Friday, November 29, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Nemesis birds. We all have em. I've had a few this year. I shake my fist at you Black Tern! Lately, my greatest adversary has been the Snow Goose. I have been to at least half a dozen locations looking for these guys, but came up empty every time. I was beginning to think that the Snow Geese were hanging out with the Black Tern's...laughing at me. This line of thought dominated until today. Not only was I able to check off Snow Goose, but I was able to study two individuals for quite some time on Maumee Bay State Park's inland beach. That was great, but finding a Cackling Goose among the many Canada Geese was even better. Check out these mediocre pics of some beautiful birds!
|Snow Geese with Canada Geese|
|Snow Geese with Canada Goose in flight|
|Cackling Goose (the little guy in the middle) with Canada Geese|
|Bald Eagle being awesome at Bayshore Fishing Access|
Monday, November 11, 2013
|Mrs. Brywczynski (Photo by Ruby)|
There were reasons for her displeasure. As a pharmacist, she would have to change her name on her license in addition to all the other legal stuff (her insurance, drivers license, etc.). But I believe the main reason was she just didn't want to write that long Polish name. I mean, my dad has writers cramps (yes it's a real thing) from writing that beast down his entire life.
I assured my wife that I didn't believe or agree with the historical practice of the name change. "I don't own you...you're still your own woman." Clearly this was a joke. For those of you who know my wife and I, she pretty much is the boss. That's ok with me too. She's way smarter and has much better judgement.
For us, the changing of my wife's last name had relatively little effect on our lives. Yes she had to change some documents and pay some fees for a new license, and she now signs a name that has 11 letters and only one vowel in it, but she is very much the same person. This change barely changed anything.
Name changes for birds are often inconsequential to most people. What were you're thoughts when the Cackling Goose ceased to be a subspecies of the Canada Goose and went out on it's own? Oh, you didn't know that happened? And...you don't care? I suppose I can't blame you. Unless you're an ornithologist or really into birds, a change in the classification of a bird species is probably not a high priority. Life is full of other things, and who has time for that stuff...especially in America? We're always on the go go go!
But lets say you did take the time to consider the question: What's in a name? I have noticed many bird name changes throughout my life. All you have to do is compare a new version of Peterson's with my dad's copy from 1980 something. Today's Common Gallinule was known as a Common Moorhen. The Tundra Swan is listed as the Whistling Swan. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Changes in bird names or classification of species versus subspecies dates even farther back then my dad's field guide. During Kenn Kaufman's 1973 Big Year, listers were dealt a big blow when many species were "lumped." For example, there used to be a White-winged, Slate-colored, and Oregon Junco prior to the 1973 change. Now all versions are known by the broader and more inclusive name of Dark-eyed Junco. For listers, this meant that their numbers would drop by a few birds since they couldn't count the new subspecies as full species.
Development in these two areas was in full swing during the 1970's, and the natural habitat of these Florida specialties was disappearing. Unfortunately, there wasn't a great effort to protect them. Even birders weren't too concerned. They had been lumped. The Seaside Sparrow, as whole, was a species that wasn't going away anytime soon. There were plenty of places one could go along the coast to see them. Listers assumed the lumping was permanent, and were content with accepting that these birds were subspecies. Consequently, the lack of interest contributed to diminishing any enthusiasm there might have been for protecting these birds.
In the 1990's some experts were considering that the Dusky and Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows were indeed full species, and not just variations of one type of bird. Unfortunately, as Kaufman points out in Kingbird Highway, the Dusky Seaside Sparrow became extinct sometime during the 1980's. The Cape Sable is still hanging on, but a hurricane over south Florida could be catastrophic for the dangerously small population.
I have to admit, even for a nature lover, I am not an overly green person. I use more paper towels then I should. I recycle some things, but could probably do more. I try to buy animal friendly products, but again, I could make more of an effort. When I read about tragedies like the story of the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, it makes me want to step up my game. I may not be able to donate money to every worthy cause, but I can support protection and conservation by volunteering and making others aware of environmental issues. Perhaps you can do the same. Perhaps we can save all birds regardless of what their name or classification may be. Every living thing deserves to live, even if it's just a drab little brown bird. Happy birding everybody!
Kaufman, K. (1997). Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Seaside Sparrow (website). Retrieved from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Seaside_Sparrow/id
Thursday, November 7, 2013
|American Tree Sparrow|
I do share my dad's frustration. Not only are they difficult to tell apart, but they also rarely stay out in the open for very long. When they do, you feel blessed. Earlier this year I got my lifer Grasshopper Sparrow. I had pulled off to the side of Wilkins Road by the airport to look for this species. I kept hearing what I thought were Grasshopper Sparrows, so I played the call on my phone and one flew up and out of the tall grass and landed a few feet from my drivers side door. Hallelujah!
Sparrows are a pretty diverse group of birds. You've got little guys like Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrow, and then you have relative giants like the colorful Fox or White-throated Sparrows. They are not just little brown birds people!
My dad loves warblers. They must be his favorite type of bird. For a partially color blind individual, I suppose it's because with warblers, even he can see some of those tropical colors. But I think if he took his time on sparrows he would learn to enjoy them as I have. Colors are nice, but patterns are fun too. With sparrows, one must pay attention to the patterns. Does it have a cap? Does it have breast stripes or a stick pin? Notched tale? There are many different ways to describe sparrows. One of my favorite things I heard this year came from Greg Miller when he took us on a tour around Millersburg, Ohio. I believe we were looking at Savannah Sparrows, (Correct me if I'm wrong Greg :) and Greg described them as "tater tots with wings." I liked that almost as much as how my dad told me how to ID Chimney Swifts when I was little. "They look like a cigar butt with wings." It's true...they really do.
Despite the fact that I haven't had a new bird in nearly 3 weeks, I am still enjoying this year immensely. With that said, however, would it kill a Snow Goose to land in my front yard just long enough for a few photos. I mean really...is that too much to ask? Happy birding everybody!
Friday, November 1, 2013
|The information board at the Buehner Center|
Despite being the largest of all the Toledo Area Metroparks, Oak Openings Preserve is just a small part of the much larger Oak Openings region. The area overlaps the political borders of Lucas, Henry, and Fulton counties. It also extends to the north, creeping into the Michigan counties of Monroe, Wayne, and Washtenaw. The varying habitats of this region provide refuge for many rare plant species as well as breeding grounds for a plethora of different kinds of birds.
Although Oak Openings Metropark is a sprawling landscape, it is relatively easy to navigate. The park is boxed in by 3 major roads. Route 64 makes up the western and southern borders of the park. Airport Highway is to the north, and route 295 borders the park to the east. Some of the best birding, however, can be found on Sager and Girdham roads.
|A must stop in Oak Openings|
|Mature and Immature Lark Sparrows|
If you head west from the airport on Sager you will eventually dead end into Girdham Road. The birding can be spectacular all up and down Girdham, but the best spot is arguably near the intersection of Girdham and Reed. Here you will often find more Red-headed Woodpeckers than you know what to do with. There are days when every few seconds you see flashes of black and white zip through the trees. The field at the northwest corner of the intersection is an excellent spot for Lark Sparrows in spring and early summer.
|Olive-sided Flycatcher in Tornado Alley|
Another popular place to bird is Tornado Alley. Located just south of the Lodge where Wilkins Road dead ends, Tornado Alley is a prime example of how malleable habitat can be. In 2010 a tornado ripped through 147 acres of the park, drastically altering the landscape. The Metroparks staff have worked tirelessly on clearing away storm damage and managing the area in an ecologically conscious fashion. Additionally, the area is prime for vast numbers of birds including many different sparrow species. It was here that I was fortunate enough to get lifers such as Olive-sided Flycatcher and Merlin.
Lets say you decided to head west from Girdham and Reed. You could then head down Jeffers Road in search of Black-billed Cuckoo or Blue Grosebeak in the summer. The pine stand at Jeffers and route 64 can be good for Pileated Woodpecker and Pine Warblers. A Red-tailed Hawk is often perusing the scrub brush area on the east side of the road.
Although I believe I covered some of the more popular areas, Oak Opening Preserve Metropark offers so much more. It truly is a diamond in the rough. Go out and explore this beautiful place. I am certain one visit will not be enough!