My name is Kimberly Kaufman and this is my first official blog post to "Birding is Fun!" I'm honored to be part of the BiF! team and thrilled to be able to share my love of birds and birding with all the BiF! readers.
I'm sure most of you have no idea who I am, so a bit about my birding creds. =)
I live in northwest Ohio and I'm the Executive Director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). BSBO does migratory bird research, education, and conservation, and we're also the host of a spring birding festival called The Biggest Week In American Birding. I'm a contributing editor to Birds and Blooms magazine and have written for other national publications as well. My husband and I work together to get people interested in birds and nature, and we also work hard to promote bird conservation. (More on that, later!)
While you probably don't who I am, you might know my husband, Kenn Kaufman. Kenn writes books about nature, and his Kaufman Field Guides now includes birds, butterflies, mammals, and insects. I can say without bias that they are wonderful guides because I fell in love with his books before I fell in love with him! =) He also wrote Kingbird Highway, which chronicles his Big Year attempt in 1973; Lives of North American Birds, Flights Against the Sunset, and his more recent book, Advanced Birding, just came out last spring.
Prior to falling in love and marrying Kenn six years ago, I had lived my entire life in NW Ohio, rarely traveling beyond the state line. Suddenly, I found myself married to a famous birder who also happened to be a world traveler, and it wasn't long before he was taking me all over the world with him! Our travels have taken us to some extraordinary places where we've encountered some of the most bizarre and spectacular birds on the planet.
I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite experiences, so far!
First stop, the Galapagos Islands!
As we reached this splash of green on the edge of the lava fields, we peered down into a small basin of fresh water, and we were stunned at what we discovered.
| Like a volcanic eruption of the avian persuasion, this American Flamingo shocked our retinas with a blast of feathered fire. This was the first flamingo I had ever seen in the wild, and if I am blessed with a long life, I pray that I never forget that moment. |
Okay, I know this isn't a bird, but...
Ho. Lee. Cow. (er, tortoise!)
What an incredible experience to be this close to a living dinosaur. The Galapagos Tortoise seems more like science fiction than fact. It's hard to wrap your head around a beast that seems to have crawled out of the Jurassic period.
And now, a destination where Ice is spectacular enough to be a place on the globe.
Of course, the main goal of birders traveling to the White Continent is to see penguins, and our trip with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours did NOT disappoint!
|This is a tiny fraction of the King Penguin colony at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia Island. The brown ones are the big woolly youngsters. |
Don't you think they look like bowling pins in fur coats?!
What could be more astonishing than standing on the edge of a colony of more than 100,000 pairs of King Penguins?
|Having my own personal encounter with two.|
|Here's a Black-browed Albatross tending its young on Saunders Island. Being right on the edge of this nesting colony of Black-browed Albatross felt like a supreme gift. We also had a Wandering Albatross follow our ship for several days and nights, and it was all I could do to tear myself away for meals, sleep, and other trivial things.|
To wrap up this cyber birding trip, let's go to one of my favorite places:
Asa Wright Nature Center in Trinidad.
The birding from the comfort of the veranda at the AWNC is fabulous.
Check out these birders exercising their "veranda rights!"
From the veranda, dozens of feeders are visible and they are always hoppin.
The staff at the Center fill and clean the feeders several times a day.
Here are a few of my favorite veranda birds.
The absolutely magnificent White-necked Jacobin
Trinidad Motmot: very recently split from Blue-crowned Motmot and found only on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
It's tempting to stay on the veranda all day.
But if you did, you'd miss out on these glorious birds of the surrounding area.
The breathtaking Scarlet Ibis of Caroni Swamp
The bizarre but beautiful Common Potoo. This is a chick. The adult had moved off to another perch, offering us great looks at this adorable baby that Kenn described as looking like a cross between tree bark and dryer lint!
I'm still working to understand the video capabilities of my camera. (As my dad used to say, "I don't understand everything I know about this.") But videos are super fun, so here are a few of my favorites from Trinidad - even though they're not that great.
Here's a fun video of the Bearded Bellbird
The ringing squawk of the bellbird cuts through the air and is quite impressive, even when heard from a mile away. But to stand surrounded by native forest and actually watch this bird do its thing was just incredible.
And finally, here's a video of what might just be the most bizarre bird I've ever seen.
Pay close attention to the nest / fruit basket. It's constructed of regurgitated fruit.
The rushing sound you hear is the sound of a gushing stream that runs through the grotto.
Oilbirds are the only nocturnal fruit eating birds in the world, using their hooked beak to pluck fruit while the bird hovers in the air. They nest in large colonies on rocky cave ledges, often a good distance into the cave, using batlike ecolocation to maneuver. However, unlike bats (whose echolocaiton is supersonic), Oilbirds use a series of high-pitched clicking at a frequency of 7,000 cycles per second, which is easily detected by the human ear.
Fed on rich, oily fruits, young Oilbirds get very fat, reaching twice the adult weight at their maximum size. Historically, baby oilbirds were captured, and their fat boiled down for torch oil, hence their name. Fortunately, conservation efforts have prevented this practice, and there are several stable populations of Oilbirds found in northern South America.
I hope you've enjoyed our little cyber birding trip. I look forward to sharing other birding adventures with BiF! readers, and learning from all of the other authors. Birding really is fun, especially when you have a group of friends to share your experiences with!
Until next time, take care, and remember, BIRDS RULE!