Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Man, Dog, Morels

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Oh how I wish our wonderpup, Chet Baker, Boston terrier, could be trained to find morel mushrooms using his highly sensitive nose. That would make him truly useful in ways that transcend his utility as a companion animal and terror to the bunnehs.

I LOVE all of spring's wondrous bounty: the returning songbirds, the hillsides bursting with blossoms, the greening of the landscape, the warmer weather, the almost vastly improved Pittsburgh Pirates...but right up there in my top five or so spring things is the ephemeral appearance of edible fungi.

We'll be eating morels most nights this week thanks to the wet spring and warming temps of recent sunny days. It's good to be alive.

Photo by Julie "Don't Say Anything Mean About Chet Baker" Zickefoose.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Caption Contest #18

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I toad you we weren't done with the Bill of the Birds Caption Contests! Here's the latest. Send in your clever caption for this photograph (keeping your cleverness on the clean side of the NC-17 line). Our panel of ninja-like judges will select a winner and that winner will receive a coupon code good for $20 in the BWD Online Nature Shop. Deadline for your caption that trumps all captions is Thursday, April 28.

Good luck! Gentlepeople start your captions!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lesser Prairie Chicken

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
This adult male lesser prairie chicken spent our morning together dancing in his lek on the Selman Ranch, near Buffalo, Oklahoma.

I didn't want you to think I didn't get any good photos! I'll tell the whole story in the days ahead.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dreaming of Dawn Dancers

Monday, April 18, 2011
In my dreams I have seen you there, dancing.
Dew-kissed little bluestem your stage set.
Grunting bison and whistling meadowlarks your only audience, save for me.

Many's the time I thought to come find you, but life snatched my plans from me as the prairie wind tugs at my words. Getting to the middle of nowhere requires more than good intentions.

Now sitting hunkered down, as if to imitate your own pre-dance posture, I wait, breathless, for your show to begin. I hear you hoot and whinny, gurgle and cluck. I am beside myself with anticipation.
All of us are waiting for the sun to tell us when this show can begin. As it has for thousands of years, the sun rules this natural phenomenon. No one will blink the house lights to alert us. We must be here, poised, prepared to leap and court. Or in my case, prepared to gasp with utter amazement.

I'd like to thank you gentlemen for letting me watch your prairie ballet. And, lest we forget, thanks also to the ladies for making these dudes dance.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two Words

Friday, April 15, 2011
Yes! and....


Those rather poor photos represent my two latest life birds: the black-capped vireo and the lesser prairie chicken. I got both of them while attending The Woodward Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in Woodward, Oklahoma. This small-sized birding fest is a keeper. And the birds are stupid ossum.

I'm going back for better chicken photos tomorrow, if the weather gods comply. Got great looks at both species, though, and that counts most of all for me. Just love being out here in the land of the big sky—it does one's heart some good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ID Quiz: Birds on a Wire

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Location: A residential neighborhood in Miami, Florida
Date: March 30

Yes these birds are in silhouette (sorry) and yes they represent four separate (bird) species.

The first person who can correctly identify these four species AND write a separate (and proper) haiku about one of them, wins a copy of my new book Hummingbirds and Butterflies (which I wrote with co-author Connie Toops).

Deadline for entries is Saturday, April 16, 2011. May the best birder/poet emerge victorious!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Paying it Forward

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dear Fellow Bird Watchers:

Now that spring is here, or will be soon, I have a suggestion for how you can help to make the world a better place. Consider doing this: Volunteer your time to lead a bird walk for kids or new bird watchers. There's no better way to share the joy of being a bird watcher than to help another human open his or her eyes to the wonders of birds.

Remember how you felt the first time you "sparked" on birds? And remember all the help you got as a new bird watcher? Birding mentors, bird club friends, and helpful individuals are the people that welcome us into the community of bird watchers, encouraging our interest and enthusiasm, sharing their knowledge, and—perhaps most importantly—inviting us along to go birding. Without those invitations, our interest in birds might never have blossomed.

Every spring, Julie and I go to the local elementary school and take several of the classes outside to look at birds. The school is in a rural setting, so all we really have to do is step outside and pass out the binoculars or set up the spotting scopes. The birds do the rest.

Last Wednesday, we took the school's after-school Science Club out for an hour. The results were awesome! More than a dozen species seen well, just a few steps from the playground, including some species and observations worth noting: The American kestrel pair is again nesting in the barn on the west border of the school. Six black vultures added further confirmation of this species' ongoing range expansion into our part of Ohio. An eastern meadowlark sang all around us, going from tree to wire to fence, marking the boundaries of his territory. And two first-of-spring sightings seemed to be our reward just for being outside on April's first warm evening: barn swallow and osprey.

It was a grand experience and the kids thanked us over and over again. We even had a few parents join us! Who knows? Maybe we showed a spark bird to one or two youngsters. And that is the whole point. I feel like I am paying back the kind souls who encouraged my interest in birds way back in the mid-1970s. Wow! That's 40 years ago! I'd love to think that in 2051 one of these kids—now all grown up to adulthood—might be inviting a group of youngsters out for a bird walk, remembering all the fun we had and all the neat birds we saw and heard.

It's the BEST time of year to be outside with the birds, folks. Being a bird watcher is one of life's most renewable gifts. Consider paying it forward, won't you?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Our New Name!

Friday, April 1, 2011

It is with great pride and excitement that we announce our magazine's new name: Wild Bird Watcher's World (and Blooms)! Here's the cover of the first issue, which is mailing out today. We can't WAIT to hear what you think.

As you can see, we're still publishing only the very best, most engaging content. We loved the name Bird Watcher's Digest but we feel our NEW name really captures what we're all about. And what you're all about.

Borrowing a page from Martha Stewart and Oprah, I'll be featured on every cover, doing what I love to do most: being on the cover of a magazine.

Stay tuned!

Bill Thompson, III