Sunday, December 21, 2008

350 ABA update

I'm officially at 344 in the US (361 overall)... and a few short species away from the target 350 before January 1.  Most of the additions came on gulls (thanks Jason for your help) and a few more on pure luck in parking lots (thanks to parking my car before finals)...

Many birds have evaded me... a number of ducks - most notably the Harlequin - mostly due to the current storm situation.  Visibility would be better in the dead of night... the best day (photos shown) was good but the water was choppy and within 10 minutes at the site snow began to fall and didn't let up until 10 inches covered the ground.  

It's been fun though as was the CBC - 48 species and well over 2000 birds despite the bay being frozen and snow falling the entire time.  

I'm sad to be leaving this state - particularly since the weather seems like it would be good for some birding tomorrow... oh well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Photo Reorganization

Alas, after many weeks of debating I have officially re-organized my bird photos found on 

While this allows for easier access and searching it marks the end of the "bird slideshow" on my page as no longer are they all in one album for an automatic slideshow.

I beseech you  bird-loving readers to be patient - I will work towards creating a folder with bird photos for a slide show soon.  Have no fear!!!

Seriously - I know you don't care but I'm going to do it anyway...
As a second note for this post - I'll be updating more recent photos of birds to my site soon... and I'll let you know when I do.
Thirdly, I'd like to say that picasa should work like gmail - where you can label an email as more than one thing instead of using folders - I think that would be a kick ass way to find pictures... I know some programs do this... but in my attempt to be streamlined - I'll stick with picasa for now.
Finally, in defense of google, check out the "new" picasa 3 photo software.  It rocks when you don't want to mess around too much with the more expensive less user friendly programs.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CBC's and the "Life List"

So finals week is here at last... and I have no desire to study.  This is largely due to the fact that I am approaching the 350 life birds that I thought I could hit by the end of winter here in NH.  I'm far surpassing that and am verging on achieving my "joke" goal of 350 by the end of the year.

Overall I'm somewhere near 360 if you include "foreign" birds (from a very minimal effort in T&T).  

If I hit 375 overall I'll be more than thrilled... but the real aim is 350 ABA birds by 11:59 12/31/08.  If not... I hope to get the rest on the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on 1/1/2008 in Oneida County.  

This effort will not come without some effort... already planned attempts include:
Wednesday/Thursday: Rochester, NH wtp for Thayer's Gull, Iceland Gull, and Glaucous Gull

Friday: 2 locations in Maine for Harlequin Duck

Saturday: Great Bay, NH - CBC - hopefully a few of the following: Eastern Screech Owl, White Winged Crossbills, Greater Scaup,  Canvasback, King Eider, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shrike, Black Scoter...

Sunday: Isles of Shoals CBC - hopefully a Kittewake and some alcids: Dovekie, Razorbill, Murres, etc.  

Monday - 12/22 - Nothing - drive home

Tuesday - 12/23 - Local Syracuse Birding

Wednesday 12/24- Thursday 12/26 - Christmas Break (ok - Birding from the car and in the backyard)

12/27 - Rochester, NY Birding including Montezuma NWR

12/28-12/31 - TBD but expected stops include Beaver Lake in B-ville, wtp's in NY, and wherever the birding listserv's report awesomeness!!!

1/1/2008 - Oneida County CBC

Birding over break in January: Syracuse Area Waterfowl count and birding with my father

And since I'm all about internal motivation - I'm aiming to see 150+ species over break... The list will be effective at 12:30 on Thursday (after my last final).

So wish me luck!!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ice Storm of Dec 2008

While it may not compare to what the "Maine"acs are talking about with the "great ice storm of 1998" it still is gorgeous.  And it still got me the day off from classes!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I AM a writer

Last night I attended a required session for one of my classes where we talked about scientific writing and the following questions were asked:

1. Who considers themselves good at writing?
2. Who considers themselves a writer?

To the first question a few hands waved half heartily, while two hands stood firmly - my roommate's and mine...

To the second there was an even weaker reaction.  

The whole time the seminar was going on the reaction to these questions mulled in my brain...

The speakers point was that we are all writers and more importantly rewriters - just as we do research (not just search) and that we should be confident in our abilities.  She gave 10 tips on good writing - but I think she left out the most important thing:

In order to be a good writer, you must write for yourself.  If you would not read what you write - no one would.  

This is the power of the blog is it not?  When you blog you don't just blog to see how many comments you get (or lets hope not because my numbers are really pathetic).  You blog to write, to share, to express that which you have discovered about life.

Scientific writing is the same - you're sharing what you've discovered, what you've researched.

The point of this blog isn't to critique the seminar because it was actually well done.  The point is for me to declare that I am a writer as I declared as I raised my hand to question #2 and as I have declared with each and every entry to the blogspot abyss.

I am a good writer and a good story teller - I can write about a variety of topics: birds, botany, baseball, politics and much more, AND I can share enjoyable experiences about each thing.  

I didn't need some lady to tell me that last night, I've known it all along.  I would, however, like someone to tell me I'm a good artist... but then again... looking at my notes from last night that I turned into cartoons instead of a slur of uninteresting words... it might take a while to get there. ;-)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Seasonal thoughts

So I've been thinking a lot about what else - but Christmas.

Tis the season after all.  

For years when I was a teenager I felt as though Christmas had lost its meaning, was tied to consumerism, stress, and families getting together pretending to put aside their disagreements just to attempt to present themselves as normal functioning entities.

I remember going to the required Catholic yearly confession (it was my tradition to go right near my birthday) and asking the Priest what the heck to do to make Christmas more special - the answer I got was to think about the good things that happen each day before I go to bed.  I tried, it didn't really work.  A year later, I was told to reflect on the passages that surround our Christmas tradition, and that didn't work either.

Off to college I went only to be surrounded by Christianity (mostly from an anti-baptist tradition) thrown at me on a daily basis.  Never was their a time when I despised Christmas more.  It seemed so forced and so fake.  So much of a show with power points, rehearsed moments, and the same message that we have to put Christ back in Christmas in order for it to mean something.

I experienced people who were insistent that we should not give gifts at all - for that would make things better.  But this never came to in any setting that I was in personally.  Yet, I still don't think it would have set Christmas right for me.

I remember arguing with friends about whether or not we should all continue to exist in the world of facades with our families or speak of the deception - should you stir everything up and point out hypocrisy or continue to live in the mendacity of it all.

I left college with 4 additional Christmas experiences 
(1) a forced Christmas that was completely hallow
(2) a Christmas where all I could think about was Desert Ecology and the impending visit of Will
(3) a confusing Christmas with tons of travel
(4) a Christmas attempting to bridge families together full of physical pain from arthritis

If you're still with me you probably either feel bad for me or are wondering what awful thing I'm going to say about Christmas... but here's the twist:

For the first time since childhood, I am genuinely excited about Christmas.  I've gotten so excited that I've even got my own makeshift advent candles.  The whole thing feels as if in some ways I actually expect Santa to bust down the Chimney.  

After one semester here at UNH I recognize I need mystery in my life and I'm putting it back in Christmas.  No - I don't think santa actually exists - but isn't that the beauty of this holiday?  That we recognize miraculous things happen, that we can put aside selfishness in order to give to others?  

Its not a bunch of families pretending to be normal - its a bunch of families saying it doesn't matter how dysfunctional we think each other are - because no matter what you're family and I love you enough to show it.  In both time spent and in a physical gift.

Aren't gifts part of the meaning of Christmas in the memory of St. Nick who honored the gift from god in jesus?  Even if you don't believe in god or jesus (or God and Jesus) or HOWEVER you believe in them for that matter - isn't there something special about trying to live to a greater purpose through love?  And that's what Christmas is all about.  It's about rising above, believing in something more - believing that the world can be a better place and that we can bring a smile to every boy and girl.  

That's what santa is supposed to do right? 

When I was a small child I remember coming to the conclusion that there "had to be a lot of santas in order to get the job done".  Years later, in the center of my Christmas crisis, I remember thinking how foolish I was to hold on to Santa existence when I clearly knew it was untrue - I held on to it wanting mystery to still exist, wanting something greater to exist.  Now I realize, I wasn't foolish at all.  In fact, I was 100% correct: there have to be a lot of santas to get the job done, and I hope this Christmas we all are a Santa, bringing a smile to someone in our life.   Because, if we are, I think then the true meaning of Christmas is experienced.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The New Place

Kitchen Counter complete with microwave, spice rack, hot water heater, dish rack... also note the trash can... awesome.

Kitchen Table and poster of bryce canyon, also salt and pepper shakers

Part of the living room: TV, bryce canyon, 2 stockings, a few plants and the tree

The other view of the living room: paintings, futon, tables, plants, and awesomeness

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kicked in the face

"Most would a agree that a kick in the ass is a good thing every now and then, but a boot to the head…  maybe not so much."

A "wise man" once told me this not long ago shortly after I was literally kicked in the face playing soccer.  We didn't have a sub so I remained in the game without being able to see out of my left eye.

My eye is slowly returning to proper color and shape, but even worse than the swelling, headache, and initial blurry vision of this injury has been my personal and work/school life these past few days. 

I felt as if I would never finish anything I needed and felt as if I was completely wasting my time.  I haven't felt like that in over a year and it really was getting me down... even having good conversations with close friends about things I cared about wasn't helping.

Yet, I am glad to say that somehow today after my last class I just felt better.  I feel happier about what's going on, I'm stoked about birding on Saturday, my sister visiting, my project, the progress I've made on assignments, and just overall good.

I don't really know why but I'm not going to complain.  I was way more productive than I thought I would be today, and maybe that's part of it.  I'm having dinner with an old friend tonight after months of talking about it, and maybe that's part of it.  

I don't know exactly what it is, but it works.  

Just reminds me that life will get you down at times; sometimes you get kicked in the face.  And instead of the good provoking response from an ass kick, you litterally ended up blinded as to where you are, what you're doing, and why you're doing it.  

But that doesn't mean you leave the game.  You toughen up and work through it. Slowly but surely your vision will return.

Or at least it will figuratively, hopefully litterally too... or you may want to see a doctor.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Better Days

I hate going to the gas station and hearing "Little Saint Nick", shopping and seeing the  gia-normous Christmas displays in Target, Home Depot, Shaws, etc.  I hate how early Christmas seems to come, and how quickly it goes once it gets here.  The 26th comes and suddenly its over.  What-ever happened to the 12 days of Christmas?

Regardless, as much as I dispise all of the pre-celebration its impossible to ignore that the season is upon us whether it is in the stores, in the requests of "what would you like for Christmas", or just in the continual radio Christmas music - I still have to admit that I'm a little excited about the days that lay ahead.

However, like Anna who recently wrote about advent (, I also am more excited about the Christmas season than Christmas itself.  Every year I love the random, sporadic moments of love that inevitably surround Christmas.  As unfortunate as it is they are no longer what Chrismas is seen as, but I still claim that if you look hard enough they are still there.

Whether it is in the many charities who collect and donate food, or the child who dumps his left over pennies into the salvation army jar, or in a moment of forgiveness between individuals - there seem to still be.  I am not going to urge you to remember the true meaning of Christmas, but rather, to stop when you see one of these moments this year and just recognize that a small miracle just happened.  

Because any time that we put aside our own selfish thoughts, feelings, and ideas a small miracle happens.  (While some may argue for and against a "true" altruistic moment occuring, such a debate is way too in depth for purposes of this single blog entry and really ends up as an unsolvable argument that does not change the fact that something special happened in a culture where selfishness is rewarded and often looked highly upon even in a time of Christmas.) 

Additionally, in this Christmas season, I think we need to broaden our idea of giving.  We need to recognize that working towards positive change on any level: local, regional, national, international, or globally on any issue: environment, poverty, social injustice, health care, education, clean water, hunger, etc. is really a step in the right direction and is really a small miracle in action.  Small miracles add up.  Change adds up.  No matter what side of the issue you're on in terms of how to make the necessary change - work towards it and in the meanwhile engage in active, helpful, honest conversation about how to make this world a better place.

Above all, I think in this Christmas season, the greatest thing we really can do on earth is try to love one another.  As my favorite "Christmas" song says:

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And to somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

Better days.  Sure they won't be perfect, and no there wont be snow in Africa this Christmas time (MEGHAN!!!)... but at the very least maybe they will have life, faith, trust, and peace.  Maybe this year can provide better days, and next year better days than this, and so on and so forth.  If each day is a better day due to our work on this planet, perhaps eventually we can look at this world again and say it is "very Good".

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

I know it's hard - how many of us can actually say when asked what we want that it contains nothing more than a chance for better days?  No, I'm not saying we all need to cut presents out of our lives for Christmas (but maybe I should... ) but what I am saying is that this Christmas, besides just giving boxes wrapped with string and paper, give something more.  Give trust, peace, and if possible, love.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Civic Duties Don't End With Elections

As I sat at the Knot in Durham, NH watching everyone celebrate last night like the world had just taken a turn for the better I began to reflect on what the next four years really might bring. 

Everyone seemed as if things would automatically be better if Democrats controlled everything and controlled more of everything.  This seems a little ridiculous to me as the system was designed for checks and balances in order to represent the constituents of the United States.  It was designed to represent that there are many ways to think about problems and because of freedom from religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition.

There is no one way to think about politics and people (not just politicians) on both sides need to start realizing this.  There are good reasons for many contradicting things and we need to start recognizing them and recognizing that we must begin to work together in order to make actual change in this country.

It concerns me that there is a complete democratic majority 56-40 in the Senate, and 252-173 in the House.  The last time this was the case on the Republican side weren't we disappointed? I dare to suggest that we may be again disappointed if we as individuals within the country are silent and expect that there be smooth sailing for the next 1461 days.

I got this article sent to me the other day:

And as I read it pre-election it dawned on me that this article was missing a huge piece of information - that it is not really the 545 humans in Washington (100 Senators + 435 Congressmen + 1 President + 9 Supreme Court Justices) that make change happen.  They are not responsible in the end if we have not written to them, spoke with them, and advocated for issues we felt passionate about.  

If we have not participated beyond casting a vote (a vote based on an understanding of the issues we care about, not just on personality, graphic artistry, or an encouraging tag line in ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT), if we have not gone a step further to continue to care about issues to the point where we do more than complain at local bars - we are also to be responsible for the mess this country is in.  

As I sat there last night it dawned on me that probably less than 2 people in the entire bar had ever written one of their representatives in congress and that if those who had probably did it through an automated program or website.  They probably signed a postcard and had someone mail it in for them.  

I remembered a article from a newspaper I used to have in my bedroom where my mother (a young child at the time) was pictured holding a letter from the then president.  She wasn't old enough to vote - but wrote him anyway - probably as part of a school project - and actually received a response.

How come things like this aren't in the paper anymore?  Is it because elected officials no longer care?  I doubt it.  I firmly believe it is because we no longer care beyond casting a ballot.  We somehow have gotten the idea that just by casting a ballot they know what we stand for - and this is not the case.  

It is our responsibility to be involved beyond the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.  It is our responsibility to care beyond the presidential race right down to the county clerk and town justices.

We care (or I care) about local food, local issues of poverty, local schools, etc.  so why don't we care about local politics?

I'm not saying you the reader is specifically responsible because I fully admit that in the past 21 years the only way I've contacted my officials is via produced efforts from websites, postcards, and petitions.  The only officials I've ever sat down and talked with were Senators from other states (which is better than nothing), but I've never written a letter crafted on my own.  I've never cared more than starting initiatives - which is a good thing - but not enough.  In a democracy if we want to see change in legislation we can't just expect that by doing something small in our own backyard will gain attention of 545 out of 300 billion people.  We need to do those things because they are important on  a personal level and a local level - and such things trickle up.  But before we point fingers at those individuals in power we need to be active members beyond November 4th.

If they don't listen to you then in 4 years vote them out.  But before we assume that it won't work we need to examine our own efforts and see what we did beyond voting.  Personally, I cannot say I've done enough in the last four years to not hold myself partly responsible for the current situation.  Can you?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting for the first time

Yesterday, I did something I’ve never done before at 21 years of age: vote in a presidential election.  As I stared down the ballot I realized how important and yet unimportant my choice was.  Obama is clearly going to win New York, and will probably win the election.  However, as a person, voting is standing for something or with something and as I looked down the ballot I realized I couldn’t stand one hundred percent with any candidate.  There were reasons I disliked McCain’s policies, yet reasons I thought he would do some things well.  There were things I disagreed with Obama about, while things I agreed with him on.  And lets be honest – who really trusts Nader to run the country?

 I live in a swing state – where I could easily cast a vote by registering on the day of the election – yet I am choosing to vote in New York.  Why? Because I believe local politics are equally important and I truly am not yet a New Hampshiran.  The act of voting is a lot tougher than I could have ever thought. 

Not a day goes by where I do not receive some scrap piece of paper saying here’s why you should vote for this person or that from presidential down to county clerk positions.  Not a day goes by where I don’t drive by people campaigning in the middle of town while cars honk in approval. 

I have to say I don’t think I’d be willing to stand out on a square and hold a sign for hours – I honestly hope that doing so does not convince any one individual to vote for any one candidate. 

In the past 3 days I’ve realized something about politics: they’re a very personal matter that is very publically dealt with in our country.  They run deep into our blood because they really do matter on a daily basis.  There are people who vote based on their wallet, people who vote based on ideas, people who vote based on religion, and people who vote based on hope that each day this world will become a better place.

As I put my pen to the paper to cast my absentee ballot I remembered the face of this little old woman who was on the opposite corner of some Obama supporters who was out supporting a candidate that is often un-discussed: peace.  Her face showed the pain of many years of disappointment, but her determination to stand on the corner in the freezing cold and hold a sign that simply stated “Peace” attested to the thread of hope she still holds on to.  And as I voted I tried to keep in mind that peace and love really should be at the center of everything we do. 

Who I voted for will have to remain unknown due to the freedom of private vote that we all can hold to.  But you should know that I voted with the concerns that penetrate my heart and mind on a daily basis at the forefront of my mind, I voted for what I felt was a path to a better America and a better world.

While we won’t be there in 4 years from know I hope with every bit of my being that we are closer to a world of peace and love.

Monday, November 03, 2008

This Weekend In Birding

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Insane weekend with views of Dickcissel, Snowy Owl, Rufous Hummingbird, and Fox Sparrow all in New Hampshire!!!  66 species in all or so... 
  1. Brant
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Wood Duck
  5. Mallard
  6. Green-winged Teal
  7. Ring-necked Duck
  8. Common Eider
  9. Surf Scoter
  10. White-winged Scoter
  11. Long-tailed Duck
  12. Bufflehead
  13. Common Goldeneye
  14. Red-breasted Merganser
  15. Red-throated Loon
  16. Common Loon
  17. Horned Grebe
  18. Red-necked Grebe
  19. Northern Gannet
  20. Double-crested Cormorant
  21. Great Blue Heron
  22. Red-tailed Hawk
  23. Merlin
  24. American Coot
  25. Black-bellied Plover
  26. Sanderling
  27. Purple Sandpiper
  28. White-rumped Sandpiper
  29. Dunlin
  30. Bonaparte's Gull
  31. Ring-billed Gull
  32. Herring Gull
  33. Great Black-backed Gull
  34. Rock Pigeon
  35. Mourning Dove
  36. Snowy Owl

  37. Rufous Hummingbird

  38. Blue Jay
  39. American Crow
  40. Black-capped Chickadee
  41. Tufted Titmouse
  42. White-breasted Nuthatch
  43. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  44. American Robin
  45. Northern Mockingbird
  46. European Starling
  47. American Pipit
  48. Cedar Waxwing
  49. Nashville Warbler
  50. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  51. Chipping Sparrow
  52. Savannah Sparrow
  53. Savannah "Ipswich" Sparrow
  54. Fox Sparrow
  55. Song Sparrow
  56. White-throated Sparrow
  57. White-crowned Sparrow
  58. Dark-eyed Junco
  59. Lapland Longspur
  60. Snow Buntings
  61. Northern Cardinal
  62. Dickcissel
  63. House Finch
  64. Pine Siskin
  65. American Goldfinch
  66. House Sparrow
for some clarification for non birders both dickcissel and rufous hummingbirds "don't belong" in NH

Dickcissels are midwestern birds and Rufous Hummingbirds occur on the west and winter in the south (florida to texas)

Additionally numbers of snow buntings were estimated between 200-300 (we counted their legs and divided by 2)

The lapland longspur was picked out by Steve Mirick among the snow buntings

The common Goldeneye was the first of the season picked out by Jane Mirick

other highlights included a birder getting his 300th life bird and Jessie getting 19 life birds in one day!

- someone else's owl photos: - peter's - len's

Thanks to for access/use to your photos! 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nashville Warbler!!!

Yup I went birding again..... and this is the photo I got!!!

Great day on the seacoast: 
Bufflehead*^ (both off Dover point rd and at Eel Pond) 
Red-throated Loons*^ (plenty... at least 10 in small groups that appeared to be migrating) 
Red-breasted Mergansers  
Hermit thrush - a common bird but a great look 
Bonaparte's Gull* 
Surf Scoter* - plenty including one real close to shore off odiorne - real fun look at a male 
White-winged Scoter*^ - plenty 
Lesser Black-backed Gull* 
Red-eyed Vireo*  
* - life bird for Jessie
^ - life bird for me

Thursday, October 23, 2008


The website's not that complicated: - and nor is the idea: a group of students dedicated to working together on sustainability initiatives recognizing that we are meant to be Stewards of the earth not Abusers.  

It's something I've dreamed of seeing happen and now it has due to a group of dedicated folks.  

It all kicked off with a conference at Eastern University and continues with a day of prayer on the 29th.  Totally cool.  So if you get it - that is you get that this earth isn't something we can just take advantage of - join in on the 29th and say a little prayer that we all have better guidance when it comes to taking care of creation.  

After all, as T.S. Elliot said, "A wrong attitude toward nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude about God."  

And that can't be a good thing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


A little less than a year ago this was the scene.  I'm fine with them not winning the World Series -they're my team no matter what.  But I still feel sad that they lost.  I feel sad that a called strike on what should have been a ball ended the 8th prematurely.  And I'm sad that there will be no more baseball in beantown until '09.  But what a year it has been, and what a year it will be come April '09.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Vacation" or 1000+ mile road trip

So I'm 903 miles, and 8 days of my 1460 mile, 9 day road trip.  A few hundred miles remain as this evening I'll be trecking back north for a stop in Simpson, PA only to leave again tomorrow morning for Dover, NH.

I've seen almost 100 people I've known for years and met another 50 or so "new friends".  I've given 2 talks, led icebreakers, introduced speakers, gone to bonfires, soccer games, and classes I'm not registerd for in a school I don't attend.  I've eaten omlets with the Newman Club, made people laugh, dug holes, planted plants, eaten at the union, falcon, and am on my way to lottie. 

I've seen the creek, I've birdwatched, I've cuddled with friends.  I've had beer with MC alumni, used the alumni bathroom, and visited K.P.'s house.  I've laughed, I've been worked up to tears, and I've slept (though not enough).  I've slept on beds, floors, and couches.  I've eaten out, eaten in, and eaten leftovers.  I've seen the Red Sox lose to the point of a 3-1 Tampa lead, and I've seen the Red Sox come back from a 7 run deficit in the 7th to win 8-7 in what may just be the greatest game ever, and soon I'll see a game 7.   

The floor of my car is "slowly" filling up with trash from coffee cups, maps, and directions.  My clothes are once again dirty and in need of a wash.  

I took pictures, I took video, and more importantly I took memories, lessons, and encouragement.  

Messiah isn't a life left behind but a life within that will be with me and each of my gatherings with alumns over the rest of my years.
So here's to roadtrips, friends, memories, reliving the past as part of the future, and never leaving anyone left behind.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

the old place

what the water did....
the walls are now gone.... 

the new place

one "bedroom'' - the living room looks the same

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Mom will like this

As a kid

At 21

Same duck pond and same Willow

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Best Birding Day Ever for Me - Including a Red Phalarope

OK so its been over a month and hopefully that NEVER happens again!  But I will make it up to you by my impressive one day total (a lifetime high for me but hopefully I will out-do myself soon!).  

It was Bioblitz day at Odiorne State Park on the Seacoast of NH so I spent most of my day IDing birds with all of the birders.  I even had a few that I called first (a good feeling indeed).  

Then in the evening a few of us headed over to Exeter to check out a Red Phalarope that was reported and we sure enough saw it!  It was in the waste water treatment plant with a bunch of Green and Blue Winged Teal, Mallards, and a Ruddy Duck.

Some of the other highlights of the day including releasing a bird (A Northern Waterthrush) from a mist-net after the banders measured it (they also had a Magnolia Warbler when I was there which was very neat to examine so closely).  This was right after we called out a Virginia Rail from the marsh AND saw my first ever Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow.  

I had a great time with friends and also ID'ed plants and shared some of my botanical knowledge around.  

The Overall list for me for the day was:
  1. American Black Duck
  2. American Crow
  3. American Goldfinch
  4. American Redstart
  5. American Robin
  6. Barn Swallow
  7. Belted Kingfisher
  8. Black-and-white Warbler
  9. Black-bellied Plover
  10. Black-capped Chickadee
  11. Black-crowned Night Heron
  12. Blackpoll Warbler
  13. Blue Jay
  14. Blue-headed Vireo
  15. Blue-winged Teal
  16. Bonaparte’s Gull
  17. Canada Goose
  18. Carolina Wren
  19. Cedar Waxwing
  20. Common Eider
  21. Common Yellowthroat
  22. Double-crested Cormorant
  23. Downy Woodpecker
  24. Dunlin
  25. Eastern Bluebird
  26. Eastern Phoebe
  27. European Starling
  28. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  29. Gray Catbird
  30. Great Black-backed Gull
  31. Great Blue Heron
  32. Great Cormorant
  33. Great Egret
  34. Greater Yellowlegs
  35. Green-winged Teal
  36. Herring Gull
  37. Horned Grebe
  38. House Finch
  39. Laughing Gull
  40. Magnolia Warbler
  41. Mallard
  42. Marsh Wren
  43. Merlin
  44. Mourning Dove
  45. Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow
  46. Northern Cardinal
  47. Northern Flicker
  48. Northern Gannet
  49. Northern Mockingbird
  50. Northern Pintail
  51. Northern Waterthrush
  52. Peregrine Falcon
  53. Prairie Warbler
  54. Red Phalarope
  55. Red-eyed Vireo
  56. Red-necked Grebe
  57. Red-tailed Hawk
  58. Red-winged Blackbird
  59. Ring-billed Gull
  60. Rock Pigeon
  61. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  62. Ruddy Duck
  63. Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
  64. Sanderling
  65. Savannah Sparrow
  66. Semipalmated Plover
  67. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  68. Snowy Egret
  69. Song Sparrow
  70. Spotted Sandpiper
  71. Surf Scoter
  72. Swamp Sparrow
  73. Tree Swallow
  74. Turkey Vulture
  75. Virginia Rail
  76. Yellow Warbler
  77. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  78. Tern sp.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

While no "Bellaire Brown" from Shorts (MI), the first "brown" I ever enjoyed, Sam Adams has itself another winner with its own Brown Ale.

This beer just screams brown ale from the moment I tasted it. It is a malty beer with deep caramel and nut flavor. Hops? "Noble Spalt from Bavaria" and "citrusy Goldings" from a single farmer in East Kent. And not too many either.

Its another lovely combination - I'd easily take a 12 pack of 6 Irish and 6 Brown but there is plenty more new to taste with the 4 remaining brews.

Score: 9 out of 10

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Seacoast birding

Saturday list:

Spotted Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper (Front Below)
Least Sandpiper (Back Below)

White Rumped Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover

Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Short Billed Dowitcher
Willet (Eastern Subspecies)

Ruddy Turnstone

Great Black Backed Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-Billed Gull
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Common Eider
Double-Crested Cormorant
Horned Grebe
E. Starlings
M. Dove
R. Pigeon
House Sparrows
(POSSIBLE) Wilsons Phalarope
Fish Crow

woot a 30 bird day!

I'm a Professional

And now I have "business cards" to prove it?

Just imagine it straight and on an firm ivory colored card. Its hot. Suggestions welcome

Friday, August 22, 2008

A New Topic

So a theme to my blog has been b's - Birding, Boston, Botany - so I figured why not "Beer". While I'm no lush I do enjoy a good flavorful beer - starting with my latest love Samuel Adams Irish Red.

This beer is part of the brewmaster collection and boasts a rich and malty flavor that originates from Ireland. The carmel malt flavor provides a sweet flavor that balances out the East Kent Goldings hops.
Sam Adams has itself a winner here - as part of my 12 pack 6 beer collection and the first selection I've tried of the group I cannot imagine what else is in store for me. Its a delicious smooth malty beer that provides the consumer a delicious flavor that pairs well with any baseball game or conversation.
9.5 out of 10 overall

No Such Thing as Yellow Headed Blackbirds

So after a Sun-Thurs trip that looked something like this:

Sun am - leave Boston, fly to Detroit
Sun midday - leave Detroit, fly to Chicago, leave Chicago en route via car to MN
Sun late PM - arrive Twin Cities area
Mon-Wed midday - work
Wed midday - Begin trip to Chicago
Wed pm - arrive Chicago, promptly hit the hay
Thurs AM - train ride to see Jamie, then roam around until time for lunch
Thurs midday - leave Chicago, Fly to Detroit
Thurs PM - Leave Detroit, fly to Boston, have dinner, arrive UNH late.

So as I was saying... I have determined Yellow-Headed Blackbirds don't exist - or at least that I am never going to see one.

OK that makes no sense to anyone but me but thats alright. I'll get to the point - all in all the trip was good, we got a lot done, I didn't see any new birds, but did have a nice spot of Mourning Warbler in the greater St. Paul area. St. Paul itself is a lovely city. Good coffee shops, nice ice cream stores, beautiful buildings, and the traffic at night was easy.

I don't really have much else to say other than I have tons of typing work to do and plenty of migration to catch up on... so thats my update for now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NH Birding

Yesterday I spent the day birding the NH coast from Odiorne Point State Park down to Hampton Harbor. I ran into many helpful people who pointed out good areas to go and got a great tour of the birding spots on the coast from Mr. NH Bird Man, and capped off the day by attending a talk on the birds of Venezuela.
Here's my list from the day:
Common Eider*
Mute Swan
Horned Grebe*
Black Guillemot*
Double Crested Cormorant
Herring Gull
Ring-Billed Gull

Juvy Great Black Backed Gull(Pink Legs, Pink base of bill, black tip)

Great Black-Backed Gull
Laughing Gull
Bonapare's Gull
Common Tern
Black Tern? (unconfirmed)
Semipalmated plover
Semipalmated sandpiper
least sandpiper
white rumped sandpiper
short billed dowitcher
ruddy turnstone
great egret
snowy egret
lesser yellowlegs
greater yellowlegs
black bellied plover
green heron
fish crow

And not at the coast but down the road from Durham in Newmarket....

Mississippi kite*

I hope to drop by with my camera to take some photos of the 3 Kites later today.

* = life bird

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wasping, Birding, Baseballing

One thing I've noticed is that you can take any word and make it a verb by adding "ing" in the science world: Botany - botanizing, birds - birding, and even wasps to wasping apparently.

I learned this by helping one of the research students carefully identify wasps for her project last week and actually had a pretty good time.

my idea of "helping"

Then after much more hard work on the beach sitting out under the sun after finishing my management plans I took off for a saturday-sunday trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes. While 4/6 of us went down the Platte on tubes, Adam and I took off down the beach to find Piping Plovers: a bird that I saw once long ago and didn't even recognize its importance due to being bird-illiterate at the time.

In front of the piping plover nesting area

They are a very rare bird because they have very little breeding habitat left because they prefer beaches with some cobbley areas for nesting. When a nest is discovered its such a big deal that they mark the area off to prevent people from intruding so that the bird can nest. The beach in those areas is also kept free of dogs and animals during the year.

Young Piping plover and white rumped sandpiper (we think)

We had extrodinary luck and saw 7 fabulous individuals - 6 juvies and 1 adult. We found them in the area of their nesting site off of a good tip from a park ranger. Luck was on our side as migration has already started and no one had seen the plovers in a few days and suspected that they had taken off.

The next day, after camping in a back country site 1 mile in, Adam, Micah, and I took off for the scenic drive leaving 3 others behind. We had a great time and visited my favorite place to watch a sunset (despite not getting to see the sunset) in Michigan. The overlook is a dune drop off of 450 feet which some people roll or run down. Adam carried Micah the entire way (not really).

Adam and Micah "climbing" part of the dune

On our way to the dune we of course stopped randomly on the side of the road to pick up a good look at some Sandhill cranes, including one juvy. Here we also heard grasshopper sparrow, saw vespers sparrow, and saw eastern meadowlark.

Stopping on the side of the road to look at birds

Finally we trecked back to AuSable and made it in time for lunch without stopping for either of the hawks we saw - redtail and northern goshawk. It was my last "Messiah" weekend for a long long time... But certianly not the last time we'd hang out - as even yesterday we drove into town to watch the Sox beat the Yanks 9-2 when Jon Lester pitched.

Only a few more days remain. It makes me sad - I'll miss these people but new fun awaits.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Ok so again I've failed at continually updating but not entirely I guess. Things are winding down here. Nine (9) days left to go. Seems crazy! But hey thats how it goes. I will miss some of the people here for sure. Last night 5 of us went out together for some laughs and thats what we had. I've never seen some of them so happy as last night and it reminded me that life isn't always so bad and that things can be lots of fun with the right people, the right time, and the right attitude.

Work is winding down significantly - need to identify the later summer things but few of them are flowering yet. However, things are definitely showing that it's late summer. Spirea alba is in flower as is Swamp Rose and life around is showing that change is coming. Glimpses of the late summer are here pointing to the impending glory of asters, goldenrods, and the fall.

Plants that are still figuring themselves out - evolving before our eyes... changing... genetically we have no idea what separates one from another and really only time can tell. Sort of like college graduates emerging from their little shells like butterflies from a crysalis. We are starting on a path but the exact path is as blurry as the asters genetics. We are all flowers that are going to bloom, you might not have a name for what we are - we might not even know that yet actually - but with luck we'll be successful, fruitful, and fit to continue.

However, unlike flowers, if we fail - we'll have something, someone to fall back on; friends, family, and oppertunities to try again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Session I Photo-memories

Field Botany Class:

JRV with Field Botany

The 300th Life Bird Cake, Jane, Me, and Kira:

Playing Carpetball with Jane:

Showing Pine Cones at an Integrative day at Hartwick Pines

Many trips to Rite-Aid: