RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count. Its a fantastic way to tell people what birds are in your area. Go out. Count the birds. Come back inside. Enter them online. Compare your results with what others are seeing in your area and around the country. Very cool. And if you like it, you can do it all year round on Ebird.

This morning I entered the birds I saw as I was leaving my house in Sellersville, PA (2 Canada Goose and 1 American Crow) and 10 species I'm seeing at the feeders here in Ivyland, PA. Nothing spectacular, but every data point adds to our understanding of local, regional, and continental bird distribution. And its great fun!

The Great Backyard Bird Count and Ebird are joint projects of the National Audubon Society and Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Non-Philadelphia Eagles

I was giving a talk for Bedford Audubon in Westchester Co, NY yesterday, and had the chance to stop by the Croton Point area to see the large Bald Eagle roost. Very nice to see 26 eagles flying around and perching in the large trees along the Hudson River. Great birds, and a very impressive river. One eagle was floating down the river on a large block of ice. Sweet.

Then we checked out the raptors on the old Croton landfill. The dump is now covered with grass and hawks are all over the place. Saw a nice light-phase Rough-legged Hawk and, as we were leaving, I spotted a Short-eared Owl on a post. We walked out onto the landfill and watched as the owl sat watching us. Eventually, we had to get going, and the bird flew off as we were returning to the car.

Fun to get out and see some cool birds. A very fun two days, with Long-eared Owls at Peace Valley on Tuesday, and the Short-eared Owls in NY on Wednesday.

This afternoon when I got home from work, there were over 100 robins foraging in the field behind our townhouse. Of course, no Redwing in the mix...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Forensic Birding

So, today on my way to work I stopped by the scene of the Redwing sighting on Saturday. There was only one robin to be had, so the flock that the bird was in has obviously moved on. When you show up late for a rare bird, its almost like showing up at a crime scene, as you try to figure out why the bird was there in the first place, and where it might have gone. My forensic birding this morning left me with a couple thoughts:

a) There just didn't look like there was much for robins to eat in the yard where they were seen on Saturday. Good chance they've moved on. Last week flocks of robins were everywhere as the snow started to melt, revealing bare patches everywhere. I drove by flocks on Hwy 313 between Doylestown and Dublin (just north of the scene of the sighting) on Thursday and Friday last week (ouch, I might have driven right by this bird!). But today, no flocks were in evidence--and I only heard one robin. Its possible the birds are moving around to find new food sources.

b) There were over a dozen temporary no parking signs all up and down the road. One birder who was at the site on Sunday said there were 200-300 people there looking for the bird. I tried very hard to imagine a scenario in which 200-300 people might not impact the local bird lanscape, but had to wonder if that many people--and their cars--might not have helped a flock of robins think about finding somewhere else to forage.

c) Since there may be a wandering Redwing in Central Bucks County right now, anyone living within several miles of Peace Valley Park might want to think about putting out some fresh fruit on a platform or ground feeder. If there were a permanent source of food for robins, it might draw in our European vagrant.

d) Looks like it isn't worth spending too much time at the scene of the original bet now might be covering the area between Doylestown and Dublin in search of robin flocks. Since I drive 313 every day, I'll for sure be keeping a lookout.

CSI birding may not be as fun as actually seeing the bird, but you can often learn a lot about the bird by seeing where it was and trying to figure out why it left. Good luck to all Redwing searchers. Somewhere out there is a very, very rare bird.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Agony of Defeat...

The Philadelphia Eagles loss last night was nothing compared to the bad news I got this morning. While I was working on my dissertation all day Saturday, and not checking email, a Redwing was being seen only 20 minutes from my house! This is only the 3rd U.S. record of this rare European thrush. Photos are online here.

I've not been in a good position to chase birds lately, and its killing me. Chasing birds, letting birds dictate a big part of my schedule, dropping everything to go see a rare bird...this is something that really makes me feel alive, and when I can't do it, I feel a bit disconnected.

Hopefully the bird will show up again today (nobody saw it on Sunday) and I'll be able to head over there and see the bird. It was with a flock of robins, and there are large flocks of robins moving around the area now that the snow is starting to melt.

Somewhere, out there, within 20 minutes of my house, there is a very, very rare bird!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Sexist Birding?

A couple years ago, Margaret van de Pitte wrote an essay entitled "The Female is Somewhat Duller" (Birding 31(4):367), in which she explored the inherent sexism in naming birds after characteristics that are only visible on male birds--such as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Cinnamon Teal. While many readers of Birding Magazine excoriated her for intruding upon their hobby with Political Correctness, I still think about that essay sometimes.

This morning was one of them. After a few days absence, a female Purple Finch showed up at the office this morning. As you can see from a picture, there isn't anything purple about the female, only the male sports the rasberry-red color for which the species is named. Does this mean that female Purple Finches aren't as esteemed? While certainly not as colorful, I think they are handsome in their own right--and I'd be more than happy to see them renamed the Dark-cheeked Finch.

At any rate, this visit to our feeders this morning caused me to pause once again to consider the potential biases we may have in birding, as in other aspects of our daily life.
Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites