Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Off to Panama today

2015 ended with punishing work demands and 2016 has started out with harrowing 60 hour work weeks.  This and a sad family occurrence has left me frayed.  Not a moment too soon comes my long awaited trip to Panama.   I'm ready to do some birding with a great group of birders and friends from my prior Costa Rica trips.  I look forward to seeing everyone again.    

White-whiskered Puffbird on Plantation Road

In the meantime, thanks to all who have been so supportive during these past several months.  I am grateful for my family, friends and ... birding.   

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker

After my last blog post I figured that I better get something about birding on here fast.  I read Noah's Birding Without Borders blog posts before going to sleep each night in 2015.  There were a few occasions when there were a number of days between posts and I felt disappointed.  Like going to bed without my snack.  Then I'd log in to find 2, 3 or 4 posts to catch up on and all was well again.  

I enjoyed Noah's big year blog sponsored by Audubon so much that I find I am now going through a little withdrawal.  There's a young Dutch birder trying to best Noah's big year record in 2016, but his  write-ups are not nearly so easily accessible.  We have National Audubon to thank for sponsoring Noah's reporting.    

Anyway for those who missed it, here's the delightful end-of-big-year video Noah made - selfie stick and all - where he captures just a few of what must have been innumerable memories.  Astonishing achievement and amazing life event.

If anyway knows the title of the song and group that accompanies the video - please post in comments.  I cannot find it in iTunes or on You Tube.  I'm wondering if it's by an Australian or New Zealand group.  I sometimes play the video just to play the song.


By posting this I am not trying to use my blog as a political lightening rod.  I just like the ad.  Perhaps many have already seen it on television but I don't watch the television channels that run political advertising.  (PBS Downton Abbey fan - yes it's true; I admit it here.)  I heard about the while watching the PBS Newshour show.

If all political ads were like this, we might be able to survive 2016.

If you don't want to watch the ad, here's the whole song with lyrics. You don't even have to look at Simon and Garfunkel.  I'm revealing my age here because this is my all-time favorite Simon and Garfunkel song and is on my list of all-time favorite songs - whatever list that is.   

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Watching David Allen Sibley draw birds

I came across this YouTube video of a David Allen Sibley lecture to the Jewish Community Center of San Fransciso while doing some research for an Op Ed piece I hope to write.  It's too good not to keep for reference or to share with others.  

The other thing is that I am completely impressed with his selection to lecture the Jewish Community 
Center.  Just goes to show that not only birders are interested in this topic.


The video is 1:19 long.  I watched through the hawk owl part and decided I didn't want to lose track of this.  It's easy to go forward and backward.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2016


A friend sent me this photo that he took while vacationing in Fuerteventura.  On my birding trips to Europe, this was one of the birds I most wanted to see.  And I did see it on my trips to Bulgaria and to Hungary.  On two occasions the bird had it's crown raised. Spectacular!

Apparently this bird was finding insects to eat in the cracks of the pavement.

Hoopoe in Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) by Cliff Young

Friday, January 1, 2016

Dearborn portion of Detroit River CBC

My first bird of 2016 was an Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio) found behind the Environmental Interpretive Center on the University of Michigan campus at 5:39 am.  

For the daytime portion of this CBC I count the west side of the Rough River and walked trails for approximately 4 miles ending at the Ford Estate near Evergreen.  It was windy and very cold with snowflakes falling the whole time.  This is very disturbed habitat but typically a good bird or two can always be found.

I couldn't believe it when I heard Carolina wren chatter and found the bird perched in the open, quite close and in good light.  As luck would have it, I had to load my camera battery before I could start shooting.  I thought, this bird is going to fly.  But even with all my cold hands fumbling it stayed put, chattering the whole time, and I got about a dozen photos.  These are the nicest shots I have ever taken of a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus).

Next good find was this leucistic robin (Turdus migratorius).  The bird was not moving and all of my photos are very similar.  When the bird flew I stood on the trail checking my photos.  I heard a faint sound behind me and it felt like I was being watched.  I turned around and two deer were staring at me.  They never moved and after taking a couple of photos I continued walking.  Earlier I saw a coyote which was not so cooperative.

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

A not uncommon sight along areas of the generally muddy Rough River is this bluish-green water.  It is typically accompanied by a sweetish, perfumey fragrance that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, although the mere awareness that rivers should not smell like this makes it unpleasant.  I find the sight of the water disturbing.  This was a little tributary that fed directly into the river.  Though I have no idea what causes this strange color, it reminds me of the blue Tidy Bowl stuff that people use to clean their toilets.  This same color of water can be found in some Belle Isle waterways. I'll do my best Gail Collins imitation here. People can we all agree that using blue toilet bowl cleaner is bad for our streams and rivers.

In another area of the river I found this attractive, possibly hybrid duck.  Below the duck is with a female mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) for comparison.

Much darker head, bill, feathers and markings, and somewhat smaller, but the bird's vocalization was typical mallard.

The easy identification is melanistic female mallard, but if anyone wishes to venture another guess on this duck's lineage, I'd love to hear from you. 

Terrible photo, but it's always thrilling to see belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) on a Michigan CBC.  My area had two this morning.

Our most underrated bird.  

Along the trails I counted only two cardinals all morning.  That is a very low number given the habitat I cover and that I walk near neighborhoods.  But for my final photo of the morning it was all cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) - males and females eating from the grass near the parking lot.

Finally, celebrate the end of 2015 and the start of 2016 by watching Noah Strycker's big year video celebrating 6042 species seen.  Birding Without Borders.  You can also read his blog entries - all 365 (it was sort of like traveling around the world with him) and see his lists - as seen by date and another in taxonomic order.  A truly extraordinary accomplishment.