Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rare Visitor

This Solitary Sandpiper is apparently a rare visitor to our neighborhood. One field guide I have says it does not exist here, another says we are right on the border between "rare" and a migration route, the Cornell web site linked above says it does not even come close to SouthWest Idaho. My Idaho bird list doesn't list it at all.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Mistaken Identity

I assume most experienced birders at some time or another have experienced a similar event as to what I am describing here.

While out on a bike ride a few days back, one of our group got a flat tire on their bike. As we pulled to the side of the road to fix the flat, I hear this chatter above that sounds very much like a bird of prey. As I look up through the branches of a tall tree, I see two falcon like birds. As my brain shifted into overdriving trying to identify them, I came up blank. They appeared too large to be Kestrels, clearly weren't Peregrines, maybe a Prairie Falcons? They had the head markings of Kestrel, but they were larger and lighter in color. We continued on our ride.

The identification bothered me for the whole ride. When I got home, I went straight to the computer to do some research. Prairie Falcons do indeed have similar head markings, they are lighter in color, they do exist in our area, ... I just couldn't bring myself to believe that on a somewhat busy street in Boise Idaho, that I would see two prairie falcons in a tree. I have never even seen a Prairie Falcon before.

The next day our business was celebrating earth day and had a number of conservation organizations onsite. Representatives from the World Center for Birds of Prey were onsite with a Peregrine Falcon. Amazingly beautiful bird! I asked them about the possibility of my sighting. They too agreed that it was highly unlikely, yet it was possible in our area.

That evening, still unconvinced that I actually saw two Prairie Falcons, I returned to the same tree with my spotting scope. Same time of day, same weather, but I knew it was a longshot. Just as I got there the two birds fly in. There they were! It only took a 1 second look through the binoculars to know that they were two Kestrels. Here is the view through the scope.

I had never looked straight up at Kestrels before, always at an angle. The difference in perspective was enough for me to conclude that they were not Kestrels. The good news is that I am now experienced enough to doubt my observation that seemed out of place.

This article is featured in I and the Bird #23 blog carnival.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

I and the Bird #22 Blog Carnival now online

Another edition of I and the Bird is online. This edition also includes a link back here to my article on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Three more editions until its my turn to host. On June 8th, I and the Bird will visit Idaho!

In the mean time, I and the Bird #22 is now online at Home Bird Notes

If you appreciate the edition, leave a comment for the host!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Carnival Time Again

The Star Wars edition of the Tangled Bank is now up on Inoculated Mind

New Carnival of the Green is up on The Evangelical Ecologist

City Club of Boise - 2020 Vision: Perspectives on the Future

On April 25th, I attended the City Club of Boise's panel discussion on "2020 Vision: Perspectives on the Future". The discussion had an interesting format where the moderator first presented a doomsday vision of the valley in the year 2021. He then asked the panelists how we got there and what is life like. Shifting to more positive terms, the question of what should life be like and what it takes to get there. The panel closed with the question of are you optimistic or pessimistic about the valley's future and why.

Without going into the entire 2 hour discussion, I wanted to point out a few of the interesting responses. In the "What happened" scenario, I think Bob Kustra summed it up with a comment about what I believe is one of our biggest issues here in the valley - "Inability of leaders and citizens to recognize the value in the public good, not the private good."(approximate quote). Hilde Ayer pointed out that with the increased diversity, the community struggled with who is "we". The result was fragmented community at all levels (schools, neighborhoods, businesses, etc) and no cooperation.

As the discussion shifted to what we would like to to be like in the future, the discussion turned more optimistic, but also more controversial in how to get there. Sandra Bruce pointed out that we need urban growth with a focus on healthy communities. That the city and county should not be arguing over a de-tox center (large applause!). Bob Kustra emphasized the need for strong education with a focus on affordability and access for all. Stephen Trott emphasized addressing the transportation issue as a foundation for many other issues. This would be re-emphasized by him and others through the evening. David Adler embraced an emphasize on living wage and affordable healthcare for those here and those moving in. Karl Dreher pointed out that we need to make sure our service infrastructure is not politicized. He pointed to a number of issues that exist today. Rich Raimondi pointed out how critical to get citizens and private industry involved in solving these issues. He emphasized more responsible environmental focus, building a sense of community and caring for one another, and ensuring affordable housing near employment. Stephanie Witt pointed to the issues with cross jurisdictional boundaries. We must find leadership which is willing to solve issues for the communities as a who, not focus simply on their jurisdiction. This signalled a move in the discussion toward leadership. Bob Kustra spoke up on the need for leadership to make the tough decision, not the least common denominator. Must call on private sector, don;t trust elected officials who only worry about re-election. David Adler pointed out the some of the most important programs came form elected officials, not private sector. Medicare, pensions, etc were all fought by private business. Betsy Russell spoke of the importance of an informed community, the importance of letting media do their job, and the importance of an open government/open leadership.

In the final segment, panelists were asked if they were optimistic or pessimistic about our future. While there was some variation, most were optimistic, but emphasized that time is running out to address some fundamental issues.

Overall, I found the panel very insightful and engaging. Clearly got me thinking about a number of issues. In that it was a success!

Profiles from the invitation: The ten forum presenters who will envision the Treasure Valleys future have all been City Club speakers during our first ten years. They are David Adler, Hilde Ayer, Sandra Bruce, Karl Dreyer, Bob Kustra, Rich Raimondi, Alan Shealy, Stephen Trott, Stephanie Witt, and Betsy Russell.

*David Adler*, Professor of political science at Idaho State University, specializes in American Government, U.S. Constitutional law and American political thought. A prolific author, he has published over 40 scholarly articles and has edited a forthcoming book on the Clinton Legacy. A former journalist, he is a member of the Idaho Humanities Councils Speakers Bureau. He frequently lectures to nationwide audiences and has done interviews with the /New York Times/, /Washington Post/, NPR, BBC and NBC, among others.

*Hilde Ayer* is Executive Director of Boises Lee Pesky Learning Center, a nonprofit education organization fostering literacy skills for children with learning disabilities. Her professional background includes directing the Casey Family Programs, Boise division, and working as a strategic planner for the corporate office of the multi-state child-welfare foundation. She holds degrees from Mt. Holyoke and the University of Iowa as well as a Masters degree in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine Law School.

*Sandra Bruce*, president and CEO of Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, came to Boise nine years ago with over 20 years of hospital and health care administration experience. She is immediate past chair of the Idaho Hospital Association, a position she also held in Michigan.
She serves on the Board of Blue Cross of Idaho and is immediate past chair of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce as well as the Boise Public School Foundation. She holds degrees from Western Michigan University and the University of Notre Dame.

*Karl Dreher*, Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, has served in that capacity since 1995. A licensed professional engineer with B.S. and M.S. degrees in civil engineering from Colorado State University, he has more than 30 years experience working in both the public and private sector. As the state's chief water administrator, he oversees such diverse activities as water rights permitting, dam safety, flood plain management, stream channel protection, maintenance of minimum stream flows, and the state's energy office.

*Bob Kustra* is President of Boise State University. His administration has been marked by an emphasis on upgrading admissions standards, improving the undergraduate experience, retention of first-year students and increasing the number of graduate and doctoral programs. A former president of Eastern Kentucky University, he served for ten years in the Illinois state legislator and for two terms as lieutenant governor, and was chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He holds political science degrees from Benedictine College, Southern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois.

*Rich Raimondi* is Vice-president and General Manager of Hewlett-Packards U.S. Commercial Business. With nearly 30 years at HP he has broad marketing and management experience in storage, printers, and e-services. While based in Barcelona he had worldwide responsibility for DesignJet printers and their European fabrication. A graduate of Stanford University, he holds a masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Oregon.

*Alan Shealy* was appointed to the Boise City Council in 2003 to fill the vacancy created by Carolyn Terteling-Paynes appointment as Mayor.
Elected to a full term in November of 2003, he serves as a liaison to the airport, the Arts Commission, internal audit, library, parks and recreation, and parking. He also serves as a representative on the Air Quality Board and the Humane Society. He has degrees from Harvard and Oxford, is active in the Idaho Conservation League, and is a Boise school volunteer. He has 23 years of investment experience and is president of North Lake Capital Advisors.

*Stephen Trott* is a Boise-based jurist on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Nominated in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, Judge Trott had served as chief of the Los Angeles District Attorneys Office, as a U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, and as an Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice. Holding degrees from Wesleyan University and Harvard, he was a member of the Highwaymen of Michael, Row the Boat Ashore fame. Boise Philharmonic goers know him for his pre-concert lectures.

*Stephanie Witt*, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Boise State University, is a political scientist interested in urban politics, the rural-urban link in environmental policy, ethics in the public sector, state and local government, and gender and politics. She has authored four books including /The Urban West: Managing Growth and Decline /and/ Anti-Gay Rights: Assessing Voter Initiatives/. Witt received her Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Washington State University.

*Betsy Russell*, Idaho capitol bureau reporter for The Spokesman-Review, and is the current president of the Idaho Press Club. She holds degrees from the University of California-Berkeley and Columbia University. She has been with The Spokesman-Review for 15 years, and previously worked five years as a reporter and editor for the Idaho Statesman in Boise.

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Harry Potter Personality Quiz

Those who know me will not be surprised about any aspects fo this conclusion, except the neat and orderly. If you replace that with an insane sense of time, then its right on.
Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Birds in the News 55 (v2n6)

Amazing bird news stories and bird photography in the latest edition of Birds in the News 55 (v2n6) posted at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted).

The stories include some amazing findings in house finch mate selections, alarming data about human contaminant impact on the Black-footed Albatross, our utter disregard for survival of a species, selectively breeding chickens until they can no longer mate, plans to save the pacific Parrots, among other very interesting stories. Read it all and leave the author a thank you comment.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Today's Raptor Photos

Today's photos - Redtails Hawks, Great Horned Owls, and an American Kestrel. Click on photos for a larger view.
Photos taken with an HP Photosmart 945 camera through a Swarovski AT-80 scope using a Scopetronix Maxview-S Adapter.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Building a Library from Recycled Airplanes

There have been a lot of creative recycling stories lately. Treehugger Blog has one of the more creative - Building a Library from Recycled Airplanes. Not only is it highy unique, but would also recycle a very large amount of material that to date does not have an economic value large enough for traditional recycling.

Walkin' Jim Stoltz's Forever Wild 2006

This last week I attended an excellent concert/slideshow event featuring Walkin' Jim Stoltz. The event was free and sponsored by Idaho Conservation League and Idaho River's United.

Walkin' Jim Stoltz, co-founder of Musicians United to Sustain the Environment (M.U.S.E.), is travelling to all 50 states performing close to 100 free concerts like this one to draw attention to our wilderness heritage - "wild lands, wild waters, and wild lives".

The event included Jim performing live many of his acoustic folk songs about wild lands and wild lives while showing amazing slides from his many long journeys through North America's wild country. I highly recommended it for the photos, for the music, and for the cause!

Information about Jim is available on his web site or on the Forever wild web site. Here is a quick synopsis from the event invitation
Walkin Jim Stoltz has trekked from coast to coast, Mexico to Canada, Yellowstone to the Yukon, from high in the Arctic to deep in the Utah canyons. All those years in the wild places and 26,000 miles of walking have given him a great love and respect for Americas natural beauty. He shares that appreciation in his celebratory show, Forever Wild 2006. Walkin Jim sings in a deep bass voice, plays guitar, and tells stories about his travels while projecting spectacular images of the wilderness he has photographed on his travels.

Go to Forever Wild - 2006 for more information and a schedule of events.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hawk Chicks

I know that I recently posted some photos of the Redtail Hawk chicks (below), but Karyn took some awesome photos today and I couldn't pass up posting them. Here they are! Note the two chicks tugging on the piece of meat.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Visit

click on photos to view larger image.

Excellent birding this past weekend (April15-16). We traveled to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Oregon to first and foremost view the Snow Geese and Sandhill Crane migration, but also take in the other varied birds traveling through the area. The highlight was clearly the tens of thousands of Snow Geese! The photos included in this post just don't do justice to the experience of seeing this many birds in flight. These photos represent one group out of 5 or 6 this size that we saw in the fields South of Burns Oregon. We estimate between 3 and 5 thousand birds in this flock. The other flocks were of similar size.
We didn't see a lot of Sandhill Cranes, but did see one group of 25 and a few groups of 2 to 3 birds.
The refuge itself was nearly deserted. On the 15 mile dirt road through the center of the refuge, we only saw two cars, and they were traveling together. Even the paved roads had such little traffic that it was no problem just stopping in the road to watch a bird.
The visitors center of the refuge has a great display of stuffed birds and eggs (I hope they weren't killed for the museum!). More than 50 birds on display. The display helped to confirm our identification of a few of the birds we were less sure about.

We were amazed at the number of Northern Harriers we saw. From almost any place in the refuge, if you scanned the horizon, you could find at least one Harrier flying over the marsh. Another highlight of the trip was the viewing of an Eared Grebe. Neither Karyn nor I had ever seen one before. I was able to get this picture through the window of our van since the wind was blowing so hard that my tri-pod and scope would not stand up outside. In all we recorded the identification of 39 bird species. If I was better at identifying small birds, we would have identified many more. We figured we would see more had the wind died down a little. The identified list includes: Eared Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden eagle, American Kestrel, Ring-necked Pheasant, California Quail, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Franklin's Gull, Forster's Tern, Mourning Dove, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Barn Swallow, American Robin, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Brewer's Blackbird.

Great Blue Heron coming in for a landing!

If you do visit, the hot springs near the town of Crane are very nice.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

"I and the Bird" #21 Carnival now online

The latest version of the "I and the Bird" blog carnival is now online. My recent posting on "Offspring" is included. Thanks to the Cup O'Books Blog for their excellent editorial work.

Please read the entire carnival here I and the Bird #21.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tangled Bank Carnival #51 now online

The Tangled Bank
The latest version of Tangled Bank - Tangled Bank #51: the Seattle Tour!, is online at Discovering biology in a digital world.

What is Tangled Bank (from
Welcome to the Tangled Bank, a version of the "Carnival of the Vanities" for science bloggers. A Carnival is a weekly showcase of good weblog writing, selected by the authors themselves (that's the vanity part). Every other week, one of our crew will highlight a collection of interesting weblog articles in one convenient place, making it easy for everyone to find the good stuff.
Two things will distinguish us from the original "Carnival of the Vanities": 1) we are specifically restricting ourselves to articles in the field of science and medicine, very broadly defined, and 2) we've got a different name. Our weekly compendium of great science weblog articles will be called the Tangled Bank, after Charles Darwin's famous metaphor.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006


In a follow up to my Love Is In The Air post, The Great Horned Owls and Redtail Hawks now have chicks.

Four owl chicks in the sand cliff, up from 3 each of the last two years.

The adults were in a tree about 50 yards away.

This Redtail Hawk raised three chicks last year.

We saw at least two heads this year. Could be more.

Spring is a great time for birdwatching in Boise. This morning we rode our tandem 42 miles. This included 7 miles next to the Boise river. During the two hour ride we saw 10 Redtail Hawks (not including the nesting pair in the photos above), 2 Harriers, 10-15 Kestrels, 4 Meadowlarks, 2 Kingfishers, 1 Osprey, 2 Chuckers, 1 Downy Woodpecker, and lots of Geese, Ducks, Quail, Robins, Redwing Blackbirds, Magpies, Crows, and other unidentified birds.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Lawn Care Impacts

Interesting article over at Greener Magazine titled: Lawns lawns everywhere, & nary a drop

I was very surprized by some of the statistics on the impact of our lawn care industry on teh environment. A few points from the article:
About 75,000 Americas are injured each year while cutting grass making it the second most hazardous job behind shipbuilding.
Americans spill enough oil and gasoline just filling the tanks of their lawn mowers and other power lawn equipment each year to equal the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989.
Running a gasoline-powered lawn mower for one hour creates the same hydrocarbon pollution as driving a car 93 miles.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ethanol From Citrus Peels

Green Car Congress has an interesting article on creating Ethanol From Citrus Peels.

There are lots of stories in the news these days about different approaches for ethanol production. I found this one particularly interesting in that it not only has the promise to produce 80 millions gallons of ethanol a year from the orange citrus waste from Florida alone, but it also promises to produce two other revenue streams from other orange peel by products in the process. I think this type of multi-output production process is something that all manufacturers should be investigating. In our disposable culture, we often disregard the value of the left-overs.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Top 10 Most Endangered Birds

Audubon has published their list of the Top 10 Most Endangered Birds. I assume the list is for North American birds as there are some very rare New Zealand birds not on the list.

At least one of the birds, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker my even be extinct. There are mixed opinions on the evidence of some remaining Ivory-billed. You can read some of the controversy at another blog I often refer to:Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Audubon has also posted some facts and myths about the endangered species act on their link above. As you may have heard, Congress is trying to decrease the protections under the ESA. If this infuriates you as much as it does me, please write to your senators or Send an Email. I am also disgusted that Idaho's own Senator Crapo has authored one of the bills.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Hunger in Idaho

The Idaho Foodbank has published their just completed statewide hunger reports here: Idaho Food Bank.

There are some interesting statistics, especially in light of our legislature recently voting down an increase in the Idaho minimum wage.

The food distribution system in Idaho provides emergency food for an estimated 89,700 different people annually. (over 5% of our population)
32% of the members of households in Idaho are children under 18 years old.
10% of the members of households are children age 0 to 5 years
4% of the members of households are elderly
43% of households include at least one employed adult
85% have incomes below the official federal poverty level during the previous month.

These last two statistics really point to the issue. Many households have working adults, are below the poverty level, and must still get outside food assistance. I can't imagine how devastating this must be to an individuals perspective of themselves and their contribution to society. We as a society need to do more to empower all of our members to lead productive and successful lives. Paying them more than $5.15 an hour would be a good start.

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