Monday, April 29, 2013

Damon's Birds for the Week of April 21 - April 28

While Paul has been having some pretty good weeks lately, I'm just trying my best to keep up. Luckily, this week I had a better week than him and even passed the 100 bird mark. Yay! Now, I knew I would get 100 birds, just like I know I'll get 150 birds. I'll probably get 200 birds, though that is not a given if I stay put in my area the whole time. But give me a couple little trips and 250 is easily reached. I would need trips to Florida, Texas, Arizona, or anywhere on the west coast if I wanted to have a larger count, but who knows?

Good news? I no longer fear the warblers! Sure, they flit along the trees and move behind branches all the freaking time, but the more I get to know them the more comfortable with them the less I fear them. I think I also read that on an online dating advice column. It also helps when they are around to get familiar with.

Week 17 Paul's Update (With More Photos)

I had a fairly slow week of birding. While it is definitely spring here now, the migration seems to be only slowly arriving. There are reports of new birds everyday and even some rare bird sightings (a Worm-eating Warbler...really?) but I always seem to be day late and a dollar short. Oh well, I am getting out and enjoying nature! I have had several recent walks around the woods/swamp behind my house before 7 a.m., which is a really nice way to wake up and I can't believe how many different species can be found back there. On a typical morning I can see 20+ species with the occasional new bird.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Philly Area Big Day: A Test Run

I don’t really have a Big Day in me quite yet. Don’t get me wrong, I have the energy and absolutely have the desire, but I just don’t have the time. Yet. So until then I will just casually write down the birds I see during a whole day without going out of my way to make it a big day.

Hey, that actually fits within the whole idea behind this blog! We are casually counting birds for the year without going out of our way, and my ‘big day’ is me casually counting the birds for the day without going out of my way. That’ll work!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Damon's Birds for the Week of April 14 - April 20

Holy shit, I am not even going to comment on Paul's bird count this week. I took a trip down to New Castle, Delaware to find the Brants that were posted there every day for over a week, but I did not see them. Again. Listen, Battery Park in New Castle is pretty much a walking trail with some trees on one side (sometimes), grass around it, and a small beach on the other side. It isn't much of a park, but it does skirt the Delaware Bay so it gets some water birds. Shore birds? Yep, but only Greater Yellowlegs and the damn Killdeer that always get my hopes up that they are some fun plover. But while there were no Brants to be found, I did see a group of Bonaparte's Gulls floating near the shore and being harassed by Fish Crows.

Week 16 Paul's Update (With Photos)

The spring migration is in full swing here in southern Ontario, but you might not know it by the winter weather we've been having. Today's (April 20th) high was a chilly 4 degrees C (that's 39 degrees F for the non-metrically inclined) with a snow/ice pellet/rain mix and a brisk 30 mph wind. Not especially great birding weather. Despite this, I've been getting out a bit and have new birds to report and, as I now have possession of the household camera, I am also making a concerted effort to capture more bird sightings on film. This week's update will feature a few of these photos interspersed with a few notes about my birding efforts.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Spring Trip to Heinz Wildlife Refuge: A Photoessay

I like the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge a lot. I know, perhaps this is just because it is the newest and shiniest place I've found and that I always get at least one new bird there, but the real reason is that it is just a nice place to walk around. So even on days like last Saturday when I only get one bird (a Blue-Winged Teal and that was only right as I was leaving), it is still a good day just to be out and be in nature. I like birding, but I feel a certain spiritual happiness when I am in natural areas that just makes everything better. Also there are warblers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leaving birds in the field

I went birding with my family this weekend on the shores of Lake Ontario. I chose two spots on the lake partly because its been a cold spring in Peterborough and I figured we would have a better chance of seeing more birds if we went even a little bit further south. That and both of the chosen birding locations (Second Marsh and Presqu'ile) frequently have extensive bird lists posted on eBird. With the knowledge that many bird species were could be seen, my expectations were perhaps a bit lofty as we headed off. Would I add 5, 10 or even 15 new birds to my list? It was certainly possible. Would I see the elusive Northern Pintail, a mythical bird- I've only seen drawings- that reportedly frequents the marshes of Lake Ontario? Perhaps a new shorebird or one of a half-dozen potential gull species? The sky was really the limit!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Avian-Style Baby Names

In a previous life, I would write in my spare time about baby names. I had fun and would sporadically write missives that ranged from “funny” to “probably too bitterly sarcastic” concerning people’s ideas of ‘good’ names. Not your kids’ names, of course, because those are all good. I mean those other kids’ names. All of those suck.

Ok, not all names suck because names all have meaning. It is the ignorance or misapplication of that meaning that makes names suck. So, with that as my vaguely general guidelines for good and bad names, I present to you:

Popular Avian-Influenced Baby Names

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stealing Time for Birding

I still haven’t responded to Paul’s challenge of a big day of birding in April, but oh I will. The problem is that I don’t have a free day for probably another two weeks. This may change, of course, but between work, stay-at-home father things, a board game auction (don't ask), and children’s activities, I have pretty much something going on every day of the week including weekends.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Week 15 Paul's Update

I took my two older boys down to Oshawa, Ontario last Sunday morning because I had seen on eBird several extensive bird lists reported at the "Second Marsh" on Lake Ontario. This is actually the McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve and is a nice large wetland-forest complex, and it sits next to the General Motors buildings that you can see from the 401 as you drive out of Toronto.

Damon's Birds for the Week of April 7 - April 13

You know, every day I think "will this be a week that I get shut out?" There has to be a time where there just aren't any new birds in my area that I haven't seen and I'll have to take trips further away to see any birds. Luckily we haven't reached that point yet, though it helps that the spring migrants have started to arrive.

This was a good week for me, not just for birds, but also because I got to go to a few different places. Sure they are all local, but one was a new spot for me. I started the week with a somewhat guided bird walk at Tyler Arboretum to look for Pine Warblers. I didn't see any, but I did see a Pileated Woodpecker. Later, I would go to New Castle Delaware to look for Brants, but instead saw a Pine Warbler. The lesson of all of this? If I want to see Brants, I have to look for Pileated Woodpeckers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Immaturely Funny Bird Names: European Edition

Here at The Year of Birds we write about many things: birds, birding, other birders, painful memories of our youth that we work through publicly as a form of therapy that somewhat relates to birds, and trips to go birding. But sometimes we get silly (especially me) and write things like The Most Immaturely Funny Named Bird.

Now, that post was mostly North America centric (with some obvious exceptions) and was just a one-off post that I wrote on the spur of the moment without much effort. Heck, the links to Wikipedia for every species mentioned was more work than the rest of it combined! But you want to know something about that post? It is our most popular post.

Seriously, it is the most popular thing written on this blog by a huge margin, and mostly people get to it through googling things like "funny bird names" (#3 result!). Wow, that is impressive, especially since we aren't even on the first page if you google "year of birds" despite owning the freaking domain name.

So, as we aren't the types to keep the people from what they want, I now introduce to you the second in the series of funny bird names:

The Most Immaturely Funny Named Birds: European Edition

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Huge, Glaring, Embarrassing Omission

There are some birds that you just know you are going to get. No, not those birds where you get a good feeling you’ll see, but birds that you see all the time and are everywhere so much so that you just take them for granted. Of course I always thought of House Sparrows as one of them, but it oddly took me weeks to see one here in Pennsylvania. I wonder if there are any like this that I forgot to put on the list because I just assumed I’ve seen them? (Spoiler alert! Yes, there is one and Paul has already pointed it out.)

So what are the birds that are so common that they are taken as a given, ones that you will see in your neighborhood or driving around with no effort whatsoever? In other words: if you never went birding (and weren’t a good bird anyway), what birds would you get just by default? Here in my area, I would say that would include the following 26 birds:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bird of Years by the Numbers, Part 1

I like to make graphs; It is fun to display numbers in new and interesting ways. I can say this with a straight face because I am a card carrying scientist. The Year of Birds is about seeing the most birds in a single year, which requires Damon and me to collect data on which birds did we see when. Why not analyze our progress?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Ontario Big Day: Test Run

It is starting to warm up here and more birds seem to be arriving daily. The boys and I took advantage of the nice weather to go birding around Peterborough and decided it would be a good day to test our Big Day capabilities. How many bird species could we see in a day of April birding in Peterborough? The kids were ok with leaving early (before 7 a.m.) and first thing we headed south. We then worked our way north and returned to Peterborough around noon. After lunch, we drove north and made it home mid-afternoon.

Here is a quick summary of some of the highlights of our trip of nearly 200 km:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Damon's Birds for the Week of March 31 - April 6

I have a bad feeling I am falling behind Paul. Sure I am confident that I will pass him, but he keeps seeing birds! Dammit, many of those are the ones that are common for me in winter and have only recently arrived for him. It is great that he gets excited for things like White Throated Sparrows; it is so cute! I even heard on on Sunday sing about sweet sweet Canada Canada Canada Canada, so it was only a matter of time before they left me for him. I'll just bide my time with bitter posts about eBird.

Hey, it isn't all bad, because many birds from further south are coming up to me and not to Paul. Look, the Friends of Heinz Wildlife Refuge even posted a picture on Facebook of a Carolina Wren that talked about looking forward to the forthcoming new migrants!

Week 14 Paul's Update

I started this week of bird off with a long drive from Montreal to Peterborough with my two older boys. To break up the drive, we stopped at Presqu'ile Provincial Park. With the ice mostly off the marsh, the ducks were more dispersed and several species are now noticeably absent. Nonetheless, we found green winged teal and song sparrows to add to my year list. More birds were added with a couple of after-work drives on Monday and Tuesday when we spotted wood ducks and a solitary tree swallow.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

WTF eBird?!?!

Ok, I can’t let things go, I know that about myself, and this whole eBird thing is bugging me. I mean I absolutely saw a Marsh Wren and did the right thing and reported it in my list of birds for that day to eBird, but they just casually dismissed that sighting without even inquiring simply because it was a ‘rare’ sighting. Right? Was there some other reason?

At first I thought it was because I didn’t include a picture (I don’t usually go birding with a camera, and when I do my camera is pretty crappy), but that isn’t true at all. Sure, you can look at the bird alert listings for each county and see some with pictures, but many of them do not have pictures and are still confirmed. When I saw a Red Headed Woodpecker earlier that was listed as a rare sighting, I didn’t take a picture and it was accepted.

I wasn’t denied because of the lack of picture.

Friday, April 5, 2013

eBird Hides My Way!

Last weekend I went to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge again, as it is my new favorite place to go birding. It is a nice place, a nice walk that is a bit long for good exercise, and it has a lake, wetlands, and forest habitat that gives a nice range of birds. Of the four times I’ve visited in the last week and a half (including a really short visit), I recorded new species each time. It is a nice spot and lots of birders go there because there are lots of birds there.

So I woke up last Saturday before the sun and got to the park a little after sunrise. It was a nice day with not much wind (though it gets windy near the lake), and I was heartened to see a red fox using the long foot bridge to cross the lake. Not a bird, but red foxes are great indicators of wildness in the area. I did see a brown creeper finally, but then I saw another one on the other side of the lake (you see, once you see something once then you will constantly see it). I also met up with a photographer who was lining up a good picture of a great blue heron and we chatted for a bit and looked for the owls together (we saw the Great Horned Owl nest, but the Saw Whet Owl apparently has gone). The lower wind and nicer temperatures brought out a bunch of photographers and birders, and I was happy to be there on such a perfect day even though I only added three new birds. Hey, three birds isn’t bad, especially since one was an owl

Thursday, April 4, 2013

eBird Guides My Way!

In book The Big Year (the patron saint book of this blog!) they refer to a service where pay to call into a hotline to hear about rare bird sightings. Yeah, it was in the movie too, but Paul and I both read the book years before the movie came out, so we will reference the book to remain cool and hip on the cutting edge of birding in popular culture.

Anyway, that hotline where people would find out about rare bird sightings? Yeah, not needed anymore because of The Internet. Sure, the internet is good as a reference and knowledge base, but the best part of it is that it allows free and easy exchanges of information in real time. Want to know where the Pink Footed Goose sightings have been? It is easy to type it in Google and find out.

Or you can just hop on over to eBird.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Snow Geese in Quebec

I'd been spending a few days in Montreal and was thinking about new birds that I might be able to see. As I already had snow buntings, snowy egrets, snowy owls, I figured the next one to see should be a snow goose (well, that and eBird showed some recent sightings outside of the city). And by recent sightings, I mean flocks of between two and ten thousand up and down the St. Lawrence River. That was all I needed to decide that it was time to find some snow geese. 

Our primary objective: snow geese.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Week 13 Paul's Update

Another week is gone and I have a few more birds to show for it.

Damon's Birds for the Week of 24 - March 30

This week was a bit of a slow week for birding because my kids had spring break (kids ruin everything) and I had other things going on, so it was very hectic and I had little time to go birding during the week. Oh, I did drag my kids to Heinz Wildlife Refuge for an hour or so, but it was a little cold and my kids weren't that interested in not whining. I did see a Brown Headed Cowbird at the feeders there. Great, I go to a wildlife refuge to see a freaking cowbird.