Tag Archives: Birds

Birder Watching at Magee Marsh

Someone's lost bird list
Someone’s lost bird list
Chestnut Sided Warbler
Chestnut Sided Warbler

A year or two ago I saw a tweet by a fellow twitter birder / accessibility advocate about her trip to Magee Marsh in Ohio.  I kept it in the back of my head because we drive right by it when we travel to and from Illinois.

Then a few months ago I read The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik (on IB’s recommendation) and later saw the film based on the book.  I was interested in the characters,  especially the Maryland-based birder, Greg Miller — the one who worked at the nuclear power plant (played by Jack Black in the movie).  I googled his name and found out he moved back to Ohio and was active in Ohio birding.  His blog talked about the “Biggest Week in American Birding” festival which was planned for May — around the time the warblers were due to fly back to Canada.

Warbler season,  if not The Biggest Week,  corresponded with our trip to Oberlin to pick up Andrew,  about an hour from Magee Marsh.  I hoped to visit Magee and perhaps add a few warblers to my life list. Then Dean decided we should visit Illinois before the kids got out of school. This week did correspond with the Biggest Week and as we’d be stopping in Oberlin for the night to visit Andrew I planned on heading to Magee Marsh on our way to Illinois.

I mentioned this to the aforementioned birder/accessibility advocate and she made plans to meet me at Magee.

Birders
Birders

I didn’t really know what to expect, but knew that I’d be seeing a lot of birders. One of the funniest parts of The Big Year was seeing a bunch of people stare through binoculars at something in a tree. I wondered if I’d see something similar at Magee Marsh. I also knew that many of the birding folks I follow on Twitter were planning on being at Magee Marsh that week. Seeing some of the tweets got me really in the mood to go birding — something I’d not really done in years, except passively. I also knew that someone I’d hoped to meet someday, Sharon Stiteler aka Birdchick, would be around.

Birders
Birders

I did see a lot of birds, some new to me, some not. I only could identify a few. If  you’ve never been birding, one thing you need to be able to do is explain where a sighting is. I failed miserably. I saw something and mistakenly announced it loud enough for other birders in the general vicinity to hear me. I then tried to describe where it was and what it looked like. No one was able to follow my directions and there was an audible annoyed sigh when I said, “It’s gone.” (I saw it later and was embarrassed to find out it was a Baltimore Oriole. I know what they look like when I see the top of one, but this was from below. The orange of its breast was muted and looked yellow to me. I thought it was some sort of flycatcher.)

Deborah and me
Deborah and me

The birds were fun to see, some so close I didn’t need binoculars, but my favorite part was the birders. There were birders of all ages. I was surprised to see a large number of Amish birders, but it stands to reason — there are a lot of Amish in that part of Ohio.

I did see “Birdchick” but was too shy to say hello. I was not quite sure it was her, but when I saw tweets she sent prior to me seeing her proved she was just in front of me at the time. Next time I’ll make sure to say hello.

I really enjoyed meeting Deborah. We’ve been twitter buddies for years and have even spoken on the phone. She’s a lot more gregarious than I and she was not afraid to ask folks what they were looking at and ask for advice on what she was looking at.

This has rekindled a desire to get out and bird more often. I might even go on bird walks with other birders. In the past I wouldn’t add a bird to my life list if I didn’t ID it myself. I figure if real birders help each other ID birds, I can too. Now I need to get my verbal birding skills in order.

Here’s Deborah’s list of what we saw:

  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Purple Martin
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Great Horned Owls babies on tree limbs
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Great Egret
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black and White Warbler
  • Gray Catbird
  • American Robin
  • Canada Geese
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler

The Scent of a Book

Library Scene Time MachineBefore last May, more than one person was surprised to hear that I didn’t own a Kindle or any other kind of e-reader. They knew about my love of gadgets and couldn’t imagine why I’d not bought an e-reader yet. My response was the same to all — as much as I loved technology, I liked the smell of a book better.

Everyone who owned an e-reader tried to get me on-board by telling me how light they were. How I’d be able to hold hundreds of books on it. How easy on the eye they were. I heard so many good things about e-readers that I finally researched them and ended up asking for, and receiving, a Nook Color for Mother’s Day last year. I chose the Nook Color because I’d heard it could be turned into a cheap Android tablet — in case I didn’t like the e-book aspect.

Now, a few months shy of a year later, I give you my opinion: I like the smell of a book.

I also like the feel of a book in my hands and I like the sound of the pages being turned. The other day I considered cataloging all of the books in my house with an app I downloaded on my phone. I was excited at the prospect to touch (and smell) each of my books again and either remember the time spent reading them or relish the anticipation I felt about reading them someday. Then I thought about the books I downloaded on my Nook (and the audio books on my mp3 player). I would never hold those books or smell them or hear their pages turning. Did I really read them? Do I really own them? Can I catalog them?

I recalled the library scene from the 1960’s version of The Time Machine. The Time Traveler pulls a book off a shelf only to have it crumble to dust in his hand. Later he is shown the Talking Rings. Are my e- and audio- books like the talking rings or are they nothing but binary dust motes?

Autograph of Roger Tory PetersonI have read a few books on my Nook Color. My favorite was Stephen King’s 11/22/63, but because I loved it so, I ended up with eye-strain headaches from reading it deep into the night. It was convenient to buy the book the day it came out — but it was a whim buy. I probably would have waited and asked for it for Christmas if I didn’t have the Nook.

Right now I am reading The Big Year on the Nook. (actually I am reading it on my Android phone because my husband is reading the Stephen King book on the Nook). Yesterday in The Big Year I read about Roger Tory Peterson’s account of his Big Year: Wild America and remembered finding a copy of that book in an antique store about 20 years ago. I was a novice birder but recognized one of the authors. Opening the book to check the price ($2.50) I also glanced at the title page and was astounded to see that Peterson had inscribed it with best wishes to a Lloyd Foster. Of course I bought the book. It smells delightful.

This creates another issue — how do authors autograph e-books?

Christmas Tree Bird Count

Yeah, we got snow. Lots and lots of snow, but that didn’t stop me from birding this afternoon. I saw a surprising number of rarities for this time of year and for this area — must have been the Nor’easter.

The first bird I saw was very far from home. I am not sure of the exact species, but it sure was decked out in warm weather gear. You’d think he (or she) would be toasty in the above freezing temperatures here in Bethesda without all that warm weather gear.

Penguin
Warmly dressed penguin

The second bird I spotted was a common resident here in all seasons, but most welcome in the winter after a snow when its red coloring is a vibrant contrast to the snow.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I was delighted to spot my third bird of the day. This one of my favorites and, not counting today, I’ve only seen them two other times in my life — and had to take a boat ride to do so.

Puffin
Puffin

The next bird was one I had trouble identifying because they are not found in the United States. I did see some similar species in Ireland, but even the Internet didn’t help. I think it is some sort of Tit.

Not sure -- A Blue Tit perhaps?
Some sort of Tit

The next bird is unidentifiable and nothing I’ve ever seen nor heard of. Based on its habitat I’m leaning towards albino cowbird. (and although not a bird, what IS that animal behind it?)

Not sure but better looking than the pig
Abino Cowbird

Again, another bird far from its natural setting. This one was quite shy and wouldn’t smile for the camera.

Pelican
Pelican (Possibly Brown)

The next two birds look similar to the bird near the barn, above, but have double neck rings. They may be related, but probably are not the same species. I’m thinking they are a vagrant species blown in by the winter storm from Africa — given their symbiotic relationship with the fox. I’ve seen enough nature shows to know that Africa has a lot of birds that sit on backs of bigger animals. I wonder whose heart the birds are fighting over.

Not sure -- but they have a symbiotic relationship with that fox
Vagrant Species from Africa that eats hearts of animals

The next one is very familiar to me, although I don’t see it nearly often enough. It’s without a doubt my favorite bird. This one is lacking a little color, but it has enough identifying field marks for me to know what it is.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing

The next bird has no identifying marks at all. It may be the same species as the one by the barn, but its bill looks a lot different. In fact this one’s bill looks more like a warbler or titmouse, but its body shape is more like a junco. I have no clue though, as to its identity.

Little Brown Bird
Little beige bird

This next one is easy.

Pheasant perhaps
Pheasant

I was shocked to find this fellow — especially after already seeing one earlier in the day. This one was dressed even more strangely than the first.

Penguin
Penguin in a Top Hat

This next one is also hard to identify. It has the crest of a Jay or Cardinal, but is pale yellow. I’m just going to guess though.

Not sure
Yellow white-capped jay

The next one was also something I’d never seen before. It looks a little like a starling.

Not sure
Iridescent golden-bellied starling

Couldn’t find the next one on the Internet either.

Not sure
Black-beaked glitter-winged turtle dove

This next one looks somewhat like a wren so I’ll take a guess.

Maybe a hummingbird?
Cactus Wren

You cannot see the crest on this one in the photo, but it’s there.

Blue Jay perhaps?
Blue Jay

I don’t know what this is, but I suspect it is a variety normally found in Europe. Maybe Gwen can help out. In the meantime I’ll name it myself.

Not sure
Red-belted zebra-backed thrush

The last bird I spotted today is one of the hardest to identify. It has no identifying marks and only the color and shape provide any clue to what it is.

Little Brown Bird
Little Brown Bird

Although I’d love to take credit for the idea behind this post, I’m going to come clean and admit that Birdchick did it last year.