Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Happy New Year Mystery Bird

Happy New Year to all!

My co-worker sent me this greeting. Of course, I wanted to know what bird it is since it's not "one of ours." The closest thing I can come up with is the Crescent Honeyeater from Australia, a bird we definitely didn't see on our trip. Any other guesses?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Biggest Twitch Couple Breaks Record

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.

Top 5 Birding Moments of 2008

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Snowy CBC

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
Our area found 60 species. The count raked in 106 species, not near the high numbers of the last few years, but good considering the conditions. All in all, it was a chilly but fun day out.

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!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Our Bird Ornaments

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.

We have two shown here. The Pileated Woodpecker is by Marcia Poling. They sell these at the NJ Audubon stores here in NJ. She does all sorts of birds, very detailed. The one on the right is a birding birder!

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.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

6 Random Facts Meme

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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'll make you an offer you can't refuse.

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.

Olivia and me - at least I think that's Olivia...

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.

The godparents with the parents and kids.

The whole Belardo clan. As my friend Pete once said, "The Belardo men were not blessed with a lot of hair."

Friday, December 12, 2008

A good laugh

I needed a good laugh today after some missed deadlines at work stressing me out. I found this. And I thought birders were an odd bunch...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Desired Life Bird Meme

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!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Quiz Bird Answer

Thanks to those who a participated in the quiz. Here's a better pic of the bird. I'll admit that this bird threw me for a loop when I first spotted it crossing in front of my car. It was a "What the heck is that?" moment. The lack of a tail was what made it tricky. This is a way-more-than-likely-stocked female Ring-necked Pheasant. It was extremely tame and let me approach in the car within 6 feet or so as it meandered along picking at the ground. I assume the lack of tail is either the result of being raised in a cage, the result of a predator, or the result of running from a man carrying a weapon. Congrats to Kiggavik for guessing correctly. According to my brother the hunter, hens are only stocked with a permit or by the state. Private hunting clubs usually only stock males.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Quiz bird

What is it? Taken today in New Jersey. Post your answer in the comments.

"Stuff I've Done" Meme

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!)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Snapple Cap Bird Messages

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."

Monday, December 01, 2008

Bird Photography Weekly #14

It's my first time participating in Bird Photography Weekly. This Red-breasted Nuthatch photo was taken at Jones Beach in New York.