Monday, January 24, 2011

Kismet at Kumul

Monday, January 24, 2011
My first image of the Kumul Lodge grounds, shot with flash.

Sometimes you take a photograph and think it's nothing special, only to discover later that you captured something surprising in it. On my trip last September to Papua New Guinea I had a bit of photographic serendipity one evening, though it would be weeks before I'd realize it.

Our group was staying at Kumul Lodge near Mt.Hagen, a very rustic destination famous among birders for its amazing feeding station which attracts tiger parrots, ribbon-tailed astrapias, and brown sicklebills, among other species. I plan to devote a blog post or two to the Kumul Lodge feeding station once I have a bit more time for writing. Just before dinner one evening, I thought to take a photo of the lodge's grounds and buildings. Standing near the main building I snapped a few images with my Canon G-11, switching settings between photos in an attempt to capture the mood of the scene in the fading daylight.

The first shot (top of this post) was taken on Auto, with the flash engaged. It washed out the beautiful cloudy sky and lit up the buildings.

My second shot of the grounds, without flash.

My second image was more moody, capturing the sky and silhouetted trees, and giving just a hint of the buildings. But something else in the center of the image caught my eye... it looked like a detached part of the tree.

A closer look—probably a mountain swiftlet.

A closer look revealed a bird swooping across the dusk-filled sky, captured kismetically in the image I shot. I'm guessing it's probably a mountain swiftlet because this species was ubiquitous at Kumul and elsewhere.

Kismet is a word of Turkish derivation meaning "destiny." I love thinking that my life and this swiftlet's life crossed for a millisecond, connected by a camera's lens, in the only moment it could have possibly happened, on the far side of the world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mystery Bird Contest #8 Winner!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
A better view of our Mystery Bird.

Congratulations to Donnette who guessed juvenile lark bunting. That's what this bird is, though, without a look at the massive bill and boldly marked face/head, it did look suspiciously like a lark sparrow. Another solid clue—one that was in the original photo—is the large pale patch (actually pale feather edges) on the wing coverts.

And just in case you don't believe me, here's a photo of a happy couple (of lark buntings) on the same road, just feet away from our Mystery Bird.

I think he's bringing her flowers, but it's far too late in the season for courting. By now these birds are probably somewhere in Mexico, whiling away the winter, waiting for spring to bloom once more on the prairie.

Congrats to Donnette for the winning answer. Please contact me (editor AT birdwatchersdigest DOT com) or call our office (740-373-5285) to claim your prize. Kudos, too to our old pal Anonymous, the only other person to get the correct answer.

Thanks to all who played.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mystery Bird ID Quiz #8 Details

Friday, January 14, 2011

As promised, here are a few more details on the Mystery Bird Quiz #8 bird. This image was taken in early August in Pawnee Grasslands in Colorado.

So I believe we can rule out male northern cardinal as a potential answer. It's also probably not an eastern wood warbler. Or an anhinga.

Here is shot of the habitat where I took the image. What a day that was. Out in the great wide open, nothing but land, sky, clouds, birds, a few pronghorn antelope, some distant cattle, and a windmill here and there. What a lark!

Staring at this scene, I found myself singing that Jackson Browne song:

When we come to the place where the road and the sky collide
Throw me over the edge and let my spirit glide.

Maybe it's being an Iowa-born native that allows me to feel so relaxed and happy in the big-sky places...

Good luck with your guessing, birdheads!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mystery Bird ID Quiz #8

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's been a while since we've had a Mystery Bird ID Quiz, so when I stumbled across this photo while reviewing my Worst Bird Images of 2010, I knew I had a potential stumper.

Here's a closer-cropped view of the image:

I'll supply more details and another clue in Friday's post. Please submit your best guess on this bird and the person submitting the first correct answer (via the Comments window below) will win a signed and numbered fine-art print (unmatted) of their choice from the BWD online store.

A winner will be announced on Tuesday, January 18, 2011. Good luck!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Words and Pictures

Monday, January 10, 2011
Sun leaves a peachy lining
where it's hiding at the end of day.

Full moon comes a-creepin'
while you're sleepin'
the night away.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Monday, January 3, 2011

My last bird of 2010 was a whinnying eastern screech-owl, calling from the north border of our farm. I heard it at about 10:50 pm on New Year's Eve, while spending some time around a camp fire with my family and some dear friends. The owl was calling so softly that it was really hard to discern, even though the night was pleasingly still and quiet. It seemed a fittingly subtle and mysterious species to be the last bird of the year (or LBOTY).

My first bird of 2011 was a male northern cardinal in the same tree as this photo and in almost exactly the same pose, minus the snow.

I make a big deal out of the first bird of the year. Sometimes I even go to great lengths to make it a special species. However this year I was feeling rather Zen about it and decided to just let it happen.

And, as it did happen, my FBOTY was Mr. Reddy. He was waiting patiently for SOMEONE to fill the bird feeders, and he successfully guilted me into it.

Thanks for stopping by to read my posts here during the past five-plus years. And thanks even more for all of your comments and kind words.

Here's wishing you a wondrous, healthy, happy, and bird-filled 2011!

Bill of the Birds