Sunday, May 25, 2014

ABC: Save the Golden-Winged Warbler

This beautiful illustration in Bird Conservation, the journal of the American Bird Conservancy, jumped out at us over this lovely, slow Memorial Day weekend Birdcouple is spending at home, after successive weekends of crazy birding and hiking. (As we have mentioned before, BC loves the ABC!!)

While the campaign to save the Golden-Wing was tied in with the Biggest Week in American Birding, it is not too late to donate. Birdcouple just did.

Golden-Winged Warblers are among the fastest declining birds in the Americas, according to the ABC. To see one in migration here in Maryland, or at a handful of nesting spots out in far Western maryland, is a very very special experience. The money ABC raises will advance reforestation work in the El Jaguar Private Reserve, an important wintering grounds.

As the rush of spring migration 2014 in North America starts to slow, it's time to put down the bins (for just a few moments) and think of conservation.

As, ABC says, a little GREEN can save the GOLD!

You can donate here.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tennessee!

You don't have to walk across the state of Virginia to find this sign on the Appalachian Trail.  But, Cute Husband and I did... well it took a couple of years to make that happen, but we walked into Tennessee last week!

More on the big adventure soon on our AT site...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gone hikin'


BC has gone hikin'....


Meanwhile, this from the New York Times on "gadgets vs eyeballs." And here's there guide to birding resources in NY City.



It’s Gadgets vs. Eyeballs as Two Species of Bird-Watchers Clash

Bird-watchers, like these in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, will compete on Saturday in the World Series of Birding in New Jersey.Michael Nagle for The New York TimesBird-watchers, like these in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, will compete on Saturday in the World Series of Birding in New Jersey.
Pete Dunne and Benjamin Van Doren are devout birders who share a passion for identifying rare species, recording their sightings and competing in birding events known as Big Days.
But as they prepared for the biggest Big Day of all, Saturday’s World Series of Birding in New Jersey, their technological approaches could hardly be more disparate.
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Mr. Van Doren, 20, a sophomore at Cornell, has a $2,500 camera setup, and an iPhone stocked with digital field guides, apps that play recordings of bird songs and help him, with GPS, home in on where he might find certain species.
Mr. Dunne, 62, has been preparing a bit differently. He refuses to bring a camera and keeps his cellphone turned off. He eschews birding apps and digital libraries in favor of the handwritten journal that he has kept since he was 7. The proliferation of digital photography and other technology changes the whole dynamic of birding, he said, “getting away from the art of field identification.”
It was all leading to a regrettable mind-set, he added, of “Shoot first and identify later.”
Not long after professional baseball came around to instant replay, the booming world of competitive birding, once seen as a refuge from the clatter of the modern world, is now debating how much it should embrace technology. It is as close as birding, long proud of its honor system, has ever come to an identity crisis, particularly over the issue of whether photography should be required to prove a spotting. In debates among birders, the encroachment of smartphones and digital cameras has become inseparable from another touchy issue, the matter of questionable sightings, known as stringing.
Pete Dunne founded the World Series of Birding, which limits the use of technology.Ryan Collerd for The New York TimesPete Dunne founded the World Series of Birding, which limits the use of technology.
The World Series is held every May throughout New Jersey, a major migration stop for birds heading north, and the event routinely attracts roughly 1,000 of the world’s top birders, who will race around the state from midnight to midnight, often in four-member teams, trying to identify as many species as they can by sight or sound. Their reward will be bragging rights and the Urner-Stone Cup, which resembles a miniature version of hockey’s Stanley Cup, though there are no cash prizes.
The competition, which also raises money for conservation, does not require photo evidence, and scoring remains on the honor system, though contestants who claim to have seen or heard rare birds can expect to be questioned by other teams about details. The rules do not allow the use of digital gadgets in the spotting or hearing of birds. Recorded calls cannot be played in the open, where they could inadvertently — or intentionally — induce birds to respond, for example. But birders are permitted to refresh themselves — in their cars, only — with recorded bird calls.
The pro-tech camp argues that it is silly to prohibit tools that educate birders, make birding more welcoming for novices, and build popular support for saving bird habitats.
“It is bringing a new breath of air into the competitions,” said Scott Whittle, a commercial photographer from Cape May, N.J., who has a $10,000 photo setup. He is also helping develop an app called Bird Genie that recognizes and identifies bird calls in the field.
He said he began birding six years ago and photographed his sightings “because I knew I wasn’t a good enough birder for people to trust me.”
The verification of sightings and combating stringing — arguable sightings by inexperienced, overeager or simply cheating birders — is one of birding’s most pressing issues and is the main argument for the use of photos.
Birding’s popularity, fueled in part by the recent films, “The Big Year,” and “A Birder’s Guide to Everything,” is approaching an extreme-sport level, with adrenaline-pumped teams putting in sleepless days.
The American Birding Association has begun discussions to revise portions of its code of ethics, said Jeffrey Gordon, the association’s president. The code serves as a guideline for birders, though competition organizers are free to make their own rules. Mr. Gordon said that what little there was in the code regarding technology — there is a mention, for example, of curbing the use of “tape recorders” — has likely gone unchanged since being established a decade ago, “before people were walking around with libraries of bird songs in their pocket.”
While the honor system remains paramount, Mr. Gordon said, photographs, provided they have not been altered, can offer “a higher standard of evidence,” especially for rare sightings, and for newer birders who have yet to establish reputations of being rock-solid in their identifications.
“I hear young birders joking around saying, ‘Photos or it didn’t happen,’ ” he said. “The expectation is that if you report something rare, you’re going to need a photograph. And I only see that increasing.”
The association created a new category of competition: Photo Big Days. Last month, Mr. Whittle and Tom Stephenson, a Brooklyn-based birder who leads tours in Prospect Park, organized a Photo Big Day in Texas, and competed as well, photographing 209 birds in 24 hours, which the birding association has recognized as a record for North America.
Even purists like Mr. Dunne, a New Jersey Audubon Society official who founded the World Series, said any tool that made birding more accessible was welcome. But introducing them to competitions goes against the trust implicit in birding, the purists said, and turns what should be a contest of devotion and skill into a free-for-all where tech wizardry and expensive cameras become the de facto entry requirements.
A participant in the World Series of Birding in 2009.Kathy Willens/Associated PressA participant in the World Series of Birding in 2009.
“We’re at a pivotal time,” Mr. Dunne said, acknowledging that birding technology was “going to change birding dramatically and probably permanently.”
Drew Weber, who writes a blog about birding and technology at NemesisBird.com and helps develop birding apps, said he has heard some resentment among old guard birders toward tech-savvy ones who have gained vast birding knowledge with comparably little time spent in the field.
“A lot of traditional birders, honing their skills for decades, had to put all this time in, and they might see technology as a shortcut,” he said.
Teams in the World Series recruit members who can identify bird calls and can scout where targeted species are likely to be seen. To prepare for the event, Mr. Van Doren’s Cornell team has spent a week driving around New Jersey using apps to log where specific birds had been spotted. They are not allowed to use apps to acquire new information during the event, but they can use them to refer to previously gathered information.
Mr. Van Doren acknowledged that technology should have its limits. The day will come, he predicted, when binoculars themselves will be able to identify birds. “That would be lame from a birding perspective,” he said, “because it would take the skill out of it.”

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Birdcouple's May Big Day



After three or four just-shy attempts over the years to see 100 species of birds in Maryland in one day, Birdcouple set out this morning determined not to fail again. Big Days, Lisa and Warren agreed, are like the ultimate fun treasure hunt, racing against the clock from place to place (and all the places were beautiful), never knowing what you will find and what you will miss.

We'll get straight to the lead, as they say in the news business: we did it. Almost 12 hours, 5 stops, more than 7 miles walked, probably 100 miles driven and .... 101 species!!!!

Sorry there are no pictures of all the warblers, vireos, sandpipers, sparrows, rails, terns and more that we saw. We decided to travel light - no camera, and not even a scope. Just a determined Birdcouple with bins, Lisa's iPod Sibley app and a notebook.

Bird #100 was a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo at Warren's favorite "patch," Davidsonville Park in our home Anne Arundel County.




Boy, were we happy! And ready for shower, food and a glass of wine. Our route took us from amazing Susquehanna State Park, to Conowingo Dam (bad call - great birding spot. In winter), to Swan Harbor Farm for field birds and sandpipers, and then to Swan Creek/Cox Creek, a dredge fill and reclamation area that may not be the prettiest spot in the world, but has been host to some amazing birds. And finally to Davidsonville Park.

News alert:   We just heard a Common Nighthawk calling over the house. Make that 102 species for the day. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog......

Here's our species list for May 10, 2014, in order seen/heard:

1. Northern Cardinal
2. Carolina Wren
3. Tufted Titmouse
4. House Sparrow
5. Northern Mockingbird
6. Canada Goose
7. Song Sparrow
8. Chipping Sparrow
9. Carolina Chickadee
10. Blue Jay
11. Eastern Towhee
12. Eastern Phoebe
13. Tree Swallow
14. Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher
15. Gray Catbird
16. Common Yellowthroat
17. American Crow
18. Ovenbird
19. Wood Thrush
20. Acadian Flycatcher
21. Eastern Wood-Peewee
22. Louisiana Waterthrush
23. Scarlet Tanager
24. Yellow Warbler
25. Great Blue Heron
26. Great-Crested Flycatcher
27. Belted Kingfisher
28. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
29. Mallard
30. Mourning Dove
31. American Redstart
32. Brown-Headed Cowbird
33. Wilson's Warbler
34. Northern Parula
35. Cerulean Warbler
36. Magnolia Warbler
37. Black and White Warbler
38. Red-Eyed Vireo
39. Blackburnian Warbler
40. Barn Swallow
41. Warbling Vireo
42. Black-throated Blue Warbler
43. Kentucky Warbler
44. Hooded Warbler
45. Fish Crow
46. Prothonotary Warbler
47. Bald Eagle
48. Canada Warbler
49. Eastern Bluebird
50. Wood Duck
51. Osprey
52. Indigo Bunting
53. Blackpoll Warbler
54. White-Breasted Nuthatch
55. Red-Shouldered Hawk
56. Pileated Woodpecker
57. Eastern Kingbird
58. Orchard Oriole
59. Turkey Vulture
60. Field Sparrow
61. Double-Crested Cormorant
62. Worm-Eating Warbler
63. American Goldfinch
64. Yellow-Rumped Warbler
65. Spotted Sandpiper
66. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
67. Black Vulture
68. Baltimore Oriole
69. Common Grackle
70. Rock Pigeon
71. Herring Gull
72. Chimney Swift
73. Purple Martin
74. European Starling
75. Red-Winged Blackbird
76. Semiplamated Plover
77. Least Sandpiper
78. Marsh Wren
79. Great Egret
80. Savannah Sparrow
81. American Coot
82. Greater Yellowlegs
83. Green Heron
84. Swamp Sparrow
85. House Finch
86. Sora
87. Solitary Sandpiper
88. Killdeer
89. Downy Woodpecker
90. Little Blue Heron
91. Ruddy Duck
92. Greater Black-Backed Gull
93. Ring-Billed Gull
94. Snowy Egret
95. Wilson's Snipe
96. Least Tern
97. White-Eyed Vireo
98. Lesser Scaup
99. Gadwall
100. Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
101. Red-Tailed Hawk
102. Common Nighthawk






Sunday, May 4, 2014

Maryland Photographed Birds List



Among the many lists Warren keeps - it's an affliction, he knows - is a list of birds photographed within the borders of our fair state of Maryland.

That list stands at 240 species now, thanks to this Ovenbird seen on a recent Birdcouple walk at the American Chestnut Land Trust trails in Calvert County. Ovenbirds are easily heard in dense forest as they call out their Teacher!, Teacher!, TEACHER! song.  But they can be hard to spot for such loud little fellows. This one posed for his photo.



Wood Thrush wasn't on Warren's photo list until recently, which is crazy - we have them in our back woods every spring and summer. In fact, they arrived on Sunday, April 27 - a few days later than normal. They had us scared, but spring migration has been running a bit late this year, perhaps due to the long winter and cool spring.

Speaking of the Lovenest, we have a new hummingbird feeder, which seems to be doing the trick:





And also a new, uninvited house guest:





Who knew Carolina Wrens ate spiders????

The feeling of photographing birds, especially a new species:  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!




Monday, April 28, 2014

Birds and BEES!


I have pictures of a ginormous swarm thrown off from my Russian bees, Hive Hera.  But, alas, I can't figure out how to get them off my phone in a vertical position.  



Cute Hubby will figure out this technological problem!  In the meantime, enjoy the sight of 30,000 plus bees dangling from a holly bush, in a sideways picture.  

The sound when they started to swarm was simply amazing.  The humming was almost alien like.  And, before they settled on this branch (which was luckily only about 7 feet off the ground), the bee activity in the yard even freaked me out a bit.   The air smelled like lemons as they emitted a scent that tells 1/2 the hive... hey!  we are swarming, come with us! 

Also, lucky that I had my buddy to help me gather these escapees and put them in a new hive.   Cute Hubby asked, "Have you done this before?"  I replied "No, but we can look it up online!"  And, he still agreed to help!   (I swear it was not my intention to have FOUR hives this year, Warren!)

 It took a few passes and  some good limb shakes into a large box and a big dumping of thousands of bees in the new hive.   Then we watched as hundreds more calmly marched into their new home. 

My only regret is that I didn't try to make a bee beard! 

Then as we went out later in the evening to see if they were still happy, we heard the first Wood Thrushes of the year in the woods of the LoveNest.

 Finally!   They were a day or two late and we were growing concerned.    

Now, if only I can find Alvin, the chipmunk, it will really feel like spring! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Photo Big Day

.. and other news from our friends at Princeton University Press.


     The folks who brought us The Warbler Guide (which is sitting next to us as we type), Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, are collaborating again, along with the American Birding Association and the NYC Audubon, on a race to see and photograph as many species as possible within a 24-hour period. It's called the Photo Big Day, and you can learn more about it - and how to start your own team - at that link above.

    Sounds like fun - and a bit of a challenge for nocturnal species or fly-by birds!

    Just as cool, Princeton University Press will be releasing later this spring a new app, called BirdGenie, that they say will identify bird song with 90 percent or greater accuracy.



   Love that logo. The app will work with Apple and Android devices. Here's the links for the app for Eastern and Western birds.

  Finally, here's the Press' homepage.

  PS - Before signing off, we have to also mention their title, Bumble Bees of North America. A must-get for Princess Lisa.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Junior Duck Stamp winners for 2014



Very quick post this morning .... BC wants to congratulate the winners of the 2014 National Junior Duck Stamp Contest. (Full information about the program from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here).

This winning painting, an acrylic rendering of a King Eider, was done by Si youn Kim, 16, of Tenafly, New Jersey.

We also like the winning conservation message, by Max Cheng, 15, of Freemont, California:  Conserving a habitat is like painting a background. Without it the picture is not complete.

Here are the runner-up paintings:



Trumpeter Swan and cygnets, Andrew Kneeland, Rock Springs, Wyoming



Hooded Merganser, Jiahe Qu

Monday, April 21, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Postcard from Afghanistan, Part 3


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?: 



Keep 'em coming, Peter!