Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mixed Feeding Flock #4

Lots and lots going on in the bird world, even as spring passes into summer...

The National Bird-Feeding Society has launched its all-new website, which has lots of wonderful pictures, a blog and other information on bird-feeding, and (most important to BC) information on wildlife conservation and education. ... The NBFS is sponsored by another one of our favorite oufits, Wild Bird Centers.

Two new Important Birding Areas (IBAs) were dedicated in Maryland last month, thanks to Audubon Maryland-DC. They are the Assateague Island IBA (globally important for nesting Piping Plovers) and the Maryland Coastal Bays IBA. Birdcouple is headed out next month to help with Bird Blitz, a rigorous survey to identify potential new IBAs.

And Maryland's Eastern Shore last week played host to a vagrant Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, rare in these parts. Lisa and Warren couldn't break away to see it, but Dan Haas got the bird and some pictures .. and he's also got some wonderful shots up of our local Peregrine Falcon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crazed Bird(ing)

I've always thought the Bobolink is kind of a crazy bird. Look at that crazy color scheme - black and gold and white. Not to mention its crazy, complicated song, or the odd way it flutters down to a landing in a country field like this one.

Well, Warren, Dan Haas and Chris Murray birded like a trio of crazy Bobolinks on Memorial Day. We left Annapolis at 2:45 a.m. and headed like mad for the far reaches of western Maryland, where beautiful birds of the mountains awaited us. (For those of you who don't know Maryland, it may not be the biggest state in the Union, but it's a loooooooong way from the Chesapeake Bay to the mountains of Garrett County.

We arrived at Finzel Swamp at 5:45 am, as the sun was rising, and proceeded to bird like madmen for the next almost 7 hours, given a guided tour by local birder and biologist David Yeaney.

By the numbers, we tallied 101 species, including 18 species of warbler, 5 vireo species, 7 types of flycatcher and more. For Warren, there were 2 life birds and 7 new ones for his ever-growing Maryland state list.
But numbers don't tell the story. They don't describe the excitement and beauty of hearing three Cerulean Warblers, a seriously threatened species, calling from the canopy.

Even the common ol' Song Sparrow looked and sounded better than usual.

It was last bit of May madness, to celebrate the end of spring migration, which is trickling to an end along the mid-Atlantic seaboard. Up in the mountains, our neotropical migrants were singing, and some of them appeared to be setting up nests -- those that don't migrate all the way to Canada's Boreal Forests.

This Rose-Breasted Grosbeak wasn't interested in anything but chowing down.

It was a magic day. Aside from the Ruffed Grouse (sorry, Dan), every bird we were looking for announced itself in song virtually the moment we got out of the car. The credit goes to David's incredible local knowledge. The birds came almost too fast to count: Cerulean Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bobolink, Henslow's Sparrow, Golden-Winged Warbler, etc, etc..

And then, as the clock neared 1pm, we headed back through rain and Memorial Day traffic to be with our families and friends at an end-of-spring party/BBQ at the Lovenest. Warren even did the grilling.
It was perfect day, but ... Lisa stayed home from birding to prepare for the par-tay. Birding's always perfect-est with you princess.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"There is not a spig of grass ....

...that shoots uninteresting to me." ~ Thomas Jefferson Warren and I were honored to lead a bird walk early this week along the The Saunders-Monticello Trail. The trail is part of Kemper Park - 89 acres of pure birding bliss with wetlands, native trees and a two acre pond- that ascends to the base of Jefferson's Monticello.

The walk was hosted by Keswick Hall and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Cute Husband and I are huge fans of Keswick Hall and helped them create a bird list for the 600 acres that surrounds this over-the-top Inn and Estate. We are also big fans of their careful development and the Audubon Certified golf course!

This was BirdCouple's first introduction to the work of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The park and trails are maintained with private funding and the work of many nature loving volunteers. There is little doubt that Jefferson's passion for nature would have been inspired by the carefully planned trail that leads up to the new Visitor Center.
But it was way too bird-y at the base of the trail for our group to make it to the Visitor's Center on this walk.
Blackpoll warblers called, American Redstarts zipped along the trail, Brown Thrashers fed under the native trees, Scarlet Tanagers serenaded us...
Really nice birding at a really beautiful park.
But, wouldn't you know ... the best part of the day was the people we birded with...

Budding birder, Virginia and her two naturalist brothers joined us. Virginia found a Red-bellied Woodpecker who seemed to follow her around the park with its purring call.

We love, Love, LOVE showing another generation some birds!

And, it is always wonderful to meet children who are curious about the natural world and not afraid to get all-out-dirty in search of birds and....frogs, snakes and snails.

Thanks for sharing all that with BirdCouple on a beautiful morning!

We like to think Thomas Jefferson would have enjoyed the morning also...
"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past"

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Flowers... New Friends...


I promise you this gorgeous flower actually does exist. We met this flower and tons of new friends at at the Spring Wildflower Symposium presented by the Wintergreen Nature Foundation.Yellow Lady Slipper!
The Spring Wildflower Symposium is a celebration of natural history at the height of spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The instructors included geologists, botanists, entomologists, archaeologists, plant ecologists and .... BirdCouple.

To say we were honored to be included in this group is an understatement.

And, the best part about this bunch of esteemed individuals is that each of them had a genuine enthusiasm for their area of speciality and enjoyed sharing the smallest bit of information from their large knowledge base.

Cute Husband and I led three walks during the weekend.

We would like to say the birds were the highlight of our walks, as we did get some great looks at several warblers, but the highlight of the weekend was really the people who joined us. Curious, caring folks who made the whole experience more than just a discovery of birds, but also a really good time.

Everyone knows that birding is the bomb, but add in some people who also want to check out all the other cool stuff around them.... bugs, plants, trees... while trudging through mud and slipping on rocks and laughing through the whole adventure.... now that is really great birding!

In fact, we liked so many of the people who joined us that we thought about having them all over to our back yard for a stick, downed tree and dried leaf symposium.

No wildflowers in our back yard.
Way too many deer.

To say we were thrilled to show a few birds to these folks is an understatement.

And, if all that wasn't enough, we also met a new nonprofit that is doing really admirable work. The Wintergreen Nature Foundation's mission is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the natural and cultural history of the central Blue Ridge of Virginia.

Through the leadership of the Foundation's Executive Director, Doug Coleman, the Foundation has been instrumental in the conservation and protection of over 6,000 acres of the Blue Ridge. Acres that are preserved and maintained for research, educational programs and habitat for native plants and animals.

To say we are proud to be affiliated with this organization is an understatement.

Thanks for a weekend we are still smiling about....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pleased, pleased to meetcha!

We were VERY pleased to meet this Chestnut-Sided Warbler and lots of his friends here at Wintergeen Resort, where Birdcouple has been leading birding walks at the Wintergreen Nature Foundation's Spring Wildflower Symposium.

We've also been pleased to meet lots of wonderful folks up here, great biologist, nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Went on a wildflower walk this morning, after the first bird walk - BC has been doing lots of walking - and we learned a lot.
Time for a nap. More soon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Secretive Birds of Swamp and Saltmarsh

We've been so busy birding during a fabulous spring migration that we haven't been blogging about our birding!

So it seems hard to believe a week has passed since we headed down to southern Maryland with our good friend Ross Geredien in search of the elusive (in Maryland, anyway) Swainson's Warbler.

Swainson's Warbler is such a rare breeder in this state, if indeed it still breeds here, that we don't want to say precisely where we were. But it looked like this:

Yup. Good ol' Cypress Swamp. Muck, insects, thorns, heat, sweat. It doesn't get any better than this. We weren't daunted in the least, and headed with our waders deep into the heart of the swamp. Warren's overboots soon began to leak. We temporarily lost our way. Thank God for GPS!!

Alas, we never did find our quarry--Mr. Swainson probably heard us coming miles away. But we did of course see some really cool birds, like this Summer Tanager:

Prothonatary Warblers called all around us, and occasionally came into view:

Ross and Princess wore the right footwear:

Warren did not. These went into the first dumpster we saw post-adventure:

We had spent a (short) night at the Irish Grove sanctuary, an idyllic and historic property owned by the Maryland Ornithological Society. After our morning adventure, it was time for a quick nap, and then back out to find more birds in the nearby marsh of Somerset County.

These were trick-sy in their own way - rails calling from deep in the marsh, sparrows playing hide and seek in the reeds. Seaside Sparrow was one of three life birds on the trip, a fairly common but elusive fellow we'd missed in the past:

If that wasn't enough, Ross found a Sharp-Tailed Saltmarsh Sparrow and gave us great looks in the scope before he had to head home. Thanks, Ross! This was the best pic Warren could get:

Then were off to the beach for more birds. More adventure. More fun.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chuck Called...

And all he said was "Chuck-will's-widow".
and Again.

Music that is like whale song to BirdCouple.
Sleeping Sounds....
Wonderful spring sounds.....

Bee Business

Ahh... Spring!
Migration with new birds passing through daily.
New plant shooting up in the garden every day.
Trees completely leafing out almost overnight.
And, the busiest time for bee related business.

I lost our only remaining hive, Diana, sometime in January. Diana went into the winter weak with a queen that never seemed to get the egg laying thing together. I can't believe how much I missed checking out a hive or two during a warm day in March and being excited about a honey bee in the front yard in early April.

This year, Cute Husband agreed to the addition of 3 hives! I say "agreed" because Cute Husband knows me. He knows I am completely excessive and left unchecked, I would have an entire farm in our back woods. A farm that really would not conform to our neighborhood covenants.

So, we will refer to the bee yard as an apiary, not a bee farm.

I installed the new girls last Monday, which is pretty late due to a delayed delivery from down South. And, yesterday, after 6 straight days of rain, I noticed that Locust is in bloom. The start of the big time nectar gathering that slows down (in Maryland) after the Popular Tree Bloom at the end of May. A lot of bee work must be accomplished in the next few weeks for these hives to store enough for the winter.

Cute Husband and I are just as busy as our bees.
And, perhaps just as focused.
Birds, birds, birds - studying warbler songs, planning quick pre-work bird-gets, reading our local listserv to plan the next trip, comparing notes with birder buddies who scouted out birding for the weekend, dreaming of the next warbler we want to see.

Spring migration happens but once a year!

Birding on the walk from the parking lot to work. (Black-throated Blue in Annapolis proper this morning)

Birding on the way to pick up the newspaper in the front yard in the morning.

Birding from the window in the middle of a meeting. (Scarlet Tanager, heard)

Ahh... spring!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Bird Landed on my Shoulder...

My Dad has been quite sick for several weeks. And, for those of you who don't know my Dad, he is the best Dad on Earth. A kind, practical man with a quick sense of humor. My Dad has always fed my curiosity and was the first to put names on birds, trees and plants for me.

This past weekend, Cute Husband and I had planned to do some big league migration birding. After a lot of internal debate, I decided that looking at birds and spending time with Cute Husband might be the best thing for my sorrowful heart.

Not surprisingly, it was!

And, the smile I got from my Dad when I told him about the adventure- wading through the marsh in hip boots searching for Swainson Warblers, fighting mosquitoes and ticks and boot sucking mud - made me know that it was a good thing for his sorrowful heart also....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Poetry in Motion

Birdcouple is heading to far south-eastern Maryland this weekend to look for some secret (and secretive) birds, and have a mad, wacky adventure - brambles, rain, ticks and all.

In the meantime, we were touched that someone thought one of Warren's photos of a Great Blue Heron walking on ice went well with a poem by Robert Bly. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker, no less.

More soon.
- W and L