Thursday, January 29, 2009

Economy Is In The Tank So Enjoy Some Photos

You should take your honey out and maybe go see a movie. I wonder if 'The Three Amigos' is playing anywhere?Maybe the best thing to do during times like these is just hang out with your friends.You can yell all you want, but it won't make a difference.Sometimes all you can do is shake your head and wonder...Have a great weekend,

Dan

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mockingbirds Prefer Volvo-Purified Water

I want to tell you a story. It's a little something that I noticed this morning. But first, an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW!So I go outside this morning to greet my Mom, who has come over to mind Declan for the day. When I look towards my driveway, I notice that our MOCKINGBIRD is attacking the sunny side of my Volvo.Was the bird trying get a closer look at my 'American Bird Conservancy' and 'Cornell Lab of Ornithology' stickers on the back window? Perhaps it was picking a fight with it's own reflection?

No on both counts.After approaching my car from a distance, I learn that the Mockingbird was actually drinking the ice melt that was dripping down the side of my car. I took some photos, which I'll develop later and then post to the blog.

What's so odd about this behavior, you ask? Less than five feet away from where this bird always hangs out, there is a fresh, open source of water. And in the back yard, this Mocker could literally swim laps in a brand new avian jacuzzi that I just installed.Despite all those beverage choices, my Mockingbird prefers only the finest freshly-melted water from a Volvo wagon. Picky bird.Enjoy your weekend!

Dan

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Winter Finches, Pine Nuts and Poor Photos

So it was nice to see so many WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS this afternoon in Baltimore. My photo skills however seem to have vanished like this flock of birds did after feeding for only a few minutes on the Easter Hemlock Trees.
I will spend February attempting to improving things like: setting a proper exposure, focusing on my focusing skills, studying up on shutter speed, and oh yes... limiting my intake of coffee before photography session.And so, with just a bit of embarrassment, I show you these photos of this winter's WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL invasion.Soon after my arrival to 'the spot', fellow birder Bryce joined me in searching for these hungry winter finches. I chose to walk towards the sunnier side of the trees and Bryce stood nearest where the birds have been most-frequently spotted. As I got to the 'warmer' section, a large flock (21 by my count) chittered in flight overhead and landed back in the trees, quite close to where Bryce was searching. They briefly popped some cones, posed for some photos and then hit the road, or the skies to be more exact.Thus far, this has been a fantastic winter for the birds.

Best,

Dan

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sunday Brunch in Gloucester?

I've decided to take my family out for a scrumptious meal this weekend. But for some odd reason, I am craving REALLY FRESH New England seafood. Perhaps some succulent Lobster, best enjoyed with a stunning view of Cape Cod and the Atlantic Ocean?

PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL HUBICK

Ok, I admit it. I am really caught up in the excitement regarding a recently-reported rare bird: an IVORY GULL. It's an extremely infrequent visitor to the United States, especially the lower 48. This gull spends it's days and nights on the ice in the Arctic Circle feeding on Polar Bear kills and lemmings. (And for those of you interested in recycling, when the IVORY GULL is finished raising it's young, their sizable nests are eaten by Caribou.)

This past Friday, one IVORY GULL was found in Gloucester, Mass. And THIS JUST IN: Today (Tuesday, January 20th) a SECOND IVORY GULL was observed and photographed in Plymouth. Both birds are adults, with their famous pure, glowing white plumage.

So with our odds now doubled, the Haas family has HIGH HOPES that both birds will stick around through the weekend. Why? Well, on January 25th (this Sunday), my darling wife, adorable boy and I will depart from Baltimore at 9:05AM, arriving in Manchester, NH at 10:25AM sharp! We will start up our mid-sized rental car in world record time and venture off to go and find this amazing bird (hopefully lounging around it's famous and historic seaside town).

The weather geniuses are calling for 'abundant sunshine' in New England on Sunday. With highs in the LOW 20's, we will surely be shivering. But if we can see an IVORY GULL, it will be worth all of our efforts.

Maryland birders Bill Hubick, Mikey Lutmerding and Jim Brighton left for the frozen Northeast last Saturday night and drove through a snowstorm just to see this bird. They spoke highly of their road trip.

I even took the bold step of asking the BIRDCOUPLE to join us on our excursion. You should visit their blog and leave 'em a comment. Please put a little pressure on them to have lobsters with the Haas Family!

PHOTO COURTESY OF NIAGRAREGION.CA

Finally, should both IVORY GULLS up and disappear back to the North Pole, there have also been regular sightings of a NORTHERN HAWK OWL in the region. That Hawk Owl (is it a Hawk, or is it an Owl?) would be a life bird as well, and one superb consolation prize! Oh the thrill of an adventure.

Have a great week.

Dan

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Is It Cold Out, Or Are My Toe's Supposed To Be This Numb?

When I got in the car this morning, the Volvo said it was 7 degrees. Awesome! Even this AMERICAN WIGEON thought it was too cold to stay in that water.How cold was it? Well, I'll tell you. It was SOOO cold that typically inland waterfowl like this HOODED MERGANSER were out and about on the the only unfrozen water around, the Chesapeake Bay. In this case, I caught this HOODIE hanging out with the likes of a LONG-TAILED DUCK. I thought they looked a bit odd together, so I had them pose for a frosty photo.

I wonder what they had to say to each other?One of the LONG-TAILED DUCKS was kind enough to get close to my camera. They certainly are one of the more dapper looking ducks out there on the frigid bay waters.The REDHEADS were out in force. We counted eight off of Bay Ridge and at least two more off of Thomas Point State Park. Look at these drakes... who'd wanna mess with them? Nothing but trouble...The water temperature was so much warmer than the air, it made the Bay Bridge appear as it it was floating above the water line. They call that effect 'heat haze', but my numb toes referred to it as something entirely different!Back at the ranch, the PINE SISKINS were on my feeder yet again this morning. Such a treat to walk out in the single-digit temperatures and hear them zipping away in the back yard.Earlier in the week a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK dropped by my home to hunt some of our local feeder birds. Judging by this photo, the bird's belly (also known as it's crop) looked empty.Yet again today at Greenbury Point, Chris Murray and I spotted this RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. However, this paler-looking bird had a slightly more well-fed look about it. I always feel better knowing all the birds are eating properly.Later, we ran into some WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS just inside the mulching facility at Greenbury Point. This area of tall grasses, mulch, wood piles and shrubs is laden with birds. We had SWAMP, WHITE-THROATED, WHITE-CROWNED, SONG, FIELD SPARROWS and DARK-EYED JUNCOS all in one little area. I've heard the rumors that this area will soon be replaced with sterile artificial turf and parking lots, but I hope that those plans never come to fruition.In order to tell the rest of today's birding story, I need to back up a bit.

Chris and I were busy scanning the slush for rare birds that might have come down the Bay because of the recent cold snap. There we were at Bay Ridge's Tolley Point, when all of the sudden, who do we run into but the famous BIRD COUPLE, Warren & Lisa Strobel. It's always a fantastic time when birding with these two love birds. I do have a suggestion for their next blog: Warren and Lisa, you two should write a little something about dressing properly for the bitter cold. I had three layers on and was frozen. Warren? A pair of jeans. Lisa, a darling pair of shorts and a tank top. No no no, I'm only kidding. Lisa wore a simple, yet elegant black evening gown.After serendipitously meeting at Bay Ridge, all four of us decided to venture a bit further South on this fantastic Anne Arundel County peninsula to Thomas Point State Park. There we ran into Gerald Winegrad, ex-State Senator, environmentalist, birder and Anne Arundel Bird Club member. He will be leading a trip tomorrow to this area in search of waterfowl, so we caught him doing some scouting. You can never be too prepared, right? Gerald told us that there is no such thing as 'bad' weather, just one's 'bad' choice of clothing.Anyway, I decided to check the old iPhone while we were at Thomas Point. An email arrived that brought with it some great news: our Annapolis PAINTED BUNTING had returned. Last year, the bird appeared on my birthday, December 18th. It was only fitting that this winter, the bird reappear on my Dad's birthday, January 17th. During all of my many observations of this bird, I've never seen PABU look quite so large. He was puffed up huge trying to keep warm. We said hello rather quickly to our good friend and then left so it could return to feeding, puffing up, surviving and enjoying it's frigid winter Annapolis home.Lest I forget... there was a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER that greeted us upon our arrival to PABU's place! When I went to scout the 'other' location that PABU has been known to frequent last week, a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was present for both visits. Weird, eh?

Good Birding and Go Ravens,

Dan

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A National Geographic Must-See Exhibit

One recent cold January day I travelled an hour or so to see this rare bird. It was in a spot that I won't mention. Privacy is important. I'll just say this about the bird: It was a really nice bird... and it was small, brown and white. It probably should have been in California or Kansas, but lucky for me, it was here in Maryland. Ok, ok... fine. I'll give you a hint. This was the bird:So as I was saying... because of that bird's odd choice of migrational direction, I got to meet this birder and artist Jonathan Alderfer.

You just never know who might be right next to you at any given moment?
The person might be a locally somewhat-well-known musician from Annapolis?

Or, better yet...

The person standing next to you might have done the illustrations for THIS BOOK that sits on your nightstand? As it turns out, Mr. Alderfer has done a number of amazing things. And you should know about it.

So for starters, the National Geographic Museum invited him to show some of his paintings alongside the work of three of the twentieth century's greatest bird illustrators--Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Allen Brooks, and Walter Weber. The paintings on display by Fuertes, Brooks, and Weber were done for the National Geographic Magazine and have been held in their archives. This is the first time these paintings have ever been exhibited.

Jonathan's paintings represent work that he has done for field guides and other publications over the past twenty years. (Some of these paintings are available for purchase—please contact him for a price list if you're interested.) His web site is under construction (who's website isn't these days?), but in the coming months he will be putting up new pages with images of paintings, drawings, and prints.I hope you will be able to see the show--it's up until the end of May in the Museum's M Street gallery.

The Museum's events page has more information and directions. To learn more, click HERE

I heard rumors that there might be some other event taking place in Washington DC (uhmmmm) next week. Maybe you'll want to plan your visit for some time in February or March? In any case, it would be a really nice thing to do some winter afternoon. I'll see you there.

Oh yes... one last thing.

GO RAVENS!!!Photo courtesy of Bill Hubick.

Best,

Dan

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