Sunday, March 29, 2009

Birds have wings

... and show up in the strangest places.

We went birding today, in the far, far wild, unspoiled, pristine environment ... of an office park.

That's right. An office park. We saw a life bird - a Harris' Sparrow - at a bird feeder behind some corporate office in a corporate park in the very corporate town of Columbia, Md. You know the type of place - identical red brick office buildings, with parking spaces, corporate signs and nice landscaping, with (in this case) a sorta pathetic (corporate) picnic table out back. Very unobtrusive street signs. Chain restaurants nearby. SHOOT ME. Some good soul had placed a bird feeder behind one of these buildings, right next to a measly ravine where a rivulet ran by. You could hear the traffic whiz past near by and see some humongous warehouse across the road.

National Wildlife Refuge this wasn't. But as any good birder knows - birding doesn't always take place in the most romantic of places. Gulls and crows at landfills. Rails and waterfowl at sewage treatment plants. Hawks by the side of the Interstate highway.

And there it was. A Harris' Sparrow. Way way *way* out of range. This is a Midwestern/arctic tundra bird. How had he found this little bird feeder in the back of an office park in Anywhere Town USA? We are left to wonder ... and think about all the birds out there that we never see.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mixed Feeding Flock, #3

Tonight is Earth Hour. Turn off your lights! More over at Nervous Birds or at Locally, Baltimore is participating.

Ninety years of birding notes are going online, thanks to Maryland's very own US Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The notes cover 900 species including some--Great Auk, Carolina Parakeet--that are no longer with us. (Thanks to Papa C for passing this along).

Mountaintop mining: Bipartisan bill introduced that would effectively ban the practice. This come shortly after the EPA announced a freeze on mountaintop mining permits while it reviews environmental effects.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mammals of India

Warren is just back from a 2-day trip with Secretary of State Clinton to Mexico, but Birdcouple is still trying to savor our wonderful India vacation. It was crazy good with birds, but we saw a lot else besides. Including mammals, small...

Five-Striped Palm Squirrel
And large:
The Gaur is a type of bison, and is the largest wild bovine found in the world. Males weigh up to a ton and a half. Yes, this one probably could have taken on our safari jeep and won if it had a mind to. Luckily it was busy doing what bovines usually do - eating.
We saw the Gaur at Kanha Tiger Reserve, where we sepnt 2 1/2 days and encountered Jungle Cat, Sloth Bear and three types of deer. Spotted Deer were all over the place:

Barking Deer were more secretive and uncommon, staying in the forest. Check out the facial pattern:

And Swamp Deer:

I have to stop monkeying around and get back to work. Here's a langur:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Holi Spring! होली

Cute Husband and I were lucky enough to be in India for Holi, or the Festival of Colors.
Holi is a Hindu festival to celebrate the arrival of Spring.
The best part of this merry making holiday is the ritual of throwing or applying of colored powders and colored water on friends and family. We were birding in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (Keoladeo Ghana Natiuonal Park) at daybreak and these gentleman had already started the fun..... and included us in the celebration!
Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Except for the part about the "endangered" Black-Necked Stilt, and birding have a "nerdy" image....

From the NY Times:

On Business, but Checking out the local airborne avifauna

Jonathan Rosen, then an editor at a Jewish newspaper, The Forward, was in Boca Raton, Fla., about 10 years ago for a four-day conference about literature and the Holocaust when he and a colleague decided to play hooky for a while.

“I had never in my life seen a reddish egret before,” said Mr. Rosen, the author of “The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) and now the editorial director of Nextbook, a Jewish book series. “I felt a little guilty,” he recalled. “But my father quoted Deuteronomy to me: ‘Choose life!’ ”

Day trips like Mr. Rosen’s — either on company time or, as is probably more usual, on weekends before or after scheduled work travel — are common among bird-watching business travelers. In fact, business travel, reviled by many forced to endure it, is frequently a boon for the nation’s 20 million birders, and their employers as well.

To begin with, bird watchers are often more eager to hit the road than their nonbirding colleagues. Cyndi Lubecke, a birder from Prospect Heights, Ill., said she had to travel 46 weeks one year for her work as a leadership training consultant. “I looked at it as an opportunity to see a lot of birds.” Some of her nonbirding co-workers, by contrast, balked.

Travel to out-of-the-way places that many nonbirders find unappealing can be especially attractive to those who pack binoculars and field guides in their carry-on luggage.

Ms. Lubecke, for instance, has frequently chosen assignments because of their proximity to birding habitats that she has wanted to visit but might not otherwise have been able to afford. “My colleagues have loved me for that,” she said, “because my choices were places like Toledo, Ohio, and Fayetteville, Ark. — places they didn’t want to go.”

Once, when required to choose between trips to New York City, Los Angeles or Birmingham, Ala., she picked Birmingham for the possibility of viewing the endangered red cockaded woodpecker, resident at nearby Talladega National Forest. “Twice I’d gone on trips on my own to find it, with no luck,” she said. But on that business trip, “I saw it!” And she was able to add the bird to her life list, a compilation of species seen that many birders maintain. (Ms. Lubecke’s list is an impressive one, in the mid-400s.)

Bird watching’s hours also mesh well with business travel. While golfers need half a day to pursue their game, and hockey fans may be forced to choose between entertaining clients in the evenings and watching an important game, birds are most easily observed in the early morning, before the work day begins. “You can get up a little early, take a walk through the park for an hour and still make it in time for your breakfast meeting,” said John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society.

Mr. Flicker calls bird watching a great “ice breaker” for business travelers seeking to create a rapport with clients or audiences. “I go to Nebraska a fair amount, and I love going to the Platte River and watching the sandhill crane migration.” But, he said, many Nebraskans think outsiders do not know much about their state. “So if I can come from across the country and talk about why the crane migration is so cool, it creates a bond that wouldn’t exist otherwise,” he said.

And some say the practice may also help them become more proficient at what they do for a living. “It has made me more observant,” said Bob Smith, a stand-up comic and novelist from New York who describes himself as an openly gay comic but a closeted bird watcher. (“Bird watching has a real nerdy image,” he said.)

“To really see something is a great thing for an artist, and bird watching teaches you that,” Mr. Smith said. “That focus has translated into everything I do, including into writing more interesting jokes.”

As a self-employed person, Mr. Smith is careful to separate his business travel expenses from his bird-watching ones for tax purposes. But some bird watchers stretch the line between legitimate business travel and bird watching in pursuit of, say, an elusive and endangered black-necked stilt.

After Steven Servantez, a veterinarian in Janesville, Wis., and his wife, Julie, received some notoriety in the birding world for being the first to spot the tufted flycatcher in Arizona, Dr. Servantez said he “got a call from a vet I didn’t know who wanted me to come out to Hawaii to a veterinary conference with him.” The veterinarian wanted Dr. Servantez to join him “not so much to go to the conference, but to go birding.”

In fact, bird watching and business travel can enrich each other, changing how travelers experience their business trips. “To have to go 5,000 miles to give a talk is one thing,” said Mr. Rosen, the author. “But to go 5,000 miles to see a painted redstart. That’s a whole different story.”

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Birdcouple is here in Paris, waiting four flight home after an amazing 10 days in India. Being in Paris, even at the airport, naturally our thoughts turn toward the romantic.... Hint, hint, sweetie.
The same was apparently true for this male Indian Peafowl we encountered the other day at Kanha National Park. He DEFINITELY had love on his mind, and was strutting his stuff for any and all available hens.

Quite impressive from all angles. We never did find out the end of his story:

A beautiful bird, indeed. Quick, back to the LoveNest, Princess!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Painted Stork love

Our good buddy Dan Haas has been posting some beautiful pictures of Peregrine Falcons in an, uh, romantic mood. In that spirit, and with spring nearly upon us, we offer up this picture of Painted Storks who were necking and clicking their bills together - bird smooching? - as we strolled by in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.
Bharatpur was amazing, a true avian haven (heaven...?) The sanctuary has a potential species list of over 400, and we saw some really cool birds like Steppe Eagle and Sarus Crane. So far, unofficially, we've nabbed 166 species of birds in our time in India. Saw the Taj Mahal yesterday. Words don't suffice for how cool that was. Spending a last day in Dehli before heading home very early Saturday.
Big HIs to all our blogging buddies!!!
MANY more pictures to come. Here's a Eurasian Spoonbill:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

India adventure

Lisa and I are halfway through our India adventure. We've only seen a small slice of the country and already are overwhelmed by the contrasts, the culture, the sights, the people ... and of course the wildlife.

We spent 2 1/2 days at Kanha national park and tiger reserve. We did not find the elusive tiger, but found what might be an even more elusive big cat. Leopard!

There were oodles of birds as well, most of them foreign to us. Luckily we were in the company of our dear friends Peter and Kimberly Kaestner. Peter is one of the world's best birders, and he helped us find life birds by the dozen. Like this Shikra:

Peter did not just point out the birds and let us quietly tick them off, however. He made us work for them - watching the birds closely and trying to identify them ourselves, using field marks, range guides and so on. He made us try to learn the birds.

Much more to post soon. We're off this evening to Bharatpur, one of India's premier birding spots. And then to the Taj!

Here's a very common bird in much of the country, Indian Roller:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In Paris... but it doesn't count....

Cute Husband and I just landed on the first leg of our journey East.


Well, actually the Charles de Gaulle Airport.

See, once upon a time, very very very long ago, The Cute One brought me to the City of Lights. Naturally, I feel madly in love with all that is French and constantly beg him for a repeat.

I finally convinced him the airport in Paris doesn't count as romantic visit number 2...

Nope. We are off on a new adventure.
The Taj Mahal
Maybe some tigers.
Birds galore!

And, the very best part is that we are spending most of our time with our friend, Peter Kaestner and his family. Peter, the gent who has seen over 8,100 species of birds.

He sent us some bird homework with likely possibilities in Dehli. Just looking through the bird guide is so crazy exciting.

Ok, off to peek out the airport windows in search of a new Paris bird.

Although, the light rain, near darkness and miles of asphalt don't look too promising. I think we just might have to return for a longer visit to pad that list.... right Warren, Love?

Off to India!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hummingbird Presentation, March 12

Long time, no blog. BC *hates* to go a week without blogging, but life overtakes us sometimes - in this case, work; helping Adam and Mitch with their college careers; and .... getting ready to go to India!!

We're going to miss the lovely presentation below, but for Birdcouple's readers in the Washington or Baltimore metro areas, please consider attending. The Anne Arundel Bird Club's annual lectures are always first-rate, both fun and educational. (It's WELL worth the $5 suggested donation, which goes to support a good cause).

We'll be blogging as frequently as possible from India. Pittas! Cuckooshrikes! Sunbirds! Jungle Babblers! Lisa in the Exotic East! Drool...

Anne Arundel Bird Club and Quiet Waters Park Annual Heise Wildlife Lecture
Thursday, March 12 at 8:00 p.m.--Blue Heron Center, Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis
Join hummingbird expert Nancy L. Newfield of New Orleans as she presents a fascinating photographic story detailing her more than 30 years of study and adventure in pursuit of the world’s smallest birds. Nancy, co-author of Hummingbird Gardens, pioneered the practice of landscaping to provide natural food sources for hummers and thus learned the best ways to attract them to any garden. Nancy handles and bands nearly 500 hummers of as many as 9 species each winter as part of her study of hummingbird populations in southern Louisiana and has banded more than 18,000 hummingbirds of 15 species in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Arizona. She has authored four other books as well as more than 250 papers and articles. Nancy previously organized birding tours to Central and South America through her HummerQwest. She presents this amazing program of adventure in pursuit of the world’s smallest birds.