me over to the sink to wash my mouth out with soap. The reason for my outburst was my very tiny, very cute, very blond, very pink cousin, Wendy, who was quite a brat in her own right. As my Grandma was passing out cups of juice, she threw herself a good old "Wendy fit" and insisted that she MUST have the red cup NOT the green one, to which I (all of about 7 years old) declared, "Jesus, it's just a God@#~* cup!" When my Dad got me over the sink (in the kitchen--in front of everyone, btw) and picked up the bar of soap, I started bellering really loud in my best shrieking 'Wendy impersonation'. My Dad asked why I was crying before he'd even gotten the soap in my mouth, and I said, "You're gonna use the GREEN soap and I want the PINK soap!" Aghhh, good times, good times.

Dad whipped us if we messed up, cursed us if we disappointed him, and, somewhere underneath all that rough farmer exterior, he loved us too. My Dad gave me some of the greatest gifts I will ever receive in life. He made me a hard worker. He made me self sufficient. He also gave me these people.

Me and my brothers and sisters.
left-right: Me (god, check out those glasses!) Laura, Tony, Tina, and Aaron "AJ". Tony is gonna kill me if he ever finds out that I posted this picture!
He looks so totally different now, as you'll see.

We are not what you might call, "normal."
I don't have a recent photo of me with all my brothers and sisters.
This one was taken about six years ago.
god,..has it really been six years?!

Here's a more recent picture of me with Tony and AJ. Check out the change in Tony, on the left. He lost 40 pounds and started hitting the gym about three years ago; an amazing transformation. Tony lives in California, and this is a picture taken when he came for Thanksgiving a couple years ago. I wish he could be here this year...

It's a wonder that the five of us survived each other growing up. We fought like crazy, and with a Dad who had a penchant for things that went real fast, we always had dirt bikes, snowmobiles, and go carts to try and kill ourselves on. Of course, we always had to eat the cheapest crap (do any of you remember those big bags of 'Puffed Wheat' cereal? gaahh...!), and we always wore our cousins hand-me-down clothes. But, man-oh-man, did we have some fast stuff to ride!!
Even when we were just tiny little.

My Dad can't read this blog. He pretty much can't do anything for himself anymore. He doesn't really recognize anyone, and he hardly ever speaks at all. As I mentioned earlier, Alzheimer's really sucks. Dad's at home where hospice and the Alzheimer's Association of Northwest Ohio helps with his care. I can't bring myself to go see him anymore. A lot of people think that's terrible. They tell me that even if he doesn't show it on the outside, he knows you're there. But, ya know what, that's why I can't go. If he does know we're there, I think he'd hate it. I don't think he'd want anyone to see him in the shape he's in. In fact, if he could, he'd probably just tell us all to go out and pick up rocks...

I don't mean for this to be a bummer. It's actually just a vivid reminder to love your family today, and EVERY day. Don't wait for a holiday to be thankful and express your love and appreciation for the people in your lives. And, if you have a few extra bucks this holiday season, please consider a contribution to the Alzheimer's Association. They are astoundingly good people.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We're gonna fly with a little help from our friends...

Kim Kaufman's recipe for starting a young birders club: Start with a bowl of love for wild birds mixed equally with love for kids, add money --to your personal taste (*note, it always takes more than you think!), mix in two rounded spoonfuls of excitement, an entire box of energy (the extra large one!), add a healthy dollop of a trusting and believing board of directors (BOD)--(add the BOD all at once before they change their mind!), mix in six outstanding young people to guide you as you get started, pound in a big fat dose of stubbornness, and voila! Ohmygoodness, I almost forgot... Here are some key ingredients that help make a young birders club successful. Just add friends...

The Nutty Birder

Indiana Audubon Society

Susan Gets Native

Jim McCarty's Cleveland Plain Dealer Article

Queen City Young Birders Club

Jim McCormac's Blog

Janet Creamer's Blog

Midwest Birding Symposium

WildBird Magazine

Donald the Birder's Blog

and these are just a few! Thank you all for sharing your support, belief, and encouragement. This is the kind of thing that money just can't buy!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Who Says Big Girls Don't Cry

Kim writes: I have been totally swamped (Black Swamped to be exact!) since the Ohio Young Birders Conference a week ago, and I feel really guilty for not posting anything about this amazing event yet. I'm working on a post to fill you in on all the great things that took up my time this week, and I hope it will explain why I haven't said a peep about this monumental event.

My friends Kevin Loughlin and Chad Williams have already posted great summaries of the conference on their blogs, and rather than duplicate efforts, I'll just share a link to their blogs and you can check them out. But, before I send you off to other eLands far away...
I'd like share some of my favorite things about the 3rd Annual Ohio Young Birders Conference.

I get so emotional on conference day. I had someone tell me once that I should be a less emotional public speaker, that when I got weepy it made me seem unprofessional. I have this tendency to want to please everyone all the time (my Mom calls it the "disease to please") and I couldn't get those remarks out of my head. So I made an effort to be more cool and controlled when I was doing public speaking. The first OYBC conference in May of 2007 completely crushed my 'play it cool' routine. In a world where the media force feeds us a constant barrage of bad "news", I just can't contain my happy tears on a day that fills every second with so much hope and joy.

The best parts of this conference are in this picture. From left to right, our conference speakers, Malkolm Boothroyd, (keynote), Sarah Winnicki, Lucas Padegimas, and Elliott Miller.

Malkolm's presentation was simply phenomenal. He spoke of the experiences he and his parents shared during their bicycle big year that took them over 13,000 carbon-free miles, tallied 548 species, and raised more than $25,000 for conservation. His talk was filled with his own stunning photographs, music, and humor, and it inspired us all to do more to reduce our own carbon footprint. I'll bet the Amish kids in the room were feeling very good about the way they roll!

Sarah Winnicki gave a talk on the conservation challenges of bringing back the California Condor. Sarah's talk was, quite simply, one of the best talks I have ever had the privilege of seeing. When she finished I told her that I'd be willing to bet that before the end of the day she'd be invited to give that talk again. (I was right!!)

Lucas Padegimas taught us all about the adorable and endangered Piping Plover. Lucas has such personality, and his presentation was peppered with his great sense of humor. It was informative and very entertaining. (especially the part about rescuing the blond who fell out of her canoe and, yeah, thought he was Australian. Hilarious!)

And finally, on the far right, our fabulous MC, Elliott Miller.
Elliott did a great job and it looks like he's on the schedule to give a full-on presentation next year! (you cannot escape, Elliott...)

Our great friends and neighbors at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provided the space for our conference in their beautiful visitor's center.

Kevin Loughlin, owner and operator of Wildside Nature Tours and the man who spearheaded the Pennsylvania Young Birders Club, drove a LONG way to be there with us. Kevin was so impressed and inspired by our speakers that he made an incredibly generous offer to all three of them at the end of the conference. You've got to visit his blog at: Notes From the Wildside to find out what that offer was.

I was so excited that Chad Williams, (center) the driving force behind the recently launched Indiana Young Birders Club (IYBC), was willing to make the long drive to join us! Check out his blog post about the conference at:
Birding: A Growing Obsession. Chad was accompanied by his son, Ceth, (left) and IYBC partner, Rob Ripma, (right). Doesn't Ceth look great in his Nikon cap, donated by our friends and OYBC supporters at
Nikon Sport Optics! Every conference attendee went home with one of these cool caps and a great lens cloth, courtesy of Nikon! Nikon also made a generous contribution that helped make it possible for us to fly Malkolm in from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Our sincere gratitude to Mike Freiberg and Nikon Sport Optics for making our conference a smashing success! Check out the Nikon blog at: Birding to The EDG

Did you ever see such beautiful smiles?! Maddie, the proud winner of the Stokes Sandpiper Spotting Scope donated by Eagle Optics, poses with her Grandmother, Susan Evanoff. Get this...I invited Maddie up to help draw the winning ticket for the scope...and she drew her own ticket! The look on her face was priceless!

Another happy winner, Sara Werley, shows off her new Vortex Skyline Spotting Scope, also donated by Eagle Optics. While the tickets to win the Sandpiper scope were given to each student for free, we sold tickets for the Vortex scope and this helped raise $320 for the OYBC! Our heartfelt thanks to Ben Lizdas and Eagle Optics for their support of the conference! Check out the Eagle Optics blog here.

My adorable Goddaughter, Olivia Burton, came to the conference. I count every day that I get to see Olivia as one of my best days ever! She's 10 years old and is already an amazing birder. One of my favorite things about birding with Olivia is watching as the adults we encounter kindly ask her what birds she's been seeing. I love to watch their reaction as this 'kid' very articulately lists the species, how long ago we saw each bird, and pinpoints locations. Girls Rule!

The lovely Christine Lotenero poses with the Bird Bingo game she won in one of the door prize drawings. We were able to share a ton of prizes with conference attendees thanks to a whole host of generous donors. (see list at the end of this post). Christine created some great OYBC buttons and magnets and donated them to the club as a fundraiser! Buttons are $2 and magnets $3. They're available in the BSBO gift shop, and they'd make great stocking stuffers! She also created the Tony Hess Memorial Education Fund that helped make the conference possible. The fund will also provide scholarship monies to help members of the OYBC advance their knowledge of birds. Although I met Christine for the first time during the conference, I felt like I had known her forever. Thank you, Christine, for everything!!

My dear friend and one of BSBO's amazing volunteers, Judy Kolo-Rose, (left) did a wonderful job as the official OYBC conference photographer. Most of the photos in this post are Judy's handiwork.
I hate having my picture taken with Judy; she's so gorgeous!

Something that's becoming an OYBC Conference tradition is the great food, and this year was no exception. Julie Shieldcastle led the Lovely Lunch Ladies in preparing and serving a delicious hot lunch. Left to right - Julie Shieldcastle, Debbie Sawvel, Robin Tener, Christine Lotenero, and Jeanine Van Der Laar. Thank you lovely lunch ladies!

My husband, mentor, teacher, friend, and hero, Kenn Kaufman. Kenn put together a great photo ID quiz, and another of my favorite things about the conference was watching the students huddled around the 10 photos all day workin 'em out. The winner, Michael Miller, of Holmes County, was the only person who correctly identified a young Red-shouldered Hawk in flight. Michael went home with a four-volume set of Kaufman Field Guides.

Here are the two people who make everything we do at the Ohio Young Birders Club possible. Delores Cole and John Sawvel are two of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Their dedication, commitment, talent, and generosity are behind all the OYBC's accomplishments. Delores and John ~ when I count my blessings, I count you both twice!

And finally, thank you to the following list of volunteers and donors for their generous support: Karen Zach, Paula Lozano, Robert Hershberger, Laura Bonneau, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Audubon Society of Ohio, Nikon Sport Optics, Eagle Optics, Tony Hess Memorial Fund, Kaufman Field Guides, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Jan Ranahan, Cheryl Harner, Greater Mohican Audubon Society, Barnside Creamery, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Debbie Sawvel, Robin Tener, Northwest Ohio Behavioral Health Ltd., Time & Optics Ltd., Roots Poultry, Inc., Jeanine Van Der Laar, Wildlife Garden, The Wild Bird Center, Birdz-I Nature Photography, Community Market, Kirtland Bird Club, Wildside Nature Tours, Wild Birds Unlimited Toledo store, Black Diamond Inc., Titgemeiers Inc., Key Bank Foundation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Naturalist of the Year

From back home in Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: The Toledo Naturalists’ Association (TNA) has a proud history going back more than 75 years. This organization has always counted some of the finest field biologists in Ohio and Michigan among its membership -- not just bird experts, but experts on every aspect of natural history. Once a year, the TNA honors someone as their Naturalist of the Year. Tonight, at their annual banquet, the Toledo Naturalists’ Association presented the prestigious 2009 Naturalist of the Year award to my wonderful wife Kimberly.

I am so thoroughly bursting with pride at this point that I can hardly write a coherent sentence, but I wanted to let all our friends know about this. In presenting the award for the TNA, bird expert Greg Links acknowledged Kim’s background in natural history -- the thousands of hours observing and monitoring Bald Eagle nests, the volunteer work at Killdeer Plains in central Ohio, the tens of thousands of songbirds that she has banded as part of research projects, the waterbird surveys and butterfly surveys, the photography of so many different creatures and plants all over several countries -- but his main focus was on her work in educating people about birds and nature. And there is a LOT there to celebrate!

Kimberly with a European Robin at Falsterbo, Sweden, in 2005

Kimberly 100 feet above the ground in the Amazon Basin at Sacha Lodge, Ecuador, in 2006

On this blog we have talked about some of these things. As executive director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), Kimberly has been reaching out to the local community to educate them about the value of local bird habitats. She has arranged for school groups to come out, and hundreds of local students have come to programs at the observatory. And her brainchild of the Ohio Young Birders Club has been so successful that organizations in 14 other states have set up their own young birders’ organizations, directly modeled on the OYBC.

Although it made for a long and exhausting day, it was particularly fitting that today was also the third annual conference of the Ohio Young Birders Club! We had a packed house in the conference room at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and once again we had remarkable programs presented entirely by these talented teenaged members of the club. Five of the young birders (and a lot of members and volunteers from BSBO) came along with us to the Toledo Naturalists’ Association banquet as soon as the young birders’ conference was over, and the presence of these enthusiastic young people and young-at-heart people made for a graphic demonstration of just how much Kim has done, and is doing, to educate and inspire people.

Kimberly with Mike Gordon, president of the Toledo Naturalists' Association. As part of the Naturalist of the Year award, TNA presented Kim with an original painting of a Bald Eagle done by artist Ann Geise, recognizing all of Kim's eagle work from a decade and a half ago.

It was a beautiful evening all around, with lots of good friends and good conversation and a fine banquet address by our friend Julie Zickefoose. But the high point for me was seeing Kim recognized for some of the wonderful things she has done. I know this post is totally inarticulate but I had to try to write something. Kimberly, I am so incredibly proud of you.

The honoree, with her insanely proud husband, after the banquet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Ohio Young Birders Club Conference

From the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Kim writes: Today felt like old times. When the Ohio Young Birders Club was younger itself I spent A LOT of time on the phone with parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and neighbors -- trying to arrange transportation for students still too young to drive. Last January, I took the position as the executive director of the Observatory that founded the club, and since then I've had to dish many of those responsibilities off to the OYBC coordinators, John Sawvel and Delores Cole. John and Delores are great, and it's very rewarding to see the club continue to grow and reach more and more young people while I'm doing other BSBO business. But, I have to admit that sometimes it's hard to accept that the club is not "my baby" anymore. Well, for a few hours today, I got my baby back! I just happened to be the one available to deal with this, and it felt so good to be back in the business of making great experiences happen for young birders. Here's how it went...

E-mail comes in from the Aunt of one of our student members who REALLY wants to come to the conference this Saturday and then go on the observatory's pelagic trip on Sunday. This young birder lives in Parma, and his Aunt can't bring him all the way to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge where the conference is taking place. Hmm...okay, I know that there are two OYBC members from Avon and their Mom is bringing them to the conference; Avon is about 40 minutes from Parma. Okay, call Avon Mom and see if Parma Aunt can get her young birder to Avon, could Avon Mom bring Parma young birder to the conference. Avon Mom is one of the nicest people on the planet, so of course she said yes.

The visitors' center at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

But, Avon Mom can only stay for the early part of the conference and then she has to go back to Avon due to a prior commitment. hmm...Now what? The boys really want to stay and go on the afternoon field trip (part of the conference), and then go on the pelagic trip on Sunday. But, that means they'll need a place to stay and something to do on Saturday night. hmm...okay, how about this.

Kenn and I (and the whole BSBO gang!) are going to the Toledo Naturalists' Association (TNA) banquet on Saturday night. The banquet is always a great time and this year Julie Zickefoose is the featured speaker!! We had already arranged for two of our conference speakers to attend with us, and I know the other boys would really enjoy seeing Julie's talk. Unfortunately, the deadline for banquet reservations was two days ago. hmm.. I wonder if...

Okay, call my friend Jan Dixon from TNA and ask her (and by ask, I mean beg) if she can still squeeze in three more people for the banquet. Jan being the total sweetheart that she is, said, "Oh, it will be so wonderful to have young birders at the banquet; of course they can come!"

So, we'll all go from the conference to the TNA banquet in the Bird Bus, then take the bus to Cleveland on Sunday morning for the pelagic, and the boys' families will pick them up at the boat dock when we return.

The BSBO Bird Bus

*Whew* And that was a simple one. Most of the time it involves a lot more kids and a lot more locations to get them from and to and then back again. It can take days to arrange to get everyone on the club's monthly field trips. But, it's totally worth it! We are richly rewarded for our efforts in ways that I cannot even describe.

This Saturday we will watch as four teenagers stand before a rapt audience and deliver presentations on birds and bird conservation. We will watch as people from five states come together to hear their message. We will watch with tear-filled eyes as those witnessing this for the first time have their faith in this great nation and the future of its natural resources restored. And every ounce of effort that it took to get us to this point will fade to insignificance--and we will be restored ourselves.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pelagic Magic: When the gales of November are...absent?!!

From Terra Firma, Kim Writes: When Robert Faber, of Discovery Tours and Inside Outside Radio, contacted me last year to see if I was interested in BSBO partnering to host a Lake Erie Pelagic trip, I was very interested. But, I finally had to admit that, with all the other things BSBO had going on at that point, I just didn't have the time to do it and do it right. Now, I have some additional help in the office (volunteers make EVERYTHING that nonprofits do possible!)
I was thrilled to tell Bob to count us in this year!

And, I'm so glad we did. We planned two trips on board the HOLIDAY, and they sold out FAST! I think everyone on board yesterday felt blessed to be alive and outside! The trip really was marvelous. Great people, tasty food, phenomenal weather (almost weirdly warm...), a lake that looked like glass...flat calm, and some pretty special birds too--Kenn will fill you in on the birds in a later post.

And so, I give you, trip number one:

Our group, with the HOLIDAY (barely visible in the background).
Yes; We all fit comfortably on board! Our leaders down in front, John Pogacnik and Kenn Kaufman,
alongside our Captain, and Sherrie Durris from Toledo Naturalists' Assocation.

Port and Starboard views of a few members of our birding crew, 52 in all.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale of some birders on a trip.
They came to search for jaegers, scoters, loons, and fish...
scoters, loons, and fish...

(are you hearing the theme song to Gilligan's Island in your head...)

At first there weren't many gulls around. But we finally started feeding them the Walleye flavored popcorn from Great Lakes Popcorn Company, and the birds went wild. Thanks for the giant bags of popcorn, Bill! You can actually mail order flavored popcorn from the store and have it shipped anywhere you want. Imagine the joy your family and friends will experience when they break open their gigantic bag of walleye flavored popcorn on Christmas morning. mmm....agh!

Maybe we should shoot a Gulls Gone Wild video, and market it after spring break!

That's the King of Lake Erie Shores Birding, and one of our trip leaders,
John Pogacnik, in the center of the photo.

In the foreground, two of our favorite people in the world, Bob Hopp and Connie Workman,
on board the deck of the HOLIDAY.

Left - Right: BSBO Volunteer and all around fabulous person, Karen Zach, Sally Deems-Mogyordy, and one of our fabulous leaders, Kenn Kaufman, whose hat reads, Eat. Sleep. Bird.

Sally and her business partner, Bryan Holliday did a fabulous calendar for 2010. A portion of every Winged Journey calendar sold benefits BSBO. Please consider purchasing one (or many!) for yourself and as holiday gifts!

Andy Jones, a BSBO Board Member and Ornithologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, poses with Cheryl Harner, of Greater Mohican Audubon Society and Ohio Ornithological Society.

In this photo: left-right: Wesley Hatch, Sally Deems-Magyordy--(way in the back),
Kenn Kaufman, and Hans Clebsch.

The heart of any ship -- THE GALLEY!
The food was really tasty. That's Sheila Thorpe in the middle, sampling the fare.
And, the gentleman sitting down on the right is the ship's captain; what a character, and a real sweetheart, too! He had some amazing stories about the years he's spent on Lake Erie.
I can't wait to talk to him again next Sunday!

Thanks to everyone who came out to brave the brutal Ohio Lake Erie Winter with us! ; ) I'll see some of you next Sunday!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Winter of our Disconnected Wren

From home base in Ohio, Kenn writes: A number of years ago when I was a kid birder, bumming around North America to learn as much as I could about birds, my friends and I started to get interested in Winter Wrens.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be interested in the Winter Wren. For one thing, there’s the question: is it a bird, or a rodent? Living in dense woods, it can be almost impossible to see sometimes, mousing around in the undergrowth, crawling under logs and vine tangles. (When it does pop up into the open, you have to be very lucky or very skillful to get anything better than the crappy photo shown below.) But when it starts to sing, then you get a different idea. It has a beautiful, long, varied, tinkling series of runs and trills, not what you’d expect to hear from a mouse, or even from the average bird.
An "Eastern" Winter Wren at Magee Marsh, Ohio, in early April. Winter Wrens are common early spring migrants along the boardwalk at Magee, but they're not easy to see; often they're foraging under the boardwalk itself.

However, my friends and I were interested for another reason. At the time there were no bird guides that illustrated (or even mentioned) the difference between eastern and western Winter Wrens. But in our birding travels, trying to glimpse Winter Wrens in various places, we had noticed that their callnotes sounded different on the west coast than they did in the east. They all gave a fast double note, but the tone quality was different: the eastern birds called a low cheff-cheff, with the tone of a Song Sparrow’s call; the western birds gave a squeaky chimp-chimp, with the tone of a Wilson’s Warbler call. As more and more of us started to focus on the question, it was amazing how almost everyone made the same comparison of the callnotes.

I knew that the eastern and western birds had been described as different subspecies; but in many cases, subspecies are based in tiny differences that aren’t readily apparent. At some point, though, I was looking at specimens at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and was stunned to find that eastern and western Winter Wrens actually looked very different. The eastern birds were a paler grayish-brown on the chest, with lots of darker mottling, while western birds were a smoother rich golden-buff on the chest, and richer brown on the back.

These days, of course, many field guides show the two forms, or mention the different callnotes, and many of the more serious birders pay attention to the difference. But before long, all birders may have to take notice, because it’s very likely the eastern and western birds will be split into two species. The American Ornithologists’ Union committee responsible for such decisions hasn’t acted on it yet, but some Canadian researchers have found convincing evidence that the two are, in fact, distinct species.

Ornithologist Darren Irwin, of the University of British Columbia, discovered an area near the town of Tumbler Ridge in northeastern BC where the two forms of Winter Wrens are found side by side. They are readily recognized by their songs here, and they apparently don’t interbreed at all, or if they do it must be a rare event. Genetically they are quite distinct. Professor Irwin and his grad student David Toews have published some of their results in technical journals; you can read an abstract of one paper here and you can read a more popular account, with links to samples of the songs, here.

What will the "new" species be called? "Pacific Wren" has been suggested for the western bird; the eastern bird might remain as "Winter Wren" or it might get a different modifier. The western bird apparently doesn’t stray eastward past the Rockies very often, but the eastern one does stray to the southwest. When I lived in Arizona, where Winter Wrens were scarce winter visitors, I occasionally found both eastern and western types on the same day.

This may not be an "official" split for a few years yet, but this is a good time for birders to start thinking about these fascinating little birds, and paying attention to their differences.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

On the Wings of One Tiny Bird...

From the Headquarters of Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Kim Writes: The following post is taken from a migration fund appeal letter recently sent to all observatory members and contacts. I wanted to share it with all of you because it includes an amazing announcement about BSBO's research.

Roll that number around in your mind for a moment as I tell you the story of one small bird.

Thursday, August 27, 2009:
The tiny bird flitted among the branches of a large spruce, climbing until he had reached the tip of the uppermost branch. From there, he surveyed his world. Up until now his “world” had consisted of the forest close to the tiny nest he had left just weeks ago. But his world was about to change. It was a clear night in the boreal forest of central Alaska, and something in the wind was speaking to this little bird; it was telling him that it was time to go. After thoroughly preening his flight feathers, he lofted himself up, up, up, into the star-filled darkness. And all alone, he began to fly…

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009:
As the sun began to spread its golden mantle across Northwest Ohio, the BSBO research team greeted the day from deep within the marsh at the Observatory’s Navarre Banding Station. The mist nets, 28 in all, were open and ready. Now, all they needed were birds. On the point count, Mark & Julie Shieldcastle could hear chip notes of warblers and soft call notes of Swainson’s Thrushes; each was duly noted. The good winds overnight had delivered birds into the marsh, and there was one bird out there—one tiny traveler from the far north—that was poised to become an astounding milestone.

The bird lingered in the shrubby dogwood branches with a hesitancy born not of experience, but of pure instinct. Experience was something he was still in process of acquiring, in spite of the fact that he had made several stops like this one since that night in August when he had lifted off from his spruce tree to embark on this journey into the unknown. His instincts had taken him on a southeasterly course, and had now delivered him into the Lake Erie Marshes. He was hungry. And food was here, just as his instincts had told him it would be. A short distance was all that lay between the safety of his dogwood fortress and a willow tree where a juicy caterpillar was making its way along a low branch. A short distance… But so much can happen in a brief space in time. Hunger finally overcame fear, and he pushed away from his little dogwood and immediately found himself cradled in the soft hammock of a BSBO mist net.

A few minutes later, he was back amid the dogwoods, actively searching for the food he would need to sustain himself for the rest of his journey: an astounding transoceanic adventure that would carry him to South America, perhaps all the way to southern Brazil. This feat alone makes every Blackpoll Warbler special. But this individual—“our” Blackpoll Warbler—was now sporting a practically weightless leg band marked 2560 59455. He was now an individual.

---He was also the 500,000th bird banded by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

Blackpoll Warbler Number: 2560 59455

On its own, it is an overwhelmingly impressive accomplishment to reach this banding research milestone. But it exceeds the limits of mere impressiveness and enters the realm of astounding when you consider the fact that every one of those birds was banded under one Master Banding Permit, a permit belonging to Mark Shieldcastle.

The name Mark Shieldcastle has become synonymous with bird migration in Ohio, and rightfully so. Mark’s knowledge and understanding of migration in the Lake Erie Marshes is unprecedented, and his accomplishments vast. ---But even superheroes need a sidekick. Mark’s wife Julie has been at his side since the beginning. As two of the five founding members of the Observatory, the Shieldcastle team has sacrificed much for BSBO, and for the cause of bird conservation. Mark and Julie embody the passion, dedication, and commitment that every successful nonprofit is built on. They have been assisted throughout the years by an amazing team of volunteers, and the significance of banding half-a-million birds is rivaled only by the incredible number of volunteer hours that have been given to this organization.

This milestone also reflects the tremendous volume of birds that pass through the Lake Erie Marshes during migration. These huge passages of birds bring huge numbers of birders, and these binoculared bystanders spend millions of dollars in the local communities while they are here enjoying “our” birds. Just ask one of BSBO’s Birds & Business Alliance members. The Alliance is not only helping to bring business to its members, it’s also helping to create awareness of the economic value of conserving habitat for migratory birds.

If you are reading this blog, then I have to believe that birds are important to you; that birds bring something meaningful to your life. I am writing this because that is precisely why we do-what-we-do at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. We do it for the birds, for the beauty and joy that they bring to our world.

We also do it for you.

It is an incredible feeling to share the Observatory’s work with every person we can reach. To see the joy on a child’s face when they see a Blue Jay, or a cardinal, or a goldfinch up close for the first time at one of our school programs. To see the most stoic adults transformed into children when they release a wild bird for the first time at the banding station. To see accountants, construction workers, nurses, truck drivers, musicians, grocery store clerks, and attorneys working side by side to help us help birds.

We want to continue to do our part to care for the precious resources that birds need to survive the incredible demands of migration. We want to continue to share the message about the joy that birds bring to our world. We need your help to do it.

---Thank you for reading our blog, and for sharing in this amazing adventure that we call "birding."