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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crazy Geese

Here's a small group of geese (family?) that was hanging out near Lake Towhee, Bucks Co., PA earlier this month. Can you identify them?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Peace Valley in the wind

Quick stop at Peace Valley this morning, in the high winds, produced the following migrants:

Red-throated Loon (1)
Red-necked Grebe (2)
Greater Scaup (1)
Black Scoter (1)
Bufflehead (12)
Ruddy Duck (5)

All were out too far for any effective digiscoping.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fountain Hill Hummingbird

Spent an enjoyable morning visiting with Ed Sinkler, Arlene Koch, and Dennis Glew while waiting for and occasionally watching the female Selasphorus hummingbird in Fountain Hill, near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The bird is thought to be a female Rufous Hummingbird, but hopefully that will be confirmed when Scott Weidensaul stops by to band it this afternoon. Ed noticed the bird at the hummingbird feeder in his back yard earlier this week, and welcomes visitors to his backyard to see the bird. You can just walk up the paved walkway along the right side of the house to the back where there are chairs set up where you can watch the two feeders. Make sure to sign the guestbook.

Photo: Howard Eskin (more here)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prepare Now for Turkey Day

(Turkey from Classic Maya vase)

In our family, Thanksgiving is Turkey Day. Since 2004, I've been taking the kids out each Thanksgiving to look for Wild Turkeys before the food festivities. In fact, the 2004 chase was my very first Birdchaser post!

Some years we find the birds, sometimes we don't. But every year it is an adventure, and a great way to celebrate the natural world. Back in the early 1900s, there were only 30,000 Wild Turkeys running around out there. Now there are over 5 million of them. So Wild Turkeys can symbolize the hope we have for restoring and protecting our native birds, and the rest of our natural heritage.

Celebrate Turkey Day by taking someone you love out to look for Wild Turkeys where you live. If you don't have turkeys in your area, you can substitute some other cool (preferably gallinaceous) bird. And it will be more fun if you can actually find them, so now is the time to start scouting out local turkey haunts so you can get in the same groove as your local turkey flock.

Have fun and let me know how it goes :-)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BBC Twitching Documentary

Now on YouTube. Enjoy watching birders watching birds!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Steve Martin on shooting The Big Year

Steve Martin was on Letterman talking about shooting The Big Year (see discussion from about 2:25-5:05).

(Hat tip: John)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Barry White--Serious Bird Lover

Found this 1979 Ebony article where crooner Barry White talks about his love for air (birds), water (fish), and earth (horses). At the time of the interview he had a 480 gallon saltwater aquarium, $1.5 million in horses, and birds including cockatoos.

So, Barry White. Bird Lover. Who knew?

Anybody know any good Barry White bird tunes?

Helping Audubon Help Birds

Last week I made some very critical remarks about the national Audubon organization and some of its historic and organizational struggles. While I made every effort to be sincere and to make sure that what I posted was accurate, there is still a problem with what I posted.

According to German sociologist and philosopher J├╝rgen Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action, effective communication requires three essential elements--
1) It must be truthful
2) It must be sincerely conveyed
3) It must conform to accepted social rules

The third point is where I failed. I was critical and somewhat intemperate in my remarks. My tone was more attacking than conciliatory. Some of my intentions were clouded over by my passion, and my posts were not the most effective way to strengthen Audubon and the bird conservation community.

Since my original intent was to protest the possible loss of Hog Island as a center for building and sustaining a national Audubon community, to the extent that my posts offended or turned off members of that community with the power to influence that decision, then my posts failed in their attempt. To the degree that the posts could be taken as a Jerry Maguire moment, I lost credibility as a rational and viable partner and valuable member of that larger Audubon community. So my posts have failed to some degree, and my posts have damaged my relationships to people I care deeply about within the Audubon community. I feel that intensely, and feel the need once again to apologize.

In my best moments, my intent is to strengthen and support the Audubon societies as the strongest and potentially most effective bird conservation organizations at the national, state, and local level. I hope to my previous comments can be charitably read within that context and not as an attack on Audubon or any member of the Audubon community.

We are at a critical time in the history of Audubon. Birds need our help. The economy has financially weakened nonprofits across the country. National Audubon has a new president, which usually leads to shifts in policies and priorities. There is a lot of work to do, and it will take all of us who care about birds and/or Audubon to get this work done.

So here's my take on how you can help Audubon help birds.

1) Join Audubon. In many places you can join at both the National and the local level. National Audubon needs your support. So does your local chapter. So depending on how Audubon is organized in your area, determine if you have the opportunity to join at both the national and local chapter level.

2) Crack the Wallet. You can give to Audubon at the local, state, or national level. You can provide general support (there are always light bills to be paid), or you can support individual programs that you are most interested in. Take a look at what Audubon is doing on each of these levels, and see where you want to put your dollars to work. Since there is a lot to do, and a lot going on, there are a lot of programs and projects to support.

3) Be a Leader. If you care about birds, don't just get involved--take on a project with your local Audubon chapter. What do birds need in your area? You and a couple other people can form a subcommittee and take on the world. If you'd rather just spend your time birding, go back to suggestion number two and at least make it financially possible for someone else to do the important conservation work while you enjoy your time birding. Audubon even has some funds available that can help you do your local projects. You can also become a leader on the state level by getting involved with a statewide Audubon council linking the chapters in your state, or by serving on the board of your statewide Audubon organization. There are also ways to be involved on the National Audubon board. But you don't have to have a title or position to be a leader. If you care about birds, lead out on whatever it is that you see needs to be done.

4) Be a Follower. Even more than financial support, what good leaders need are good followers. Do what you can to support your local Audubon chapter leaders. Ditto for your statewide and national Audubon officers and staff. You may not always agree with everyone, but do your best to work through your issues without rancor. If you're reading this post you know that I haven't always succeeded here. But I am dedicated to keep trying. To patching up difficulties so we can work together. We have enough obstacles and sometimes even enemies to face without having to worry about getting stabbed in the back by members of our own community while we are out trying to do our best. Sometimes there is a tendency to complain and take our marbles elsewhere when we are upset. We need to practice following sometimes, even when we disagree, for the benefit of the larger good. This is something that seems to be breaking down in some sectors of our larger society. It is a tough skill for some of us to develop. But remember that united we stand, divided we fall. We've already seen a lot of falling in the bird world, and perhaps the greatest threat that Audubon and the conservation community face right now.

5) Be heard. Make your wishes and desires known within Audubon at all levels. Remember what it takes to be an effective communicator (truth, sincerity, living by the rules of the group with which you are communicating). Clean up your messes when you make them, but be in communication. On my best days I know that my messages have the greatest influence when they persuade with patience, gentleness, meekness, and love.

6) Have Fun. Sometimes we think birding is fun, while bird conservation is work--the last thing we want to do after a full day or week at the office. So make it fun. Make sure you have lots of fun meetings--with food. Get involved with people you enjoy being with. Let the creative juices flow. Plan bird conservation parties. Contests. Competitions. And more parties. If you have the best parties in town, you will get the most done!

7) Go to Hog Island. Along the lines of having fun, attend Audubon's chapter leadership workshops (next one is Aug 15-20, 2010) or other programs on Hog Island, Maine. Soak in the sights, sounds, and legacy of this traditional Audubon stomping ground. Take the boat out to see the puffins nesting on Eastern Egg Rock. Enjoy the great food. Hang out and share your best Audubon thoughts with like-minded local Audubon folks from around the country. If each Audubon chapter sent one member to this camp each year, we would need 10 camp sessions so the future of the camp would be financially secure, and we would be much stronger as a national community--a true Audubon society!

Yes we have our problems and squabbles within Audubon, most of which are probably not best addressed through blog posts. Audubon is a big tent, a tent that both needs and can provide support and opportunities for all of us. Under that tent we will strengthen each other and our cause as we all work together to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why I Love Audubon

As hopefully a final post in this recent series on birds and Audubon, I'd just like to highlight some of what I really love about Audubon. Mostly people who are doing great work, some of which you may not have heard of. There are thousands of them across the country, passionate and effective Auduboners at the National, State and local chapter level. Here are just a few:

1) Stephen Kress. For decades, against all odds, Dr. Kress has put together one of the most effective bird conservation programs in Audubon. He has brought puffins and nesting terns back to the coast of Maine, and has solid data to show the effectiveness of his work. He has trained hundreds of young interns over the years, and his work is an inspiration for similar projects around the world.

2) Paul Green. After serving as the president of the American Birding Association, and then as the Director of Citizen Science for Audubon, Dr. Green moved to Tucson where he heads up the Tucson Audubon Society and its groundbreaking efforts to protect the birds of Southeastern Arizona, including a landscape design course for homeowners and landscape professionals.

3) Stephen Saffier. I worked with Steve in Audubon's Science Office, and now he heads up efforts to create communities and neighborhoods that are good for birds and people at Audubon Pennsylvania. Instead of getting mired in the politics of Audubon, he has been able to implement some of the best ideas we ever had, including a backyard bird conservation program and a database linking birds to the native plants that they use and that people can plant to support them.

4) Jane Tillman. When I was at Travis Audubon Jane took on leading an Urban Habitat Committee that works tirelessly to make Austin better for birds and people. Jane and her committee have undertaken many local projects over the years, including creating backyard habitats and installing Chimney Swift towers in local parks.

5) Brian Rutledge. I love Sage Grouse, and Audubon is definitely stronger for having Brian Rutledge (Audubon VP of the Rocky Mountain Region) and his crew working tirelessly to protect them from environmental threats including damage done by extensive energy development in Wyoming.

6) Stella Miller. When Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon president Stella Miller heard that hundreds of hawks and other birds of prey were being seriously injured by methane burners at landfills and other industrial facilities, she didn't just wring her hands in despair. She took on the challenge and is working with industry groups to bring this issue to their attention and put in measures to protect the birds.

There are thousands of people in Audubon that are just as effective and passionate as these examples. I will be highlighting each of these, and many more, here and on my Urban Birdscapes blog. Audubon is well served by these people, and will be well served by supporting them and giving them the resources they need to be effective in protecting the birds and habitats we share with them.
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