Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Year of Birds by the Numbers, Part 3

Damon and I have now passed the 3/4th mark of our competition, which means its time for the 3rd installment of Year of Birds by the Numbers!

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Regular-sized Binoculars


I've been done with my old pair of binoculars for quite some time. They are fine, I guess, but they aren't. Here, I wrote about that!

I've been wanting to get new binoculars for quite some time now, but haven't been able to afford it. My standard line to people was "once my kids stop needing things, then I'll get new binoculars" which allowed me to have some folksy charm while deflecting the fact that my old binoculars were barely usable. Funny thing, though, is that my kids haven't stopped needing things (god, they never stop with the 'needing'), yet here I am now with this:

Happiness in my hand....uhhh...you know what I mean!

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Little Binoculars

I've written about this before, and alluded to it even more throughout my writing, but my binoculars are not what most birders use. They are small, they fog up too easily, they aren't sharp, their field of view is narrow, they aren't bright, and I constantly have to readjust the focus on the right eye. They work fine enough for many things (especially because I try to not rely on optics too much), but they aren't that great. That, of course, hasn't stopped me from amassing 193 birds so far this year without leaving the general area while working and having kids. So they are functional, but limited.

My god, they are smaller than my hand!
The real issue with them is that they give off a bad impression. I know this sounds weird, especially coming from me, but people see my binoculars and don't take me seriously. This started way back in January, only days into my Year of Birds, when a couple pointed said there was a Crested Caracara nearby and zinged me on my binoculars.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tribute to the Great Blue Heron

Through the mist I could just make out the silhouette of the bird. It was standing motionless, watching and listening to cacophony that is the early morning of the pond. The patience, the poise, the plumage were all marks of what I consider a truly great bird. As I moved closer, I could see it more clearly and it was The Great Blue Heron.

Monday, October 7, 2013

North American Warblers: Ranked, part 1

Birding is great because you see all sorts of birds, but deep down we know some are just better than others. No, we don't admit to others (maybe even not to ourselves), but some birds are lame while others are awesome. Willow Flycatcher? Boring. Scissor-tailed flycatcher? Awesome!

Now, the relative abundance and ease of seeing a bird greatly affect its awesomeness. If I found a Clay-colored Thrush in my yard I would be calling everyone I knew, despite the fact that it is sort of like an American Robin, but even more boringly blander. I was excited when I saw a Connecticut Warbler despite the fact that it was young and an incredibly boring and drab bird. It had a nice eye-ring though.

With that in mind, I have decided to take it upon myself to rank all the North American Wood Warblers. What were my criteria? First, they had to be regularly found in the USA/Canada region, even if only a small sliver of it. This leaves out the Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Rufous-capped Warbler, and Golden-crowned Warbler, but the Tropical Parula, Colima Warbler, and the Golden-cheeked Warbler barely squeak by.

Second, the rankings are based mainly on adult male breeding plumage, though a considerably crappy winter male or female plumage may detract from its rankings. Also, song doesn't play a role in this, even though I may change my mind on a few warblers. This is more practical, because I'm not going to try to listen to all the western warblers that I haven't seen to evaluate their songs. For the most part, I'm going to stick on the showy male plumage.

Finally, this is all subjective except for the fact that I am totally correct in these rankings. Once this ranking is published, there is no going back and all you warblers that are vaguely patterned with yellow and black will have to deal with it forever. Either that or it is just my opinion. I like the first explanation better though.

The Official and Conclusive Ranking of North American Wood Warblers

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Improbable Double Rare Bird Whammy

I knew it would happen sooner or later (it being me seeing a rare bird), I just didn't expect it would be in the swamp behind my house.

All of this started when I took an evening walk on Wednesday of last week. The weather was beautiful, warm for September, sunny, and was topped off with a nice light breeze. There were lots of birds flying around and I figured I might see something interesting. Perhaps I would see a new warbler species or something like that? On my way back to my house, I was walking across a grassy field next to the empty construction lot when I spotted a sparrow sitting in a bush. I took a look at it with my binoculars. 

I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our eBird Rankings!

We'll talk more about this soon (with reviews!), but both Paul and I have the eBird app called BirdLog  for our phones (yeah, I got it to work) which allows us a much easier time to create and make lists of birds we see as we see them and it immediately goes into eBird. We now do this all the time, and our eBird lists have taken off.

We both have also gone back and inputted some of our sightings retroactively into eBird (and I even have a couple from earlier in the year that I actually did input when they happened), but sometimes our hand-written records were spotty and inconsistent in terms of writing down important information, so our earlier data on eBird is can be spotty (for example, I only have 187 birds inputted but have seen 190 this year). But it is close enough that we can see our rankings.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Damon's Birds for the Weeks of September 1 - September 30

Yep, we've not been posting weekly updates, but here is a monthly one! And while new birds haven't been coming fast and heavy like in the spring, I still did pretty damn well.

One thing I did do was I started to use eBird more. Like every single time I go birding. Ever since I got the BirdLog app working (we both will review it soon enough) I have found it easier to use that to log my birds than to keep sparse and inconsistent notes in my notebook. It also helped me figure out that I forgot to write down a bird in my list book, but an hour or so later of double checking (yes, I wasn't going to stop until I figured it out) and I noticed that while I mention it in my post about Nummy Island, I don't actually record Clapper Rail in my list of birds for the year. Yay, free bird!

Weeks 35-38 Paul's Update

I am having trouble keeping up my birding updates, though it shouldn't really be that hard to write a bit on my birding and tally up what I have recently seen. But I look up, and then I am nearly a month behind on the posts. Maybe this is ok because I find that I write my most interesting birding adventures into separate posts anyways. So now I will be posting every month on my recent progress. And each of these will be a nice summary of the birds and the seasonal changes.