RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

40 Days and Nights in the Bird Blogging Wilderness?

It has been two weeks since Audubon let me go, and almost as long since I've posted anything. Enjoyed a trip to Austin with my family, including an afternoon of birding and catching turtles, frogs, and lizards at Hornsby Bend.

Pondering the future of The Birdchaser, and bird bloggining in general. I first started this blog when I found out I hired by Audubon and would be moving to Pennsylvania for the job. The idea was to use the blog as another motivator to keep myself out in the field as much as possible while holding down a "real" job :-)

The bird blogging world has changed a lot in the meantime. Now it is almost more of a photo journalism medium. Blogging has created new birding celebrities. Many blogs have come and go. Few attract a large regular audience.

So I'm taking a sort of quiet time right now, a sort of 40 day fast, to think about where we are headed with all this bird blogging, and where I see myself fitting in.

Any thoughts about the future of The Birdchaser are welcome. Meanwhile, I've got birding trips to Hawaii and Alaska lined up for most of June. Have fun out there!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Classic Birding Bit

If you haven't seen this classic produced by my friend Evan for the Daily Show, treat yourself! Little known fact: Audubon had the chance to hire Evan a few years ago, but they went another way. He hasn't suffered since then, working on some very popular shows. But ya gotta wonder what Audubon might be like if they had more creative folks of Evan's caliber on staff (and could afford to pay them what they are worth!).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ticked off while birding

While birding this past Saturday I brushed off three wood ticks that got onto me in the field, and when I got home I pulled off one nymph deer tick that had embedded itself in my leg. While I'm a big fan of strange and unusual creatures, I have to admit that these little critters give me the willies--and worse. A couple years ago I got a Lyme disease infection from a deer tick bite. I'll be watching the site of this latest bite to see if it shows sign of an infection, and will probably get a blood test done later this year just to make sure there isn't an undetected infection.

A new movie is just out discussing the controversy around the diagnosis and treatment of chronic Lyme disease. Under Our Skin is well worth watching or even showing in your community. Be careful when you are out there birding. It is often tempting to go crashing through the brush in the quest to see more birds. But that is exactly where the ticks are. Take proper precautions out there, and especially do a good tick check when you come in from the field and get medical attention if you are bit or find signs of a tick-borne disease!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Birdathon Day List

In eight hours today we found the following birds in the Wissahickon Watershed in and around Ambler, Montgomery Co, Pennsylvania. Usually not a lot of water birds around, it is mostly upland habitats. Bob Ridgely joined us for a couple hours in the morning--most productive place all day was Militia Hill in the Fort Washington State Park. This is my fifth year helping out with the birdathon, and I really enjoy birding with my mostly retired birdathon buddies!

Not a huge list, but a very satisfying day:

Observation date: 5/8/09
Number of species: 74

Canada Goose 25
Wood Duck 5
Mallard 8
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 4
Green Heron 4
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 28
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 1
Black-billed Cuckoo 2
Great Horned Owl 1
Chimney Swift 12
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 6
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 2
Eastern Phoebe 3
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Eastern Kingbird 5
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 12
American Crow 6
Tree Swallow 25
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Barn Swallow 18
Carolina Chickadee 4
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 3
Swainson's Thrush 1
American Robin 55
Gray Catbird 45
Northern Mockingbird 4
European Starling 13
Blue-winged Warbler 1
Northern Parula 7
Yellow Warbler 3
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 4
Yellow-rumped Warbler 85
Black-throated Green Warbler 12
Black-and-white Warbler 8
American Redstart 1
Ovenbird 2
Common Yellowthroat 3
Hooded Warbler 1
Scarlet Tanager 2
Eastern Towhee 7
Chipping Sparrow 12
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 11
White-throated Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 9
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5
Indigo Bunting 3
Bobolink 5
Red-winged Blackbird 35
Common Grackle 15
Brown-headed Cowbird 28
Orchard Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole 18
House Finch 1
American Goldfinch 17
House Sparrow 5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Thursday, May 07, 2009


The rain finally stopped long enough this morning for a short foray into the woods on my way into the office this morning (only three more days and counting!). A lot of flooding kept me out of some of the areas at Peace Valley, but it was nice to see the catbirds everywhere and run into a Veery, Yellow Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Tomorrow is my annual birdathon for a local watershed, so looking forward to a full day in the field!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Birdchaser Moving On

Yesterday I was informed that Audubon was eliminating my position and my last day of work there will be May 11. I'll miss helping run the Great Backyard Bird Count and working on eBird and blogging at Audubon Birdscapes. On the other hand, I look forward to finding new ways to work with folks around the country to make the world better for birds and people. And to more birding and blogging here at The Birdchaser!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Ultimate Life List

I don't remember when in the early 90s I first heard about Phoebe Snetsinger, the indomitable middle-aged birder who became a legend chasing birds around the world in a quest to see more than 8,000 bird species. I never got a chance to meet her, but her daughter Marmot worked on the same project I did in Montana one summer, and in the mid-90s I house-sat for some mutual friends in Austin as they joined her on a few privately organized birding expeditions. Her persistence, attention to detail, and note-taking were famous and we were proud to see her as a birding hero.

I remember hearing and discussing her death (in a van accident on a birding expedition to Madagascar) in the fall of 1999 when I was just starting my PhD program. My own chasing about after new birds was starting to slow down as I faced the challenges of grad school and parenthood. When the American Birding Association published her memoir Birding on Borrowed Time, I got it from inter library loan and enjoyed what I thought would be the ultimate account of her birding exploits.

Frankly, when I heard that Olivia Gentile was coming out with a new biography of Snetsinger, I wondered why in the world we would ever want or need another book about the late great birder. Birding on Borrowed Time had pretty much covered all the trips and all the birds that she had seen, and seemed like the definitive bio.

Now, having read Life List, I'm grateful that Gentile took the time to revisit Snetsinger's life and times. With much more background on Snetsinger's family and copious details provided by friends and family, we get another view of the determined, and even obsessed, bird lister. A view that contributes to her memory, as well as to the growing literature chronicling the social and emotional toll that so frequently encumbers serious birding.

As with Dan Koeppel's To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifetime Obsession, Gentile's book shows in heart-rending detail the emotional costs that serious birding demands from those caught by the siren song of increasingly harder to find new birds, and from their closest family members. As we read about Snetsinger's exploits, we birders may feel twinges of jealousy--so many great birds and birding trips!--but also recoil from the emotional devastation that Snetsinger left in her wake.

And we may see hints of these same dual forces in our own lives. I already mentioned how my own bird chasing started dropping off in grad school as I struggled to juggle family, school, birding, and other competing interests. On my recent trip to Europe I fought off temptations to hijack weekend family time towards a pursuit of Eagle Owls and other lusted after avians. Its hard to get enough of both family time and birds--unless you're willing to write off one or the other.

Back when I was house-sitting for friends who were off on birding adventures, and before kids came to my family, some of the tour leaders mentioned in Gentile's book met me for a bite to eat at the Whole Foods in Austin. They told me about how great it was to be in the field, as well as how difficult it would be to have a family as a tour leader. One result of that conversation was that I ended up going back to grad school rather than trying to make a career of bird tour leading.

Fifteen years later, I've got the advanced degrees, a job at Audubon, and still manage to get out and see birds pretty much every day. Sometimes I even get to travel to see birds. Reading Life List, I revisit not only Snetsinger's exploits, but my own birding path, with the inevitable decisions that become signposts along the way. My own life list is far, far smaller than that of many of my friends. We all make choices. Hopefully, as you enjoy reading about Phoebe Snetsinger and her choices, you'll appreciate the ones that you make every day in your own efforts to fully enjoy birds along with whatever else gives you joy.

And if you are like me, it will inspire you to take even more birding trips in the near future!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Rhymes with Bird

For your blogging/poetry needs, from one online source:

blurred, burd, byrd, curd, ferd, gerd, gird, gjerde, heard, herd, hird, hurd, jerde, kurd, leard, nerd, slurred, spurred, stirred, third, word

Missing of course: a slang term for feces. And what about purred?

Any others?
Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites