Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review: Birds of Europe

     One of Warren's first birding books (perhaps the first birding book) was the "Hamlyn Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe," circa 1972. We still have it here on our ornithological bookshelf here at the Lovenest. It's moldy, torn, scribbled in - and treasured.

     Still, that hardly makes us experts on the birds of Europe. We've birded Namibia, India, Costa Rica, Alaska, and a few other places besides _ but have not concentrated heavily (yet!) on Europe.

    Yet, when you pick up a field guide, as with a set of binoculars, you can almost instantly tell whether it "feels" right.

    Birds of Europe: Second Edition by Lars Svensson, recently released as part of the Princeton Field Guides, is a winner. Princeton recently sent us a review copy, and we felt one with it from the start. This is a smart, compact book that covers 713 species found in Europe, plus occasional visitors and escapees. The artwork by Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterstrom is beautiful and immediately reminded us of David Sibley. That may be because everything is compared to Sibley nowadays, but we think this guide represents a growing trans-Atlanticism in field guides, and in birding generally. It's definitely European, but with an American accent.

   We found Birds of Europe easy to use and well-organized. One pleasing aspect to us North American birders is that birds found on both sides of the Atlantic are listed with their European names, with the American name in parentheses, as in (Northern) Goshawk. Another example of trans-Atlanticism.

   There's a lot packed into each page - some times 4 or 5 species per page, with multiple drawings of each species, maps, etc. Some might complain it's too crowded, but the lay-out and arrangement seems to work for us.

   If we have one bone to pick, it's that the species descriptions, although generally well-organized, clear and concise, lack much information about the status - ie, conservation status - of the birds. Are they declining? Threatened? Increasing? Status unclear? We can't tell from the text, and that's one thing we've absolutely come to expect from field guides these days.

   That important quibble aside, this is one of the best European birding field guides we've seen in years. we'll pack it on our next trip to .... Spain? France? UK?

   PS - Here's how field guides have changed in 35 years, the old and the new:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cool Owl Video

Bob the Screech Owl, from McClatchy Newspapers' Miami Herald:

Here is the link to the associated story.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Big BirdCouple Love...

From the Austrian Times...

It's a love story of epic proportions....

When Italian hunters shot a female stork called Malena, local vets in Croatia where the stork had been nesting revealed that, although they had saved her life -- she would never fly again.

She was placed back in her nest with her young and when her partner named Rodan flew south with their young they expected that she would eventually die and certainly never mate again.

But the predictions that she would not live were foiled after the Vokic family, where she had a nest, helped to feed her through the long winter months and now -- amazingly -- every year Rodan returns to mate with his partner and rear another clutch of chicks.

That means that every year Rodan flies 13,000 kilometres to South Africa to spend the winter in the warm and then the same distance back again to be back with his injured love.

A local said: "She was shot in 1993 by Italians - but she didn't die and was handed over to our vet. He saved her life but she was crippled and had lost her ability to fly. The damage was too severe.

"Her lover is amazing - this year when he arrived from South Africa where he spent the winter, and despite the fact that he had travelled 13,000 kilometres, he immediately made love to Malena."

You can read the rest of the story here.

Time to fly on home after a hard day at work, Cute Husband....

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mixed Feeding Flock #10 - Conservation

We've been blogging about a lot of things lately, but not as much as we should about our favorite subject, the most important one: conservation!!

With that in mind, here's a reminder that Earth Hour is just three days away, on March 27. That's also Princess Lisa's birthday!! Around the world (at 8:30pm our time), people around the world will shut off their lights for one hour in a statement of intent to do something about climate change.

Here's the video...

Meanwhile, the American Bird Conservancy and its partners have launched a new program, Conservation Birding, that helps birders in the America choose lodges that promote bird conservation in the Americas. Check it out at

Finally, purely for your viewing pleasure, one of McClatchy's newspapers, the Bradenton Herald, has an amazing photo gallery of Sandhill Cranes and their chicks. Amazing photos - well worth stopping by for.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Birdcouple Tweets!

It's about time, no? You can follow BC by clicking on the box below...

Follow Birdcouple on Twitter

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Spring!

Here in the northern hemisphere, it turned into spring at about 1:30pm today. The temperatures outside sure felt spring-like. Birdcouple was out .. birding.

We went to Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, one of our favorite spots. Osprey were everywhere. Among the birds we saw were 6 Common Mergansers. For Warren, it was his 200th species seen in our home Anne Arundel County.

Then it was time for a quick picnic lunch. Isn't my spring bunny cute?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Audubon & Important Bird Areas

We were pleased as punch to get a pair of these lovely pins from our friends David Curson and David Yeany II at Audubon Maryland-DC.

They were a lovely reminder of our crazy Bird Blitz-ing last June down in Charles County. We surveyed birds, gathering data on at-risk and declining species to help determine where new Important Bird Areas (IBAs) should be established. IBAs are important in guiding land use and conservation decisions.

The two Davids describe the effort more fully in this issue of the Maryland Ornithological Society's newsletter, The Maryland Yellowthroat. And guess what? The rural area we surveyed in the Nanjemoy section of Charles County held significant numbers of Worm-Eating Warbler, Wood Thrush, Prarie Warbler and other species. It is now an IBA. Wahoo!!!

We can hardly wait for Brid Blitz time again....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

State of the Birds 2010: Climate Change

    Annual State of the Birds report is just out and available here. Bottom line: Climate change threatens hundreds of species of migratory birds, already stressed by habitat loss, hunting and other human development.

   The report is a collaboration of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and numerous conservation agencies. More on this soon.

   Update:  Another study reports that climate change may be forcing birds on North America's East Coast to become smaller.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

First of the Year!

Osprey flying with a stick!
Welcome back to your summer pad!

Photos by Peter Kaestner

Monday, March 8, 2010

We don't care what the calendar says

It feels like spring is here at last! Temps are near 60 degrees, geese are honking high overhead as they make their way north, and some of our birding colleagues have seen their first Osprey, fresh arrived from South America, Wahoo!!

As you can see above, the first small flowers have begun blooming, now that they are not buried under snow and ice.

Lisa's bees came out for the first time on Sunday. Sadly, two of her three hives, Hera and Iris, did not make it through the harsh winter. But Artemis is looking real strong! Go girl!

You go too, Mr. Snow. Bye-bye now.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Owl Presentation on Thursday

             For our local Anne Arundel county birders, and anyone nearby, or in town, please consider attending the Anne Arundel Bird Club's annual lecture this Thursday at Quiet Waters Park at 8 p.m. sharp. These lectures are always fascinating. Local environmental guru Gerald Weingrad always manages to score top-rank speakers. And this year's presentation is on one of our favorite subjects: Owls!

            Our Bird Club president Pat Tate wrote about about the AA Bird Club in a recent issue of the Annapolis Capital.

              Here's the scoop on the owls:


             Clay and Pat Sutton, a husband and wife team, will take viewers on an incredible journey exploring the world of owls. They are authors of many books on birds and nature, including How to Spot an Owl (1994) which is out of print and not available, and have intensively studied owls in the wild for 30 years. In their program they will relate their fascination with owls and convey the excitement of searching for, understanding, and enjoying these illusive and mysterious creatures. The behavior, mating, and hunting skills of owls will be examined as will how to spot these hard to find creatures. The presentation will cover many owl species: Resident owls (Great Horned, Screech, & Barred Owl), migrant owls (Saw-whet, Long-eared, Short-eared, Snowy, and Barn Owl), and owls that occur during "invasions" (Hawk Owl, Great Gray Owl, Boreal Owl). Owling basics, owling on your own, various clues to follow-up, special places and habitats, helpful equipment, and backyard owling will all be covered. Owling etiquette and how to spot owls without disturbing them is emphasized. Pat and Clay will remove some of the mystery of owls and owl finding, while simultaneously conveying the excitement of searching for and studying these difficult to see nocturnal predators. Bring your binoculars so you can find some hidden owls in the program.

Clay and Pat Sutton’s work and names are synonymous with their home town of Cape May, New Jersey, a place that has been aptly called the migration capitol of North America. This migratory crossroads is famous for its hawk, owl, songbird, shorebird, and Monarch butterfly migration. Pat Sutton was for 21 years the Program Director at the New Jersey Audubon Society’s Cape May Bird Observatory. Prior to that, she was the Park Naturalist at Cape May Point State Park. Pat is a founding board member of the North American Butterfly Association. Clay is a life-long resident of Cape May, where he has worked as an Environmental Program Administrator, Vice-President of an environmental consulting firm specializing in threatened and endangered species, and for the past decade as a self- employed environmental consultant, naturalist and field biologist.

Clay and Pat today are free-lance writers, naturalists, lecturers, tour leaders, and long-time instructors for the American Birding Association’s Institute for Field Ornithology. Clay is a co-author, with Pete Dunne and David Sibley, of the classic Hawks in Flight (1988), and Clay and Pat together have co-authored How to Spot Butterflies (1999), How to Spot Hawks & Eagles (1996), and their latest book, Birds and Birding at Cape May (2006). This landmark book is a complete guide to birds and birding for the Cape May region, covering what to see, when, where, and how to go, as well as the storied ornithological history of the Cape. Articles and photography by Pat & Clay have appeared in New Jersey Audubon, Peregrine Observer, New Jersey Outdoors, Sanctuary, American Butterflies, Wild Bird, Bird Watcher's Digest, Birder's World, Birding, Living Bird, Defenders, and others.

The Suttons will bring copies of some of their books to be purchased and autographed.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Birdcouple on the move

With spring (hopefully) on the way, we're sprucing things up a bit around here - starting with those sharp new license plates for our 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid, which we affectionately call "Pipit."

We've also added a logo and link for Alpen Optics at the top of our blog sidebar, in recognition of our growing relationship with this reputable maker of high-quality bins, scopes and other optics. As Lisa blogged last week, we are reviewing and testing some Alpen equipment right now.

Finally, please check out our new Experience & Services section of the blog, by clicking here or on the button at the top of the page.

Onward and Upward!
- W and L