Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mixed Feeding Flock, #12

Not a lot of happy news to report these days, thanks to the Gulf oil leak and other events.

McClatchy's Renee Schoof reports here on how the leak threatens the Gulf's already endangered species, from turtles and tuna to birds and plankton. She writes: "The contamination, some say, is likely to undo years of work that brought some wildlife, such as the brown pelican, back from the brink of extinction."  Ugh.

Ugh also to the news from BirdLife International that the Alaotra Grebe is now officially considered extinct, according to the 2010 IUCN Red List. It was done in by invasive species - in this case, carnivorous fish introduced into its habitat in eastern Madagascar. It was - was - a beautiful bird.

In happier news, here's a New York Times article about amazing migrators, like the Arctic Tern and Bar-Tailed Godwit.

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone!  

Monday, May 24, 2010


     After Princess Lisa's recent events, which Birdcouple is mysteriously terming "The Wilson Incident," BC needed a mental health break and a getaway. As luck would have it, we had already scheduled a 4-day trip to visit Paul Baicich and friend Lisa Rock at their new digs in Ohio, just minutes from the famous Magee Marsh and Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

     We rendezvoused with Paul at a gas station a few miles past Port Clinton, Ohio. He had just gotten off his cell phone. The word was in. A Kirtland's Warbler had been spotted on the shores of Lake Erie, a mere 20 minutes away. Oh hope beyond hope - would it still be there? We dropped Paul's groceries, grabbed Lisa R and headed for the spot. After a mere 15 minutes of nail-biting, this rarest of North American breeding warblers appeared, practically trodding on Princess Lisa's shoes. (we know, we know, the photo above, well .. kinda stinks).

    Kirtland's Warbler is rarely found in the U.S. outside of Michigan, where its exacting needs for nesting (dense forests of young Jack Pine) and brood parasites like Brown-Headed Cowbird took a heavy toll on this handsome bird. It was down to about 400 birds in 1971, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Today, there may be 5,000 KIWAs in existence.

   We felt beyond privileged to see one of the males, no doubt resting during migration as he headed to northern Michigan. And we all laughed in wonder at the first warbler Birdcouple had seen in May during our Ohio adventure: Kirtland's.

   More soon on our wonderful time in the amazing birding area of the Lake Erie shore, and the great folks we met there. Like the couple behind the Birds from Behind blog.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Know How Fast a Hummingbird's Heart Beats...

I felt my beat as fast after I was rushed to the hospital 13 days ago and the doctor told me that I had just had a stroke. 

I know how helpless a fish with no where to hide feels as an Osprey hovers above.

I felt this helplessness as I tried to wrap my head around the fact that a seemingly healthy person with no predisposition to a stroke was diagnosed with having had one.

I know how  lucky a Tufted Titmouse must feel after banking a tree and missing the clutches of a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

I felt that way after the feeling returned to my fingers and I could control my speech without slurring.

I know how insurmountable the Gulf of Mexico must seem to a migrating Barn Swallow when the ground is no longer below.

I felt that way after the nurses unhooked all the monitors and instructed me on how to avoid a stroke in the future (which, for the most part, was how I was living pre-stroke).

I also know how a Bald Eagle must feel as she flies to a great height, locks talons with her mate and plunges toward earth, spinning out of control,  breaking away just before hitting ground and then soaring upward to repeat the death-defying ritual.

And, that feeling is what is helping my head get back to good, reminding me how limitless life can be when you push fear to the side. 

Thank you, Cute Mate, for locking talons with me and helping me heal. ...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

W.O.W. !!

W.O.W. stands for Way Out West, a unique, funky, wonderful Bed & Breakfast outside of Tucson, where we spent our tenth and last night in Arizona (yes, we are still catching up on our AZ adventures) -- it was a wonderful respite for the weary travelers. This is the view from the porch of CJ Vincent and MaryEllen Landren's place.

Actually, it's only part of the view. Lower your eyes from the mountains, and they will rest upon the amazing (and organic) desert habitat that CJ and MaryEllen have created, claimed from Tucson's encroaching development. Cactuses, flowers and plants of every variety, butterflies and mammals, and - of course - birds.
Our photos don't do it justice - check out the website link above.

CJ and MaryEllen truly care for the ecosystem they inhabit. CJ showed us around after we arrived, and started talking about his "scratch and sniff" garden. We had no clue what he was talking about, until he started breaking off flower petals and bits of plants, crushing them and instructing us to smell. As he told us the Latin names of the bits of botany, we inhaled odors of licorice, Lemon Pledge, chocolate. Like an Arizona Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

    The bees and other critters liked it, too. Rabbits and other mammals scurried through the grasses. Coyotes howled at night. Snakes were rumored to be about, although unfortunately we didn't see any.

    Way Out West is a teensy bit out of the way, as the name implies, about a half-hour from downtown Tucson. But it's a perfect place to hang your hat if your are birding the Tucson area, or want to go mountain-biking (CJ's an expert) in the desert. You are also very much staying in someone's home, not in the privacy of a lodge or cabin. Breakfast - spinach-and-bacon quiche, fresh fruit, homemade yogurt, coffee, muffins - was out of this world.

    And then there are the birds. W.O.W. plays host to the uncommon and much sought-after Rufous-Winged Sparrow.

   Lisa got her life Greater Roadrunner - FINALLY! - and we were entranced by a pair of beautiful Harris' Hawks:

    CJ and MaryEllen really care for the habitat and the ecosystem - did we mention that? - and they intimately know the flora and fauna around them, and adopt the creatures around them like members of an extended family. This here is "Drooper," a Canyon Towhee with a damaged wing that has not only thrived and survived at Way Out West, but actually mated and reproduced! :

     In sum, we'll go back to SE Arizona some day, we'll go back to Tucson, and we'll go back to CJ and MaryEllen's place. W.O.W.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oil Spill update

Received via Twitter, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service update on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Bottom line, up to 20 National Wildlife Refuges could potentially be affected by the spill, including the Breton Island NWR, the second oldest in the country. Ground surveys at Breton NWR indicate that 34,000 birds are there, including thousands of pairs of Brown Pelicans and Terns. Worth reading.

The International Bird Rescue Research Center says it has begun treating oiled birds, including a Brown Pelican. Check out their blog...

And McClatchy's Bradenton Herald reports on rescue efforts being prepared on Florida's Gulf Coast...

Sunday, May 2, 2010 name...once you learn how to pronounce it...

Nope, his name is not Red Crested Gray Back or Desert Songbird or Cousin to the Cardinal. 

This guy has a fancy pants name, which combines the genus names Pyrrhula (bullfinches) and Loxia (crossbills). The roots mean flame-colored and crooked, so you may call him the reddish bird with the crooked bill, if you can't pronounce his proper name... properly.

Almost as much fun as saying Phainopepla, which we had the pleasure of seeing briefly while trying to kick up Montezuma Quail (without luck).    Really handsome bird.

And, speaking of handsome....

Seriously, Cute Husband and I had no idea how truly grotesque a male Turkey in full breeding plumage (gobbling) could be.    

I wonder what is the biggest clincher for the gal Turkey?    Could it be the engorged naked blue face?  Perhaps it is his bubbly engorged red neck?  Maybe it is the fleshy protuberance that hangs over his bill?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it almost kills Thanksgiving for me.


To cleanse my visual palate....

During a freak April snowstrom SE Arizona