Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Me? I'm Feeling Better, Thanks. Contest Anyone?

Thankfully, I have (almost) fully recovered from last week's cold. A few lingering 'memories' remain. A sniffle here, a sneeze there. I'm sure you get the idea. So I don't really have all that much to tell you that you probably don't already know.

What happened this week so far? Hmm.

I saw a LIFE bird: Three RUSTY BLACKBIRDS to be exact. RUSTY BLACKBIRDS are in the midst of some serious issues lately (the past few decades). Their populations have declined more than almost any other bird species in North America (except for maybe the CAROLINA PARAKEET and the PASSENGER PIGEON). Read all about the plight of the RUSTY BLACKBIRD HERE. No wonder they've been so hard to find!

And I ALMOST forgot to mention... a sizable ice shelf has broken off in Antarctica. Think Connecticut falling off of the continental United States and you have an idea of the magnitude of the melt. Our time and energy would be well-served if everyone devoted time and energy to taking care of THIS our one and only earth. Nothing like a little global warming to bring us all together, right? We could all hold hands and sing.

It makes all of the other stuff we worry about seem rather small in comparison.

Or, we could all just look at some birds.If you can name all of the birds in the photos above, I'll give you a free BEN'S BONES "Live at the Ram's Head On Stage" CD! A compact disc is like an MP3, only it's round, reflective and plays in a CD player. You still have one, right? Not to worry, you can rip it on your computer in no time at all.

First one to get 'em all correct gets the CD! No cheating.

All the best,

Dan

Monday, March 24, 2008

Signs of Spri.... HAAA CHOOO.... of Spring. Pass the tissues?

Last week I thought that I'd developed some sort of 'adult allergies' or something rather terrible like that. Good news!!! It's just a plain old, run-of-the-mill frustrating cold. My head is stuffed, my body aches and I could whine about it all night long. But I will do no such thing. No, me... I'm delighting in the fact that my old friend the oak tree, the spring flowers or that little bit of Goldenrod is NOT causing all this torture. Lucky me, someone probably sneezed on me somewhere, sometime last week.But some awful cold is not enough to keep me from a blog. And to put your minds at ease, Declan and Mom Emery are doing great. For that matter, the entire Haas Family had a wonderful Easter weekend and we hope yours was fantastic as well.

Chris Murray and I dropped by Waterworks Park in Annapolis just prior to our trip Emery's folks home in Bethesda for Easter dinner. Emery, Declan and I spent the morning at my folks home here in Annapolis. After a brief nap, I figured that a little birding couldn't hurt before dinner. My sniffles and coughing are telling me otherwise.

Here is an EASTERN PHOEBE. It was one of five seen at Waterworks during our brief visit. We also had two BARRED OWLS calling while we hiked around the reservoir.

"Who Cooks For You? Who Cooks For You All??," asked the BARRED OWLS. Lucky for us, my folks had fixed a scrumptous breakfast and Emery folks were busy making dinner!The Cornell Lab of Ornithology informs us that, "In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe's leg to track its return in successive years." I suppose that would mean that this bird was one of the first to shed light on that wild MIGRATION thing? If so, the PHOEBE gets my nomination for "Spring Sign of the Week."

And finally, a photo of the GREAT EGRET patrolling the cove at Greenbury Point. This photo was taken last week, but it says 'spring' to me. I trust that you are enjoying the season.Ths is my favorite photo today of the better 2/3rds of my family. I love my wife's facial expression here. She is so adorable when she growls like a bunny.-Dan

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Adam Whitaker and I put up a PURPLE MARTIN HOUSE earlier today at Matt & April's house on Weems Creek. There were reports this week on MDOSPREY that a few male PURPLE MARTINS had returned to their home, located just one river South of us in Edgewater, MD. These early birds are known as 'scouts' and it is believed that they get here early to secure the nests and set up shop. Whatever the reason, it is an undeniable sign of spring. What is scary about this PURPLE MARTINS is that they've been getting here earlier and earlier every year. Stephen, who originally posted the report, has kept track of the dates of the Martin's return to his colony. Read it and weep. Or at the very least, consider the possibility that global warming is real.

1999 April 16
2000 April 8
2001 April 3
2002 March 30
2003 April 4
2004 March 26
2005 March 28
2006 March 30
2007 March 24
2008 MARCH 19!!!

Adam helped me put up a similar house on Weems Creek last year (pictured above). As of yet, we've not had any guests. Rest assured I won't be resting this year. No, instead I will be getting up early (4 AM) to play a 'lure CD' of the PURPLE MARTIN dawn song on a boom box every morning! Oh joy... I can't wait to set the alarm.Later, Oiseau the wonder dog and I went for an afternoon hike in St. Margarets with Josh and his dog Fran. It was... wet and muddy. Fran and Oiseau played, growled, swam and tugged on a large stick. No fights broke out, but there was plenty of mud-slinging.In the end, Fran got the stick. Oiseau... he just got to run off that excess winter energy (now that it is officially SPRING).Oiseau needed to learn how to properly respect his elders. Fran was an excellent teacher! On the way home, we spotted a raccoon sleeping in the hallow of an old, dead tree. Even the old, dead trees are important (and quite useful for napping and nesting) in the forest.We were searching for the GREAT HORNED OWL nest that is in the pine trees nearby. On a recent hike, I photographed one of the owls. It's that time of year and I was really hoping to see some fuzzy little owl chicks. GREAT HORNED OWLS are the top of the food chain around here, so these owl chicks are only fuzzy and cute for a short while. Soon the chicks will lose the cuteness factor and gain the skills and savvy to become highly-successful nocturnal hunting experts.

Happy Easter Everyone,

Dan, Emery, Declan, Kee Kee & Oiseau!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thanks for Breakfast

I was on my way out the door this morning. My hands were full with my work stuff and two cups of hot, fresh-brewed Caffe Pronto coffee (Mocha Java this week). As I approached my Volvo, I heard the local COOPERS HAWK going nuts. To make matters slightly more interesting, I was in a rush to get to a meeting in Charles County too.Initially I thought perhaps some loving courtship behaviors were taking place. After all, it is THAT time of year and it did kind of 'sound' like love.I put my coffees down and looked to where the shrieking was taking place in the treetops across the street. Turns out, the local COOPERS HAWK had just captured a fresh COMMON GRACKLE. But seconds after the GRACKLE was captured for breakfast, a greedy, slightly opportunistic RED TAILED HAWK swooped in to 'take' the feast for his (or her) own. At first glance, I thought the two raptors were involved in a loving embrace. Hmm, apparently not.I grabbed my camera from the house and quickly snapped these shots. The morning light was terrible, so I apologize for the bad photography. I ask you to please use your imagination when it comes to 'vibrant color and lighting' that one would expect from well-done photography.Sure enough, these two raptors embraced all right... but it wasn't so much about procreation as it was about a struggle over a well-deserved meal. The RED-TAILED HAWK won out and soon flew off with the GRACKLE. But for a good two or three minutes, the COOPERS HAWK sat on a nearby limb, looking puffed up and very frustrated watching his hard-earned meal get de-feathered by a local competitor.If nothing else, it made for a very interesting start to my day.

I hope your breakfast was uneventful. Oh, and not only was the Mocha Java delicious, I successfully made it to my meeting.

-Dan

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Red Shoulder Spotted and Doing Well

The RED SHOULDERED HAWK that was rescued in January and released last month has recently been spotted by an Annapolis resident.Russ Mader (CLICK on his name to view his website. He has some GREAT photos!) thankfully got this great photo of a RED SHOULDERED HAWK with a silver band on it's left leg. He recently posted his raptor sightings on the MDOSPREY listserv. He mentioned in his post that he had managed to snap a few photos. Since he lived right here in Annapolis, I decided to send him an email. I thought perhaps he could keep an eye out for our released red raptor. As it turns out, Russ lives less than a mile from where the bird was rescued. Coincidence?

I think this is a fantastic way to end the weekend. Here is a photo of the bird just before it's release at Greenbury Point. I do love success.Happy St. Patrick's Day. See you at the Ram's Head Tavern on West Street tomorrow from 2 to 4 PM for some irish shenanigans! Josh and I will be playing music in the tent out back!

-Dan

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Red Head Question

The mammal question from yesterday's blog has been answered. It was a MUSKRAT.

Now, another mystery to unravel. What do you think about this poor RED HEADED WOODPECKER that I photographed today at MERKLE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY?Territory dispute?Did this RED HEAD simply become prey?Or was this woodpecker just too old?Do you have any ideas? And just so you are not depressed after reading this, I threw in a photo of just one of the many ALIVE RED HEADED WOODPECKERS still enjoying the Merkle swamp. And for kicks, how about a singing FIELD SPARROW?Which reminds me... I've got to get to my gig. I'm singing tonight at Domenica's in Annapolis!

-Dan

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Red Neck in West Annapolis

A RED-NECKED GREBE to be more precise. I stopped by the boat ramp in my West Annapolis neighborhood on Weems Creek at 4PM. I was coming home from work and thought a quick scan of the creek was in order. I noticed three COMMON GOLDEN EYE, one of which had me perplexed. I sent the photo (above) to a friend for a second opinion.It's fairly clear that the ducks in the first photo are in fact COMMON GOLDEN EYE. I am still fairly new at this bird identification thing, so sometimes I prefer to play it safe and get a second opinion.Hoping that I might be able to grab some better looks at the GOLDEN EYE before the sun went away for the night, I hurried back to the boat ramp around 5:30PM. This time I came equipped with scope and tripod, providing for much better 'looks' at that mystery bird.That is when I was lucky enough to find a RED-NECKED GREBE. Did you know that Red-necked Grebes regularly ingest a solid helping of their own feathers? It's true.The feathers that they eat sit in the bird's stomach, but exactly why is not known. Some experts suspect that those feathers protect the digestive system from bones and other difficult to digest bits. (Much like the pizza I ate for dinner.)So that is the end of that story that occurred at the beginning of the weekend! But I've got one more for you...What in tarnation is this? I noticed it swimming around Weems Creek this evening while I was photographing the GREBE. Beaver perhaps? No, their freshwater mammals right? And besides, I've seen lots of beavers in my day. (There are several at Waterworks Park in Annapolis.) Beavers regularly will flop their tails to show you that they are pretty cool. I suppose that tail flop thing could also be used as a scare tactic whenever humans or other potential predators are near. But this particular mammal did no such thing. It just swam off into the headwaters of the creek. Seems a bit small for a RIVER OTTER, but a search of Maryland's DNR website got me no closer to an identification. Have any thoughts? I'd love to hear them.

Have a great weekend,

Dan

Thursday, March 13, 2008

PABU & Friends Enjoying the Afternoon Sun

I stopped by to see my friends Ginger, T-J and ARNOLD PABU (AKA Painted Bunting) this afternoon.The bird was there feeding, as per his usual, on the green feeder visible from the B&A Trial. Today, PABU was joined by a NORTHERN CARDINAL with some really bad molt and a CHIPPING SPARROW. Also in the neighborhood today: COMMON GRACKLES, WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS, AMERICAN CROWS, DOWNY WOODPECKER, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, HERMIT THRUSH, TUFTED TITMOUSE, NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, HOUSE FINCH, DARK-EYED JUNCOS, AMERICAN ROBINS, CAROLINA CHICKADEES and TURKEY VULTURES!Ginger mentioned to me that lately the PAINTED BUNTING has been seen taking morning baths in the bird bath. The BIRDCAM might be moved there soon to capture this very cleanly bird.PABU has also been nabbed several times by the BIRDCAM at T-J's house! Taylor MacLean dropped by from Baltimore to view the BUNTING this afternoon too. Luckily, the bird made an appearance for him after my departure.Ginger mentioned that the bird was pecking on her window. What appears to be this bird's attempt at gaining entry into Ginger's house is more than likely a exhibition put on the bird. I had a SONG SPARROW that would peck for hours and hours, days upon days, at a reflection in a trash can! PAINTED BUNTINGS have been known to be very territorial. They spend a lot of time proving their worth for the ladies. Singing (that's how I got my Emery) is one way. I suppose pecking at the competition is another way to accomplish the same goal? More than likely, PABU was trying to show that other PABU (his reflection) just who's boss!Of course, I could totally be wrong. As of yet, no one has been able to interview the bird.

-Dan

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Take A Kid Birding

Declan is sleeping in now. He just can't wait to get up at 5AM (as if he doesn't already... HAH!) to see the soon-to-be-arriving migrating warblers.

Then he asked me, "Dad, what's a warbler?" "That's an easy one son," I told him. "A warbler is a very small, colorful bird that sounds just like you when you are happy."

That Cape May Bird Observatory bumper sticker is on my Maton Guitar case. I am very much looking forward to showing my son all of the wonders of the world around him.

And yes, I'm also looking forward to introducing him to tons of great music.

Declan, weighing in at a hearty 14.1 lbs, is smiling a lot these days! He likes his nose and chin poked. A good tickle on the belly also does the trick in achieving that ear to ear grin.

All the best,

Dan, Emery & Declan

Wash Your Feeders

Spring is nearly here. Now is the time to make sure your yard is ready for the arriving avian migrants from the South.

Have you cleaned your feeders?

THE GOOD EYE

The reason I ask: there is this nasty disease spreading around the HOUSE FINCH community. Strangely enough, it's called HOUSE FINCH EYE DISEASE. Experts suspect that one cause might possible be stemming from finches eating at dirty feeders. Mind you, it's just one possible cause, but it is something we humans can easily control with a little effort.

The disease, known as Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, appears to have begun right here in our area (MD, DC, VA). In 1994, keen observers started to notice HOUSE FINCHES with swollen, red eyes.

Here at the Haas West Annapolis Bird Sanctuary, all of the feeding stations were taken down and emptied this weekend. To clean them, we used ample amounts of Dawn detergent, a sponge, a thick bristled brush and a pipe cleaner looking thing that was specially designed to clean inside of the tube-shaped feeders. Some experts recommend using bleach to clean your feeders. As the weather warms, I will clean my feeders again with a bleach and water solution indoors. But this weekend was too cold. And from what I gather, any bleach added to the backyard would not 'add' to my garden's springtime luster.

So I spent this past Sunday morning (let me tell you... it was COLD!) scrubbing our bird's restaurants. The water from the hose was freezing! My hands were nearly frost-bitten, but the results are worth the temporary numbness. After the feeders finished drying in the sun, they were sparkling and ready for filling.

THE IFFY EYE?

Our finches have thus far appeared to be well. Earlier in the winter, there was one female HOUSE FINCH with the disease, but she's not been seen in a several weeks.

Have you cleaned your feeders yet? Why not add it to your list of spring gardening chores? At the very least, it might help slow (or prevent) the spread of HOUSE FINCH EYE DISEASE in our area.

If you happen to have some FINCHES in your yard with the disease, perhaps you'd like to participate in Cornell University's SURVEY?

-Dan

Sunday, March 9, 2008

No time to blog. Come back later? (EDITED)

(While Declan slept...)

I've got (HAD) chores to do: clean the house (yes), the yard (yes), empty the leaves from the gutters (no), get shoelaces (no), feed my family (yes, yes, yes), scoop the poop (yes), do the windows (yes), finish the taxes (NO), feed the birds (yes), walk the dogs (oh, sadly no), love Declan and Emery (ABSOLUTELY YES!) and BOOK some GIGS (tried, but no gigs were booked)!

That said, tomorrow or later tonight I'll post photos from yesterday's wonderful Eastern Shore birding adventure with my good friend Andy Sprenger. At that time, I'll have more time to tell all sorts of great stories! (Well, that time is now. I had some free time this evening after watching the Series Finale of THE WIRE.)

We did see a GOLDEN EAGLE. A life bird for me. A target bird for the trip. Ahhhh... Nothing quite like success.And we also saw some boldly-colored PINE WARBLERS singing their hearts out.One more photo of this fine looking, early-arriving WARBLER for good measure.And, I capped the day off with a visit to Les Roslund's home near Tunis Mills. I was hoping to see some PINE SISKINS. Les very kindly introduced me to his flock. Thanks Les!Ironically enough, when I checked some old BIRDCAM photos from way back in October, I have now learned that a PINE SISKIN has officially visited our yard here in West Annapolis.Just for fun, here is a PINE SISKIN sitting still for a brief moment. This one appears to be doing a George Burns impersonation, pretending that his thistle seed is a cigar.Finally, this afternoon Emery, Declan and I went to visit our friend Adam. He lives near the bridge. Adam was very busy renovating his master bath, so he couldn't hike through the woods with us. My goal was to hopefully capture a photo of the falcon on or near it's scrape. At the very least, l wanted Declan and Emery to view the pair perched on the bridge or flying above us. Sadly, there were no PEREGRINE FALCONS to be seen this cold Sunday afternoon. Or at least that is what I thought! Upon returning home, I was checking over the photos and found one of them. Can you find the FALCON?Have a great week!

HINT: LOOK DOWN AND TO THE RIGHT. THE FALCON IS THERE, VERY SMALL, PERCHED ON THE LAST PIER EATING DINNER.

-Dan

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