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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Birdchaser on Martha Stewart radio tomorrow

Tomorrow morning at 7:10EDT I will be on Morning Living, a Martha Stewart Living Sirius Satellite Radio show talking about bird migration and what birds people can see in their yard this time of year. If you have satellite radio, tune in for a few moments of fun bird news!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seasons of the Robin

I'm a sucker for animal biographies. As a kid I loved Ernest Thompson Seton's Wild Animals I Have Known and still remember finding Fred Bodsworth's Last of the Curlews in junior high school. A while ago I was asked to be a reader for the manuscript of The Seasons of the Robin, the latest addition to this genre by Don Grussing. It tells the story of a robin as it migrates south, overwinters, and heads north to breed. The book is now out, and if you've ever wondered what it is like to be a bird, The Seasons of the Robin provides a well-written and informative insight into the life of one bird and its incredible life.

Ancient man-eating eagle in NZ

Check out this report about Haast's Eagle, a huge bird with a 9 foot wingspan and talons like tiger paws. Could easily have carried of children of the first Maori inhabitants of New Zealand, just as the legends say.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mayan Deer Dance in Belize

Here's video of the Mayan Deer Dance I got to observe and help document in Belize last year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Owl Workshop at Hornsby Bend in Austin, TX

I'm heading to Austin next month to lead a workshop on the ecology and life history of the six owl species that regularly occur in Central Texas: Great Horned, Barred, Barn, Short-eared, Burrowing, and Eastern Screech. The workshop will also review methods of finding, attracting, and managing your property for these owl species.

Thursday evening will focus on the ecology and life history of each owl species. Friday evening participants will learn how to attract owls to their rural or suburban property, learn how to build owl boxes, and learn about proper placement and installation of owl boxes and platforms. Optional owling excursions after the workshop each night will search for the owls found at Hornsby Bend.

Date: Thursday, October 8 (7-10:00pm) and Friday, October 9 (7-10:00pm)
Location: The Center for Enviornmental Research at Hornsby Bend in Austin
[see map on HBBO website]
Cost: $60, includes evening snacks and owl life history/box design information packet.

Attendance is limited.


David Sibley on Tree Watching

Lots of info and more links to videos about Sibley's new tree book.

Virginia Sand Plover Video

This is Robyn Puffenbarger's video of a Sand Plover recently found in Virginia--believed to be a Greater Sand Plover (3rd record for the Lower 48 states).

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

fLaPpY bIrDdAy!!!

Today's my birthday, so I've gotta get out and see some birds. If you get out you can have a fLaPpY bIrDdAy too!

Feral Cats and Birds

Ted Williams has a succinct article on the conflict between feral cat management advocates and wildlife issues in the most recent Audubon magazine. I'm sure he's going to take some flack for this, but it had to be said, and Audubon magazine should be commended for wading into the fray--it's a very emotional issue for so many people. But lets just get this out of the way--TNR (trap, neuter, return) is based on junk science. It actually promotes feral cats rather than reduces their number and impact on the environment.

We need a better option to protect birds and other wildlife. Feral cats need to be removed from the environment. If the animal welfare folks don't want these cats to be killed, than they need to foot the bill to have them taken care of on their own properties and be licensed for the killing of wildlife that will take place on these "cat ranches". Sure it will be expensive to set up cat ranches for all these animals. But that's the only way to manage them so that they aren't killing wildlife.

Feral cats should not be roaming around in public. They are a hazard to wildlife and human health.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Gulls are Back

OK, here in Bucks County, PA I don't think we ever lose the gulls entirely--you can see a few Ring-billed Gulls up at Lake Nockamixon even in summer. But the wintering gulls are starting to trickle back in. Today I had 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and one Great Black-backed Gull. We still don't know where these lessers go for the summer, which as far as we know aren't nesting in North America.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

When is an NBS really an NBS?

Today while canoeing with the family, my NBS (non-birding spouse) said "is that a sandpiper over there?" and sure enough it was a Spotted Sandpiper bouncing along on a a log. So if she can identify a sandpiper, is she really still an NBS? Or do I have to break the news to her that she is really a birder now?

International Vulture Awareness Day from Mayaland

In honor of International Vulture Awareness Day, I thought I'd share this little story we picked up from some Ch'orti' Maya in Guatemala:

One day the chakoroch [turkey vulture] was siting in a tree watching a cow that was sleeping. A hawk spoke to the vulture and told him to go down and begin to eat it because it was dead. Finally the vulture was convinced that the cow was dead, flew down rapidly, and stuck its head in the cow's anus. Unfortunately the cow was still alive, and the vulture was barely able to withdraw his head, which emerged without feathers, and turkey vultures have had bald red heads ever since.

And here's another explanation:
El Kumix, who was the young maize god among the Ch'orti', was tryhing to go to heaven to see his mother, the goddess of the moon. Kumix asked a hawk to carry him to heaven, but he wasn't able to. Then Kumix asked a vulture to carry him. The vulture made a valiant effort using a mexapal, but halfway to heaven he dropped the mescapal and the two fell to earth. When the mecapal broke, it shaved the head of the vulture, leaving it bald and red. Some say that this was a curse that Kumix put on the vulture for not being able to carry him to the sky.

Whatever you think about vultures, they are an important part of our world and deserve our support!

Stories reported in “Los p├íjaros y el progn├ístico en la vida diaria de los Ch’orti’ Maya de Guatemala (Birds and Prognostication in the  Daily Life of the Ch'orti' Maya of Guatemala),” Kerry Hull and Rob Fergus, in Proceedings of the XVIII Coloquio Internacional  LAILA/ALILA, March 10-14, 2008, San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico, in review.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

New Words for Old Birds: Barred Owl

(photo: wikipedia)

For years we've all been told that the Barred Owl says "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all."

Is that really what it says? First of all, it's pretty much a Yankee description (no self-respecting southern Barred Owl would say "you all"!). It also seems to imply something about servants (or worse?), I mean, you can't even ask who cooks for someone unless they are obviously not cooking for themselves.

So on the grounds that it is regionalist, classist, and antiquated, isn't it time to find some new words to describe the Barred Owl call?

So if they don't say "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all" what do Barred Owls say?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Swallow-tailed Kite in PA

There is a Swallow-tailed Kite that has been hanging around the Militia Hill Hawkwatch and the adjacent golf course for the past week. This afternoon I got to take my sister (visiting from Utah) and my kindergartener over to see it. We got distant views through the scope as the bird soared and swooped around over the golf course. This bird is normally only found in the SE US and points south, so not a bird I was expecting to see in PA (past records are few and far between-see here--and usually birds seen just flying past). Sweet! (photo: wikipedia)
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