In patch birding, it's all relative. You're not after huge numbers, you're not expecting rarities. Instead, it's about really knowing a place, and learning its rhythms. When you're stuck with a patch long enough, you learn to love it no matter how few birds there are.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Breaking Records or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patch or: A Pedestrian's Guide to the Unspectacular Birdlife of Yards Park, DC
Monday, August 3, 2015
I recently posted a couple articles to the ongoing The Sketch series on Audubon.org highlighting quirky, cool birds, this time featuring the Black Skimmer (the only bird with cat eyes!) and the Wilson's Storm-petrel (fishes with its little feet!). Enjoy!
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Antarctica. The Great White Desert. The Tundra Down Under. The Big Ice Cube. The Cold-tinent. Ol' Snowyface. We've finally made it.
Like the polar explorers of old, we've slowly made our way across the stormy seas to our destination. We've seen a lot of amazing things along the way, including endangered wrens in the Falkland Islands and nesting albatross (260 times larger than the wren) on South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. We've seen adorable seals. And terns. And shags. And weird ducks and caracaras and oystercatchers and geese and vultures and a whole lot of penguins.
We start - led by our intrepid Google Street View friends - at the Antarctic Peninsula, that long point of land sticking out towards South America. We start on a small outcropping called Half Moon Island, just off the mainland of Antarctica. According to the informational overlords at Wikipedia, the 2010 images taken here were the first to put Google Street View on all seven continents. There to welcome them, of course, were penguins.
Friday, July 10, 2015
I did another piece for Audubon's The Sketch series, this time about the militaristic tendencies of house sparrows. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
After splitting the first two games of the 2013 World Series, the Red Sox and Cardinals left Boston to play game 3 in St. Louis. They played a tense game, eventually won 2-1 by the Cardinals after an unprecedented game-ending obstruction call on Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks. The Cardinals took at 2-1 series lead but eventually lost to my mighty Red Sox, 4-2.
But something interesting happened back in the third inning of Game 3, something that until now had eluded my knowledge. With one out in the inning, Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday popped a fly-ball to shallow centerfield off of pitcher Jake Peavy. Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury - soon to depart to the hated Yankees - charged in towards the ball but misplayed it - lost in the lights, most likely - and the ball dropped onto the field. The dutiful Holliday had run out the fly to first, and made a few steps towards second when he saw the ball drop. However, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia fielded the carom and alertly threw the ball to first, picking Holliday off and rendering moot the error.
Thank you for indulging me in baseball talk.
Anyway, something extremely interesting appeared behind Jacoby Ellsbery in the FOX reply of his blunder: a dang ol' bird. A bird - a passerine! - clearly flops to the ground right behind Jacoby. Weird, wild stuff.
What species is it, though?
Take a closer look at the GIF above, or go to the 1:30:21 mark on the YouTube video to see the bird flap awkwardly towards the ground and thump down, facing right.
A noted Cardinals fan, the ABA's Nate Swick noticed the bird during the live broadcast and quickly posted to Facebook that the bird looked like a yellow-rumped warbler. Nate was of course limited to the single replay on the live broadcast and didn't have the luxury of an endless looping GIF and YouTube. I don't think it's a yellow-rump.
I wanted to get some experts to weigh in, so I posed the question on Twitter.
Responses were all over the bird. Mockingbird? Redstart? Something?
It's tough to say. Let's think about what we know. First, it's October 27 in Missouri. That's late in the year, after the majority of migration is over. It's also fall, that time of year when migratory birds are drab and there are lots of youngsters around in whatever plumages they might have.
As for the bird itself, it's brownish above and, thanks for some clear image-grabbing from Nate, pretty solidly white below.
Just after this image, the bird banks back and its topside and tail are visible, as shown in the image at the top. The bird appears to have pale greater (and primary?) coverts - though I actually think it's just a trick of the eye. In some frames the bird appears to have a pale rump / upper tail coverts, in other frames there appears to be a dark center line to the tail with maybe pale sides, but in both cases the bird shows a very dark tail, even black in the early frames.
Monday, June 29, 2015
The first of a few pieces I am doing for Audubon's new The Sketch series is up, this one about the Monk Parakeet. They're little features about quirky birds, accompanied by a drawing from artist Jason Polan. A piece on House Sparrows is coming soon, and I'm working on a couple more. Stay tuned, and enjoy!
Monday, June 22, 2015
Everything about this is great.
The first season of Fargo on the FX network was a great watch, and a big hit (it won the Emmy for Best Miniseries, doncha know). Last week the network gave us its first glimpse of the show's second season, in the form of a twenty-second teaser trailer. Check it out:
On the particular day I filmed the male black-backed footage (December 20) I was bush-whacking off a of a popular hiking trail on public NCC land; only ten minutes from my house in Ottawa. I wasn't necessarily looking for birds this day, but wildlife in general, as we had had fresh snow the previous evening. Approximately 1.5km's in, I heard the faint 'pecking' sound of a woodpecker some 30 feet from me and instantly recognized it to be a male black-backed woodpecker. This bird was very comfortable with my presence and I set up my tripod less than 15 feet away from it.
I photographed the willing model before deciding to capture some video footage. I shoot a variety of wildlife and nature clips for my YouTube channel and the clip was posted there later that day.
It was definitely hard to keep this secret for four months, but was great to finally be able to share it last week - and the response and exposure has been very positive and exciting so far!