Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A great, green local birding game for 2014

Rusty Blackbird, Terrapin Nature Park, Kent Island, Maryland
Dan Haas, founder and curator of the Maryland Birding pages on Facebook, has come up with this great local birding competition for 2014 - designed to increase birding knowledge of local sites, plus help the environment and save on gas.
It of course can be easily modified for any locale.
Happy 2014 everyone!

The Great 2014 Maryland Bird-Your-Patch Contest!

Before January 1st, 2014, PICK and SUBMIT 3 (three) "local" eBird HOTSPOTS (preferably, one located in YOUR neck of the woods), and also keep a SEPARATE yard / neighborhood / community list.

***In order to track this data, everyone should utilize www.eBird.org to enter and track data.***

-Observe and document the most # of species within their 3 specified HOTSPOTS and within their YARD/COMMUNITY.  

-Grow the # of checklists per HOTSPOT, as well as the species totals for each location.

-Across MD, eBird HOTSPOTS will get better, year-round coverage. Your personal local county lists may well improve. You will save $$ on gas. You will spend more time birding and less time driving. You will have more time for friends and families. 

Hopefully, some amazing rarities will be discovered throughout the year, throughout Maryland. But for nearly everyone, one's local knowledge and birding skills will improve (for some by leaps and bounds).

-For now, these are TBA.  I am hoping to line up some great prizes for specific categories like: most improved HOTSPOT, best yard/community, overall species count, best bird, highest totals %-wise in comparison to overall County year totals, etc. 

Some great prize suggestions have already been made, like: Tickets for a 2015 MD Pelagic, Paid Registration for an MOS Conference, a County or State Park Pass, Optics Gift Certificate, Restaurant Gift Certificate, Native Plant or Tree... just to name a few! Needless to say, I'll be working on that early in 2014.

NOTE: Suggestions for awards and categories are most welcome.

If you think you might be interested, do these simple steps:

1.) PICK your 3 eBird HOTSPOTS and name your 'yard/community/neighborhood' location.  

2.) Email your picks to me at "nervousbirds at gmail dot com"

3.) Pull your HOTSPOT data.  Research your locations using eBird data. Pull both the "All-time," and "2013," Year Totals and Checklist Totals for each of your locations, including your yard/community/neighborhood.

4.) Go bird your patch in 2014.

Good Luck, Good Birding and Happy New Year all,

Dan Haas
Annapolis, MD

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Snowy Owl Christmas

Well, when we ordered these beautiful Christmas cards back in November from the good folks over at Audubon, we had no idea that we would soon be in the midst of one of the greatest Snowy Owl invasions of all time, a lovely gift if ever there was one.

They seem to be everywhere- there is even one hanging out on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Larry over at Brownstone Birding Blog had one land on the roof of his car, where it proceeded to devour a mole in its talons.

Here's an updated look at Snowy Owl sightings in Maryland and nearby states, as logged into eBird:

Some other Snowy Owl news:
Audubon magazine has a nice Q and A about Snowy Owls by Kenn Kaufman.
The New York airports authority was planning to shoot Snowy Owls, as a threat to air traffic. After much protest, they wisely decide to trap and relocate them instead.
More soon. And Merry almost Christmas.
The Birdcouple



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Harry Potter's Owl

As more and more birders in the Northeast report Snowy Owls in unlikely places and public outcry forced a change in policy for New York airports who were previously killing owls who jeopardized air travel, the owl of Harry Potter is becoming a common conversation starter for anyone who knows Warren and I and knows we love birds. 

So, thankfully, the lovely Leslie Starr found some information about Snowys and posted it on the MDBirding listserv, so I can answer some of the questions I get on a nearly daily basis. 

Jean-Francois Therrien, conducted his Ph.D. research on Snowy Owls in NE Canada and according to his research:

  • Males tend to be whiter than females
  • Adults are whiter than juveniles
  • It is next to impossible to tell mature males and females apart
  • We are graced with Snowys this far South this year... probably because they had a very successful breeding year in the Arctic.

I have no doubt that this Snowy Owl invasion is going to put some people over-the-edge from general interest in birds to all out birder mania!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Great Snowy Owl Invasion of 2013

Snowy Owl near Frederick, Maryland, 12/7/2013
As most serious birders on the U.S. East Coast know by now, we are seeing a major invasion - or, to be technical, irruption - of Snowy Owls coming down from the north.
No less than half a dozen have been seen in Maryland alone, in 5 or 6 different counties. (Still waiting on that Anne Arundel County Snowy!!)  Our local newspaper, the Annapolis Evening Capital, has even noted the phenomenon.
The ever-useful eBird has a great article on the irruption, with maps that compare this year's influx with a similar one in November-December 2011. It's fascinating - eBird sightings this year show Snowy Owls concentrated in the northeast and Great Lakes, whereas two years ago they moved into a much broader area, including the Upper Midwest and the Northwest U.S.
Here are Snowy Owl sightings this year, as of December 3:  Note the one in Bermuda!
One prevalent theory is that the influx is due to a particularly good lemming (food!) season for the owls in the high Arctic, which meant a very successful breeding year, with an excess of young birds now pushing south to look for food.
What a beautiful bird!! That one up there in the picture is only the second time Lisa and Warren have seen a Snowy Owl. We are happy to welcome them southward for a while. Go find yours!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Best Holiday Gift...

2013-2014 Federal Duck Stamp
You know what every birder (and non-birders too!) on your list would love for Christmas?   The Duck Stamp!  I know BirdCouple keeps reminding you... but one of the best ways to help birds is to purchase many! 
Duck Stamp sales have provided $850 million for conservation.  At $15 the Stamp is a beautiful piece art at a bargain!
And, don't forget to give your favorite non-profits at this time of the year!  Check out the right side of this page for some of BirdCouple's favorites. 
See you don't need to go to a mall to get your Christmas shopping list complete!