Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Thoughts

Merry Christmas Eve everyone. It's that special time of year when the spirit of giving is first and foremost. This has been a good year for raising awareness about the environment, sprawl, energy, pollution and other huge issues facing our world. What can you do in the near future to help? I have a few small suggestions (in no specific order):

*Buy your local school a WINGSCAPES BIRDCAM. Better yet, install it and talk to the teachers and students about the local birds, plants and animals. Get them outdoors and interested. Their generation will be crucial to protecting the vanishing natural world.

*If you should decide to enjoy some wine this season, might I suggest saving a hummingbird while you taste the subtle hints of oak, strawberry, plum and chocolate? Ok, I don't really know what the exact flavors really are, but drinking a Clos LaChance wine will help save a hummingbird.

*Do something great in your yard to help birds survive the winter.

*Keep ALL cats indoors. Unless you own a mountain lion, cougar, bobcat, lynx, jaguar, puma, cougar or perhaps a leopard, keep that little house cat indoors. They love to kill birds.

*Plant a native tree or shrub in your yard. Preferably, one that birds enjoy, eat, sleep in, nest in, etc. HERE are some good places to start!

*Invite a friend birding, hiking, kayaking, climbing, to a Wildlife Preserve or a local State or County Park.

*Try to get the place where you work to participate in the Environmental Fund For Maryland.

*BUY your DUCKSTAMP!

*Call, write or email your local, state and national representatives. Thank them for their hard work, but let them know that they need to be vigilant about curbing the sprawl, controlling pollution, cutting energy use in our region and of course, Saving the Bay. Protecting the environment needs to be a top priority!

*Tell your family just how much you love and appreciate them. Then plant a soggy, wet, overly-affectionate kiss on 'em.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!All the best,
Dan

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eyes On You

My drummer Mickey's wife Susan is a wonder with words. Her poetry is some of the finest in the world. Emery and I are, of course, expecting a son (Declan) any day now. To help add even more excitement to the occasion, Susan penned this beautiful poem for us.


EYES ON YOU

Waiting for you is like
Waiting for the morning
In moonlight

While birds close their
Eyes and wings to rest,
Owls are watching

Watching you
In the dark moon womb
Of your mother

Watching you
Tapping little rhythms
To your father

Imagining a tune -
Your thrush's song -
Here I am - Where are you?

Owls are watching
In your family tree

Wiser for wondering
Who you may be

-Susan Eckman



Peace and Joy to you all this holiday season. If I don't blog between now and the 25th, have a very Merry Christmas!
-Dan

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

I just arrived home from my music gig tonight (last one of the year) and loaded my guitars and things into the house.

And wHOOooo was there in the neighbors yard serenading my arrival? An EASTERN SCREECH OWL.

I quickly ran into the house to grab Emery. She (and the dogs) came outside to join me in the fun. Yes, I'm weird... a little.

Anyway, just as she got outside, I saw a shadow from the street light of something flying. The Screech Owl quietly flew over our home and into the tall pines across the street. We looked up to watched this fine little bird vanish into the darkness. He (or she) whinnied for a little bit from across the street and then moved on... or hushed up.

The Owl, like my band this evening, didn't do any encores. I suppose I should've tipped him somehow?

Either way, that owl house that Adam and I put up last summer in the back yard might just get some use after all.Being that it's now officially my birthday, that was a great little present.

Good Birding,

Dan

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mystery Bird Nest

For a few hours this morning, my Golden Retriever 'Oiseau' and I birded Greenbury Point, just North of Annapolis proper. We enjoyed ourselves fully.

There were fine amounts of stunning birds like WHITE CROWNED SPARROW, HOODED MERGANSER, RED TAILED and RED SHOULDERED HAWK and even an AMERICAN KESTREL hunting over the mulching facility. Sad that in a few months, that field and open space will be removed to make way for Navy rugby fields. Will the overdevelopment of our region ever cease?

Doubtful. The region's rugby players are in desperate need of a place to play their sport. Some should start an organization to help raise awareness about the thousands of wayward, field-less rugby players. This is a concern that the entire world could get behind! Forget global warming, oil wars or ending poverty. For just the price of a cup of coffee a day, you too can help rugby players find a place to play. Won't you please help?

Ok, so now for the REAL subject of today's post: I found a nest. I know, some of you out there are yawning at the thought. So what if Dan found a nest today while hiking? "Pass the remote," you're thinking. The rest of you, feel free to read on if you just can't handle the suspense.Sure, I'd rather show you video footage of the Red Tailed Hawk getting hounded by two Mockingbirds. Even better, a close up of the American Kestrel hunting over the fields! But, bird's nests are much easier to photograph.

Oiseau was pre-occupied with the scent of deer and running in large circles through the tall grass. So being that I'm rather inquisitive, I went to have a closer look. What can I say? I'm odd like that.Now I'm left to wonder about what bird built it? When did the bird and his family live there? How many eggs did mom bird lay and how large was the family that grew up (and out) of that nest? Did those chicks wind up going to college? (Ivy league, I suspect.) How much they bought their nest for, and did they sell before the big housing slump?And then I found what looks to be a dead AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (see RED ARROW) stuck in a snag of the same tree, about a foot or two below the nest:

So, is this in fact a Goldfinch nest? Did it get stuck on it's way downstairs to the kitchen for a late-night snack? Feel free to chime in and add your thoughts to the (hopefully brief) mystery.

In the meantime, how about some happy photos of Hooded Mergansers, a Canvasback (swimming and then diving) and a sleepy Ruddy Duck?

Happy Holidays (sorry for the gruesome photos),

Dan

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Raptors and Energy Efficiency

Just a quick note to all those concerned, the RED TAILED HAWK that Emery and I rescued this past Sunday is slowly recovering at the Raptor Conservancy in Falls Church, VA. There was no good explanation as to why the bird was found in such poor condition, but the good news is that the hawk is recovering and improving. If not for our assistance, I was told that our hawk would not have made it through the night.

In other news, I just got the BGE bill and it's HUGE! $340 for our 3 bedroom rambler. My home's energy efficiency is now severely in question.

Last month we used 715 kWh. That's an average of 24.7 per day! The Haas family is down to 17.2 kWh per day for a total of 550 kWh for this month. That's great, right? Right. But the bill jumped up 20 more bucks!

The difference, I discovered, was in the gas usage. Last fall, I had a useless decorative 'gas light' in front of our home removed. It was costing us over $30 a month! Pulling it out of the ground was a no brainer.

Even still, we went from 48 Therms last month to well over 158!!! What? A jump from 1.7 Therms per day in November to 4.9 in December! Insane. Even if the temperature average in November (59 degrees) dropped in December to (42 degrees), that's too much of an increase in our usage if you ask me.

To better compare, the Haas House used 126 Therms last December (2006), with the average temperature being 48 degrees. To jump 32 Therms, for just a 6 degree temperature drop this year, seems a bit excessive. I'm almost embarrassed by the leap in usage.

What to do?

Well, next week master artist, home renovator and friend Adam and I are going to weather-check the home. Plans are in the works to caulk, insulate and protect this old home of ours from energy loss.

Our next step would be to replace the old HVAC unit. If that doesn't work, we are going to look into installing solar panels. And if ALL THAT doesn't work... knitting.

From now on, we Haases would like to use a lot less energy. At the same time, we would like to pay less money for bad energy while rewarding ourselves with a highly energy efficient home. Thats not too much to ask, right?

I'll keep you posted on my quest.

All the best,

Dan

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Car Bird Listing

It all started last summer with a PEREGRINE FALCON here in Annapolis that needed a lift in the Volvo, after swim practice. Soon after that monumental event, a BLUE JAY chick needed a ride in my Swedish Station Wagon, followed by a COMMON NIGHTHAWK. My car list, surprisingly, was at three species by the end of last summer.

Well this morning, just as I found a comfortable spot in my easy chair to enjoy my morning paper and some hot coffee, the phone rang. It was a nice woman who described to me how her husband noticed a very large hawk perched on a low fence post in her Edgewater, MD community. The bird didn't react to humans (or dogs), even at close range, so I figured that it was in need of some immediate assistance.

I've now added RED TAILED HAWK to the 'car list'. I'm up to FOUR species in the Volvo. Maybe it's because Volvo is such a safe ride? Or maybe you would rather just enjoy a few iPhone photos of the bird?

Emery assisted as I carefully handled the bird and got it ready for our unplanned trip to Virginia. We drove the dehydrated bird to the RAPTOR CONSERVANCY in Falls Church, where we were met by the nicest gentleman, Kent.

Kent quickly got the hawk hydrated and then told us about how it would be cared for over the next few days. I'll have more news by Wednesday about the bird's prognosis. Suffice it to say, without this morning's rescue, the bird would have died soon. That made Em and I feel good about our Sunday adventure.

The real thrill of the day was when Kent opened up his facility for us. Emery and I were treated to an extensive tour. Amazed, we were able to view, observe and enjoy up close (nose to beak close!) some of the most impressive birds on earth. Kent was very thorough, providing Em and I with details about each bird, while sharing his knowledge about their personalities and injuries. Best of all, he described how he uses these birds for education. Fantastic!

If you're looking for a good place to support this holiday season, I whole-heartedly suggest (urge) you DONATE to the Virginia Raptor Conservancy. What Kent and his facility does for injured raptors alone is reason enough for me!

I wanted to blog about my Saturday birding with Bill Hubick and John Hubbell, but today's events were too much fun. To tide you over, here are two photos of an immature RED HEADED WOODPECKER that we found in Prince George County!
Have a great week. I'll keep you posted on the status of the RED TAILED HAWK.

All the best,

Dan

Friday, December 7, 2007

Singing, then Birding

Josh Chapman and I will be opening the show for Raul Malo, lead singer of The Mavericks, in a few hours at the Ram's Head LIVE! In Baltimore. So I wanted to get all three of this blog's readers in a 'weekend rock n' roll' kind of a mood. So, what better way than a self-promoting rock photo or two?

Ah yes, but first I should tell you a story.

A friend of mine, Allison, took these very cool photographs of my band and I at a gig last January in Williamsburg, VA. My band and I were asked to (for the 2nd year in a row) perform for the Democratic Members of the House and Senate. Yes, Nancy Pelosi was in the crowd and she rocked out to our band. Actually, she even was at a wedding that we played last summer in DC as well.

Do the math (I never tire of that expression).

"The Speaker," as I like to call her, has seen us rock out no less than THREE times! She's almost like, uh, our biggest fan! Mmm, well there was that stalker back in '98. Ahh, the many fond memories. Those sure were the days. Sigh.

Where was I? Oh yes...

Here are two photos of John Hall and I singing his hit "Still The One," that he wrote with the band "Orleans." We also did their other hit, "Dance With Me," but judging by my facial expressions, we were working the more upbeat tune at the time of Allison's photos. By the way, that's the magnificent Meg Murray in the background!
I almost forgot to tell you... tomorrow I am going out birding with All-Star Birder/Photographer Bill Hubick. I am looking forward to a great (bird and music-filled) weekend. Enjoy!

-Dan

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wind Farms in Western, MD BLOW

An article in this morning's Baltimore Sun informed readers that a Pennsylvania company is asking the O'Malley administration for leases in two Western Maryland state forests so it can clear up to 400 mountaintop acres to build about 100 wind turbines.

The complete article can be viewed by clicking HERE.

This is a terrible proposal.

If you agree, please EMAIL Governor O'Malley and tell him that clear cutting Maryland's forested mountain tops (PUBLIC LAND) is a really dumb idea.

-It would destroy acres and acres of valuable habitat, scenery and wilderness.
-These turbines will no doubt kill countless migratory birds.
-Old growth forests would be clear cut.
-In the long run, these wind farms will be of little benefit to anyone EXCEPT the company that makes a fortune selling, building and installing them.

The article states that, "The projects in the Potomac and Savage River state forests would cost $400 million and would generate enough pollution-free electricity for about 55,000 homes, said David F. McAnally, chairman of the company."

Do the math.

That's a cost of $7,272 per home. For that same dollar amount, those 55,000 homes could be outfitted with solar and not one mountaintop would be destroyed! No trees would be cut. No birds would die. No scenery would be ruined. No one company would profit. And no pollution would occur.

This wind farm proposal is a really bad idea, if you ask me. There are other choices and EVERY option needs to be explored.

Tell Governor O'Malley that this wind farm idea BLOWS!

HERE is how to contact the Governor.

And HERE is how to contact the Board of Public Works.

Thanks,

Dan

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Windy

There hasn't been much to write about today (or yesterday for that matter). The winds of December have been blowing all across Maryland for the past two days. Some weather folks are predicting snow.

I'm headed to Charles County for work tomorrow. Perhaps I'll squeeze in a little mid-day birding on the Potomac? In the meantime, here are some Wingscapes BIRDCAM photos. If you haven't ordered your BIRDCAM yet for Christmas, you really should. It's so easy to use and it's like opening up an ornithological time capsule every time you download the photos. The link for the BIRDCAM is over there on the right somewhere... seek and ye shall find!

Stay warm,

Dan

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Blackwater Sunday

Being that the bad weather never arrived in Annapolis this morning, I thought that some afternoon birding was in order. All of the local bird walks were cancelled due to the forecasts. The forecasts were wrong.

Yesterday on MDOSPREY, there were reports of ROUGH LEGGED HAWKS and SHORT EARED OWLS at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, in addition to numerous BALD EAGLES and NORTHERN HARRIERS. The reports were correct. There were well over a dozen HARRIERS, in addition to two AMERICAN KESTRELS, three RED TAILED HAWKS and TWENTY or more BALD EAGLES. One juvenile eagle was so large and colored just so, I thought perhaps GOLDEN, but it was not to be.

The highlight of the day took place in the lowest light, at dusk. Ironic, isn't it? I got to see my very first ROUGH LEGGED HAWK, perched only inches above the marsh at the end of a dirt road called Cedar Creek. It was well worth the detour. As I scanned the horizon with my scope, I watched three SHORT EARED OWLS looping and flying in the distance. Two more NORTHERN HARRIERS patrolled the marshes here as well.

Nightfall approached and the rain began to fall at a steady pace. As the cold was just about to numb the tips of my fingers, I decided to start up the Volvo wagon. I safely made my way home to Annapolis in the rainy darkness.

So maybe the weather people weren't wrong, just off on the timing?

BALD EAGLES on the WILDLIFE LOOP

Two more BALD EAGLES on the WILDLIFE LOOP

I found this AMERICAN KESTREL hunting at the exit to the BLACKWATER REFUGE WILDLIFE LOOP.

I was really hoping for a shot of this falcon hovering. The sight of which is simply amazing to watch in the scope!

The lesson I learned today: don't let bad weather keep you from two life birds.

Good birding,

Dan

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