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Cancelled

The Corona Virus is effecting everyone in some form or another. Myself and my children and loving wife are doing fine and are taking all necessary precautions. And as the rest of the country follow suit it came as no surprise that the Southwest Wings Spring Fling Birding Festival cancelled. Of all the places I’ve been anxiously wanting to visit, it’s this part of the country.

The only reservations I had to cancel were my hotel room and contact the festival to ask for a refund. I was glad that cancelling my hotel room was a easy process, with me getting a full refund. The festival itself has a $15.00 processing fee if you cancel prior to a given date. The date to receive a 90% refund was extended due to the virus, which was a good thing. But it still saddens me to go another year waiting to go. I was lucky not to have made my airline or car reservations yet, so it’s one less thing to bother with.

On the bright side this now gives me more time to study up and listen to calls and songs of the birds of Southeast Arizona, so I won’t be going out looking like a complete rookie.

To all my reader, stay safe and wash your hands.

2019: A Year In Review

Let me first start out this year in review with an apology to all my readers. I’ve not been a very good blogger and have lagged behind in posting anything of interest. Some of this was due to my broken ankle at the end of Spring and lasting through the Summer. Those weeks that I was laid up kept me both from birding and blogging. Compounding this was a couple bouts of having the cold, which as a member of the senior population takes longer to get over. With that being said lets put this year behind us and hope that 2020 is a better year both for you personally, and birding.

For myself 2019 was a pretty good year for birds. I was able to add 11 new birds to my life list, with the latest being a Prairie Falcon that’s been hanging out in the flat farm land west of Bowling Green Ohio. I picked up that bird yesterday.

Below are 6 of the 11 new birds spotted in 2019, and if it wasn’t for our family vacation to Maine my yearly number would be significantly lower.

  • Common Eider
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Great Shearwater
  • Atlantic Puffin
  • Northern Fulmer
  • Black Guillemot
  • Great Cormorant

For the greatest distance driven by car to tick off a new bird lies with the now famous Tufted Duck of Fennville Michigan.

back on April 28th I drove one way 335 miles to check this bird off my life list. Did this seem excessive driving just for 1 bird? Sure it was. However it was worth the drive to see a bird that I’ll probably never see again.

Most satisfying Bird of 2019: Well that honor goes to the Red Phalarope that I was able to check off the old Life List on November 3rd. Now I’m finally able to check off all North American Phalarope species with this beautiful bird that was spotted at Brookville Lake in Indiana.

For the 2 most surprising new birds of 2019 would have to be the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and the Prairie Falcon. Even though I don’t have any photos of these birds, they are without a doubt the most surprising birds that I never would expect to see this year.

As I reflect on 2019 I can’t help but to look forward to 2020, which will prove to be the most “birdiest” year to date. In the past I’ve had some very good years for birds but this coming year should put me past a personal milestone of 500 ABA birds.

In the next few weeks I’ll start making plans on going to the Southwest Wings Spring Fling in Sierra Vista Arizona. Long have I wanted to visit Arizona for their abundance of great birds. Like my trip to the Rio Grande Birding Festival, this trip should push me past the 500 mark for total birds.

If for some reason I don’t reach 500 by the end of that trip, I have yet another trip that will tip it into my favor. My eldest son is getting married on Oahu Hawaii in November. I’ll be there for 2 weeks. I can only imagine the birds I’ll be seeing.

These two trips have my brain on overdrive. After the holidays are over then I can start to concentrate on the task at hand. Study the birds and their songs and calls. I need to prepare. And it’s this preparation that makes us better birders.

With 2019 almost in the past, let us look forward to a better 2020, and better birds.

Happy New Year to you all.

 

An Unfortunate Accident

A few weeks back I was finishing up a 25 mile bike ride on the Loveland Bike Trail. As I was pulling off the trail onto the sidewalk that connects the trail to the parking lot, my front tire went off the edge and caught the edge where the concrete meet the mulch. I tried to correct but it didn’t work. Down I went pretty hard onto my left side.

My left knee was pretty buggered up and my ankle was hurting as well. I was able to get myself up and load my bike onto my bike carrier and drive home. After parking and bringing my bike into the house i was finally able to sit down an assess my self. My ankle was swelling.

I cleaned up the best I could and drove to the E.R. To make a long story short, I have a broken Fibula down by the ankle. So as of right now I’ve been in a cast since for almost 2 weeks. And if everything goes well it should be coming off on the 22nd of this month and a walking boot applies.

So right now it’s front porch birding watching the hummingbirds fight over the feeders.

Notes From The Field

One of my new pet projects is to collect the Warbler photos I’ve taken over the years, delete the bad ones and store the average to above average ones in a new album on my Flickr page. The recent posting of my Prairie Warbler photos was the first in the hopes of getting decent shots to fill in the many blanks.

If you’re interested in my Warbler Album on Flickr, the link is below.

“Warbler Album”

So yesterday I decided to head off to a local park where Louisiana Waterthrush can be common in the Spring. The park has a trail that cuts through a gorge with a nice flowing stream which is perfect. It was pretty quiet as I approached the area where they’ve been spotted recently. I hear their familiar song first. Now the tough part, locating the bird.

It takes several minutes before I’m able to get on the bird, then move into position to snap off dozens of shots before settling on this one.

As I was about to leave for the day and head home I decided to check my local birding Facebook page to see what’s going on. Well it turns out Ellis Lake has a Wilson’s Phalarope and 2 Cattle Egrets. So off I go.

The birds in question weren’t either in the lake, they were in the agricultural field that was partially flooded from all the rain, and the fact that the area sits in a real low lying area that’s prone to floods. The park sits so low that bordering the park sits the ancient remains of the Miami-Erie Canal.

Well the cattle Egrets were pretty easy to tick off.

Now the Wilson’s Phalarope was another matter all together. From what I gathered from other birders was that an eagle flew overhead and scattered the flock of wading birds and moved them all further away and a little more difficult to observe. So trekking out into the muddy and through standing water i was able to get some terrible photos of a great bird.

“Editorial”

To all my readers: If I happen to offend anyone with this editorial, this wasn’t my intention and any comments relating to this post will get a reply from myself. 

 

If your child was working on a math problem and was having trouble figuring out the answer, would you:

A. Help your child work through the problem to determine the correct answer.

B. Tell them the answer

Of course it’s “A”. How does the child learn if the answer is just given over. Helping them with how to figure out a math equation will only benefit them when it really matters. Like the next math exam.

Let’s keep this scenario in the back of our minds as I get to the point of my editorial.

I belong to 8 different Facebook groups that relate to birds and birding. And I’m noticing something that’s really puzzling. With the advent of affordable digital cameras and Facebook are birders new to this hobby becoming lazy when it comes to identifying birds?  Has it become too easy to take a photo of a bird, post it on Facebook and ask for ID help? Do birders new to the hobby carry a field guide with them, whether as a hard copy book or an APP?

Think about that for a few minutes.

Now granted I’ve been birding for a very long time, and even the name of this blog refers to a “Notebook”. But before Facebook and the ability to post photos from our digital cameras (if you could afford one), what we were left with was our respected Listserv for the given state we lived in. Info about rare birds, field trips and questions about birds had to be typed out and then read by others. If you were birding by yourself and saw a bird you couldn’t identify, you’d go to your field guide and try to find it using field markings, range maps, and the general habitat the bird was seen. And after that if you still couldn’t figure out which species you saw your only other outlet was to ask another birder or post your sighting on the Listserv with a description of the bird and hope someone could help you. The operative word here is “Help”.

Do we remember those days?

When you’re in the field birders on a whole will help anyone out with identifying a bird. However this is also the time to help the birder with future birds they may come across. We’re just passing along those pearls of wisdom, right? Nothing is more rewarding (other than spotting a rarity) than being able to ID a tough bird by looking at it’s field markings, and noticing the birds behavior. It’s the culmination of hard work on your part to become a more skilled birder.

Now if Facebook was around when I first started to bird, maybe things would be different. However some things remain a constant, we identify birds through their field marks. And the only way to do this is either ask someone or use a field guide. And what I’m seeing on Facebook is to just ask someone.

Resources that are available for the birder to help them identify birds are countless. Even Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed “Merlin” to help birders enter field marks into the APP, then the Merlin gives you some choices of birds it might be. Pretty easy. I tried it out when it first came out, and for a beginner it would be helpful.

However are new birders using all the available resources to ID a bird, or is it too easy to just post a picture and ask, because someone will tell me. Which leads me back to my math problem. Do we as birders try to help them make a positive ID by guiding them with our knowledge, or is it easier to just tell them?

Case in point. On a recent conversation I was having with a new birder on Facebook in regards to a 1st summer Orchard Oriole that she posted along with a pretty decent photo. She wanted someone to help ID the bird for her.

The first person to reply told her what it was. I replied with  2 questions. What was your first impression of the species and did you have a field guide? I think you know where I’m going with this. I just wanted to help someone out who’s new to birding to improve their skills. I wanted to start a conversation about field markings, where you saw the bird, etc.etc.etc.

Harmless right?

Instead of getting a reply from the person who posted the photo, I get this response from someone different saying” What’s wrong with just helping her and answering the question”?

My response to this person was that I wanted to help her to try to figure out the species using field marks. And by doing this she’ll become a better birder. By just giving the answer we’re not really helping her. Wouldn’t you think this would be more rewarding? (Refer to my math question)

Then a totally different person replied with ” Be the kind of birder you want to be and let others be the kind  they want to be. We each can decide what is most rewarding for ourselves”.

I never got a response from the original person.

I just dropped the thread, thinking by this time it was a hopeless cause to help.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence, everyday very common birds are being posted wanting ID help, and someone will give up the answer. And when I say common, I mean as common as a House Finch. Does this person not own a field guide and why not? They take photos of birds and joined a birding Facebook Group, I would assume they would own a field guide or have at least one on their phone.

REALLY!

But it’s not just the question from the new birder that bothers me the most, the fact that they’re coming across in their post as not even trying. No mention of what the bird looks like, coloration, field marks, size comparison to other birds. Where the bird was seen, or any other type of observation, let alone the mention of using a field guide. No, they want someone to ID the bird for them. And if you want to help, you get the “snarky” responses.

The instant gratification of the digital camera and Facebook responsiveness is killing the thought process that makes the skilled birder. Facebook can be a great tool, and I use it everyday. To teach someone face to face is totally different, however with so many users of Facebook out there and their need to “know right now” attitude, trying to teach someone using this kind of media can be difficult, but it can be done, only if people are willing to learn.

P.S. The sad truth is if I posted this editorial on this one particular Facebook page, I’d probably be kicked off, that would be after all the “snarky” replies.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

From my family to all my loyal readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving. And just like 2 years ago I’d like to share one of my favorite holiday songs. I hope you enjoy it as I often do during this time of year.