Birder's Eye View

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter term birds

Despite my life becoming totally consumed by ichthyology this month, I've actually been able to add a bunch more birds to my year list and even get in some local birding now and again. I have a lot to catch up on though, so bear with me.

About a week and a half ago I saw an email from a professor about a pied-billed grebe in one of our campus ponds that was tangled in soda can plastic, and they were looking for students to help corral and capture it. The plan was to get about 10 students or so in the pond to "herd" the pair of grebes into a large seine net, where one person (a student who also works as a wildlife rehabilitater) would detangle it or take it to the local seabird sanctuary if it was injured.

Unfortunately, only about 7 students showed up -- not nearly enough to keep the wily little grebes from slipping past us. We came close at one point. The grebe actually swam into our net while we were all on the other side of the pond, but by the time we got enough people over, it had somehow disappeared. We waded around, shivering in the pond for about an hour (it was around 45 degrees out), and finally had to give up. Hopefully we'll try again in a couple weeks if the grebes are still around.

Other than the attempted grebe rescue, I managed to get my birding fix over the last few weeks with the plethora of migratory and resident species present on campus this time of year. There are tons of palm warblers, tricolored herons, lesser scaups, blue-winged teals, and mottled ducks around the ponds. The usual for this time of year, but fun to see nonetheless.

Last week my class took a trip to the University of Florida's fisheries department up in Gainesville. The fish were cool, but I was really surprised by all the birds in the area! While we were seining, a pair of great egrets put on a spectacular courting display. I took a ton of pictures, but unfortunately they didn't come out too clearly because of the distance and low afternoon lighting.

By far my favorite birds of the day were the bald eagles hanging around the lake. There were one or two adults and at least one juvenile that I spotted multiple times swooping low over the water, hunting. It was spectacular! I've never seen a bald eagle hunting before, but it was quite a sight to behold. Around sunset a juvenile landed in a tree right over where we were working on the bank of the lake, making for a great photo op.

Now winter term is over and I'm about to return to the usual grind of a full class schedule. Yippee! So who knows when I'll be able to post again, but until next time...

Happy birding! :-)

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Friday, January 14, 2011


This is a bird blog, I know. I shouldn't be writing a blog titled "FISH!" but alas, this is what my life has boiled down to in the last two weeks. Fish. Lots, and lots, and lots of fish.

I'm taking an ichthyology class about local fish species right now. Unfortunately I've already taken my school's one and only ornithology class, so I figured the next best thing would be to learn about a new animal this year. Well! Let me just tell you, there is more to know about fish than I ever would have imagined!

I should have known; it's hard enough learning all the bird species, much less trying to identify an animal that lives in the water, doesn't make much sound, and to the untrained eye like mine, looks pretty much like all the others around it. But don't be fooled. There is nothing alike about any of the fishes we have to learn. There are blennies and gobies and wrasses and basses. There are scorpionfish, squirrelfish, cardinalfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, filefish, sunfish, pinfish, angelfish, boxfish, damselfish, tilefish, jawfish, bluefish, tonguefish, ladyfish, dolphinfish, needlefish, cornetfish, and trumpetfish to name a fraction of the families we have to learn. That doesn't count the cat sharks, dogfish sharks, angel sharks, mackerel sharks, ground sharks, requiem sharks, hound sharks, electric rays, whiptail rays, butterfly rays, eagle rays, skates, chimeras, and other elasmobranchs we have to know as well.

Not that I don't love this class, and think that it's totally fascinating (I do, and it is!) but... holy mackerel, all I can think about is FISH! (oh dear god, there we go again...)

So that's what I've been up to lately. When I'm not up to my eyeballs in flashcards, class notes, and homework, I've been slowly racking up my year list. I have close to 35ish right now -- all the usual local winter species. I was hoping to go out and see the Kelp Gull that was reported in Anclote this weekend, but it seems that it may have moved on before I could get to it.

Oh well, we'll see what happens. I'm currently enjoying a quiet (albeit homework-filled) weekend and will try to get out birding at some point.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Birding year in review

A poem. 

Another year has come and gone,
So here we are again.
Looking back at all we saw
In the year two-thousand-ten [2010!].

It started with the locals:
Palm warblers and Sandhill Cranes
Halfway around the world in back,
The year ended with just the same.

49 lifers from 4 different countries
Left much to be desired,
But between rooks and redshanks, ravens and wrens,
The journey was awe-inspired!

From guillemots to grey wagtails,
Europe showed me some new birds.
Red-crested pochards and chaffinches
Left me at a loss for words!

With 27 species total,
From England, Ireland and Wales,
After four months abroad,
I returned to the US trails.

In the Golden State for a month,
I learned my Western species,
From bushtits to Brandt's cormorants,
To California towhees!

31 was my California total,
With 17 life birds in all,
My favorite was the pigeon guillemot,
And the Heerman's gull.

Finally back in the Sunshine State
For school to start again,
It was back to the usual species,
Like the Carolina Wren.

But on breaks I saw some year birds,
Like harriers and wood-pewees,
And then I got a whole bunch more
On the local CBCs.

An old barred owl was my last bird
For the year 2010,
With 164 birds in all,
The year finally came to an end.

But I beat my goal of 150,
So I'm happy as you can see!
Good wishes for birding in 2011,
Hope it's as great is it can be!

Happy new year to all!

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