Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Chesapeake Bay at a tipping point

    The Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued its most recent State of the Bay report this week, and its a mixed picture at best. The Bay scored 31 out of 100 - that's a failing grade in Birdcouple's book - an improvement over the 2008 report, but still far from where we want it to be. There is some good news, and we should not discount it. Eight of the 13 indicators measured in the report improved, including the status of Blue Crabs in the bay, which showed significant gains. Underwater grasses, critical to the Bay's health for oxygen, food and shelter for other organisms, also improved measurably.

   The CBF describes the Bay as at a "tipping point." And on Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a pollution diet for the Bay that will set legally enforceable limits on phosphorous, nitrogen and sediments flowing into it from six states. Past federal efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay have failed. Will this one be different?

    Here are some reminders, of the avian variety, of how precious the largest U.S. estuary and its surrounding lands are:

Hermit Thrush

American Tree Sparrow

Long-Tailed Duck

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A late, but very nice, Christmas present

    Yes, a Northern Wheatear, an extremely rare bird on the North American east coast. And there it was, for the viewing, in Wilmington, Delaware, less than 2 hours' drive from the Lovenest.

    Princess, Kathie Lambert and Warren threw aside concerns about the east coast snowstorm, shuffled off our post-Christmas lethargy and bundled into "Pipit," our trusty Ford Escape hybrid, this morning, hoping the Wheatear hadn't flown before the storm.

     When we got to Fox Point State Park, there it was like a shiny present. Other birders (we felt sorry for them, honest) had waited 90 minutes in the bitter cold for the bird to show. That was about 15 minutes before we got there.

    We watched this lovely bird forage for a while.

    It politely crept closer so Warren could get some nice shots.

    And then it was back into "Pipit," as we raced southward to get home before the snow really started falling.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

      To all our friends in the Blogosphere and everywhere else. May it be peaceful, merry ... and birdy.
                                                                  - Warren and Lisa, The Birdcouple.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another Maryland rarity - Golden-Crowned Sparrow

    It's been an amazing fall here in the fair state of Maryland for rarities, most of them visitors from the U.S. West. Since October, we've had a Say's Phoebe, Ash-Throated Flycatcher and Anna's Hummingbird (just the second Maryland record) to name the highlights. Dan Haas has more on the recent birding gold over at Nervous Birds blog.

   Then, on Sunday, participants in the Kent County Christmas Bird Count found what may be the first Maryland sighting of Golden-Crowned Sparrow:

      Warren went in search of this lovely little bird on Tuesday, and his and other birders' patience was rewarded with quite a show.


      Here is an immature White-Crowned Sparrow, with which the Golden-Crowned was foraging, for comparison:

     And, of course, it is now no longer fall. Tuesday saw the solstice, marking the onset of winter, as well as a lunar eclipse:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count is coming fast

    BC was just emailed a copy of this handsome poster, providing a timely reminder that the Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up fast. With some much to do this Holiday season - Christmas fun, New Year's celebrations, and of course the local Christmas Bird Count - we're going to make a calendar note that GBBC is only eight weeks away.

   The GBBC is cospondored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon and Bird Studies Canada. You can find out more about the GBBC, and download instructions here. There's even an instructional video:


Monday, December 13, 2010

Ash-Throated Flycatcher!

     Princess and I drove down on Saturday to Assateague Island National Seashore,  which has been a great site for end-of-the-year rarities. Hard to believe it's been two years since we got our life Snowy Owl there.
     Once again, Assateague didn't disappoint. After a nerve-racking 45 minutes, we found our quarry: an Ash-Throated Flycatcher, a southwestern species, that had been delighting birders throughout our region for several weeks. Last time we saw this bird was way out in Arizona, where it belongs, in April...

     Check out the gorgeous russet color on its tail feathers. Snapped this shot a quarter-second too late:

     Assateague is famous for its wild horses, which wander the island at will. There always have to be some tourist morons (tourons) who ignore signs in plain view that state not to feed the horses. It's bad for both man and beast.

     Later, we stopped by the famed Ocean City inlet. This Ring-Bulled Gull is beautiful in its own u-g-l-y way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nevada birding

     Warren and our buddy Dan Haas  found themselves randomly in Nevada on the same day on Sunday - Dan for a business conference, Warren to see eldest son Mitch run the Las Vegas Marathon, his first. Well, no sooner had Dan's plane landed and he checked into his hotel, the two time-pressed birders rushed over to nearby Red Rock Canyon.

      There weren't huge numbers of birds around, but what W and D did find was great. This Crissal Thrasher first located by Dan was a lifer for both of us. ABA species #501 for Warren!

    The top of every third piece of vegetation was shaped like a perching bird, making finding those avians difficult. But this actually proved to be fauna, not flora, a beautiful western Red-Tailed Hawk:

     Red Rock Canyon, just 15 minutes from the western limits of the sprawl of Las Vegas, is beautiful and aptly named:

      We're not on the Vegas "Strip" anymore":

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cute Husband is Flying Back to the LoveNest!

Oh, Honey, you didn't need to bring me that... I'm eating plant based, remember?

Can't wait to have you home!