Monday, April 28, 2014

Birds and BEES!

I have pictures of a ginormous swarm thrown off from my Russian bees, Hive Hera.  But, alas, I can't figure out how to get them off my phone in a vertical position.  

Cute Hubby will figure out this technological problem!  In the meantime, enjoy the sight of 30,000 plus bees dangling from a holly bush, in a sideways picture.  

The sound when they started to swarm was simply amazing.  The humming was almost alien like.  And, before they settled on this branch (which was luckily only about 7 feet off the ground), the bee activity in the yard even freaked me out a bit.   The air smelled like lemons as they emitted a scent that tells 1/2 the hive... hey!  we are swarming, come with us! 

Also, lucky that I had my buddy to help me gather these escapees and put them in a new hive.   Cute Hubby asked, "Have you done this before?"  I replied "No, but we can look it up online!"  And, he still agreed to help!   (I swear it was not my intention to have FOUR hives this year, Warren!)

 It took a few passes and  some good limb shakes into a large box and a big dumping of thousands of bees in the new hive.   Then we watched as hundreds more calmly marched into their new home. 

My only regret is that I didn't try to make a bee beard! 

Then as we went out later in the evening to see if they were still happy, we heard the first Wood Thrushes of the year in the woods of the LoveNest.

 Finally!   They were a day or two late and we were growing concerned.    

Now, if only I can find Alvin, the chipmunk, it will really feel like spring! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Photo Big Day

.. and other news from our friends at Princeton University Press.

     The folks who brought us The Warbler Guide (which is sitting next to us as we type), Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, are collaborating again, along with the American Birding Association and the NYC Audubon, on a race to see and photograph as many species as possible within a 24-hour period. It's called the Photo Big Day, and you can learn more about it - and how to start your own team - at that link above.

    Sounds like fun - and a bit of a challenge for nocturnal species or fly-by birds!

    Just as cool, Princeton University Press will be releasing later this spring a new app, called BirdGenie, that they say will identify bird song with 90 percent or greater accuracy.

   Love that logo. The app will work with Apple and Android devices. Here's the links for the app for Eastern and Western birds.

  Finally, here's the Press' homepage.

  PS - Before signing off, we have to also mention their title, Bumble Bees of North America. A must-get for Princess Lisa.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Junior Duck Stamp winners for 2014

Very quick post this morning .... BC wants to congratulate the winners of the 2014 National Junior Duck Stamp Contest. (Full information about the program from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here).

This winning painting, an acrylic rendering of a King Eider, was done by Si youn Kim, 16, of Tenafly, New Jersey.

We also like the winning conservation message, by Max Cheng, 15, of Freemont, California:  Conserving a habitat is like painting a background. Without it the picture is not complete.

Here are the runner-up paintings:

Trumpeter Swan and cygnets, Andrew Kneeland, Rock Springs, Wyoming

Hooded Merganser, Jiahe Qu

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Earth Day, 2014

Caspian Tern

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

Enjoy, Conserve, Teach!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Postcard from Afghanistan, Part 3

As we have posted before here and here, dear friend and super-birder Peter Kaestner is in Afghanistan these days. He is of course already the top birder in that country, according to eBird's standings, with 164 species at last count.

Peter has seen a great variety of ducks, raptors, owls, finches, sparrows and other birdies. From time to time, he shares shots of what he's seen. And we, of course, have been tardy in posting them.

So here goes.

This a stunning Eurasian Eagle Owl, with crazy cool eyes:

And a tree full of  Wagtails. (We'd settle for one Wagtail in a tree here in Annapolis):

A Green-Winged Teal (looks like the Common Teal subspecies from Eurasia to us):

A pair of Ferruginous Ducks:

And finally some Northern Pintails. Who knew this common waterfowl from North America is also present in Afghanistan?: 

Keep 'em coming, Peter!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring migrants, and spring surprises

Pine Warbler

     Birdcouple gets a little bird crazy this time of year, when spring finally hits and the migrants arrive in wave after wave. So, as soon as Saturday morning struck, we headed down to one of our favorite mid-April birding spots, Flag Ponds Nature Park in Maryland's Calvert County. Flag Ponds park adjoins the Chesapeake Bay, but has a lot of woodland habitat, and so is a great stop-off point for warblers and other north-bound travelers.

    Ruby-Crowned Kinglets were also on the move.

    After the migrants, came a major surprise. Someone had gotten a bit lost. That someone was a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, a denizen of Texas and Oklahoma, that a sharp, 12-year-old birder had found in our own Anne Arundel County at Fort Smallwood Park.


This may be the first record of this species in our home county, and was Warren's 258th species for the county. More importantly, it was buddy Dan Haas' 300th!!!

This picture didn't turn out so great, but it gives you some idea of what this bird's amazing tail looks like in flight.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Songbird Stamps from the Postal Service!

These beauties were just issued today. Warren, who used to collect stamps many, many years ago, would love to have a first day of issue copy of them.

If you're using snail mail, please buy them, use them and spread the word about protecting America's birds.

Here's a link to the USPS webpage.

And here's the Postal Service's description of the stamps:

The U.S. Postal Service celebrates ten melodic voices with the Songbirds stamps: the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), the mountain bluebird (Sialia currucoides), the western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana), the painted bunting (Passerina ciris), the Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula), the evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus), the scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea), the rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus), the American goldfinch (Spinus tristis), and the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis).
Each colorful bird is shown perching on a fence post or branch embellished with vines, pinecones, leaves, or flowers. The artwork appears against a plain, white background.
Why do songbirds make such a glorious racket every morning? In a word, love. Males sing to attract females, and to warn rivals to keep out of their territory. Between 4,000 and 4,500 different types of songbirds can be found around the planet, accounting for nearly half of all bird species. Songbirds are identified by their highly developed vocal organs, although some, like the crow, have harsh voices, and others sing rarely, or not at all. All songbirds are classified as perching birds. With three toes that point forward and one that points backward, they can grip branches, grasses, or telephone wires with ease.
Illustrator Robert Giusti painted the portraits, based on photographs. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamps.
Songbirds will be issued as Forever® stamps in booklets of 20. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Birder's Guide to Everything... Review

Well... movie night was not actually a night out as I predicted here.  Because, we couldn't find A Birder's Guide to Everything playing at any local movie theater.  And, by local, I basically mean the East Coast, because I would have used this excuse to drag Cute Husband through a couple of states for date night. 

So, we ended up renting it from Amazon, which you can do as well!   This may have been bonus, since date night included drinking a bottle of wine with a movie. 

Anyway, A Birder's Guide to Everything is a sweet coming of age movie that at times felt like an overused theme that you have seen before... except there were birds in it!  And, birders who were somewhat normal.   Yes, the birding club the boys belong to is nerdy, but the sport/hobby of birding was treated with respect and nobody gets mocked for being a birder.

Of course the movie includes some birds, some bird song and some lovely shots of birding in a beautiful forest.   This is not The Big Year, but it does give a sense of the chase to find a bird and the lengths birders will go to tick one. 

One of my favorite scenes is when Ben Kingsley's character encourages the boys to search for the bird, even though it may have flown a couple of states away.  It captures the adventure of birding and makes a nod to the fact that even amateur birders can find and (possibly) correctly ID rare birds.

Toward the end of the movie, the main character is describing the differences between people who enjoy birds ..."feeders" "listers" and "watchers", which, I think, does a nice job of characterizing bird obsession. 

If you are looking for the next The Big Year in terms of crazed birding adventures, this is not it.  But, if you are looking for a gentle movie that nicely explores birding, you will enjoy A Birder's Guide to Everything.

Two thumbs up for date night! 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014