Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hawk banding demo at Cape May Hawk Watch

After Susan left to catch her ferry on Sunday, Delia, Laura and I went to watch the hawk banding demo under the hawk watching platform. It's a popular attraction, getting to be that close to wild raptors.
A moment that made me very proud of Laura...we were gathered around as the program started and some people were standing, seemingly oblivious, in front of a bunch of other people. Laura got there attention and asked if they could move over, since they were blocking the view for the people sitting down on the benches. This dippy broad stepped over maybe 2 feet and then just stood there, still blocking views.
Laura then said, "Or you could just stand there and ignore me!"
I jumped up and down in glee that she stood up for herself and the people who couldn't see anything because of this dippy broad's really broad ASS. So we pushed to the front and then sat down on the ground so that the people could see behind us.
If you haven't met Laura, you don't know that she is a very retiring type of person. Sweet as the day is long, but almost painfully shy. I was so proud of her. Maybe hanging around with Big-Mouthed Me for a few days bolstered her confidence? At least she knew I had her back if there had been trouble.

So, the banding:

hawks in cans

Let's put on our thinking caps here. These are the banded hawks awaiting release. You don't need to see anything else but what you see sticking out of the cans. The one on top is turned the other way so you can't see it, but anyway...
The left: Sharp-shinned hawk. Size is that of a blue jay and the tail is squared off. (the top can also held a sharpie)
The middle: First year red-tailed hawk. Size is just damn big and the brown striped tail tells you that this is a passage year bird.
The right: Cooper's hawk. Size is that of a crow and the tail is rounded.
See how easy it is?

praying sharpie
This sharpie looks like he is praying. When a bird is laying on it's back, it can go into a kind of trance. They aren't really sure which way is up. A slight turn of the little boy's hand snapped the bird out of the stupor and it was gone in a flash.

juv coop cbanding

Cooper's hawk. See that dark brown streaking? First year bird.

first year RT banding

Red-tailed hawk. Pale eyes and as you saw in the first photo, no red tail, but brown striped tail.
As far as the gender of this bird...no sure way to tell. It was at a light weight, but at migration times, that can't really tell you anything. These birds are burning awesome amounts of energy and fat to complete their trip, so everyone is packing light.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Go tell it under the mountain

Number of missed flights: 1
Number of missing rental car employees, causing above missed flight: 1
Number of heavy bags carried across entire airport: 3
Number of options open to me: 1
Number of hours driving today: 12
Number of states traveled through: 4
Number of miles driven: Approx. 999
Number of mountains driven under: 4
Number of scary big river bridges driven over: 20
Number of caffeinated beverages consumed in 12 hours: 8
Number of potty breaks: 5
Number of semis passed at speeds of over 80 mph: 237
Number of tears shed during 12 hour drive: 1 million
Number of times desire to drive off road into oncoming traffic appeared: 50
Number of pictures to go with this post: 0
The price I had to pay to get home.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Alone in Cape May

They all left me today; Susan at Lake Life had to catch a ferry at 11 am....Delia at Beginning to Bird had to drive 5 hours back home so she left at 4 pm. Laura at Somewhere in NJ has a two hour drive home, so she left at 5 pm. So here I sit, in a breezeway on the second floor (My name is Luka....I live on the second floor....) freezing my ass off and blogging.

Bar blogging
Here we are blogging at a bar with WiFi access.
We were the oldest people in there. What happened to my coolness? I was ready for bed at 11 pm.

What the hell are you two doing

Delia wanted a picture of herself in front of the lighthouse, so Laura helped her take a picture of herself. Hellloooo? Couldn't Laura just have taken the pic for you?

Birders Higbee beach

At Higbee's Beach, there was a major warbler/accipiter/kinglet/etc fallout. We spent a half an hour standing in front of ONE tree as birds were coming back in from over the water (they got blown out there from the cold front that came through last night) and swooped in to get their bearings.

GC kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglets were in every tree.

Looking up YR warbler

So were yellow-rumped warblers. This guy is checking out the sky and he had good reason...we would get a sharp-shinned hawk rocketing in about every 30 seconds.

Palm warbler

Quite a few palm warblers, too.

TV broadcast

When the sun came out, so did the turkey vultures. We saw hundreds. Laura called the flocks "TV Broadcasts".

what is that over there

Want herons and egrets? Come to Cape May. This great egret has the funniest look on his face. "Humans? Are there humans over there?"


flock birding

We met up with Sharon (Birdchick) at the end of the day, just as she was packing up. She asked to tag along to go see the flock of special birds down the beach. Since she's sort of a birder, and she looked like she needed people to hang out with, we took pity on her and let her come along.

Here's what we were looking for:
black skimmer and laughing gull
Black skimmers. A big, graceful bird. There were two flocks of maybe 30 each. Oh, and that's a laughing gull to the right.
flying skimmers
They have insanely long wings for their bodies. A beautiful bird who is in danger.

It was windy.....
grab your hat shaz

"Get your hat, Sharon!"

sharon and no birds
I think Sharon was hallucinating, because I sure don't see any birds there.
(Just kidding. She was digiscoping the skimmers)


Mixed in with the skimmer group was a royal tern....
Royal tern

And this little guy almost ran right into me as I stood in the surf:
sanderling who almost ran into me
A wee little sanderling. They are the cutest little things. I have videos to share, but that will have to wait until I am home and warm.
As my fingertips are now numb, I think I will sign off for now, read a few blogs and go to bed. Home tomorrow!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Flock desends on Cape May

Greetings, all! Since we are sitting in a very loud bar and blogging while a live band plays, I will try to be brief.
The Flock is alive and well in Cape May. I think that I will be able to stretch all the pictures and stories out for weeks.
First of all, I think I want to come back as a bird in Cape May. Forget anything you ever thought about New Jersey. Southern New Jersey is gorgeous and clean and fantastic. I will have a very hard time leaving Monday.
Just to get right to it and show you some of the festivities so far:

Birds and Beers, last night:
patrick mike and delia
Patrick, Delia and Mike

Elizabird the horny devil
The fabulous Liz, that horny devil

My 9 dollar drink
Sherry had one of these, so I got one. It was fab....and it cost $9.

Birdchick French Onion soup
Birdchick has a THING about stretchy foods.

Birdchick on the bar
I've heard that some birders are rather extroverted.

a salty dog
Captain Ahab disapproves.

tiny crab
So does this crab

Birds and beers
The Birds and Beers Crew ( I will list them all when it's quiet enough to think)

My very best photo of any raptor ever.....an osprey flew right over our heads, facing the sun and being a very very good bird.

The Flock
The Flock strikes a pose

More tomorrow, when the bass isn't turned up so loud.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Something wicked this way comes

The huge front that is blowing migrants to points south came through today. I was oh-so pleased to see our FOS dark-eyed juncos, and it seems that they brought some visitors with them. After taking a few pictures of the juncos, I was walking past the front window and saw what appeared to be strangely-colored goldfinches. Oh, Hell no.

I hit the floor in my birder-commando crawl and peeked up over the couch. PINE SISKINS.
A life bird and a yard bird at the same time. Hot damn.

That same wind is going to blow me into Cape May, New Jersey tomorrow. I will be arriving in Atlantic City and then driving an hour south to Cape May, THE MIGRATION MAINLINE.
Start tapping that vein, Susan. You are about to get a big bolus of Birding Heaven.

I noticed that we are all converging on Cape May during the full moon. Anyone feel weird about that? I don't know about the rest of you, but I will be howling.

This is Susan, signing off until tomorrow. Next broadcast: Cape May, NJ.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I am so ready to wet my pants!

I had a dream last night that scared the bejesus out of me.
Here's how it went:
I was home, the day that I was supposed to leave for Cape May. I got a call from the airline saying that the plane was leaving and I needed to get there immediately. Well, I panicked, because I wasn't packed. so I drove to the airport and sat in the concourse, crying. I didn't have my camera, or clothes or anything! So I told the plane to go without me and I tried to refund my tickets and get on another flight. But they wouldn't let me.
Isn't that a sad dream? Think maybe I am worried that I will miss the plane? I may just sleep at the airport the night before.
The word on the Birding Forecast at Cape May says that we are in for some good birding, according to how the weather is shaping up!

Today at the Oxbow, I picked up two lifers:

Very blurry green-winged teals
These are green-winged teals (lifer!)...about 40 of them. For some reason, my camera wouldn't focus out that far. Crap. Must be those damn "factory" settings. Where's my manual?
Very blurry greater yellowlegs
Not a lifer, but neat to see. A group of greater yellowlegs.

Here's the bird that had me talking to myself out in a corn field:

Purple finch!
A purple finch! A big ol' lifer! I couldn't believe I was finally seeing one. When I saw a "pinkish" shade on a LBJ, I stopped and pointed the bins at it. And then I started talking to myself...
"Holy sh*t, that's a purple finch! I'll be dipped. Hee hee hee!"

What a beautiful bird...once you see a purple finch, I don't think you could mistake it for a house finch, or vice versa. That rich, candy-like raspberry color. I'm in love.
Purple finch camo
Here it is from behind...I wonder how many I have seen and just dismissed as house finches?

A family fix, for those of you who think my family is cute:
Geoff was interviewed by a DJ at the Columbus NPR station yesterday. She came to our house after visiting some family here in town, and they did the interview in the front yard. The girls hung out in the back yard while Geoff was busy. When he came in the backyard, the girls ran at him like he had been gone for a month.


Father and daughter

And a Hooper fix:
"Agggggg.....ooooh, yeah. Right there.....yeah, that feels soooooo goooooood"
Look at his face. It feels so good, he's cross-eyed.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

RAPTOR-licious update

RAPTOR updates...
But first, a lesson in coping.
In the wild, raptors' beaks are naturally worn down every day from breaking bones in their prey and pulling meat off the bones. Captive birds sometimes need our help in keeping their beaks in good order. An overgrown beak can seriously interfere with the bird's ability to eat. When Lorelei and I arrived at RAPTOR today (for a meeting) Jeff, Marilyn and Melinda were doing some "face" work on our two education red-tails.
Isis beak coping

First it was Isis' turn. It takes three people to cope properly. One person holds the feet (the BUSINESS end of a red-tail!), one person keeps the mouth open (with a pencil or other small wooden rod) and then one person who does the actual coping. Jeff uses a Dremel drill to slowly shape the beak.
(Isis is wearing a falconer's hood to protect her eyes from any flying bits)

coping 2

It's more than just whacking off a bunch of the beak at the tip. The drill will make the beak hot if left in one place for any length of time, so he gently sweeps one side of the beak, then switches to the other side. Removing a tiny amount at a time prevents a huge chunk coming off.

Isis much better

All better. But I was glad I wasn't putting her back in her mew. The birds are rightly pissed off by being handled. See how pale her beak is? Compare to Scarlet's beak below:

Scarlet coping

Afterwards, I was asked to bring Lucy back in from her sunbathing in the yard. I grabbed some mice and continued our trust-training. Melinda, one of our tireless rehabbers, grabbed my camera and took some pictures for me. Thanks, Melinda. They turned out really nice!
BTW: Melinda is looking for a good camera to go with her Swarovski scope. Anyone with suggestions?

Offering mouse to Lucy
"You want this, Luce?"

I don't think I want that
"I don't feel like eating right now, thanks."
(The open mouth means that I had my hand too close to her face. Warning noted.)

Talking with Lucy
Since she didn't want to eat, we just had a chat.

I'm so pretty
I do so love this bird. Peregrines have such beautiful markings...during programs, I like to point out to audiences Lucy's "Striped pajamas".
And that proud look in her eye...somehow mixed with a look of sweetness. I don't know how she does it. Holding a bird who, if in the wild, is the fastest moving creature on the planet...it's humbling, to say the least.

If I have success with Lucy feeding on the glove, I may start working with the other birds. I hear that red-tails are so food-aggressive, it's easy to train them. That would be fun. As long as they don't get my finger too.

Education bird update:
No-No, the barn owl, has been under the tender administrations of Marilyn and Melinda for a full two months. They have been trying to save his wing from being amputated at the wrist. (Birds have bones in their wings like we do in our arms) But even after all their care, our vet has determined that it would be best for the bird to have the damaged wing partially amputated. Poor guy. But he will be good to go very soon.
Still waiting to work with the barred owl, who will be taking the place of Elvis. I keep hearing she is very sweet. I can't wait to start working with both of these owls. Imagine a barn owl in one of my programs! I am so thrilled!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No, really. I couldn't eat another bite.

So I didn't get to go birding yesterday, because of Lorelei's illness. But today made up for it. A bird came to me.

This is the juvenile Cooper's hawk that I have been cheering on for a few weeks. I hadn't seen it get a kill until today. I saw a "big brown bird" on our front fence, which is the signal to grab my camera and at the same time, hit the floor and start crawling toward the window.


I was so proud of her (I am called it a her because this is a fairly large Coop).






What a cute bird. She stood there for a minute after she finished, looking around as if to say, "Look what I did! I got foods!"


Look at that nice, full crop!
"Burp. Excuse me."

proclaiming the pride

Then she hopped onto one of the upright posts and looked around again.
"I ates a birdie! I is so full!"
I was silently jumping up and down for her. Good job!

take off

When no one (other than I) gave any applause, she took off.

I stepped out after she was gone, to be a Chimp.

leftovers 2

The largest feathers I could find seem to point to a house sparrow.
Good Coop. Good, good Coop. Come back tomorrow. Eat them all. Please live long and prosper, and please nest here next year. We have nice trees and lots of house sparrows and we don't use pesticides. We are nice neighbors.
Ever heard that the most important scientific discovery of this century was penicillin?
Here's the miracle of antibiotics:

Feeling much better today, thank you. And ate cookies.