Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We love autumn!

Snow Goose
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Does it get any better than this? Together with the whole family, meeting old friends and relatives at beautiful wetlands? Please buy a Duck Stamp to ensure that places like the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge are still here for our children's children's children.

"Confusing?" Ha!

In my spring plumage, I'm not just gorgeous, I'm easy for people with their pitiful vision and undiscerning ears to identify. In fall, I get to travel incognito except among reasonably good birders. Well, I did. But now Bill Hilton Jr. has posted a bunch of photos and information to make it easy to recognize us "confusing fall warblers" (as people call us). I think it's interesting the way people have to look at every little feature to tell us apart. We just know who we and everyone else are--individually as well as collectively--with barely a glance, no matter what stage our plumage is in.

Even though we warblers hardly need a refresher course, check out his Fall Warbler I.D. post. He's got some excellent photos of some of my friends.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Close encounters of the third, and the bird, kinds

Tufted Titmouse
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
HAHAHAHAHA! I just saw the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Those silly humans! They devote so much technology and time and effort searching for intelligent life on other planets, hoping to communicate with extraterrestrials, when they haven't made the tiniest inroads into finding and communicating with other forms of intelligent life right here on earth! They've barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the most elemental contexts in which we birds communicate, much less having a clue about what we're actually saying.

And really, they aren't even that good at communicating with one another. And I'm not even talking about their problems communicating with humans of other cultures--even when they're talking the same language, they don't necessarily communicate anything. To be perfectly honest, guys, I think they're hopeless.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hey, look!

Monk Parakeet
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
They're doing a census of us!!http://www.uic.edu/labs/minor/chicago-parakeet.html

Hooray for Birds & Beans!

Being a warbler, I spend a lot of time in the tropics. It's depressing flying down every fall and discovering yet more lovely little places that have been "developed"--that is, destroyed by humans. One of the worst problems for us is coffee plantations--especially because when coffee is grown in the traditional way, farmers can provide lots of habitat for us birds so everybody wins.

Some people understand the problem, but they don't always know what to do to make sure the coffee they buy is really grown in the best ways for us birds. But finally there's a place that sells ONLY the real thing--Certified Bird Friendly coffee!! Check out Birds & Beans.

There are only two officially certified coffees--the Smithsonian's Bird Friendly certification, and the Rainforest Alliance certification. Unfortunately, coffee sold with the Rainforest Alliance certification doesn't need to be 100 percent certified, so a significant part of their blends isn't necessarily grown to the high standards that the Smithsonian Institution requires for every drop of a package of coffee to bear their certification. And other coffees, even if they have one of my buddies on the package, aren't necessarily grown using the best practices for us birds. It's shocking how many people use images of birds to sell things, without ever getting permission. Laura Erickson never even asked me to sign a release when she shot this photo!

"Shade-grown" can refer to a monoculture of canopy trees with no bromeliads and virtually no diversity--that totally sucks when you're looking for juicy bugs and good hiding and sleeping places!

So if you're a human, PLEASE buy genuine, certified Bird Friendly coffee. If you can't find it in your neck of the woods, you can order it directly from Birds & Beans. It's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Holy crap! THIS is sobering!

Sandhill Crane
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
You know how Google puts those context ads on the side of some pages, hoping you'll click? Well, I was helping my Whooping Crane buddy post the previous blog post, and lo and behold there was a link to "Crane Hunting." Oh, man--I thought it was going to be filled with leads on where Whoopers could find blue crabs and where I could hunt for the most succulent tubers. My heart leapt--and I clicked.

Oh, NOOOOOOOOOOO! I felt just like poor Mr. Bill, knocked flat, when I saw what it was linking to. A page with "human" beings (ahem--where DID the word "humane" originate?) each holding not just one, but two or more dead Sandhill Cranes in their grubby paws, killed in what is called a "canned hunt." Every one of those dead birds with some poor widow or widower flying about, utterly bereft, all so people can have what? A photo op showing a bunch of them with way more than they can eat. They looked like the worst sort of rapacious killers--I mean, not even weasels and raccoons kill so many at one time! The advertiser was exulting not in providing a quality experience out of doors with nature and beauty, but a shooting fest where they practically guarantee that hunters will not just get one crane, but get the legal limit, "beverages included."

Human hunters are each allowed by U.S. and Texas law to kill up to three cranes every day, and up to six total. Remind me to stop migrating through Texas!

And you know how they get those cranes? They trick them by using taxidermist "prepared" dead birds to make the living cranes think, "Oh, look--there's George and Martha! Let's go down and say hi!" and BAM! If that isn't desecration of bodies, and for the worst possible reason, I don't know what is.

And don't tell me these people are hunting because they're hungry. They charge $250 per day per person (with a three-person minimum) to do these canned hunts. You could buy an awful lot of free-range, organic chicken for $250! And don't tell me they do it for some splendid outdoor experience. The website says, "While crane hunting our hunters enjoy roomy comfortable A-frame and hay bale blinds."

It's enough to make a grown bird cry. And it's an excellent reminder that when you see those google ads, DON'T click!!!!

Here's an interesting tidbit

Whooping Crane
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Did you know that the 22 Whooping Crane chicks now training in Wisconsin for their first migration outnumber the entire living population of whoopers just 67 years ago? Cool, huh?

I picked up this little tidbit on Journey North's Whooping Crane pages. I love getting my news there. Also, I love checking out the Crane Cam every morning. The birds take off (weather permitting) around 7 a.m. CDT--that's 6 a.m. bird time, of course. (Yes, bird time. We don't have clocks to spring ahead or fall back with.) If I forget, it's still fun to check any time it's light outside--you never know what those adorable young things will be up to. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Burn out that burdock!

The wonderful wildlife photographer and writer Marie Read took this sad photo of a goldfinch who met with a tragic death at the sharp thorns of a burdock. Joel Baines is the one who alerted Marie to this horrible situation. His book, Native Plants for Native Birds: A Guide to Planting for Birds in and around Ithaca, New York, is really worth reading if you're a human gardener. Tragically, most of us birds are functionally illiterate and often "plant" the seeds of invasive exotics in our droppings, so this is a situation in which we are dependent upon the kindness of strangers. But really, it was humans who brought these weeds here in the first place, so it really IS their responsibility to get rid of them.

If you're a human who happens to have burdock on your property, please, please, PLEASE burn it out. It is an exotic weed that we goldfinches have not had time to evolve defenses against. None of us deserve such a fate.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Got fish?

Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson

More about evolution

Red-eyed Vireo
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Yesterday I heard that Laura Erickson's dog Photon had to have some teeth pulled because they were badly decayed. Dental infections can lead to a lot of heart problems in mammals. Now I don't want to be snarky, but this is yet another way that we birds are light-years more evolved than humans and other mammals. We got rid of teeth ages ago--what's the point of having something that causes so many problems at so many points in life, and isn't aerodynamic to boot? Teeth are just SO reptilian!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hawk Ridge Weekend

Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Starting Friday. Be there or be square.


Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I say we hawks are far more impressive and beautiful than you little green jobs. And you'd better watch it, because SOME hawks eat you guys for lunch.

Duluth's where the action's at right now!

Red-eyed Vireo
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Lots of us Red-eyed Vireos, catbirds, redstarts, and more! Of course, if you're into the rarer species, a dark-morph Swainson's Hawk passed over Hawk Ridge yesterday. But frankly, we vireos are much lovelier.

Great article on feral cat colonies, or the greatest article?

American Robin
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Read this magnificent piece in the current Audubon.

Hey, look! It's 09-09-09!

No wonder I'm dressed to the nines.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why does Bloomberg want to gas us, Mommy?

Listening carefully
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Oh, dear. Please don't let your children read this story:
NEW YORK (WPIX) - Mayor Bloomberg had quite the scare when a bird struck into a jet carrying him and a few other big wigs who were traveling from the Hamptons to Sen. Ted Kennedy's funeral in Boston Saturday, according to a published report.

Unlike the geese that forced US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River in January, the bird that collided into Bloomberg's jet did not clog up the engine.

Shortly after an investigation determined that it was in fact a bird strike that caused the airliner to go down, Bloomberg said that the creatures in the sky are a nuisance to airplanes and threw his support behind a plan that would have the birds gassed in an attempt to control the population.

"There is not a lot of cost involved in rounding up a couple thousand geese, and letting them go to sleep with nice dreams," he said.
Hello? They were on Long Island--a major migration route--during the height of fall migration, he doesn't even know what kind of bird his airplane killed, and he's already itching to kill more? And he's in the so-called family values party?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hooray for bird feeders!

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
What do you mean, I'm not welcome?? They got birds, and I'm a bird. Yum yum.