Well, we officially dipped on Wild Turkey on our annual Thanksgiving Day turkey search, making us 3 for 5 now. I did get to go out with my kids and my Father-in-Law and a Sister-in-Law for a couple hours, but the turkeys were nowhere to be found. Best bird of the morning was probably a young Snow Goose mixed in with the Canada Goose flock at Lake Towhee. A fun morning of driving slowly around a few Upper Bucks County areas near Lake Nockamixon, but sadly, no Wild Turkeys!
I wrote my master's thesis on sewage ponds and the birds at Hornsby Bend in Austin. I started the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory while I was starting my PhD program. Now that I am in Austin to finish that up, Hornsby was the first place I went to after picking up the rental car. Just a quick spin around the ponds was great to see old friends like Crested Caracara. Also saw a couple birds that can be tough to find out there some years--3 Common Goldeneyes and a female Hooded Merganser. Good to be home. How often do you hear that said about a sewage pond?
Those of you who have been here for awhile may remember that every Thanksgiving Day morning I take my kids out to look for Wild Turkeys. Its a great Turkey Day tradition now in our family, and one you may well wish to take up if you live in range of these great birds. If so, take time this week to scout out some of the best turkey haunts. I know where I'll be looking come Thursday morning. So far we're 3 for 4 on finding the birds in three states--our only miss was the year we went out blind when we were visiting family in Virginia.
Here's hoping to make it 4 for 5 and that everyone has a great Turkey Day--and fun getting ready for it!
So, long time ago, almost in a previous life, I was a PhD student at the University of Texas. Then I got a job. Then I got another job and moved away. But I still paid tuition, and kept working on the dissertation as time and energy would allow. Finally, several years later now, I'm almost done. Tomorrow I fly to Austin to defend my dissertation on urban bird conservation to my doctoral committee. If I pass the defense, I'll get my PhD in Geography. Looking forward to some good Tex-Mex, some Hornsby Bend birding, and finishing up my schooling! It's been a long and windy road!
Newswires have been picking up the story of Red-tailed Hawks burned by methane burners at landfills in Wisconsin (see more and links to story at Audubon Birdscapes). This morning I had a good conversation with Gary Siftar of OKRaptors.org. Here's some photos of burned birds from his area:
Looks like the birds are usually young Red-tailed Hawks.
Here's the culprit in Oklahoma--a 60 foot tall stack, unlike the smaller burner in Wisconsin (see photo at Audubon Birdscapes).
May be tougher to retro-fit this larger stack to make sure birds can't land on it or fly through the flare. But should still be doable.
Between a stop at Peace Valley on my way into the office, and the birdfeeders at work, I got my Bird RDA well before lunch today. Highlight were 70 Bufflehead, 20 Lesser Scaup, 4 Hooded Mergansers, 2 Ruddy Ducks, and 1 Green-winged Teal with the Canada Geese at Peace Valley, along with a Pileated Woodpecker calling near the dam. At work, the feeders are really pulling in the little songbirds and I'm enjoying a constant stream of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, etc. Right now two dozen Mourning Doves and a handful of Red-winged Blackbirds are under the feeder next to my window. Good thing I'm not easily distracted!
I'm a bit late catching up on recent readings...and just noticed that the American Birding Association has just admitted Common Myna to the official list of North American birds--so if you see one in south Florida, you can now add it to your official life list. Mynas are from Asia, and are pretty aggressive, so not all will be happy to see this bird considered fully established in Florida, but there you have it. I saw a pair of these walking around on the road just outside of Everglades NP when I was down there a couple years ago. Welcome to the party!
Not much around on the local lakes lately, just a few Pied-billed Grebes moving through, and flocks of Bufflehead. I had fifty of these small diving ducks at Peace Valley on Monday, and several scattered around Lake Nockamixon and Lake Towhee this morning. Also a large flock of Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and Eastern Bluebirds eating berries near the marina at Lake Nockamixon, and a Red-shouldered Hawk. Temperature is dropping, its getting cold out there!
I had heard about the new Birdscapes book months ago before it came out, and yesterday I was finally able to get my hands on it. It may be the coolest bird book I've ever seen.
The concept is so fresh, I wish I would have come up with it--pop-up scenes of quintessential American bird habitats combined with the recorded sounds of the birds found there. As you open each page, the habitat pops up and the birds start to sing.
It is tempting to call Birdscapes a wonder rather than a book. The book is mostly just seven separate scenes, followed by a few pages of short notes about each of the 70 birds depicted in the various scenes.
As soon as I took it out of the box, my kids were all over it. They loved the complex pop-up landscapes, and the songs of the birds--especially the owls, which they know and love. And the puffins. My kids have only seen Atlantic Puffins, but they knew the Tufted Puffins as soon as they saw--and heard--them on the massive Pacific Coast bird colony pop-up.
Everyone at work was blown away by Birdscapes as well. As I said, it is much more novel and engaging book than its specs (it is only 18 "pages" long!). Ever wonder what book to get someone who likes birds a little, but maybe doesn't quite "get it" when it comes to your birding passion? This would be the book. It will sit on their coffee table, they will pick it up, open it, and be awestruck again and again.
Then you can invite them out to actually see whichever of the Birdscapes can be found locally (take them owling!) and their life will never be the same again.
Consider it a down payment on their future connection to birds!
What do Madonna and Mt St Helens have to do with urban bird ecology and conservation? To find out you'll have to come to the presentation I'm giving next week for the Monmouth County Audubon Society in New Jersey. Hope to see some of you there on November 12. Details here.
Local Bird Refuges. Who says you can't do bird conservation during an economic downturn? Check out this 1937 government brochure on how to make cemeteries, roadways, and other neighborhood landscapes into bird refuges.
Wood Ducks. You've seen the boxes. Maybe you've even put one up yourself. Do you know the history behind the box? Dimming the Way. Check out the latest Audubon magazine online exclusive about how folks are trying to design buildings that are safer for birds.
Bird Helping Hero: Malcolm Wells. What would the world look like if all our buildings were designed not just so they didn't kill birds, but as actual bird habitat? Check out what even a gas station could look like if we really cared!