Sunday, August 29, 2010

Got Duck Stamp?

     Better late than never, they say. Yes, the 2010-2011 "duck stamp" has been on sale for a couple of months now,  and we've been a bit negligent in purchasing one. Finally did it this weekend. Here's three reasons to go get yours if you haven't already:

   1) This year's stamp is a beautiful depiction of an American Wigeon by Maryland artist Robert Bealle.  

   2) The stamp costs just $15 and can easily purchased online here, or at many U.S. post offices and National Wildlife Refuges.

   3) Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar you pay for your stamp goes to purchase or lease wetlands and other land for National Wildlife Refuges. More land = more birds, and other plants and animals.

    We try to avoid being preachy here at, but we make an exception when it comes to this topic: PLEASE GO GET YOUR STAMP!!!!!!

    This seems like kind of a no-brainer to us, but just to prove there are many sides (and views) to any issue, Jeffrey Gordon has a really interesting post on his blog about who (hunters, birders, hunter-birders, birder-hunters) is buying the stamp these days, and what that means. Lots of informed comments on the post, too.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Lovely Princess and I continue to refine Birdcouple's new look. Hope our visitors are enjoying it. Among other things, we've added a Global Visitors Log page, which shows where around the planet our guests have come from. Many have no doubt stopped here by accident, searching for something else entirely -- we won't say what -- but still, it's amazing proof of what an interconnected world we live in.

We've also, belatedly, added a tag cloud at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar.

We'd like to welcome back out of blog retirement our friends Louis and Vencka Peterson over at Wood Chips and Kitty Fur. Check out Louis' amazing woodworking creations.

Now, back to the birds! Fall migration is underway, and the warblers are back!!!!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mixed Feeding Flock #15

Keeping abreast of bird and birding news, good and bad....

Parque Natural da Madeira
* BirdLife International is urgently asking for donations for Zino's Petrel, Europe's rarest seabird. The species, which nests on a few mountains on Madeira Island, was devastated by a massive forest fire in the area this month. You can donate here to help with recovery efforts.
* In happier news, we learn from the American Bird Conservancy that the EPA and Bayer CropScience have come to an agreement to phase out the production of the pesticide Aldicarb by 2014, and its use four years later. Aldicarb, which can be extremely lethal, has been documented in numerous bird kills, including of Bald and Golden eagles, the group says.
* Tomorrow - that's Friday the 27th - Princeton University Press is giving away two bird books. More on their Twitter page.  
* And here is the New York Times on an under-appreciated birding region in Peru. Lyre-Tailed Nightjar? yes, please!!  
* Finally, we are glad our friends over at Birds from Behind blog are in a better frame of mind.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pelagics are so much fun!

Especially if you are fortified with Dramamine....

My guy preparing to set sail on the Thelma Dale V out of Lewes Delaware.

We drove down to Lewes the night before and shacked up in a hotel with 3 birding buddies, including Dan Haas of Nervous Birds and Ross Geredien of Good Migrations.  

I must say it is not everyday that this gal spends the night with 4 guys in an overly priced motel. 
Anywho, all was necessary, because we needed to be on deck for a 4AM anchor up.

The day was gorgeous as we headed out 90 miles off the Delaware and Maryland coasts.  
Wilson's Storm Petrels ruled the day, as they danced on the wave tops. 
There were many Maryland birders hoping to lift Maryland lists (Cute Husband being one), so the Captain was constantly pinged with "Are we in Maryland or is this Delaware or New Jersey?" as we looked out across open water.
As we entered Maryland waters, we had the bonus of spying 3 Band-Rumped Storm Petrels and 4 Leach's Storm Petrels!  Cory's, Greater and Audobon's Shearwaters also joined the offshore party.  

It felt great to break back the pages of our trusty field guide to pages we rarely studied. It also felt most great to not be sea sick.

See my Navy hat?  I was meant for a life at sea!

There were other wonders 90 miles offshore, such as this large group of Pilot Whales.
We also saw our first Fin Whale, watched Bottlenose Dolphin play in the boat wake and a Portuguese Man O' War and a Mako Shark reminded us that swimming 90 miles off shore could have some hazards.

The crew were fishermen at heart and did some fishing during birding action.   This is a flashy Mahi-mahi who had the misfortune of taking to a lure. 

Mahi-mahi or Dolphin Fish are incredibly beautiful.  They lose their brilliant rainbow colors a few hours after leaving the water.   I gained a whole new respect for this tasty fish which I had only seen as a white fish on a plate.  

So, Most Cute Husband, when can we go pelagic-ing again?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mixed Feeding Flock, #14

   Time for our occasional round-up of birding and nature news...

   * Following on our earlier post about The Big Year movie, the North American Birders' Forum has more photos from the filming, and discussion of the upcoming flick..

   * As regular visitors may have noted, we have changed the look of The Birdcouple blog a bit. We felt it was time to freshen things up a bit, and we are still tinkering with the blog's new look. Hope you like it.

   * This is the "Terror Bird":

     According to the BBC, it roamed the earth millions of years ago, after the demise of the dinasours. There were up to 18 species of this flightless bird, and they ranged from 3 feet to 10 feet tall. That would be a great get for one's life list.

    * Finally, Dave over at Bird From Behind has a must-read post reminding us that, while the Gulf oil spill is off our TV screens and front pages, all is not well with nature...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Need a Fresh New Nature Outfit!

This is the new American Girl Doll- Lanie.   According to this --Lanie loves to go for nature walks, and Lanie's fresh outfit is just right for a day outdoors!

She can even look for birds with binoculars that really work, and identify her feathered friends with a miniature nature book.  

Lanie wears this fresh outfit for nature walks. It features:

A bright tee with a cute embroidered owl
(yes, every birder must have the t shirt with a bird on it)
A multicolored knit scarf for warmth
(important for winter duck searching)
Capri-length denim pants to keep her comfy
(They look non-comfy - skin tight jeans may not be the best option)
Two-toned rubber boots to protect her feet
(important for mucking around in the spring)

I'm digging the blue boots and I can visulize myself sporting the white jacket on a summer pelagic.   But, what she really needs to be a true birder, is zip-off pants.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Big Year movie

   Birders should be excited about a big-screen birding movie based on a hilarious, much-beloved book, starring a bevy of famous actor-comedians, right? Right?

   Maybe. We loved Mark Obmascik's The Big Year,  the tale of the 1998 Big Year contest between Sandy Komito, Greg Miller and Al Levantin. The book captured the seriousness and hilarity of a contest to see more species in North America than anyone else, and it deftly portrayed the three completely different personalities of the men involved.

    Well, the movie is due out next year, perhaps in May, and it stars, among others, Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.

      BC "guest contributor" Paul Baicich recently emailed us some photos and other information about the upcoming movie, which we understand has completed filming and is in post-production.

     Here's a movie industry precis:   Three obsessive bird watchers go off on their "Big Year," duking it out to spot and record the highest number of species in 1998--the year El Nino brought an unprecedented number of species to North America. During the course of their wild, ultra competitive adventure, the guys learn that there just may be other things more important than winning.

   We'll reserve judgment until we see the movie itself, or at least the trailer. But popular culture has a really bad record when it comes to portraying the reality of birders and birding (to the extent it ever does), and we hope the movie dispels caricatures, while entertaining, rather than reinforcing them.

    Here's another pic, of the filiming of a pelagic birding scene.

    Also courtesy of Paul B, here is a recent interview with Al Levantin.

    More on this over at the Birdchaser.....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

25% is still a lot of oil....

See some bird's eye views of what the remaining 25% of the Gulf Coast oil spill still looks like on the American Birding Association's (ABA) Blog.

... multiple layers of oil...
... highly toxic...
...mats of weathered oil...

This is what awaits the multitudes of migratory birds that are arriving on the Gulf Coast.

Wordless Wednesday: The Interlopers

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shorebirds galore!

     Princess Lisa was one happy birder after a day of shore-birding on the Delaware shore Saturday with lucky husband and Paul Baicich. We must have seen just about every expected shorebird during our venture to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Fowler Beach, except the one Lisa mentioned in her last posting. (Hint: Pectoral Sandpiper).

    Our three-person birding team had Yellowlegs greater and lesser; Dowitchers long-billed and short-; Least, Semipalmated, Spotted and Stilt sandpipers; and Lisa's No. 1 favorite bird of the shores and beaches, Black Skimmer! Paul B helped us find a Western Sandpiper, and a Black Tern to boot. 

   It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday - large numbers of birds, and a bit of a breeze that felt wonderful after the stifling East Coast summer we have had. And good friends of course.


    This sub-adult Tricolored Heron popped out of the marshes at Fowler Beach long enough to give us a nice look and pop a photo. Minutes later, Lisa saw two Clapper Rails emerge from the grass, fighting and kicking each other, before disappearing again. 

   All these birds, like the American Avocets and dowitchers below are in their fall migration, headed south from their breeding grounds in the far north to warmer climes. They stop to rest and fuel up on insects, small crustaceans and whatever else they can find. It can be quite a spectacle for us humans to watch! 

     Some of the birds we saw, like Least Tern and Black Skimmer, are threatened.  It was lovely to see dozens upon dozens of Least Terns whirling, screeching and resting on the beach. One flew over us with a small fish in its mouth.  We had an amazing five tern species: Black, Least, Forster's, Royal and Caspian.

      A lovely day with Paul B., a good friend and one of our favorite birding companions. Then home for a much-needed nap before dinner. Sigh...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Shorebird Fall Migration...

... is not quite the mad rush of spring migration, when shorebirds need to race to reach their breeding grounds in time to mate and raise a family during a short Arctic summer. In fact, fall migration to wintering grounds can be rather laid back, as shorebirds are not quite so frantic to get somewhere and reproduce.  

The first  wave to head south are usually failed breeders who have no families to raise.  Followed by successful breeding adults and then about 2 weeks later, juveniles start making the trip.  This gives the chicks extra time to store fat reserves and grow strong without competition from adults.  And, the energy demands are large for migrating shorebirds - some must gain half their weight in stored fat.

All this information is my way of preparing for some great shore birding this weekend with Cute Husband and Paul Baicich. 

Of course, studying the field guides might help too....

But, if I see a Pectoral Sandpiper this weekend, I can nod in respect, knowing that this shorebird may have come from breeding grounds as far North as Central Siberia and is now headed to Southern South America. 

Whew!   These guys need some good pectorals to make that flight!

Monday, August 2, 2010