Wednesday, December 31, 2008
But, the heck with that. Let's get to the important stuff, like family, friends, adventure and ... birding.
In January, Warren saw his first Northern Saw-Whet Owl, (sorry Lisa), while Lisa explored why male Ring-Neck Ducks seem to outnumber males by 4 to 1.
February, home to Valentine's Day, (and also the month Lisa and Warren met), is BC's month. Lisa sent me a lovely Valentine. We saw a rare--in Maryland, in winter--Painted Bunting with Adam. Warren also copped a Common Redpoll. Sorry again, Lisa.
March? March took us to northeast Maryland with friends Dan Haas and Ross Geredien, and also brought a touch of sadness when a Golfinch with conjunctivitis visited our feeder.
April brought new birds and brought out (Lisa's) bees.
We have a hard time blogging in May. We are too busy birding and hiking. BC did a fun, exhausting Big Day in Washington, D.C. and did bird surveys and bird walks at Virginia's luxurious Keswick Hall. And a lot more.
Four words for June. North Dakota. And North Dakota.
July brought big news in the life of the Birdcouple blog: we were now sponsored by Alpen Optics, which makes great optics and cares about both its people and the environment. Twenty-one posts this month, a record high for the year.
In August, Lisa went birding on the Eastern Shore with Peter Kaestner. Warren spent most of the month on assignment in the Philippines and Indonesia, where he managed a few lifers in between work. Lisa, my honey, got honey while missing her honey.
September's hurricanes sent us scuttling to the Atlantic shore with Paul Baicich and Lisa Rock for some storm-bird chasing. We also chased our goal on the Appalachian Trail. (Later this year, we made it - crossing the 500 trail mile mark, nearly 1/4 of the way there. Wahoo!)
October was fabulous, with the release of the new federal Duck Stamp, a life Pine Siskin, (Warren's 400th ABA bird), and more L and W hiking on the AT.
As the temperatures cooled in November, all manner of critters tried to invade the Lovenest. Shrike was a nemesis bird no more. The Birdcouple blog, our little baby, turned two.
In December, Warren was deployed, with little notice to Iran. He did not bring his binoculars and wander around looking at things. More death-defying adventure awaited him at home. Dan Haas joined the Maryland elite, and Lisa led the way to (and back from) BC's first Snowy Owl.
I love you Lisa. Bring on 2009!!!!!!!!!!!
Happy New Year to all our friends and readers.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Science Daily reports that researchers in Nevada have found a way to make energy - biodiesel, to be precise - out of waste coffee grounds. This is important news for birders, given the close relationship between coffee growing, particularly in Central America, and bird habitat, not to mention the fact that billions of pounds of spent grounds end up in the trash each year.
And guess what? The biodiesel actually smells like java, the magazine reports. (Thanks to Paul Baicich for passing this item on....)
Meanwhile, our dear friend and birder extraordinaire Peter Kaestner capped the year with five new lifers in November 2008. If you think that's unextraordinary, try getting five new birds when your life list is 8,192! The five new birds on his list (now 8,197) are: Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Grey-sided Thrush, Naga Wren Babbler, Striped and Browned-capped Laughingthrushes. Go Peter K!
Peter reports that he's also spent some time showing new birds to Allen Davies and Ruth Miller of the Biggest Twitch, who are continuing to add species to their amazing year as it comes to a close. As they report on their site, settling back into "reality" could be a problem.
Tomorrow: Birdcouple's Year in Review.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Well, walking on sand is different from walking on solid ground, for sure. Birdcouple knows how to walk - we're hiking the Appalachian Trail, after all - but after a while, I actually found myself saying out loud how I wished for some good ol' Pennsylvania AT rocks. Never thought I'd ever say that. Lisa was a machine, just cruising ahead, even when we took a detour and found ourselves out in the middle of a marsh.
The Snowy Owl is beautiful in flight as well:
And we always get out of the woods (or off the beach) on time. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, darling.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Yes, there are gifts to wrap, cookies to make and holiday decorations still in boxes, but somehow the idea of reaching 300 and spending several hours together searching for a particular bird, while coming across many other birds, sounded much more appealing.
So, we headed to one of our favorite Wildlife Management Areas in search of a Barn Owl that we dipped on in July.
There is a big difference between birding a Wildlife Management Area in July versus December.
Yes, it is colder in December.
It is also hunting season.
Deer. Squirrel. Goose.
Right after we walked through the gate of the area, we met two very nice deer hunters who were dressed head-to-toe in bright orange.They suggested that I take off my white hat, as it might be confused with a deer's white tail bobbing through the woods.
That sounded like a good suggestion, so I let me ears freeze.
We had to walk across this field to get to the barn where the Barn Owl likes to hang out. The difficulty in getting across the field was that there was a goose hunter all set up in a blind with decoys to the left of the field.
I waved at him as he stared at us through his binoculars.
He pointed back up the hill.
Cute Hubby and I decided the best plan was to go around this field to get to the barn.
We met these two goose hunters (Father and Son) right after an uncomfortably close firing of guns came from the edge of the field.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Paul Baicich and I took one of our occasional walks this morning around two of Columbia's lakes (Elkhorn and Centennial) in Howard County. These walks are one-fourth birding, one-fourth catching up between friends, one-fourth talking about birds and conservation, and one-fourth exercise. I think we put in more than four miles!
The birding wasn't great - not huge amounts of waterfowl in yet. But we had beautiful looks at male Hooded Mergansers, some cute Ruddy Ducks, and a pair of (apparently) mated Red-Shouldered Hawks.
I have never gone birding without learning something new (we always learn loads from Paul) from observing bird behavior and trying to identify species. No matter how mundane, there's always some treat--and the treat often shows up toward the end of the outing, just when you think it's going to be a bird-bust. Not sure why that is.
Anyway, today's treat was this Fox Sparrow, perched -- and posing for me! -- high in a tree (rather than flitting in the brush, where they are often found). Lisa and I love this handsome sparrow, which can be quite uncommon. This is only the second we've seen this year, with as few as a dozen or so lifetime sightings.
It's all good.
P.S. - Here is a bit more on the Fox Sparrow from the Cornell Lab.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The amazing thing is that Dan accomplished this feat in the same year he and his wife, Emery had their first child, Declan.
I can only imagine how happy Emery must be for this year to end!
Dan's #300 was a Lark Sparrow and with 15 days left in 2008, we are watching for his final tally.
Check out Dan's blog for some of his amazing photo footage of the birds he ticked.
So, Cute Husband... makes me start to wonder what kind of bird goals we should set for 2009...
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Warren just got back from 2 weeks in Iran and is so HAPPY to be back with Birdcouple's better half!!
Not a lot of chance to bird. Something told me that walking around looking at things with binoculars was not the best way to introduce myself to my Iranian hosts. I did see four birds, all fairly common: White Wagtail, Hooded Crow, Eurasian Magpie and ... drum roll ... House Sparrow.
Tehran itself is not the world's most beautiful city. The people are incredibly lovely, however. And the city backs right up to the Alborz Mountains, which rise to over 15,000 feet at their tallest peak. Tehranis go walking, hiking (and skiing) in the mountains, especially on the weekend (Thursday afternoons and Friday), where they can escape the city and where social restrictions, like women's dress, is a little more relaxed.
I took this pitcure of a waterfall for you, Princess. It was a fun adventure, but it is GOOD TO BE HOME.
P.S. - After two weeks in another part of the world, Tufted Titmice and White-Breasted Nuthatches look really interesting again.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
See, we knew Patty when she was a virgin birder... just getting her first set of nice binoculars to check out the wide world of birding.... anxiously wondering how she would ever find a particular bird while leafing through the 537 pages of Sibley's Guide to Birds.
When we met Patty, I don't even think Patty had zip-off pants or a big floppy hat.
Cute Husband and I invited her to join us on our Christmas bird count.
We started pre-dawn using tapes to call a variety of owls.
The day progressed and we showed Patty flocks of Starlings, a Mockingbird and some Cardinals. I think we may have even had a Mallard.
Patty was intrigued.
Flash forward a year and Patty is hanging out with the gang at Project Owlnet (go on, click on the link and hear a Northern Saw-whet welcome) helping out with their banding project at Assateague Island.
Yes, that is right, hanging out with Project Owlnet folks (new birder friends) without her good buds, BirdCouple....
I'm kidding, of course (she said bitterly).
What could be more wonderful than introducing someone to birds and they go off-the-wall nuts and understand how completely cool and important and interesting birds are!
A new birder who will surely share the joy of birds with their family, their friends, their children....
A new birder who starts to care about bird research and protecting bird habitat ...Here, you can clearly see the Northern Saw-whet Owl asking Patty why she forgot to invite her friends Lisa and Cute Husband. So, Patty sends us these wonderful pictures along with the Snowy Owl that has been hanging around the Island and reported by tons of birders on mdosprey. The Snowy Owl that we keep meaning to go chase. The Snowy Owl that would be a life bird for us.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
And, a great Holiday gift!
I've been helping nurse my super human Dad back to good health and Cute Husband is reporting from Iran.
You can check out his adventures on McClatchy's Nukes and Spooks blog.
He left the Alpen bins at home, but I can't wait to hear what he adds to the BC year list upon his return...
Thanks for your kind thoughts...
Friday, November 28, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
And what an adventure it has been. Here is our first LAME post from November 25, 2006. But it got better... You really never know what is going to attract and keep readers' attention. Well, we have tools to check how often you good folks visit the site, and where on the blog you land.
So, what are BirdCouple's greatest hits? That crazy Frog-Eating Heron pic has got to be close to No. 1. Zip-off pants are a huge hit. Or a huge question mark? People around the country and around the world are dying to know about the Real Roadrunner. (They seem to be trying to find out if the Roadrunner is a real bird. Yes. It is. It is not just a cartoon).
In terms of birder excitement and scientific (or at least rare bird) interest, probably our most viewed post was the Carolina Chickadee that showed up at our feeder and, in a really odd optical illusion, ended up looking exactly like a Common Redstart from Europe. Even David Sibley, the renowned ornithologist and bird artist, weighed in on the bird. His verdict? Chickadee.
People from around the world check in to learn about the exploits of the amazing, unstoppable, Peter Kaestner.
And if there is ONE person who has provided us with more inspiration for blogs, and helped mold our views of nature, birds and conservation... well, that one person would be one Paul Baicich. Thanks to Paul, Warren and Lisa have joined the ranks of published authors on the subject of birds. Here's an article Paul and Warren did for a recent issue of Birder's World.
Personally, Warren's favorite post is one of Lisa's (of course), Hug A Hunter.
Ok, Lisa here. Sweet, I already shamelessly promoted that post a few days ago....
Personally, Lisa's favorite post is one of Warren's (of course). It was this recent one about finding a nemisis bird..... Also, Cute Hubby's post on century birds and his pieces of art from Namibia.
We have learned so much about birds, conservation and the natural world in the last two years just from writing and researching what we discover.
How wonderful to think what the next two years may bring....
BC (with wines in hand) signing off....
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Birding in November can be a bit like the month itself, sometimes somber and even dreary, with most of the excitement left for the end of the year - with Christmas bird counts, waterfowl coming in and odd birds floating down from Canada and other points north during the winter.
So BirdCouple set out Saturday with our friend Paul Baicich en route to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland, just to see what was what. This is usually the time when you begin to see mass gatherings of Snow Geese on the Eastern Shore, but strangely, we did not see one all day. A lot of the ducks didn't appear to have arrived yet, either.
But we had a grand time, and some really great birds, 51 species in all. That includes the first Red-Tailed Hawk I've ever encountered that flew toward us, rather than away for us, so I could get a better picture. That's him (her?) up there. Here's another shot:
Without fail, Red-Tailed Hawks when seen at rest are normally on a wire or tree at the edge of a field, and always fly off away from you across the field just as soon as you've spotted them. This one was a contrarian.
Tooling about in Talbot County, we also encountered a flock of thousands of Common Grackles rumbling around like a motorcycle gang looking for leftover corn to vacuum up. Then with Paul at the wheel, and Lisa snuggled up in back, we were off to Blackwater, one of the East Coast's finest refuges. Top bird there was a great look at a Fox Sparrow, a bird that Princess loves. It was our first, and maybe last?, of the year.
With things a bit slow, we headed further south, on the long one-way road to Hooper's Island, which is actually a chain of three islands in the Chesapeake Bay connected by bridges. The land is so narrow that, at some points, you could literally throw a rock from one side to the other and graves are encased in concrete or other protection to protect them from the ever-present water. The population of the islands, inhabited since the late 17th Century, was 441 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Life and work revolves around the bay and seafood industry.
We had an amazingly yummy and affordable lunch at Old Salty's restaurant, which has Cream of Crab soup and fried clams to die for, and a cool gift shop. The surprise birds of Hooper's Island were four Brown Pelicans--unusual for this time of year--flying away across the Bay. We drove to where the road ends and then turned around for home, which was 90-odd miles away by Paul's odometer. We had a fun pair of Sharp-Shinned Hawks and some other nice stuff as we headed for the Western Shore....
But for birders, the road calls ever onward:
Saturday, November 22, 2008
We are enjoying the redesign of their website which features a native plant of the month, great habitat improvement tips and a library of informative columns written by the Executive Director, Kay Charter.
Kay's passion for birds and education constantly inspires us.
Her organization, Saving Birds Thru Habitat (SBTH)was established to help stem the decline of our migratory songbird population by teaching people of all ages how to protect, enhance and restore habitat for North American birds.
What we like the most about this organization is their land certification work that educates and helps corporations preserve and maintain healthy bird habitats on their properties.
Warren and I were flattered when Kay asked to reprint one of our favorite posts - Hug a Hunter in SBTH's newsletter- which we found in our mailbox last night.
Kay, thanks for the opportunity to spread the word about the valuable work SBTH is doing.
Warren and I look forward to keeping up with your ongoing progress!
Friday, November 21, 2008
In fact, we are proudly nerdy when it comes to birds and the environment and our goofy craziness for each other.
We are also extremely nerdy, wholeheartedly not-with-it and completely clueless on current television programs and the advertisements that are jammed within them.
Friends discuss the Dancing with the Stars show the latest Idol or some funny commercial that everyone knows the punch line.
Our faces go blank.
We have no idea what they are talking about.
Other than an occasional sports event with friends or Mitch and Adam, we just don't watch TV.
Our television doesn't have rabbit ears and we don't have a rooftop antenna, but our one and only TV is about one step above requiring them.
We do, however, love to snuggle in and watch anything and everything presented on DVD by David Attenborough.
Yes, of course we marched through all 5 disks of the popular BBC presentation of Plant Earth (narrated by Attenborough rather than Weaver).
But, we enjoyed Sir David long before everyone was talking about this show when it was presented on TV.
Naturally, we went crazy for The Life of Birds despite having to wait months for some other crazed bird/Attenborough fan to return to Netflix so they could pass to us.
Then we went nuts for The Living Planet, The Life of Mammals, Life in the Undergrowth... and last night we finished the Life in Cold Blood series.
Each is a beautiful journey in which Attenborough walks across various landscapes and whispers something like....(and this always makes us soooo jealous)....
"Here I am in off the Northern coast of New Guinea" or "Here I am in the rain forests of Costa Rica" or "Here I am in a cave in New Zealand" as we are glued to the TV watching spectacular bits of nature such as the mating of wood ants, the communication behavior of chameleons or the survival techniques of tiger beetles.
We learn something new and wonderful and charming from this gentleman with each view.
And, all commercial free.
And, it is Friday!
And, Attenborough in Paradise in next in the queue!
Friday, November 14, 2008