Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wanna Be A Better Birder?

If you want to be a better birder, then you should do these things:

  1. Go outside more - actually take time to go birding. This is the number one way to improve your birding skills but it isn't easy with our busy schedules. I am lucky that I have to walk Roxy twice a day. I bring binoculars with me often (just ask the neighbors).

  2. Read more - subscribe to birding magazines and purchase as many field guides as possible. I subscribe to Bird Watcher's Digest, Birding, Birder's World. I also get Audubon and Living Bird magazines due to membership in Audubon and Cornell Lab. Here is a link to's list of birding magazines.

  3. Listen more - not to me, but to the birds. The best thing that I have done in the past few years to improve my birding skills is to take the CMBO Birding by Ear class. I probably added a few dozen life birds simply by recognizing a different song, buzz, tweet, or chip coming from the woods. This year, Pete Dunne is doing a one day backyard bird song workshop that you should definitely sign up for. Pete is a world renowned birder and author that you can spend a whole day with in a small group setting while bringing your bird identification skills to a new level. Don't miss out. Here is the link to CMBO site.
I hope this helps. Call or email me if you want to go birding. I'll make time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Big News - Philly Bird Nerds at the Shore

Hello all. We have big news - the bird nerds are buying a place at the shore. For those of you who are not familiar with "the shore", it is the Philly/South Jersey way of saying "the beach". We say that we are going to "the shore" when we mean that we are going to a place near the coast in New Jersey. Our "shore" town is called The Villas which is situated along the Delaware Bay shore just north of Cape May and in the heart of birdwatching mecca. Once we are at "the shore", we go to "the beach". Example: our shore house in the Villas is 4 houses from the beach so once we are at the house, we would say "I'm going to the beach" which means that we are walking half a block to the actual beach. Understand? I know its confusing to outsiders but it makes perfect sense to people like us who grew up here. BTW, that's why the TV show is called Jersey Shore and not Jersey Beach.

We are actually purchasing 2 properties in the Villas. NO, we are not rich - the Villas is the cheapest property that you can find at the shore because it is on the bay side, not the ocean side of New Jersey. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to own a place at the shore and these properties are back-to-back with big yards. Please note that the houses are 2 bedroom, 1 bath shacks. We affectionately call them Green House (on Maryland Ave) and Blue House (on Ohio Ave) for obvious reasons. They both need work which tickles me and Barbara pink - you know we LOVE a project!

Here is a link to Di's Shutterfly site:

The Villas is situated perfectly for birding in and around Cape May county. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that we bird here often. Here is a link to Google maps to show you the location of the Blue house. The green house is directly behind this on Maryland Ave.

Blue House

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Woodcock Dance with Video

Patty invited me to go "Woodcocking" with her at John Heinz NWR (Tinicum) last night. That sounds kind of dirty doesn't it? I hope this post doesn't get blocked from the Internet for pornography. Anyway, Barbara and I met Patty and Jenn at the end of the road at Tinicum at 6 PM on Wed and headed out into the fields with a video camera. Let's just say the videos are kind of Blair Witch Project and leave it at that.

We did see the Woodcocks displaying starting at about 6:15 PM just like Patty predicted. I think we had a total of 6 different males "peenting" and flying around but one was pretty close. Woodcocks make a peent, peent, peent call from the ground and then take off in a big spiral up, up, and away until they are out of sight. All the while, you can hear a whistling sound created by the outer feathers of his wings as he ascends. Once he is out of sight, the Woodcock plummets back to earth whistling the whole way down to cozy up to his prospective mate. "Our" Woodcock came to earth in an opening where we could actually see him through the ever-darkening evening light. Pretty cool.

Although the Blair Witchiness of the video may make you motion sick, you can actually hear the peents and whistling. Enjoy.

Barbara making Blair Witch Project sounds:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Life Tribute and Life Bird

The Birdnerds owe our existence in some small way to Connie's oldest sister, Donna Ross who passed away recently. Donna's love of nature and love of teaching influenced Connie's childhood, career choice, and helped foster her interest in the natural world. Without that, who knows, maybe Connie and I would never have begun hiking or birdwatching together.

Donna was a true teacher from a very early age. This became evident at the church service on Saturday when the pastor asked people to say a few words about Donna. One by one, people came to the microphone and said the same thing - Donna's intelligence, love of nature, and ability to teach others touched them in a special way. Donna taught me about nature too when we were hiking together at the cabin or just talking at Christmas dinner. In fact, she taught a group of kids about desert life on the day that she passed away.

She was only 62 years old when she was taken from us. Too young.

People like Donna and her untimely passing make me want to get out and experience life at an even more fevered pace. The experience also reinforces upon me that we all need to share the natural world with others - kids, neighbors, coworkers, whoever - and teach them about all types of nature from bugs to flowers to birds. I will keep Donna's example in my mind going forward and hope that you do the same.

In that spirit, I took the opportunity to go after a life bird on Saturday in the midst of the funeral services. Donna's ashes are being buried at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery where her husband, a Vietnam Vet, has a plot. As fate would have it, Redheads (ducks) have been seen over the past week at Memorial Lake which is across the street from the cemetery. After the church service and luncheon, I made a beeline for the lake and was treated to 12 Redheads mixed in with the other waterfowl. Is that wrong? Maybe, but I like to think Donna would have wanted me to see those ducks.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quick FloridaTrip

The nerds were in Florida last week soaking up the sun and warm weather. We had a good time boating and birding. We also went to our first spring training game in Clearwater. We had great seats but got Joe Blanton as the starting pitcher. We had 80% chance of getting one of the 4 aces, and we got the 5th wheel. Not that anything is wrong with Joe, he's just not one of the star pitchers. Oh well. Here are some photos for your enjoyment.

Immature Wood Stork

Great Crested Flycatcher

Red-shouldered Hawk

Limpkin - usually very shy. This one was feeding on snails in mid-day (hence the glare)

Here is the Limpkin close-up. First with the snail in shell, then with the snail out of the shell. I don't know how it manages to get the snail out of the shell with only it's beak as a tool.