Friday, December 25, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
A side trip to Merritt Island should also prove fruitful. My Aunt Maggie is used to ferrying birders around since she takes her brother, my Uncle Jim and my birding mentor, out to find birds every time he visits. So she is an experienced guide.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
My father was a Marine. And a damn handsome one. He served during the Vietnam conflict (stationed on board the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier) and was away from us for many years while serving his country. He doesn't talk about his experiences in the war. Ever.
There are pictures of him from his Marine days all around his house and he wears his "Retired Veteran" baseball cap with pride. Not to mention the "Proud to be a Marine" bumper stickers competing for space with the Philadelphia Eagles car magnets on his bumper. But still, he never talks about it.
His son, Joe, became a Marine and served for 10 years (including the first Gulf War). My dad was proud as punch and when Joe presented him with an engraved sword in an elaborate Marine ceremony honoring a retired veteran, we all cried and my dad hung that sword on the wall. It's still there. But he doesn't talk about his service.
Dad, his wife MaryAnn and I took a trip to the Marine museum in Quantico, Virginia last year. Gorgeous museum. Eye oepning exhibits, making me proud and sad at the same time. My dad answered my questions when we walked through the Vietnam portion of the museum, but still, he didn't talk much about it.
Then we sat down for a movie about the brotherhood of the Marines. It was sentimental. It was moving. It was stirring (the Marines know how to do pomp and circumstance and they certainly know how to make a bunch of young men brothers to each other). I glanced over and saw the tears on my dad's cheek. He didn't have to say anything. I know, Dad. And thanks.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
It drizzled all morning, but we had Scout badges to earn, so we met in the parking lot of the Peace Valley Nature Center where I gave a quick lesson on the use of optics and a field guide. The attention span of a ten-year old is about 6 seconds, so I lost them pretty quickly.
On Deer Trail in Peace Valley Park
Checking out a bunch of rocks where a snake might live!
On to the woodland trails. We saw bluebird and owl boxes which gave me a chance to talk about nesting habits and nocturnal birds. One of the boys saw a great blue heron fly in and perch in a tree over Lake Galena, so we all got great looks at it. Meanwhile, three belted kingfishers were doing a noisy display diving for fish. We trekked for about an hour and saw gray catbird, American goldfinch, mallard duck, downy woodpecker (thanks to a quick spot by one of the parents - I love it when the parents are involved), red bellied woodpecker, Canada goose, Northern mockingbird and the last bird of the day - double crested cormorants. By the time we saw the cormorants perched on rocks in the lake, the boys were more interested in tossing pebbles, so I knew it was time to wrap up the trip.
Tallying up the day's list
The Scouts also found deer and raccoon tracks, deer poop, a small animal den (with a front and a back door, one of them pointed out), turned over rocks looking for snakes, and picked me a beautiful bunch of wildflowers to show their thanks. But the day's best find, and the one that garnered the most excitement and shouting each time it was spotted.....the gray squirrel.
We gathered back at the picnic pavilion to write down our observations and have a snack as well as to gather for a group photo.
Me and the new birders (note some of them holding up their new field guides)
It was a fun birding day (20 species - not bad for a day in the rain with a rowdy group) and I hope that I was able to turn at least a few young boys into birders. Thanks boys. I had a blast.
My thank-you bouquet
Thursday, October 1, 2009
photo courtesy of www.hawkmountain.org
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Goldfinch suet holder (check out the serial killer eyes) and Northern Cardinal suet holder both full of Zick dough.
He and my stepmother spent a week with me after the move and cleaned the new house top to bottom (removing storm windows to clean, scrubbing toilets, hanging pictures and draperies, etc). It would have taken me months to finish without their help. My brother, Russ and his life-partner Jeff also visited to help hook up all the electronics. I am technologically challenged and not afraid to admit when I need help.
Dad and Russ hooking up the new flatscreen to the DVD, the DVR, the wireless router, the cable box and the electricity
Today, I had three of my best girlfriends over to see the house, have bagels and coffee and catch up. They live 50 minutes away and finding "girl-time" is difficult to say the least. So this was precious time. We all sat around the farmhouse table, drinking coffee, noshing and laughing so loud that I think I might get protest letters from the neighbors. When we went to make plans for our next outing, we all pulled out our PDAs, cellphones, iPhones and pagers. How pathetic is our dependency on gadgets?
I leave you with a picture of the housewarming present from my friend Kathy - a punched tin bird that holds a tealight candle in it's belly. Friends know what you like. And they humor you.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
After regaling my friends about my upcoming move to a new home (only two weeks away!), my friend Janet asked "Beth, what will happen to all the birds that currently mooch off your numerous feeders? How will they know where to find you? Can you leave a trail of crumbs to the new place? This could be very traumatic for your flock…."
I got this email from Janet's husband, Andy, also a friend (I think) and a newly-minted law school graduate studying for the bar exam. Now I have to worry about being legally pursued by my backyard birds who seem to have quite a good case against me for removing the largesse they have enjoyed these past three years!
(I have edited the letter for space reasons)
Dear Ms. Russell,
It is an unconstitutional violation of the fourteenth amendment to deprive a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. XIV amend., U.S. Const. Here, your wards (the birds) have come to rely upon your charitable contributions and that reliance is a property interest - which cannot be terminated without due process. There is also a liberty concern in whether you are requiring them to move to obtain their property.
For a violation that deprives a person of a property or liberty interest, both arguably at issue here, there must be a pre-termination hearing unless the situation can be resolved via a post-termination hearing without prejudice to the injured party. It is likely that a post-termination hearing, after you've moved their food supply to a new location, will negatively prejudice them as it will immediately deprive them of food, and will require a pre-termination hearing. Any such hearing must balance the private interests and the possibility of wrongful termination against the needs of the government.
There is a high likelihood of wrongful termination since you arbitrarily decided to move. These private interests likely outweigh the government's interest (that is, your interest) to move. Although I do not specifically address the issue, it is likely that an Eldridge hearing will hold that, at a minimum, you must continue to provide food at the present location until they agree to move or their needs are provided by other sources. You may defend by arguing that they are not citizens but you are unlikely to prevail. Termination of property rights based upon alienage classification is subject to strict scrutiny.
Though they are birds (Avian-Americans) they were likely born in the U.S. thus giving them jus soli as U.S. citizens. You may also argue that the XIV amendment only forbids state action and you are not a government entity. However, where an activity is a traditional government action by a private entity, the courts have found state action and applied the XIV amendment.
You are providing welfare, a traditional government activity, and the courts will likely find that the XIV amendment applies to you. Although I am not your attorney (in fact, I'm not an attorney at all), I'd strongly recommend settlement discussions with the birds to resolve their claims prior to a hearing or, more costly still, an action in federal court. Given the strength of the birds' position and the weakness of your defenses, the court could order you to continue feeding these birds and their progeny, forever. To ensure this result, the court could create a constructive trust after your death to ensure that your estate continues to provide support for these birds.Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. My strong advice is to seek competent legal counsel immediately.
So it seems that since the birds are legally considered Avian-Americans (hee, hee) with all the rights and privileges afforded US citizens, it would be in my best interest to enter into mediated negotiations with them to reach a settlement!
I think Andy has too much time on his hands!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Click on the picture below for a larger look at the amazing column of terns waiting to be banded
Saturday, August 8, 2009
It has been a long and crazy summer. Too much going on in my life to spend quality time birding and hence, the paucity of posts.
But the backyard bluebird couple are successfully raising their brood of four in the little house my father built for my backyard. I will be moving on September first, ten miles north of where I currently live, and am anxious to see the bluebirds fledge so I can take down the house, clean it out and pack it up for the move. I have already cleaned and packed the birdfeeders, so even my backyard birding has quieted down. But I did get my first yard Baltimore Oriole last week. That brings my yard list up to 53. And this morning, drinking coffee on the deck while trying to figure out how to pack up Beverly the Stone Chicken, I saw a flash of white in the trees. Tree swallows? Went inside for the binoculars and was able to id a pair of Eastern Kingbirds playing tag at the edge of the yard. Cool - first kingbirds of the year.
I remember the first time I saw and identified a kingbird. It was perched on the post that holds up my clothesline. Do you remember the first time you see each of your species? Most of them stick with me. Like the Painted Bunting I first saw with my Uncle Jim while the deer flies ate me alive. Or the Prothonotary Warbler on the tree over the creek that I saw from the bridge overpass. Or the Veery I just got in the parking lot of the state park a few weeks ago. How about the Bobolink in the hay field in West Virginia with my peeps, The Flock. Or the red-winged blackbird that swooped in front of my car onto the shoulder of the road while I waited at the top of an exit ramp. Or the Blue-Winged Warbler that I identified by voice and watched for 1/2 an hour while it sang in Peace Valley Park - my usual bird haunt. Or the Gadwall that Pete Dunne showed me in his scope on a Cape May Autumn Weekend. Or the Chestnut-sided Warbler that Paco got me on at the New River Festival (one of my nemesis birds at the time). Or the Gray Catbird that was so close I could touch it, flashing his rufous rump patch in PennyPack Park. I even remember my first starling - I was on my first bird trip with Uncle Jim and asked him what it was. He called it a "trash bird" and I remember thinking "How can such a pretty bird be trash?". Now I know.
So as I prepare for my move and lots of other stuff at work and at home, I push birding to the back burner. But I have Cape May in October and Space Coast in January (staying with my wonderful Aunt Maggie! - Thanks, Mag!).
Sunday, August 2, 2009
A Fairy Bluebird from the forests of the Himalayas, northern India, Burma and Indochina.
This Violaceous Turaco from West Africa had amazing maroon underwings only visible when it flew. Unfortunately, I only got pictures of it perched.
My absolute favorite bird of the entire exhibit was this Bali Mynah from Indonesia. Snow white with teal blue face mask. Gorgeous. The Bali Mynah is critically endangered because of habitat destruction by timber harvest, illegal cage-bird trade, poaching, and nest site competition with the Black-winged Starling. Right now there are only about 13-14 Bali Mynahs left in the wild.
A Victoria-Crowned pigeon (about the size of a large chicken) from New Guinea sunning itself in one of the walk-through exhibits. The feathery crown on it's head would be the envy of lots of church-going ladies. On the 2008 IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)List of Threatened Species, the Victoria crowned pigeon is listed as Vulnerable.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
photo provided by http://www.treknature.com/
My fingers are crossed that the Zoo gets a good breeding program for this bird in peril. Like other bird species in Guam, the Guam Micronesian Kingfisher (Halcyon cinnamomina cinnamomina) was decimated after the arrival of the introduced brown tree snake. Faced with imminent extinction, Guam and several research and conservation institutions, including the Philadelphia Zoo, captured the last 29 kingfishers between 1984 and 1986 to establish a captive breeding population in the hopes of re-introducing birds to the wild someday. Recently, a captive breeding population has been established on Guam.
Here is a pair of Collared Finchbills from southeast Asia:
This amazing bird (about the size of a wild turkey) is a Yellow Knobbed Curassow from South America. He had jet black curly feathers on his crown and will eventually develop a yellow knob at the base of his bill (hence the name):
The Avian Center conducts a Flight Show twice daily with trained birds flying around Bird Lake outside the Center. The Sun Conure (seen below) can be found in most of South and Central America as well as parts of Mexico. In the wild Sun Conures are friendly, peaceful birds and seldom fight living together in groups of twenty or more, even during the mating season, and feeding on various seeds, fruits, and insects. The Flight Show included these Conures making circuits around the lake and swooping over the heads of guests. Colorful and cheerful, they were a joy to observe. You may have read in the news that one of the juvenile Conures made a break for it last week during one of the Flight Shows. Fortunately, he was spotted in Fairmount Park and quickly returned to the Zoo within 4 days.
And this is a Double Yellow Head Amazon Parrot who also took part in the Flight Show. He landed not 2 feet in front of me on a fence post and I got this picture of his face. Doesn't he look puzzled to see me?
"Whatcha' doin' out here in the sweltering heat, Beth?"
More pictures and birds of the McNeil Avian Center in the next post.
The Philadelphia Zoo’s new $17.5 million McNeil Avian Center has walk-through habitats with over 100 birds from around the world, many of them rare and endangered. The birds include huge Rhinoceros Hornbills, striking Victoria Crowned Pigeons and gorgeous Fairy Bluebirds and Bali Mynahs. Aimed at children, the 4-D Migration Theater has a animated movie following Otis the Oriole on his first migration to Mexico from where he hatched in Fairmount Park. In this movie, Cape May, New Jersey is prominently featured as a migration stopover for hundred of thousands of birds. Those of us who also migrate to Cape May for the bi-annual migration festivals are well aware of the special nature of Cape May.
At the McNeil Avian Center I got some great pictures with my little point-and-shoot digital. In parts of the exhibit, the birds are behind mesh cages and in parts you can walk right up to the birds (and they can poo right on you!).
Future blog posts will highlight the birds of the McNeil Aviary, but here is a video of the SubSaharan Africa section of the exhibit. You can hear the shrill singing of the Magpie Shrikes. The video pans over to a Hammerkop and an Egyptian Plover.