Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in review, highlights and new photos

The thought of a new year starting in a couple of days makes me think of the year past and some of the great birds I've had a chance to see.  I worked a lot the past year, but looking back now I was still able to do quite a lot of birding.  

The birding year always starts for me on January 1st when I count for the Detroit River Chirstmas bird count and see our typical birds.  My first birding trip in 2010 was the first weekend in February to Sault Ste. Marie with the Washtenaw and Jackson Audubon societies.  This is one of the best club trips I have ever been on.  This year we had saw the Northern Hawk Owl for the photo opportunity below.  I used my Canon Powershot for the photos I took of this bird and was thrilled with the result.  The bright blue skies behind this bird stayed with us all weekend.    

I was lucky with the photo of the Northern Hawk Owl on Pealine Road outside of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  I took the photo with my Canon Powershot.  Having fought with my Canon for nearly three years, in late February I updated my camera to the same point and shoot style Panasonic Lumix.  Three big trips were still to come and my Canon needed to be retired.  Incidentally, this Northern Hawk Owl was important in a 2010 big year and can also be seen in the blog Slow Birding:  the big year meets the big night.

In the beginning of March, I went to San Diego for a conference and took a couple of days at the beginning for birding.  I took two photos of the Black-throated Sparrow that I loved and this was my first indication that my new camera was a success.  I loved it.

I saw three life birds in the San Diego area, Black Turnstone, California Gnatcatcher and the California Thrasher above.  The turnstone was too far for a photo, the gnatcatcher was too quick but the thrasher was a singing performer.

In April I went to Florida and saw ten life birds and added several others to my North American list.  I had seen many Smooth-billed Anis on a 2006 trip to Cuba.  We worked hard to see the Smooth-billed Ani pictured above near the Royal Palms Visitor Center in the Everglades National Park.  I wrote much more about this bird in my blog titled, A special bird in the Everglades.  It was only after I returned home and began to think about this bird that the significance of the sighting sank in.  I have no way to prove it but our Smooth-billed Ani may be the last remaining in Florida and thus in the United States. In the winter season publication of North American Birds, Vol. 64, No. 2, 2010 this bird is recognized with a small photograph on page 358.  There is something irretrievably sad about this solitary bird with tail typically askew.          

In June, I went to England and Wales for my first European birding trip.  Actually, my non-birding friends humored me and ran me around the eastern part of the country for some terrific birding at several amazing RSPB locations.  Then they needed a weekend without birding and dropped me off at the Minsmere RSPB to bird with new friends, Malcolm and Angela.  Joy and Cliff topped off our time together with a trip to Pembrokeshire, Wales which was nothing short of spectacular. In England there is nothing at all special about Black-headed Gulls, but I like this photo.  

When I returned from England I was burned out.  I did scant summer birding and concentrated on a few outings to photograph butterflies.  

Then in mid-August on an Oakland Audubon field trip to Point Mouillee led by Jim Fowler, we saw another unexpected bird, my life King Rail.  Before this I had heard King Rails many times but had never seen one.   A juvenile bird, it turned out to be another performer and everybody present that morning got long and satisfying looks.

In November for my county and state list, a Golden-crowned Sparrow showed up at the Belle Isle feeder station.  Not only was it a close chasable bird, but I was actually able to take an extended lunch in the middle of the day to drive over to Belle Isle.  I must have been meant to see that bird because that never happens.

December is concluding with Christmas bird counts and I finished my sector of the Rockwood count on December 26th with two Northern Harriers on Chinavere Road.

January 1, 2011 will start with the Detroit River CBC.  It all comes full circle.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Old Red-tailed Hawk ...

... featured in another great New York Times bird article.  What I really like about this bird is that she even looks old.  She has a great story.

From Old, but Unready to be Rung Out by Peter Applebome, the New York Times, December 19, 2010

Bad weather in England ...

... brings the Redwings in from the fields.

I didn't get to see a Redwing (Turdus iliacus) when I was visiting in June, but they are in my friend's backyard now.  We've all been hearing about the weather that is closing down Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and other airports around Europe, causing holiday havoc.  Found in England in winter and then typically in the fields, the Redwings have had to seek shelter and food in backyards with feeders.  A bird I've always wanted to see.  My friend, Cliff, sent me this photo of a Redwing in his backyard.

Merry Christmas.   

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bird Song Bible

Really?  A bible?

Well, yes, apparently!  NPR reported on Cornell's new publication on bird song, a ten pound tome with hundreds of bird songs, on their 12/22/2010 Morning Edition broadcast.  You can listen to the Bird Song Bible segment here.  You can also read the segment, but since bird song is involved it's best to listen.

Incidentally, the book's full title is Bird Song Bible: The Complete, Illustrated Reference for North American Birds and is edited by Lee Beletsky.  I peeked at the book on Amazon.  The illustrations are also inviting.  If you still have Christmas shopping to do ...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Audubon and Eyster in the WSJ

It took awhile to locate on-line, but I just found this Letter to the Editor written by Harold Eyster and published in the Wall Street Journal on December 4th.  The article to which Harold refers, Stalking a Masterpiece from the November 26th WSJ, is also linked in his letter.

December 7, 2010 follow-up:  Sold today, first edition Birds of America by John James Audubon.  You can read about it in The Birdbooker Report.  

The University of Michigan Graduate Library also has a copy of Birds of America currently on display.