Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review: Birdscapes

You've probably seen Chronicle Books' Bird Songs from Around the World book. It's the one that lets you type in a number of a bird to hear the bird's song or call. Their latest book, Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound, is a marvel of paper and sound. Each set of pages is a pop-up of a different scene from a North American bird habitat. Swamps, farmlands, arctic tundra, Pacific rainforest, and many others are represented - seven in all. As you open each page, the sounds of the birds are played in stereo. A card on each page tells you which birds are calling during the timeline of the recording. The "paper engineering," a term I didn't know existed until I saw this book, is astounding. Each page has intricate details of foliage, landscape, and other objects. For example, in the Pacific rainforest, moss hangs free from the trees in giving a neat three-dimensional feel. You'll find youself saying, "Wow, how do they make this fold and unfold?" The drawings are accurate, detailed, and bold. The audio is crisp. Each scene will have you searching for the hidden birds and seeing new things each time. Any child who is old enough not to grab and rip the paper will really enjoy it, as will any teen, adult, or anyone who would enjoy some exposure to nature. It's a book to take out at a party and let people play with it.

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.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Interesting CBC Stats

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.

Hummingbird Beer

I came across a link to Nectar Ales while cleaning out my "Favorites" today. It's a California microbrewery that makes beers with hummingbirds on the label. Their award-winning beers have names like Red Nectar, Pale Nectar, and IPA Nectar - each with its own hummingbird on the label. I've had other bird-themed beers like Woodpecker Cider (technically not a beer I guess), Kingfisher, and Red Tail Ale. I haven't found Nectar Ales yet in NJ. If you've had any of their beers, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Butterfly needs repair and a trucker

An injured Monarch in New York was patched up by a nice couple and helped along its way by a generous trucker. Article here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Forest Park Owl

The last stop on yesterday's birding adventure with Corey was Forest Park in Queens. Any reader of 10,000 Birds has read about the great birding that Corey has experienced here. It's a great stretch of woodland oasis in a concrete jungle. I wish I had a patch like this in walking distance of my house and I don't even live in a city! Our target was the northeast's smallest owl and our search was successful thanks to Corey's eagle eye.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chilly NY Birding

I met up with Corey from 10,000 Birds today for some casual coastal birding today. We started at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where we noticed something that would continue throughout the day - IT WAS DARN COLD OUTSIDE! The cold didn't stop us for making the best of it. Jamaica Bay's smaller ponds were mostly frozen. The ones that weren't held Snow Geese, Ruddy Ducks, Greater Scaup, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and Northern Shovelers. The bay held a very large flock of Snow Geese that lifted off when we passed by. Thousands of Brant in groups large and small swam about in just about every bit of open water. Several hundred Greater Scaup bobbed up and down in the bay and were joined by the usual gulls, Bufflehead, and a smattering of Horned Grebes.

We made our way around the path at Jamaica Bay, then hopped in the car (for warmth!) to head to Jones Beach. Our first stop was the coast guard station where we didn't see much in the water there, but some land birding in the vegetation all along the road yielded some nice species. A group of sparrows feeding on the grass held a Lincoln's Sparrow and a Field Sparrow among the Song Sparrows. We also found Hermit Thrush, tons of Goldfinches with no Siskins among them, and a few Red-breasted Nuthatches. A Merlin made its best attempt to make lunch out of a Starling, unfortunately unsuccessfully. A drive through the Jones Beach parking lot yielded little else.

We then headed to Point Lookout, a spot I've visited before with Mike from 10,000 Birds and once on my own. Our goal was to look for Harlequin Ducks which can sometimes be found on the jetties here. Despite their being severely limited bird-life here, we did manage to find a lone female Harlequin Duck at the jetty. We found a few Ruddy Turnstones and one Common Loon, but this place was seriously lacking in birds compared to other times I've visited.

After a quick stop for some kick-butt pizza, we headed to Corey's home patch of Forest Park, but that story will have to wait a day or two...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Thanksgiving Recipe

With Turkey Day coming up here in the US, I thought I'd share a favorite recipe. It's actually bird-related in a way. It's the recipe for the cornbread served at The Baldpate Inn in Estes Park, Colorado. As you probably know, "Baldpate" is another name for the American Wigeon. Beth and I had the pleasure of eating at The Baldpate Inn in 2006, when this photo was taken. The food, especially the cornbread and pie, is phenomenal. They also have feeders frequented by Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Pine Siskins, Steller's Jays, and others. Enjoy the recipe!


1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
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


1. Preheat oven to 350.
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.

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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Confusing Fall Warblers on Flickr

I came across this Flickr pool today: Confusing Fall Warblers

See if you can ID them!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Glacier-nesting bird makes headlines

A father and his 14-year old son recently published an article about the first well-documented case in the world of a species other than penguins successfully nesting on the ice of a glacier. Check out the article for a fun story.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Birdchaser Speaks!

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.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hummingbird feeder vs. a Pileated Woodpecker?

A woman came in to the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory gift shop yesterday and purchased replacement yellow flowers for a hummingbird feeder like the one above. I commented how they sometimes get moldy no matter how regularly you clean them. She said, "No, that's not it. I have a Pileated Woodpecker that likes to cling to the feeder and peck the heck out of them!" That's one I hadn't heard before! I tried to find photos or videos of such a thing online, but no luck.

Friday, November 07, 2008

My Birder Groom's Cake

So, in case you missed it, Beth and I got married on September 26! Beth got me a wonderful wedding gift in the form of this custom-made groom's cake. Check out some close-ups below. Our friends Bianca and Steve made it and I think they did a stellar job considering they had never made a cake like this before. They had never even used fondant. Very impressive! It's a pretty good rendition of me with my trusty Yankees hat (which seems to have shrunk) and my binoculars (you can't see them well in the pic, they're on the left of the pic). I love it. It's sitting in our freezer now. We didn't actually take a knife and fork to it... yet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tasmanian Devil in danger of extinction

We didn't travel to Tasmania on our Australia trip, but we did see this one at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Let me tell you, this is a bizarre creature. It walks with a very stiff-legged gait, making it move in an almost robotic way. It looked like it was fake. It looks like a giant rat, but is a marsupial. Sadly, I just read that Tasmanian Devils are dying off from a horrible facial cancer. So sad!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I'm now a CBC Compiler!

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!