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Monday, July 30, 2007

Birdchaser in the Providence Journal

Another quirky bird story, this time about roadkill.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No Satisfaction

Another 200 miles. Six hours in the sun. No reef heron in Brooklyn. Its officially gone beyond being merely a jinx bird. Its risen to the level of a curse.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hither and yawn

Birding has been a bit slow lately, though I've had some fun watching mockingbirds in my small backyard. Someday someone really has to figure out why they repeatedly raise their wings when they are on the ground (more speculation here). On my way to work this morning I stopped by Pine Run and saw 7 Bobolinks and a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks. This remains the only place I see these birds around here. There was also a male Belted Kingfisher on the lake there--the first one I've seen in months. Kingfishers often go silent during the summer when they are nesting. Glad to have them noisily out and about again.

Feds to Red Knot--take a number

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have determined that the Red Knot, which has declined more than 50 percent in the last ten years "warrants protection", but since other species are even more rare (like the Gunnison Sage Grouse, which they refused to list as an endangered species after it had one good year out of five--see one possible reason for that decision here), the knots cannot be listed as endangered. What kind of crap is that? The Endangered Species Act would work if we could get real enforcement rather than this bureaucratic hokum. I'm usually a big fan of USFWS, but this is ridiculous. Why are they spending time trying to determine if penguins, which don't even live in the United States, warrant protection while doing nothing to help a U.S. species like the Red Knot which they know does "warrant protection"?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

8 Sort of Random Birdchaser Facts

David over at Search and Serendipity has tagged me for the 8 Random Facts meme. My understanding of the rules is that:
- Players write a post describing eight random facts about themselves.
- They then “tag” eight bloggers to write similar posts, including the rules.
- The players then leave a comment on blogs they've tagged to tell them about the meme.

First off, since this is a birder blog, I'm not going to have to modify this a tad, and stick to 8 Sort of Random Facts about myself--since truly random facts such as my fondness for dark chocolate and genealogical research aren't germane to the theme of this blog. With that in mind, here we go...

8 Sort of Random Birdchaser Facts

1) First Bird The first wild bird I remember putting a name to was a Killdeer flushed from a gravel road on a fishing trip with my dad and grandfather to either Deep Creek or Honey Creek near Lakeview, Oregon in June 1975. I was just a kid, so I remember being alarmed by such a violent name for a bird!

2) First Birdwatcher In August 1976, my mom and I and some of my other siblings went to the Oregon Coast with another family from Oregon City. Ellen Skyles had just taken a birdwatching class somewhere and was keeping a list of birds she had seen. It was the first time I knew there was something called birdwatching.

3) First Bird List In July 1977, I made my first bird sighting list for a cub scout requirement. While I've since lost that list, I'm sure it included crows, robins, blue jays (=Western Scrub-Jay), and chickadee (=Dark-eyed Junco).

4) First Birding Trip I remained a casual birdwatcher for several years, and wanted to be a herpetologist. Then on August 10, 1981 I went on my first birding trip--a week long excursion to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon with a group from my junior high school. Ron Keil, my science teacher, gets credit for giving me the real birding bug. We saw over 60 bird species that week. Its been downhill ever since.

5) First Audubon Field Trip In June 15, 1983 I joined Lynn Herring from Portland Audubon for one of her monthly birding trips to Sauvie Island. We met at the Safeway store in Lake Oswego where she gave me a lift to the trip in her VW Rabbit. On that trip I saw my first Barn Owl, Blue-winged Teal, American Bittern, and Bullock's Oriole.

6) First Birding Milestone On July 18, 1983 I saw my 200th bird, a Marbled Murrelet at Yaquina Head near Newport, Oregon. Actually, due to bad note taking, I hadn't realized that I had actually reached that milestone a week earlier when I went to look for Purple Martins nesting in some pylons in the Columbia River off Marine Drive in Portland.

7) First Pelagic Trip A couple days before starting high school, my folks dropped me off at Westmoreland Golf Course in Portland so I could catch a late-night ride to the Oregon Coast with David Irons and Koninendyke. I was fourteen and had never met these two guys before and was a bit alarmed as Mark downed a beer while driving his truck through the dark over the Coast Range. We slept on the beach and got up early to catch the boat, only to find Mark's truck was stuck in the sand. Dave and I hitched a ride to the Garibaldi marina to catch the boat, and somehow Mark got the truck out and just barely made it to the boat before departure. Despite the crazy start, it was a glorious day with shearwaters, and storm petrels, and Sabine's Gulls!

8) First Rare Bird Chase On December 10, 1983 my dad drove me over to see a Brown Thrasher hopping around in a backyard compost pile in Colton, Oregon. It was my first time to chase a rare bird listed on the Portland Audubon rare bird alert. Birdchasing has been a chronic obsessive degenerate disorder ever since!

Well, that's it for me for now. To continue the meme I tag
1) High School birding buddy David Bailey at Eva Calidris Bailey.
2) Fellow college radical Matt at The Underview.
3) Underground college paper mate Russell at In Medias Res.
4) Foodie and fellow birder Scott at Dallas Food.
5) The crafty and not so birdy Cheff Messy.
6) Favorite Austin musician and sometime birder Kim at Boneyard Media.
7) Texan birder John at Swampblog.
8) Winging It editor Rick at Aimophila Adventures (I'll get you that article soon, promise!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Birdchaser in the Washington Post

On Sunday I was quoted in a Washington Post article about House Sparrows and other birds frequently found in big box retail stores. Interestingly, on Saturday I was watching House Sparrows in my very own neighborhood Home Depot store. At any rate, check out the article here.

Reefer Madness

So yesterday I'm sitting at work and discover that a Western Reef-Heron was just two hours away in Brooklyn. The bird disappeared in the afternoon, but I made plans to be there at low tide this morning.

Birders joke about chasing rarities as being like a drug. I don't want to minimize the problems caused by real drug addictions, but bird chasing does seem like an addictive, or at least a compulsive behavior. As a good Mormon boy who doesn't smoke or drink, let alone smoke, snort, pop, or shoot up more illicit substances, maybe I'm not the best authority here. But for sure, for me, chasing rare birds is as close as I have to an addiction.

At 4:30am I couldn't sleep any longer. By 5am I was on the road, shooting up (so to speak) to the freeway and speeding (OK, maybe not technically speeding--I'm not the fastest driver out there) east on I-78 towards New York.

When I arrived just after 7am, the tide was still pretty high. Nothing to do but wait for it to go down and pray that the bird comes back to feed where it spent most of the morning yesterday.

Jittery. Nervous. My own case of Reefer Madness. Lots of good birds to look at. OK, a few interesting birds to look at. Least Terns diving and carrying fish back to a nest somewhere. Common Terns flying around and feeding young. Black Skimmers doing the same. Then at one point a yellow and green Budgerigar flew past the 30 or so anxious birders watching the channel.

But almost no egrets. One Snowy Egret. One Great Egret across the channel. A dozen or so Black-crowned Night Herons were around, and a smaller handful of Yellow-crowned Night Herons. I remembered my first Yellow-crowned Night Heron back at Santa Ana NWR in Texas more than a decade ago. I'd have to look up when I first saw Black-crowneds back in Oregon in the 80s.

The tide slowly went out. Every couple minutes I looked to see how far it came up a nearby rock, then how much of a nearby submerged branch was exposed, then an old tire in the channel. A couple more egrets flew in. Or rather flew over--they didn't stay. Finally, at low tide, another Snowy Egret came and joined the other bird fishing in the shallow water. But it only stayed a few minutes then flew off again. Not a good sign. Yesterday there were lots of egrets and herons actively feeding at low tide.

But not today. Finally, just before noon, with the tide quickly rising and no more egrets let alone Reef-Herons in sight, I headed back to PA to get a late start on work. 200 miles. $20 in tolls. No bird. My second strike out on seeing this species. A royal pain. Officially a new jinx bird.

Reefer Madness!
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