Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dragonflys (2)

A few weeks ago, we blogged about the joys of dragonflys in summer. Here's a female Eastern Pondhawk that we encountered in a 30-minute walk at Parvin State Park, NJ, before Adam's soccer game. We also saw a Bald Eagle and some other cool bugs.

Lesson: No matter where you are and how short the time, there's always something cool to see!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bird of the broad and sweeping wing…

Photographer: Stan Bousson

The Bald Eagle was removed from the Endangered Species Act's "threatened" list today. This is a real victory and news worth celebrating because protection under the Act rarely leads to a successful return of the species.

Of the 1,300 species that have been listed under the Act, the recovery rate is only about 1 percent.

Under the Bald Eagle’s previous “threatened” status, the Bald Eagle, as well as its nesting grounds were protected. The birds will be now protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act which prohibits anyone from killing, wounding, or disturbing bald eagles. The Act does not protect the habitat where Eagles nest.

And that is the major reason for not celebrating the Eagle’s delisting today.

Bald Eagle nesting habitat is often on the edge of small rivers. Other birds including the #7 Common Bird in Decline, the Common Tern, nest along similar bodies of water.

People like to nest along small rivers too, which makes these habitats prime targets for development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is confident that the Eagle’s new listing will not cause a decline in populations.

Hopefully, this confidence is justified.

Hopefully, other species who unwittingly benefited from the Bald Eagle's endangered species status will also not decline.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Online Q & A - Disappearing Common Birds

As most birders know by now, the National Audubon Society earlier this month released a study, based on analysis of Christmas Bird Counts and the Breeding Bird Survey, that documented a shocking decline in the populations of familiar and well-loved birds. These include Eastern Meadowlark, Greater Scaup, Field Sparrow and others.

Warren's employer, McClatchy Newspapers, is sponsoring an online Q & A about the study on its website. Answering questions will be Dr. Ken Rosenberg, director of Bird Conservation Science at the prestigious Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Warren will answer any questions that come up regarding media coverage of birds and nature generally.

Feel free to participate in this session, which will continue for several days.

McClatchy's story about the study can be found on our home page here. Or go straight to the forum and pose a question or read the Qs & As.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A bit of fun...

In honor of our son Adam's soccer tournament this coming weekend, we offer the following from YouTube:

In early June, during a televised soccer match between Finland and Belgium, and after about 15 minutes of the start of the game, a huge Eagle Owl flew onto the field, up off the grass onto one of the goal posts. The game was stopped for seven minutes because the owl was sitting on the field and on the both goals. It also cruised the field gently, as you can see on the posted video-clip. Apparently, the owl has a nest somewhere in the stadium. The video is in Finnish, and the audience is heard shouting, "huuhkaja, huuhkaja", meaning "Eagle Owl, Eagle Owl," while the owl is sitting on the crossbars goal.

The video is below..

Owl in Finland Belgium football match

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

571 + 1

A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about bird listing and Warren's thoughts about having gotten to the point in life where he can say he has seen 571 bird species.

Well, 572 came quicker than we expected--and what a bird it was!

save the cerulean warbler

That's him right up there, Dendroica Cerulea, a Cerulean Warbler. This is one of those birds you dream about, hear others talk about, look at in bird guides, and wonder when and where you will see it -- knowing full well that it is a declining species.

According to the American Bird Conservancy, this little guy winters high in the Andes Mountains, where its habitat is threatened by the conversion of traditional coffee growing practices to "sun coffee" plantations stripped of trees. (The coffee is worse, too). Its population is believed to have declined 70% since the 1960s, and that decline continues at 4% per year.

It has been called America's fastest-declining neotropical migratory songbird. (That's a bird that migrates from the tropics each spring to North America to mate and breed, and then heads home in the fall). We think of them as ours, but really they are just visitors.

Lisa and I identified our first Cerulean Warbler last Saturday, while hiking in some mature forests in the Appalachian mountains just northeast of Harrisburg. It is probably no accident that we found the bird in a small conservation area, and not in the adjacent State Hunting Lands, managed forest where more human activity is allowed.

We worked hard for this bird. We heard a bird or two in the trees above us, including one that sounded unfamiliar. Lisa "pished" - making a sound that rarely fails to attract curious birds closer. This bird came a little closer, but not very close. It flitted about frustratingly in the dense foliage, giving us quick views of its underside - I saw mostly white, with a blue-grey necklace. Its song was distinct, but unfamiliar - and by now, Lisa and I know the calls of most of the summer birds in the Appalachians.

This was clearly not a bird we knew. We listened to the bird--and then a second one, farther away--calling again from the high tree tops. We studied our bird guide and ruled out any other warbler based on visual ID. We recorded its sound, using the video mode on our small digital camera, holding it up to the trees. We finished the last mile of our hike, drove to an Outbacks in York, PA for a steak dinner, and drove back to Annapolis with anticipation. We fired up the computer and listened to the sound of a Cerulean, as recorded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. That nailed it! No doubts left.

Our fellow blogger, A DC Birding Blog, has a lovely illustration of a Cerulean Warbler on his blog's banner.

So, they are not just numbers after all. Certainly, this bird is worth preserving--in some numbers.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Faithful Fathers of Dependent Broods

Emily Dickinson (1896)

High from the earth I heard a bird;
He trod upon the trees

As he esteemed them trifles,
And then he spied a breeze,

And situated softly
Upon a pile of wind
Which in a perturbation
Nature had left behind.
A joyous-going fellow
I gathered from his talk,
Which both of benediction
And badinage partook,

Without apparent burden,
I learned, in leafy wood

He was the faithful father
Of a dependent brood;

And this untoward transport His remedy for care,—
A contrast to our respites.
How different we are!

Happy Father's Day to three of the most wonderful Dads a girl could know....I have learned from each of you....
Special love to you TWM!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fig Newton Craving?

My gal pal, Vencka, (Happy Birthday, Girly!) sent us this picture (taken via cell phone) of a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the ledge at the Nabisco corporate offices in New Jersey.
I can sense his happiness over the fact that classic Oreo cookies no longer contain trans-fats!

Saturday, June 9, 2007


It's summer. BirdCouple is still birding like crazy. But our thoughts also turn to hiking the Appalachian Trail, kayaking, eating Maryland Blue Crabs, and looking at other life that has emerged during the spring ... such as dragonflys.

These photos were taken at Governers' Bridge Road natural area in Prince George's County, Maryland, on June 9.

Being birders, primarily, we need to do some research on what species these are, and get back to you.... ID help welcome!

Spangled Skimmer or Eastern Pondhawk?:

This is a Window Skimmer....

The obligatory art shot....

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


(If you haven't, please check out our Namibia photos below. We've been amazed by the response... Even the pictures don't begin to capture the place...)

So, 571. I like that #. Why? First of all, it has a nice, solid quality to it. 571 happens to be the number of bird species that I've seen and identified in over 20 years of amateur birding. (I was really amateur there for a while - things changed when the BirdCouple met....). Some are commonplace (Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle), some are extremely rare or special (the Resplendant Quetzal of Central America), and some are just plain hard to find unless you're in the right time, season and habitat (Lisa and I still haven't found an American Pipit).

I've talked to a lot of non-birders who seem to think that birding is all about seeing more and more and more birds, as if there was some limitless supply of species and all one had to do is run around with binoculars and find them all.

Not so. To some, the competition and the numbers are the main thing. I count among my friends some of the very best birders in the United States, and the world, both in their numbers and their knowledge. They know far more about the birds of the world, and ornithology in general, than I ever will.

But for me - well, I'm ecstatic on any day I see a new bird. BirdCouple says that's a good day. Seeing three or four life birds in a day is beyond good. Ten or 15 - it's almost too much to absorb.

I'm proud of 571. I can also tell anyone who asks how many birds I've seen in North America (363), Maryland (212), our home Anne Arundel County (152) or even on and around our dreamy 1.8 acres (57 at last count). I don't keep these lists in pencil and paper, mind you, I have a database of nearly 7,000 bird sightings that does it for me.

To me, 571 is the very first time I saw a Scarlet Tanager, alone on a walk through a Maryland state park. It's the Roseate Terns that Lisa and I saw, parked on a bouy as we motored our way from Key West to the Dry Tortugas. It's the Quetzal we saw in Costa Rica, in the rain, thanks to a guide who knew that most of them had left for the fall, but was determined to find the last one in the forest. It's the Violet-Eared Waxbill that hopped on the hood of our trunk in Namibia last month as we watched animals at a watering hole - and flew away as I went to grab the camera.

Thank you, Lisa.

Now where's #572?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Images of Namibia

Okahandja wood carving market

Termite mound near Okonjima

Our truck (Betty) with Kevin and Jenne's mobile. Namutoni, Etosha National Park.

One of many very scary thorn trees.

Sunset Namutoni watering hole. Etosha.

Restrooms. Etosha.

Outjo. A lovely city for refueling and tasty biltong.

Vingerklip or Finger of Stone in the Ugab terrace.
BirdCouple on the face of Vingerklip

Traditional Damara dress.

Rock paintings surrounding the White Lady of the Brandberg. Damaraland.

Journey to the Skeleton Coast. Hours and hours of moonscape.

Namib desert at sunset.

Namib desert at sunrise

Namib desert. We couldn't get enough.

Sand blowing off the slipface.

Namibian flag at half mast in memory of Swapo Party veteran Richard Kapelwa Kabajani.