Monday, May 30, 2011

Stilted Haiku

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pied marshland dainty
Lady in a tuxedo
striding on pink stilts

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Appalachia to Asia

Thursday, May 26, 2011
I'm sitting in my home office today in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio (and will continue doing this over the coming holiday weekend) trying to write a compelling, readable account of an adventure I had back in March of 2009 in The Philippines.

The subject of the article I'm writing is a trek I took with some birding pals (pictured above) to see the Philippine eagle on a mountain in Mindanao.

This photo (above) of the thick mountain jungle with a bit of rising mist (or is it smoke?) figures prominently in the story, which will appear in the September/October 2011 issue of Bird Watcher's Digest. If you don't subscribe to BWD, dang it, ya should, because you're missing out on some of the best bird-related content on the planet. You can get an entire year of both the printed-on-paper version of BWD and eBWD our enhanced digital edition for less than $20.

Just wanted to post this today to note how weird it was to be sitting in these old mountain foothills in Ohio, remembering our incredible hike up Mt. Kitanglad on Mindanao. It's all coming back to me now...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Birding the Inland Sea

Monday, May 23, 2011

There's something sort of magical about getting in an airplane in the flatlands and flying to a place where the mountains are capped with snow. This (above) was the view out my airplane window as we circled in for a landing at the Salt Lake City, Utah airport. I was way out west for the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival.

The kind folks at the GSLBF knew that I was interested in doing some photography/digiscoping/videography and so they made arrangements, on the day before the fest started, for me to have a guided birding tour of a place called The Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve (ISSR). The ISSR is a mitigation project of The Kennecott Utah Copper company, a copper-mining operation nearby. To mitigate the habitat damage being caused by the copper mining, Kennecott funded the creation, enhancement, and maintenance of the Inland Sea site. You can read more about this mitigation site here.

Turning overgrazed range land into shorebird-friendly habitat seems to have worked and it has been a boon to the shorebirds. During our first few minutes inside the gates we saw black-necked stilts, American avocets, teeming herds of killdeer, and lots of semipalmated plovers. More special for this site were the snowy plovers and black-bellied plovers we found, thanks to the scouting skills of my guides, Valerie and Haylie, both of whom work at the ISSR as field research interns.

Haylie and Valerie scoping the Inland Sea

Many of the shorebirds at the ISSR were already getting "nesty." Several males called loudly and flew circles around our truck.

Black-necked stilt and barbed wire (isn't that a Lucinda Williams song?)

Pronghorn antelope.

As the afternoon wore on and we'd covered most of the good birding spots, I started to get some of the more interesting insider info from my guides. For example, they knew where several of the male pronghorn antelope hung out, and the gals had given each male a name: Michaelangelo, Donatelo—actually I 'm not remembering the names correctly, but I do recall suggesting that one be named Fabio. It seemed fitting at the time.

Like often happens when I take someone birding in my local patch, a set of truly objective eyes will find something out of the ordinary. The same was true on this afternoon of birding. We found two notable species for the ISSR: a male lark bunting and a male red-breasted merganser.

Red-breasted merganser was a noteworthy species at the ISSR.

All too soon it was time to split. Their work day was over and I (still being on Eastern Time) was so hungry I was tempted to chase down a pronghorn on foot. As if to show us one more eyeful of wonderment, a golden eagle took off from his hunting perch and flew past the distant mountains. Majestic overload!

Though I knew the eagle would be just a speck in the frame, I simply couldn't resist taking this shot.

Great birding on the Inland Sea! Thanks to Valerie and Haylie for guiding me. What a fine way thing, to get right off the plane and be birding in a spot like this only minutes later.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How We Get Our Bird-friendly Coffee

Friday, May 20, 2011

A few months back, while we were kicking around some ideas in our marketing team meeting, a bunch of us at Bird Watcher's Digest came up with a concept for a video to help promote the sales of shade-grown coffee.

The benefits to the birds, coffee growers and workers, and bird watchers of shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee have been discussed and explained many times over. We decided to ask some of BWD readers and friends to help us make a video that would be light-hearted but that would also demonstrate our enthusiasm for this kind of environmentally friendly product.

The video above is the final version of our project. We hope you like it. And if you DO, and you're a coffee drinker, we hope you'll consider buying coffee that is certified as bird-friendly. Birds & Beans is one of the most tasty and popular of the bird-friendly coffees currently available. You can buy Birds & Beans from the BWD Nature Shop, or directly from the Birds & Beans website.

Special thank-yous go out to Bill Wilson of Birds & Beans, to Jefferson & Gabriella of Gaia Estate (growers of Birds & Beans coffee in Nicaragua), to Chris, Ann, Wendy, Shirley, Eric, Robin and Roger, Emma, Edmund, and our leading man, Jim Cirigliano for contributing their acting talents to this video.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to go refill my coffee cup with bird-friendly goodness.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Big Question about the Chukar

Friday, May 13, 2011
How many cars could a chukar chuck if a chukar could chuck cars?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Spring Feeding Outlook is Rosy

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This spring, for the first time ever, a male rose-breasted grosbeak has been visiting the sunflower seed feeder outside the kitchen window. We get them annually on the feeders outside the studio windows, which are farther from the house. And their tennis-shoe-on-the-gym-floor eeek! is a common sound on spring mornings here at Indigo Hill. But this dude was so close that I was able to take this image with my Canon G12 standing at the kitchen window.

I wish we were lucky enough to have the rosies around all summer, but they are merely passing through en route to more northerly woodland. At least while they're here we know they will be well fed and watered.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wind Power and Birds

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recently I was birding in Oklahoma and I was astounded at the number of wind farms—clusters of giant wind turbines—that I saw as I drove around the northwestern part of the Sooner State. This should not have surprised me. After all, Oooooooooklahoma is the state where "the wind comes sweepin' down the plain!" And as the photo above shows, wind-generated power has been around a long time.

No bird watcher would argue against the notion that our country—and the world at large—needs to begin harnessing other, greener forms of energy. In many ways wind power is as green as it gets. The wind blows, giant turbines are rotated at high speeds, and energy is generated by this motion. However the problems with wind energy center on these same giant turbines. Among the turbine-related issues are:

1. Though they look as though they are spinning languidly, the giant blades—especially the tips of the blades—are actually moving at several hundred miles per hour. Anything trying to move past these blades, but within their reach, is going to be hit by them. For a flying bird or a bat, this means instant death. We know that there is mortality at most wind turbine sites. And we know that some are far worse than others based upon their location relative to patterns of bird movement and migration.

2. And speaking of location, lesser prairie chickens and other grassland species of lekking gallinaceous birds (such as both greater and Gunnison sage-grouse) will leave areas when wind turbines are erected. In some cases this moves birds off lekking grounds where they (and their ancestors) have been doing courtship displays for decades if not a century or more. To a prairie chicken a wind turbine (or a cell tower or a string of high-tension power line towers) looks too much like a predator perch, so they leave the immediate area permanently. The same avoiding predators dispersal behavior would happen if we put a bunch of trees out on the prairie.

Lesser prairie chicken

3. Them things is ugly! Opponents of offshore wind farms shout most loudly about how clusters of turbines disrupt their natural vistas. And I have to say that when I've been out in the great wide open spaces of the Great Plains, scanning with my binoculars for longspurs or pipits and a cluster of wind turbines has come into my view, my reaction is negative, not positive. They are an eyesore we're not yet used to seeing.

At their most virulent, the arguments for and against wind power sound like the daily animosity we hear on the political talk shows. Proponents of wind power—and especially the wind industry—are trying to wear the Green Energy badge with pride while largely ignoring the legitimate concerns about incidental deaths of birds and bats. Not ALL wind turbines are bad. But the ones that are bad can be REALLY bad. Still, we want to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, right?

On the other hand, anti-wind-power people sometimes seem to want to ban all forms of turbine-generated energy. Both sides cite statistics to back their claims (environmentalist/birders say towers kill millions of birds. The wind-energy industry counters that far more birds are killed by collisions with cars or window glass or by feral cats. Perhaps this is true, but why add another bird-killing element to our continent? In many states there is basically no regulation on the siting of wind farms, which means towers go up and start spinning before we know the impact on birds and wildlife.

So whom are we to believe?

What we really need is a wind turbine design that is efficient in generating energy but that is also safer for birds and bats. Furthermore we need some cooperative action among environmentalists, policy makers, and the wind industry to ensure that the impacts on birds and wildlife are considered when wind farms are being sited. Right now, it's all about location, location, location.

Until that day, all we can hope for is that the information gathering and the conversation continues. Perhaps we can find a happy medium.

We need wind-generated power. But we need it to be done right.

Here are some interesting links to sites covering this controversial topic.

The American Bird Conservancy's Wind Power Policy

Misconceptions About Bird Mortality and Wind Power:

How Turbine Design Can Reduce Bird Impacts

The USFWS Proposes Voluntary Guidelines to Avoid Bird Deaths

KQED-TV Feature on the Altamont Pass, California Wind Farms

Black Swamp Bird Observatory's Wind Energy Issues Page

Blog Post by Ted Eubanks on the Wind Energy Rush

The American Wind Energy Association

Laura Erickson's Blog Post About Testifying in Court Regarding Wind Power

Monday, May 2, 2011

ID Quiz Winner: Birds on a Wire

Monday, May 2, 2011
Left to right: Loggerhead shrike, boat-tailed grackle, mourning dove, Eurasian collared-dove.

And the winner IS..... Oggie. Who correctly identified all four species and wrote a haiku to proper haiku specifications.
His entry:

Loggerhead Shrike
Boat-tailed Grackle
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove

My Haiku:
Dove flies to the west
Dove circles the world in time
Dove that ate the south

Oggie wins a copy of my latest book Hummingbirds and Butterflies co-authored with Connie Toops and published by our friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

[Oggie, please see my contact info in the captions on the original post so we know where to send your fabulous prize.]

By the way, we got some great haikus with this contest. You can read them in the comments section of the original post.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Caption Contest #18 Winner!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's time to announce the winner of the Bill of the Birds Caption Contest #18. You can see the original post for Contest #18 here.

Congratulations to
Robert Mortensen from the Birding is Fun blog for his winning caption which is:

On the eve of their nuptials, Prince William and Kate Middleton kissed and they both turned into toads. A very public couple, regrettably with no modicum of privacy, British paparazzi photographed them consummating the marriage.

He also chimed in with this one:

The minister said not to do this before marriage or we'd get warts. I guess he was right!

Robert wins a $20 gift certificate from the BWD Nature Store.

Some other great chuckles were generated by these contributors:

Face said...

Ribbit to me one more time, once is never enough for a frog like you...

tommyart said...

I knew we should of done this back at my pad.

CNemes said...

Not tonight, dear, I've got a frog in my throat.

pambirds said...

“It’s okay Trudy, no one will see us – they’re all looking up for the warblers.”

Thanks to everyone for playing!