Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I took these a few weeks ago at Sandy Hook. While I was manning the hawk watch platform, this Brown Thrasher sang basically non-stop for 4 hours or so from a few different perches.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Gray Hairstreak

My first Gray Hairstreak of the year and the first for Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary for 2008.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Barred Owl Call

I mentioned in a previous post that I got a Barred Owl to call on my "Beginner Walk" last Sunday. Here's some video of my attempt:

And here's what a real one sounds like:

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Photo Becomes a Painting

I got an email from a former co-worker who knew I liked nature. She asked me to send some photos because they were re-painting a clothing drop-off box in the parking lot of my old place of work in honor of Earth Day.

Here's the photo they chose - an Allen's Hummingbird.

And here's how it turned out:

I didn't get to help with the painting due to a meeting, but they want me to stop by to sign it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bird Stuff on

If you're not familiar with it, Etsy is a site where anyone can buy and sell handmade crafts. Thanks to my sister Mary for pointing out some artists who are making really nice bird-related crafts. Check them out:

Bird Nerd on (Gorgeous collages and linocut prints)

Birdspoke on (Brooches and necklaces - AKA "chick stuff")

Go to Etsy and search for "bird" and you'll see about 1600 pages of interesting crafts for all tastes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day at My Work

Did your company do anything special for Earth Day today? My company hosted an Earth Day Fair in our cafeteria. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights:

1. Office Depot was giving out recycled folders and free pens. Unfortunately, each pen came in a plastic bag the size of a sandwich bag!

2. They gave out Marcal recycled toilet paper. It was pretty funny carrying a roll of TP to a meeting. We use the same TP at home. I highly recommend it. It's soft!

3. They had an excellent display on zero VOC and low VOC paint sponsored by Sherwin Williams.

4. They gave out Blue Spruce saplings. Why not something native to NJ?

5. Our landscaping company was giving out seed packets. I asked if they contained all native plants and got a funny look. I picked one up and noticed "Chinese Forget-me-not" on the back and said, "I guess not. I'll pass."

6. Our company's Seek the Source Team, who work to make sure our paper providers use legally obtained and recycled products, was there filming employees talking about why forests are important. I knew ahead of time that they'd be doing this so I prepared a little speech on the boreal forest. I hope it makes it to their web site.

7. I found out the company is working towards a LEED for Existing Buildings certification! Very cool.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Most Hardcore Birder Ever

This guy is the most hardcore birder ever. First, he's the first shirtless birder I can recall seeing out in the field. Second, I've seen plenty of birding tattoos and I'll probably get one someday, but this gentleman has taken it to the extreme. He had two hawks down either side of his ribcage which resembled a cross between an Osprey and a Red-tailed Hawk. His back held a huge set of wings that stretched from the middle of his back over the backs of his arms to his biceps. He also had a Native American Thunderbird on his ankle. All the tattoos were done very tastefully and very beautifully in "black and gray" technique. Do you have a bird-related tattoo? Please share in the comments.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Beginner Birding Walk Results

Today I led a beginner birder walk at Sandy Hook for NJ Audubon. We had the largest group yet for one of these walks. I had recruited some family members to join the walk along with some friends including our wedding photographer and the Owlman himself. Word spread and other people who I didn't know signed up for the trip. We ended up with almost 20 people, including 2 kids which is always great.

Double-crested Cormorants in the fog

The weather started out horrible with strong cold winds off the ocean and a lot of fog. I tried to lead the group on one path but the wind was too much. The fog began to lift and we headed over to Spermaceti Cove - a boardwalk that juts into the bay. We got great views of an Osprey nest, a male Red-breasted Merganser, a ton of Double-crested Cormorants, and a few Brant. Two distant American Oystercatchers, always a cool bird to see, were enjoyed as well.

An Osprey pair

The wind was still pretty strong, so I decided to seek shelter in a more wooded area. We headed north to bird the Raccoon Alley area for song birds. This bike path and road through a stretch of hollies, cedars, and hackberries is great for songbirds.

The highlight of the day came when I gathered the group in front of a large expanse of short trees and shrubs. I told them that there was a marsh behind this area and that I was going to attempt to call a Barred Owl even though I found it embarrassing doing an owl call. I pulled out my best "Who cooks for you?" call. A few calls into the howling wind did nothing. The wind calmed for a second and I gave another call. Sure enough, a Barred Owl called back. Now, THAT was what I call a real crowd-pleaser.

Bird-wise, Raccoon Alley held little variety buy quite a few birds. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers frustrated my new birder friends with their usual behavior. A singing Blue-headed Vireo made a brief appearance. More sedentary birds like Downy Woodpecker and Cedar Waxwings showed their stuff too.

Our last stop was the north end of Sandy Hook and the hawk watch platform. Due to the weather, which had improved a bit by now, there was no hawk counter on duty. From the platform, we saw a few American Kestrels in the far distant sand dunes. We also found a Brown Thrasher singing his head off in a shrub and a few Brown-headed Cowbirds. We ended the trip with a few Sharp-shinned Hawks flying over some of Sandy Hooks old buildings.

Thanks so much to all who attended today! My next beginner walk is June 22. Full trip species list is below.

From 4/20/2008 to 4/20/2008 ~ All Places ~ 47 seen
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Glossy Ibis
Canada Goose
Red-breasted Merganser
Sharp-shinned Hawk
American Kestrel
American Oystercatcher
American Herring Gull
Laughing Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown Creeper
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
European Starling
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
House Sparrow
-------- STATISTICS --------
Species seen - 47

Friday, April 18, 2008

2nd Blogiversary!

Wow, I just realized that today is my 2nd blogiversary! I had some early posts in 2005, but I really started with this post on April 18, 2006. The rest is history. I will be celebrating my blogiversary by doing a lot of birding this weekend. Shout-outs go to all the great people I've "met" since I've started blogging - Mike, Corey, Sharon, John R., John B., Charlie, Laura, Will, Rick, Delia, Jochen, the Susans, and many others. For the ones I haven't met in person, I look forward to that time and I look forward to meeting many more bloggers and online folks.

And special thanks to Beth for providing many pictures and for buying me a URL.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seeing David Sibley at the Newark Museum

Tonight, Beth and I attended a lecture by David Allen Sibley at the Newark Museum as part 1 of their series "The Art & Science of Birding." The evening started with a wine and cheese reception where we got to see some familiar faces, drink some good wine, and eat some tasty cheese.. I also got to meet David and have him sign my Eastern Sibley pocket guide. We sat and chatted for a few minutes and I asked him specifically about blogging. He mentioned how it's difficult to find time to blog and how he didn't realize how much work it would be to write posts, do all of the follow-ups on comments, and other regular blog maintenance. I told him I appreciated the quality and substantive nature of his posts and how I know that's much harder than writing trip reports and corny jokes like I do at times.

David's lecture was titled Scientific Observations, Artistic Interpretations. The presentation focused on his coming-of-age as both a birder and an artist. It was amazing to see some of his early drawings from the time he was 13 up to his current works. One prime example of his progression was shown through the drawing of a Hawk Owl (of all things!). Through a series of different encounters with this bird over a 20 year period, he showed how he learned to add detail and refine his art into what we know today. He also talked a bit about how he struggled with different layouts for his field guide before settling on the side-by-side comparison approach.

After the lecture he answered a few questions. Someone dropped the Ivory-billed Woodpecker question and David stood by the assessment he made during his co-written analysis of the Luneau video. All in all, it was a fun evening. If you're around NJ next Thursday, Kevin Karlson is doing the second presentation in the series.

And David, if you're reading, that silhouette drawing of the Hawk Owl standing on the twig was really awesome and would have a very nice place on this blog. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My First Pair of Binoculars

My first pair of binoculars were borrowed (AKA stolen) from my dad. They were Bushnell 7 X 50 Zoom binoculars. My dad purchased them sometime in the early 80's I think. They were always with us on our childhood birding excursions and I saw many life birds with them. When I picked up birding again after college, they were the binoculars I used for a few years. A few things stood out about them:

  • They were created in the time before adjustable eyecups and I wore glasses when I first started birding. A friendly hawk counter showed me how to roll the eyecups down to allow my eyes to be closer. Unfortunately, old age had dried out the rubber eyecups and they cracked off.
  • They had a "rocking" focus wheel instead of the traditional spinning one. I actually liked this feature and felt it was easy to use. I'm not sure why it was never used in more binoculars.
  • The zoom feature was interesting. With the swing of a small lever by the left eyepiece, I could zoom from 7x to 10x and quickly lose 50% of my field of view (which wasn't much to begin with). Leica tried to bring back this feature with their Duovid binoculars which didn't last in the market too long. I never got to try them and I don't see any stores carrying them now.
  • The neck strap was the worst neck strap ever. It was a half-inch wide plastic neck strap that cut into my neck and stuck to me on hot days.
  • Other than these features, I managed pretty darn well with them. And when I upgraded, I think I was a better birder for having birded with less superior optics.
What was your first pair of binoculars? Please post your story to your blog and leave a comment here. If you don't have a blog, leave your story in the comments.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Binocular Strap Poll

An informal poll:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Read John Muir for Free

Are you a fan of the writings of famed naturalist John Muir? The Sierra Club has all of his writings including the text of all of his books on their web site. You can read them there for free or, if you prefer to feel a book in your hand, I'm sure you can get them from your library or favorite bookstore.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

National Wildlife Week 4/19-26

National Wildlife Week is April 19-26. How can you celebrate? Here are a few ways:

1. Host a community service event for young people in your area. It could be a park cleanup, invasive plant removal, or anything to help wildlife. Get some ideas here.
2. Take someone birding, especially a child.
3. Ensure that your yard is friendly to wildlife.
4. Come on my Beginning Bird Walk at Sandy Hook on Sunday, April 20!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

New Butterfly Conservation Web Site

Today the Massachusetts Butterfly Club announced a new area on their website dedicated to butterfly conservation. Here, you can find: (1) a list of things individuals can do to promote butterfly conservation, including a gardening handout that can be printed out; (2) mowing guidelines for fields and grasslands, which can also be printed out and distributed to anyone; and (3) a list of articles and resources on habitat needs of particular species, many available right on the page as PDF files. This is a great resource for individuals and organizations, for property managers, and for stewardship organizations, among others. It has a bit of a Massachusetts slant, but the general concepts and information are applicable far beyond that state. The page and files can be accessed here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Planning a trip to Oregon

Beth and I are heading to the Portland, Oregon area the last week of May for a little vacation. I'm going to squeeze in some birding for sure. I've already tapped into a sure-fire resource in my buddy the Born Again Birdwatcher for some inside tips. If anyone has any must-see things in Oregon within 3 hours or so of Portland, let me know in the comments section. I'll be sure to publish a list of my 10 most wanted birds before the trip and we'll see how we do!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hummingbird Jockey

How would you like to ride one of these?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Birding with 10,000 Birds

Today I had the distinct honor to be the first blogger to go birding with the entire 10,000 Birds crew and what an honor it was! Mike, Corey, and Charlie are not only top-notch bloggers, birders, and human beings, but are a lot of fun to go birding with. All in all we had a terrific day with unexpectedly great weather. The only downside of the day was that I forgot both memory cards for my camera! D'oh!

We started our day at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where we saw some nice early migrants along with many lingering winter birds. It was nice to see Chipping Sparrows in breeding plumage followed by American Tree Sparrows for a comparison of these Spizella comrades. Hundreds of Greater Scaup sprinkled with various other ducks made for a pleasant sight. First of the year birds for me included Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern, and American Oystercatchers. The sun came out, in conflict with the local weatherman's report, to make today one of the best days of the year.

We then headed over to Big Egg Marsh in search of "salt sparrows." We trudged through a little muck, but couldn't pull out a sparrow. While the 10,000 Birds guys were off plodding through mussels beds, I heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and got some excellent views of this neat little bird. Unfortunately, it disappeared before the rest of the guys got to see it.

Our third stop was further out on Long Island at the Oceanside Marine Nature Study area. This was a really interesting place - a salt marsh smashed between a major suburban community and a golf course. All of the roads around the marsh have golf-themed names like Slice Drive and Bunker Road. We explored the boardwalks where we saw a single Glossy Ibis, American Kestrel, and Greater Yellowlegs. Unfortunately, there were no sparrows here either.

We wrapped up the day with some delicious Long Island pizza. Whoever thought to put Buffalo chicken on a pizza is a genius. Thanks to the 10,000 Birds guys for letting me tag along.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Big Marmot Announcement

It gives me great pleasure to announce that The Hawk Owl's Nest will now be known as The Marmot's Burrow. For far too long, marmots have not been given the respect they deserve in the Blogosphere. While bird blog after bird blog has popped up, no marmot blogs have appeared. So, since someone has to do it, I will pave the way and become the initiator of the marmot blog movement.

For a long time now, marmots have been celebrated in few ways - the most well-known way being that exploitative "Groundhog's Day" in February. I'll be sure to make it my first order of business to destroy this longtime disrespect of the wonderful cute Marmota genus member, the Woodchuck. My second order of business will be to start the first and only marmot-themed blog carnival - officially known as "Me & The Marmot." Be sure to participate on every 2nd of a month beginning with the letter "F". I also plan to interview well-known marmot artists, publish the latest in marmot news, and review all of the latest marmot books.

This summer, I will lead several "marmotting" trips with hopes of finding vagrant marmots to increase our state checklist to two or possibly three marmot species. Be sure to check back for more info. My life marmot list currently stands at 2 and my yard list is 0. I plan to put out a few feeders to attract some yard marmots and hopefully increase my yard list.

Happy April Fool's Day!