Birding Rap! —a musical blog entry

From listener Pete Fritz of Indianapolis, Indiana

Pete sent us this: “My daughter Kelly and I birded Central Park last May and she was the youngest in the group. She says the ‘Birding’ song by the Swet Shop Boys is the jam of the winter! I think it’s something your audience would enjoy!”

Thanks, Pete!

Here’s a sample. You can find the entire song on iTunes, Spotify, and many other music websites.

A Mystery Swarm Draws Dozens of Birds

A personal story from Jesse Barraza, a Talkin' Birds Ambassador from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

A couple of weeks ago during dinner, our 3-year-old daughter suddenly told us to look out the window at many birds flying in the backyard. We are used to seeing a lot of birds because we have two bird feeders—one filled with nyjer and the other with safflower. But this time it wasn’t our usual guests coming in for a snack. We glanced outside, then went out of the house, to witness at least 50 birds swooping back and forth in the backyard. Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows were having a feast—and a couple of Chimney Swifts had tagged along, too.

Small insects were hatching from the lawn. We could see the swarm coming out of the ground and into the air. We saw a dragonfly feasting on them ow to the ground, and I hope it didn’t end up part of the feast itself.

I have no idea what type of insect was swarming. They seemed smaller than a house fly, but we couldn’t make them out and we did not want to disturb the birds by going closer. Do any of you know what these insects might be?

The feast lasted for a good 20 or 30 minutes. It seemed that the swallows knew exactly where to be at the right time. We are looking forward to this experience again, should this be an annual spectacle.

 

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The Gift: A Personal Story

By Joy Klumpp, Certified Texas Master Naturalist

September 4th is the anniversary of my mom’s death. It is not the anniversary per se that is difficult for me to deal with; it’s every single day of the year that I feel her absence. So while the date is a milestone, it is just another day that I live my life without my mom. Every day feels much smaller because my mother is no longer in my life.  

While my mom was sick, she recommended a book to me: “Wesley the Owl” by Stacie O'Brien. I devoured it. It pulled at my heart strings and the very core of who I have always felt I am, or perhaps always desired to be. I feel awe when I read stories that are beyond comprehension—when humans and animals sync in such a way that I am left wondering how anyone could question the existence of God. I'm amazed at how a lucky few can unite with the spirits of animals and have a connection beyond anything humankind can understand.

This book sparked my passion for owls. I started learning what I could about the elusive birds. I listened to their calls for hours, learning how to distinguish the different species within the Texas area. I focused on the Barred Owl. It has an amazing call. I don’t know why I am so fascinated by this particular owl, because so many others are equally amazing, but there is just something in the way the Barred Owl communicates that stirs something inside me.

I had only seen one owl in the wild in my life: a Western Screech-Owl which just happened to be hanging out in my backyard one day. I’ve heard screech-owls and the Great Horned Owl, but I don’t get Barred Owls in my area of Houston. My encounters with owls for the most part have been auditory.

I felt pretty disappointed that I had yet to see a Great Horned Owl or Barred Owl. I feel silly for admitting this, but I remember praying that I would get to see one. It wasn’t one of those prayers I was thoroughly invested in. It was just a little conversation between me and God where I just expressed my desire to get to see one sometime.  It seems so silly and trivial, but maybe it was because I knew my mom’s anniversary was approaching and I thought that perhaps seeing one would reunite me with my mom in some small way since, she was instrumental in fueling the fire in me for owls.

I planned a kayaking trip with a friend for September 4th, 2016 because I didn’t want to sit around the house. We had been kayaking only for a few hours when it began to rain. It was a serene, calming rain, and it occurred for what seemed like only a few moments.  Then, as the rain began to dissipate, I heard it. It felt like I had tuned in to the middle of a conversation. I heard the final sentence draw to a close and caught the Barred Owl's last remark. And that is when I set eyes on the most beautiful bird ever. It perched there, its eyes locked on to me, motionless. I almost cried.

I realize some people will read this and say, “This woman is off her rocker!” But sometimes we are given experiences in life when we most need them. And I was given a gift.

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Spotting Species at Lake Saracen, Arkansas

A trip report from Talkin' Birds Ambassador George Dokes.

While watching a Snowy Egret foraging for food along with eight other birders from the Arkansas Audubon Society at Lake Saracen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas this morning, we also spotted two Least Sandpipers, a few Double-Crested Cormorants, a Bald Eagle, a Great Blue Heron and a Belted Kingfisher. I told the group about Ray Brown's Talkin' Birds  — Birding Ambassador doing my part. Shout out to my birding mentors Delos McCauley and Doc and John Redmon.

Candy's Trip Report from Iceland

From Talkin' Birds Ambassador Candy Powell. Scroll all the way down to see the photos. 

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My husband Chris and I recently returned from a fantastic 5-day birding trip to Iceland, en route to Holland.  Iceland is not usually thought of as a birding destination, but we thought at was a wonderful place to bird. There is much to mention about Iceland, but I’ll stick to the bird sightings!

After flying into Reykjavik, we rented a car. We drove the next day to the northern coastal town of Husavik, where we spent 3 nights. The usual 6-hour trip took us a bit longer, as there was much to see along the narrow, fairly deserted, yet well-maintained road.  Some of the birds we spotted on the drive included Black-headed Gull, Red-throated Diver, Redshank, Redwing, Slovenian Grebe (which we watched building a nest), and Short-eared Owl.

Husavik is a charming fishing village within a few degrees of the Arctic Circle. It's known as the whale capital of Iceland. Northern Fulmars cruised the harbor, along with numerous Arctic Terns, and Red Knots and Common Ringed Plovers were among the several shorebirds on the beach. The following day we drove south about an hour to Lake Myvatin, a well-known birding hotspot. A highlight along the way was observing courting Harlequin Ducks, Tufted Ducks and Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Having seen these birds in Rhode Island in the winter, we wanted to ask them whether they spent the cold months down our way! Other notable species in the lake area were several Black-tailed Godwits, Wimbrels, Greylag Geese, and Golden Plovers. Brent Geese, Long-tailed Ducks, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Whooper Swans were abundant in the streams and fields.

The next day, we drove east of Husavik to Tjornes, where we saw Atlantic Puffins and Northern Fulmars nesting on the cliffs, with Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Arctic Skuas, and an occasional Common Raven flying by. That evening we took a whale-watching trip out of Husavik and saw several Humpback Whales, Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and Brunnich’s Guillemots.

Our last day took us back to Reykjavik. On the way, we stopped at the amazing Godafoss waterfall, where we FINALLY saw a Rock Ptarmigan, a bird we had been searching for the entire trip. 

This was a remarkable trip that we would highly recommend for birders. As a side, yet relevant, note, the temperatures ranged from 45 to 70 degrees and the sun did not set until 11 PM! If you're thinking of going, May is a great time to visit, as the tourist season begins June 1, and the costs increase.

Candy Powell, Talkin’ Birds Ambassador

(Below: Chris and Candy's photos of Atlantic Puffin, European Golden Plover, Northern Fulmar)

 

 

 

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