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Heavenly Song

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I want to imagine that when I get to heaven that I’ll wake up every morning with a Wood Thrush singing. Of all the bird songs I’ve heard so far in my life nothing is as soothing as their song. In the woods all alone and a Wood thrush sings in the early spring morning. Nothing I can think of can compare to the flute like song that echoes all around you. That’s what it was like as I hiked Boone County Cliffs this past Saturday. Trying to pick out other species to identify while the Wood Thrush keep up their song is quite distracting. But a pleasant distraction.

Brown Pelican

In the early 1970’s when this stamp was issued in a block of 4 wildlife conservation stamps which included Big Horn Sheep, Fur Seals, and believe it or not the Northern Cardinal, that deadly pesticide DDT was devastating the Brown Pelican population so much that to draw attention to this problem the U.S. Postal service thought it was necessary to issue a commemorative stamp. Now a days if you’ve ever been to Florida you’d never would have thought such a problem existed. These effortless fliers were a sight as I would just stand on the beach and watch as as they glided over the surface of the water.

So on my most recent trip to Florida I made it my project to try to get a photo of a  Brown Pelican sitting on a support post of a dock. Your typical Pelican pose. But where do I start this search for this perfect location? Most places on the waterfront are either privately owned or just too difficult to get to. I needed something simple. So it was one evening while at dinner at one of our favorite seafood restaurant when I noticed the Pelicans down by the waterfront and on the docks just 20 yards from the restaurant. Perfect.

IMG_1983How could you not love that regal look of these wonderful birds. I just can’t imagine losing these birds to something like DDT.

January 100 Species Update

After adding up some more species that was collected on my last day in Florida and on the drive home, this is the complete list to date.

59. Eastern Towhee

60. Carolina Chickadee

61. Great Egret

62. Boat-tailed grackle

63. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

64. Orange-crowned Warbler

65. Pileated Woodpecker

66. Eastern Bluebird

67. Ring-necked Duck

68. Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

A Sparrow Kind Of Day

Kathy and I took a side trip today to visit Fort Pickens, a Civil War era fort that was built to guard the entrance to Pensacola Bay. It also in the past been one of the spots where White-winged Delves have been seen. So it was a win, win for me since I do love Civil War history, plus an opportunity to tick off a life bird.
The drive down Santa Rosa Island west out of the small town of Navarre was something to behold. It was Florida in the raw. Kind of what you might imagine it was as Spanish explorers first set foot here. Pristine white sand beaches with no buildings or houses. Being a National Seashore really helps as well.
We had a wonderful time at the fort, however not one dove was seen. Not even the more common ones lime Mourning or Eurasian. However I did make it up with the addition of 3 sparrow species.
55. Chipping Sparrow
56. Savannah Sparrow
57. Vesper Sparrow
58. Ring-necked Duck

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A very cooperative Savannah Sparrow

Sea Watching Pays Off

Since arriving to the Sunshine State on Saturday there seems to be a vital component missing, the sun. The sun has not come once since our arrival. Despite all the gloomy weather I ventured out to walkway 5hat leads to the beach and set up my spotting scope and started to scan. The fog wasn’t nearly as bad as yesterday so I was able to view the ocean to the horizon. What I really wanted was to get was a better view of a Northern Gannet. It was after about 30 minutes when saw my first one, an adult, and I was able to get on it quickly as it flew parallel to the coast from my left to right. Now I’m satisfied, but why stow my scope away and head back. No need at all, so I stayed put and continued scanning.

I had another Gannet fly by, a few Mergansers, and loads of Common Loons were quite numerous. Then I noticed what I originally thought was a juvenile Gannet fly even closer to shore than the other Gannets, but when it passed I immediately noticed something different. This bird had a broad white collar which didn’t match what I was looking at in my field guide. In my Peterson guide I had the page open to where the Gannet info was and just below it was the picture of a Masked Booby. That was it!  I was absolutely floored. Never in a million years would I imagine a bird like this come across my scope.

I’m going to include a photo I took off the internet with this post so you can get an idea exactly what I saw. Notice the white collar. That’s exactly what I was looking at as the bird disappeared from view.

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Sorry for the poor quality picture, I”ve to figure out how somethings work.
53.  Masked Booby
54.  Double-creasted Cormorant

Big Year Bloggers

I’m in a way envious of people who have both the time and the resources to devote an entire year to birding. These special individuals are few and far between, however in the birding community we always hear about them and soon submerse ourselves as we live vicariously through them. I realize that this flaw in my character to be “envious” of others is something I have to deal with, but to have the opportunity , and the credit cards, to travel over the North American continent on one big twitch is something one only dreams of. So instead of actually doing a Big Year, myself and others are satisfied by following their trails and tribulations, ups and downs, discoveries and dips , heartache and heartburn through their blogs.

For myself it started in 2011 when local Cincinnati birder Matt Stenger started his Big Year, so when I found out he was writing a blog about his exploits, his URL became one of my “favorites” on my web browser. It was a magical ride for me. It was at this time I really started to bird watch on a more serious basis, so his blog was a real motivator for someone who needed motivation.

Matt’s blog is no longer around, however as 2011 came to a close I discovered one which I heard about too late, and is still going strong to this day. ” Big Year 2011 by John Vanderpoel” was an exceptional blog to go along with his big year. He was the first person to come close to Sandy Komoto’s record Big Year, so even though I learned of his blog really late in 2011, I soon caught up with reading his well done blog. To this day he’s still blogging, and you can link to his current page by clicking on the underlined hyperlink above.

So as 2012 dawned so did my thirst for more Big Year blogs. And this time I found it from a Texas couple, Renee and Michael who write “Birding On A Budget“. What really drew me to their blog was how they budgeted their money for the Big Year. They set their total budget to $10,000 dollars. Granted when you set a budget this tight you are going to have to exclude trips to Alaska and pelagic trips, but with this in mind you have a good idea of how many birds you’re going to see in a year. It was a great read!   With any Big Year you can’t help but count the pennies. And folks with families, pennies are a valuable commodity.

In 2013 we were blessed again with 2 Big Years. And both with blogs. The first one came from Neil Hayward and his “Accidental Big Year” Now here’s a blog full of excitement, and tons of birds. So many birds that as far as I’m concerned the record holder, surpassing Sandy Komoto by 1 bird.

The second blog I was following that year from another local birder, and someone I’ve birded with, Jay Lehman. As soon as he retired from P&G as a chemist, this bachelor traveled just as much as Neil Hayward however came away with fewer birds, but just as many memories. “Jay’s Big Year 2013” is still up and ready to read for anyone interested. Ironically both Jay and Neil ended their big years while doing a pelagic trip off Cape Hatteras on December 28th with Brian Patterson scoring on a Great Skua which gave Jay 732 birds and Neil with 746. A great birder and a great read.

So how could you possibly top a year like 2013 when you had 2 top notch birders doing their respective Big Years? You do it while riding your bicycle all over this great country. Talk about down and dirty, full of stress, fatigue and bad food, Dorian Anderson kept me glued every day as he faithfully posted his comings and goings while racking up and impressive number of birds considering he couldn’t ride to Alaska and pelagics were out of the question. Having just finished “Biking For Birds” I felt I had a close relati0nship with someone I never meet. There was more to this blog than just the birds. You felt his pain as he rode head long into head winds that would stop any normal cyclist, he’d trudge along to his next stop so he’d have a chance to pick up another bird. An adventure worth reading.

So what next? How about sinking your teeth into “Birding Without Borders” Noah Strycker, photographer, writer, and adventurer has just started his Big Year. But what a Big Year! His goal is to tick off 5,000 birds covering the whole world. In 2008 Ruth Miller and Alan Davies counted 4, 341 birds which is a s–t load of birds in 1 year.  And as of right now he’s in Antarctica on a Russian ship adding birds to what I’m sure will be a year never before seen. This is one blog that I’ll read everyday.

So where is the next Big Year?