Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Warblers are Here!!!!!!!!!

Prarie Warbler
And all their migrant buddies, too. This is a great time of year! Migrant passerines have arrived from the south and, for just a few more days, the trees are not so thick with leaves that they are (relatively) easy to see and photograph.
We spent our spare hours birding like mad this past weekend, a lot of it at Governor Bridge Natural Area along the Patuxent River in Prince George's County. The sounds and colors were amazing.

Dan Haas brought this Prarie Warbler in using a recording of his call. PRWA must be thinking, where is that other bird?
It wasn't just warblers that arrived with the warming weather, however:

Scarlet Tanager

This second picture is really interesting. You can see what appears to be the last of the bird's winter clothes (in yellow-green), giving way to its splendid scarlet summer suit. (Apologies for the alliteration....)

Hooded Warblers can be very hard to see in summer, as they tend to stick close to the ground, or hide in dense foliage, leaving you with nothing but their ringing call. They are lovely to look at, just striking:

And last but not least:

Yellow-Throated Vireo
Another bird that is best seen in the waning days of April or early May, before the greenery masks everything and the birds quiet down for the breeding season. Has he got food or nesting material there?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Setting your clock (or your calendar) by Wood Thrush

This blows Birdcouple away. Every spring, the Wood Thrushes arrive in our back forty (actually back 1.8 acres of woods) and serenade us throughout the summer, until they head south in August or early September. Their arrival heralds the start of the season here at the Lovenest.

Warren keeps pretty careful records of BC's birdsightings, using Avisys software.

The Wood Thrushes arrived on April 24, 2007; April 23, 2008 and .... (drum roll goes here) this year .. today, April 23.

How DO they do it? Without Blackberry, personal organizer or even a wall calender, they just know how to get here and when to get here.

Welcome back, Wood Thrushes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EARTH DAY....Bring it on!

Happy Earth Day!

The day to celebrate the 4.6 billion year old blue and white ball that we all call home.

It is also a day when we are reminded that we have a commitment.

The purpose of Earth Day should not just be the accomplishment of a single action on a single day, such as planting a tree or cleaning up a park --although these are wonderful things to do!

A true celebration of Earth Day is committing to long term environmental actions that make our plant greener, day by day.

Committing to buy green products such as energy-saving light bulbs.

Committing to buying local produce and eating sustainable food.

Committing to avoiding pesticides and herbicides.

Committing to reducing water use and treating it like the precious resource it is.

Committing to inspiring awareness and appreciation for our environment.

And, if you are my Cute Husband, it means committing to birding every day during spring migration!

Explore and enjoy something new on our big blue and white ball today...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lucky shot

Black-and-White Warbler

Warren took this photo of a Black-and-White Warbler on Sunday while Birdcouple was enjoying the annual "Walk for the Woods" at South River Greenway in Crownsville, Md., part of the Scenic Rivers Land Trust. Our group was ably led by Dan Haas.

We'd heard a few Black-and-White Warblers singing their squeaky wheel song during the morning, but they proved frustratingly elusive, at least to Warren's old eyes. Finally, we had a very cooperative chap show up, and it stood still on a small snag for quite a while. Warren snapped away. It wasn't until Birdcouple got home that we realized why the bird had been so cooperative: it had its eyes on a bug breakfast! Cool!

(Full disclosure: the original pic was woefully under-exposed. This has been touched up with a photo-editing program).

The next day, while Princess Lisa was happily working in her garden, Warren made a detour on his way home from Adam's soccer game. Dan H, who is on top of all Annapolis birding info, had spotted a Blue-Headed Vireo at Truxtun Park. Sure enough, it was there:

So were some beautiful Palm Warblers...

... and a lot of other birds. We've said it before, but it's amazing how a tiny amount of habitat -- the wild area at Truxtun Park is maybe a couple of acres - can attract so much birdlife.

Thanks Dan, and sorry about the Barred Owl thing. Really.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finally, GOOD NEWS for the Chesapeake's Blue Crabs

Hmmm... maybe catch restrictions do work, after all?
From the Washington Post:

A Baby Boom Of Blue CrabsBay Rules May Have Aided 43% Increase
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 18, 2009

The number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay increased about 43 percent last year, according to survey data released yesterday, and scientists said it was probably a sign that measures taken to protect the beleaguered bay icon are working for now.

A baywide survey this winter, in which scientists counted crabs by dredging them out of their sandy burrows, yielded a population estimate of just more than 400 million. That was up from 280 million last winter.

Blue crabs are a species prone to explosive swings in population, so there is no guarantee that the growth will continue. But scientists and state officials said they were encouraged by the results, especially by the near-doubling in the number of adult females.

"We fully expected some kind of an increase. Now, the increase that we got, right now, was a little higher than we expected," said Rom Lipcius, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who worked on the survey. "What that means is that the management actions worked so far, and I want to emphasize that they worked so far."

The population numbers are still far below where they were in the early 1990s. In 1991, there were an estimated 828 million crabs in the bay. Since then, the species has suffered because of declining water quality and heavy fishing from watermen, who have come to focus more on the crabs while the Chesapeake's oysters, their other traditional income source, have dropped to historic lows.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Upcoming Appearances

Birdcouple is pleased as punch to be participating in the Wintergreen Nature Foundation's annual Spring Wildflower Symposium from May 15-17. We'll be leading three bird walks over the course of the weekend, high up in the Virginia mountains at the height of spring migratiion. We can't wait to share the birds with the participants, and learn more about the mountain flora.

Please think about joining us if you live in the area. The foundation is a top-flight nature research and education center in Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains, located in the world-famous Wintergreen ski resort.

After participating in the symposium and leading bird walks, we will head over to a place that always tugs on our hearts and our bins, Keswick Hall, to do some more bird education. We helped do a bird survey of Keswick's amazing property, and got started on a bird list -- which we aim to expand.

Talk about TOO MUCH FUN. Spring is here!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter Everyone!

Virginia Bluebells

Happy Easter*

Let BirdCouple's favorite time of year commence!

* And Passover, Nowruz, Holi or whatever else applies....

Thursday, April 9, 2009

eBird at NWRs

You know the tradition - you arrive at your favorite National Wildlife Refuge, or perhaps a new one you've been longing to see, and you head straight for the visitor center. If you're like most birders, you leave the gift shop area for later - and head straight for the old-fashioned pencil and paper logbook, where previous visitors have (you hope) accurately and clearly reported recent bird and mammal sightings.

We love traditions (hey, Warren is an ink-stained wretch of a newspaper reporter, so he knows all about disappearing media forms), but an increasing number of National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs), now have something much better: eBird Trail Tracker, developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Natch.

As our friend Paul Baicich notes, this is a great new way for visitors to share information about bird sightings. The information becomes a part of the large and growing eBird database. No more illegible scrawl, ripped log pages, or coffee stains.

But wait, there's more! (Am I supposed to say something about the free Ginsu knives here??) There's a great demo of Trail Tracker here. For new and learning birders, as well as for the rest of us, the system is full of ornithological information on each species -- pictures, audio, natural history, etc. Suppose you'd never seen a Peregrine Falcon before, and just learned that one had been spotted that morning at the refuge. With a few minutes at the Trail Tracker kiosk, you'd have a much better idea of the bird and how to find it.

About half a dozen NWRs now have Trail Tracker. Perhaps best of all, the information is now available remotely, on-line. So you can see what's been spotted at the refuge before you get in the car (bike, motorcycle, airplane) and head there. Three Roseate Spoonbills were reported today, April 9, at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, in South Texas, according to their online Trail Tracker report. (We love Santa Ana - got our life White-Faced Ibis and Altamira Oriole there, among others).

Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico also has Trail Tracker info on-line. So do lots of birding sites that aren't NWRs.

Many thanks to the great folks at Cornell Lab; people like Mike Carlo, who get the Trail tracker installed at Santa Ana NWR; and, of course, Paul B. Ain't technology great?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Large-Billed Reed Warbler!

We blogged a couple of years ago about the Large-Billed Reed Warbler, arguably one of the world's rarest birds. It was first discovered in 1867 in India, but then lost to science for 139 years, until it was "refound" in Thailand in 2007.

Since that time, there have been increasing, but still infrequent, reports of the bird in several locations, most of them in India.

Here's one of those locations:

This is at a lodge a few kilometers outside Kanha Tiger Reserve, where we spent 2 1/2 days with our dear friends Peter and Kimberly Kaestner. Being in the vicinity, we couldn't help but stop by on the off-chance that this rare bird might be there.

Well, it wasn't.

But we were overjoyed to hear that Peter, who has one of the biggest birdlists in the world, *did* see the bird a few weeks after we left India, at an entirely different location, 65 kilometers SSE of Calcutta. Amazing, but not suprising, if you know Peter.

Here's what the elusive Large-Billed Reed Warbler looks like:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Somewhere over the rainbow...

...Bluebirds fly, Birds fly over the rainbow. Why, oh, why can't I? -- E.Y. "Yip Harburg.

We are on the brink of the most torturous time of the year on the East Coast.

We are on the brink of an explosion of color and beautiful melodies heard from treetops.

We are on the brink of pre-dawn wake ups and aching necks from searching the canopy for tiny birds flitting about in their spring finery.

We are on the brink of planning every free moment around the most likely spots and hoping for fall-outs within driving distance.

We are on the brink of the warbler spring migration!

And, what makes that so torturous is that during the big show(which really escalates during the month of May), it is almost impossible to concentrate on work and not devise sick leave schemes to eat up every day of birding as hundreds of thousands of warblers pass through.

In the meantime, Cute Husband and I are breaking out the warbler tapes and brushing up on field ids and... patiently waiting....for the real spring to start!