Friday, January 30, 2009

What Gulls Do You See?

This is a picture of the Dog Bar breakwater, outside of Gloucester, Mass. As a guy used to seeing only white-winged gull at a time, I as amazed at how many were on this single breakwater. How many white-winged gulls can you find? (Click to enlarge)

While I'm at it, here are a lot of other, better pictures taken by Doug Hitchcox from our Mass/Ivory Gull trip last weekend. Why are there no Ivory Gull pictures? Because when we finally got to Plymouth, the bird was, like, a mile out and the arctic wind was blowing at 400 miles per second, slicing through my skin and turning my marrow into icicles. Hey, we saw it, though. Other than that slight disappointment, it was a great day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bird-Related Sports Uniform Designs: Part 2

In the world of bird-related sports teams, the Baltimore Orioles stand head and shoulders above the rest. Not only is their logo among the most ornithologically-accurate of all the sports teams (except for the eye and bill color), but they are the only team whose name is the same as the whole species' common name. Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Orioles.

It's a great idea, and one that more cities have unfortunately not taken advantage of. Why can't I go catch a California Towhees football game? Who wouldn't want Key West Quail Dove season tickets?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bird-Related Sports Uniform Redesigns: Part 1

I really didn't want to do this yet, but I just got excited and couldn't stop.  

While writing a couple posts on bird-themed sports logos for 10,000 Birds I got to thinkin' about a couple things.  First, I wondered what it would be like if sports teams modeled their uniform designs on the uniform designs (aka plumages) of their mascots.  What if the Philadelphia Eagles dressed like Bald Eagles?  

So I found a bunch of uniform templates online and made some crude redesigns of current teams.  Here's what I've got:

Philadelphia Eagles

Monday, January 12, 2009

Interview with Peter Vickery on Ptarmigan in Maine

I was messing around on the internet yesterday and came across the 1905 Journal of the Maine Ornithological Society.  It's pretty interesting reading, both because it's nice to see that people a century ago were just as passionate about birds as we are, and to compare what birds were being seen then and now (check out the writer on page 11 excitedly relating the increasing numbers of Mallards).  

I paused, though, at a sentence on page 3 discussing the taxidermy collection of Mr. Manly Hardy: "Among the Maine novelties is the specimen of Willow Ptarmigan taken at Kenduskeag..."

Iiiiinteresting, I thought.  I had thought before about ptarmigan in Maine and wondered whether they could, or had ever, been established in the state.  Researching a bit more, I discovered a quote from none other than John J. Audubon claiming that Theodore Lincoln of Dennisville (the father of Thomas Lincoln, for whom the Lincoln's Sparrow is named) had shot several ptarmigan in the state and knew where to find others.  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Northern Hawk Owl - Bristol, Maine

Look, I started this site with the idea that I would post nothing but interviews.  Every other birding site I read was some variation on "Hey look at this bird I saw near my house," and I wanted to do something different.  

But, hey, look at this bird I saw near my house!

A Northern Hawk Owl!  Actually, I drove an hour to Bristol, Maine to find this lovely guy (or gal) and stood for half an hour in 10 degree weather looking at it.  Totally worth it, it was beautiful.  I also saw a Ruffed Grouse while I was there and got to spend an hour seawatching at Pemaquid Point afterwards.  Here are some pictures (I have more, but it was hard to tell when the bird was looking at me, and so most of the other in-focus pics are of the back of its head):

Also, not all bird blogs are lame, I'm just being a snob.  There are a ton of great, informational, in-depth sites out there that I hope someday to either emulate or destroy.  Emulate, mostly.  

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I and the Bird #91

Hey ch-ch-check out the newest edition of I and the Bird over at From the Faraway, Nearby.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tufted Duck in Westbrook, Maine

I mean...what did I do?  What did I do to deserve all these awesome birds delivered to my doorstep?  Just days ago I gave thanks to the birding gods for my 2008 bounty of rare birds, thinking that last year's feast would mean this year's famine.  

Not so.  

After spending a beautiful morning birding Biddeford Pool I got an email (good lord, iPhone, what would I do without you?) reporting a possible Tufted Duck in the Portland-area city of Westbrook.  Yeah.  No big deal, just a duck that usually winters in the UK.  This is Maine, remember?

So I went up and there he was, right off Main Street.  Easy peasy, right?  Well maybe not.  There is some talk on the Maine Birding List about whether or not this bird is a pure Tufted or has hybridized with either a Ring-necked Duck or a Scaup.  I met my friend Doug at the site, and we did not see much evidence of hybridization aside from the shorter-than-expected tuft.  However, my new Kaufman Field Guide (thanks, Santa) specifically notes that tuft length is not a determining factor.  Likewise, pictures of Scaup/Tufted hybrids do not match, as our bird was completely lacking the back-barring shown in that photo and in the Sibley drawing.  

Friday, January 2, 2009

2008 Year in Review

Hi Friends -

2008 is just two days in the bag and I'm already feeling nostalgic.  2008!  Those were the days!  I was so young!

Unlike 2007, I didn't do much birding outside of Maine.  OK, I spent a week in Colorado and a couple days in Quebec, but I didn't see a whole lot.  It was good, though, because sticking around really cranked up the ol' state list (from 178 to 236).    My ABA list, too, jumped from 363 to 391.  Here is the list of new birds for 08:

363. Bohemian Waxwing - Portland (After a looong time searching)
364. Upland Sandpiper - Kennebunk Plains, ME
365. Prairie Warbler - Kennebunk Plains, ME
366. Curlew Sandpiper - Seawall Beach, ME (really fun twitch on the coast)
367. Virginia Rail - Scarborough Marsh
368. Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow - Scarborough Marsh
369. Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow - Scarborough Marsh (all three of these birds found on one beautiful day)
370. Mississippi Kite - Newmarket, NH (a real crummy twitch.  The load of other birders were really acting like jerks.  This search was the inspiration for this, one of my favorite posts on this site)
371. Roseate Tern - Eastern Egg Rock
372. Atlantic Puffin - Eastern Egg Rock
373. Razorbill - Eastern Egg Rock
374. Wilson's Storm-petrel - Matinicus Rock
375. Common Murre - Matinicus Rock
376. Arctic Tern - Matinicus Rock
377. Red-billed Tropicbird - Matinicus Rock (371-377 all came on one incredible Audubon pelagic trip.  It was an absolutely stunning day, and the birds were plentiful.  The highlight was easily the Tropicbird, a real rarity who appeared only after a local biologist came aboard the boat and announced that the bird hadn't been seen for days and was presumed gone.  Unreal.)
378. Whimbrel - Pine Point
379. Marbled Godwit - Pine Point
380. Black-legged Kitiwake - St. Lawrence River whale watch. 
381. Stilt Sandpiper - Scarborough Marsh
382. Northern Wheatear - Cumberland, ME (Days like this remind me why I love birding.  A cool morning alone on a beautiful little hill I had never heard of before, and would never have found had a Northern Wheatear not been reported there.)
383. Lesser Black-backed Gull - Dyer Point (I had been chasing LBBGs for awhile, and had a nagging doubt that I had just overlooked them previously.  I got a boost of confidence, though, because I knew this bird's ID the moment I saw it.)
384. Greater White-fronted Goose - Yarmouth, ME
385. Barnacle Goose - Yarmouth, ME
386. European Golden-plover - Scarborough Marsh (Great bird, and great fun tracking it down.)
387. Lapland Longspur - Scarborough Marsh (One of the highlights of a great day birding with Abby, Don and Becky)
388. Cave Swallow - Two Lights SP
389. Dickcissal - Yarmouth, ME
390. White-winged Crossbill - Falmouth, ME (hometown CBC)
391. Varied Thrust - South Portland, ME (a real target bird hanging out, still, at a feeder in SoPo)

What's up for 2009?  I gotta say, being a full-time law student has been tough.  The obvious target is 400 ABA birds, but getting them without leaving the state may be tough.  Things are looking good so far, the first bird I saw in 2009 was one that I missed all through 2008: A Red-bellied Woodpecker in Central Park, NYC.  

Here's to another great year!

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