Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Twisting the ABA rules

Only a few fortunate (are they really?) birders can afford to spend extensive stretch of time on the field, seeking to break either bid day or big year records, travelling all over the world, continent or even state to add the latest rarity.
The rest of us, the vast majority, simply restrict their "competing territory" to a smaller area, such as counties, township, or even backyard. We are enjoying the discovering of a Connecticut warbler in our backyard just as much as a birder with unlimited fund and time (and carbon credits, in the future years) would enjoy to fly 3000 miles away to find a fan-tailed warbler in New Mexico
All of these birders, despite their difference, share common rules. In order to "count", an observation should follow the 5 ABA rules :

(1) The bird must have been within the prescribed area and time-period when encountered.

(2) The bird must have been a species currently accepted by the ABA Checklist Committee for lists within its
area, or by the A.O.U. Checklist for lists outside the ABA area and within the A.O.U. area, or by Clements for all other areas.

(3) The bird must have been alive, wild, and unrestrained when encountered.

(4) Diagnostic field-marks for the bird, sufficient to identify to species, must have been seen and/or heard and/or documented by the recorder at the time of the encounter.

(5) The bird must have been encountered under conditions that conform to the ABA Code of Birding Ethics.
This brings me to this crucial question, whose answer depend the well being of thousands of cubicle birders

What's about the webcams?

Nowhere in these rules I found anything that prevents me to add on my life list a species seen on a webcam . Rule 1 specify the location of the bird, not the observer, rule 2, 3 and 4 are irrelevant, and rule 5 is actually a lot in favor on this particular form of twitching, because you actually don't use any fossil-based fuel to see the bird.

One might argue that "encountered" specified in rule 1) actually imply being physically present to observe the bird.

Are you kidding?

Why could you count a bird you see through the EVF (electronic view finder) of your digital camera, and not count a bird you see through a webcam? In both cases, you only see the visual representation of a numerical signal. Only difference is the length of the cable between your eye and the bird.

Plus, nobody said that "encounter" meant "in real life", rather that "virtually". Nowadays, lots of people meet virtually "friends" who live thousand of miles away, thanks to social networking websites such as facebook. So I think a webcam based encounter is indeed a real encounter.

That opens a new world of possibilities, isn't it?

Are you missing the stellar's jay to your life list?

look at a feeding station in California, and here we are!

You are short in cash, but think you can identify every single one of the 136 species of hummingbirds that can be found in equator? For this check the buenaventura webcam in Ecuador! The quality of the streamed video is really good

While looking at that webcam, I was able to find a bird I could recognize and identify (well at least I think) : the green jay! That's one more lifer on my list!

You feel a little bit overwhelmed by the number of hummingbirds? I am too (I need to find a book about South American birds before to really work on that one). So I choose to take a short trip to Antartica , because I need a few penguins on my list

More realistically, I obviously don't think using webcams is fair game. At the very best I might think about starting a list with birds only seen on webcams. But it's a great way to learn about birds, specially if you are in your office! (I remember that Jochen was playing another time killing game, involving some sort of a geo-google earth birding bingo)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bonaparte's at Pointe Mouille

I had the chance to stop for a quick lunch break yesterday at the Pointe Mouillee Headquarters. I was originally planning to walk around the Velvet unit, but I quickly realized there were too many people there working hard to "manage the natural ressources" of Michigan (I mean rednecks with shot guns). So I just spend half an hour on the observation platform of the headquarters, hoping for a late season raptors to fly over.
No raptors, but I had the good fortune to see quite a good number (150+) of Bonaparte's gulls, in winter plumage. The light was rather bad, but it was a great opportunity to take pictures of birds in flight with my fz-28, and to experiment with the different camera modes. Also seen was a rather impressive flight of Tundra Swans...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mid-fall evening's dream

Sometimes we go out birding
Just for the taste
Of a warm evening,

Just for the sight
Of the Sandhill Cranes
Flying back
To their roost
In the fading light
Just for the sound
of their noisy karooo
- is it infinitely ugly, or beautiful?
Not even for a tick
On our county list
No field notes,
It's the wrong side of the county line

It's almost dark now

And getting chilly

And the cranes are all landed

So we leave

Was it the last true fall night?

Stop the dream!!!!!

There is a white winged dove in the county!!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hawk watching with a Babyhawk

I love the baby carrier we bought a few weeks ago. It's called a "babyhawk'. The name itself would justify the purchase, but, honnestly, it is a far superior design than the carrier we had before. The baby is warm and cozy in the carrier(nowadays, I wear my coat over it), and most important, it is really easy to strap the baby in it without any outside help. So it allows me to go for a walk without worrying about having Diane around to help me.

A couple of week ago, we went for a walk in the neighboorhood. No rare birds around, but Robins were numerous, eating berries on a tree, only a block away.....

A lot more impressive was a Cooper's Hawk, perched on a fence. I was amazed by how close I was able to approach the bird. It is only after the bird took off, finally, that I understood its lazyness. The Hawk was carrying a huge black rat (not visible on the picture), and flying with its afternoon snack was obviously a huge effort.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Birding in William P. Holliday Forest & Wildlife Preserve

Last week I was able to squeeze a lunch break in the William Holliday Forest and Wildlife Preserve, a few feet away from the super busy intersection of M14 and I-275. What an interesting green gem!!!! In the middle of wayne county, 550 acres of forest were beautifully preserved thanks to a Detroit banker who died in 1938. The woods were magnificent, with fall colors close from their prime. Amazingly, despite the magnificent weather and the few million people surrounding this green island, I only met a couple of hikers.

I did not expect to see lots of birds, as it was early afternoon and temperature was relatively warm, so I simply enjoyed the fall colors. A yellow maple leaf was magically hanging from a branch.......

Berries were everywhere, so it might be an interesting winter birding destination!

Birds were few, but interesting! Beside the usual (and grossly underrated, if you ask me) cardinals and black-capped chickadees, Hermit Thrushes were numerous, but managed to elude the lens of my camera. A female Black Throated Blue Warbler was slightly more cooperative (although slightly out of focus on my picture). It was October 21, so she was a tiny bit late for her fall migration. Hope she will make it! I was able to see the white spot on her primaries, so I assume she was not a first year bird.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Light makes photography so much easier

I tried to follow Hilke's comment about trying to brighten my pine warbler picture. I only have Microsoft Photo Editor on my computer, so maybe this is the reason why the results were not that impressive. Or maybe it's just that I need to actually read a little bit more about pictures processing.

Update : Hilke was kind enough to process the picture for me. Here is what she was able to obtain:

THANKS, Hilke!

Last week was relatively sunny and warm, and I took this picture of a song sparrow. Easy shot, as the sparrow was basically posing in the morning sun. That's SOO much easier with good sun light!!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back Yard Birding

I was playing last week end with my camera, trying to get a few decent pictures of birds in low light, trying to find out the most efficient set up for bad light conditions. Most common birds were present, such as Cardinals, White Breasted Nuthatch, American Gold Finches. Lady Downy Woodpecker made a brief appearance at my window:

A Coopers Hawk appeared suddently, sending everyone to hide in the bushes......

A few minutes later, all the goldfinches were back. The finches are now almost completly in their winter plumage:

I took about a dozen pictures of the Goldfinches, and one of the finches seems a little bit odd :

Quite odd, really, since it was not indeed a Goldfinch, but a Pine Warbler!!!! That was a good find for my yard, a new bird for the year (year bird #59 for the yard)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Turkey Hunting Season

This is the start of the Wild Turkey hunting season here in Michigan, so I could not bypass the opportunity to vent a little bit on the hobby of hunting.

Hunters commonly defend their hobbies by pointing out the need to "control populations of.." (choose whatever animal you want to kill). To some extend I understand that deer population are really high in south east michigan and that hunting somehow limits their nuisance, which includes overgrazing trees and farm fields, and the occasional collision with a car (which might not be too bad for the local economy, by the way, since the auto makers are badly in need for a few more car customers)

I also understand that, somehow, Hunters and Birders have a common interest, which is to preserve land and natural habitat, so the animals that one group want to watch and the other group to exterminate ("oops sorry I meant "manage") can work together for the benefit of preservation.

But checking the DNR website, I found out the "bag limit" per animal/bird :

Crow : No limit . My grand dad told me once he killed a few then he was young. It was during WWII, though, and he did it so he could eat. Nowadays, I see no reason (other than shear sadistic pleasure?) why somebody should shoot a crow. Or even, say, a couple thousands of them. Another point I would like to make, is about the possible confusion between a Raven (I've heard they are expanding their territories to the lower peninsula of Michigan).

Quail (Bobwhite) : 5/day : I still have to see or even hear one in washtenaw county, by the way. Populations are low, since we are on the northern range of the species

Woodcock : 3/day.

Scaup : 2/day (obviously there is not distinction between the twos species? )

Pintail : 1 (I think I have seen only one in washtenaw county, and maybe 4 or 5 in Michigan)

Coots and Moorhen (15/day/species) (only one moorhen on my michigan list, none for my county list)

Virginia Rail/Sora (15/day) Not that I expect anyone to actually manage to see or even shoot 15 virginia rails or sora in one day, but what are the DNR people thinking? 15 virginia rails? I am usually lucky if I hear a couple per season (to this date I have not seen one this year)

Another issue I see here, is I don't think a lot of hunters can make an instant distinction between a Virginia and King Rail, which is a very rare species in our state.

Snow, Blue and Ross Geese : (10/day) This is not a joke. You can indeed shoot a Ross Goose in Michigan. There are probably no more than 2 or 3 that are spotted each year in the state. This is how rare this bird is around here.

White Fronted and Brant Geese : 1/day. I got my first White Fronted Goose last spring. I have not heard about a Brant Goose in the south peninsula of Michigan since I started birding, although I think there was one in Ohio 2 winters ago.

Mergansers (5, only 2 of which hooded). Note that they dont' specify if the red breasted, relatively rare in michigan, is huntable (by default, I guess they are)

By the way, anyone can shoot at squirrels, veasels, oppossums and other critters. Just because it's there, said one day Mallory as he was trying to climb the highest mountain of the world. Other people have smaller, much smaller ambitions.
All of this shows that the DNR has obviously no intention to "manage" all these species. These birds are nowhere close to overpopulate any part of the state. The truth is, these bag limits are not based on science or even common sense. They are only the result of pressure from the hunting lobby, and nothing else.

As a conclusion, and for the readers of my mediocre blog who might share my views, it is written on the michigan DNR's website that :

"Hunters in Michigan have the right to enjoy their sport free from deliberate interference. Individuals whose hunting is being obstructed should promptly report the violation to a local conservation officer, the nearest DNR Operations Service Center or by calling 800-292-7800. Complaints also can be submitted online: Reporting Hunter/Angler Harassment. "
This was just in case you had the weird idea to stand between a hunter and a bird. You are indeed risking a ticket or something.
yeah, or something.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hummingbirds, shooting for the rufous moon

Ruby Throated Hummingbird, taken through my kitchen window

Chances of discovering a lifer, or even a county lifer in my back yard are getting seriously low nowadays. The Connecticut warbler I had early June might very well be the last lifer I could get while sipping a glass of white wine on my deck.

I was thinking about the next potential target the other day, and suddenly I thought about one possibility. A small, remote but real possibility.

I am talking about the Rufous hummingbird. looking at the Michigan Audubon Record Commitee database, I found the following records :

State Record No. Species (Count) Date County
1 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 9 1974 St. Joseph
2 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Aug 7-11 1988 Houghton
3 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Sep 25-Oct 22 1988 Ogemaw
4 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 8 1997-Jan 12 1998 Mason
5 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Sep 25-Dec 15 1998 Ingham
6 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Aug 16-17 1999 Alpena
7 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Aug 19-Sep 6 1999 Genesee
8 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 25-Nov 20 2000 Berrien
9 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct-Dec 5 2000 Ottawa
10 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 4-Nov 2 2001 Van Buren
11 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 26-Dec 31 2001 Oakland
12 Rufous Hummingbird (1) late Aug-Nov 29 2002 Berrien
13 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Aug 15-Dec 26 2003 Calhoun
14 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Sep 14-Nov 8 2003 Ingham
15 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 20-Dec 26 2003 Berrien
16 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Nov 7-Dec 19 2004 Berrien
17 Rufous Hummingbird (1) late Sep/early Oct-Nov 24 2005 Livingston
18 Rufous Hummingbird (1) May 16 2007 Keweenaw
19 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 17-Nov 22 2007 Clinton
20 Rufous Hummingbird (1) mid-Oct-Dec 5 2007 Van Buren
21 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Oct 28-Dec 22 2007 Kalamazoo
22 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Nov 5-11 2007 Berrien
23 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Nov 7-Dec 4 2008 Ottawa
24 Rufous Hummingbird (1) Nov 12-Dec 5 2008 Saginaw

that's 24 record in 34 years, for the whole state. Obviously, I will need a little bit of luck to find one of those little guys feeding at my windows. Having said so, there is a few encouraging facts that makes me think I have a decent chance.

- there is 24 records in 34 years, but 20 in the last 10 years. So that gives about 2 Rufous hummingbirds per year that are supposed to cross the 170 miles long michigan/ohio or indiana border every year. Assuming the attraction radius of my feeder equipped backyard is 100 m, the odds are about 2*100/(170*1609)=0.007%

Ok, that does not seems a lot at first sight.

But I have another point I would like to make.

How many Rufus hummingbirds are out there really? They seem to show up late in the fall, when most birdfeeders are already washed and back to the storage area. So, the 2 birds a year that are reported are actually seen by a few selected birdwatchers that are dedicated enough to keep their feeders free of ice through the fall/winter. How many of these people are they in Michigan? I would bet there is no more than a few dozen of those geeks in my state

Furthermore, 2 birds a year are only the accepted records by the Michigan record committee. I've heard these guys are pretty picky and tend to only accept very well documented records. I'm pretty sure those guys are so picky that most people would not even bother to report a Rufus Hummingbird, specially if they could not take a picture.

That leaves me with only a wild guess to make. I would bet my chances are not 0.007%, but maybe one hundred times higher than that. That's close from 1%.

Call me a fool, but I like my chances. I'll let you know in December.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Another county bird

No birding last week end. I wish I could have, but honestly, a 2 days week end per week seems to be a good 4-5 day short of what I need to rest, take care of my family, staying in good shape (I try to hit the gym 3 times a week), and go birding. But the good news is next week end we will go for a short 2 days trip at pointe Pelee National Park, on the other side of the border. In addition to the bird migration, this should be a great time of the year to watch the monarch migration. I am looking forward to see high concentration of butterflies who are supposed to go all the way to Mexico.
Even without birding, I was able to add a new backyard (and county!) bird to my list. Well it is not really a county bird, since I remember I have seen one last year in the Arb, but for some reason I lost my list and did not record into ebird (my rule is, if it's not written, it does not count). That was a yellow-bellied flycatcher.
Now, I am always puzzled by one thing on the yellow-bellied flycatchers. They always (I guess the two of them I have seen, so it is hard to generalize) seem to be much brighter than my trusty field guide (the Sibley). I know they are subject to color variation, and the bird itself was perched in the late afternoon sun, so it might appear a lot more yellow than in reality (if I remember, it was a fairly similar light condition last year), but the Sibley paintings are far, far from being as bright as my two birds. In addition, he describes this species as "best identified by voice", which I found a bit surprising.
Of course, one explanation is I don't see (of ID) the drab ones, only the 5% of birds that are bright enough to bring my attention.

I don't see myself posting in the next week or so (next time should be on my way back from Pointe Pelee), but there is another great, great bird songs web site I found


Great recordings from all other the american birds. The site works like a database where everyone can add his recordings.

Ciao all

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is bird listing really geeky?

Yeah, I've heard the rumor. birdwatchers are specially geeky. They have their own language, love to talk about binoculars, scopes, migration, big days, year list, etc. They are even sometimes suspected to be autistic, due to their inability to look at people's eyes during a conversation (scanning the sky for a rare golden eagle, or red-shouldered hawk).

This is until I talked recently through the net to one of my old friend, Pierre Henry. We had been in class together from high school to engineering prep school (a particular feature of the french education system, some sort of jail where the students are locked in for 2-3 years, with 40 hours of classes a week, including 20 of math and 15 of physics. Competition is high, and self estime low). My buddy was indecently gifted with maths, physics, and was spending most of his time programming his calculator or naping in class. It did not matter, because he was always, always first.

So when we talked about hobbies, he was not really impressed by the geekiness of bird listing. His answer was "Oh, sure, I do the same with Seeslugs"


yeap. His hobby is taking seeslugs pictures, while scuba diving. He is trying to see the most of all the seeslugs species of the world, although his local "seesluging" area is certainly the mediteranean see. His website here

Doing a little bit or research, it turned out this is a more popular hobby that I thought. There are forums dedicated to these slimmy creatures. One message in particular, was specially interesting, since it was concerning a "vagrant" (?) see slug. The title was "First sighting of Doris ocelligera in the UK".

So who said birdwatching is for geeks?

new picture....

Should be much easier now......

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hidden Bird

There is a bird hidden on the first picture below.
hint one : this is a new county bird for me
hint two : this is not a small bird
Can you find it?

Last week end was a good week end for my county list, with a Stilt Sandpiper at Avis Farm, the bird in the picture just above, and some more common birds that, for some reasons, I have been missing so far (Semipalmated plover and sandpipers). My total is now 196! 4 more to reach 200!!!

I have no idea where the last 4 are going to come from, but there is two warblers I have keep missing so far (canada and wilson), so I guess I have a decent chance to get those during the fall migration. That's 2 left to find. Pectoral sandpipers and SB dodwitchers should be relatively easy to find too. Having said so, odds are I am going to miss at least one of those 4 birds, so I need to find another target. Greater Scaup? maybe. Tundra Swan? a bit easier I think.

Below is a lucky shot I took at Avis farm last Sunday....cool isn't it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trumpeter Drama in Washtenaw County

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I did a quick stop and go for a Marsh Wren, my first in Washtenaw County? In my post I included a picture of a trumpeter swan, mostly because it was very close from the road and thus allowed me a decent picture without much effort?

Well, last week was very emotional among the county birders and nature lovers, as 3 of the 4 swans (2 adults, one juvenile) were found dead close from the road :

"Bad news. A woman just called Washtenaw Audubon with the news that two of the Trumpeter Swans living in the Scio Church road/ Parker Road have been killed. (Washtenaw Cty) They found the mother swan and a baby dead, the mother has a bullet hole in her head. The father and other baby are nowhere to be seen. There are white feathers strewn up and down the road in both directions. They were lured there with a pile of corn. They will notify the UD Fish and Wildlife Service and the Sherriff's Dept.Sherri Smith7:30 Saturday morning"

Bullets? lured by a pile of corn?

In the following days non less than 83 emails were posted. A $1000 dollars reward was posted by the Washtenaw Audubon Society to find the responsible of the crime. Some people suggested an "analysis of the broken bones to determine the speed of the car that might have been responsible of the accident". When people suggested that maybe, 60+ emails was more than enough for the story, they were not too subtly advised to mind their business.....

Eventually, it turned out the swans were killed by a car. At the end of the day, my favorite comment was made by Jim McDonald :

"All the speculation about this incident was disturbing. Bullet wounds, strangling, a psycho killer with a crowbar -- all just made up. Dave Sing made an effort at suggesting that people not rush to judgement. He probably also suspected that a car caused this. I'm sure this isn't the first time he's been called a voice in the wilderness. What happened was that a driver swerved and slaughtered a family of swans. If he had stopped and called the police, how would the result have been better? How will making the driver's name public improve the situation? If the police want to investigate further, fine. I don't think there is a way to determine the speed of the car by how the bones were broken -- as has been suggested -- but if there is, I would hope that technology and the manpower needed to use it would be saved for use on the bodies of human children that are killed by vehicles. Because even though the driver who hit the swans was responsible, the truth is that this was bound to happen. Trumpeter Swans shouldn't have to raise their young on the shoulder of a busy road. They shouldn't have to compete with automobiles for space".

As you might judge on the following picture, taken only 2 weeks before the crash, the Swan were really spending most of their time on the shoulder of the road. I think it is sad, but not too surprising they eventually got hit by a car.

Trumpeter Swan Nest, 2 weeks before the crash

Monday, July 27, 2009

the 15 mn/week county birding plan

It seems that nobody has any time for anything these days. I mean, seriously, did you look recently at the local bookstore best sellers? Make your pick : the 5 mn abs plan, the 3 mn diet, speaking french (or german, or japanese) in only 30 secs a day, getting rich in one hour a day

There is a book I have still to find (maybe there is a money making idea here), it is the "how to build a county list in 30 mn a week".

So far, unlike my 5 mn abs plan (nobody told me that future dads are also gaining weight during a pregnancy!!!), I have been doing pretty well on the quick county list business idea (maybe it is only a motivation issue!)

So then I realized last week that a field check was highly required in west washtenaw county for my job, I jumped on the opportunity. Cross checking the ebird data base, the south michigan birding email list, and my county list, I realized than my best chance to earn a tick on my county list was a marsh wren that was heard about a mile away from my field check. With luck, I was going to be able to squiz a county bird into my 30 mn lunch. They were other nice birds seen around (henslow sparrows, for instance), but I only focused on potential county birds....

It took me 10 anxious minutes (one third of my time!!!) to hear the bird..........

Marsh Wren. Jeeez these buggers are hard to shoot!!!!

Minutes later, I noticed an obvious empidonax flycatchers perched on a dead tree. It reminded me that the willow flycatcher was missing on my list....10 more minutes of anxious waiting, and the bird reluctantly emitted the "riittzzzbeuh". That was county bird #191 and 192!!!!!

Trumpeter Swan

Silvery Checkerspot

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birding and Diaper Changing

I recently pushed the challenge of birding to new heights. No kidding. If any of you thought that the big year of Ken Kaufman or Sandy Komito were la creme de la creme in term of birding challenge, you guys got it wrong. Completely wrong.

I recently pushed the limits of birding far enough to make the rediscovery of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the buggy swamps of Alabama look like a pleasant boys scout scavenger hunt. Yep

What is this new challenge I am talking about?

I am talking about "BIRDING and DIAPER CHANGING"

(admiration from the crowd)

This is not an easy task, believe me. This new extreme sport involves many challenges, including dealing with sleep deprivation, extremely limited free time and restricted finances.
To deal with all of this, I decided to use several tactics, and for the most part, I think they have been proven to be quite successfull

1) Prioritize your goals.
Ok, at my level, you can not really prioritize your goals, because one goal is plenty enough. I just don't have time for any secondary goal. In my case, I choose to focus on my county list. Note that I did not have a lot of choices here, because the country or even the state are simply too big. County is great because you can go to any point in about 30 mn or so.

For example, I had a one hour window last sunday, so I went directly to the place where a pair of Orchard Oriole was seen. I ticked the bird, took a picture and came back

Male Orchard Oriole, in terrible mid afternoon light (as Jochen told me once, any birding is better than no birding!)

2) Learn the bird songs

It is simply more efficient. You can not change a diaper and look though binoculars at the same time, but you can listen. I happen to have a long commute to my job every day, so I am trying to listen to bird songs all the time. This was happened to be handy last month then, a few days before the birth, as we were watching the final of the french open, I heard a funny sounding bird in my backyard. I did not know the song, but I knew it was something special. So I went outside and quickly spotted a connecticut warbler!!! That was a lifer for Diane and I and obviously, a great backyard bird!!!!!

3) Take advantage of opportunities

Lunch breaks in a place as sterile and unbirdy as Dowtown lansing are not supposed to be great birding times, but sometimes, opportunities occur. Yesterday I spotted 2 juvenile red tailed hawk next to the capitole, and I was able to have great views and picture opportunities. Last winter, I also had some white winged crossbills!!!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Father's day gift

The title of this post should explain two news that are going to have a significant impact on the frequency and quality of this blog :

- First and foremost, I am now an happy Dad!!!!! Raphael was born on June 13th, and is obviously the cutest baby of the planet (admittedly, I am strongly biased).

- Second, Raphael managed to be born a week before Father's day, and I received a nice gift, which I had been waiting for, dreaming, anticipating, evaluating for many many months. A new camera!!!!!. The camera is a Panasonic fz28 and has a nice little leica superzoom lens, which will allow me to take some decent pictures of birds for this blog. This is the end of digibining!!!!

Choosing a camera for birding is a tough job, because it is all about compromising. At one end of the spectrum, I was tempted for a while by the DSLR cameras. Their quality is obviously a few steps above any kind of point and shoot camera you can buy, and are wonderfull toys to play with. One the other end of the spectrum, I could pick those nice little superzoom cameras which, in the $300-$400 range, provide a cute little zoom.

At the end, I choose the superzoom camera, for personal reasons :

- First and foremost, the price : An entry level DSLR plus an entry level 300mm zoom are probably about $1000-1500. That's $700-1200 more than a superzoom bridge camera. That's money that could be better used for many many things in a house with a cute little baby. Or maybe two plane tickets to south texas, or florida, for the next vacation (babies travel for free, I was told)

- Second, size and weight. I already carried my son for one hour in one of those cute little kanguru bags. Not too bad, but I was told babies are growing quite fast. I believe I am more likely to bring my camera for traveling and hiking if the camera is light and tiny.

Anyway, I was able to experiment a little bit with my camera during a trip at the sleeping bear national lakeshore. This was a short family trip, and I did not have the chance to do a lot of birding, but still, I enjoyed it

Sleeping Bear Dunes Landscape

Milkweed colonizing the dunes.

Piping Plover nest protection. I was tempted to get a bit closer to see if I could see a plover, but I thought it was better to leave them alone......

Indigo Bunting. The picture was taken about 5-6 meters away (15-18 feet), and I was pretty excited to take my first bird picture with my new camera!

Rose Breasted Grosbeak. My dad spotted first this "funny black and white bird". The bird was 20 m away (60 feet).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nesting instinct

Believe it or not, but I have spend more time lately reading books about growth and birth of little humans, than birds themselves. I know, this is hard to believe. After all, little humans are easy to ID. Duck size (average 7 pounds), pink skin, fat cute little bummies, and unmistakable song (which they are supposed to use loudly, night or days, unlike these neotropical migrants who only sing in May, between 7 AM to 9 AM).

Thus it was a surprise for me to discover that so much literature was available for the growth and development of a single specie. "what to expect when you are expecting" alone has more pages than David Sibley "The Sibley guide to bird life and behaviour"! And this is even BEFORE the baby is even born!!!!

So anyway, I spend the last months or so reading, studying and comparing many many different books about pregnancies, took all the classes available, etc.

So then last week Diane woke me up at 5AM (and lied telling me it was actually 6AM) and told me "let's go to Crane Creek", I became suspicious. I remembered this paragraph about the nesting instinct of soon-to-be mothers. A few hours before birth, pregnant women are supposed to get a burst of energy that lead them to do all sorts of things, including cleaning the house, the windows etc.

Diane being a birder, maybe this burst of energy translated into a desire for a birding trip?
Anyway, it was an offer I could not refuse. See the books also say "be specially nice to your wife". So of course I sacrificed myself, packed the binoculars (and the scope, you never know what could show up), snacks, drove through the local McDonald for coffee, and here we went.
The trip on the board walk started in a near comic way. Diane almost had an accident. With a prothonotary warbler. The warbler was flushed by another birdwatcher and had to make a desperate turn in order to avoid Diane's belly (remember she is full term it was no little task for the bird). Nice way for Diane to see a lifer I guess. Wonder if the ABA rules specify something that would allow me to add it to our baby's list.
The other highlight of the trip was a great lifer for both of us. There was a Least Bittern calling (it would be really too much to call this a song), and this plus birding with Diane made it a wonderfull day! Too bad she did not wake me at 4h50 instead of 5h00, because people around told me the bird was seen from this very same place, at less than 6 feet away!
Anyway, I digibinned a few mediocre pictures on this trip. Next year, I promise, I should have a much better camera.
Oh, and by the way, no baby yet....
Eastern Screech Owl

Chesnut Sided Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Black Throated Green Warbler

Gray Catbird

Monday, May 4, 2009

A few pictures from Crane Creek

This is the top of the spring migration here, and of course, that should mean more posts, more pictures, more interesting stuff on all the birder's blog. But more time birding simply means less time posting. That's the sad reality.

So I will just post a few digibinned picture from last Sunday, in Crane Creek.

Yellow rumped warbler

Yellow Warbler, female



Green Heron

Cape May Warbler