Friday, October 24, 2008

2009 Duck Stamp!

This beautiful painting of a Long-Tailed Duck next to a decoy by Joshua Spies of Watertown, South Dakota, beat out 269 other entrants to win the competition for the 2009-2010 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale next June. We can't wait to buy it.

BirdCouple readers already know that Duck Stamp sales generate millions of dollars that go to buying land for the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge system; that 98 cents of every dollar goes for this purpose; and that many of our favorite refuges were established and expanded almost entirely with Duck Stamp funds.

Interestingly, the Long-Tailed Duck has not been on the stamp since 1967. Back then, the bird was known by the now politically incorrect name "Oldsquaw."

Here is Saturday's announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Here's a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

And here is a short video on the contest, also on the Star-Tribune web site.

All of this passed along by the inimitable Paul Baicich. Who else? Now go get your '08 Duck Stamp if you haven't already.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Despot the Birdie

Gotta check out these eye-catching birdhouses in the UK, each modeled after dictators' palaces. We trust the avian inhabitants will be more to our liking than the thugs who inhabitated the real buildings.

(Warren has been inside Nicolae Ceaucescu's Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, Romania. It's truly hideous).

Thanks to Paul Baicich for sharing this....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Celebrating October 22...

Happy Birthday to two special gentlemen!

Who just happen to share the same day!

Cute Son #2 is celebrating 17 years today.

Cute Husband is celebrating 29 years today.


To my favorite Peter Pans on their day:

I'm youth, I'm joy, I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg!
Sir James M. Barrie

Monday, October 20, 2008


"Century birds" are important milestones in a birding life, a sign of skills achieved, knowledge learned and experiences enjoyed--and the promise of more to come.

Warren got his 400th bird in the American Birding Association Checklist Area on Saturday at Deep Creek Lake State Park, Maryland.

The bird(s) in question were a lovely flock of 70 or so Pine Siskins, flitting noisily from oak trees to pines, where they seemed to be feasting on seeds in pine cones. Pine Siskins are in the finch family, and are quite gregarious, making this crazy zzzzzhhhhhhhhhhhheeeeee sound, as well as lots of other noisy chatter. They spend spring and summer in the forests of Canada and the northern U.S., and drop down our way in fall and winter, in irregular numbers. They can be everywhere some winters, and nearly impossible to find the next.

And they can be hard to photograph.

Pine Siskin.

400 birds in North America is a pretty good haul--the mark of a serious birder, and one who has spent some time (and money) on the road to different regions of the continent. 500 is a goal many never attain. 600 puts you in the elite. 700 is, if not quite Mount Olympus, somewhere close. 800 was once thought impossible, but there are now a half-dozen or so birders who claim that figure, according to Surfbirds.

There's no direct relationship between these #s (the birds don't care!!) and birding skill, ornithological knowledge or commitement to conservation, of course. They are what they are: a measure of time and dedication in the field. And a bit of luck.

Here, for the heck of it, are Warren's "century birds." And Lisa, of course, is hot on my trail..

100: Red-Eyed Vireo, Jug Bay, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, May 6, 1992.

200: Purple Sandpiper, Ocean City, Maryland, February 14, 2004.

300: Semipalmated Sandpiper, Brigantine NWR, New Jersey, May 15, 2005.

400: Pine Siskin, Deep Creek Lake State Park, Maryland, October 18, 2008.

Birdcouple was birding together for #s 200, 300 and 400. Wouldn't have it any other way. Good birding, all.

Coming soon: Illustration chosen for next year's "Duck Stamp"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It IS all good!

Lisa and I got those promised Pine Siskins here at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, yesterday. There was a huge flock of them, maybe 60 or 70, giving us really good looks as they flitted from pine tree to pine tree, feeding.
Unfortunately, these guys are so flitty that they didn't pose for long enough to take good photos. That bird over there is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. It's a GOOD bird, too.
Pine Siskin was Warren's 400th species in North America (the ABA territory). More on that in our next post...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Yup, It's all Good...

We've been meaning to post this Tip of the Month from the September issue of The Birding Community E-Bulletin written by our pal, Paul Baicich and Wayne Peterson...

Invariably, when birders are in the field, they are asked by curious passers-by and novice birders alike if there has been “anything good” seen.

No matter that you might have only seen a chickadee and a junco so far in the day’s birding, the correct response remains the same:

“It’s all good!”

Let the curious know the wonders of the chickadee and the reliability of the junco as well as your effervescent expectations to find those flocks of wonderful birds just beyond the edge of the trees on the path ahead.

Make it interesting; make it wondrous, and realize that every birder in the field is a potential ambassador for our pastime.

Remember: “It’s all good!”

Cute Husband and I are off to Deep Creek Lake to celebrate birthdays, fall foliage, chickadees, and juncos.

Naturally, we also have effervescent expectations ... of spotting some Pine Siskins. Fun!

Hope your weekend is all good...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Very Little Big Sit

Sunday was the day for the Big Sit, where birders try to identify as many species of birds as they can from within a 17-foot diameter circle.

The idea is to choose a favorite birding spot, or a prime location along a major migration route, relax with friends, maybe have a picnic and see what you can see. It's sort of the polar opposite of rushing-around, driving-through-the-country, chasing-type birding. Princess calls it a bird tailgate. Some teams are known for racking up 60, 70, 80 species or more.

This is where we were on Sunday:

Soccer Field.

You see, in addition to being avid birders, crazed hikers and would-be naturalists (or perhaps I should say more important than being), we are parents. We have two amazing young men, aged 21 and 17, who have busy schedules and are succesful athletes.

So, we were up in Harford County, Maryland, on Sunday morning, watching Adam (the 17-year-old) play in a soccer tournament.

Our Big Sit list was three: Turkey Vulture, Blue Jay and Red-Bellied Woodpecker (the last one was heard, but not seen).

Turkey Vulture.

But it was totally worth it, because we got to see this instead:

Adam Strobel, superstar goalkeeper.

AND, I got to be with my honey on a beautiful Fall day. Lisa was wondering where the birds were.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Maybe It's Time to Listen to the Birds...

Bird species are slipping faster than ever towards extinction according to State of the Worlds Birds, a new website and publication from BirdLife International.State of the World's Birds is a report card on the commitments made by the world’s governments in 2002 to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

And, guess what?

The report found that, while we are more enlightened about environmental challenges than we were in 2002, the state of the world’s biodiversity continues to get worse.

The website is well worth a look, as it organizes the current state of birds, why they are declining and what can be done to improve their status....such as actually funding the commitments we have made.

Photo: Bill Stripling

Northern Bobwhite, one of the 20 North American common bird species that have suffered population declines of over 50% in the last 40 years.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Long Stroll Through PA...

Cute Husband and I walk across PA, visit the Racoon Ridge Hawk Watch and fall in love with New Jersey!

See our Appalachian Trail Blog for the fun!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gone hiking (and birding!) again

Update: We saw our 94th Appalachian Trail species, a beautiful migrating Sharp-Shinned Hawk, at Racoon Ridge, New Jersey on Sunday. More soon on Birdcouple's AT blog (click button above).

Our Appalachian Trail bird list is 93 species, everything from Double-Crested Cormorant to Olive-Sided Flycatcher. Latest addition: 3 lovely American Kestrels that we saw from above hunting on the wind on a mountainside in PA...

What's next? Stay tuned.

.. and a happy weekend to all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sick Day birding

Hmmm... what to do on a day when you've got a nasty little tummy bug for the second day running? Go birding!! What do you do when you do a bit of local birding, and there's nothing much to be found (no offense to Cardinals and Mockingbirds)?? GO CHASING!!

So it was that Paul Baicich and Warren, feeling more than a wee bit under the weather since the weekend, found ourselves en route to West Virginia. We were looking for perfect White-Cheeked Pintail territory.

We found it:

This is a little development just south of Charles Town, West Virginia, a lovely little place really, where the inhabitants are quite friendly and the streets well-paved. Not exactly a place you'd look for a rare bird, however. Yet a White-Cheeked Pintail was here somewhere. We knew it ... we sensed it ... we felt it...

... thanks to a posting on the Internet.

White-Cheeked Pintail is a bird of the Bahamas, the Caribbean and South America, one that occasionally shows up on the shores of Florida and Texas as a stray. Yet here it was a in a muddy little drainage pond in West Virginia. A really handsome, good-looking bird:

Isn't he or she a beaut? Love that white cheek-patch, brown cap, red/orange at the base of the bill, and the warm brown flight feathers.

Here's another look:

The Pintail, which we found within 60 seconds of getting out of Paul's car, was hanging out with some Northern Shovelers, and this female Blue-Winged Teal.

This is a really rare bird in North America, as we might have mentioned previously. Or should we say, it is a really rare WILD bird in North America. It is so pretty, it is part of many a private wildfowl collection, and not a few aviarys and zoos. And so, while we would like to believe that this is truly a wild bird blown off course by one of our recent hurricanes, the chances are it is an escapee from a zoo or some other owner.

There have been a few reports of wild birds accepted in Florida, and one in Texas. But other sightings, especially those along the East Coast, are assumed to be escapees. So we cannot, for now, count this rarity on our life lists. But we don't care. It's a beautiful specimen, wherever it came from.

And, of course, Paul and I saw more. Including these two Pectoral Sandpipers.

Can't see them very well? How about this?

And this?

THAT's a pretty bird, too. Even Turkey Vultures have their good sides:

Good Birding all! Warren is feeling better already...