Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two Scissors in One Year?

First the great news: Isla Abigail is home!Now the bad news: No, Declan, you can't have this pig!It was offered to me today at the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher spot in Queen Anne's County. The homeowner told me that it was housebroken. I'm not sure my wife would find that to be reason enough for the new family member. Sorry Declan... maybe for Christmas.

Lastly, some good news: for the second time this year, I've enjoyed observing a SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER in Maryland. Rare once, spectacular twice. Here's the bird now... enjoy.And now, it's time for me to do more of this... unless Mom already took care of it! Best to all,

Dan

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do you smell that? Migration Is On. Let The Staging Begin.

On the way home I stopped by the local sewage treatment plant.

What? You don't?

As if. You know you visit them. You love them. If it wasn't so shameful, you'd readily admit to all your secret passion for sewage treatment plants. You finally tell all about your constant, irresistible, irrepressible urges to go visit them. Face it, you just can't get enough of those bug-laden ponds filled with... with... oh, you know what's in 'em. I don't understand why more people aren't visiting them ALL the time. ESPECIALLY on a hot August afternoon.

Oh well, the secret is out.Swallows have known about them for eons. Barn Swallows breed here. Tree Swallows, Northern Rough Wing, Bank... you name it, they've been to one (or more).

And today, PURPLE MARTINS arrived in spectacular (for this neck of the woods) numbers. I tallied over 350 in sight at one time. Others were flying overhead. A few were hunting over the impoundments filled with... with... oh you know what they're filled with. What's more, there looked to be hundreds more on nearby power lines and in a Sycamore tree too.

It was quite a spectacular stop on my afternoon commute home. Here, look...See you soon... (oh, you know where)

-Dan

Monday, August 17, 2009

What... no birds?

Sure, I can write an entire blog that has nothing to do with birds. It's easy. Watch.So I got up REALLY EARLY this past Sunday to go out on a boat some 70 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. There might have been birds flying around said boat, but that's just not important right now. What is important is a whale.I mean, just look at this giant... a FIN WHALE. She is one mighty and magnificent animal.When one first observes a Fin Whale cresting the water, it takes a good long time for the actual fin to arrive to surface, providing some indication as to the size of this whale. I could show you the dozens of photos before and after this photo was taken to give you a better idea, but instead... let's talk about turtles!This is a LEATHERBACK TURTLE. I might be wrong in this description, but this (planet earth's largest known reptile, according to the experts on the boat), looked like a Volkswagon Beetle floating on the water. Incidentally, I heard that the old Volkswagons could float... but, I digress. Notice the string-like thing hanging from this turtle's mouth? It would appear that it's been feasting on one of it's favorite meals: Jellyfish. Yum. A bit stingy aftertaste if you ask me. Some like it hot, I suppose.The leaders on the boat said that they might see one of these every couple of years. We saw an unprecedented THREE Leatherbacks, in addition to a LOGGERHEAD TURTLE.What's more, we got to get up close and personal with a HAMMERHEAD SHARK. Not just any hammerhead, mind you... but a SCALLOPED HAMMERHEAD SHARK!

Lastly, there were the dolphins. We had both the very familiar BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS and my personal favorite, the COMMON DOLPHIN on our trip this weekend. Wow! Can these mammals jump!Check out the striations on this dolphin's skin from a prop blade. This is one tough dolphin!See... an entire blog post with not even a mention of birds. I knew I could do it.

I disembarked from the boat, satisfied from a day of fantastic birds, but mesmerized by the ocean's many splendid creatures. We humans overfish the seas, while under-protecting the species that live in it. As a species, we tend to merely live for the moment, forsaking the future. Here's hoping that we humans do everything possible to study, protect and sustain the world's oceans, bays, rivers, streams and ponds.

Perhaps this web link is a fine place to start? OCEANA.ORG.

Doubt us humans, if you must... but have a look at our history. I borrow this snippet of information about the great BLUE WHALE from the AMERICAN CETACEAN SOCIETY'S website:

"Because of their enormous size and speed, blue whales were safe from early whalers, who could not pursue them in open boats with hand harpoons. But in 1868 a Norwegian, Sven Foyn, revolutionized the whaling industry with the invention of the exploding harpoon gun and by using steam and diesel powered factory ships and catcher boats. He also perfected the technique of inflating dead whales with air so they wouldn't sink after being harpooned. The whaling industry began to focus on blue whales after 1900. A single 90-foot blue whale could yield up to 120 barrels of oil, and the blues were killed by the thousands. The slaughter peaked in 1931 when over 29,000 were killed in one season. After that blue whales became so scarce that the whalers turned to other species and, belatedly, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned all hunting of blue whales in 1966 and gave them worldwide protection. Recovery has been extremely slow, and only in the last few years have there been signs that their numbers may be increasing. Pre-whaling population estimates were over 350,000 blue whales, but up to 99% of blue whales were killed during whaling efforts. Presently, there are an estimated 5-10,000 blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere, and only around 3-4,000 in the Northern Hemisphere."We humans have a sad history of depleting resources as quickly as possible. Luckily, we sometimes have the wisdom to note our excesses and take corrective measures.

Best,
Dan

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Time Away...

Oh, how I love that little man. That right there is Declan pointing to a little discovery he made near the garden. A seed! He soon found out what it tasted like and then soon learned that he didn't like the taste.

Anyway, the point is... I don't get down to the basement much these days, unless it's for work. My Mac is down here, and therefore my ability to blog about recent goings ons is totally dependent on my ability to get subterranean free time. Life, as you all know, is busy. Not surprisingly, there is always much to blog about nearly every day. Perhaps I should make more of an effort to walk downstairs a wee bit more often?

Of note recently:
-Declan, his Mom and I went to the National Zoo.-His Mommy is about to add one more to our family. For those of you at home keeping score, she is due in the beginning of September. My guess? 9:09AM on September 9th, 2009. By the way, birding with her son and her devoted husband sure does wipe her out. Need proof?-I gave a little bird talk to the youngsters of West Annapolis this afternoon. We covered such riveting subjects as attracting hummingbirds, local nesters and what goldfinch prefer to eat.
-I observed a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE with my entire family (Declan and his hottie Mommy Emery) as well as Warren and his lover Lisa Strobel (A.K.A. the Bird Couple).-While we were there, we noticed what we believed to be a fledgling BELTED KINGFISHER doing a fine imitation of Michael Phelps. This bird's two parents were very close by, chattering it up the entire time it swam across the pond. We think it lived to fish another day.-The local watering hole at Greenbury Point has been filled with cool shorebirds like SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, GREEN HERON and GLOSSY IBIS, just to name a few.What? You don't see the heron... look closer.-A scruffy-looking COMMON LOON spent a week or so in the cove at Greenbury Point floating about the marina area. Why you ask? My guess would be that the bird was just waiting for it's flight feathers to grow back.YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS are stunning-looking birds. I've been told that one of my local favorite species, the PEREGRINE FALCON, regularly enjoys this species for lunch. It makes sense since these birds spend some time on the top of the forest canopy. By the way, the local Peregrines failed to nest yet again this year. Eggs were laid, but no chicks successfully hatched. Fingers are crossed for better luck next year.-The Swallows are starting to amass in great numbers. Here in Anne Arundel, I've found the Tree and Northern Rough-Winged variety to be scarce this summer. Barn and Bank Swallows have been present in ever-increasing numbers lately, as well as the well-known Purple Martins. But it's that CLIFF SWALLOW that has eluded me thus far here in my home county.-On Elliott Island Road, I rescued a VIRGINIA RAIL from a near-certain death. Okay, I got out and made it get back into the marsh mere moments before a truck raced by at a good speed. I did manage to take a few photos before I myself dodged the speeding Dodge. Or was it a Ford? No matter...-I enjoyed watching Barn Swallows and CHIMNEY SWIFTS catching a drink at a local pond. The Swifts were quite literally diving into the water for a moment, fluttering and then taking off. Did I get a photo of this mighty interesting scene? Of course not. But there are so very few photos of a Chimney Swift in my collection that don't involve a blue sky background... I just had to post it.Lastly, an AMERICAN KESTREL. I enjoyed this little one with five of his buddies hunting at a place in Northern Anne Arundel County. They were hovering in the winds coming off the bay over a grassy hill hunting grasshoppers. Go birding... there is always something interesting to observe.Lastly, I still think that the bird photographed below was a BROWN BOOBY. But, I haven't added it to my life list. One was photographed lounging on the beach in North Assateague just a few days ago. Oh well...

Best,
Dan

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