I and the Bird #117

Last January, nearly a year ago to the day, I hosted I and the Bird #92. I invited birds from all around the world to join me at a picnic party, and had a grand time planning and hosting the event. But boy – after letting all those party animals loose at the house, the clean-up was a nightmare. I wanted to host again, but even just thinking about the day after gave me the chills. I’d have to hire a housecleaning service just to find my floor again. Surely there was another way?

So I sent out invitations for a beach party this year. Some 30 participants joined me for the 117th edition of I and the Bird. We all gathered at a favourite lookout of mine, at the edge of a lake I’m fond of (I put out a banner on the lookout tower, just to make sure everyone found the place). I provided a feeder in case anyone got peckish, but many guests found their own food. I spent a little over a thousand words on the last party; knowing that a picture’s worth a thousand words, I thought maybe, for a change of pace, that would be the way to go this year. It was easy to organize, I didn’t need to put out plates or glasses or prepare food platters or punch. No furniture to damage. Water to splash in if folks got bored. But best of all – no mess to clean up afterward!

Click on the birds in the image below to visit each post. Thanks to everyone who sent in submissions, I had a great time reading – and drawing – them all!

IATB #118 is being hosted by Duncan over at Ben Cruachan. Send your links in to Duncan at dcfraser AT netspace.net.au by February 2.

One letter different

Cardinal at Jeep mirror as seen through lilac bush in winter

This afternoon, Dan called me to the window to point out the cardinal. He was hanging on to the side of Dan’s Jeep, checking itself out in the reflection of the side mirror. I grabbed my camera and tried for a few shots, but unfortunately there’s a very large lilac bush between the house and the cars. The birds are loving it for perching in when coming to visit the feeder, and it will be tremendously lovely in the spring when it blooms, but it did make it difficult to get a good view of the cardinal. This was the best shot I could manage, and you almost need to know what’s going on to be able to pick out the details in the photo. Oh well. Can’t win them all. I was mostly interested in documenting it because it’s the first time I’ve personally witnessed this behaviour, which is actually rather common in cardinals. It’s a territorial thing, they think they’re attacking an intruder. Since cardinals hold their territories year round, the behaviour can be observed in the winter as well as the summer.

What’s the difference between a cardinal and a carnival? A single line that turns a sideways-v into a d.

Okay, I’m sorry about that. But I had to draw a connection somehow, didn’t I?

Two carnivals up recently that are worth checking out. The first is I And The Bird #115, being hosted this edition by Jason of Xenogere. Jason adopts and adapts “original and unadulterated Thoreau” to share the links for this carnival. Curious what the heck that means? You’ll have to go check it out!

And the second is the inaugural edition of House of Herps, which coincidentally happens to be the brainchild of Jason, as well, in partnership with Amber of Birder’s Lounge. This fine first edition gifts us with much great herpetological reading, so make sure you swing by to pick up your presents!

November blog carnivals

Two blog carnivals to announce today. The first is The Moth and Me, a carnival I started up back in the March of this year to celebrate my second-favourite group of living organisms. This month’s edition is the final one of 2009, and was hosted by Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta. Check out the excellent assortment of moth-related blog posts that she’s assembled to give us another reason to be glad the earth is not flat.

The Moth and Me will return in March 2010, when it will be hosted by Jason of Xenogere. Send your submissions to jason AT xenogere D0T com by March 13th. We’re looking for hosts for April 2010 and beyond. If you’re interested in hosting, send me a note at sanderling AT symbiotic D0T ca.

Also recently up is the 113th edition of I and the Bird. Matt at The Modern Naturalist has put together an enjoyable edition filled with quotations and verse. Matt put a lot of work into this one – head over and check it out.

Sunday snapshot: bluet damselfly

unidentified bluet

Okay, I lied. We’re still not online at our new home, waiting to have the company out to tell us how tall the tower needs to be to get signal (when I left on Wednesday to go to my mom’s, the service guy was there to check for signal and install the service, and I expected it to be all up and going by the time I got back. Fingers crossed that we’ll be online in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, check out the latest I and the Bird at A Birding Blog from Peru by Gunnar Engblom.

I and the Bird #92 – The picnic party

Canadian picnic table

‘Twas the middle of winter deep,
When all sane critters are fast asleep,
This Canuck sent invitations
For a snowy celebration.

“Join me for lunch!” the invite said.
“The drinks are free!” it further read.
And so they came, in ones and twos
– free drinks, of course, they can’t refuse.

First to arrive, from overseas,
A motley crew of Indianese.
Worn out, I think, from their long flight
Their first concern, to grab a bite.

Not far behind, the Long-eared Owl,
Who hates the crowds all cheek-to-jowl.
Arriving early to stand beside
the food display – and then to hide.

Coming from the Salton Sea,
This group arrived reluctantly.
After all, what would you choose –
Southern warmth or winter blues?

Our winter’s not all knocking knees,
Indeed some birds are more than pleased
To venture south to our “warm” clime
Where it’s much easier to dine.

That is unless the winter weather
Isn’t kind to birds afeathered.
Little birds yellow and brown,
Forced to eat upon the ground.

I’m not that cruel with my buffet
I lay it out in wide display.
The barbets ate their fruit with glee;
The toucanet, respectfully.

The mockingbird was less polite,
Demanding food with great delight.
“The suet’s out!” – loudly complained.
“I want more grapes! This party’s lame!”

The Eurasian Jay took all the nuts,
Hid them away and off he struts,
Thinking that he wasn’t seen
– a cocky bird he’s always been.

Mother Scops-owl brought her son
A big mistake – she had no fun.
The boy was such a hungry babe
She spent her time stuffing his gape.

The teenage wattlebirds that came,
Compared to him, were almost tame.
They weren’t as bad as I’d’ve thunk,
Too occupied with getting drunk.

Which wasn’t easy, don’t you know,
With all this ice and frozen snow.
The saucers from which birdies sipped,
Frozen sideways when they tipped.

Although we served some caviar
The Snowy Egret liked fish tartar.
Instead of eating from the table
The little pond edge seemed more stable.

The juncos left the table, too,
Its boring spread just wouldn’t do.
The garden’s snowman was much nicer,
The blossom crown such an enticer.

You might call them omnivores,
But Sandhill Cranes are somewhat more.
They took no interest in the frog legs,
Grain instead was what they all begged.

The fruit I’d put out, though quite thawed,
Offended all the bright macaws.
They glared at me and gave a shrug,
And started eating from the mud!

The herons all were quite aloof,
Turned around, took to the roof.
There they stood all hunched and grumpy,
No doubt ’cause the soup was lumpy.

The Lapland Longspur also chose
To eat alone; That’s how it goes –
You plan a lunch and make the food
And all the guests say, “No thanks, dude.”

The starlings had one thing in mind
The berries blue, not hard to find:
With them I lined my garden wall,
But not what I had planned at all!

The cardinal drank far too much
Fermented fruit and so as such
Got confused and flew into
My living room; it’s such a zoo!

The drink had also gotten to
The roadrunner who ambled through
My house behind me as I went
To tidy up the cups I lent.

The gulls – all five – sat atop
The TV set and wouldn’t stop
Asking me to try to choose
Which was which and who was who.

At least the Ring-bills stayed outside
Calling out as they soared by.
The cry, of course, was to distract
As they dove and took my snack.

The Gambel’s Quail sat in the pots
On my deck that I had got
To plant some flowers for the spring
But he had plans for other things.

I shooed him out and then I found
Some suspect wood upon the ground.
This woodpecker with red cockades
Was on my house chipping away!

The meadowlark’s bright yellow breast
Stood out against the snow the best.
So I could tell that he was busy
Working the chicks into a tizzy.

And that’s when things got really wild
When in should march some birdy-styled
Football players, baseball guys –
I cut off their drinks when I got wise.

But it was too late, they’d had enough
To start a fight and make a fuss
With the birds from Rio Grande
The Chachalaca took a stand!

“Out! Out!” I cried, “That’s it! I’m done!”
And tried to shoo them out the front
Without much luck, although I tried;
Just the egret did oblige.

To the rest the words I said
On deaf ears they fell instead.
The owlet just looked at me,
His golden eyes alive with glee.

The football guy picked up a book
I had left out – a risk I took –
On woodpeckers and owls here
– and heaved it at the owlet’s beer.

“He looked at me!” the guy exclaimed.
“He’s lucky that he wasn’t maimed!”
I put my head into my hands
And thought of far and distant lands.

And while I took my mental break
A group of parrots (my mistake –
Parrotlets) – the whole family
Went and ate my garden seed.

In the kitchen’s parrot group
A Puerto Rican stole my fruit,
A guava – seems appropriate
That he’d take my favourite.

The Echos hung from on the pot rack,
Banging pans until I walked back
And opened up the fridge’s door
So they could go and grab some more.

I gave up and went outside
Hoping for a better vibe.
“No such luck!” the Black Kites cried,
As they circled in the sky.

Sure enough, I looked around,
Red berries flung across the ground:
The turkeys had destroyed my sumacs,
Then ran off, leaving just snow tracks.

I thought sadly of the Murre
Who couldn’t make it (that’s for sure),
Whose calm is surely underrated;
It would have been appreciated.

I looked at all the chaos here,
The messy food and sticky beer,
And thought I’d fly to Tennessee
Where Rusty Blackbirds would calm me.

Or better yet, down to Belize
Where Black-and-Blues do much to please
The weary eyes of the winter-worn
Out on the shaded coffee farms.

It would be nice, but here I stay,
At least for just another day.
The mess to clean, stuff to repair –
And then, I’m sure, I’m headed there.

Up the stairs I head for now,
And into bed, with comfy down
To keep me warm while I await
For all this nonsense to abate.


I don’t proclaim to be the world’s best poet – but I hope folks enjoyed the party as much as I did planning it! (Cleaning up the mess once everyone’s gone home… now that’s another story.)

The cast, in order of appearance:

Madras RamblingsOf legs, tails and beaks!
Owl boxFirst owl of 2009 – LEO!
Two birders to goI love the smell of Snow Geese in the morning!
A DC Birding BlogNew at the feeders: Pine Siskins!
Behind the BinsSiskin visit during an Ice Storm
The Hawk Owl’s NestCosta Rica Earthquake Impacts
Mary’s ViewNorthern Mockingbird Connection
Bird SnappingEurasian Jay caching acorn
Bird Ecology Study GroupCollared Scops Owl feeding fledgling
Ben CruachanA long time coming
Vickie Henderson ArtFunny Pine Siskins
The Birder’s ReportSnowy Egret Fishing the Sacramento Marshes
A SpatteringI built a snow-woman today
Rock Paper LizardCranes eat grains.
TR Ryan** for 10,000 BirdsLicking Clay: the macaws of Tambopata, Peru
Wanderin’ WeetaHeron Condos
Nature Photograph and ArtLapland Longspur photo
Huckleberry DaysKestrels, Starlings and Blueberries
Julie ZickefooseCardinal in the House
Wingbeat: The WINGS Birding BlogThe Boidfriend
MigrationsThe Problem with Herring Gulls
Coyote MercuryWatching Ring-billed Gulls in Central Texas
Aimophila AdventuresSuddenly…
Mike at 10,000 BirdsStalking the Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Birder’s LoungeRoad Trip: Las Vegas, NV
BirdistBird-related Sports Uniform Designs: Part 2
Birding in New JerseyBirding the Lower Rio Grande Valley! Texas Style.
It’s Just MeSnowy Egret Obsession
A birding blog by Gunnar EngblomOwl in Peru
Boreal Bird BlogThe Owl and the Woodpecker
Search and Serendipity2008: Untold stories
Nick Sly** for 10,000 BirdsPhoto Essay – Green-rumped Parrotlets: from egg to adult
Charlie** on 10,000 Birds – The Puerto Rican Parrot
Charlie** on 10,000 BirdsMaruitius’s Echo Parakeet: to the brink and back
James Lidsterlineatus Black Kites from Japan
The Marvelous in NatureHere and gone again
Great Auk – Or Greatest Auk?Requiem for a Murre
Birdfreak.comThe Rusty Blackbird Hotspot Blitz
Coffee & ConservationKnow your coffee birds: Black-throated Blue Warbler
**Also check out all the other fabulous posts as part of Parrot Month on 10,000 Birds!

Five worthy blogs

Morning at Kingsford

First, I should start off by announcing that the latest I and the Bird is up at Wrennaissance Reflections. Wren has categorized the various posts into all the different aspects that make up “the joy of birds.” Definitely worth a read, pop over and check it out!

Beth of Beth’s Stories did me the great honour of choosing my blog of the 100-odd she follows to include in a blog-recognition meme. At the very least I’d like to thank her and return the linkage (worth checking out, if you don’t know her already – she’s one of my daily reads). But further to that, it’s a good opportunity to recognize some other worthy blogs.

The rules of the meme are thus:

1. Choose a max of 5 blogs (we could all probably list our entire blogroll, but then you might as well just point people at your blogroll).
2. Four of the 5 have to be dedicated followers of your blog.
3. One has to be someone new or recently new to your blog and live in another part of the world (the definition of “another part of the world” is left to your discretion).
4. You must link back to whoever gave you the award (fair’s fair! If they’re sending traffic your way, the least you can do is thank them by sending traffic back theirs. Hopefully you also like their blog, too).

Field in morning

Since I discovered the amazing convenience of Bloglines.com, a blog feed reader that keeps track of all your blogs for you and lets you know when new posts go up, so that you don’t have to check dozens of pages every day, since I discovered that the list of blogs I follow has inched up to 50. I could easily follow more, and will probably end up adding additional blogs to the reader because there’s so much good writing out there. And that’s just for nature blogs. If you have any doubt about the prolificity of nature blogs, simply check out the Nature Blog Network. When I signed up to it, when the network was just a couple weeks old, back in February, I was right at the bottom, #68 I think. Now, there are 440 blogs in the network, and more being added every day. My blog bobs up and down on the list, sometimes in the 50s, sometimes in the 60s, once as high as #48, at its lowest about #105. It uses the average of the last 10 days to calculate your average number of visits, so it can vary a fair bit from one day to the next. I think a fair number of my visitors are people who Google for information on various species, but I like to think that many (most?) are dedicated readers of my blog.

Some of the blogs on my reader are very well read by others, and some have a much more limited following. The latter are generally because they’re relatively new, rather than due to lack of content (I wouldn’t invest the time in following a blog that didn’t have interesting content – and on dial-up, it is something of a time investment!). The ones at the bottom of the Nature Blog Network list are there either because they don’t post often or don’t post good content, or they have good content but few views simply because they haven’t been around long enough to be discovered and develop a readership.

The five I’m choosing, therefore, are all younger or less frequently followed blogs that I think are worthy of a stronger readership (currently they all rank on the 4th page of the Nature Blog Network, or lower – they deserve to be higher than that!). They have all, at one time or another, commented on my blog so I know they do or have read it periodically. I encourage all my readers to check them out, and leave a comment if you like what you read.

Morning spiderweb

In no particular order:

Huckleberry Days – If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy reading this one. Styled in the same vein, profiling different species and phenomenon of interest, this blog fulfills the #3 rule as well – Huckleberry found me within the last month (or at least started commenting then), and lives on the far side of the continent, out in British Columbia.

Beetles in the Bush – Ted is a regular reader, but also maintains an excellent blog of his own. He posts less frequently than some, but this is where the convenience of the reader comes in – you’ll never miss a post because you forgot to check in. As the name implies, the blog is all about the wonderful world of beetles. And there’s no shortage of them to talk about!

From the Faraway, Nearby – One of my favourite things about this blog is the address – a nod to a favourite cartoon of mine when I was young, the Adventures of Tintin. Indeed, T.R. (as noted in his profile, but is it so hard to guess his name?) travels for a living, and his exploits are chronicled here. Most recently, he had the good fortune to be able to visit China to attend the Olympic Games. Lots of good photos and interesting stories.

Roundtop Ruminations – Carolyn lives out in the forested mountains of Pennsylvania. Her observations of life in the Pennsylvanian forests are interesting and enjoyable to read, and offer a different perspective on rural life than most people get.

Voice of the Turtle – And finally, after long deliberation on who the last blog should be, I settled on this one. Although not a nature blog, Turtle is a gifted writer, and her entries are sprinkled with frequent stories and limericks. Her corgis and family figure prominently in her posts, she runs occasional contests (prize: a 500-word story on the subject of your choice), and generally offers an upbeat view on life. She’s also one of my most dedicated readers.

All worthy recipients; I hope you go check them out!