Thursday, April 30, 2009

New River Postings (or not)

Thursday, April 30, 2009
8 comments
Worm-eating warbler, singing between episodes of eating worms.

Gentle readers of Bill of the Birds. I am back at the New River Birding Festival, which this year has seen an infestation of bird /nature bloggers like you would NOT BELIEVE! Anywho, this makes it nigh on impossible to get any posting done for several reasons:

1. There is not enough bandwidth to go around, so the connection is gone by the time I am free in the late afternoon or late evening.

2. The birds call me forth to the glorious montane woods and I forget myself.

3. Warblers, baby!

I beg your forgiveness for my sporadic posting. Please bear with me and I will share some tales from this grand event and location.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Getting Cuckoo

Monday, April 27, 2009
4 comments
Forest tent caterpillar weave masses of white silk in deciduous trees. They shelter in the "tents" and emerge to eat the trees new leaves.

This is the time of year when the trees are leafing out—or trying to leaf out. If a tree is unlucky enough to be infested with forest tent caterpillars, it may have a hard time getting its first batch of leaves out before they are devoured by the tent caterpillars. The caterpillars favor broad-leaved deciduous trees, especially oaks, maples, aspens, and on our farm, ashes and cherries.

The first part of the life cycle of the forest tent caterpillar goes like this: tiny (1/8th of an inch) caterpillars hatch from eggs and begin feeding on newly emerged leaves. The caterpillars congregate into colonies on favorite food trees, which they find by following silken trails laid down by others of their kind that are searching for a new food source. The caterpillars go through five instars or molts before reaching their full-grown size of two inches. While molting or between bouts of feeding, the colonies of caterpillars form large silken mats on a tree, often at the junction of branches and the trunk.

The caterpillars can defoliate a tree in a matter of days. If you stand near a tree that is actively being fed upon by these hungry "cats" you can hear their frass (poop) dropping to the forest floor. Only rarely does the caterpillars' defoliating of a tree result in the tree's death, and then, only with trees that were already otherwise compromised.

The complete life cycle of the forest tent caterpillar, including the riveting portion of their lives when they spin a cocoon and emerge as a moth, can be found here.

These forest tent caterpillars are nearly full-sized.

For now, I'm sticking with the "tents" and the caterpillars that are in them. I know that when I see the white masses of silk, crawling with caterpillars, that it's almost time for the cuckoos to arrive in spring migration. Many's the time I've seen yellow-billed cuckoos chowing down on these hairy crawlies, but the ornithological literature and all the smart people that you find on The Google, indicate that as many as 60 bird species take advantage of forest tent caterpillars as a food source. The list of 60 bird species includes nuthatches, warblers, orioles, blackbirds, grosbeaks, jays, and waxwings. Many birds also steal the silk from the "tents" to use in nest building, including the blue-gray gnatcatcher, as seen here in a BOTB post from 2006.

Yellow-billed cuckoo, an avid eater of tent caterpillars.

For me, the appearance of the blobs of white silk and the dark caterpillars crawling all over the son-to-be-leafless trees, means only one thing: It's cuckoo time!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gnatty Sign of Spring

Friday, April 24, 2009
6 comments
Though far away, he hears me spishing at him.

On of the birds whose arrival I note each year as a solid sign of spring is the blue-gray gnatcatcher. Male gnatties come back well before the leaves are out on most trees—and just after the male red-winged blackbirds have started conk-a-reeing in the cattails. How the gnatsters find anything to eat I'll never know, but they must.

I often hear this species before I see it. It has a high-pitched, sibilant call that sounds more like an angry mosquito than a territorial bird. Hearing the gnatcatcher's call I scan the treetops, hoping for a sign of movement—these are very active birds. But the gnatsnatcher's gray-on-gray plumage is a perfect match to the still-leaden winter skies, and I often miss seeing this tiny bug-eater of the treetops.

Gnatcatchers ARE very susceptible to spishing, however. And, as you can see from this series of photos, their curiosity sometimes brings them quite close to the spisher. Try it for yourself.

I'm glad that the gnatties come back early. Even though they don't add much color to the woods as some later-arriving migrants do, they add sound and activity and life, where everything else seems dormant, still slumbering under winter's sedation.


I've got his attention now.

He's hopping mad that he cannot find the rival gnatcatcher.

His face shows that he realizes he's been duped.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mystery Bird ID Quiz #7 Answer!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
7 comments
Here's another view of the "mystery" bird.

Yes, you are all very sharp and perceptive! It IS indeed a yellow-rumped warbler in fall plumage, taken last fall in southeastern Ohio. The bird was snagging insects on a warm morning from the railing of our deck.

I guess it was a bit of a curveball to show a fall warbler instead of a spring/breeding-plumage bird.
Male yellow-rumped warbler in spring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mystery Bird ID Quiz #7

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
9 comments
I found an old compact flash card from my digital camera in my camera bag the other day. Out of curiosity, I popped the card in my Mac and found a series of bird images on it. Since this image (above) and several others of the same bird had never been downloaded, I decided to make this bird the subject of the next Mystery Bird ID Quiz here at Bill of the Birds.

This one may seem rather easy. Or not. Please make your best guess via the comments section on this post and we'll see how birdy your brain really is.

Good luck!
0 comments




Monday, April 20, 2009

Haiku for Spring Beauties

Monday, April 20, 2009
6 comments

Tiny white flower
like snow on a sunny day
spring won't be denied



These images were taken on Easter Sunday at Camp Tupper, a park in Marietta, Ohio. The hill in this last image is ceremonial mound called the Quadranaou, built by the Hopewell Indians sometime between 100 B.C and 900 A.D. Growing up in Marietta, we kids in the neighborhood surrounding Camp Tupper called it the turtle mound because it was vaguely turtle shaped. It got the name Camp Tupper during the Civil War when Union soldiers used this park and Sacra Via nearby as camping and parade grounds.

Every April, the spring beauties carpet Camp Tupper—a reminder that spring is here and soon the trees will be full of migrant birds and the air full of their songs.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Birds Passing Through

Friday, April 17, 2009
10 comments
vespersparrow

Today a vesper sparrow stopped by the farm on its way north. Small and finely streaked, with that faint eyering and chestnut shoulder—it's the first one spotted here at Indigo Hill in a decade.

Otherwise, spring migration here this year seems at least a week behind schedule.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Most Wanted New Bird

Thursday, April 16, 2009
7 comments
FlyingSnipe

We keep a property list of all the bird species seen or heard at our SE Ohio farm. The list is currently at 183 species: it was a Virginia rail spotted by Julie (on 10/19/08) while I was away traveling in Panama.

I don't mind missing a few: I missed the white-winged crossbill (#177 on 4/15/02) that visited the bird bath for 15 minutes. Julie got the fly-by Eurasian collared-dove (#173), too, in late March of 2000. That one is an unaccepted first state record for Ohio.

Our friend Shila was with us for # 181 saw-whet owl 11/09/04. I was solo for the dickcissel (#165 on 5/8/96). Phoebe spotted the tundra swans flying over our driveway as I was taking her to pre-school in 2002. And she was with me when the black-bellied plovers flew over us in the midst of a bad storm in March of 2006.

Here are the last 10 new birds added to the Indigo Hill farm list:

#174 golden eagle 3/29/00
#175 sedge wren 5/08/00
#176 black duck 12/22/00
#177 white-winged crossbill 4/15/02
#178 black-crowned night-heron 10/13/02
#179 tundra swan 12/05/02
#180 common raven 3/15/03
#181 saw-whet owl 11/09/04
#182 black-bellied plover 5/18/06
#183 Virginia rail 10/18/08

The species I REALLY want to add to the list is Wilson's snipe. Our meadow has a few nice soggy low spots. When I squish out through these spots each spring in my rubber boots, I always hope to hear that nasal call and to see a dark missile of a shorebird zig-zagging away from me.

I pine for a pond on our farm. I'd love a small lake. I'd not begrudge a bog or sneer at a swamp. Something—anything—to get us a few more shorebirds and waders. I can see them on the list now: sora, least bittern, spotted sandpiper, solitary sandpiper, coot, pied-billed grebe, marsh wren! Even without an added body of water, we should be able to swipe a snipe out of our wet meadow.

Maybe this spring will be magical enough to give us a new bird for the list. And if it does, I hope it's a snipe.

Snipe3
Wilson's snipe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mowing the Meadow: Part 2

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
8 comments
Standing to watch for what I'm mowing and what I don't want to mow.

When mowing the meadow I spend a lot of time standing up on the tractor foot rests so I can see down into the tall vegetation. This helps me to spot things I don't want to mow (butterfly weed, box turtles, etc), and holes or mounds I don't want to roll over. Every once in a while the wheels roll over and anthill or tree stump or rock and the tractor lurches up into the air. This is how farmers (and weekend farmers like me) get hurt. So I try to stick to mowing parts of the farm I know well and I often do a walk around before mowing to mark areas to protect or to avoid.

Performing mechanical voodoo on the old MF 135.

At some point in every mowing session, the tractor stops and I have to figure out what's wrong and try to fix it. Living as we do in a remote, rural area, I can't run down the street to the parts store or call up the neighborhood tractor mechanic. Well, I can, but it's about $100 just to get someone to drive out for a look-see. Most of the problems I am able to fix, which gives me a certain amount of pride and satisfaction. After two decades of editing and writing—more of which is always waiting to be done—it's nice to get the hands greasy fixing something that, when you fix it, it's done!

I feel the same way about mowing, plowing, grading the drive, cutting and hauling wood. It's nice to do hard work that has visible, tangible results.

Appreciating the results of a big job well done is something I learned from my dad, Bill Thompson, Jr. As a boy I hung around my dad when he was working on a weekend handyman project, asking him questions, fetching tools, consulting on important decisions. I remember helping him to build an enclosed cart to haul the trash cans out our driveway to the curb. We used spare lumber, old tricycle wheels and the handle from a rolling golf bag holder. I'm sure we could have just gone out and bought a wagon, but where's the fun in that? I remember my dad asking my advice on various stages of the project and somehow I always came up with an answer that pleased him. After the cart was built, we sat back admiring our craftsmanship, Dad with a beer, me with a Frostie rootbeer. Admiring is the best part of a project.
A seven-year old BOTB with BT2 in Florida in 1970.

My Saturday of meadow mowing also involved attacking and destroying some rather nasty patches of Canada thistle, raspberry canes, and multiflora rose brambles. These were in the area between the west side of our house and the orchard, and on the east side of the house, where once there grew a wildflower meadow. The multiflora rose bushes were sprawling: a dozen feet wide and almost as tall. The sparrows and cardinals were a bit bummed out initially, this was the thickest cover near to the feeding station. But they soon adjusted their flight paths to come in via the pines and birches. I was sorry to remove this bit of habitat, but it was beginning to take over the ground and make it impossible to move through or even see through.

Mowing the multiflora in the side yard. Photo by Phoebe Thompson.

This young sedge wren thought our shrubby meadow was the perfect place for a fall migration rest stop.

Phoebe and Chet running out the middle meadow path.

We use the meadow as our standard walking route. The kids run out the meadow paths. Chet chases the deer and bunnies that romp along the mowed paths—all animals, it seems, prefer to go where the walking is easy. We catch regular glimpses of skunks and turkeys and grouse and the occasional fox or coyote trotting along the paths.


An early autumn view of the meadow, viewed from the tower.

The same tower view following this spring's mowing.

After the mowing was done, and Liam and I had a Hotdog Brothers' lunch, I grabbed a glass of cold water and walked out onto the deck to admire the changes I had wrought.

Looking across the yard, past where the wildflower meadow used to be. I hope to plow and re-plant it soon.

By mid-summer the wildflowers will be up and blooming, butterflies visiting the coneflower, rudbeckia, Joe Pye weed, goldenrod, and milkweed. The grass will be thick and green in the meadow. I'll let it grow all summer and through the fall. Next winter I'll be happy to see the field, tree, song, and Lincoln's sparrows, and the juncos, goldfinches and pine siskins feasting on the grass seeds that were produced by a summer of growth following an early spring mowing.

The meadow will look like this next fall after the first hard frost.

And when, on some February morning, the meadow is covered in frost and snow, I'll walk out along the middle meadow path and check for the inevitable growth of brush and saplings, and I'll start thinking about when and where I'll be mowing in the early spring.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Habitat Maintenance: Mowing the Meadow

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
5 comments
The meadow is left standing during the winter to provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife.

One of the joys of having a chunk of rural land to call your own is that you can gaze upon it and pretend you are the lord of all you survey. One of the negatives to being such a lord is that you have to do some work to maintain that land if you don't want Nature to take her inevitable (and not always desirable) course.

We own 80 acres of southeastern Ohio woodland, orchard, and meadow. The woodland is recovering from decades of logging and livestock over-grazing. The orchard is too old to produce meaningful fruit (so we're letting it die a meaningful death). And the meadow is trying its level best to turn into future woodland. Maintaining the woodland is not hard. We post it against hunters (this reduces the number of hunters using our land), we tell the loggers to buzz off, and we watch the trees grow far beyond their relatives on most neighboring tracts of land.

To maintain the orchard, we watch the apple trees die and decay, cut up the trees that fall across the paths, and harvest the raspberries and morel mushrooms when they appear. This spring I noticed that most of our ash trees are dead—making me wonder if we now host the emerald ash borer.

Maintaining the meadow takes more time, effort, and machinery. It is about 10 acres of rolling grass, wildflower, weeds, saplings, and shrubs. We do our best to keep it open and to fight off the exotics that try to take over. So far we're losing the battle with the Japanese honeysuckle, but winning against the pampas grass, hawthorn, and Russian olive. I mow three paths through the meadow: upper, middle, and lower and we maintain nest boxes along them for bluebirds, tree swallows, and other cavity nesters.
If left alone and unmowed, the meadow would soon become too woody for many species, including bluebirds.

I also have to mow the rest of the meadow periodically to keep it from getting too woody. To accomplish this I have an old Massey Ferguson 135 tractor, slightly older than I am, with a bush-hog-style mowing deck. It took me a while to get used to this tractor—my second one after my 1953 Massey TO-35 gave up the ghost two years ago. This one is more powerful, and thankfully, more reliable.
The Massey Ferguson 135. The bars on the front protect the radiator and push over stubborn brush and saplings.

Each spring I get the tractor running in late March to mow the meadow. It's a seasonal race to get this done before the grassland-nesting birds are back. Once we hear the first peents of the male woodcock, we know the clock is ticking: I'll need to get the tractor running and the woodiest parts of the meadow mowed. If I wait too long or if the weather is too wet on the days I am home and free, or if the tractor won't start, the birds might start nesting and them I won't be able to mow until fall, when nesting is done.

Among the species that nest in our meadow or along the weedy, brushy edges are prairie warbler, blue-winged warbler, song sparrow, field sparrow, chipping sparrow, indigo bunting, gray catbird, brown thrasher, American woodcock, northern cardinal, eastern bluebird, tree swallow, and common yellowthroat. At one point, when the meadow was grazed (before we owned this land) there were probably eastern meadowlarks and grasshopper sparrows nesting here. Now the surrounding woods are too big. The meadowlarks come and look around, but they never stay to nest.
The meadow is lush and green in July.

Some years I just mow half of the meadow, letting the other half grow out a bit. But for the past few years, the sapling stubs and shrub bits from the previous year's mowing have grown so fast (I guess because they already have root systems) that by fall the meadow looks like an old neglected pasture with waist-high trees rising above the goldenrod, bluestem grass, and ironweed.

On Saturday, April 4, the day dawned clear and sunny, if a little cold. I was just getting over a bad cold myself but I knew I needed to get some of the meadow mowing done. I put on my boots, old jeans, work shirt and barn jacket and went out to the garage to begin wrestling with the tractor. I greased all the joints on the tractor with my grease gun, check the fluid levels, tire pressure, and the three-point hitch, then I climbed aboard and turned the key. To my utter shock, the tractor burst into life, rising to a perfect roar as I pushed in the choke and raised the throttle. I raised the mowing deck to transport level and trundled out of the garage toward the meadow.

Looking at our meadow I noticed that there were sumac saplings everywhere. Sumac is native and a great wildlife food source in winter. It grows incredibly fast, too. Every single sumac stalk was bitten off at a height of about four feet, evidence that our white-tailed deer population had a hard winter if they needed to eat the tips of sumac saplings. The rest of the meadow's plant community was a twiggy, thorny stew of multiflora rose (exotic), Virginia pine, deciduous tree saplings (oak, maple, poplar, ash, you name it), grasses both native and exotic, weeds and wildflowers—especially the aforementioned goldenrod, et al.

I lowered the deck, engaged the power take-off and the mowing bladed started their whirring song. As I lifted my foot off the clutch, the engine faltered for a second until it gathered the additional power it needed. I rattled the engine into first gear, the gear speed into H for high, and I was off, out the middle meadow path, slaying and laying low anything taller than four inches that was in my path.
Mowing in the spring of 2006.

I am not a destructive person, but I do enjoy the feeling of well-used machinery applied to a large job. And I get a bit of "Zenning-out" time when I mow on the tractor. I wear gloves and hearing and eye protection always. And I try to watch carefully for precious plants, anthills, woodchuck holes, fallen trees, box turtles, rabbit nests, black snakes, nesting birds, cowering fawns, lost whiffle balls, and anything else that should not be mowed. When the coast is clear, I get some pretty good thinking done on my tractor.

More about this topic tomorrow.


Liam loves to sit on the tractor when I drive it. Chet just barks at it all the time. Here, Chet is about to pee on the wheel.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sky Like an Easter Egg

Saturday, April 11, 2009
5 comments

On a recent airplane flight, I looked out my window and saw this. It was dusk on a winter day and we were flying over the ocean. The sky was an amazing spectrum of colors from salmon pink to pale indigo. I snapped a photo out the airplane window with my pocket camera. The colors in the image reminded me of an Easter egg, so I saved the photo to share with you on this holiday weekend.

I'm thinking back to dyeing Easter eggs as a kid—the small cups with the color tablets fizzing in vinegar, the little wire egg holders, the quest for the deepest, most perfectly colored eggs. I think I liked coloring the eggs more than the ensuing egg hunt. And I am still on a quest for deep and perfect color.

Wishing you a happy holiday weekend.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

This Birding Life: Episode 19!

Thursday, April 9, 2009
3 comments
The opening spread of the "True Nature" column from the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Bird Watcher's Digest.

The latest episode of my podcast, This Birding Life, is now available for your downloading or streaming pleasure in Podcast Central on the Bird Watcher's Digest website.

This one, Episode 19: Love & Death Among the Cranes, is a bit controversial.

When Julie Zickefoose wrote about the hunting of sandhill cranes in her "True Nature" column for BWD last December, the column generated a LOT of reader feedback. Some people were pleased—others were, well, angry—in fact, the column set records for the amount of letters, e-mails, and comments it generated.

I invite you to listen to Julie reading her column in this new episode of This Birding Life. And I encourage you to come back here to comment about the subject of the podcast.

As always, the podcast is available for free and in two formats: MP3 (audio only) and M4a (enhanced audio with images). You can download it from Podcast Central or from Apple's iTunes store, in the podcast section.


This Birding Life's page in the iTunes Store Podcast section.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Out There with the Birds

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
4 comments
When we get a life bird on one of my field trip, I will force you (nicely) to do The Life Bird Wiggle.

I'll be attending, trip leading, speaking and performing at a couple of upcoming birding events here in the greater Ohio/West Virginia region.

The first is the North Coast Nature Festival held in Rocky River, Ohio, near Cleveland starting on Friday, April 24 through Sunday, April 26, 2009. I'm giving a Friday night talk, twice (The Perils & Pitfalls of Birding at 7 and 9 pm), a Saturday afternoon talk (No Child Left Inside: Birds as a Doorway to Nature), and morning bird walks on Saturday and Sunday.

The second event is one of my annual favorites: The New River Birding & Nature Festival held near the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia. If you want to see 25 or more species of eastern wood warbler, The New River Birding & Nature Festival is THE event for you. It's set in the gorgeous Appalachian Mountains of south-central West Virginia and the festival atmosphere is friendly and laid-back.

We see male American redstarts on nearly every field trip at the New River Birding & Nature Festival in WV.

I'll be leading field trips at the New River fest from Wednesday, April 28 through Saturday, May 2. And on Saturday night the festival will end with a special performance by The Swinging Orangutangs at Opossum Creek Retreat.

I'm hoping I'll see you out there with the birds at one of these two fine birding events or at another one, farther on down the road. Until then....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tin Roof, Rusted

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
20 comments

I've always wondered what the heck that lead singer from the B-52's meant when she sang, or rather, shouted: "Tin roof, rusted!" at the break near the end of "Love Shack." Does it REALLY mean this?

This (photo above) was the roof of the building we slept in on Mt. Kitanglad, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. More about that adventure later. Today I am pondering these imponderable things and watching the snow come down. And what unwelcome snow it is.

Monday, April 6, 2009

We Have a Winner!

Monday, April 6, 2009
4 comments
Sorry... I think I just sharted.

Congratulations to HScott for his winning entry in the BOTB's Caption Contest #6.

Some other runners-up that also gave me a chuckle:

An ailing GM Corporation unveils the latest in "bailout" hood ornaments, in recognition of the American taxpayer.
—Deborah

Achoo! Ooops, it's awful getting old!2Stampis2B

Pull my feather!—Phil Kenny

Thanks to all who played. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. One thing is for certain: We can all put Forster's tern on our Shart List.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hurrying the Seasons

Friday, April 3, 2009
12 comments
Weak spring sunlight casting shadows of leafless trees on new meadow grass.

It's been spring, officially, for two weeks, but it's not really spring for us bird watchers until the good spring migrants start showing up. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE the hardy early arrivers: pine warblers, tree swallows, chipping sparrows, brown thrashers. But it seems so much more wonderful when the wood thrushes, chestnut-sided warblers, great crested flycatchers, and Baltimore orioles show up.

So I guess I am trying my level best to hurry the seasons along. Despite the advice of all the New Age gurus that we must "live in the moment and not "wish our lives away." When it comes to anticipating the special birds of spring, I'm totally ready to forget today if tomorrow brings a dawn chorus of new arrivals.

Some other spring signs:

Blooming fruit trees.

Bluebirds getting house proud.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Caption Contest #6

Thursday, April 2, 2009
16 comments
Mr. Forster would be appalled.


It's time once again for the Bill of the Birds Caption Contest. Send me your clever caption for the image above and you'll be entered in a competition to win an overwhelmingly wonderful prize.

Deadline for entries is Sunday, April 5. I will announce a winner on Monday, April 6. The prize is an autographed copy of The Young Birder's Guide. Un-autographed copies of this best-selling field guide sell for $15. Autographed, it's worth about half that...but hey! It's FREE!

Good luck! Keep looking up (and don't forget to close your mouth when you do.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Lifer Shorebird!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
2 comments
My life bird: a Terek sandpiper.

I had grandiose plans to make this new shorebird's identity a mystery—to make y'all guess about what species it was. I had still images and a short video clip. I had a clever, April-Foolsy write up baking in my tiny mind. Then the problems started....

First of all, I've been under the thumb of a debilitating virus/cold/disease and it's a difficult thing even to think straight. Mind you, I'm not asking for pity. I'm just completely unused to being this mentally and physically out of commission.

Secondly my computer is as full as a June wood tick on a fat puppy. So the programs I normally rely upon to help me post video to my blog (QuickTime, Final Cut) are not cooperating. I think it's a disk-space thing....but who knows. And I can't make the new (frustrating) YouTube work, either....

So this post will be decidedly straight forward.

Here's the rub. The new bird was a really cool, medium-sized shorebird with an upturned bill, called a Terek sandpiper. One of the very first articles I worked on as a cub-assistant-editor the first week I joined the staff of Bird Watcher's Digest, in 1988 (!), was about the discovery of a Terek sandpiper in California, and the mad birding dash that ensued. That bird was North America's first record for the species.

Terek is the name of a river in Russia, and I believe that's where the sandpiper gets its name: it breeds from Finland through Siberia.

So I had a longtime desire to see this bird. Now here I was at a huge expanse of shorebird habitat in Asia, looking for my lifer Terek sandpiper. During our orientation, the local guide showed us a poster with common shorebirds of the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary. Prominent among the birds shown was the Terek sandpiper. I asked the obvious question: "Are there Terek sandpipers here now?"

The answer came: "Oh yes, we should see them!"
When I replied "Ossum like a possum!" no one understood what I meant.
My friend Steve Rooke, one of the many Brits on this birding trip, said by way of explaining: "Don't mind him. He's American!"
Like that cleared things up....

Mr. Clever, Steve Rooke, scans for a rarity among the shorebirds at Olango.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, I spotted the Terek sandpiper up close to our observation blind, and I drank the view in. Everyone got good looks at it, but those in our party who had Asian birding experience (nearly everyone but me) were more interested in spotting rarer birds among the clouds of waders in the distance.

I focused on the Terek and took some photos and video. In the video you can hear my fellow birders picking through the other distant shorebirds. Then you hear me announce the Terek sandpiper—in semi-dorky fashion. If I could figure out how to edit the sound on videos in iMovie, I'd de-dorkify the clip. Alas, you gets what's there, sans edits.

It's great when you spot your own lifers, especially when it's a bird you've wondered about seeing for a long time. Twenty one years after I first read about the "Terek sand" I finally got to see one!


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