Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It Pays (Kinda) To Be Self-Employed

One of the things I really like about working for myself is having the flexibility to take time to bird. Of course, there's always a trade off. Bird or eat?

Audubon's Birding the Net has taken on a life of its own. Although I am getting the "have to do" work done, I am spending probably too much time birding in the virtual world. The only exercise there has been is my fingers hitting the keys on the keyboard. However, I have found some interesting web sites I wouldn't likely come across any other way such as http://florafaunafungi.com/.

Audubon seems to be trying to capitalize on the release of The Big Year movie with a social media game to encourage people to get interested in birding and to join the Audubon Society. Finding birds pretty much requires a twitter account, although there have been some bloggers consolidating the clues and putting them on their website, so that is another avenue. However, I don't know that this would allow a person to be timely enough getting the word to stay high in the rankings.

The game can be frustrating, but I have expanded the contacts in my "twitterverse," so it hasn't been a bad thing in that respect either.

I hold out little hope of finishing in the top 200 in the game, but one never knows--I've been up there once or twice. In the meantime, whether you play seriously or not, check it out. It's interesting to see another approach to introducing people to the world of birding.

Good birding!

Birding the Net

I've added some birds to the blog for Audubon's Birding the Net!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Winter Warblers Back

Today I decided to bird Lucy Park. I haven't been there in a while and it is a good habitat for warblers and sparrows. Although the woods were a little empty today, it was a great morning. The weather was clear and in the 60's.

It is a little hard to bird Lucy Park because it is adjacent to Hwy 287 and there is constant traffic, that makes it difficult to hear small birds in the underbrush. If you aren't right next to a bird, you aren't likely to hear it; you have to see it. I am sure if it was a little quieter, I would get lots more birds. But that's just the way it is.

I saw my first of the season brown thrasher. He was scolding up a storm--one bird I did hear. Two winter warblers back in good numbers in the park were yellow-rumped and orange-crowned. As usual there were several ruby-crowned kinglets--they will practically get in your face. Two special sparrows migrating through that were present in fairly large numbers were clay-colored sparrows and chipping sparrows.

Lucy Park is a good place to look for cavity nesters. Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice and woodpeckers are normally easy to find and that was the case today. Downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers and flickers were all over the park. If you haven't birded Lucy Park in a while, you're due for a visit.

Good birding!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Save the Date: Wichita Falls CBC

The Wichita Falls area Christmas Bird Count will be December 17 this year. More information to follow, but plan now to attend.

Good birding!

Movie Review: The Big Year

Well, today was the opening of The Big Year, a movie about three birders and their quest to rack up the highest tally of bird species in a calendar year. Starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, I expected more of a slapstick comedy (and Ebert's review I read before going to the theater reinforced that expectation.) Fortunately, the movie was more substantial than that. Although a comedy, the movie was more in the vein of humorous than riotously funny--which made for a better movie in my opinion. One place I had to laugh was when a birder brought his new non-birding wife on a honeymoon trip to Attu. It was NOT what she was expecting. The funny part was how oblivious he was to what she would think of this trip of a lifetime. (A little similar to my conversation with my husband today about why I would want to go to the Galapagos Islands--see grand prize in Audubon's Birding the Net.)

The few reviews posted by birders so far seemed, as you would expect, to be looking for technical errors. All loved the movie. I was expecting to enjoy the movie and did, but was interested in finding out what non-birders would think.

My husband agreed to go to the movie with me, which was a surprise as he is not a birder and he doesn't like going to movies in a theater. He had a little trouble giving credence to the central plot of the movie. He is still not convinced about the whole Big Year concept. He doesn't think any birders would be obsessive enough to race after a rarity, even though he encountered people in January here out looking for the Whooping Crane from all over the state. He was also put off by the thought that any competitive event could be run on the honor system. It will be a sad day when we think we have to verify sightings.

A lot of beautiful scenery shots and some pictures of some pretty birds. I would have liked more of both. But still a good movie I would recommend, and one you can take the entire family to. Although rated PG, I didn't notice any profanity, although I imagine there may have been some low key curse words that went over my head, and there was nothing else offensive I could see. I enjoyed the movie completely and will probably buy it when it comes out to revisit again.

Wonder if my boss will let me take off for a Big Year. Probably not.....

Good birding!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Birds on the Net

I got an email on a promotion from Audubon. It looks like it might be fun, so thought I would pass on the information.

The National Audubon Society is having a Birding the Net contest through November 7. Some cool prizes. You have to sign up through Facebook. Go to their page and "like" it to start the contest. Obviously this is a social media promotion. It also seems you have a better shot if you are on Twitter. I am not sure. I am going to play with it a little and will let you know how it goes.

So far, I have 2 of the 34 cards.

Good birding!

Big Sit 2011

Well, it was me, myself and I for the Big Sit on Sunday. Texans don't have a high tolerance for rain or cool weather (cool being pretty much anything below 75 degrees.) Thankfully, I was raised in a more well-rounded climate and don't melt in the rain, so I was there in my rain gear, binoculars at the ready.

Sunday was a glorious day. In the 60's, a light breeze off of Lake Wichita and a steady, light rain. It was very muddy and slippery accessing the Big Sit site, but once out on the overlook, it wasn't bad at all, although I did get wet.

When I bird, I tend to walk, so the Big Sit is a study in patience for me. When there is a group, it isn't too bad, as you can pass the time talking to the other birders between birds. Although I generally prefer birding alone because I can hear the birds better without people talking to me, the Big Sit is not one of those times. So I only made it an hour being confined to the 17-ft circle. But during that hour, I did see some pretty good birds, starting with an American white pelican flying across the lake just after daybreak. My last birds of the morning were a small flock of American avocets flying low over the water.

The species seen were:

American white pelican
Great egret
Scissor-tailed flycatcher
Great blue heron
Red-winged blackbird
Blue jay
Blue-winged teal
Chimney swift
Great-tailed grackle
Eurasian collared dove
Rock pigeon
Barn swallow
Mourning dove
American avocet

Overall, not a bad return on the 1-hour investment. In addition to the birds, I saw a beaver and a raccoon.

Good birding!

Friday, October 7, 2011

New Photo Contest from Cornell

The Lab of Ornithology is having another photo contest through their Celebrate Urban Birds program. For more information, see the news release.

Good birding!

Don't Forget the Big Sit on Sunday!

The lazy birder's event is this Sunday as birders throughout North America sit in their lawn chairs and count the birds they see from a 17-foot circle.

Birders in the Wichita Falls, TX area will be meeting up at 7:30 AM, Sunday, October 9, on the shore of Lake Wichita behind Wild Bird Rescue at 4611 Lake Shore Dr. One can usually count on a cold, rainy blustery day for the Big Sit, and this year you can bet no one will complain about it. I would be ecstatic to have to wear a sweatshirt and rain gear.

Feel free to come out. Although the Big Sit is officially a 24-hour event, we're a little more laid back. As a rule we're out for 2 or 3 hours, depending upon the weather and the birds. Bring a lawn chair and binoculars and dress in layers. There is usually a wind off the water--you can count on it feeling colder there than at your house. Feel free to bring drinks and snacks. Wild Bird Rescue has always been gracious enough to let us use their restroom facilities during the Sit.

This is a great way to meet other people who enjoy birding and to learn more about the birds in our area in a leisurely way.

Good birding!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Winter Birds Returning

Went out to Lake Wichita Park this morning as it is on my way to Wild Bird Rescue, where I volunteer on Sundays. Fall migration is well underway and the winter sparrows are beginning to show up as are other winter residents.

Some of the winter birds I saw this morning for the first time included several northern flickers (some red-shafted, some yellow and a few I couldn't tell for sure), a ruby-crowned kinglet, savannah sparrows, a song sparrow and some green-winged teal.

I noted some migrant mourning warblers as well as another pretty warbler that unfortunately didn't stay in place long enough for me to make a positive ID.

Many summer birds are still around: barn swallows, chimney swifts and scissor-tailed flycatchers for example. The scissor-tails are beginning to mass in good numbers. I watched a couple of dozen hawking the area between the barrow pit and Lake Wichita. Hopefully, they will still be around for the Big Sit next weekend.

Overall, it was a good hour. In addition to some good birds, the beavers were pretty active along the chat trail. A list of birds seen: great blue heron, greater yellowlegs, killdeer, American wigeon, green-winged teal, mallard, redhead, American coot, Red-tailed hawk, Eurasian collared dove, rock pigeon, downy woodpecker, northern flicker, barn swallow, chimney swift, mockingbird, blue jay, robin, cardinal, scissor-tailed flycatcher, phoebe, ruby-crowned kinglet, Carolina chickadee, great-tailed grackle, red-winged blackbird, mourning warbler, song sparrow, savannah sparrow, and house sparrow.

This is a great time to bird this area.

Good birding!