As we have posted before here and here, dear friend and super-birder Peter Kaestner is in Afghanistan these days. He is of course already the top birder in that country, according to eBird's standings, with 164 species at last count.
Peter has seen a great variety of ducks, raptors, owls, finches, sparrows and other birdies. From time to time, he shares shots of what he's seen. And we, of course, have been tardy in posting them.
So here goes.
This a stunning Eurasian Eagle Owl, with crazy cool eyes:
And a tree full of Wagtails. (We'd settle for one Wagtail in a tree here in Annapolis):
A Green-Winged Teal (looks like the Common Teal subspecies from Eurasia to us):
A pair of Ferruginous Ducks:
And finally some Northern Pintails. Who knew this common waterfowl from North America is also present in Afghanistan?:
Birdcouple gets a little bird crazy this time of year, when spring finally hits and the migrants arrive in wave after wave. So, as soon as Saturday morning struck, we headed down to one of our favorite mid-April birding spots, Flag Ponds Nature Park in Maryland's Calvert County. Flag Ponds park adjoins the Chesapeake Bay, but has a lot of woodland habitat, and so is a great stop-off point for warblers and other north-bound travelers.
Ruby-Crowned Kinglets were also on the move.
After the migrants, came a major surprise. Someone had gotten a bit lost. That someone was a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, a denizen of Texas and Oklahoma, that a sharp, 12-year-old birder had found in our own Anne Arundel County at Fort Smallwood Park.
This may be the first record of this species in our home county, and was Warren's 258th species for the county. More importantly, it was buddy Dan Haas' 300th!!!
This picture didn't turn out so great, but it gives you some idea of what this bird's amazing tail looks like in flight.
And here's the Postal Service's description of the stamps:
The U.S. Postal Service celebrates ten melodic voices with the Songbirds stamps: the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), the mountain bluebird (Sialia currucoides), the western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana), the painted bunting (Passerina ciris), the Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula), the evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus), the scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea), the rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus), the American goldfinch (Spinus tristis), and the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis).
Each colorful bird is shown perching on a fence post or branch embellished with vines, pinecones, leaves, or flowers. The artwork appears against a plain, white background.
Why do songbirds make such a glorious racket every morning? In a word, love. Males sing to attract females, and to warn rivals to keep out of their territory. Between 4,000 and 4,500 different types of songbirds can be found around the planet, accounting for nearly half of all bird species. Songbirds are identified by their highly developed vocal organs, although some, like the crow, have harsh voices, and others sing rarely, or not at all. All songbirds are classified as perching birds. With three toes that point forward and one that points backward, they can grip branches, grasses, or telephone wires with ease.
Illustrator Robert Giusti painted the portraits, based on photographs. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps.
Songbirds will be issued as Forever® stamps in booklets of 20. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.
Well... movie night was not actually a night out as I predicted here. Because, we couldn't find A Birder's Guide to Everything playing at any local movie theater. And, by local, I basically mean the East Coast, because I would have used this excuse to drag Cute Husband through a couple of states for date night.
So, we ended up renting it from Amazon, which you can do as well! This may have been bonus, since date night included drinking a bottle of wine with a movie.
Anyway, A Birder's Guide to Everything is a sweet coming of age movie that at times felt like an overused theme that you have seen before... except there were birds in it! And, birders who were somewhat normal. Yes, the birding club the boys belong to is nerdy, but the sport/hobby of birding was treated with respect and nobody gets mocked for being a birder.
Of course the movie includes some birds, some bird song and some lovely shots of birding in a beautiful forest. This is not The Big Year, but it does give a sense of the chase to find a bird and the lengths birders will go to tick one.
One of my favorite scenes is when Ben Kingsley's character encourages the boys to search for the bird, even though it may have flown a couple of states away. It captures the adventure of birding and makes a nod to the fact that even amateur birders can find and (possibly) correctly ID rare birds.
Toward the end of the movie, the main character is describing the differences between people who enjoy birds ..."feeders" "listers" and "watchers", which, I think, does a nice job of characterizing bird obsession.
If you are looking for the next The Big Year in terms of crazed birding adventures, this is not it. But, if you are looking for a gentle movie that nicely explores birding, you will enjoy A Birder's Guide to Everything.
Lisa and I don't actually encourage wild creatures to come inside and share our Lovenest, but ... hey, we live on 1.8 acres of woods, with trees as close as 8 feet to the house, and we refuse to use poison (except to stop the termites from actually EATING the house).
So Warren wasn't much surprised one recent evening when he went downstairs to turn on the TV - the only one we own - and the electric heater, and he encountered a two-foot Eastern Garter Snake just inside the back door:
Now we know why mice haven't been in the pantry this winter! But the snake was cold, barely moving. Warren would have taken it for dead except it's little snake-tongue was flicking in and out.
There was only one thing to do, sadly - put it outside, and let nature take its course.
Well nature did, but not in the way we expected. An hour later, Warren checked back, and the snake had disappeared!
Then, we heard a small mammal running off in the dark, through the leaves and snow. Warren thought it was one of the foxes that hang about (they are most easily seen on evenings when people put out their trash for collection next day).
Baicich has been an active birder since his early teens in New York City. A former employee of the American Birding Association, he edited 14 of their ABA Birdfinding Guides, as well as their bi-monthly magazine, and served as Director of Conservation and Public Policy. Today, Baicich directs the on-line Great Birding Projects and co-edits the popular monthly Birding Community E-bulletin. He writes regularly for birding magazines, including Bird Watcher's Digest. He has also been instrumental in starting and running Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp-a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion, preservation, sales, and better understanding of the Duck Stamp.
We would add that Paul is a great friend, ace birder and one of this generation's great conservationists. We wish every birder did just 10 percent of the conservation work that he undertakes, with little thought of recompense.
Warren worked at home on Monday, during what WE HOPE will be the last snowstorm of a very long winter. In between reading serious documents and emailing colleagues, he took a few minutes out to take some photos of the Lovenest birds that were going crazy at the feeders.
A lot of these customers have been hanging around for months. And while we have enjoyed their company, there are a few winter birds, like this Junco, that we wish would push off north and let Spring arrive!
American Goldfinch (and a feeder torn up by rampaging squirrels)
Why do Wrens always seem so angry and fussy? Are they? Or is that just our perception of them? Hmmmmmmmmm.....
Blue Jay, the neighborhood bully
We have been blessed to be visited by two Hermit Thrushes all winter...