Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
I don't know if you've been keeping up with the UK couple who have spent 2008 trying to break the record for most species seen in one year. They did break the record and here's a nice article about their experience. Read more about their adventures and see photos at their blog.
Posted by Patrick B. at 11:07 AM
It's the latest thing to do... posting the top X birding moments of 2008. Sorry that posting has been slow lately (like the last 6 months). It's been a crazy, but wonderful year with getting married, travelling to some nice places, and getting through some rough times. So here they are, the birding highlights of 2008 in no order.
Talking about the Great Backyard Bird Count with Martha Stewart!
Being one of the guides at the Cumberland County Eagle Fest.
Calling a Barred Owl during a beginner's walk.
Birding in Oregon, especially the nesting seabirds and temperate rainforests.
Birding in Australia
Posted by Patrick B. at 10:11 AM
Sunday, December 21, 2008
View Larger Map
Let's get this out of the way: The title of this post is not a reference to any large white owls that we found. It's a reference to the winter wonderland that was the 34th Sandy Hook Christmas Bird Count. About 3 inches of snow fell Friday in this part of NJ, followed by freezing rain. This made the roads at Sandy Hook equivalent to the ice at Madison Square Garden and the beach and dunes look like an arctic wasteland. As usual, our area was the "north end" of Sandy Hook which includes the infamous "death march" - a 3/4 mile walk out to the Sandy Hook's northern tip looking towards New York. Did I mention it's probably the windiest spot on Sandy Hook too? As my buddy Mike put it, it's like we've been banished to Siberia. You can see our area in the map above.
The wintery conditions turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The frozen sand made traipsing up and down the dunes much easier than walking on the usual soft sand. Unfortunately, the birds were smarter than us. Birds were scarce, but the ones we found were terrific. Highlights form our group included:
- A Common Moorhen that's been around throughout the fall - a count first!
- The only Ruby-crowned Kinglets of the whole count
- The only Orange-crowned Warbler
- The only American Coots
- A young Red-shouldered Hawk - a nice winter bird at Sandy Hook that was also seen by another group
- 100's of Long-tailed Ducks - a ferry drove by in the distance and sheets of Long-tailed Ducks leapt off the water to escape it
PS - in case you're wondering, I didn't bring my camera because the weather report called for icy rain. I brought a small point-and-click, but forgot the memory card. D'OH!
Posted by Patrick B. at 10:16 AM
Friday, December 19, 2008
Like any good lover of a specific thing, we have a variety of ornaments related to that thing. For people who love hippos, they end up with lots of hippo ornaments. For people who like birds, it's bird ornaments. Here are some highlights of the ones on our tree.
My aunt gave me a whole set of these Lenox birds for a housewarming gift. They are pretty authentic. I also have a Blue Jay, GC Kinglet, RB Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, a Junco, and a few others.
Beth got me this one a few years back. It's Santa the Birder!
I have a set of three of these birdwatching S'Mores ornaments. One is holding a field guide and the other has a little camera.
This was a gift from my sister-in-law and brother. It's a neat owl made out of natural materials.
I think Bet's grandmother got us this one.
Our tree is covered in ornaments that we get on vacations. We get one or more on every trip. This was from Kennebunkport, Maine.
The S'Mores cameraman.
A random chickadee.
That's it. There are a few more on the tree, but these are the highlights.
Posted by Patrick B. at 8:57 AM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Christopher of Picus Blog tagged me with the 6 Random Facts meme. Yesterday at our work holiday party, we did a game where we had a list of 20 random facts and a list of 20 names we had to match to the facts. The most interesting fact was that someone I work with has color synesthesia. I did 7 Random Facts and 8 Random Facts, so I'll add 6 new ones.
1. I have an informal collection of PEZ dispensers - probably 50 or so.
2. I have an almost insatiable sweet tooth - chocolate, toffee, and, well, PEZ!
3. I have two degrees, neither of which is directly related to my job: a BS in Computer Science and an MS in Management Information Systems.
4. Related to 3... I work as a project manager on a training team building all sorts of training related to internal company projects.
5. I love reading, but I was a terrible reader as a kid. I did a book report on the same book three times: The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow. (Man, they'll put anything on the web...)
6. I owned a didgeridoo BEFORE we went to Australia.
Posted by Patrick B. at 9:17 PM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
On Saturday I had the honor of becoming the godfather for one of my twin nieces, Olivia. My sister is the godmother. Lily is the other half of the twin cuties. Here are some pics.
My brother holding Olivia while she's blessed with holy water. The girls were so good. Neither of them cried. That's my dad taking pics and my sister-in-law with her brother and Lily in the back.
Posted by Patrick B. at 10:51 AM
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Did I mention I love memes? The latest meme around the bird blog world is the Top 5 Most Desired Life Birds. I'll stick to regularly occurring birds in the continental US to narrow it down to a smaller list. In no order:
1. Black Rail - I want to see one, not hear one.
2. Black Swift - An interesting bird. I've tried and failed a few times to see one. At least I got to see some nice waterfalls.
3. Elf Owl - It's tiny. And cool.
4. White-headed Woodpecker - gorgeous bird.
5. Kirtland's Warbler - it's just a matter of getting to Michigan (or Wisconsin now I guess) to see one!
Posted by Patrick B. at 9:59 PM
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 8:01 PM
Saturday, December 06, 2008
I'm a sucker for memes and I borrowed this meme from Lynne at Hasty Brook. Bold the things that you've done and feel free to add comments like I did. Let me know if you post it on your blog.
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (school band and a Xmas carol band)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (hiked up a mountain)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang/played a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (nope, and I live 30 min. from it!)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb (do chops count?)
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (both solar and lunar)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run (in wiffle ball)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (I've been on a pelagic birding trip!)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class (I actually have a black belt in American Isshinryu)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (I've eaten plenty)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (accidentally!)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (ALL of my Star Wars stuff)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (I was a reader for a blind man once. He never called me back. I talk too fast.)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox (shingles too)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Made a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit (if class action counts)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Gotten a speeding ticket (about 1/4 mile from our house!)
Posted by Patrick B. at 4:36 PM
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
We get free Snapple at work. On the caps, they have their Snapple Cap Facts. Here's some bird-related ones I've seen:
- The only bird that can swim and not fly is a penguin (What about the Flightless Cormorant?)
- The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backwards
- Pigeons have been trained by the U.S. Coast Guard to spot people lost at sea
- A hummingbird's heart beats 1,400 times a minute
- Penguins have an organ above their eyes that converts seawater to fresh water
I've also seen one that says, "Half of these Snapple facts are false."
Posted by Patrick B. at 3:20 PM
Monday, December 01, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I have only two complaints. First, I wish they included a page on backyard birds to show the more common birds that people will encounter. My second complaint is that the book is really large. It's 3" thick, 13" tall, and 11" wide. I fully understand that this type of book warrants this size, but you may want to keep this in mind if you purchase it. Other than these limitations, this book is a terrific book for your collection or a gift for a bird-lover in your life.
Posted by Patrick B. at 11:48 AM
Friday, November 28, 2008
As I'm prepping to compile the 74th Long Branch Christmas Bird Count, I'm finding some interesting stats about this count:
- A total of 204 species have been recorded during the first 73 counts.
- Fourteen species have been recorded every year: American Black Duck, Mallard, American Kestrel, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, European Starling, and, of course, House Sparrow.
- The most numerous species each year are typically Canada Goose, Herring Gull, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, and Common Grackle.
- The highest count of one species ever was 200,011 Common Grackles in 1954. They were called Purple Grackles back then. The second highest was 106,600 Common Grackles in 1958. The third highest was 29,339 Herring Gulls in 1996.
- House Finch was first recorded 46 years ago and has been found on every count since.
- In 2007, two new species for the count were found: Cackling Goose and Western Kingbird.
- Ruffed Grouse, a bird I've never seen in NJ, was recorded 11 times. The last time was 1984. It's become a tough bird to find in NJ due to habitat loss and deer browsing.
That's all I've got for now. It's been fun looking through the history of this count.
Posted by Patrick B. at 6:49 PM
Posted by Patrick B. at 5:23 PM
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 3:00 PM
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 3:05 PM
Saturday, November 22, 2008
1 cup sugar
2 cups creamed corn
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time.
3. Gradually mix in corn and cheeses.
4. Stir in remaining ingredients.
5. Spread evenly in a greased 9x13" cake pan.
6. Place in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 300 degress.
7. Bake for 1 hour.
Posted by Patrick B. at 10:51 AM
Friday, November 21, 2008
I borrowed this from the guys at 10,000 Birds. Check out Typealyzer and analyze what type of blog your blog is. Like 10,000 Birds, readers of this blog are categorized as "Doers." I'd be curious to know if all birding blogs fall into this category. Let me know what yours is in the comments. Another interesting note is that Typealyzer displays the Meyers-Briggs type for "Doers" as ESTP. I am actually an ENTJ, so it's a bit odd that my blog doesn't align with my type.
Posted by Patrick B. at 1:49 PM
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I attended my first Monmouth County Audubon meeting on Wednesday night (why haven't I been going to this club all these years?). My impetus for attending was to see Rob Fergus, aka The Birdchaser, speak about "Urban Bird Ecology and Conservation". Also, it was a great way to meet a fellow blogger, especially one whose blog I read regularly. Rob, a Senior Scientist for urban bird conservation at National Audubon, spoke about the perils of birds in urban environments and the tons of ways that we can help these birds. Rob's speech was inspiring and at the same time humorous, educational, and engaging. I won't go into too much more about Rob's presentation, in case you have a chance to see it yourself (which I hope you do!). I doubt you'll find another conservation-themed presentation out there that mentions both Mt. St. Helens AND Madonna! You can check out Rob's other blog Audubon Birdscapes to find out more about what you can do to help urban birds. Once again, it was terrific to meet another blogger in person. Hopefully next time, we'll get to bird.
Posted by Patrick B. at 12:30 PM
Monday, November 10, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 9:15 AM
Friday, November 07, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 3:10 PM
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 3:25 PM
Sunday, November 02, 2008
I was recently asked to take over as the compiler of the Long Branch Christmas Bird Count. I wish the circumstances were better. Unfortunately, the former compiler, who has been doing a stellar job for 17 years, has some health issues (Get well G!).
Long Branch is a fairly prestigious count in NJ with many of the state's top birders coming out to participate. It's blessed with a great diversity of habitats including the ocean, lots of seaside freshwater lakes, grasslands, forests, and marshes - pretty much all the major habitats to be found in NJ. The count has taken place every year since 1935. In the last 20 years, it's averaged about 115 species per year. The highest count was 127 species in 2000. Rarities include Dovekie, Little Gull, Cackling Goose, Red-necked Grebe, Greater White-fronted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Dickcissel, Common Redpoll, and many others.
The count is on January 3. I'll also be participating as a counter as I am taking over the territory covered by the former compiler. It is an inland location that includes a lot of state park property at Allaire State Park. It includes a few lakes, some marshes, farmland, and lots of woodlands. It's a relatively unfamiliar area for me. I scouted it yesterday and it's extremely promising. There are some count birds that could be my responsibility to find that are not easily found elsewhere. These are birds like Eastern Meadowlark, Winter Wren, and Wood Duck. I'm excited about this opportunity and honored to have been recommended by some fellow birders to take over this count. I'll keep you all posted on how it goes!
Posted by Patrick B. at 5:34 PM
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 11:07 PM
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
As I look out the window of my boss's office (like I'm cool enough to have my own window!), there's about an inch of slushy snow on all the cars, a small bit of slush on the road, snow-covered grass and trees, and snow still falling. It's not too often we get snow in October here in NJ. Crazy!
Posted by Patrick B. at 12:23 PM
Sunday, October 26, 2008
A pause from the Australia bird posts (oh, there's more to come!)... Today I led my quarterly "Birding for Beginners" walk at Sandy Hook. Of the six people I had signed up for the trip, only ONE showed and she wasn't even on my list! So, my one participant got a personal tour of Sandy Hook. It was a beautiful day with birds to be seen. The highlight of the day was a Common Moorhen in North Pond - a freshwater area on Sandy Hook. Common Moorhens are less than annual at The Hook and this was the first I've seen there. Cool bird. I was able to get my one participant on the bird for her life Common Moorhen.
Then she asked me a tough question, "How did you know this was an unusual bird?" and she followed it up with, "Why isn't it a duck?" The answer to the first question was simple enough, "It takes practice, knowing what to expect where and when, and just being familiar with the local birds." The second question took some referencing to the field guide, bill comparison, leg comparison, and general shape comparison. Still, when I peered through my binoculars at the moorhen swimming in the water, I could clearly see how one might look at the duck section of the field guide first. It's one of the challenges of being a new birder. I always find myself pointing out cormorants, loons, and grebes and describing them as duck-like but then trying to explain why they're not ducks.
Sorry, no pics today. My photographer, AKA my wife, was ill. She's good now though.
Posted by Patrick B. at 5:16 PM
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Our cassowary experience started with a rainforest tour of the Daintree Rainforest in northern Queensland - the most ancient rainforest on earth. We spent the day touring different areas of the rainforest, all the while looking out for Southern Cassowaries. Sadly, many cassowaries have been killed by vehicles so there are signs throughout to the area like the one above. The local wildlife managers have gotten into the habit of chasing off cassowaries by smacking them on the bum with plastic pipes. This has made human interaction and sightings less frequent - good for the birds, not so good for the birder.
Posted by Patrick B. at 8:00 AM
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 10:38 AM
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 10:37 PM
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 11:12 PM
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 10:35 PM
Monday, October 13, 2008
About 10 years ago I saw a Tawny Frogmouth at the Bronx Zoo. I thought it was one of the coolest birds I had ever seen. When we decided to go to Australia, I had my heart set on seeing one of the Frogmouth species that lives there. While we were in Port Douglas near the Daintree Rainforest in Northern Queensland, we took a night tour of the rainforest. The tour was awesome and I'll post more about that later. On the downside, we didn't see a Frogmouth or any other nocturnal bird.
When we left Port Douglas, we drove through the mountains back to the city of Cairns. By sheer miracle, we passed by the Kingfisher Bird Lodge and I pulled in. What a cool place! It was very much like the birding lodges I've stayed at in Costa Rica. I met one of the owners and we chatted a bit. He said I could bird there for $5 and that he also knew a spot where a Papuan Frogmouth roosted! He walked Beth and me to the spot pointing out a few other birds to us. Lo and behold, there was the Papuan Frogmouth perched high in a tree. Here's a blurry pic. What an awesome bird!
Posted by Patrick B. at 8:10 PM
We just got back from Australia. Sorry I didn't post more. Internet access was expensive ($25/day!) and free time was minimal. I saw some great birds and we had an awesome time. While I dig out of luggage and wedding stuff, please enjoy this odd little video.
This is "The Bird Call Lady" who has been on Jay Leno and Ellen Degeneres. I came across this while searching unsuccessfully for a recording of an emu. This woman can imitate over 150 bird calls. She does a pretty darn good version of a Red-shouldered Hawk in the video below. A complete list of the calls she can do is on her web site.
Posted by Patrick B. at 2:57 PM
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 4:44 PM
Sunday, September 21, 2008
If you're a butterfly enthusiast like I am, you have probably heard of the butterflies known as "crackers" in the genus Hamadryas. These interesting leps produce a cracking sound via swollen veins in the forewings which strike one another if the male forces the wing upstroke to maximum amplitude. The females lack this sound-producing mechanism. A gentleman living in the Rio Grande Valley posted a really neat video of a Guatemalan Cracker in his yard making this cracking noise. I have never seen it in person, but it's quite a sight to see on the video. I've been told that the video features a particularly agitated individual. The cracks are usually not as frequent as seen in the video. Enjoy!
Posted by Patrick B. at 3:14 PM
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Posted by Patrick B. at 11:19 PM
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Hey all, I've been a bit lax in posts. Our wedding is two weeks away so we're in major wedding planning mode. The honeymoon details are still being worked out. I became an uncle this week of two beautiful little twin girls! Three of my friends also had babies in the last 10 days. Craziness! So stay tuned for more nature-related posts when things tone down a bit.
Posted by Patrick B. at 11:29 PM
Saturday, September 06, 2008
I've succumbed to the pull of Facebook a bit. If you're on, look me up! I've found a few bloggers on there already. It's interesting that Facebook seems to be appealing to a much wider audience than MySpace does, which is a good thing. I like the fact that the Facebook profiles are a bit more standardized. I was a but frustrated with the templates that people used on MySpace that I thought reverted the web back to 1996.
Posted by Patrick B. at 5:06 PM
Wow, it's doing some serious raining here today! I'm dealing with a little leak in my basement too. Ugh! As you can see, I didn't do any storm birding. A few weeks ago, Beth and I did do some birding on my birthday to the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The flies were biting pretty viciously so I spent most of my time in the car. The car acted as a nice blind to get some cool pics of this beautiful Great Egret. On my beginner walks, Great Egrets are always guaranteed crowd-pleasers.
Posted by Patrick B. at 4:24 PM