After several gentle email urgings from Mike I finally put my hand up to host I and the Bird, but the big question was how to do it? I thought it might be an interesting exercise to go back through every edition to see if there was an angle that hadn’t been used, but no, every idea that crossed my mind had already been covered with a lot more talent than I could have mustered. Each previous host had come up with an individual approach that covered themes as diverse as story telling, poetry, cartoons, climate change, travel, the internet, and even the World Cup. They are all well worth revisiting, and if I may be permitted to mention a couple, #12, Ye Canterbirdy Tales, and #24 at Rigor Vitae are great places to start.
Finally I decided to make this introduction a very personal one. I mentioned in an earlier post how my wife has mostly been confined to the house for many years due to photo sensitivity, a side effect of medication. In simple terms she’s highly allergic to ultra violet light, which has meant that all our retirement plans for travel and birding have had to be shelved indefinitely. Then, in May 2005 after much deliberation I started a blog, and after joining the bird blogging community our birding horizons began to expand. Two months later the indefatigable Mike published the inaugural edition of I and the Bird with sixteen entries, from the Americas to Europe, from the Arctic to Australasia, and those horizons effectively ceased to exist. We feel we’ve made friends all over the world, who take us birding with them every fortnight showing us the delights of their avian worlds, what more could you ask.
One of those friends is Charlie, author of the wonderful Charlie’s Bird Blog, From time to time he reminds us that the humble domestic fowl is also a bird, deserving humane treatment, which brings me to the photograph, titled
if I may take the liberty, Mike, “I and the Birds” ……….(circa 1937!)
So, although this edition is a celebration of our shared interest, it’s also a celebration of I and the Bird, which has come to mean so much to us.
Enough talk, it’s time for this fortnight’s birding adventures, please join us as we take off on the magical wings of the internet to enjoy the best the online birding world has to offer.
* Who better to lead us on our tour than globe trotting Charlie. Charlie and Jo have recently adopted a little girl, Evie, and while in China taking her into their hearts, Charlie just couldn’t resist visiting the Nanning People’s Park for this cornucopia of terrific pictures and observations. I’m sure we all wish Charlie, Jo, and Evie, the very best for a happy future together.
* Before we leave Charlie to his fatherly duties, he’s going to take us across to Tanzania and introduce us to Birdman. In a wonderful post, James describes a visit to a “desert plain of larks” where a stupendous spectacle unfolds before his eyes, falcons by the thousand, read Mes amis – Amur and be enthralled.
* We don’t have woodpeckers in Australia, but Jayne of Journey Through Grace does, she tells us about a cool visitor, a huge Pileated Woodpecker that visited a neighbour’s yard, and then shows us some great pictures she took soon after of a handsome bird of prey, a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.
* We don’t have hummingbirds either, the closest match is possibly the Eastern Spinebill, which sometimes hovers as it sips nectar from flowers in our garden. Now, everybody likes a mystery, including us, so next we’ll drop in on someone known only as The Neurophilosopher who explains in fascinating detail the mysteries of how hummingbirds hover
* However, we do have diving ducks, the Blue-billed and Musk are two of our favourites, but they’re not as showy as the Long-tailed Duck that Michael tells us about at Bur Oak. Read about this species of duck and its incredible diving abilities in Urban Long-tailed Ducks, at depth.
* Striated Pardalotes used to breed in a nest box we made for them, before the introduced House Sparrows took over and we were forced to take it down. Dave at Via Negativa gives us some interesting insights into nest boxes in Twelve reactions to a wood duck box.
* With the scorching days of summer upon us, it’s refreshing to venture into snow at Botany Photo of the Day, where Daniel has been watching American Robins and Varied Thrushes feeding on the fruit of the ornamental Chinese Mountain Ash, Sorbus hubehensis, in the UBC Botanical Garden. Isn’t that a gorgeous photo of the berry snatcher.
* We’re feeling a lot cooler now, but we’ll take it to to extremes and drop in on Clare at The House & other Arctic musings. Clare is a wordsmith of note, and in Peace on Earth he paints a beautiful picture of the Arctic and his year round friends the Ravens.
* Clare was a great host and we didn’t get frostbite, so we’ll push our luck and head west to Anchorage, Alaska, and say hello to Dave at the Bird Treatment and Learning Centre These people do a wonderful job caring for and rehabilitating injured birds, and Dave has recently become the caretaker of a magnificent Snowy Owl named Ghost. They make a very handsome couple, so much so that they ought to be in pictures! Hang on, they already are, take a look at Anything for a Good Friend
*Just as we’re saying goodbye to Dave and Ghost, we hear of another Alaskan Snowy Owl from Matt at Sitkanature. We’ve got to see this so we hotfoot it over to Sitka (we’ve got thick socks on) and find the Snowy Owl being harassed by crows. Matt gets some great pictures of the second Snowy of our trip.
* Alaska hasn’t seen the last of us yet though, Ranger Paul at The Wandering Tattler has been busy birding the Seward coastline and taking photos through his binoculars. Birds are his main quarry, but when an otter and three Steller’s Sea Lions make an appearance he nails them too. Winter birding in Alaska is anything but boring. Paul has to try and speed up his technique though, or his camera may be mysteriously missing when it’s time for his next outing!
* Climate change is very much in the news nowadays, and people in tune with nature are the first to notice differences. The Ridger FCD at The Greenbelt is, she’s noticed that the Juncos, Robins, and even the trees are in A State of December Confusion. Read about her observations at
December birds-late (or early?)
* Pamela in Thomasburg has been experiencing unusual fluctuations in temperature, and while out following and interpreting tracks in the snow, hears an unusual call. As well as being a great tracker, she’s also an expert caller upper of birds, and soon she’s looking at an unseasonable Yellow-rumped Warbler. Maybe they are extending their range northward? Read about her Saturday walk and see what you think.
* Bev of Burning Silo has been very hard to track down, she’s been on the move a lot recently but we’ve finally surprised her waking up in the redwoods We’ve got there just in time too, those mischievous Steller’s Jays are casing the joint looking for anything edible, perhaps even an ear lobe, look out Bev!
* John in Washington DC is much easier for us to find, he’s birding in the Arboretum. One bird we always love to see out in the bush is the Varied Sittella, working its way headfirst down the trunks and branches in search of insects. Nuthatches are the equivalent bird in John’s territory, let’s tag along for a look while he’s looking for nuthatches but also finding warblers.
* We’re going off the beaten path now to visit Cindy at Woodsong. We’re not going to look at birds there, although she does show us one of her legendary images, of a Scarlet Tanager. Instead, we are going to hear words of wisdom from this Cherokee lady about birds, people who watch birds, and her personal philosophy and joys. For people like us, For the Love of Birds just about says it all. You’re in our thoughts Cindy, get well soon.
* Our next stop will be in the bluffs and valleys of the Coulee Region, where we’re calling in on Gwyn the storyteller at Bird brained stories! Gwyn also has been through testing times, but has found the time to marvel at the migrating Tundra Swans. As she watches she is reminded of a tale from Irish folklore that has familiar overtones for her, we wish Gwyn the best as we read Children of Lir.
* Talking about Ireland, I think we’ll head over to The Emerald Isle and visit Peregrine’s Bird Blog. Craig’s been reading about Martha’s Vineyard, and reminisces about the years he spent there and the birds he remembers. He also takes us to the hide at Belfast Lough and gives the camera a workout despite the bad weather, read all about it at Birding Martha’s Vineyard.
* With the huge fires burning out so much of our birding territory in the forests to the north, it’s good to visit someone who’s committed to conservation and saving forests for the birds. Jeff at Boreal Songbird Initiative has been listening to birdsong while pursuing a shuttlecock in competition with his son. With that healthy exercise under his belt he takes young Evan to a movie about penguins that has a strong conservation message.
Of Tennis, Penguins, and People has some good lessons for us all.
* Conservation’s the key word for our next visit too, with Bill at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory The Cerulean Warbler is a very twitchable bird and one that’s not easy to come by. Its migratory habits are imperfectly known, and critical habitat is disappearing, putting this beautiful bird under extreme pressure. We get all the latest information at The Strange Journey of the Cerulean Warbler.
* Birding can sometimes be a frustrating occupation when for one reason or another the birds just don’t show. That’s when Lillian and Don found that it pays to be persistent, when they visited just one more pond and finally found ducks and geese galore. When we have an experience like that our faces invariably break into a grin, flashing the pearly whites, but until now we didn’t know that the birds felt the same way. Check out the close up photo of the Common Merganser!
* Our overseas peregrinations could never be complete without a visit to the father of I and the Bird, Mike, of 10,000 Birds, so that’s where we’re going now. By a strange coincidence Mike’s pearly whites are flashing too, even though they’re a bit blurred due to chattering in the cold! Mike has teamed up with Patrick to take in the waterfowl at Jamaica Bay, then while there, a chance meeting with another birder sends them haring off to Floyd Bennett Field. Another bird with a smiling face, the Horned Lark has long bedevilled Mike, but good things come to those who wait, and at last man and bird are smiling at each other and Mike’s life list counter clicks up another notch.
* To the layman, being called a bird freak could be considered a bit offside, but Eddie’s a man who’s proud to wear that handle. Lifers are on his agenda too, not the Horned Lark which he and his two companions see aplenty, it’s a Snow Bunting on the Border that brings the shouts, the smiles to their faces, and the pencils out to tick their life lists.
* Our Big Trip is nearly at an end, we’ve returned to Australia, but we’ve still got a few stops to make. The first is in Tasmania, the island state to our south where we visit Birds in Tasmania
Alan had photographed all the Tasmanian endemics except one, the Scrubtit. In The long wait he takes us into the bird’s habitat where he achieved his objective, and describes his experiences so well that we almost feel as if we are there with him.
* When we were able to travel we used to love birding in and exploring the flora and fauna of the Mallee scrubs. We still feel the pull of that naturalist’s paradise when the hot nor-westerlies sweep down from the inland, bringing a faint tang of eucalyptus and the sandy soil. Trevor of Trevor’s Birding is lucky enough to live in a block of mallee scrub, and in the flight of the baby honeyeater he describes a fledgling’s first experiences in the big wide world.
* We’re on the home run now, but we can’t go through Melbourne without visiting Snail at A snail’s eye view. One of the things that delights us with birds is the colour of their plumage, but how much do we actually know about those colours? Speaking personally, not a lot, but Snail remedies that deficiency with a fascinating and learned discourse on Why blue birds are blue.
* And now we’re home at last, but we’re still not quite finished. The fires are still burning to the north, and although we’ve had some relief with the south westerly change, the district is still in danger if the northerlies bring them down into the flat country. Out near the foothills a pair of Willie Wagtails have a nest with four babies, not quite old enough to fly. We’ll go out to see them, and keep our fingers crossed for the Willies.
It’s certainly been a trip to remember, thanks to everyone for showing us around, and thanks to you all for coming with us, you’ve been great company.
We’re already looking forward to the next world birding tour which will come to us from Natural Visions. With a name like that it’s got to be a beauty, please send in your entries to Kevin at Natural Visions, or Mike by Dec. 26.