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  • March | 2014 | Birds and Words
    Birders I think I might be the only person in Toronto who isn t complaining about the interminable winter we ve been having I ve been out birding more than any other winter before my long underwear were a great investment only to be outdone by my superior rain pants I ve had extraordinary owl sightings a few stellar Western vagrants snow buntings and incredible waterfowl moments The only missing usual suspects this winter have been the finches Nary a Redpoll or a Grosbeak of any persuasion That s been a little sad since I had finally managed to ID Redpolls by the end of last winter But one can t have it all I suppose Yesterday was a true waterfowl bonanza A grand total of 21 species OK technically 20 but I m counting American Coot as waterfowl because they sure ACT like ducks even though they are really in the family of RAILS believe it or not Some highlights of the day include all three Merganser species AKA the perfect hairdo family Trumpeter Mute and Tundra Swans and a glorious young male King Eider Somateria spectabilis surrounded by two striking female I think it s quite likely he was flirting with them but I have no empirical evidence to back that up The King Eiders were so close I captured all three of them in the scope Alas I only saw young ones so the male lacked the tremendous yellow protrusion on its bill that makes the breeding adult look slightly extra terrestrial but in the most fetching of possible ways In case you re wondering here s a male Kind Eider in breeding plumage Photo from here And here s what ours looked like yesterday Image courtesy Gavin Edmunstone whom we met at Bronte Harbour and who knows how to take photos and who seemed like a generally swell person Yes the young King Eider is on the drabber end of the spectrum but it s great to look at a juvenile bird and imagine the wondrous spectacle that he s about to grow into And it s also an excellent exercise in patience on the part of the observer I used to only care about the spectacular birds but after volunteering at the banding station this past spring and holding Warbling Vireos in my hand possibly the drabbest looking greyish grey bird around when you see them up in the tops of trees and recognizing the nuances of the bird s coloring and the way the grey face slowly gave way to buttery yellow hues around the bird s eye even the drab became exciting And I began to appreciate the variation and melancholy splendor in something I had formerly written off as uninteresting How wrong I was We also got great looks at White winged Scoter I finally managed to understand belatedly I know I know the difference between a Scaup and a Common Goldeneye The Redheads glistened majestically in the sun the Bufflehead severe

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/03/ (2015-09-25)
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  • February | 2014 | Birds and Words
    made her happy Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on February 23 2014 by Julia Zarankin This That Birdy Otherwise by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Things have been happening here at Birds and Words even during what felt like endless January I have a new review up on the ABA site I highly recommend Mike O Connor s hilarious Why Do Bluebirds Hate me Grateful to Birding for featuring my review on their website Do have a look I recently found out that I won 1st Runner up in PRISM International s Nonfiction contest My story will be published in the spring issue of PRISM Alas the story isn t birdy but it does feature East German days of the week underwear which is always a thrill In other writing news I m also a finalist for the Malahat Review s Open Season nonfiction contest I m also thrilled to share that I have an essay forthcoming in the brilliant Kerry Clare s anthology The M Word which comes out in April Stay tuned Alas no birds there either but there are some kettlebells And a recent blog post I wrote about gifts that will make the birder in your life happy There s nothing better than a happy birder Honestly Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on February 11 2014 by Julia Zarankin It s a Western Year in the East by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Dearest Birders You wouldn t believe it another Western vagrant as ended up within driving distance of Toronto This time it was a Varied Thrush Ixoreus naevius a not so distant cousin of the American Robin A gorgeous brilliantly hued albeit silent female beauty of a bird Not quite as striking as her male counterpart but still thrilling nonetheless Varied Thrush Photo from here What brings this bird from the Cascade mountains to suburban Guelph Ontario How did she lose her way She looked OK all things considered and we watched her nibble on berries in 21 degree Celsius weather yesterday morning I ll admit that she was a bit fidgety so perhaps she was a tad anxious what with the distance between Ontario and Oregon So far of the three lifers I ve seen this year two have been West Coast visitors The Spotted Towhee and now the Varied Thrush Should this kind of behavior continue I ll start to believe that I m living on the west coast and perhaps our frigid winter will once again become bearable Perhaps the birds are playing mind games with me lest I get too settled in my ways In any event the Varied Thrush was a thrill As we were leaving a flock of Cedar Waxwings graced the trees behind us as a Dark eyed Junco perfected his trilling vocal patterns Northern Cardinals Red breasted Nuthatches

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/02/ (2015-09-25)
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  • January | 2014 | Birds and Words
    fleeting glimpse the almost seen almost enjoyed almost experienced has become a staple of my birding days I set out expecting to see one thing and somehow it doesn t happen I m thinking of that non Long Eared Owl day back in November where we walked through muddy fields for what felt like hours and ultimately saw nothing But then a half hour later we stood on the shores of Lake Ontario inhaling the extraordinary sight of three Scoter species IN ONE DAY In one place White winged Scoter glorious Surf Scoter and the severe Black Scoter all captured in one gulp without even having to move my binoculars The failed glimpse of the Owl unexpectedly delivered us straight into Scoter paradise And then there are the equally wondrous days when things just work out for no particular reason as if they re scripted Today we headed out to Brooklin note the spelling Ontario in search of a Great Gray Owl and I saw him Actually it may well have been a her given the bird s tremendous size Photo from here Here is the majestic Strix Nebulosa a life bird for me The one I saw had piercingly bright yellow eyes and they gray circular stripes around the eyes looked like they d been purposely coiffed as if the bird has just stepped out of the poshest hair salon I couldn t even have imagined a hairdo so complex and textured one that goes against all the laws of fashion that forbid layering patterns And yet it works The bird sat atop a branch posing for us showing off its regal slightly cacophonous plumage and for the first time I seriously regretted not having a camera or let s face it any photographic talent whatsoever Strix nebulosa was perfect In fact the bird was even better than I d imagined And the whole time I watched it through my sexy Zeiss binoculars through the scope I couldn t get enough of this creature I kept wishing there were a way to capture this first sighting just a little longer to prolong the magic of locking eyes with this Great Gray to encapsulate this moment in time and prevent it from ossifying into something altogether ordinary oh just another Great Gray as I fear I might say some 10 years from now I couldn t have imagined a more perfect day But a tiny part of me feels bereft how I wish I could once again be the person I was this morning on the cusp of seeing my first Great Gray Owl So it goes Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding nostalgia seeing and tagged binoculars Great Gray Owl Scoter Zeiss on January 18 2014 by Julia Zarankin Hello 2014 by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply I m ready for 2014 delightful birders But in the spirit of end of the year posts I ll

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/01/ (2015-09-25)
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  • December | 2013 | Birds and Words
    plan for the day was to drive west to Long Point in order to see a sedge of cranes it turned out that over 400 Sandhill Cranes were migrating through Southwestern Ontario And off we went toward Long Point to see a sedge of cranes It turned out that over 400 Sandhill Cranes Grus canadensis were hanging out near Long Point en route to their winter homes in Florida and Georgia This wasn t my first crane sighting but it was my very first sighting of a colossal flock I watched them prepare their descent into a field lowering their legs and using their wings to form a parachute On the ground the 4ft tall birds slender looked elegantly prehistoric We heard their riotous rattling call that sounds a bit like a slow motion long winded trill Apparently the call of a sandhill crane can be heard 2 5 miles away likely due to the ability the bird s phenomenally long windpipe to amplify sound Imaging 400 of these beauties just hanging out Photo from here I had never seen them through the scope before fantastically austere long necked and long legged birds with an unexpected crimson patch on the crown set against a largely monochrome greyish body with a few reddish patches on the sides After watching the cranes lounge about dreamily no doubt discussing the latest in municipal politics we headed off in search of a lone Yellow headed Blackbird amidst close to 2000 blackbirds We failed to catch a glimpse of a yellow head but did see large numbers of every other possible kind of blackbirds including Red winged Starlings Grackles Brown headed Cowbirds and a few Juncos thrown in the mix And as per usual I thought the juvenile Starlings were rare vagrants I m fooled by their bright polka dots every time But then lunch was calling and on the way one last look at the otherwordly cranes And to think just ten hours earlier I sat there wrestling with origami paper in desperate search of a crane Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Uncategorized and tagged binoculars origami Sandhill cranes on December 2 2013 by Julia Zarankin Search for On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2013/12/ (2015-09-25)
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  • November | 2013 | Birds and Words
    an adjective or better yet a superlative I d use it to describe Wolitzer s novel A remarkable feat of a book Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on November 5 2013 by Julia Zarankin In which I find what I m looking for by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply I ve discovered a birding paradox Most of the time I head out in search of a particular bird fail to find it but encounter a bird in its stead that is even better than the one I d been chasing It s a moment of recognizing the beauty in what I wasn t looking for or as is most often the case with this somewhat birder the beauty in what I didn t even KNOW existed I find what I knew not I was looking for and I fall momentarily in love with the bird It s how I fell in love with the Red winged Blackbird which turned out to be infinitely more exquisite than anything I ever could have possibly imagined It literally exceeded and inadvertently broadened the horizon of my expectations I fell in love with birds partly because I didn t know the were out there I mean I knew birds existed in the abstract the way I also know that fossils exist and computer programmers write code and engineers build bridges But it was an existence that had absolutely no overlap with my day to day and my imagined landscape When I finally did point my binoculars badly with trepidation nervously at the Red winged Blackbird before I could even register it as an Agelaius phoeniceus it wouldn t be an exaggeration to say that I felt like I was seeing birds nature The Universe for the first time The enormity of my spark bird experience and poor readers why I keep rewinding to my initial Red winged Blackbird sighting was just that I suddenly saw the world anew Or rather I saw a new world one that had been within my reach all these years 35 but which I had never bothered to notice What a spectacular failure of the imagination That there was a day three years ago when I didn t know that birds exist when I couldn t have known because I couldn t imagine them Now that former world of mine feels diminished when I see photos of myself three years ago it s not without a hint of sadness because I know that the ME in those photos is a self without any notion of a world with birds A self I can t quite relate to anymore And then this weekend something strange happened I finally saw a male Harlequin Duck I m so used to thinking of the Harlequin as that bird with whom I just can t seem to connect our schedules just aren t in synch Usually when I appear the

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2013/11/ (2015-09-25)
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  • October | 2013 | Birds and Words
    culinary over at the ABA blog right here I m thrilled to be there Enjoy Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on October 15 2013 by Julia Zarankin Hello October by Julia Zarankin 1 Reply Oh Birders even wondrous things must come to an end September was Birthday Month here at Birds and Words and we did our best to celebrate at full capacity It also helped that David Sibley chose the Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo as my Birthday Bird sure beats the Canada Goose from a few years back he must have telepathically registered my sincere horror David Sibley s WILD TURKEY that graced my calendar throughout September and inspired some wild birthday celebrating of my own Image from the 2013 Sibley Bird Calendar Not a sight to be missed The actual Birth Day included some early morning scribing at the Tommy Thompson Bird Research Station where I held a MALE Black throated Blue Warbler in my little hands for the first time ever I would post photographic evidence but my hair was doing awful things that particular morning and I ll spare you the devastating sight Suffice it to say that the Black throated Blue looked a whole lot more charming and sophisticated than I did I also saw my first Brown Creeper up close and marveled at the disproportionate length of the miniscule bird s bill I don t feel so badly about never being able to spot that bird in the field it s miniscule and quick and camouflages perfectly with tree bark Good thing I held it in my hand or I might never even believe they existed It s always been an elusive huh where what are you talking about kind of bird for me After a morning of diligent scribing I had brunch with my parents went for a walk along the boardwalk in the Beaches and finished off the perfect day by watching ENOUGH SAID Nicole Holofcener s masterpiece of a movie in spite of the fact that there are no birds involved The movie made me realize how rarely viewers are treated to brilliant screenplays The movie is hilarious and also strikes a raw nerve especially about how prone we often are to self sabotage whether it be out of fear helplessness denial I especially loved that all of the characters were flawed deeply and yet loveable anyhow So very much like life And there was a nice party a new novel by Jhumpa Lahiri a new Marimekko bag Richard Crossley s guide to Raptors like sparrows I m belatedly realizing that a hawk isn t just a hawk a new teapot and a trip to bird watching camp on Hog Island Maine with Scott Weidensaul among other fabulous knowledgeable birders I ll be writing about the whole experience shortly But for those of you wondering about bird camp it exceeded my expectations And don t get me

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2013/10/ (2015-09-25)
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  • September | 2013 | Birds and Words
    peaches which made for the best cobbler I ve ever tasted yes in the absence of pie making talents Birds and Words bakes peach cobblers with gusto the opportunity to reread Proust and teach Swann s Way to a group of incredibly inquisitive seniors the day I spent engrossed in Meg Wolitzer s Interestings from morning till night until I was done Would that I could read that book again for the first time the tremendous birdiness of Newfoundland the hours spent learning Czerny studies oh we work on self improvement in all categories here at Birds and Words in order to hopefully one day take on a Chopin etude and the many many hours I spent sporting my fabulous NEW Tilley Hat Meteorological frustration notwithstanding this summer was a good one And there is much to look forward for the new year Wishing you all a happy healthy adventure filled sweet new year Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on September 5 2013 by Julia Zarankin Newfoundland Birds by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply For those of you who had been awaiting my Newfoundland birdy news with bated breath I m happy to report that you can learn everything you need to know about Birds and Words adventures in Witless Bay Ecological Reserve over at the fabulous bird blog 10 000 Birds I m thrilled to have a guest post on their site Enjoy And here s a teaser 260 000 pairs of ATLANTIC PUFFINS breed off the coast of Witless Bay And I SAW THEM ALL Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on September 4 2013 by Julia Zarankin Peeps Peeps by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Oh Birders There s no better way to usher in September than to plunge into the simultaneously thrilling and frustrating morass of shorebird identification Off we went to Townsend a curious would be town that never materialized in Haldimand County about an hour s drive from Hamilton In the 1970s as a way to redirect some of the population from Toronto and its suburbs the provincial government of Ontario bought up thousands of acres of farmland near Hamilton with the utopic and earnest hopes of building a New Town for the new millennium which would house the thousands of employees of the rapidly developing industrial region in the area They built wide roads set up government buildings a water tower with the expectation that by 2001 Townsend would boast a population of 100 000 In the end only 1 200 people moved to this New City of the Future and all the plans for large factories for future technologies never materialized Now the town stands abandoned except for a small retirement community of 1500 feels like an eerie ghost town Thankfully most stories have a happy ending Townsend the Dream City that never became a

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2013/09/ (2015-09-25)
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  • August | 2013 | Birds and Words
    morning and this pretty much explains why I keep coming back week after week no matter how early Belted Kingfishers at Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station Photo by Charlotte England Here are the two glorious Belted Kingfishers Megaceryle alcyon we banded on Friday morning Note the classic punk rock hairdos they sport so effortlessly and the metallic sheen glistening on their plumage I marvel at the raw confidence these Kingfishers exude there s no question these birds know just how hot they are Seeing them up close and recording their data was a highlight of my summer But on the subject of helping the banding station attracts some of the most knowledgeable and generous birders I ve ever met They entertain my naive questions and my myriad faux pas with a smile and welcome me back week after week My birding and ID skills have already improved immeasurably and I so lucky to have the opportunity to learn from these devoted birders researchers Who knew that scribing could be such a serious thrill Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on August 19 2013 by Julia Zarankin On Gulls and Newfoundland by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Well traveled Birders I never thought I d say this but I seem to have fallen in love with Gulls The whole love affair arrived completely unannounced as these things are wont to do It happened last week on the east coast of Newfoundland about 40 km south of St John s while we sat on the deck of our B B contemplating life the universe and various other ponderous questions Partial view of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve from our B B deck in Bauline East a vibrant community of approx 15 households Newfoundland What the picture fails to capture is the cacophonous symphony of gull calls a conglomeration of barks moans creaks and raspy wails each with its own rhythmic pattern Not a single person anywhere in our field of vision Just us and the vociferous pleading slightly demonic sounding gulls I was happy to recognize the Herring gulls Larus argentatus immediately by their light grey backs and black wingtips Not a particularly exhilarating bird but I had never heard them yelping with such vigor and in such great numbers And then an enormous looking gull with a shiny black back swooped down toward the water barely skimming its surface to retrieve some fish for lunch and then confidently glided toward its next destination I couldn t take my eyes off the largest of gull species the Great Black backed Gull Larus marinus with its broad wingspan and the way the seabird glided through the sky effortlessly carried along by the wind current operating as if he owned the place Even though there were dozens of Atlantic Puffins dipping in and out of the water flying haphazardly just above its surface flapping their wings like little propellers the

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2013/08/ (2015-09-25)
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