Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day!

Lisa and I have been insanely busy with our day jobs this week - not enough time for BirdCouple to blog, let alone hang out together.

So, to our visitors - enjoy the extra 24 hours. Take a second look at the world around you. See an extra bird. Spend extra time with the kids. Give your spouse a kiss.

I will. (Love you, honey).....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Redpoll!

No, Red-poll has nothing to do with the current election season that we're suffering through......... We've been blessed this winter in the Chesapeake Bay area with an amazing outbreak of birds that aren't really supposed to be here. Some have come from the south, like the Painted Bunting. Many others have come from the north, like a White-Winged Crossbill, Evening Grosbeak and .... dah-dah! - Common Redpoll.

This little gal, and her sister, were reported about a week ago at Fort Smallwood Park. Princess and I promised each other that we would not go birding this weekend. Too much to do, Right. We dashed off Saturday afternoon, after Adam passed his driver's test - Go Adam! - to try to see this bird. Nope. We tried again Sunday afternoon, after Adam's soccer game. (We are good parents, see!) No luck. No bird. Weather = cold and miserable.

I tried a 3rd time this morning, getting up an hour early so I could make it to work on time. There she was. Sorry for the lousy pic. Bill Hubick has much better ones. But BirdCouple got the bird!

And a bonus Killdeer!


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Three Days of Birds..

All images created by Cute Husband (c)

Purple Finch at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp


Two female Purple Finches, House Finch and Ms. Cardinal

Red Breasted Nuthatch


Lesser Scaup surrounded by Canvasback at Cambridge, MD

American Wigeon Male and female

More of "BaldPate"

His eye is red! Seriously, this is not camera red-eye.


Northern Shovelers at Blackwater, doing their shoveling thang..

Pintail



Herring Gull looking like spring at the Ocean City Inlet

Brant!
Purple Sandpiper

Cape Henlopen State Park



Hmmm...

Horned Lark found not far from Blackwater NWR, Delaware


BirdCouple. Exhausted. Happy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees!


Häagen-Dazs brand uses only all-natural ingredients in many of its recipes and recognizes the critical part bees play in making their ice cream. In fact, almost 40 percent of the ingredients they use rely on bee pollination.


Häagen-Dazs is promoting a campaign dedicated to supporting the honey bee and funding sustainable pollination research. The Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees campaign is dedicated to the problems honey bees are facing right now, including Colony Collapse Disorder.


All honey bee-affected flavors of Häagen-Dazs brand will carry their new icon, HDLovesHB, plus they have a new flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee. In addition they are donating $250,000 to fund sustainable pollination and Colony Collapse Disorder research at both Penn State and UC Davis.


Check out the website for information on growing bee friendly gardens, supporting bee research by making direct donations and other ways to help our pollinating workers.
Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream sounds so amazingly yummy.....

Monday, February 18, 2008

What a Weekend!




BirdCouple had an *amazing* President's Day weekend - 83 species, including a lifer for Lisa (Evening Grosbeak) and 5 or 6 new Maryland birds for Warren. Amazing looks at Bald Eagles, Northern Gannett, Loons, Purple Finch, Long-Tailed Duck, Bonaparte's Gull, Red-Necked Grebe.... We could go on and on. We birded so hard, we didn't have access to a computer or the Internet.


Here are a few of the highlights. More tomorrow.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Whole Lot of Birdin' Goin' on

So much going on! Bird podcasts.... fun new bird games... bird counts ... the duck stamp. BirdCouple hardly knows where to begin.




Let's start with the Greater Backyard Bird Count. Yes, it's underway, starting today, Feb. 15 and going through Feb. 18. More than 2,100 checklists have already been submitted.

As we wrote last year, the GBBC "is a great opportunity to get anyone with the slightest curiosity about the natural world involved in a little birding." Participants simply count the highest number of birds of each species seen during any 15 minute period over the four days of the count. You can check it out, and enter your checklists here.

This year, GBBC, which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, has a new official blog of its own. AND, Rob Fergus, a National Audubon Society senior scientist, passed along this online identification game, which is both fun and a great way to test your I.D. skills.

So get countin'! (Full disclosure - BirdCouple can't participate this year.. we're helping with a waterbird survey of the Patuxent River and then off to the beach ... to bird). But we'll be watching the watchers....

.... In other news, those folks at The Biggest Twitch are cruising along in their effort to break the world record for number of bird species seen in a single year (It now stands at 3,662). As of a couple of days ago, Alan Davies and Ruth Miller were in Ethiopia, and have seen 1,468 species this year. Wow. That beats our life lists by a mile! We wish them well and safe travels...


Moving right along.... Georgia's Steve Moore, who is a regular visitor at this site, has started a new podcast called BirdwatchRadio.com



Steve, we look forward to listening, and will add it our iTunes podcast list. What would Audubon have thought of podcasts? Or Roger Tory Peterson? Hmmm....

... In other important bits and pieces, most of our readers probably already have seen, or at least heard of, the PBS series on the Red Knot and how its survival is intertwined with that of the Horseshoe Crab. But if you haven't, the web site is here. The Website looks great - just check out this download-able wallpaper:


What would Audubon have thought of downloads?

.... Last, but certainly not least, Paul Baicich passes along news that the federal government is proposing to increase the cost of the Duck Stamp from $15 to $25. This could bring in an additional $14 million to secure and preserve wetlands and other habitat, but the idea is bound to cause a fair bit of debate...

Phew!

Stay tuned this weekend as BirdCouple reports from the highways, byways and seashore of southern and eastern Maryland.

Princess: Here are our weekend goals: 1 new life bird, 20 new year birds, 90 species overall, and enough new county birds to get me to the 1,000 "tick" mark in Maryland. And lots of fun.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

You and I


A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the verandah,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.
We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden's beauty
and the birds singing.
The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.
You and I unselfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.
In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land.

~Rumi

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sweet Heart Gifts

It pains me to discourage Cute Husband from getting me a huge bauble, dozens of roses or loads of plastic pink heart balloons for Valentine's Day.


However, this recent article in Low Impact Living reminded me that I would cherish something from the Cute One's heart much more than something that was mass produced, disposable or somehow chewed up the environment.


Baby, on this Valentine's Day, forget that huge heart shaped card exploding with chocolates.

Forget that diamond tiara I showed you last night.

Forget the weekend in Paris.

Forget the 5 course dinner prepared by Brad Pitt in a gladiator outfit.


I will have none of it!


Let's celebrate the cupid day by sharing a cup of Shade Grown Coffee , some great birding memories and a big long smooch!



I have clearly lost my mind.....

Monday, February 11, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside....

Lucky for us we have our Wingscapes BirdCam to record all the hard core bird action around the love nest while we are out searching for Painted Buntings , Northern Saw-whet Owls , White-winged Crossbill or relaxing in one of the most romantic places on the East Coast....Red-bellied Woodpecker The House Finch that I tried to make into a Purple Finch, hanging with some cousins, American Goldfinches. One of many of our aggressive Carolina Chickadees that dislikes sharing feeder space I know it is not my imagination. The Goldfinches are getting a little more golden. Hairy Woodpecker

White-breasted Nuthatch on the feeder in the summer.

Sigh.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

PABU, at last


Well, after six attempts (Warren), a dozen or so (Lisa) and just one (Adam), we finally saw the beautiful adult male Painted Bunting that lost its bearings and has been hanging around Annapolis since before Christmas.

Oddly, it (and we assume this is the same bird) visited feeders at two different houses perhaps three miles apart, both of which had large stands of bamboo nearby.

The Painted Bunting, is a beautful, if sometimes shy bird, and the looks we got were nothing like the photograph on the left. Nope, our PABU hid in some dense holly (perhaps being put off by the dozen or so birders and scopes arrayed like a battery of guns on it) and we only found it with the help of those with scopes.

Dan Haas has some great photos on his blog of the Anne Arundel County PABU itself. (Sorry you Shrike-d out on the Northern Shrike at Cromwell Valley, Dan.)

The bunting has been seen lately at a house near the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail.

Having tried so long and hard for the bird (including some chilly December mornings just before Christmas), we decided to be satisfied, and went off to run some miles on the B&A Trail. In fact, we ran back past the spot where our fellow birders were waiting patiently for better looks at Mr. PABU!

I was thinking about this later in the weekend as I read the last 50 pages of Life of the Skies by Jonathen Rosen. He tells the story of making plans to try to go find the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, shortly after its "rediscovery" in Arkansas. Planning to go with him are two friends, Andy and Rob, both passionate birders.

He writes that Andy "like me ... birds in the spaces his life allows--between children and marriage and teaching and writing and all the obligations of midlife." Rob, on the other hand, "seems to do his work and his living in the spaces that birding allows."

As our PABU experience shows, we are passionate birders (we tried repeatedly before the bird before finally seeing it, a life bird!), but more like Andy. Maybe later in life, we will be more like Rob.

On the other hand, as Adam and I were puffing up and down the trail, we were still birding. We saw a huge Red-Shouldered Hawk in a branch of a tree, not five feet off the trail, looking hungrily into the field below.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Happy!!


This is a Bluebird, as in "Bluebird of Happiness." But he looks a little - well, tense. Like W has been, what with work, commute, kids and (ugh!) short winter days.

Tense, until...

Princess took me on a surprise adventure on Sunday and Monday. I had NO idea where we were going. We ended up here:




This is Keswick Hall, an amazing country inn just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Being mid-winter, hardly any other overnight guests were around, and we were treated like the Lord & Lady of the manor. We had the dining room, and a world-class chef (and wine cellar) to ourselves.

Lisa indeed looked like she belonged here. Did I mention the amazing massage?

Ah, but back to the birds! In the morning, we went birding around the grounds, set in the hills outside Charlottesville, not far from Jefferson's Monticello. The woods were full of Pileated Woodpeckers, although they were furtive and ghostly:


There are lots of great birding and hiking spots in and around Charlottesville, such as Beaver Creek Dam, not far from the mountain town of Crozet. *

* Hint: This picture is upside down.

Next, we headed to Walnut Creek Park, where we found more Pileated Woodpeckers, 3 Pied-Billed Grebes, and a Cardinal who thought it was still Christmas:



The Blue Baby took us everywhere we wanted to go, 100s of miles, 52 species of birds, new adventures at every corner:


Wanna go there too? Follow the signs:


PS: Baby, yes, it's almost Valentine's Day, I know. BirdCouple's favorite day. Got it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Great Birdin'




BirdCouple has had some excellent birding adventures this week. First off, this morning, we and our friend Paul Baicich saw the White-Winged Crossbill that has been hanging around Rockville, Maryland. (That is NOT it above. If you want to check out some excellent pictures of this beauty, Dan Haas has them on his blog.)


Crossbills normally spend their time way up north, and the Maryland Yellowbook, more properly known as The Field List of the Birds of Maryland, says they are seen in Maryland "less than annually." We had tried for this Crossbill just before Christmas, and missed it. Amazingly, it was not seen for a few weeks, and has now returned. It was species #82 for the year, as we shoot for a Little Big Year of 350 species in North America.


Earlier this week, Warren took a much-needed day off and went south to his favorite place in all of Maryland, St. Mary's County. BirdCouple was married here, at a lovely place called Sotterly Plantation. Warren didn't dream of stopping there, since Lisa was not with him. Instead, he headed south, past historic St. Mary's City, past little towns like Ridge and St. Inigoes, all the way to the end of the Peninsula, to where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay:





The birding was great, especially waterbirds this time of year: Surf Scoter, White-Winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Horned Grebe and even Eared Grebe. He also saw that Bald Eagle at the top of this post.

Conditions for photography weren't the greatest, and some of the birds were being shy:

Cedar Waxwing

Ah, birding! What's next?