Wednesday, September 30, 2009
My husband is really getting into birding and I need to get a new set of binoculars so I can actually see the birds! Any suggestions?
Avimor Bird Guy: Jan, I'm sorry that you have lost your husband to the birding addiction. My wife and mother-in-law can relate. It is a nerdy hobby, but it helps me give me the thrill of the hunt while enjoying the outdoors.
When it comes to binoculars...if you have even the faintest desire to enjoy birding...it is worth it to buy binoculars in the $300 range. You will see more and see it so much better...trust me! I spent the first two years of birding with $60 Bushnell's and they were horrible in comparison. I love my Eagle Optics Ranger SRT's 8x42. My father-in-law loves his Nikon Monarch 10x42's. I think Audubon Equinox binoculars are in that same price and quality range.
In the binocular world there is an incredible difference in quality and capability between $100 optics and $300 optics. Some big-time birders buy name brands that cost $1500+, but the difference in value from the $300 optics is not that much. But if I had the money, I'd go for the dream binoculars, Zeiss Victory FL's which run about $2400 (I hear they cook and clean for you).
When it comes to the magnification it is best to stick with 7x35, 8x42, or 10x42. These sizes give you the best amount of light and color transmission, best field of view, and best close-focus.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Well, late last week I took a longer look at them and realized they were not Lark Sparrows at all. They had streaky breasts and white bellies, still a strong face pattern, but not as much as an adult Lark Sparrow. What are these confounded sparrows?! Song Sparrows look similar to what I was seeing, but they don't act like them. Could they be Savannah Sparrows? I have only seen them individually before and never in a flock.
Since that day several years ago I have lost three of them and purchased a couple as gifts for other beginning birders. It is still my go-to field guide. No field guide can even begin to display all the possible variations of birds as they may appear at sundry stages, but so far, Sibley's has been there for me to identify every bird that I have come across. I just bought my 4th copy. I may just have to permanently chain it to my body so I don't lose it this time.
Price: as low as $12.20 on several book selling websites
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
I think I added a dozen life birds while sitting in the chairs under the canopy there in her backyard along with dozens of other birders from all over the world. She has a wide variety of feeders with different kinds of seed, hummingbird feeders, and platform feeders with chuncks of fruit to lure the greatest variety of birds into her place. That particular afternoon a cute little group of eldery ladies were there watching the birds. By the looks of their inexpensive binoculars and their Golden Book Field Guides we could see that they were sweet old ladies that simply enjoyed the birds and not gung-ho listers*.
I was sitting next to one of the ladies who said, "I've been watching this red bird forever down on that platform feeder. It hasn't moved a bit. Can you see what it is?"
I put my binoculars on it and replied, "That's a pomegranate."
"Oh. Okay." And she begin to browse through her Golden Book of birds.
After a few frustrating minutes she leaned over and asked, "I've looked all over in the book and I just can't find it."
We all had a good laugh with her after she realized that the pomegranate was just a piece of fruit.
* "Lister" is birding jargon for a birder whose primary focus is seeing as many birds as they can either in a day, at a location, or chasing around the globe to add to their life list of bird species seen.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I recommend a visit to the IBO for every birder and non-birder alike. The steep, rutty dirt road is pretty tough and a 4-wheel drive high-clearance vehicle is preferred, but a cute little family did make it up their in a minivan this morning. The location and views are beautiful and the birding is excellent. The mountain is right at the tree line and views can be had of the entire Treasure Valley.
The staff at the IBO are incredible. They are super friendly, super knowlegable, do great with kids, and really know how to show people a fascinating time with birds. They have a series of mist nets set up in the brush to catch birds as well as nets to catch birds of prey. The birds are treated with the utmost care while they are removed from the nets, leg banded, measured many different ways, and then gently released back into the woods.
We got to see up close and in the hand several different species. This morning they were catching dozens of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-crowned Sparrows, juvenile Western Tanagers, and Mountain Chickadees. While I was observing at the banding station they had a very cute little Golden-crowned Kinglet, a Lincoln's Sparrow, a pink-sided Dark-eyed Junco, and an Oregon Dark-eyed Junco. They also caught a Wilson's Warbler and a Townsend's Solitaire. It is so amazing to hold these birds in your hand.
They also do hawk-watching from the hilltop. I saw my life bird #310 up their today, the Broad-winged Hawk. We also had a flyover of dozens Townsend's Solitaires and even an early Varied Thrush. My eBird list today had over 30 different species, and a few more were seen or heard by others.
All I can say is that I can't wait to go back again!
Thank you Jay Carlisle, Jay's mom from Connecticut, Caroline, Nate, Erin, the guy from Upstate New York, the guy from PA, and the couple other of you whose names didn't stick in my brain.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
"I noticed a picture of a wall with holes on your home page.... There is a wall like that right by my house... I have always wondered what type of bird does that. Can you tell me?"
Thanks for asking Mary! The picture shows a Bank Swallow nesting site. Bank Swallows like to tunnel into the sand or dirt banks to nest.
Barn Swallows tend to build mud nests under bridges or under protected covers of buildings. We've had Barn Swallows nest in the covered entryways of a couple of homes here at Avimor. If you don't want the mess, I'd encourage you knock the nests down before they finish building them and lay eggs. Cliff Swallows build gourd-shaped mud nests on very sheer rocky cliffs.
At Avimor, we currently have a few Barn Swallows swooping around, but the other swallow types have already migrated south.To learn quick-ID tips for swallows that can be seen in our area click here.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
A Big Sit is like a tailgate party for birders. On a specific day, birders from all over the world select a spot that has good views of a variety of habitats in which they will hopefully see as many different bird species as possible in a 24 hour period while confined to a 17' diameter area.
The official Big Sit! put on by Bird Watcher's Digest will occur on Sunday, October 11th. I am not quite up to that challenge this year, but I figured why not have a small-scale Big Sit in the foothills in lieu of our regularly scheduled bird walk.
So here's the scoop:
Avimor Quarter Big Sit!
Saturday, October 10th
5:00am to Noon
We will comply with the official Big Sit! rules of play with exception to the date and duration.
I plan on choosing the principal location for the morning. If we have enough interested participants, we will create multiple teams. At that point other viewing locations at Avimor would be selected. If you want to form your own team and select your own location, you are absolutely welcome to. A little friendly competition would make it even more fun!
Birders of all ages and experience levels are invited! You don't have to be there the entire time.
What should you bring? Binoculars and spotting scope if you have them, something to sit on, and snacks to get you through the morning.
I'll provide coffee and hot chocolate, a small table for my circle, checklists of birds, plenty of bottled water for everyone participating, two-way radios, and maybe even some prizes.
If you are interested, please let me know by clicking "Ask the Avimor Bird Guy" in the right column to send me an e-mail.
Come on out and Sit with me! It'll be fun!
Monday, September 14, 2009
My advice to SOB's out there - you can't beat 'em, if you love them you might as well join them.
I recall birding in southeastern Arizona and running into several cute elderly couples on the birding trail. Almost all the stories are the same...one spouse is into birding and slowly sucks the other spouse into it, sometimes kicking and screaming, but for the sake of love they eventually give in.
Tip to birders who have reluctant spouses: get your spouse a decent set of optics so they can see and enjoy the birds like you do. This makes all the difference in the world!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Observation date: 9/12/09
Number of species: 23
California Quail 36
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 3
Mourning Dove 3
Northern Flicker 3
Say's Phoebe 2
Black-billed Magpie 6
Barn Swallow 5
Black-capped Chickadee 9
Rock Wren 1
House Wren 1
American Robin 2
Gray Catbird 1 (heard only)
Western Tanager 4
Spotted Towhee 9
Song Sparrow 3
White-crowned Sparrow 16
Western Meadowlark 6
Brewer's Blackbird 3
House Finch 3
American Goldfinch 7
This report was generated automatically by eBird
Friday, September 11, 2009
As if being woken by a nightmare
I vaulted from my bed
Before a Saturday sunrise
With birding lust in my soul
I was compelled, if not hypnotized to go
Leaving my beautiful bride and brood in bed at home
Foreboding of a strange and mysterious birding day.
Steamy night mist still clung about
As I strolled the river bank
Then a sliver of sun peeked over the mountain
Transforming the clouds so dark
Into eerie pumpkin and plum
The mist rushed into the rushes
And disappeared with the masked-faced Sora.
Hunchbacked Night Herons
Stared down ominously from above.
Cloaked with blackened hoods
Piercing sangria eyes
Demon gargoyles guarding, silently watching.
A warning perhaps
Dare I venture on?
A rustling sound in the bushes ahead
Perhaps a warbler or towhee I’d see
I crept and approached with sneaky stealth
Only to find two lovers
Bodies intertwined in passion
Their expectation and mine of solitude
Broken and violated.
I fled the other way.
A looming large dark figure
Roosting in a mesquite grove
Summoned me to come forth
I crawled on hand and knee
And knelt at the base of the tree
Awed to be so close
To see its naked head
And gnarled beak
The stench was nauseating
Yet it was first to vomit
A hairy black mass
Covered in yellow-green slime
Passing inches from my face
The revolting pile landed at my feet
This vulture king had come here to die
Turning from this place of death
Only to face mine near
I had stepped into a ring
Of wild and ferocious javelina
Nestled and hidden in the undergrowth
The boar snarled and bore his tusks
It stamped and shook its head
Superhumanly high sprung I
And shimmied up a puny tree
That should not have borne my weight
To wait and wait and wait
Overcome with fear I stayed
The peccary finally waddled off
I slipped silently down the tree
I fled the other way.
This dark and damp and dangerous day
How much longer could it last?
How much longer would I last?
Was I beckoned forth to die?
A happy omen I begged of the Divine.
The buzzing beating of hummingbird wings
Just feet away from where I stood
Myself half concealed in the flora
My gaze and feet transfixed
It flashed a brilliant pink throat
A war cry sounded from its tiny frame
Then darted toward my face
Was this to be my end?
This little David
And I the giant to be slain?
Yet I overcame the urge to cower
It softly perched so pleasantly
On the brim of my hat
It searched my soul
For eternal seconds
Then zipped merrily on its way.
The sun now gleamed and warmed the earth
Vermillion Flycatchers danced in the tree tops
Theirs was a redness that brought joy, not fear
A Canyon Wren sang its cascading song
The hellish curse was broken
I lived to share the tale.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
This morning we had 50+ Western Meadowlarks in the wildflower field on the north side of Avimor Drive. I have never seen so many together. I can only assume that they gather for migration. Based on location maps, it appears that Western Meadowlarks don't go too far as they can be found along the west coast and the southwestern states year round.
I also watched a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds in the tall cottonwood trees along Spring Valley Creek. Their plummage looked pristine, especially compared to the rough looking bunch I saw a couple weeks ago. Red-wings do winter in Idaho, but they appear to flock together and to be found in only certain locations.
The Brewer's Blackbirds still seem to have a couple of flocks around Avimor.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I will be submitting an entry; not a photo but a story. I just need to figure out if I want to compose it in prose or poetry. Perhaps some poetry Edgar Allan Poe "The Raven" style for the spooky Halloween effect.