Friday, September 28, 2007

HUH???!!!


Thanks to Bart Stephens, of Wingscapes, ( if you love checking out your feeder, you must have this little tool) we are stumped!
We recently sent this photo to our local expert, Phil Davis, who is a board member of the MD-DC Records Committee of the Maryland Ornithological Society, and also has an amazing list of birds in the ABA area.
Help! Phil? Anyone?


We like our wine corked...

One of BirdCouple's favorite wines. Seghesio Zinfandel.

Oh, Friday here you are!

And, it would not be a Friday at the Love Nest without something wonderful to open weekend's gate of folly....

We are wine snobs. It was the 8 week wine introduction course at our local community college that ruined us. Cute Husband has actually heard me say after a sniff and taste - "Hmmm... this is somewhat house wine-ish".

What we didn't learn in wine school is the importance of buying wine that is stopped with a cork rather than sealed with a screw cap.

Screw top.... are you thinking cheap wine?

Not anymore. Many fine winemakers have switched to screw tops to prevent cork taint. Cork taint results from an interaction of mold and other organic compounds and produces a musty flavor which makes wine undrinkable. Worse than house wine-ish.

Screw caps don't cause cork taint, plus screw tops are cheaper.

The problem? Screw caps are usually made from a nonrenewable material. Screw caps are hard to recycle. And, as more winemakers move to capping rather than corking, economic pressures are causing farmers to sell cork land for development.

Cork is a renewable material. It is made from fiber stripped from cork trees that regrows, without detriment to the tree.

Most of the cork is grown Mediterranean forests and covers about 6.7 million acres.
Cork oak forests support one of the highest levels of biodiversity among European forests and provide habitat for several endangered species including the Iberian Imperial Eagle and the Iberian Lynx.

Cork oak forests not only support the people involved in the cork industry, but also the local economy. Sheep and goats graze under cork trees and provide milk to local farmers. Honey is harvested and sold, and cork acorns are used for animal feed.

So, a toast to Friday!
and
Cheers to the cork stopped bottle I am sure Cute Husband is picking up as I write!

Wine and wenches empty men's purses ~English Proverb

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Birding Meme

We're embarassed. Way back in August, a DC Birding blog tagged us with a really cool meme. We have neglected to reply. Our excuse? Can you say work, commute, two teenage sons, a book project, hiking the AT, paying the bills, etc?

Without further ado, here are our answers:

1. What is the coolest bird you have seen from your home?

We are mad crazy for the Wood Thrushes (a family or two) that arrive in our back woods (we have about 1.8 acres) every April from somewhere down south in Central or South America. All summer long they play their lovely flute song in the woods. And then, usually in early August, suddenly they are gone...

We've also had a good warbler fall-out or two, including some American Redstarts, Parulas and a bright Magnolia Warbler down by the stream.

2. If you compose lists of bird species seen, what is your favorite list and why?

We (okay, Cute Husband) keeps lots of crazy lists. Here are a few of our favorites - Our list of birds seen in and over our property (56), a list of birds we've seen while kayaking (21) and our favorite, our list of birds seen while hiking the Appalachian Trail (85).

Lisa says she's going to do a list of birds seen pooping. hasn't happened yet.

3. What sparked your interest in birds?

Lisa: Being outside. All the other things you see when you are out birding. Spending time with Cute Husband.

Warren: Spending time with Princess. :) I got interested in birds at a young age (7 or 8), because I loved to be outdoors and explore nature. My parents helped a lot by taking us on a lot of trips when we lived in England. One of my first bird books (I still have it) is an old copy, now stained and torn, of Birds of Britain and Europe.

4. If you could only bird in one place for the rest of your life where would it be and why?

The whole world. OK, we have to choose one place? Hmmm. Costa Rica (where Warren proposed?) Our beloved East Coast? Africa?

Hmmm. How 'bout Cape May, NJ. There is always something there, the birds are alwasy changing and rarities and stragglers come through often.... and it's pretty!

5. Do you have a jinx bird? What is it and why is it jinxed?

Yes, it is a bird supposedly called the American Pipit. Why? Because we now know it does not exist. It is a phantom bird. A wraith. An imaginary creature that belongs with unicorns and chimeras.

6. Who is your favorite birder? and why?

Paul Baicich. He cares about not just birds, but the environment, where the birds live, and he loves educating people about birds and the environment. He gets great joy out of sharing and has taught us A LOT. And he won't tell us what his ABA Life List is.

7. Do you tell non-birders you are a birder? What do they say to you when they find out?

Of course! Warren could care less about the reaction. Lisa prefaces it with, I know it's nerdy, but it's the coolest thing I do! Most people are actually intrigued and interested.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

BirdCam. Tons of Fun!

Carolina Chickadee with seed.
Downloading the previous day's activities fromThe BirdCam is liking opening a little gift each day.

Oh, the excitement! Who visited today? Who chased off who? We are playing with distance now and plan to use the video piece this week...

Bart Stephens, you are genius. You can find your BirdCam through his company Wingscapes.



White-breasted Nuthatch. He is a photogenic fellow, probably because he and his friends hit this feeder about once every 15 minutes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Peter Kaestner update

Back in August, we wrote about our friend, super-birder and diplomat Peter Kaestner. Peter appears to have been birding in the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean this month. (Yes, BirdCouple is jealous). His new grand total (Check it here on Surfbirds):


8,128 !!!!!!!!!

Go Peter!

September 29 update: Peter's been at it again, birding in Sri Lanka, it seems. New world life list:

8,134.

Wow. When you get to the level Peter has attained, seeing even one new bird is a measure of amazing skill and dedication. Keep going, guy...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

BIRDCAM!

Bart Stephens of Wingscapes created the most amazingly cool device for those of you who wonder what happens at your bird feeder all day.


Seriously, this is the perfect holiday gift for any bird lover! It has the capability to catch photos by motion, by remote control or by time lapse. VERY COOL!
And.... it is so easy to set up! Bonus!


We received ours a couple of days ago and check out where the party is when Cute Husband and I are working hard.....







What?!








Warren is off to fill the birdfeeder and I am off to correctly set the date and time on this wonderous gadget.

Thank you, Bart! What a treat!

One of the Good Guys

Sunrise on the Patuxent River Do you recognize the stalks in the foreground? Most Maryland-ers don't.


This is Wild Rice and this is the man that, for over a decade, has ensured that it still grows in the Jug Bay Wetlands.

Greg Kearns, a naturalist at Patuxent River Park, led a group of birders last weekend on a Sora searching boat trip. We saw (and heard) Sora, but the main reason we did was because of the tireless efforts of Greg.

Jug Bay used to explode with wild rice seeds which are crucial in the diet of migrating birds such as Bobolinks, Sora and other rails.


And, then the resident Canada goose population in Jug Bay exploded. Without hunting, the ravenous rice chomping geese (they each eat 1-2lbs per day) changed the character of Jug Bay and rice stands became rare.

In the mid-1990's, while studying Soras, Greg recognized the problem and started a program to fence off areas of the marsh around stands of rice. The enclosures (over 4 miles of it!) deprived the geese the space they needed get their hefty bodies in the air.




Protecting the rice along with reducing the population by lifting the ban on hunting of resident Canada Geese has allowed the rice to return to Jug Bay.




Red-winged Black Bird in a large stand of rice.
This guy is in the middle of his molt and has lost his tail feathers. Red-wings are year-round residents in much of their range, but if this one is migrating, he will remain in Jug Bay feasting on rice waiting for his tail feathers to grow back in before heading south.
To ensure the further spread of rice, Greg and his team remove stands of evil phragmites and capture rice seeds for marsh replanting in the spring.


Greg also knows Sora. For several years he banded and radio tracked Sora in Jug Bay and studied the importance of wild rice during their fall migration. At the peak of his banding in 1998, 1,300 rails were studied.



The tide was higher than expected, so the constant tape that Greg played of Sora whining caused return calls, but we needed the tide to ebb so we could see them on the mud flats.
Our fearless leader and good friend, Paul Baicich. Note the Duck Stamp attached to his binoculars!


When the tide finally dropped, it seemed like we were surrounded by Soras. It is hard to see, but click on the picture above and check out the Sora in center of the picture. Seeing so many at one time was a great opportunity to compare the different coloring in immatures versus adults.


Forster's Tern. The total bird species count was not high for the day, but it didn't matter.

Jug Bay is a magical place, especially when seen by a low impact boat. Broad-leaf Arrow-head flowers
Not only have the rice benefited from Greg's effort, but other plants have returned and are thriving; ensuring that the Jug Bay ecology remains balanced.
Thank you, Greg Kearns, for all you are doing for the Bay and the migrants who visit!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Whimbrel!



Whimbrels are a rare find on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and certainly in our home county of Anne Arundel. This one, hanging out at Mayo Beach for roughly a week, was found by Bud Taylor. Lots of Maryland birders have been flocking to see it.... We were lucky to find it still there this morning.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Tide's Rising...

The Washington Post has an article this morning about how climate change and rival sea levels are affecting animal species. Sadly, the future does not look so bright for our beloved Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where some of the marsh has already disappeared under water...

Sigh.

In happier (although temporary) note, we in the mid-Atlantic are expected to get a lot of winter finches from up north, due to a poor seed crop in parts of Canada:

Friday, September 14, 2007

GG and Rodo, We Salute You!

Hiking the Appalachian Trail back in June, we met a lovely couple named GG & Rodo (actually, Ron and Kelly) who were hiking the whole trail from South to North. We stopped and chatted, and we got to talking, naturally, about birds. We filled them in on that scarlet, black-winged creature they'd seen (Scarlet Tanager) and on a few other birds they'd come across in their long hike.

Here's the original post from our AT blog, located right next door.

Well, GG & Rodo have done it! They have hiked, stumbled, crawled and climbed all the way to Mount Katahdin. Congrats, you two!

You can check out their adventures on their blog here. They were kind enough to remember us, and say a nice thing or two about Birdcouple...

GG & Rodo, we will remember you when we climb Mount K in the year 2024, or thereabouts. 1,800 miles to go...

BTW, we have seen LOTS of birds on the AT - our list is 80 or more, everything from warblers to a Whip-Poor-Will to owls, hawks, ravens and more...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bullbat!

Oh the torture!

All week our local birding listserv, mdosprey, has been reporting the birding adventures and migrant finds of Maryland birders. Sightings that included Buff Breasted Sandpiper, Lark Sparrow and American Golden Plover.

Sightings that were all just too far for a quick lunch time or pre-work search. Cute Husband and I were far too busy with the work thing this week.

So... when I saw on mdosprey that Dan Haas, savior of the Severn River Peregrine Falcons, had been called to retrieve a Common Nighthawk from a neighborhood lawn down the street from work, I sent him an email begging him to let me see.

Nighthawks are rarely seen during the day. They hunt at dawn and dusk and lay flat camouflaged on tree limbs during the day. A Nighthawk sitting on a lawn in the middle of the day is just not right.

Dan hoped to take the bird to a safer cat-free location and release. He was kind enough to let me join in the adventure.

Dan showed up with the treasure in a box at Annapolis High School in hopes that the bird would take off and start hunting under the stadium lights.



On the first release the Nighthawk flew for about 100 yards but never achieved an altitude of more than 4 feet.


Beautiful bird, isn't he?
Nighthawks are classified in the Caprimulgidae family, or goatsucker in Latin. Goat-herders in ancient Greece saw Nighthawks hunt for insects open-mouthed around their livestock and believed the birds came out at dark to drink milk from the mammals' teats.

Note the long pointed wings. Nighthawks flight is swooping and moth-like which enables them to catch insects on the fly.


This guy just didn't seem interested in joining the dozens of Chimney Swifts that hunted above us.
As it grew darker, Dan resigned himself to a trip to Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark, DE.


As Dan approached with the towel, the Nighthawk flew again, but he still appeared unable to gain altitude and dropped in the middle of a dark field.
Dan and I searched the field like CSI investigators for some time without relocating him. Dan returned at daybreak on Saturday and found nothing. We both take this as a good sign.
Dan has some great pictures here (plus some of the American Golden Plover he spied Friday morning)
Be sure to read Dan's previous post which details his efforts in saving yet another Peregrine that collided (along with many other birds) into a building in Lanham, Maryland.
Dan is one of the good guys. And, he is also quickly becoming the go-to guy in the Annapolis area for bird rescue.
Thanks for all that you are doing Dan!
Warren and I joined Paul Baicich yesterday morning for a float trip down the Patuxent River and met another good guy that has done some amazing stuff at the Patuxent River Park.
More to follow....
P.S. - "Bullbat" is a southern U.S. nickname for the Nighthawk.