Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Last Bird/First Bird of the Year

Wednesday, January 4, 2017
My last bird of 2016 was the same as my first bird of 2017. I guess that's got a bit of kismet to it.

The species was northern cardinal. A male visited the bird feeders on December 31, right at dusk—as cardinals are wont to do. When all the other feeder visitors have gone to roost, the cardinals are still coming in, loading up on sunflower hearts to stoke their internal furnaces in preparation for another cold winter night. And they're back first thing in the morning, too—just after the first bit of light washes across the yard and things start to become discernible, emerging from the darkness.

I often hear the cardinals' loud, ringing chip notes even before I see them. It's a sound I've heard nearly all my life. In fact the what-cheer song of a male northern cardinal is the very first bird song I remember noticing. I was riding a scooter in my grandmother's driveway one summer day in what must have been 1968 or so. The cardinal was singing high in a flowering magnolia, so I associate the sound of the song with the sweet smell of the magnolia blossoms.

Now that I think about it, that's a pretty fine bird to have for the last one of the old year and the first one of the new! I hope yours was just as pleasing.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Capturing Those Sunny Days

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why is it that we feel so much better on sunny days in the winter? I'm not sure. I could ask The Google and re-purpose some explanations here—vitamin D and pineal glands and what not, but that's not revealing anything you can't figure out for yourself.

I feel better on sunny days because I am grateful for the light. It's a weaker light in winter, here in the northern hemisphere, where the tilt of the Earth on its axis has us leaning away from the Sun's warming rays. The light seems more light-golden yellow on sunny winter days, as though it's tired after its long journey through space to our atmosphere. But I welcome it and let it shine on my smiling face every chance I get.

Most of the trees are leafless here in Ohio this time of year.  I wonder if they feel the same way I do about the winter sun? Does it feel good on their bare branches and bark? Winter sun also brings out small clouds of dancing insects in the mild, still afternoons. Do they feel joy in their dancing? The wing-waving bluebirds inspecting the side-yard nest box seem so pleased with the sunny weather—as if they are ready to start nesting. Does the dandelion that surprised me in the meadow yesterday know that it's out of season—a small miracle soon to be covered by ice and snow? After all, we are months from spring's arrival.

Taking advantage of the rare sunny days in this season is important, especially if, like most of us, you are required to spend five of your seven days in each week in an office somewhere, working. I'm not someone blessed with a natural tendency to "follow the butterfly." In fact I tend to be more of a gotta-always-be-productive personality. I'm trying to do more of that butterfly following, especially as I feel my age creeping higher and I watch my kids grow up and begin to flap their wings on the edge of the nest. I'm trying to do better—to be fully engaged in the moment while working, and also while relaxing during down time.

My goal going forward is to capture as many sunny days as I can—in all seasons. And to feel that sun on my face (with sunscreen when necessary) and the joy that springs from a grateful heart. I'll tuck a few of those moments away and bring them out when the days are gloomy gray and the nights are long and cold.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

 For the next two weeks I'll be guiding one of the teams for the first-ever Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour (HBCT). It's a friendly birding competition that raises both awareness and money for bird conservation in this Central American country.

I'm excited to see some new birds, like lovely cotinga, plus getting to see some tropical favorites like toucans, trogons, and even (I hope) resplendent quetzals.

Lovely cotinga, well-named.

There are five teams competing, each with an international guide (Jeffrey A. Gordon, Tim Appleton, Richard Crossley, Adam Riley, and myself) plus a Honduran birding guide. Team/tour participants got to choose which team to be on and we're all competing to see the most bird species. The winning team, and the second-place team, each receive $10,000 to donate to the Honduran conservation cause of their choice.
Birding the Mayan ruins at Copan.

The HBCT was the brainchild of James Adams of Pico Bonito Lodge. He sees it as a way to highlight the birding opportunities in Honduras as well as a way to encourage the Honduran government and people to preserve habitat for birds and wildlife as a way to generate significant tourism revenue.

For some more background into the HBCT, please give a listen to my podcast episode about it.

James Adam, HBCT founder.

I'm not sure if my team will be one of the winners (full disclosure: I've never BEEN to Honduras) but if there's prize for the team that will have the most fun, I'm sure we'll be in the running.

Keel-billed motmot.

Keel-billed toucan.

You can follow along on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (billofthebirds) feeds, or, follow all the posts from the event on the HBCT Facebook page.

I always consider myself to be so fortunate to participate in such an inspiring and auspicious bird conservation event. Wish us luck!