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Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Ask and Ye Shall Recieve

 A couple years ago I posted this on the eBird discussion group in Facebook--

Very happy that this year eBird overhauled their database so that we can report these exotic birds, track them in the database, but not have them show up in our birding totals for listing purposes. Great job eBird. 

So these Chukars from behind the Philly airport in 2020 are now officially in eBird--but they don't add to my county totals. Love it!

Chukars shown below my main Delaware County eBird list, listed with other exotics I've seen in the county, but not included on my main county list.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

And Then There Were None

One of the things I love about birding is the window it provides onto the changing seasons, and the connection that fosters to the natural world. While we anxiously await the arrival of migratory breeding birds in the spring, you have to be paying even more attention to notice exactly when they disappear in the fall.

Wood Thrush (Source: Wikipedia)

I haven't heard a Wood Thrush in over a week, so this morning on my walk I stopped and listened and even tried some playback in my local park to see if any of the at least seven singing birds that had spent the summer there were still around. Nothing. Same with the local Red-eyed Vireos. While I will still find a few migrant thrushes this fall, especially if I get my NFC microphone up to record the nocturnal fall migration, the local birds have moved on.

Monday, August 14, 2023

July 2023 Road Trip

So this may be the road most travelled by for me, I-80 out to Utah and back. We've done this drive several times, and when we are in a hurry to get out West, this is our default drive--32 to 36 hours straight, depending on stops for food. We made a quick trip out for a family reunion in Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Not a lot of new birds for the year on the drive, and not much wildlife on the drive out, but the drive back was great, with a couple roadside Greater Sage Grouse in Wyoming and more Pronghorn than I've seen in a long time from Wyoming out halfway through Nebraska. 

Here's the eBird trip report, only 117 species, so again not a lot of new birds for the year, but nice to see some old friends, especially in Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Note the gap in eBird checklists across Iowa--that's some major nighttime driving going on both ways there!  

6098 miles round trip, great scenery and time with family. Elk, Bighorn, Moose, Bison. No bears. A few birds. Good times.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

My 42nd Birdiversary!!!

Today marks 42 years as a birder. While I had been watching birds casually for awhile before then, 10 August 1981 is the day it really started for me, on a weeklong middle school field trip from the Portland suburbs out to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. An annual or semi-annual tradition at the time, middle school teachers at my school would take a couple van loads of kids out on what we called Project W--a weeklong camping and natural history adventure to SE Oregon. I was 12 years old and a self-described herper at the time, mostly interested in lizards, but after a week of seeing dozens of cool birds for the first time, I was hooked! The rest is history. 

 Here's an eBird checklist of the birds seen on that first birding trip. 

 Looking at the report, turns out one of my first birds was Clark's Nutcracker--a bird I got to see again last week in Yellowstone, and hadn't seen since before moving to PA almost 20 years ago.
Clark's Nutcracker (photo: Wikipedia)

So that's that! While I have 12 species in eBird checklists from before this date, 10 August 1981 is the day the light turned on. Thanks to my teachers and fellow students on that trip. And to the birds!

Here's my journal from this trip--apparently I was as scared of the dark as I was impressed by the birds!

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Birding Boa Ogoi

Today I spent a beautiful morning out at Boa Ogoi (Shoshone:Big River AKA Bear River) with Darren Parry, a member of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation tribal council. We visited the site of the Bear River Massacre north of Preston, Idaho--where a US Army detachment attacked and massacred over 250 Shoshone men, women, and children at a winter village in 1863.

Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Bear River Massacre monument, Highway 91 north of Preston, ID

When I arrived at the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) monument to the massacre on Highway 91, the most obvious birds were the non-native Rock Pigeon, European Starling, House Sparrows, and most recent new colonizer the Eurasian Collared-Dove. I wondered if it was fitting, or ironic? But listening closely, the native birds were still there as well--a Killdeer (Duck Valley Shoshone: pantei) piped up from a nearby horse pasture. A Yellow Warbler flew into the trees behind the monument and interpretive sign. A couple of Yellow-headed Blackbirds flew around the marsh, and two pairs of Sandhill Cranes (Duck Valley Shoshone: koanta) seemed to call to each other from opposite sides of the highway. White-faced Ibis and a lone Mallard (Duck Valley Shoshone: peye) flew over. Darren and I visited for awhile, and as we prepared to get in our cars, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circled over a nearby field (eBird checklist with complete list of 16 species and coordinates)

One of six beautiful interpretive signs up the road from the DUP monument.

Picnic tables and interprerive signs up the road from the DUP monument

Memorial for the children killed during the massacre

We drove up the road a few hundred yards to a much more informative collection of interpretive signs installed by the state of Idaho with Shoshone input. It was more quiet up on this bench overlooking the valley, and a Swainson's Hawk watched us from a nearby fencepost (eBird checklist).

Roadside hot spring on the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation land at Boa Ogoi

Several hot springs dot the landscape, and were an important feature making this a good wintering village site for the Shoshone. We drove down the river valley a ways to one set of bubbling and steaming springs right near the road. A miniature Yellowstone.  Along one hillside, a roadbank was pocked with Bank Swallow nesting holes, and almost two dozen swallows circled and swooped in the vicinity (eBird checklist).

For a contemporary Shoshone take on the Bear River Massacre, you can get Darren Parry's book--The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History--with notes on traditional Shoshone foods, prayers, life ways, and more recent history.

The Shoshone--who traditionally refer to themselves as Newe ("the People")--continue to be active at this massacre site. The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation aquired over 700 acres along the river, including the massacre site, and are planning to build the Wuda Ogwa Cultural & Interpretive Center there. They have raised over $6 million of a required $8+ million (donate here) for construction, and are also conducting a multi-million dollar habitat restoration program on this land, including removing thousands of invasive Russian olive trees. Hopefully Boa Ogoi will continue to host its traditional human inhabitants, as well as its native wildlife (referred to as "our non-human kin"), for the forseeable future and until the end of time.

For more information:

The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History (book by Darren Parry)

Darren Parry's work with the Environmental Humanities Graduate Program at the University of Utah

2018 Salt Lake Tribune article on culture center plans

PBS video on ecological restoration at Boa Ogoi

Wuda Ogwa Cultural & Interpretive Center (information and online donation page)

Shoshoni Language Project

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

May 2023 Road Trip

Lat month my son Michael and I had a quick roadtrip out west, 7083 miles in 12 days. Not a lot of time for any real birding, but did log 175 species mostly from the highway. No surprises, but great scenery and fun to catch up with a few old bird friends--such as Upland Sandpiper on a fencepost in ND and Hammond's Flycatchers in Montana. I've covered most of these roads before, but taking a few detours here and there, and a new route home through OK, logged me 53 new counties--in most of which I was able to get at least an incidental eBird checklist posted--including Trimble County KY named after one of my ancestors (Robert Trimble).

Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites