Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No Bird Brain

According to this study, and according to our BirdCam....

These guys are as smart as apes.....

Monday, December 24, 2007

Magic Merlin

Lisa and I were out every morning the last three days, looking for some rarities that have been seen locally, including a White-Winged Crossbill. (None has been seen in Maryland for 10 years). Well, we struck out. But birding is its own reward, and when you go looking for one thing, you invariably find another.

This Merlin flew 10 feet in front of Lisa's car, and then perched for 5 whole minutes on top of a small fir tree. I photographed it as it flew away. I have to say, modestly, that this is one of the best nature photos I've ever taken. The bird is watching me as it flies.

Here it is, a few minutes earlier, still perched. And still watching me.

This photo is a bit washed out, but I like it because you get the head-on effect of this magnificent predator.

To round out Christmas Eve day, we saw a Northern Pintail, relatively rare in Anne Arundel County. Both these birds were new for my county list, which now stands at 158...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

To one and all....

- The BirdCouple

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Last Minute Gifts for the Holistic Birder

Looking for just the right gift for the nature lover or geared-out birder in your life?
Looking for just the right gift that gives something while giving something back?

Looking for just the right gift that supports conservation and/or education?

Consider donating to some of the following organizations that need the support of the birding community:

Ducks Unlimited DU has conserved more than 11.6 million acres of waterfowl habitat in North America. Their mission is to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl.

Audubon The mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. Audubon's long range goal is to bring about a national and worldwide culture of conservation. (Wonderful, eh?)

Saving Birds thru Habitat The mission is to protect, enhance and restore habitat for North American birds and to educate people of all ages about how to achieve it. The goal is to improve habitat for migrating birds one backyard at a time.

The Nature Conservancy The mission is to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Since 1951, this organization has protected more than 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is dedicated to the conservation of the 2,175-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The mission is to ensure that future generations will enjoy the clean air and water, scenic vistas, wildlife and opportunities for simple recreation and renewal along the entire Trail corridor. (BirdCouple has seen many a bird along the AT)

Now you might want to add a beautiful piece of artwork to this special holiday gift.

BirdCouple highly recommends:

Look for this jewel next year - the 2008 Duck Stamp

The Duck Stamp! This little treasure has some real bang for the buck. Nighty-eight cents of every dollar of sales goes directly to the purchase or lease of wetland habitat. The Federal Duck Stamp Program has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated and is a highly effective way to conserve America’s natural resources.

And finally, you might want to include something to wrap a big bow around.

The masterful design and easy set-up of the BirdCam by Wingscapes makes it the perfect gift for any nature lover.

But the real joy of this cool toy could be felt by purchasing one and donating it to a school.

Future curious naturalists, future birders and hopefully future conservationists are made!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Delaware has a Birding Trail!

Saturday was a super-duper, triple-happy good day. We got to go birding with our friend Paul Baicich, saw two new life birds (American Pipit, you are a nemesis no more!) and attended the inuaguration of the Delaware Birding Trail, at Bombay Hook NWR, one of our all-time favorite places. Almost too much fun!

More on the Birding Trail in a moment. But first, I'd have to say the Snow Geese were the stars of the show. First, they came in ones and twos...

Then in dozens.....

Then the hundreds and thousands:

Which way is dinner?

The Delaware Birding Trail was created in just 18 months from inception, put together by an incredibly smart and enthusiastic team from the Delaware Ornithological Society, Delaware Audubon, Delaware state agencies, with help from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This guide - which is FREE - takes you through the state's top birding spots, divided into regions, with helpful hints about what you can expect to see and what other attractions are nearby.

These guides, which are proof that avi-tourism is coming on in a big way, are now available for many states, including Texas, Florida, New Jersey and others. Our home state of Maryland is starting to develop one.

Delaware is a small state, but it has some great birding spots, particularly along the bays and oceans. You can see all kinds of stuff....

Like this beautiful immature Red-Tailed Hawk:

Paul showed us what mistletoe looks like when it is growing. He said - correctly - that BirdCouple doesn't really need any encouragement to smooch:

And guess what helps pay for all this great stuff? You guessed it:

Congratulations, Delaware, on your new Birding Trail! BirdCouple looks forward to exploring it often.

Friday, December 7, 2007

David Sibley and the "mystery" bird

David Sibley, author of the renowned Sibley Guides and a premier authority on bird identification, has weighed in on his blog on our "mystery bird" of last September, captured by BirdCam.

To recall, here's the picture BirdCam took (we never saw the bird):

Readers variously idenitifed the bird as a Common Redstart (European species almost never heard of in North America); a Red-Breasted Nuthatch; a Boreal Chickadee; or a morph Carolina Chickadee.

The consensus now is that this is a Carolina Chickadee, and through a trick of timing and light, it has been captured with its head tilted almost 90 degrees to the right, looking up at the sky (perhaps watching for predators).

David goes through this in some detail in his post, and agrees with the Carolina Chickadee ID. He also talks about the pitfalls of snap identification, writing: "This story demonstrates that there are nearly infinite possibilities for misidentification, and shows how one misleading glimpse can trigger assumptions that set us firmly onto the wrong path."

Many thanks to David for taking the time and sharing his expertise.

- W &L

PETER KAESTNER UPDATE: Our friend Peter K has added 7 more birds to his life list since we last checked, and now is at 8.141. Check it out here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Weighing in at 40 Ounces...

Black-capped Chickadee

Guess who shows up in 90% of our BirdCam pictures?

Not the Pine Siskins that everyone in Maryland is seeing at their feeders...

The photo hog in our feeder shots is the Carolina Chickadee. How this tiny bird (and his Northern cousin above) make it through the winter while other birds head for warmer climates is featured in the new issue of National Wildlife.

Chickadees, thanks to an assortment of adaptations, can brave harsh winters where other birds of the same size would not dare.

Its been known for some time that Chickadees cache food in hundreds of places and can recall the locations of each hiding spot. Chickadees also eat constantly during the daylight hours to reserve fat stores to survive long winter nights. Chickadees may also group together in communal nesting cavities to conserve heat.

Perhaps the most amazing Chickadee adaptation is the ability to lower its body temps up to 14 degrees Fahrenheit at night to save energy, allowing the birds to decrease their metabolic rates and burn fewer calories.

A whole new appreciation for the biggest chow hounds at our feeders....