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Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Birding Is A Big Tent

Birding is a big tent. Finding rare birds rates high on the Richter scale of excitement. The more rare the bird the more exciting, such as finding a first Western Hemisphere record (remember the Red-footed Falcon, Martha’s Vineyard, Aug., 2004, I do). Huge areas of birding involve searching for and recording rare birds. Are we hard-wired to seek rare birds? Yes, there is a “novelty center” of the brain (substantia nigra/ventral segmental area) that responds to completely new things. Those new things activate our midbrain area increasing our dopamine levels which make us want to go exploring in search of a reward. 

But there are other ways that people interact with birds. Sometimes it is devotion to a single species, such as a woman I knew who was all things bluebird. She taught and led conservation efforts, had her home decorated with bluebirds on tea towels, wallpaper, dinnerware and coffee mugs. She even had dinner with bluebirds, sitting at one end of her picnic table while the Eastern Bluebirds feasted on mealworms at the other end. 

Statistics tell us that there are 45 million birdwatchers in the U.S. and the majority of them relate to birds in their backyards and at their feeders. Other research says that just being able to see birds on a daily basis from your windows or neighborhood reduces depression, anxiety and stress, so no wonder the bird feeding hobby is booming during this pandemic. Some people do bird feeding in a big way with large numbers of feeders attracting a big diversity of birds. Then there are others like the man I once met in the bird aisle of a store. He had a large bag of cheap seed, full of seeds like milo that have been shown not to attract the widest variety of birds. I tried to politely engage him and educate him about getting more bird diversity with quality seed. He really didn’t want to hear it and maybe the seed he was buying was what he could afford. I don’t even think he knew or particularly cared what species he was attracting. And I though to myself, you know that’s OK. He is where he is and in his own way gets pleasure. 

So birding is a big tent. All are welcome. The point is that all in the tent have a connection to birds. That connection is a force, whether it is a glowing ember or roaring fire. That force is what can lead to people to value and conserve birds, saving the birds, the planet, and ultimately ourselves.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Red-shouldered Hawk, Nikon P950 and Ethical Photography

Had a great time yesterday on my NH CBC (Christmas Bird Count), longer post coming on it tomorrow. Took the Nikon P950, 2000mm superzoom and this is one example of what it did. One BIG advantage of these superzoom cameras is the ability to do ethical bird photography! It allowed me to stay in my car and NOT disturb this raptor that was hunting in the cold for much needed food necessary for survival. Photos are untouched, not cropped. For you non-photographers, take my word for it, this is impressive. To get any kind of close photo, even half sharp, at a far distance with a small sensor in dim light is good. Of course I could make them
look better in photoshop etc. but I wanted you to see the reality. 

Monday, December 07, 2020

Good-bye Phoebe, Aug. 3, 2006 - Dec. 7, 2020

Puppy Phoebe

Last photo of her this morning when she could not move

Phoebe's Paw Print Memento

Cover Girl Phoebe

Phoebe excelled at agility

Abby always looked up to Phoebe

Running to the dock this summer

Phoebe in front, Andre on left, Abby on right

Now we have two Corgis, Abby on left, Andre on right. Abby loves Andre.

We lost our precious, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Phoebe (age 14 1/2), this morning, she went over the rainbow bridge. Having to put a pet down is one of the hardest things in life, as many of you know. Each pet takes a piece of your heart. It was even harder for me as I was not able to hold her in my arms and comfort her when they put her down, because of Covid. But I know she knew I was with her. I waited in the car and sent her my love. When it was over I was left with her paw print memento and my tears. (I will get her ashes later).

Phoebe was a special girl, sweet, wise, independent, and still was doing well at age 14. In her last year she became nearly deaf (fortunately she knew hand signals from her obedience training) and clingy. She decided to sleep under my bed, wake me at 6 a.m., then kiss my ankles when I got up to take her out. Phoebe was many things: a photogenic cover girl, agility dog, blogger, excellent tracker, foodie, and wonderful mentor to cousin Abby. By the time we got Andre, a year ago, she had become pack leader emeritus, while Abby moved up in leadership. All three Corgis got along extremely well. She died of complications from back disease exacerbated by a slip during the recent storm. Ironically, yesterday, as a Christmas present for myself, I ordered a mug with three Corgis on it and they put the names on under each Corgi, Phoebe, Abby and Andre. We will miss her so much. We are grateful to still have two Corgis, thank god.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Winter Storm Eartha, Here Comes Winter!

Yesterday winter storm Eartha dropped every kind of winter weather ending with lots of ice. What a difference a day makes, as the goldfinches are demonstrating. First there was big conglomerate snowflakes as wet, heavy snow, the kind that is good for snowman making and hard to shovel! Then it changed to rain and sleet. The only good thing was that the rain washed off some of the heavy snow on branches so they did not break causing massive power outages. I know there are outages, but could have been worse, we did not lose power. The rain diminished the depth of snow cover. Then the finale was everything turning to ice last night as temps dipped. Also lots of wind. I shoveled deck three times, still ice. Keep feeders filled the birds need it!

Saturday, December 05, 2020

American Tree Sparrow, Winter Beauty

American Tree Sparrow, from a few days ago. There are two at the feeder this morning, chowing down before the snowstorm. These beautiful sparrows breed in the far north and come down into much of the U.S. for winter. (Nikon p950 superzoom camera, on "birdwatching" mode, photo untouched).


Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Pine Grosbeaks, Beautiful Northern Finches, Are Here!

Finally found Pine Grosbeaks recently after searching for Common Redpolls, White-winged Crossbills and other irruptive finches all day. They were eating crabapples in a parking lot and very undisturbed by people going to their cars. Such pretty birds. In the flock of 17, I saw no adult males. Adult females and male and female first year birds look similar. Pine Grosbeaks are part of this super year for irruptive finches. They come down into the U.S. from their far northern range of mainly Canada and AK and a few northern states when their food supply there is low. Look for them at good fruit sources.