Birder's Eye View

Monday, November 9, 2009

In Dreams Awake

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.
- Henry David Thoreau

An osprey up in North Florda (picture by my mom)I think Thoreau was right. Perhaps our truest life is, indeed, when we are living our dreams, but the real trick is making those dreams come true.

Thus far I have found no magical formula for turning aspirations into reality, but, not for the first time, I am finding myself waking to an incredible adventure -- two, actually!

My first bit of news is that I got into my school's Field Ornithology class for winter term (which spans for the month of January). The class had filled up before I could register, but after a short letter to the professor about why I should be in the class, I was admitted on the basis that I "showed strong interest."

According to the class description, we'll be learning about bird identification, natural history, and threats to their persistence. We'll also be studying bird behavior, taking field trips, and doing research. I can't wait!

After winter term, something even bigger is happening. I will be spending 4 months studying abroad in London!

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to travel the world -- and now it's actually happening. It's a little scary, I'll admit. I've never traveled on my own before, much less even been outside the US. But, you have to start somewhere.

New sights, new sounds, new environment, new experiences -- and new birds! I have no doubt this will be one of the craziest adventures of my life so far. I say, bring it on!

Until next time,

Happy birding!

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

A morning of birding

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.
- Henry David Thoreau

I went out birding today with little more than the expectation to get some fresh air and see the usual resident species. Indeed that's about all I got -- but in fairly large numbers, to my surprise.

Around 8:30ish, I set off on my bike to my usual birding spot on campus. The winds were a little high, but it was early enough in the morning that many birds were out and the big snag was still heavy with roosting vultures.

Two Pied-billed Grebes ducked bashfully beneath the placid water of the pond, and as I scanned further out, I realized there were a ton of Double-crested Cormorants. Binoculars up, I counted 1... 2... 3... 14... 15... 16... 20... 22... 23! I've never seen so many in one place -- especially there.

Across the pond were Wood Storks, a Great Egret, and a Tri-colored Heron. Two Eastern Phoebes flitted around in the vines hanging off the nearby overpass; bright yellow Palm warblers and dull brown Pine Warblers darted around nervously as I approached.

Once I had birded the area out, I decided to cover the other "wild" areas and see what else I could find.

Around towards the front of the campus I pulled into an empty parking lot, to find myself right in front of a big Cooper's Hawk eating something in the grass. It considered me for a moment before taking off out of sight.

Following the road around towards the palm hammock, I found more Wood Storks, tons of Mourning Doves, and as I neared the bay, an enormouse mass of gigantic white birds loomed in the sky out from behind the trees.

What in the world? My first thought was a massive flock of Wood Storks, but that didn't seem right at all, besides the coloration of the wings. I circled slowly in the road on my bike beneath the ebbing flock, floating seemlessly, peacefully on the seabreeze. Are those...? Could it really be? "...White Pelicans?!"

Indeed they were. The mass of birds, easily 50 strong, split off and about 15-20 formed into a big V while the others followed, circling, ebbing, floating in slow motion on the air.

Once they were about out of sight, I decided to check out the palm hammock. No luck there, and after managing to get myself lost for a few minutes, I found my way out and rode out towards the waterfront.

Cycling down the beach, I came across a couple Belted Kingfishers and a Willet feeding in the shallows, but nothing more.

Overall, I had had 25 species for the morning, including the 50+ White pelicans, 30+ Black and Turkey Vultures, 20+ Double-crested Cormorants, and tons of Anhingas, Palm and Pine Warblers, a few Loggerhead Shrikes, and about 20 Mottled Ducks.

I'd say it was a successful morning, and quite refreshing to get outside for a bit.

Until next time,

Happy birding!

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