Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I have the strangest hankering for a salad.

American Kestrel
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Extra tomatoes, and I think I'll have raspberry vinaigrette dressing. On the side.

I've decided to start eating meat.

American Goldfinch
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
No more vegan diet for me!

Yum Yum!!

Archimedes the Eastern Screech-Owl
Actually, those cool little feet give mice part of their appealing texture.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A nice LONG recording of me!

Sharp-tailed Grouse
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Laura Erickson put 3 recordings of me and my friends on her podcast--and one is over 5 minutes long!
5:48 recording
1:00 recording
26 second recording

Cool! You can hear ME on the Internet!

Laura Erickson just added some pure, unadulterated recordings of ME and my friends (really--she took my picture when she was making the recordings!) to her podcast. You can hear several choices here:
1:43 recording
1:57 recording
2:49 recording
37 second recording

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I feel pretty!

Northern Shoveler
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Well, handsome.

Why don't we crash into one another?

Snow Goose
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
If we stop to ask why, that's when we'll crash.

Mike's Back!

Hermit Thrush
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I'm not a photographer--a Canon EOS 50D (just the body, without any lens on it) weighs more than 24 TIMES what I weigh! And even a tiny PowerShot weighs five times what I weigh. And forget spotting scopes! The only camera I could manage would be a James Bond cuff link kind of thing, and even then it would be rather a burden for a 31g. bird to lug about.

But I do love looking at photos, especially of other Hermit Thrushes, and so the only other blog I follow, other than this one, of course, is Mike McDowell's. (And he has a lovely photo of one of my friends on it right now!) He's been having some trouble with some company that "hosts" him or something, so he had to move over to www.birddigiscoper.com. I hope he doesn't lose too many followers!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Even educated fleas do it...

Listening carefully
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
But what exactly do birds DO? If you're trying to explain the birds and the bees to your children, get the answers from the Dr. Ruth of Ornithology, who explains the nitty gritty facts of life on her own blog. But she said we could quote it for you birds out there:
OK. Equipment on male birds: two testes, both internal (so avian sperm must be able to survive at very high temperatures, and they don't need to worry about their fertility if they jump on a bicycle now and then) that lead through the vas deferens to a chamber called the cloaca. The cloaca is sort of the vestibule entry into the whole house, with those two hallways to the testes, the ureters leading to the kidneys, and the large intestine. So it's very important for birds to poop before having sex, to clear out the vestibule before company arrives, so to speak, but since birds can poop at the drop of a hat (meaning on your head the moment your hat falls off) this does not represent any hardship.

Equipment on female birds: They have only one functional ovary (if they had two, and managed to ovulate through both, they'd end up with scrambled eggs inside), which is connected to the cloaca via the oviduct. During the nesting season, female birds usually ovulate about once a day. The ovary looks quite a bit like a teenie tiny cluster of grapes, only a couple of grapes are double the size of the rest, and one is HUGE. That is actually the whole yolk of the next egg to be ovulated.

So now the birds are feeling romantic -- maybe they're cranes and have been singin' and dancin' in the rain, maybe they're red red robins who've been bob-bob-bobbin' along -- and now the moment arrives! He flutters his wings in eager anticipation, and this time she doesn't flitter off saying she has a headache -- she actually flutters her wings back at him! So he hops aboard her back, and she's twisted her tail a bit to get the bottom to face the side, and he twists his tail to get the bottom to face the side, and their two cloacas meet in what ornithologists romantically call the "cloacal kiss." And a packet of sperm from him passes over into her cloaca. Then he flies off, she remains where she's sitting for a bit, and they each pull out a tiny little cigarette.

The sperm swim, as sperm are wont to do, and head up her oviduct. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, she's ovulated one yolk that morning, which is in the high reaches of the oviduct. One lucky sperm wins the race, and the rest go over into the pool hall and shoot a few rounds, hoping they'll have better luck the next day, and they sometimes do, because as I noted, they can survive warm body temperatures. As the fertilized egg works its way down the oviduct, the cells secrete the proteins that make up the albumen, and then secrete the calcium that will form the shell. And eventually, usually by early the next morning, the egg has reached the vestibule, which makes the female bird very uncomfortable and she heads for a nest (if her own isn't built, she'll take any port in the storm) and dumps that egg out. And it eventually hatches into another bird who will one day ask his parents to tell him where he came from, and they'll say, "The stork brought you," or "Toledo," depending on how much of a sense of humor they have.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Make your carbon footprint smaller

I have just a teenie tiny carbon footprint, but if you're one of those people who want to make your carbon footprint smaller, to protect the air we all breathe and at least try to reduce climate change, please Power Down for the Planet.

Remember, producing electricity from coal destroys habitat, pollutes waters, and is the largest source of mercury in the air--which comes down to accumulate in water and fish. Don't squander energy!

How are you spending Robert Frost's birthday?

American Robin
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Reading "Birches," of course!

How are you spending Robert Frost's birthday?

Pretending to be asleep so those friggin' chickadees will leave me alone.

How are you spending Robert Frost's birthday?

California Sea Lions
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Contemplating his poems as we digest fish.

How are you spending Robert Frost's birthday?

I'll be reading "The Oven Bird," since he died before he finished what would definitely have been his magnum opus, "The Black-throated Green Warbler."

Poisoning Postponed "for now"

Great-tailed Grackle
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
The U.S. Border Patrol has decided to allow "further study" before lacing a stretch of the bank of the Rio Grande River with herbicides to wipe out all the plants so illegal immigrants, as well as birds and other wildlife, can't hide from them. The people in the nearby communities are naturally concerned about how dangerous the pesticides are, and that's as good a reason as any to stop such a project. But hello? Plants are essential along a river bank for all kinds of water quality issues--and a lot of humans as well as birds get their drinking and irrigation water from the Rio Grande. Plants are essential along a river bank for all kinds of other ecological reasons, too. We birds need them for food and shelter.

Here's the newest story from CNN.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monk Parakeet saves toddler's life!

Monk Parakeet
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Boy, sometimes we parrots amaze even ourselves. The parrot who was honored for saving a toddler's life by yelling, "Mama, Baby" when the baby was choking is a "Quaker"--just another name for one of us Monk Parakeets. Read about it or listen on NPR.

It's not so easy for us to avoid the Texas border, either

Oh, my. That Houston Chronicle story about the border patrol wanting to poison all the plants along a stretch of the Rio Grande river has us all upset. How, exactly, are we supposed to avoid the border when we migrate?

Map by Lanny Chambers from hummingbirds.net

Crossing borders

Rufous Hummingbird
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
You know, I'm as territorial as the next guy--probably MORE territorial--but holy crap! Poisoning the plants along the border?? What am I supposed to eat? Where am I supposed to rest? People may have some rocket scientists among them, but where are their brains??


Oh, my gosh! They're talking about poisoning plants along the Mexican border to make it easier to spot illegal immigrants! What the @$#%^&!! I mean, we birds NEED those plants! And ::ahem:: don't people learn from their past mistakes???

Today's Houston Chronicle tells the story:
The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.

“It is unprecedented that they’d do it in a populated area,” he said of spraying the edge of the Rio Grande as it weaves between the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
Read the whole distressing story at the Houston Chronicle Online.

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers

Wood-boring Beetle
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I know this is politically incorrect, but I personally hope they're extinct--every last one of them. And for all I care, Pileated Woodpeckers could disappear tomorrow and we beetles would sleep a lot better. (Shhh! We insects aren't supposed to post on an all-bird blog!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm feeling reflective.

Canada Goose
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson

Car Talk Puzzler!

Northern Cardinal
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Okay--I don't own a car, don't drive, and don't even like cars. But I do love last week's (week of 13/16/09) Puzzler on Car Talk, because it's about cardinals! Well, ex-cardinals, but so what? Check out "Last Week's Puzzler."

The only thing more satisfying than catching fish...

Western Grebe
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
is sharing them with your children.

Chimney Swift migration map

If you can believe it, Laura Erickson doesn't have a single photograph of a Chimney Swift! I mean--those are basic backyard birds for her!!!?? So I'm the one who has to tell you about the Chimney Swift migration map. We hummingbirds belong to the same order as swifts--Apodiformes. But as you can see from the photo, we hummers do, in fact, have feet, and so do swifts. You can't believe every scientific name!

Anyway, check out the map. I'll be sad when the Chimney Swifts are done passing over Costa Rica, but they have to nest up your way in order to fly over my neck of the woods each spring and fall.

Such goings on!

I sit down here in Costa Rica watching all the hanky panky among various ostensibly happily married couples. Oh, my! They talked about one situation on Morning Edition. Tsk tsk tsk.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Guess where we are...

Purple Martin
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I know everyone gets all excited about the first hummingbirds, but really, we Purple Martins are WAY cooler. If you want to know where we've been seen by people, check out the map at the Purple Martin Conservation Association website here: http://purplemartin.org/scoutreport/

Who needs camouflage?

Song Sparrow
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Not me!

Peek a boo!

I'm too sexy for my car...

Common Grackle
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Fortunately, I can fly wherever I want to go.

Oh, man--I can't wait till the grass greens up

Canada Goose
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I am so sick of gumming up my beak serrations with mud.

Migrating over Duluth!

Bald Eagle near nest
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Yesterday 200 of us Bald Eagles flew over West Skyline in Duluth, making the spring total so far 1749! Other birds may be in trouble, but we're doing just peachy thanks to the Endangered Species Act and all the protection and help it gave us.

If you want to keep track of our migration over Duluth, check out the summaries--this is the "West Skyline Hawk Count.".

I'm worried about cranes

Roseate Spoonbill
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
The wonderful Mike McDowell just posted a frightening report about my Whooping Crane buddies in Aransas, Texas, with suggestions about how you people can help. Please check it out.

More scary Whooping Crane news

Whooping Crane
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Oh, my. I don't even know what to say. This just in from the Houston Chronicle:
Wildlife officials worried about whooping cranes
© 2009 The Associated Press
March 22, 2009, 11:44PM

ROCKPORT, Texas — Wildlife managers are worried that some of the whooping cranes wintering at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge may be too weak and malnourished to successfully make their return to Canada this season.

The drought has affected the flock that spends each winter on the Texas Gulf Coast. The birds have had trouble finding food because low water levels have decreased the number of blue crabs, which make up 85 percent of the endangered species' diet.

"These are the worst conditions I have ever observed for the cranes at Aransas, with some birds looking thin and with disheveled plumage," Tom Stehn, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whooping crane coordinator, wrote in a March 15 report.

The flock had a record number of 270 when it arrived last fall. Six adults and 15 chicks had died as of March 15, leaving the flock at 249.
Read the rest of this disheartening news here.

I love a good mimic!

Northern Mockingbird
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Andy Kaufman's Elvis is the best you humans have to offer!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's IMDB!!!

Tufted Titmouse
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Vera here, and look. I'm not migratory, so I'm not much interested in International Migratory Bird Day--or "IMBD." But along with my brothers Chuck and Dave, as your resident Pop Culture Experts, we're very interested in the Internet Movie Data Base. So there.

Mmmmm. Fish for breakfast!

Western Grebe
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson

Homeward Bound

Snow Geese
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Homeward bound,
Home! Where the frost is clinging,
Home! Where the birds are singing,
Home, Where my mate is winging,
Honking beside me.

Arrrgh, mateys, it's International Talk Like William Shatner Day

Monk Parakeet
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I'm still stuck on International Talk Like a Pirate's Parrot Day, but you Trekkies out there might want to join today's festivities.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'm on my way back!

Black-capped Vireo
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Soon I'll be back in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, singing away. You can hear a minute of me singing (there's a damn dam in the background--I hate singing over that noise!) with this minute-long recording that Laura Erickson made--it's an mp3 file and she doesn't care if you download it for free, because it's not like I charged her for singing in front of her microphone. But please don't play the recording in the field--some people trick us into thinking there's another guy right there, and it's quite disconcerting.

By the way, Vera, our pop-culture-savvy titmouse, says once you download the file, if you know where it is, you can open iTunes, and in the File dropdown menu, click "Add to Library," then lead the browser to it. Then you can get it on your iPod to listen to in the car. NOT the field, okay?

Can't a guy call in peace?

Come on, you so-called insectivorous birds! Get these friggin' mosquitoes off me!

Oh, man--it's spring!

I feel like dancing!

Slim pickin's on frosty mornings!

Yeah, yeah, yeah--I KNOW I can always eat last year's leftover berries and crab apples. But this time of year a guy wants his worms.

Hei, aves Americanas...

Photo by Pedro Fernandes

Hei, passarada Americana, vocês não são as únicas aves do planeta! (Hey, American birds, you're not the only birds on the planet!) Este é o nosso 'website.' (Here is our website.)

Bird Is the Word

Friday, March 20, 2009

Things you can learn from a chickadee brain!

We chickadees (and Laura Erickson) made Anderson Cooper's blog on CNN!!! Check it out!

I don't cook for you all, but...

Barred Owl
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I couldn't help but wonder about the Peterson field guide sitting on the counter in the Julia Child's kitchen display at the Smithsonian. And suddenly a little bird (well, actually David Spector, in the biology department at Central Connecticut State University), told me that "when Julia Child was a student at Smith College she took at least one theater class with Samuel Eliot, long-time theater professor there who had been involved with the classic theater scene in Greenwich Village and Provincetown in the early part of the 20th century. The relevance here is that Sam Eliot was also the dean of Western Massachusetts birdwatchers, co-author of the classic Bagg and Eliot Birds of the Connecticut Valley. There's a chance that Julia Child picked up an interest in birds from her theater professor. Of course, there's also a chance that the field guide was in her kitchen to help in the identification of game."

Of course, "game birds" for Julia Child would include a lot fewer species than "game birds" for me. But really, they all taste like chicken. Anyway, thanks, David!

Early Birds & Springtime

Early Birds & Springtime

Posted using ShareThis

Why do we phoebes nest under bridges?

Eastern Phoebe
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
The structure gives us firm support below and protection from rain and sun above for our nest and babies, and the stream or river provides lots of insects. It's like buying a well-constructed house with the pantry already filled with an endless supply of free food.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Swallows of Capistrano

Cliff Swallow
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Today's the day! It's St. Joseph's feast day, the day people look up and actually notice us back at the Mission at San Juan Capistrano. (Well, sometimes they misidentify Barn Swallows or Chimney Swifts, but it's not like they're rocket scientists or anything.)

State of the Birds

Now THIS is important! Find out how we birds are faring!
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today released the first ever comprehensive report on bird populations in the United States, showing that nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats.

At the same time, the report highlights examples, including many species of waterfowl, where habitat restoration and conservation have reversed previous declines, offering hope that it is not too late to take action to save declining populations.

“Just as they were when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring nearly 50 years ago, birds today are a bellwether of the health of land, water and ecosystems,” Salazar said. “From shorebirds in New England to warblers in Michigan to songbirds in Hawaii, we are seeing disturbing downward population trends that should set off environmental alarm bells. We must work together now to ensure we never hear the deafening silence in our forests, fields and backyards that Rachel Carson warned us about.”

The report, The U.S. State of the Birds, synthesizes data from three long-running bird censuses conducted by thousands of citizen scientists and professional biologists.

In particular, it calls attention to the crisis in Hawaii, where more birds are in danger of extinction than anywhere else in the United States. In addition, the report indicates a 40 percent decline in grassland birds over the past 40 years, a 30 percent decline in birds of aridlands, and high concern for many coastal shorebirds. Furthermore, 39 percent of species dependent on U.S. oceans have declined.

However, the report also reveals convincing evidence that birds can respond quickly and positively to conservation action. The data show dramatic increases in many wetland birds such as pelicans, herons, egrets, osprey, and ducks, a testament to numerous cooperative conservation partnerships that have resulted in protection, enhancement and management of more than 30 million wetland acres.

“These results emphasize that investment in wetlands conservation has paid huge dividends,” said Kenneth Rosenberg, director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Now we need to invest similarly in other neglected habitats where birds are undergoing the steepest declines.”

“Habitats such as those in Hawaii are on the verge of losing entire suites of unique bird species,” said Dr. David Pashley, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President for Conservation Programs. “In addition to habitat loss, birds also face many other man-made threats such as pesticides, predation by cats, and collisions with windows, towers and buildings. By solving these challenges we can preserve a growing economic engine – the popular pastime of birdwatching that involves millions of Americans – and improve our quality of life.”

“While some bird species are holding their own, many once common species are declining sharply in population. Habitat availability and quality is the key to hea

Surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey, including the annual Breeding Bird Survey, combined with data gathered through volunteer citizen science program such as the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, show once abundant birds such as the northern bobwhite and marbled murrelet are declining significantly. The possibility of extinction also remains a cold reality for many endangered birds.

“Citizen science plays a critical role in monitoring and understanding the threats to these birds and their habitats, and only citizen involvement can help address them,” said National Audubon Society’s Bird Conservation Director, Greg Butcher. “Conservation action can only make a real difference when concerned people support the kind of vital habitat restoration and protection measures this report explores.”

Birds are beautiful, as well as economically important and a priceless part of America's natural heritage. Birds are also highly sensitive to environmental pollution and climate change, maki

The United States is home to a tremendous diversity of native birds, with more than 800 species inhabiting terrestrial, coastal, and ocean habitats, including Hawaii. Among these species, 67 are Federally-listed as endangered or threatened. In addition, more than 184 species are designated as species of conservation concern due to a small distribution, high-level of threats, or declining populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated creation of the new report as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, which includes partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Read all about it, and even download a cool PDF of the whole report, at www.stateofthebirds.org.

Be careful out there--it's salmonella season!

David Bonter posted this on Project FeederWatch.

We finches have to trust that people will keep their feeders clean and the ground under them raked. I know I do my best to pick up only clean seed, but when a bazillion other guys have been there before me, it's hard to be sure no one's gone to the bathroom in there, and I happen to be one of the millions who love eating on the ground. It sucks that this bacteria lives in the dirt.