Jameson Lake, Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, 2018-01-05So, if…

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Jameson Lake, Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, 2018-01-05

So, if you’ve followed me for a while you know I get really into the bird thing late in the year when the Christmas Count comes around. This past year I got super into it, helping Rob (the founder of our local Christmas Count) organize things, which mostly meant letting him do the hard work of contacting everyone and lining up participants while I did the fun part: scouting (i.e., birdwatching).

We were in the home stretch when a slight hiccup occurred: The Thomas Fire. It burned through the majority of our count circle, forced evacuations of large parts of the Carpinteria Valley, and kept those who stayed behind indoors due to the horrible air quality. We basically had no choice but to postpone the count to Friday, January 5, the last day of the count window.

By the time the rescheduled count rolled around the fire was contained and people were getting their lives back together. The firefighters had done a great job, keeping the fire mostly out of the human-inhabited coastal strip. But inland it had burned unchecked.

We normally work hard to get a team to Jameson Lake, a freshwater reservoir in the northern part of our circle. It’s hard to reach even in the best of times, but it’s worth it; there are birds there we just can’t get on the coast. But this year it was completely inaccessible; no one was being allowed in except firefighters and Forest Service personnel.

Then we got a break: Alan, the dam caretaker at Jameson Lake for the Montecito Water District, is a birder. He’d arranged for us to go in back in November, before the fire, for a scouting visit. Now he’d started going back in for damage assessment, and he scheduled ones of his visits for count day. Even better, he pulled some strings and got permission for a carload of us to go in with him.

So it was that I, along with two other volunteers (Deborah and Taylor, aka @quickthreebeers) got to spend count day out of cellphone range, exploring a burned-out landscape that was eerily silent: no other people, and very few birds.

For the most part it wasn’t great birding. But it was a fascinating look at the aftermath of the fire. And in terms of the citizen-science mission of the Christmas Count, it was a wonderful opportunity to gather data on which birds were there (ducks, woodpeckers, and SO many Dark-eyed Juncoes) and which were gone. I’m really looking forward to going back over the next few years to see the area come back to life.

As I mentioned, we were out of cellphone range all day, so it was only after making the three-hour trip back at the end of the day that I was able to touch base with Rob, and get the good news about the overall count: It went great. We got 155 species, just 3 short of our all-time record.

This is some video I shot of our trip to the lake.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/171217768486.

the-eldest-woman-on replied to your post: the-eldest-woman-on replied to……

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Bartram’s Garden has both! The good bad of being a very urban nature center. They do the bird count every year and if I could tell birds (apart from catbirds, redwing blackbirds, and like, starlings) I would totally do. It’s one of my maturity goals. The end of year bird count. And, I guess, being able to identify birds.

Since I’m in the midst of a series of classes for beginning birdwatchers I’ve been thinking about this. Something I’ve tried to convey is that birdwatching actually is super forgiving of beginners.

I’ve tried to compare it to learning a musical instrument. If you’re learning to play violin or clarinet I imagine there’s this whole initial phase you have to go through where you’re working at it, but the actual thing you’re producing isn’t very close to the intended result. (I could actually be completely wrong about that, by the way. I don’t play anything myself.)

Birdwatching is very much the opposite: From the beginning you are legit doing it. Birdwatching is about, well, watching birds. And even as the most newbish of newbs you will, in fact, be watching birds, and will have access to the same pleasures that experienced birdwatchers get from it.

It’s true that correct identification is part of it, and as a beginner you’re going to be challenged by identifications that will get easier as you gain experience. But the challenges you face as a beginner aren’t fundamentally different from the challenges you’ll face later on. You’re just experiencing them with a different class of birds. Learning to solve those challenges is half the fun, and it’s a challenge you’ll keep facing no matter how far you progress.

The other half of the fun (or more than half, at least for me), is the beauty and wonder I feel from just watching the birds, which is totally available to everyone regardless of their level of experience.

Oh, and about the Christmas Count in particular: Some of the new birders I’ve been talking to have expressed hesitation about doing the Count. “I don’t know anything,” they say. “I won’t be able to help.”

Not true. When we organize the count we make sure that there’s at least one experienced birder in each group to handle the finer points of identification. But in a group of five or six birdwatchers, even the least-experienced person can make a big contribution. It’s all about eyes and ears. When the experienced folks are staring at something through a spotting scope, a group of white pelicans (say) could fly directly overhead and they’d never know it. But if a member of the group is scanning the landscape, they can say, “uh, hey; guys? check this out.” (This exact scenario happened with my group on count day last year.)

So, in summary: Watch birds. It’s awesome, and it’s awesome right from the beginning.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/2eHLvyE.

Hi, your Secret Santa here! It’s finally December! What’s your favourite thing to do during this time of the year?

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

I like trying to uncover secrets by analyzing regional spelling variations!

Dad joke.

No, actually, one thing I look forward to all year is the Christmas bird count. This year our local count will be on December 18. I love having an excuse to spend all day birdwatching. I could do that any day, of course, but doing it as part of an organized effort that produces useful citizen-science data, and has the added fun of being a competition in which our local small-but-doughty birb fandom gets to measure itself against the nationally-ranked powerhouse up the road in Santa Barbara (spoiler: we lose) is fun.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/2gWDINM.

Obsessive birdwatching behavior

Monday, December 21st, 2015

It’s the season of Christmas counts. I did the one that I do, but I still feel birdy-ish. I want an excuse to do some more without the pressure/commitment of something major like another Christmas count or a conventional big day.

So I thought: What about a little big day?

The normal way an obsessive birder does a big day is to devote the whole day to it and spend a lot of it driving from place to place. I don’t want to do that, but a scaled-down version sounds like fun. So here’s my plan:

  • A single day.
  • 100% human-powered. Walking or biking only.
  • I don’t want to bird dawn to dusk; I’ve got too much going on with work and the holidays. But I could do an hour each in the morning, noon, and evening, and then just incidental birding around the house during the rest of the day. So:
  • 0700 – 0800: Franklin Trail (rural/chaparral)
  • 1200 – 1300: Carpinteria Creek Lagoon and Carpinteria Bluffs (freshwater wetland/coastal sage scrub/rocky and sandy beaches)
  • 1600 – 1700: Carpinteria Salt Marsh (coastal estuary)

I started listing species, and I think 70 should be pretty easy. With luck I could get to 80 or even 90. If I get all the likely species on my list plus all the “bonus” species that I think are reasonably possible, it gets me to 99.

So, you know, if magic happens: 100. Not that I expect that. It will be fun no matter what; that’s the best thing about birdwatching.

I realize this isn’t anything super impressive for a serious birder. But I’m pretty casual about it, so for me it sounds like a fun challenge.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/1NIq4WJ.

As I worked in my home office a few minutes ago, a western…

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

As I worked in my home office a few minutes ago, a western bluebird flew over the house singing its brief, sweet song.

Being able to birdwatch in the midst of other activities is one of the best things about learning bird vocalizations.

Audio credit: Cornell University’s All About Birds page for Western Bluebird songs, which links to a Macaulay Library recording apparently made in Oregon in 1961 by Robert C. Stein. Technically I think I may be violating their copyright by reposting it here. For the purposes of this post, though, I’m going to think of it as an unauthorized bootleg of a performance by an artist who’s cool with such things, and have my fannish way with it.

Image credit: I’m on safer ground here. That’s Western Bluebird in Sonoma, California by Wikimedia user SarahStierch, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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anonsally: llamapunk: fat-birds: Pygmy Kingfisher by D&R…

Thursday, May 1st, 2014




Pygmy Kingfisher by D&R IMAGES on Flickr.

Omg! Does it catch Pygmy fish? Or Pygmy kings? Squee.

This bird does not attend Parulidae Junior High but it is so cute and so colorful I had to reblog it anyway. 

Um, I think you are birdwatching. You’re doing it on Tumblr, but you’re birdwatching.

Now you just have to take the next step, and do it outdoors with a pair of binoculars instead of a computer. Come to think of it, so do I. I’ve probably been birdwatching on my computer more than IRL for a while now.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/1rJ2eyF.

fuckyeabirds: This bird is called a Sora. One of the things…

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013


This bird is called a Sora.

One of the things that’s really compelling for me about bird watching is the challenge of identifying the bird. And not just the challenge, but what the challenge reveals about the way my brain works (or doesn’t).

A Sora is not a particularly difficult bird to identify. It’s difficult to see, because it’s a rail, and rails are fat and tasty and survive mostly by being really good at hiding in reeds near the water and never coming into view unless you, the birdwatcher, are really patient and quiet and a little lucky.

Soras are probably the easiest of the rails to get a glimpse of, at least in my experience, but they still are stuck firmly in that part of my brain reserved for rails: Secretive. Hard to see. Always in the reeds near water.

So it was interesting, and fun, when one winter day in a snowstorm at 9,000 feet in the eastern Sierra Nevada, probably miles from the nearest water that wasn’t covered by ice, my wife and I glanced out the window of our condo and saw a bird climbing around in the branches of a nearby lodgepole pine. It was moving awkwardly from branch to branch, shaking off the snow with its giant feet, and I was just agog. Because I’d been birding for a couple of decades, and I was having what was at that point a very unfamiliar experience: I was looking at a bird, had a good view of it, and had no clue what family it was in, to say nothing of genus or species. My brain just could not put together what I was seeing: It was in a pine tree, in the snow, and it just looked completely wrong. It was not any kind of bird that I could imagine being there.

I think it probably took me a good 20 seconds, looking at the bird, talking about it with Linda, before the logjam in my brain suddenly gave way and the truth flooded over me: It was a Sora. And then everything in the world made sense again.

Those 20 seconds were awesome.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/48819541270.

dduane: luckstergal: bellisadinosaur: This baby owl hit our…

Sunday, April 21st, 2013




This baby owl hit our window. Gave us this look the whole time – Imgur




Oh sweet heaven, what an expression…

Some pedantic bird-watcher points:

This isn’t actually a baby, but an adult owl of a species that doesn’t get very big. My guess is that it’s a Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus), which has an adult length of about 10 inches. If I knew where and what time of year the OP saw it I’d feel more comfortable about the ID, but it looks a lot like a Boreal.

The whole idea of non-human organisms having “expressions” is interesting. As social apes we’ve evolved to put a lot of stock in emotional states as revealed by things like eyebrow position. Other social animals (think domestic dogs) can certainly convey emotional states to humans, though it tends to happen more via body language than facial expressions.

There’s no doubt that people can consistently read what appear to be emotional states from some birds’ facial expressions, but it tends to be hard-coded in the birds’ facial pattern. In some cases birders use it to help distinguish similar-looking species. For example, Cooper’s Hawks have a “severe” facial expression, while Sharp-shinned Hawks look more “surprised”.

Still, I owned a pet lovebird once that definitely got a pissed-off look in his eye when he was angry. So maybe this owl really is conveying an actual emotional state via its face.

Anyway: Ooh, cute!

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/48579805513.

wifeinkorea: bird outside my house. i think it is some sort of…

Sunday, March 10th, 2013


bird outside my house. i think it is some sort of morning dove… still waiting for the bird book to come.

I took a look at Wikipedia’s List of Birds of South Korea (which is not a bad resource for you to check out while you wait for your field guide, though it’s not going to be nearly as good as having a consistently formatted collection of pictures for you to browse through, which the field guide should hopefully provide). Since I agree with you that that’s a dove or pigeon of some kind, it sounds from the wiki page like you have eight species to choose from.

Some of them look very different from this bird, and some are uncommon or local to forest habitats. But your photo looks like an urban setting, which makes me think you’re probably looking for a common species. And actually, there’s a candidate that jumped out at me right away, because it’s a species that has successfully invaded my neighborhood here in Southern California over the last few decades: The Eurasian Collared Dove. Your photo looks a lot like one of those.

It could be something else. Both the Oriental Turtle Dove and the Red Turtle Dove seem like they could be possibilities. A field guide would be helpful, since it would probably include more information (range maps, notes on habitat and abundance) that could help exclude either or both of them.

But if I had to put money on it, I’d bet it’s a Eurasian Collared Dove.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/45031257947.

animalstalkinginallcaps: IS EVERYONE BLIND? IS THIS THE MOVIE…

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013




I have seen this IRL. It was when my wife and I were living in Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra. There was a lek out near the Mammoth Airport, and one chilly morning before dawn the two of us drove out there with our friends Kitty and Paul. (The sage grouse do their insane neck-bubble display most enthusiastically right around sunrise.)

We got out there and set up my spotting scope and waited, and then the sun came up and the grouse started bubbling and it really was quite magical. And after about a minute and a half, when we each had had a chance to look, we all said, more or less simultaneously, Jesus it is so fucking cold do you mind if we yes please dear god let’s go.

So we did.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/44397581702.