Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Mother Lode of Birding Magazines

I inherited a few large stacks of birding magazines recently including most/all issues of Birding, American Birds, Winging It, and NJ Audubon magazine back to 1982. I'm not sure how far each goes back, but there's a significant collection there. Unfortunately, they were inherited from a NJ birder who is ill. I wish JW great health! I'll be looking through them over the next several months. I'll post any articles or interesting things that I'm allowed to. It should be a fun historical look at birding, especially the NJ stuff.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Spider with a Skull Tattoo

I couldn't believe it when I first saw this photo on Flickr. A spider with a skull on it! If you look at other photos of this spider, you can see that this Ladybird Spider just happens to have worn out the red pattern out a bit into that skull shape. Pretty wild!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I & The Bird #80

Marv Michaels: Welcome all readers to the first ever I & The Bird Summer Olympics here in sunny Piscataway, New Jersey. Marv Michaels here!

Al Cosell: And I'm Al Cosell. Marv, I'm surprised that they've never had the Olympics here in Piscataway.

Marv: Well, there's a reason for that Al... this place is pretty darn boring!

Al: Ok then! Let's get started with the opening ceremonies. We have quite a few events this year and representatives from across the globe participating in each of them. Our events this year include Trip Reports, Biology, Conservation, Yard Birding, and Close Encounters with Nature.

Marv: Those are just terrific events Al. I can't wait to see what each participant brings to the table. Let's get started!

Al: We're going to introduce the participants of each event as they make their way around Piscataway Municipal stadium for the opening ceremonies. First up is the Trip Reports event - a challenging, but always fun, event each year. Our first participant has traveled far to be here. All the way from far northern Canada comes Clare of The House and Other Arctic Musings with Nyah nyah nyah, you can't see me.

Marv: From further west in Canada, but not as far north, it's Susannah of The Wanderin' Weeta. In exploring her neighborhood, she discovered Two Doves and a Dragon.

Al: Boy, those two came pretty far.

Marv: But not as far as our next blog-athlete. Amila of Galicissa is representing the great nation of Sri Lanka in this event with his wonderful story and photos in Confessions of a Peak Dodger.

Al: Rumor has it that he has some dragonfly pictures up his sleeve!

Marv: It's an unprecendented year for Sri Lanka. Another participant from this great land is Kalu Sudda from Kalusudda Comments with Of Birds and Promises to Galicissa.

Al: Isn't this event a wonderful way to learn the bird-related happenings around the world?

Marv: It sure is, Al. And here comes a daring duo from down under - Duncan from Ben Cruachan Blog and Gouldiae from Gouldiae's Blog are bringing the heavy weapons with their reports of a trip they made together in Jack Smith Lake Birds and Parrot Survey respectively.

Al: Stiff competition indeed Marv! Oh boy, here we have an interesting competitor. Although he hails from the US, David of Search & Serendipity is representing Australia in Oz From Top to Bottom but is living in the Solomon Islands temporarily. How does he do it?

Marv: Australia sure is represented well in this event. Here comes Mick of Sandy Straits and Beyond flashing his Australian flag. He's telling his tale of Noosa River Birding - July.

Al: Wow Marv! It's going to be quite the battle in the Trip Reports event. And the field of participants gets deeper! Here comes Gavin Bieber of The Wingbeat: The WINGS Birding Blog. He's Off to Southeast Asia as soon as the event ends.

Marv: And our only UK participant in this event is the world-traveling Charlie from 10,000 Birds. His tale of So How’d Abuja Suit Ya? is an intriguing one.

Al: It sure is. That Charlie is hard to keep track of sometimes. And last but not least, here comes the American team for the Trip Reports event. First we have, Nathan from The Drinking Bird. He's telling us about the time In which I get crabs.

Marv: Boy, I hope that's not what it sounds like.

Al: Here's a newcomer to the I & The Bird Olympics. It's Leah of Bluebird of Friendliness who had a great field trip where she found Love at the Salt Marsh. Let's hope this isn't the last time we see her!
Marv: For sure, Al! And here we have a latecomer to the games, it's Drew from The Nemesis Bird.
Al: While quite a nemesis bird for him, he does have a nice tale of a White Ibis at the flats.

Marv: Our last participant in this event is the ever-wandering, Paul of the Wandering Tattler. I understand that at next year's event, he'll be coming to us from Montana, but for this year he's making one last run at Arizona in Madera Revisited... One Last Time.

Al: Whew, that is some group of participants in that event and each one of them has some wonderful work to share.

Marv: What's next Al? Oh wait, it's our Bird Biology event. Some of the best amateur and professional biologists around are here to share their findings. I know I'm excited.

Al: Hang on to your pantyhose there, Marv.

Marv: HEY! Anyway, first up we have the US contingent. Here's talented artist Carel from Rigor Vitae. He tells us When the Going Gets Tough, The Tufts Get Going.

Al: Next in the cavalcade is John at A DC Birding Blog who presentes us with some insights on the Evolution of the Wood Warblers.

Marv: You gotta love those warblers!

Al: Yes indeed.

Marv: Also representing the US is one of our veteran competitors: Grrlscientist. For this event, she's Singing the Praises of Mr. Personality.

Al: And here's our last US athlete, Nick of Biological Ramblings. Some may deny that blogging is not athletic, but once you read Nick's report entitled Ramblings of a Field Biologist, you will not think so.

Marv: So what does a Bee-eater do after a meal? That's what our lone Singapore representative in this year's games is asking and he's showing us the answer. Here he is, it's YC from the Bird Ecology Study Group.

Al: And here comes our lone Canadian participant in this event. It's Gavan from Gavan Central. Gavan shares with us that Acadian flycatchers prefer the country to the city to nest.

Marv: What excellent contributions to these Olympics in that category. Up next is the Conservation event. This event has become more and more popular and more important from year to year.

Al: It certainly is, Marv. It's my favorite event. First in line in our parade of bloggers is Nick of the US from The Birdist. He's discussing Birds and Offshore Wind Energy 2.

Marv: Next up it's the always fun Susan from Susan Gets Native. Her contribution to this year's events is Starring Susan... Oops, one of her owls just pooped on her shoe.

Al: Do I smell coffee?

Marv: Indeed you do, here comes US team member BirdBarista of Coffee & Conservation. Always a champion for conservation, she wants us to Know your coffee birds: Blue-crowned Motmot.

Al: Those Motmots are a favorite of mine and I'm sure most birders feel the same.

Marv: Our last American team member for this event is Dave from Bird TLC. Not only does he run a great rehab clinic, but he had the pleasure of attending the 2008 Midnight Sun Intertribal Pow Wow to release an eagle.

Al: Midnight sun? I hope it's not as hot there as it is here in New Jersey!

Marv: I'm sure it's cooler than it is here. Speaking of cooler places, a great champion of conservation in Jeff Wells of the Boreal Bird Blog tells us why 300 Million Birds Say "Thanks"

Al: Wow, listen to those cheers for all of these Conservation participants!

Marv: And here come the participants for our next event - Yard Birding!

Al: Here's the American team in theie red, white, and blue. First up, it's Rick Wright of Aimophila Adventures with A New Feeder, Greatly Appreciated.

Marv: A new feeder is always a great thing. Oh and here's the Born Again Birdwatcher. During our last Olympics, he might have just been simply a Birdwatcher. He's been exploring his yard and Pondering Subspecies of Steller's Jay.

Al: Also from the US, here's Larry, the Backyard Birdman. A lucky competitor indeed, he has a contingent of Ash-throated Flycatchers Coming Back In Numbers in his yard.

Marv: That's a great yard bird. Speaking of interesting yard birds... Representing Sri Lanka by way of Australia, here's Sasani with A Bird's Tale.

Al: Wow, I am really impressed with the number of participants from Sri Lanka and Australia in this year's Olympic games.

Marv: Definitely Al! The lone Canada team member is Seabrooke from The Marvelous in Nature. She knows someone up north who has Pink Flamingos for the Yard. I'm talking about the real thing, not the plastic ones.

Al: Too crazy Marv! Last but certainly not least in this event comes a blog-athlete from a mysterious tropical paradise. It's none other than Tai Haku of Earth, Wind, and Water with some Owl News.

Marv: And our last great event is a new event this year - Close Encounters with Nature.

Al: Oh that sounds like it'll be fun to see. And here come the participants out of the tunnel. First up, from the US, is Nina from Nature Remains. A veteran participant in these Olympics and a vivid writer, she's sure to be a contender with her story of Hit and Run.
Marv: Next up on the US team is Beverly at Behind the Bins. Her Pied-billed Grebe story is part photography and part humor.
Al: Her story is quite funny, albeit a bit scary. Here comes the wonderful artist Pam at Low Country WILD Nature Art & Journaling. She's a new member to the American team and she shares her Close Encounter with a Swallow-tailed Kite.

Marv: And our last US team member for this event is Liza Lee from It's Just Me. She shares a lovely tale about helping an injured bird in Wordless Wednesday with birds and words!

Al: It's a lovely story for sure.
Marv: I wonder why we only have the US team competing in this event?

Al: I'm not sure Marv, but I hope we get more and more countries participating next time. All of you viewers out there be sure to tell your friends about the I & The Bird Olympics! And as is always the case with these Olympics, the winners are the readers and the bloggers.

Marv: Well folks, that concludes our opening ceremony parade of bloggers. Up next is our requisite semi-famous music performance from a local act that only sells albums in the host country. It's New Jersey's own The Nerds! I hope you all enjoyed the opening ceremonies of the first, and probably only, I & The Bird Olympics!
I hope you guys enjoyed my silly take on I and the Bird. The next edition will be on the Marvelous in Nature on August 7. Send your link to Mike or Seabrooke (sanderling AT symbiotic DOT ca) by Tuesday, August 5.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wedding Showers and Giant Resin Bees

Sunday was Beth's wedding shower. Contrary to some practices, I attended and we had a great time. We have a living room full of gifts! An interesting thing happened after the shower. While packing up our cars in the excruciatingly hot parking lot, I noticed a large bee flying by Beth's ankle. It disappeared quickly and I initially thought it flew up her pant leg, but then realized it probably flew under the car.

Rewind a few hours in the day and I'm sitting at home reading the Jerseybirds mailing list. A local biologist posted a message mentioning a newly arrived alien species to NJ: the Giant Resin Bee. This large Asian bee has spread from North Carolina into the northeast and throughout the southeast. It's total environmental impact is not known fully, but it does compete with native carpenter and mason bees.

Fast forward several hours... we've arrive back home and have filled our living room with bags and boxes. Beth kicked off her shoes and I saw what I thought was a large piece of lint fall from her foot. I went to pick it up and it was a HUGE BEE! One wedding magazine later and it was a large dead bee. Sorry folks. It was intact and I inspected it. You can see where this story is going... it was a Giant Resin Bee!

Here are a few pictures:

Be sure to keep an eye out for these guys if you live in the "invaded" areas and report them if you see them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I & The Bird Reminder

Don't forget to send in your I & The Bird posts to me by the end of day on Tuesday. pbelardo--at--yahoo--dot--com

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Onion meets real life?

In a headline I expect to see in The Onion and not a "real" news source, Fox News has an article titled Boehner Skeptical Wildlife Lives in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You've got to be kidding me that someone actually thinks this way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Skippers and other butterflies at Wildcat Ridge

Skippers are the "gulls" of the butterfly world and each year I find myself having to re-learn the ones I thought I knew to refresh my field identification skills. It's quite an identification challenge and there's always some doubt separating certain species. On Saturday, Wildcat Ridge had a few different skipper species skipping around along with some more familiar species of butterfly. The captions below have some ID hints for some of those skippers. Enjoy!

This is a female Northern Broken-dash, identified from this angle bu the pattern of white spots. The male has a broken black stigma on the upper forewing, hence the name. This is one that's a bit easier to ID from the underside.

Delaware Skipper - it's a plain orange underneath with an orange fringe.

A bit easier to ID - a Pearl Crescent

A little skipper loving going on here - these are Little Glassywings. One nice field mark is the white at the base of the antenna club.

Eastern Tailed Blue - love the striped antennae!

This oddity caused some discussion. It's a prepupal caterpillar of a Spicebush Swallowtail.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Yet another Northern Broken-dash - here you can clearly see the hint of the "3" shape on the hindwing. In this case, it's a backwards 3 and looks more like a crescent moon.

Hope you liked them!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wheel Bug

While another member of the dragonfly trip to Wildcat Ridge was picking and eating some invasive (but tasty) wineberries, I noticed a large insect on a leaf of that plant. Over an inch long, it was an immature Wheel Bug - the largest of our assassin bugs in the US. This individual is likely a molt or two away from having the trademark spiky wheel on its back. I remarked that they likely inflict a painful bite and I wasn't surprised when I found confirmation online. Yikes! This also reminded me of a story from my childhood. I was about 9 or 10 and I had a small insect collection (a young naturalist in training!). My dad and I had stopped for hot dogs at the world famous Hot Dog Johnny's in Buttzville, NJ en route to a fishing trip. A strange, large insect was flying around the area, unlike anything we'd ever seen. I don't remember how we caught it, but it turned out to be a Wheel Bug and became a prized piece of my collection.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dragonflies of Wildcat Ridge

I spent today on a JOE trip (Jersey Odonate Enthusiasts) to Wildcat Ridge Wildlife Management Area about an hour northwest of me. JOE, an informal organization, has been around for about 3 years now, but this was my first chance to attend one of the trips. Five of us spent the day exploring the area looking for dragonflies and damselflies and whatever other interesting things crossed our paths. Enjoy the photos and captions below.

Female Eastern Pondhawk

Blue Dasher

Female Halloween Pennant

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Racket-tipped Emerald (I caught this one!)

Amber-winged Spreadwing (These spreadwings are tough to ID, although this is the only one that typically has amber in the wings.)

exuvia of an unknown dragonfly.

Female Eastern Amberwing

Slaty Skimmer - a gorgeous deep blue color.

This teneral dragonfly didn't make it very far. It got caught in a large spiderweb on the shore of a pond.

Black-shouldered Spinylegs - You can see the long tibia on this dragonfly.

Black-shouldered Spinylegs - dorsal view

Stream Bluet - we saw many of these so I'm confident I can identify them (for now)
Thanks for reading! Look for some more posts about the butterflies and other critters we saw on this trip.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I & The Bird 3rd Anniversary

Wow, it's hard to believe that I & The Bird has reached its third anniversary. Thanks to Charlie from 10,000 Birds for pulling together this edition. Be sure to read through his eloquent and thought-provoking answer to the "Why do I still blog?" question. Also, congrats to Mike from 10,000 Birds, a bird blogging pioneer in many ways, on a successful creation.

For those of you interested in the next edition of I & The Bird, I am hosting it! So please send your bird-related posts to me at pbelardo (AT) yahoo by Tuesday, July 22.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Oregon Lifer Roundup

Lots of Common Murres!

I just realized I never posted about the life birds I got in Oregon. I got seven lifers:

Vaux's Swift - They "replace" the Chimney Swifts of NJ out in Oregon. I saw them a few times over the city. Sorry, no pics.

Tufted Puffin - I posted my best (AKA worst ever) picture of some Tufted Puffins a few weeks back. They nest in small numbers on Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. It's really fun to watch them fly back and forth to the huge rock and then try to find them standing among the thousands of murres and cormorants.

Common Murre - I've never managed to see one here in NJ and I don't do many pelagics, so this was a lifer. TONS of them nest along the coast of Oregon, shoulder to shoulder practically.

A whole bunch more Murres! Every black speck is a Common Murre with a few Pelagic and Brandt's Cormorants thrown in.

Varied Thrush - One of my most wanted species in the US. We had heard them early in the trip and then on several occasions in Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach. I waited and waited. I did my best impression of their call... I peered deep into the mossy forest for a LONG time... No luck! Then, as we drove out of the park, there was one feeding right on the side of the road!

Hermit Warbler - A bird I wasn't sure I'd find, but I got lucky and found a pair nesting in the Wildwood Recreation Site east of Portland.

American Dipper - When we visited Colorado in 2006, I think I looked in 50 streams and rivers looking for this neat little bird. It was in the back of my mind for this trip, but not expected. Wildwood came through again here. We paused on a footbridge over a very strong stream and, lo and behold, there was a little Dipper sitting on a rock.

It was FAR away and on the only rock in the stream.

Townsend's Warbler - An ABA bird for me. I actually found one in Costa Rica on one of my trips there. Apparantly it was a rare bird there. They were relatively common on top of Mt. Tabor Park in Portland.
Big misses:

I tried my darndest to find Wrentit in all the popular places, but couldn't for the life of me! Oh well, it's an excuse to go back. I also missed any western Empids. I heard a few but couldn't match them up to the calls on my iPod. I also missed all the western Sapsuckers and Woodpeckers. I had many more misses, but like I said, it's an excuse to go back. Indeed, we plan to. Oregon rocks!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Why am I still blogging?

Like many other bird bloggers, I am answering the question that Mike from 10,000 Birds has posed to us to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of I and the Bird: Why the heck am I still bird blogging?

If I started by saying that I do it for my throngs of readers and their adoration of my writing, I'd be fibbing a bit. While I do cherish each reader and enjoy interacting with them, I also can see that I don't get a huge amount of hits compared to many other bird blogs. My reader count has been relatively steady since I started this blog in April 2006. I continue to blog, despite it being a bit of a chore sometimes, for several reasons:

First, I've most enjoyed the people I've met through blogging. I have met in person several bloggers from other states and other countries and have found them all to be great company. The "blog pals" I've made have been great too. When I started the blog, my goal was to network but I never thought I'd end up hiking a NY mountain to view Bicknell's Thrush with other bloggers or having dinner with a fellow blogger and his family in Oregon. The bird blog world has become a community that I want to stay engaged in and I actually feel like I'm missing out on something when I'm having a "slow period" on my blog.

Second, blogging gives me an outlet to help feel like I'm contributing to the birding community in some way - even if it's minimal. It helps motivate me to go birding, to research new birding finds, to stay abreast of the latest developments, and to help with conservation. My desire to stay involved with these things helps keep me engaged in my blogging.

Third, one of the reasons I started the blog was to learn - both from others and by writing and researching my posts. This has really worked for me and continues to work for me. Many of my posts require research that helps me to learn new natural history information while writing.

So, I hope to continue posting on this blog into the distant future and I can't wait to meet more of my readers. Thanks so much for reading, especially to the few faithful folks who always leave comments!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Birding Mentioned on CNN

New York state has a new birding trail called the Seaway Trail along Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It was granted front page status on in this article. It's always fun to see the words "birding" or "birdwatching" on the front page of a major news site.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I helped out some rare plants

American Chaffseed (not my pic)

Today, I woke up with sore fingers, some back pain, and aching feet... but it was for a good cause. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the New Jersey Pine Barrens with an old family friend who happens to be an expert biologist of this amazing habitat and also works for a non-profit conservation agency doing great work there. Our plan was to visit a few spots where a few extremely rare plants survive and to clean up some habitat around these plants. I'm sworn to secrecy on the locations of these plants, so details will be vague.

Our first stop was a roadside that holds the last population of American Chaffseed (Schwalbea americana) in the northeast. This plant is interesting. It's a hemi-parasite, meaning it has its own cholorphyll, but still parasitizes other plans for some nutrients. Fire, which has been largely subsided in the Pine Barrens, also helps this plant germinate. Unfortunately, this site also houses a pretty healthy population of Chinese Bush Clover (Lespedeza cuneata), one of the few invasives in the Pine Barrens.. Thanks go out to the state soil conservation folks who thought this plant would help reduce erosion around bridges. Too bad they didn't realize how invasive it is. It can grow very densely and crowd out other plants. Our job was to dig up all of the Chinese Bush Clover in this spot. It took us a few hours, but by the time we were done, the area was clear of Bush Clover. It'll need to be checked again next year and in successive years to keep reducing the population.

Our next stop was a location where they have been creating new habitat to plant American Chaffseed. A doctoral candidate at a local college joined us. He is the first person to discover how to grow American Chaffseed in captivity and they plan to plant hundreds of plants in the fall at this site. It was interesting watching these biologists at work discussing the different soil types and how to create the best habitat for the plants.

Our last stop was one of the last five sites for Pickering's Morning-Glory (Stylisma pickeringii). This site was also overrun by Chinese Bush Clover. Unfortunately, our shovels proved to risky for the ground-hugging morning-glory. Hand-pulling was our only option. It was back breaking work in 90+ degree heat, but it was worth it to help this precious plant.

Pickering's Morning-Glory (not my pic)

Despite the tough work, it was an extremely interesting way to spend a day. I spend so much time watching and looking at plants, birds, etc., but these folks spend their days truly doing to work on the ground. They are "fighting the good fight" and do this kind of work every day. I got to hear some insights into the politics and bureaucracy that these biologists need to deal with every day just to do their jobs. At the same time, I got to see and help some rare plants.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The "Don King" of Waxwings

As Don King would say, "The Cedar Waxwing is a splendiferous, fantastical, wonderfulous bird."