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 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