Saturday, May 2, 2015

Google Street View Birding: Antarctica Part I: The Falkland Islands

Hello, and welcome back to the worst blog on the internet.

Today brings another installment of Google Street View Birding, where I sit at my desk in the dark, my pasty face squinting at the screen, and surf around Google Street View looking for birds.  This installment is my favorite yet, and takes us to a place with very few species of birds, but many excellent Google Street View looks: Antarctica.

Gentoo Penguins on Petermann Island, Antarctica
Though there is very little coverage of Antarctica and the surrounding islands in Street View (I mean, there are no streets...) there are a crap-ton of great views of birds. So many, in fact, that I need to break this thing into multiple posts. Luck you! Let's start the same way many oceanic trips to Antartica start: with a visit to the Falkland Islands.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Birds at Large: Shorebird Mug

Antelope Island State Park, in the middle of Utah's Great Salt Lake, is one of my favorite places to bird. I love it out there. Millions of birds, and also bison, pronghorn, bighorn, mule deer, and other western goodies.  I've been in love since my first visit back in 2013.

On my latest visit, this past February, I wanted to commemorate my love for this state park via the purchase of some kind of doodad.  Perusing the gift shop (no Chukars in the parking lot, this time), I saw a little coffee mug but a bunch of shorebirds on it. Hey, I like coffee and shorebirds! I exchanged American currently for the drinking vessel, and went on birding.

Good looking mug, eh? Yeah, cool. This being a birding blog, let's take a closer look at some of the shorebirds depicted. Just for yuks.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Tattoo

I've known for years that I wanted to get a bird tattoo, but it was hard to settle on an image. As you might have guessed from my frequent and annoying correction of mis-identified birds in popular culture, I wanted something realistic. I wanted a bird tattoo because I love birds, not to support whimsy or because I was a 20 year old girl who had just left hime and wanted to show how much I loved my new found freedom. For example, I wanted something unlike every single image you find when you Google "bird tattoo."

For awhile I was set on getting a page from an old Peterson guide. Probably gulls or terns - I don't like color tattoos and they'd just be in black and white - complete with identification arrows and gender names. Like maybe the Roseate Terns below, the two flying birds and the three heads.

But, I dunno. Maybe it's copyright infringement? Maybe I just wanted something a little more personal. Maybe I didn't want words. Either way, I found something better.

On his (newly-redesigned!) website,, David Sibley sells some of the original pen and ink drawings he made for old newspaper columns and other publications.  Check them out. I bought one of those old drawings, one showing a pair of black-legged kittiwakes in flight, about a year ago and had it framed.  Here's the image.

Cool, right? Simple, but I liked the momentum of the image and that kittiwakes are, like, kind of a connoisseur's gull, know what I mean? My decision was made, now it was just time to do the dang thing.

Through random fate of a Google search I landed on the Champion Tattoo Company, on Barrack's Row in SE DC.  An appointment was made for March 31 - my 32nd birthday - and after a lovely dinner with my fiancee I strolled in and let Butch get to work.  Great guy, that Butch. We talked a lot about fracking, living in Europe, the Appalachian Trail, and that the rent it too damn high.  Here he is at work on my arm.

And here it is now, all healed up and ready for life.  

Anyone else got some bird tattoos they want to share?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Birds at Large: The Maine Sportsman

My grandfather and dad are the editors of a newspaper called the Maine Sportsman. It's a fantastic publication, covering outdoor issues all over the state. Want to know which lakes near Sebago are good for smallmouth? Want to learn about riding snowmobiles in Aroostook County? Where to find the best spots for stripers? It's all in the Sportsman.

It's a labor of love for them, and I know my family and the rest of the staff bust their butts all month putting together each issue. As careful as they are, though, mistakes are sometimes made. It's that way in every publication. However, looking through the Sportsman's April issue, which arrived in my inbox today, I found a mistake that is, frankly, inexcusable. It came in the "Maine Wildlife Quiz" section, purportedly about Maine's state bird, the black-capped chickadee.

Do you see it?  The photo accompanying the article isn't a black-capped chickadee at all, but a European great tit.

My own flesh and blood! What betrayal!

Of course I immediately called my dad to express my outrage. He hemmed and hawed and eventually said that it was part of an elaborate April Fool's plan to get the two of us to have a conversation about great tits. Well, as an ad-lib that's pretty funny, but it's also a sign of great disrespect of one of Maine's iconic symbols. If I can't win a battle for State Bird respect against my own family, who can I win it against?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cracking the Nut

I'm fascinated by the story of the chestnut blight, which killed an estimated four billion American chestnut trees in the first half of the 20th century.  Four billion!  Thousands and thousands of trees dying across the landscape each day. This disease had a transformative effect upon the American landscape, but it's largely forgotten today.

I wrote about the chestnut blight, and some inspiring efforts to replant blight-resistant trees at Flight 93 National Memorial in western Pennsylvania, for the magazine of the National Parks Conservation Association.  Here's a link if you'd like to take a look.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

All The Times My eBird Observations Have Been Questioned by Reviewers

Misidentification is a sensitive topic for birders. Birding is a hobby with a heavy reliance on people's word, and if your word is wrong - or if you gain a reputation as someone whose word is wrong - it's not much fun.

But bird identification is hard! All these goddamn things look exactly alike, and they don't usually just sit there and let you look at them.  At the same time, thanks to online listservs, eBird and BirdLog, submitting sightings is easier than ever.  Beginning birders who could once work through their identifications at home in their own notebooks are now tempted with going "public" with their sightings, perhaps earlier than they should.

Birders are confronted with their own misidentifications most commonly through the dreaded "Question about your" emails from eBird reviewers. You hate to see one of these in your inbox. These'll come after you submit an atypical record to eBird but don't provide enough documentation (photos or notes) in the observation to satisfy the reviewer that you had the ID correct. It's not confrontational, but the burden is back on you to convince the person that you saw what you saw.

It's not pleasant when someone tells you that you're wrong. Some birders, I've heard, respond quite negatively to the idea - just the idea - that they were mistaken. We've all got reputations to maintain and self-confidence to massage.

But birders shouldn't be offended by eBird review emails. It's OK to be wrong, and you're not an idiot for misidentifying something. To try to help remove the stigma here, I want to show the world the lots of eBird review emails I've received, letting you know that even a birder who writes on THE INTERNET makes mistakes.

My Report: 3 Cassin's Finches, Lane, Oregon - Feb. 27, 2009
The Problem?: Birders need to be extra careful when they're traveling. I was in Oregon for the first time, and just assumed that all the reddish finches would be Cassin's, because I thought of them as the "Western" finch. I didn't look closely enough, and didn't realize that Cassin's were "exceptionally rare" (reviewer's words) at the elevation I was at.
Was I wrong?: Yeah probably.

My Report: 1 Nashville Warbler, Violette's Lock, MD, April 23, 2006
The Problem: April 23 is a pretty early date for Nashvilles on the East Coast, but I didn't know that, and didn't take any field notes.
Was I wrong?: I don't know

My Report: 1 Say's Phoebe, Lane, Oregon - Feb. 28, 2009
The Problem?: Another example of not being aware of the particulars in a new spot. This is an early date for Say's at this location. However, this was I think my first Say's, and I remember looking carefully. The reviewer said it's not too uncommon to have early birds here, and I think the observation was accepted.
Was I wrong?: No, I don't think so

My Report: 2 Black Vultures, Washington, Illinois - April 9, 2011
The Problem?: It helps to bird with other birders. These birds were not particularly rare at this location, and we both remembered seeing them clearly.
Was I wrong?: Nah.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Honored to Have Been Featured in the ABA Milestones Column This Month

About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Blog Design | 2007 Company Name