Monday, August 31, 2009

Scissor-Tailed!!


Lisa and I got in some very brief, but very pleasurable and very efficient, birding Sunday morning with our dear friend Peter Kaestner, who, with his family, is now back from India.

We were chasing a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, a marvelous bird not often seen in these parts. It had been hanging around for a week just a couple of miles outside the lovely little Eastern Shore town of Sudlersville, Maryland. (Sudlersville, as everyone knows, is the birthplace of baseball hall of famer Jimmie Foxx, and there's a statue in the center of town to commemerate him).

We headed north of town to the spot where the bird had been, well, spot-ted. Cruising down a two-lane country road, Peter and I both eyed a bird on a telephone wire. We slowed. We stopped. We turned around. We looked. Bingo.

Warren's and Lisa's cameras -- yes, cameras - were on the blink, but Peter took both these lovely shots. We're grateful he shared them with us for Birdcouple-blogging purposes.

Here's another of Peter's shots. You can clearly see where the long tail-streamers have broken off. Is this molt? A juvenile bird? Birdcouple must research and find out!





Then it was off to a nearby sod farm, where we ran into friends Ross Geredien and Dave Curson, and enjoyed shorebirds, like Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and American Golden-Plover. Then, all too soon, it was time to say goodbye to Peter and friends, and head home ... for a sunset cruise in a schooner. But that's another post.





Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Been Hiking Again

The Traveling Lovenest*

Birdcouple has been off hiking the Appalachian Trail again - closing in on the 600-mile mark in our travels along the AT! Wahoo!!!

We'll be posting full details of the adventure soon on BC's AT blog.

And we'll be back to the birds soon. Fall migration is on!!


* Johns Hollow Shelter, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sure, Birds


Warren, who's on "stay-cation" this week, partly to chill and partly to get young Adam ready for college move-in tomorrow, took a day to himself Monday and went birding. The place was the Delmarva peninsula and the targets were shorebirds, which are in southward migration this time of year.

Where better to go than Bombay Hook NWR? It never disappoints, and it didn't this time. This Snowy Egret coming in for a landing was just one among a crowd of egrets, herons, dowitchers, sandpipers, avocets, stilts, terns and more. From a pure birding perspective, the top birds were a pair of Hudsonian Godwits, which had been reported at the visitor center, but couldn't be found by Warren and a half-dozen other birders until they untucked their heads from resting position and showed us their huge Godwit bills!

Warren even got to experiment with ebird Trail Tracker, which is sort fo like eBird to go, at the Visitor Center.
Here's that Snowy Egret from a different perspective:



The other stars of the day at Bombay Hook were American Avocets. They normally stay on the far side of the pools from the observation drive, but this time were helpfully close:




Bottoms up!


All told, Warren put 280 miles on his 2001 Mustang convertible, zig-zagging around the Delaware coast and then over to Dorchester County, Maryland, to add Bank Swallow to his list of Maryland birds and visit the lovely little town of Hurlock, Maryland, where Birdcouple has never been before.

That Mustang has more than 177,000 miles on her, but she is a beast and did not complain one bit.


And then it was home, Warren and his car, exhausted, to lovely Lisa...



Sunday, August 16, 2009

Went birding, forgot camera


Maybe it's because we stayed up nearly until 2 am on Friday reminiscing with Adam, who is about to make the big step to becoming a college man, but we flew out of here on Saturday morning with half our usual bird gear - including no camera.

Our destination was Ocean City, Maryland, where we were to watch Adam's older brother, Mitch, play in the annual O.C. Lacrosse Tournament. Of course, we scheduled some birding around Mitch's matches. And Warren managed to snap a few pics with the camera on his new BlackBerry.

Lisa makes any optical device look great. Isn't she beautiful and stylish as she spys the birdlife on Skimmer Island?

The island, in the bay just west of OC, was crazy good with birds - Black Skimmers galore, Royal Terns, a pair of Marbled Godwits, oystercatchers, dowitchers, a Tri-Colored Heron and more. Here's a cellphone shot of the island:


Then it was off to see Mitch play some lax. His team had a rough tournament, but we got to see their one victory of the weekend, an exciting comeback performance. We said ciao to Mitch, who was spending the weekend at the shore with friends, and headed off to Assateague Island for a bit of pre-dark birding and a tres romatic sunset walk on the beach. Sigh.

Near the restrooms at the Over Sand Vehicle zone a pair of Barn Swallows huddled under the corner of a building. Their parents buzz-dived Warren as he took a shot from a respectful distance. Ah, weekends!





Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mixed Feeding Flock #6

Birdcouple's occasional round-up of notable birding and nature news and events..







_ In case you haven't heard, September 5 this year is International Vulture Awareness Day. This isn't a joke. Vultures are beautiful (in a way), important to the ecosystem--and many species are facing threats to their survival.



_ A new species of bird was recently discovered in a remote part of Laos, in Southeast Asia. It's a bird without feathers on its face, and is named (appropriately, we think) the Bare-Faced Bulbul. First new species of bulbul discovered in 100 years. We're amazed that new species of birds are still discovered, or rediscovered, on our home planet on a fairly regular basis.



_ The American Bird Conservancy did a study in Peru to help preserve the Marvelous Saptuletail, arguably the world's most spectacular hummingbird. It found that 64 other bird species could benefit from protecting the hummer's habitat.



_ New data from the US Fish & Wildlife Service on birding demographics. There are A LOT of us: 48 million, or about 21 percent of the population. Of those, 42 million, or 88 percent, are self-described away-from-home birders.



The study says: "The average birder is 50 years old and more than likely has a better than average income and education. She is slightly more likely to be female and highly likely to be white. There is also a good chance that this birder lives in the south in an urban area. Does this paint an accurate picture of a birder? Like all generalizations the description of an "average" birder does not reflect the variety of people who bird, with millions falling outside this box."



_ Finally, Paul Baicich passed on this item about how six waterfowl decoys recently sold at auction for $1.8 million. You read that right, $1.8 million.



Birders, birding and bird decoys ... we've made it, bigtime. More soon...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Birding again!!



Princess and I have not been out birding much lately - July was a bit of drought (it can be a slow birding month where we live anwyay) and we've been busy with work, family and other responsibilities. Responsibilities?! Ugh.


So we jumped at the chance to head west Saturday with good friends Dan Haas of Nervous Birds, his wife Emery, Declan the Dec-man, and a special guest. We headed over to Washington County, Maryland, and immediately found our target bird, Loggerhead Shrike. LIFE BIRD for L and W!




Warren's camera was malfunctioning for a moment, of course, so no pics here of Mr. Shrike. But Dan got some. We had a lot of other nice birds in the county, which we have not birded much, including that handsome Grasshopper Sparrow up there.




Perhaps the oddest sighting of the day was a Belted Kingfisher found by Dan in a small pond, acting more like a loon or a grebe. We couldn't figure out if it was an injured bird or a fledgling that had somehow fallen into the water and was trying to get out.








We watched in struggle for about 15 minutes, looking like an avian swimmer doing the 200m butterfly. It moved away from us and close to the opposite shore. Two other kingfishers (parents?) flew from tree to tree around the pond edge. Sure hope the little guy or gal made it to safety before a Cooper's Hawk came by.
















And here's the special guest, a birder-to-be due to join us in about a month. Congrats and best wishes Dan and Emery! Lisa is telling baby Haas about the difference between Loggerhead and Northern Shrikes:



























Lisa made some really sweet Macro pictures while we searched in vain for a Yellow-Headed Blackbird. Check out this bumble bee on a thistle, and the lovely Monarch butterfly below.

It was a birds-and-bees type day.


P.S. - After posting this and having dinner, Lisa and I reviewed our life lists over a glass of wine or 2. Loggerhead Shrike was our 400th "Harmony Bird," the 400th species we both have on our North American list!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Facebook, finally


Birdcouple's been bigtime busy. What else is new, right?

But finally we have gotten our act together, and created a Facebook page to go along with the blog. Please check us out here and, if you want, join our growing legions of fans.

Meanwhile....


MEMO
TO: Princess
FROM: Warren
RE: Birdcouple

Sweet - great posts on organic food, CSAs and zucchini. Really helping drive Web traffic. Don't mean to be criticial, but maybe we should think of putting up some bird pictures and information soon. Otherwise we will have to rename the blog Foodcouple.

Please share thoughts. Or we could meet on this one? Our place, our ours?

Regards
W

MEMO (in response to your MEMO)
TO: Cute Husband
FROM: Lisa
RE: Birdcouple

Sugar - (oh, sorry that is a food item),

Agree. So please take me birding this weekend. I'd still like to meet to discuss further, our ours.

Love,
L

PS - you still plan to grill that steak for me tonight, right?

MEMO
TO: Sugar-bun
FROM: W
RE: re: Birdcouple

Yes, I will grill you steaks (food) ce soire, while we listen to WOOD THRUSHES (birds)!!!

Food, Glorious Food!

Yes, I am beyond food obsessed lately.

I don't know if it is because July birding was a little dull or if it is because the farmers' markets are just brimming with tons of local fresh goodies or if it is because the LoveNest yard finally produced something we ate rather than the deer eating.

But, I am obsessed.

Yesterday, I checked out a Farmer's Market recommended by Ross Geredien, our buddy from Good Migrations.

And, I found our local meat man!

Lew Dodd and his wife run Cedar Run Cattle Company in Sudlersville, MD.

Local beef, pork, chicken with no growth hormones, growth stimulants, artificial or antibiotic feed additives.

Love it!

I really enjoyed talking to Mr. Dodd - who assured me that he didn't want to eat anything that had all that garbage in it either.

Tonight...a big 'ole T-Bone steak!

Tomorrow... back to the birds, I promise!

We are day-tripping tomorrow in Western Maryland with Dan Haas who is currently ranting about his obsession with boobies on Nervous Birds.

So birds on the BirdCouple menu tomorrow!

In the meantime... I'm hungry....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture....

Cute Husband and I are so excited!

We subscribed to our first Community Supported Farm for some delicious goodies for the fall... all raised in our home state!

Then, today I noticed that we are apparently in the "in crowd"....

More on the growing popularity for CSAs here...

Broccoli, Cauliflower, Salad Mix, Cabbage, Spinach and Sweet Potatoes.... come on fall!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Locally Grown....


The name of the game on Saturday night was to bring something locally grown or organic to share a feast at the LoveNest.



Mid-summer in Maryland is brimming with local corn, heirloom tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, peaches and tons of zucchini and yellow squash- making it the perfect time of the year to enjoy some fresh "made in Maryland" goodies with some home-grown friends.


Yum!





Part-time farmers and fellow bloggers, Anne and Shawn brought an amazing creation with eggs and tomatoes from their front yard.
Louis and Vencka added local bread smothered in local butter and herbs along with locally brewed beers and wines...
Karen and Al of Distracted Birders shared the bounty from their CSA Farm in Southern Maryland....
....along with the charms of their two adorable offspring.
(as you can tell it was quite a party)
We added our front yard yellow squash and locally produced milk and sausages to the feast....






And mixed the fresh, locally farm supported, low environmental impact evening with some local friends.....







And, we can't wait to do it again!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Teens with iPhone snag possible 1st US bird record

Birdcouple loves this story from National Public Radio. Young campers hiking in southern Arizona recently with bird counselor David Jasper heard an unfamiliar thrush song. The kinds whipped out their iPhone and identified it as a Brown-Backed Solitaire, a bird of Central America and Mexico!!

Brown-Backed Solitaire has been seen or heard several times in the southeastern U.S., but it is a popular caged bird in Mexico, and those records may have been of escapees.

This may qualify as the first confirmed North American record. Young birders give us hope! Really worth listening to the NPR piece...