Monthly Archives: January 2017

Can a Bird do that?

I think I’m being pranked.

Yet another thing that humans had reserved for themselves – intentional use of fire, seems to be falling by the wayside.

Black kites and brown falcons in Australia have been documented dropping burning twigs in areas outside of the fire’s reach in order to flush out tasty bits of protein-lizards, insects, mice.

Competition is fierce at the fires, as the prey animals basically escape the flames just to meet their end in the talons of raptors.

So an arsonist streak gives these birds the chance to have the animals fleeing immolation all to themselves.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a second source. In the meantime, hats off to inventive and bold birds.

Snowy Birding

There’s no such thing as too many layers when it’s 20 degrees out and snow blowing sideways. Three was the magic number – three layers of pants, three layers of tops, and wishing I’d had 3 layers of socks rather than 2. Not sure I could have fit three layers of socks in my shoes, but one is tempted by such thoughts when your toes transition from pretty cold to one notch short of painful.

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Photo by author, Long Island. 2017. Gulls on a pond, including an unusual black-headed gull, visiting from Europe – presumably with his papers in order.

But, it was a beautiful day for birds!

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Photo by author, Long Island, 2017. 

I saw several species for the first time – common eider, horned lark, purple sandpiper, ruddy turnstones, and the highlight, 3 male harlequin ducks bobbing placidly in the icy gray waters. (There was a female harlequin duck too, but in the duck world, it’s the males that are the real showstoppers. Even the 4 harbor seals we saw barely deserve a mention compared to the stunning male harlequin ducks.)

I have been aching to see these improbable creatures. I even had a dream the night before that I had seen a huge group of harlequin ducks, and I woke up super excited to share my birding adventure before realizing that I had been tricked by my subconscious and still had to venture out into the frosty morning.

At the beach, I disbelievingly stared through the rapidly-fogging binoculars as long as I could as they dove down and popped back up in the whitecaps. The only good thing about leaving the snowy beach was that the feeling gradually returned to my abused feet. While we saw other notable birds after that part of the trip, my mind was filled with visions of harlequin ducks. I was also quickly preoccupied with figuring out who among my friends and family could be tricked into joining me in future snowy beach birding.

If reincarnation is real, I want to come back as a male harlequin duck gifted with self-awareness, so that I can revel in being the most beautiful bird around.

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copyright Glenn Bartley, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, November 2009

Winter Chill

I complain unnecessarily about silly things. I especially have a tendency to complain about the cold, although now I feel a twinge of reluctance to do so, since the cold days are not as cold and the cold comes later than feels right. I would rather complain about cold than see honeybees buzzing around on a 60 degree December day.

So, to celebrate the cold (while still above historical averages), I walked around a local pond to celebrate the New Year with a two-pronged goal:  see some cool wildlife and not whine about the chill and rain.

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Nearby pond with a mix of mostly gulls and geese. 2017

 

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Red-bellied woodpecker on utility pole. 2017

 

(An aside-the spring feels like the true new year for me, with the ground and water and air bursting with renewed life.)

I hit the jackpot for a quick winter walk at a random time of day-heard a kingfisher’s rattling call, saw a small group of hooded mergansers (best guess, no binoculars), unfortunately startled some gadwalls, and spotted a red-bellied woodpecker at the top of an electrical pole.

Hope you are starting off the New Year with some wildlife sightings!