Sunday, February 21, 2010

Checking Out Some New Alpen Gear....


Ahhh... sunny, almost balmy weather (we made it to 45 degrees!) in Maryland and on a weekend! The perfect birding weather to check out some new Alpen Optics gear for entry into the American Birding Association's (ABA) 2010 Gear Guide issue.


We started out scanning for ducks with the Winner of Great Buy Award in Outdoor Life Magazine - the Alpen 788 Spotting Scope.

We found it to be quite a good buy for a durable lightweight scope.





This baby offered nice light and good focus as we followed a Bald Eagle stirring up a raft of Greater Scaup.



Waterproof with a nice carrying case and 12" tripod included --- great buy, indeed, at about $400.


Our pal, Evelina, joined us as we moved worked out the bins on some passing Bonaparte's Gulls.



The Rainier 8x32 is a rugged pair of bins that are super lightweight with comfy eye cups and perfect grip.

Nice in low light and exceptional for upclose detail in butterfly-ing.





The Rainiers have extra large prisms made of BaK4 glass (high and bright resolution) and are both water and fog proof- and the light weight is real bonus - making these bins are favorite for A.T. hiking!



High performance bins that stack up nicely against the big guys for hundreds of dollars less.

But our all time new Alpen favorite is the Wings ED 8x42.







These binoculars are just pure sweet birdwatching at a list price of about $400.


We were knocking these babies against a pair of high end Leicas and they put up quite a fight. A little hefter than the 8x32 Raniers, but still surprisely light weight (21 ounces!) for the engineering that went into them.



Great light and quick focus were the first things that stood out as we spied a group of Common Goldeneyes doing some spring displaying.


Long range detail along with all the other great Alpen usual features made these bins my new go-to-pair.





I love my Alpen Apex model, but the Alpen Wings model's ED glass is noticeably brighter and clearer.



And, I like to think those nice guys and gals at Alpen Optics listened to my advice about lenghening the strap.



With the nice long adjustable strap, I can sport the Wings ED comfortable girly style across my body rather than hanging from my neck.




Sweet!


Now, bring on the warblers!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Birds ...









All pictures made by our favorite photographer Louis Peterson

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Lovers' Day 2010



Happy Valentine's Day, from the Birdcouple.



It is, of course, one of our favorite days. And today was especially special, because Princess and I saw a life bird:






This Varied Thrush has been hanging out in a very bird-friendly backyard in Herndon, Virginia, far from its normal climes in the Pacific Northwest. This is only the third state record for Virginia for this bird. Mr. Thrush happened to pick the backyard of a serious birder to hang out in, and the serious birder and his spouse happened to be very inviting to all birders who wanted to see it. There was even coffee in the kitchen, while we waited an agonizing hour for the Thrush to come back. (Others had seen it moments before we arrived). People have come from as far away as North Carolina to get a gander at this gorgeous bird.

And gorgeous it is. Our little hand-held digital camera shooting through a window doesn't do it justice. Check out Dan Haas' photos here.

What a day it's been so far. Time for some music, dinner, wine, romance. Honey? Honey???

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pics from the Historic Snowfall...

All pictures takes with the Wingscapes BirdCam....



And some of this photo documentation was used on the McClatchy Photo Gallery of the storm...


Nope, the squirrel doesn't care that he is a star....

Friday, February 12, 2010

GBBC Day 1

Here's our report for Day 1 of Great Backyard Bird Count 2010. Nothing too exotic, but Lisa snagged a Hermit Thrush and Warren had a YB Sapsucker. Both birds have been reported in small numbers in Maryland so far....

Locality: 21401, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, MD
Observation Date: FEB 12, 2010
Start Time: 8:00 AM
Total Birding Time: 2 hours
Party Size: 2
Skill: excellent
Weather: fair
Snow Depth: 20 - 22 in (50.8 - 55.9 cm)
Habitat(s):
deciduous woods
suburban
Number of Species: 12
All Reported: yes

Checklist:
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Blue Jay - 2
American Crow - 5
Carolina Chickadee - 1
Tufted Titmouse - 2
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Carolina Wren - 2
Hermit Thrush - 1
Northern Cardinal - 1
American Goldfinch - 1

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Playing in the Snow...

Cute Husband and I were more than surprised when one of our neighborhood friends showed up in broad daylight yesterday during the worst of the snow to make an inspection of the bird feeders.

The poor guy had a bloody foot and kept chewing the ice from between his little toes.


For the first time ever, we didn't try to scare him away, but just let him munch on the mixture of sunflower seeds and chopped cashews.


Cute Husband's stash of cashews....



Today was bright and sunny and allowed for the inevitable dig out.


After we shoveled our way out to road and uncovered our cars, Warren had to start work on his story for the day, which meant no time to play with me.


So, I decided to follow Raccoon's tracks down the bank and through the woods to see the place raccoons call their LoveNest.


His (or hers) were the only tracks from the deck and the whole task seemed easy as pie.

The only problem was that raccoons weigh in at about 30 lbs and I weigh in at ....


something WAY above 30lbs.

Where raccoon could snow shoe above the 3 feet of snow, I plunged and trudged through it.

Following his little tracks and hunting expeditions of yesterday...



Making my own set of (or swath of) tracks through the back woods.



Raccoon seemed to have found something interesting enough to dig 3 feet down in one place


The day was so beautiful and the woods were so quiet, I couldn't help but think of my Dad, as trudging through the snow tracking something would have been right up his alley.


I sent him a some good thoughts and hoped for an answer, but apparently he is still busy getting used to his new digs, floating on some clouds, sharing hunting stories with his Dad and arrowhead hunting with his Uncle.


After about an hour, I realized that Raccoon lived pretty darn far from our deck. I also realized that I really need a pair of snow shoes, as trudging through 3 feet of snow is exhausting.


I decided to leave him some carrots on a felled tree that he had dug around yesterday...


and make my way back to Cute Husband...

See you tonight, Raccoon...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mixed Feeding Flock, #9

* Most birders probably know by now that this coming weekend, Friday through Monday, is the Great Backyard Bird Count. Please participate if you can. It's great fun, and every checklist and bit of data helps. Birdcouple, marooned under mounds of snow here in Maryland, will probably be limited to bird feeder-watching. That's okay, too.



* Speaking of bird feeder-watching, February is National Bird-Feeding Month, celebrating a pastime that, in North America at least, is more than a century old. A Guide to Better Bird Feeding can be accessed here.



* As reported by our colleague John over at A DC Birding Blog, eBird recently released guidelines for reporting sensitive species (ie, rare, stressed or declining species) on eBird.



* NABU, the German branch of UK-based Birdlife International just turned 111 years old. We LOVE the Stork in their anniversary logo.



* Finally, Paul Baicich sent us this *truly amazing* video from Oregon Public Broadcasting about how the rebounding Bald Eagle population-along with Common Ravens--is stressing the nesting of Common Murres along the Oregon Coast. Really worth watching.
... More soon. - BC

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In Preparation...

Snow shovel near door... check.
Birds food stocked.... check.

Squirrels eating birds seed.... check. Decks cleared of last 20 or so inches of snow so that they don't rip off the house after another possible 20 or so inches... check.Emergency exit cleared in case of last minute neighborhood party.... check. Crab cakes .... check.
Wine... check.

Ok, maybe two bottles of wine... check. Cute Husband... check.
I'd say we are completely prepared for the second round of UltraKahuna, the Fury, Snowmageddon...