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.