Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why I blog, why I bird, and why I blog about birds

For the upcoming one year anniversary of the "I and the Bird" blog carnival, the founder has given an assignment to the active community of bloggers who make this carnival successful to answer the following question: "Why do you blog, why do you bird, and why do you blog about birds?" I have a simple answer and a more complex answer.

Simple Answer: I am a computer geek, I enjoy most things in the natural world, and I like sharing my experiences with others. Blogging about birds enables me to bring these worlds together.

Complex Answers:
Why I blog: I first started blogging about 6 months ago. I was essentially writing blog entries prior to that, but was simply emailing my content out to my friends. In doing so I was faced with a few issues and limitations. First, my friends were becoming annoyed with the content (sometimes political) that was showing up in their inbox. Most didn't point this out, but some did. By posting the content on a blog, I probably get fewer of them to read the content, but those that do are truly interested in what I have to say. The second issue dealt with the fact that I always seemed to leave some people who were interested off the list of a particular message. They can now go read it anytime they want! Since I began blogging, I have realized a number of additional advantages. As I meet new people, or have discussions with people I wouldn't have sent a story to, I can refer them to the blog that automatically keeps the archive of my past posts. I have been surprised by the number of times a day that I give out my blog address to individuals who are interested in a particular topic that I have blogged about. Additionally, new people I meet can get a much broader view into my interests by looking through my archives.

Why I bird: I don't normally consider myself to be a "serious birder", although most of the population would. Anyone who keeps a life list, owns software to track it, owns multiple books on birds (identification, biology, etc), has all of the bird sounds on their ipod, etc is probably considered quite serious by the average person on the street. The reality is that I am fascinated by all wildlife and the environment in general. Wolves are my highest interest in wildlife watching, their complex social behavior is very fascinating. Scuba diving is high on the list, I enjoy all sea creatures large and small (see Saving the Leatherback Turtle and St Croix Snorkeling). Birding stands out as a deep interest area primarily because it brings in the behavioral observations of wildlife and can be done anywhere, including my backyard and on business trips (I've never seen a wolf in my backyard or on a business trip).

Why I blog about birds: This is primarily a direct convergence of the two previous questions. I blog about my interest areas and birding is one of my top interest areas. Thus, I blog about birds.

This article is featured in I and the Bird #27 blog carnival, the first anniversary edition.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

More Hawk Chicks

Today we visited a RedTail Hawk nest just a few blocks from our house. We haven't featured this nest on this blog as the other nest had provided a much better opportunity to see the chicks while they were small. Now that the other chicks have fledged, we shifted our attention to this nest. Here you see one of the two chicks. (click photo to enlarge)

They are looking about ready to go.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

MIT OpenCourseWare Biology Class

I finally completed the MIT Introduction to Biology class which I downloaded from the MIT Open Courseware site. They provide both video and audio downloads of the class. Since I was primarily listening as I commuted to and from work, I used the audio modules. In the version I downloaded (7.012 from Fall 2004), the instructors were very engaging. While I missed a lot of content, not being able to see the visual aids and the drawings on the chalkboard, I still received a great deal of value from the lectures. For example, I can't tell you where the 5 prime carbon is on the base of a DNA molecule, but I do understand DNA transcription to RNA and then its translation into proteins. I would conclude that I captured about a third of the content from the class, and most of the higher level concepts. Thus, it was extremely worth my while.

Having completed the Biology course, I have now started a course on Animal Behavior (9.20 Fall 2005). So far the instructor is not quite as engaging, but it is much easier to follow (less detailed content).

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

I and the Bird #26 online

The world cup version of "I and the Bird" (#26) is on line at The Hawk Owl's Nest. Check out this creative presentation of the blog carnival all about birds and bird watchers. My story below on the Sawtooth Valley is included.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Birds in the news

More versions of the weekly "Birds in the News" are up on Living the Scientific Life.

Make sure to read the story in this one about Phoebe Snetsinger. The world record holder for the total unique birds she recorded, over 8500. The thing is, she was given 1 year to live, so for the next 18 years she traveled around bird watching. She eventually died in a vehicle accident on a bird watching trip. What an inspirational story!

Birds in the News 62 (v2n13)

Birds in the News 63 (v2n14)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sawtooth Valley Idaho

This weekend Karyn and I traveled to the Sawtooth Valley in central Idaho. This is one of our favorite places, which is why 12 years ago we got married there. We will be returning in a few weeks to celebrate our anniversary. Here's a photo that she took of the Sawtooth mountains.

The bird watching was great. We identified 31 species, but could have had more if we were better at identification. Within this 31, were 9 new IDs to be added to my life list. This is a remarkably large number for life birds, primarily because I have only been building my list over the past year (now up to 108). I expect it to get increasingly harder to identify 9 new birds in a weekend!

Driving through Lower Stanley, a large town of 43 people, we spied this Bald Eagle on the fence across the river.

We camped along the Salmon River. Of all the bird watching on the weekend, our camp was the most productive place. 18 of the 31 birds were seen from our camp! We watched Osprey on two different occasions, dive for fish right in front of our camp. One was successful! We had three types of woodpeckers in our camp - a Northern Flicker, A Red-naped Sapsucker (photo) and Hairy Woodpecker (photo).

Western Tanagers were flying around constantly, but would not hold still long enough for me to capture a good photo (I have a few bad photos!). The Yellow-rumped Warbler was singing for us regularly, but difficult to find, although we did see it on three occasions. All in all a great weekend.

Here is the list for the weekend (new life bird in bold): Grouse, Spruce; Quail, California; Goose, Canada; Goldeneye, Common; Merganser, Common; Sapsucker, Red-naped; Sapsucker, Williamson's; Woodpecker, Hairy; Flicker, Northern; Kingfisher, Belted; Nighthawk, Common; Crane, Sandhill; Sandpiper, Spotted; Killdeer; Osprey; Eagle, Bald; Magpie, Black-billed; Nutcracker, Clark's; Crow, American; Raven, Common; Bluebird, Mountain; Robin, American; Starling, Common; Gnatcatcher, Blue-grey; Swallow, Tree; Swallow, Violet-green; Swallow, Cliff; Warbler, Yellow-rumped; Tanager, Western; Blackbird, Red-winged; Blackbird, Brewer's.

This article is features in I and the Bird #26 blog carnival.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I and the Bird's of Idaho

Welcome to "I and the Bird's of Idaho", the 25th edition of the "I and the Bird" Blog Carnival. If anyone here is unfamiliar with blog carnivals, or the "I and the Bird" carnival, I suggest that you read this.

We have some high quality and interesting content in this edition of "I and the Bird". Since I believe this is the first time that "I and the Bird" has visited the state of Idaho USA, I thought I would introduce you to the neighborhood.

Lets begin the tour. First, the Idaho Legislature in 1931 identified the Mountain Bluebird (Sialia arctcia) as the official state bird.

Mountain Bluebird, Slough Creek, Yellowstone NP

Clearly a beautiful and remarkable bird, deserving of the honor.

Idaho was the home of Morley Nelson. Morley Nelson was a falconer and educator. "He is best known as a seminal influence on raptor conservation in the Western United States".(wikipedia) In fact, up until his death in September 2005, he lived just a few blocks from my house. Morley is largely responsible for making Idaho the state of the raptor. Here is a great story about Morley and his impact. You can also check out his Biography Cool North Wind: Morley Nelson's Life With Birds of Prey by Stephen Stuebner.

Southwest Idaho is home of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, renamed by the Idaho Legislature after Morley's death in 2005. Morley was instrumental in getting this area established in 1971. The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey NCA is believed to be the largest density of raptors in the world. An estimated 800 pairs of raptors nest in the area. Sixteen raptor species nest in the area, including the American Kestrel, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Osprey, Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Barn Owl, Burrowing Owl, Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Short-eared Owl, and the Western Screech Owl. An additional eight species winter in the area, including the Bald Eagle, Cooper's Hawk, Gyrfalcon, Merlin, Northern Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Rough-legged Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. The large expanse of SouthWest Idaho desert, inside and outside of the conservation area, is teeming with ground squirrels, snakes, jack rabbits, and other rodents, providing an excellent food source for this community.

Osprey, Hagerman, Idaho

Further emphasizing the raptor theme, and Morley's impact, Idaho is home of the Peregrine Fund. The Peregrine Fund deserves credit for bringing the Peregrine Falcon back from the brink of extinction, and even de-listed from the Endangered Species List! They have not stopped there, the Peregrine Fund operates the World Center for Birds of Prey, located near Boise, Idaho. The center provides the headquarters for the Peregrine Fund, but also its breeding program and educational arm. The local captive breeding program is having great success with other raptors - the California Condor and Aplamado Falcons. The center also operates breeding programs in Madagascar, Panama, and Greenland.

More recently emphasizing our state's bird friendly nature, the 2006 Idaho Legislature passed a resolution supporting the development of an Idaho Birding Trail. The Idaho Birding Trail project is underway to create a descriptive map of the best birding locations in Idaho. Its objectives are to increase awareness of these locations for birding and wildlife conservation and to promote ecotourism throughout Idaho. I can't wait to check it out.

Bald Eagle, Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge, Idaho

The diverse landscape of the State of Idaho offers habitat for a large variety of birds. With 7 National Wildlife Refuges and the largest wilderness area outside of Alaska, there is ample opportunities for bird watching. Gray's Lake Refuge in Southeast Idaho has the largest nesting population of Sandhill Cranes in the world. I am sure there are many other interesting bird facts about Idaho, but I'll have to leave that up to the more educated residents.

Now that you have the background on birds and birding in Idaho, lets get onto the main event. Here are the submissions for this edition of "I and the Bird", organized by the distance from my home town of Boise, Idaho.

8349 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Duncan of Ben Cruachan Blog #2 submits a story about his "old stamping ground" George's Creek.

6936 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, David of Search and Serendipity did not submit a story, but gave me permission to choose one from his blog. I chose this one on Detail and mystery.

4843 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Tai Haku of Earth, Wind & Water blog, submitted this account of how the Easter bunny became associated with eggs in Easter bunny - take II.

4521 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Craig of Peregrine's Bird Blog submitted this story about Finally after three weeks a new bird for my year list.

2260 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Clare of The House & other Arctic musings submitted this story about family, friends, and how a morning can be highlighted by the Birdsong of the snow buntings.

2222 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Lillian and Don of Stokes Birding Blog were up to their usual work and submitted these amazing photos of the Crown Jewels of the avian world.

2152 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Mike of 10,000 Birds submits a story of his trip to see a true NYC rarity, a Fulvous Whistling-Duck, but was Left Whistling in the Rain.

2149 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Grrlscientist of Living the Scientific Life submitted an excellent book review of 101 Ways to Help Birds by Laura Erickson, illustrated by Roger Hall. Rob's note: if any of you are not already reading grrlscientist's weekly Birds in the News feature, you should be. Check her blog every Monday.

2132 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Patrick of The Hawk Owl's Nest reaches number 474 with Lifer - One that's avoided me...

2052 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Aydin of Snail's Tales submitted these up close photos of the Tame birds of Florida.

1995 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, CountryGoalie of To the Hilt presents a hidden treasure

1990 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Dan of Migrations submitted this story of the search for An elusive sparrow.

1858 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Rob of The Birdchaser submitted this story about finally fulfilling his quest to see a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

1833 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, the Journey Through Grace blog hosts some stunning photographs of how a baby mockingbird gets A full tummy.

1801 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, John of Birds Etcetera (aka Bird Stuff) takes a unique look at how we birders are and are not considered by others in More Descriptive Terms for Birders.

1146 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Sharon of Birdchick Blog submitted this fascinating, but Really Gross Eagle Post . It does have a very happy ending.

1120 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Jay of Ocellated submitted his story of My First Arctic Tern, In the Desert Of Course.

836 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Rick of Aimophila Adventures, submitted his account of seeing 45 species in Catalina State Park in Desert Summer.

696 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Leigh of "A bird in the hand is a certainty, but a bird in the bush may sing" presents her pictures of two adorable baby black-necked stilts.

691 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Amy of Wildbird on the Fly submits some great visuals to illustrate her point in Worth 1,000 Words.

664 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Jason of Beakspeak, the Big Bird Blog submitted this great report on his trip to the Eastern Sierra mountains - Snow, Sage, and Dancing Chickens.

573 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Eli of Left I on the News submitted this photo of Two Killdeer. I hope you are better than I am at finding the second one in the picture.

521 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Joe, posting at Interesting Thing of the Day, presents some very thought provoking perspectives on human stereotypes and Crows that Make Tools.

296 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, Carel of Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding submitted this encouraging and educational story about raptor health in A Pinedale Anticline Photojournal--Part II: The Raptors.

0 miles as the bird flies from Boise Idaho, I, here at Rob's Idaho Perspective have submitted my own account of visiting the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Area.

Enjoy this edition of "I and the Bird" and then write up your stories for the next edition. It will be hosted at The Hawk Owl's Nest on June 22nd. The deadline for submitting content is June 20th. Browse to the I and the Bird Home Page for information on submitting content and even hosting future editions of I and the Bird.

Animated gifs of bird flying and waving were acquired through a link exchange with Pleasure Gait Farms. All other photos on this page were taken by me.

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Birds In The News

If you have read this blog for very long you will know that one of my favorite regular features of the blogs I read is Birds in the News. This is a weekly program put together by Grrlscientist at Living the Scientific Life. They are published on Mondays. Here are links to the last two additions.

Birds in the News 60 (v2n11)

Birds in the News 61 (v2n12)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Area

Today, Karyn and I, and a friend of ours, Ted Smith, traveled to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in search of Burrowing Owls. The intent was to see and photograph the Owls to provide reference photos for Karyn's watercolors and Ted's wood carvings. Of course, I had an interest as well.

A year ago I began by bird life list. This is a list of each bird species that I have confidently identified (sometimes with some help). I actually keep two lists, one for identification and one for those that I have identifiable photos of. Today would be a good day for both lists!

We started down into the conservation area. This is believed to be the largest density of birds of prey in the world. Just a short distance in, Karyn and Ted saw a Burrowing Owl. I stopped the car, but the Owl had moved out of sight. We waited for some time, but it never came out.

Just up the road we found a Swainson's Hawk. I had probably seen one before, but just assumed it was a Redtail Hawk. This one was positioned for some good photos and a positive identification. I could mark this one on both lists. We search for a number of miles for Burrowing Owls, but we found none. We did see a Raven's nest with three chicks in it and a few Turkey Vultures. We decided to head down to Discovery Point to try and spot some Falcons. A half mile before the turn out, Karyn yelled "Stop!" She had found another Burrowing Owl. There it was in pretty good sight of the road. It quickly moved down into its hole near another Owl (Photo 1 below). We waited for sometime, but it did not move back out. Just as we were deciding to leave, a prairie dog ran over near its hole. One of the Owls chased it out (photo 2). These would be good checks on both lists.

Discovery Point overlooks the Snake River canyon. Arriving at the overlook we were eye level with an Osprey and a number of Ravens. We watched a Golden Eagle lift off the far rim of the canyon. Just then, the highlight of the day, two Prairie Falcons flew overhead and one landed just 50 yards away on the canyon wall.

This one posed for 20 minutes in various positions. I took about 50 photographs, providing a very solid check on both of my bird lists. What a great day. On the way back we added one more by photographing a Rough-Legged Hawk. I think we will be making this trip again!.

Update 6/9/2006 - After sharing some photos of the "Rough-Legged Hawk" with Carel of Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding he determined that it was a Redtail Hawk instead.

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