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  • outdoors | Birds and Words
    she s not yet lived Those long barred tail feathers and short broad wings are perfectly shaped for sharp turns and brutal acceleration through a world of woodland obstacles the patterns on her plumage will hide her in perfect camouflaging drifts of light and shade The tiny hair like feathers between her beak and eye crines are for catching blood so that it will dry and flake and fall away and the frowning eyebrows that lend her face its hollow rapacious intensity are bony projections to protect her eyes when crashing into undergrowth after prey Helen MacDonald is a master of prose rhythm but beyond that she s internalized what Viktor Shklovsky so admired in Leo Tolstoy the ability to defamiliarize an object or experience so as to make the reader perceive it as if for the first time Here reading about the goshawk MacDonald has forced me to see the bird anew she s jarred my senses estranged me from all former notions of what I thought of as hawk like and replaced them with something fascinating full of torrential energy and utterly new This was a close up of a hawk unlike any I had ever imagined H is for Hawk has entirely coloured my understanding of birds of prey and even before finishing the book I found myself warming to the idea of spending time at a hawk watch An aside Sometimes when I m out watching birds staring at a cedar waxwing s perfectly nonchalant hairdo I imagine what life might have been like had I pursued the natural sciences rather than literature and had I learned the names for things earlier I imagine how things might look through a scientific lens and how much richer my knowledge might be if I weren t so prone to anthropomorphizing the world around me And then I stop and realize that it couldn t possibly be any other way Words are what lured me toward birds in the first place if it hadn t been for Jonathan Franzen s casual mention of Phoebe Snetsinger and the coincidence that we had all spent time in Missouri and if that synchronicity hadn t surfaced on my radar in the form of his essay My Bird Problem at a particular time when I felt at my most fragile and desperate for access to new ways of seeing I might have never even considered looking at a bird in earnest Truth is I am not a natural scientist nor will I ever be narrative threads lie at the root of all perception for me no matter how much I may dream of it being otherwise I ve seen a Cooper s hawk in the hand at the banding station and much as I marvelled at the bird s physiognomy I couldn t bear to touch it or even entertain the thought of examining it up close A ravenous beast she seemed to me Why is it that a literary device defamiliarization in the right hands of course has the power to slowly acclimate me to hawks to teach me to appreciate them and see them anew At Beamer s we saw three red shoulders a sharpie and at least two dozen turkey vultures The sharpie terrified me he shot out of the woods just slightly above my head pierced the air with such precision I feared he might take out my nose thankfully he was headed for something to the left of my head and had absolutely no interest in my olfactory organ We watched the red shouldered hawks flying in along the escarpment from a viewing platform and I got great looks at their reddish orange breast and the brilliant black and white bands on its tail and from below the wings alight like a checker board Red shouldered hawk Buteo lineatus Not the hawk I saw but a decent approximation Photo from here An unexpectedly freezing spring day brilliant sun and not a cloud in sight And the hawks soared above me As if for the first time Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life nostalgia seeing and tagged binoculars outdoors persistence on March 31 2015 by Julia Zarankin Small Confession by Julia Zarankin 2 Replies Dearest birders I have a small confession to make We ve had a long and hard winter and I ve loved every minute of it particularly the birding The other day a friend innocently asked whether winter birding was better than spring birding Her question didn t come from sheer ignorance but rather in response to my overblown outsized enthusiasm for birding in freezing conditions I started laughing because of course here in southern Ontario nothing compares to the delights of spring birding neither in terms of quantity or quality Spring is where things are at warblers thrushes sparrows raptors an embarrassment of riches really Don t get me wrong Birding has skewed my internal calendar I now live for the month of May But it s with a tinge of anxiety that I approach this high season because I know how short lived it is and I also know how daunting things get when the sky alights with birds when I m faced with so many songs at once that all I start to hear is warbling cacophony I ll be honest here spring birding intimidates me Every year it reminds me that I haven t quite done enough homework when I fail to ID songs of even the most common of warblers Among many other things Spring is all about re learning humility about accepting where I m at and working from that place about not giving up about re learning patience about process Although I look forward to May madness much of spring birding hovers around frustration that s the downside of sensory overload And here s where winter birding enters the equation For me winter birding revolves around pure pleasure The stakes are lower I m thrilled if I see anything and the number of species is reduced to something more or less manageable I m a little ashamed of my disproportionate love of winter birding because I think my adoration might be a byproduct of my ego I don t feel as much like a bumbling beginner in the winter I m at the point where I can easily identify over a dozen waterfowl species and where I can even go out by myself and actually find birds I almost feel like a bona fide birder I suppose rather than feel ashamed about it I ll continue to embrace it and relish every Snowy owl sighting that s left of 2015 Here by the way is my panegyric to Winter birding published on Ontario Nature s blog And now just might be the time to start listening to those warbler song cd s Maybe I am ready for spring after all Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life and tagged ducks humility outdoors Snowy owl warblers on March 12 2015 by Julia Zarankin Introducing Charlotte Wasylik aka Prairie Birder by Julia Zarankin 3 Replies Beloved Birders The people who bird fascinate me I ve written about this here and I continue to explore the people angle of birding on this blog I m interested in the compulsion to bird what drives birders out into the field what inspires them what they re reading and how birding intersects with the rest of their lives To that end I ve decided to start an interview feature here on Birds and Words If you re a birder at any stage of your birding career and would like to be interviewed let me know To inaugurate the series I interviewed Canadian young birder extraordinaire Charlotte Wasylik You may know her as the author of the fabulous blog Prairie Birder or you may have even heard her recently on the broadcast of Ray Brown s Talkin Birds radio show I ve been following Charlotte s blog for the past three years and am consistently impressed by her knowledge trust me it s vast her community involvement and commitment to conservation issues I also love that Charlotte is sharing her enthusiasm for all things avian and I admire her all round creativity She was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions and has great advice for beginning birders Charlotte Wasylik aka Prairie Birder from Vermillion Alberta How did you start birding I ve always liked birds and nature and I knew some of the common species around our part of Alberta including Western Meadowlarks Black capped Chickadees and Green winged Teals But until about six years ago I didn t pay that much attention to them I became hooked when lots of American Goldfinches visited our yard in the spring 2009 after my mother decided to put some nyjer feeders around the garden More and more goldfinches visited our yard and they were such fun to watch What was your spark bird Definitely those American Goldfinches they are such cheery little birds with a beautiful song but feisty when sharing a feeder with others Did you have a birding a ha moment when you knew you were hooked What when was it I can t remember exactly when I became hooked on birding but I think seeing the goldfinches at our feeders had that a ha feeling to it What do you love most about birding Birds are everywhere so if you travel to a different city or different country you ll see birds Birds are beautiful fascinating and often challenging There have been times when birds were so co operative and then other times when I d catch just glimpses of a bird I love the search for difficult to find species as well as the regular reliable species like Black capped Chickadees and Tree Swallows And then there s the challenge of trying to capture them in a photograph or a field sketch It s something I keep working on What have some of your birding highlights been Some highlights have been helping to tag Turkey Vultures banding a Ruby throated Hummingbird and getting the chance to see Common Cranes Black throated Blue Warblers Cinnamon Teals and Piping Plovers And because I m a lister getting to 100 species on my life list which is now at 333 species In August 2012 I was selected to be part of the Young Ornithologists Workshop at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario so I got to spend a week banding birds making a study skin and meeting other young birders from across Canada Until that time I hadn t met any birders my age In August 2013 I went back to Long Point for a four week Young Ornithologists Internship helping with migration monitoring and working on a personal research project a Monarch Butterfly census It was a wonderful opportunity to spend so much time in such a beautiful part of the country to devote so much time to a passion and to learn more about how Bird Studies Canada which oversees the programs works This past November I was invited to Washington DC to be a part of a special 500th show broadcast of Ray Brown s Talkin Birds a radio show I started listening to in 2010 I had a wonderful time with the Talkin Birds crew and meeting everyone in person for the first time You can listen to the show here And I just got back from four weeks in Europe with my family Although it wash t primarily a birding trip I did get to do lots of birding in France and Germany and saw more than 70 lifers I m impressed at how you ve been able to cultivate a birding community what have you learned about birders All the birders I ve met online and in person have been so welcoming and generous with their time and knowledge they re always happy to see a young or teenage birder show an interest in birds and nature When I started the Alberta Birds Facebook group in 2012 I never imagined that in fewer than three years the group would have over 2 500 members from across Alberta Canada and even other parts of the world Members post their birding questions photos provincial bird news and anything bird related I m so glad so many people enjoy the group How does birding intersect with the rest of your life Birding is just a part of my life I m happiest going out for a bird walk around our farm with my scope binoculars and camera Birding has also been helpful to me during the difficult times my family has had to face in the past few years both of my maternal grandparents died in 2010 my paternal grandfather had a serious stroke last year and my father had cancer I ve learned that going birding often also helps to relieve stress because whether I go around our farm or the provincial park nearby it means very long walks And because we home school I m able to incorporate extra biology and bird reading into my studies which is great I m working through the Cornell Home Study course of bird biology What s next for Charlotte bird wise and otherwise I m in Grade 12 and not sure what I d like to do yet Even if my career later in life doesn t involve birds or birding I ll still enjoy birding as a personal passion Who are some of the birders ornithologists conservationists who have inspired you Sharon Stiteler is one birder I look up to She s funny and makes birding cool which is something I hope I ll be able to do I ve also been inspired by Kenn Kaufman and his book Kingbird Highway about his decision in 1973 to drop out of high school at 16 and hitchhike across the United States for a Big Year It s a wonderful book and a fascinating read and I hope to have such a grand adventure before too long What advice would you give a birder who is starting out Put up some bird feeders in your yard I think this is one of the best and easiest ways to start learning about the different kinds of birds in your area and observing their behaviour Get to know experienced birders in your area since they are some of the best resources for new birders and they re always encouraging It s also fun to go birding with others and you might learn about new hot spots and new species in the area Keep a notebook to write down your observations or make quick sketches You don t have to write a lot at first just list the species you see and keep notes about the details of your outings You can then look back and remember what species you saw and when Whether you re waiting for the first birds to visit your feeders or seeing that nemesis bird on your list be patient It might take a while to see a certain species but when you do it will be worth the wait Thank you Charlotte Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Interview Life seeing and tagged American Goldfinch binoculars outdoors persistence on February 24 2015 by Julia Zarankin An Ookpik in an Ookpik by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Dearest Birders You may have missed the big news around here but Birds and Words got a new winter coat Believe it or not this is actually tremendously birdy information just bear with me While out on one of my many outings to find the Painted Bunting I ran into a woman wearing a gorgeous yet sporty red knee length coat that I instantly began to covet It turned out the brand was a Montreal based company called OOKPIK And once I learned that Ookpik is the Inuktitut word for Snowy Owl I knew there was no turning back Oh yes you read that correctly I based my winter coat decision solely on avian criteria As luck would have it the coat also turned out to be both warm and semi stylish which helps but it s quite possible I might have bought anything from a company called Ookpik And on Saturday it finally happened I saw an Ookpik in an Ookpik Truth be told I saw three Snowy Owls In fact it ended up only being a five species day Snowies were preceded by a million Red Tailed Hawks our most common Buteo which I finally learned to ID by the black belly band a few crows not anywhere near a murder and a delightful Northern Shrike affectionately known as the butcher bird given its predilection for impaling its prey on thorns but even so I couldn t have been happier The majestic miraculous magnificent wonder bird Photo from here I m not sure what it is about Snowies It might be their regal stature their fierce yellow eyes and this time I even noticed a hint of black bangs on the juvenile specimen Magical feels like an understatement Or maybe it s the allure of the Arctic yet another indicator that I m a child of Northern climes Whatever it is I m entirely smitten My fearless leader found our first snowy sitting atop a barn displaying its dramatic head rotations I could have sworn the snowy winked at me but I was in a bit of a trance so my narrative may not be 100 reliable I found the second snowy in a most improbable location he was resting atop a pine tree treating the upper branches as if it

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/tag/outdoors/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Zeiss | Birds and Words
    am inadvertently becoming a child of this place of this altogether plain mountain less ocean less sublime less and yet utterly magical place And it s very likely the birds fault Yesterday minus 20 give or take degrees Celsius winds beating our faces we set out In spite of the weather or perhaps because of the weather Either way it s winter and I ve come to love the freezing temperatures A welcome jolt to the system this cold We visited with the local Peregrine falcon who nests on the lift bridge between Hamilton and Burlington we communed with the hundreds of Long tail ducks I finally grasped the difference between a Canvasback duck and a Redhead by seeing them side by side There were also coots trumpeter swans bufflehead greater and lesser scaup common mergansers all usual suspects for January And just when the day started to feel a little too uneventful we stopped by the Bronte Harbor and saw our first Snowy owl of the year I gave out a little yelp and said what I say every single weekend I m out in the field except that awful day last fall when we stared at 400 house sparrows for hours in a freezing car desperately in search of the eurasian tree sparrow and came home with NOTHING oh my goodness people this is the best day ever And that s how birding works It really does transform a day and a place into the best thing ever Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars Snowy owl Zeiss on January 11 2015 by Julia Zarankin Healing Properties of November by Julia Zarankin 2 Replies It s official dearest Birders The only way to get through November is to embrace its shortened days dearth of light early winter onset fully put on those rain pants over pants over long underwear zip up that parka over sweater over cardigan over thermal shirt over t shirt and get thee to the nearest park binoculars in hand The effects are properly regenerative This past Saturday we headed out to Hamilton in search of the likely confused or disoriented Wilson s Phalarope why he is still in Ontario in mid November is either a grave error or a colossal mystery I ve seen a Red phalarope before but the Wilson s turned out to be a lifer in spite of the less than hospitable weather The lake was frozen over save a patch of water and that s exactly where we found him swimming frenetically in what resembled a jig like posture as if he couldn t tell whether to dance or swim and attempted a mix of the two next to a Pectoral Sandpiper He put on a ten minute show for us before disappearing behind a conglomeration of cattails It s rare that a target bird appears as if on cue and I found the experience almost disorienting Sometimes it feels more rewarding to work for the sighting even if one misses it in the end But I embraced the opportunity to see a Wilson s phalarope I never tire of these polyandric birds with reverse sexual dimorphism Sounds racy and progressive even by bird standards We saw Cedar waxwings American robins Chickadees Red bellied woodpeckers Downies Blue jays Golden crowned Kinglets American goldfinches and then when I thought my ID skills could get no more impressive I saw something swoop down into an open field and called out SNOW BUNTING For some reason I had been craving a snow bunting all morning in my fierce desire to embrace winter Well that sure put me in my place Birding has a way of doing that to you just when you get overly confident the universe corrects itself and humbles you In the end the bird turned out to be an American kestrel but lest I feel completely defeated I was congratulated on my sighting and ability to detect the bird s pointy white wings The first real winter day would have been incomplete without an owl sighting and we happened upon a magnificent Eastern Screech owl grey morph taking in the midwinter sun Here he is terrifically peaceful Note the fetching winter sunbathing pose photo by Lyle J It turned out to be a spectacular day But really how could it not Winter sun binoculars birds beware November I know how to thwart your depressive ways And in case you missed my piece about competing in my first Birdathon here it is sans paywall in Maisonneuve Magazine If you re looking for a fantastic birdy read I would definitely urge you to pick up Tim Birkhead s Bird Sense Here s my exuberant review of the phenomenal book on the ABA website Onwards with November Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars hubris humility kestrel outdoors owl Zeiss on November 18 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

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/tag/zeiss/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Again, for a day | Birds and Words
    the woods freezing slightly walking single file positioning one foot cautiously inside the footstep in front of us and then the next so as not to collapse into snow He must have chuckled as we searched for him so earnestly in silence so convinced we were that we d find him It was not to be But to reward us for our diligence we got a Grey Jay unexpectedly since most of them are nesting this time of year And a beaver in lieu of a moose also brightened up the day I ve never seen Common redpolls with as brilliant a sliver of red almost as if they had donned red Cardinals baseball caps Illuminated by the sun they looked radiant We also got a merlin lots of Turkey vultures Hairy and Downy woodpeckers a somewhat athletic red breasted nuthatch and a glistening iridescent common grackle The morning began with spring turned rapidly to winter for the better part of a day I was underdressed wore the wrong boots forgot my long underwear before reverting back to vernal climes Strange disorienting climactic shifts but it felt invigorating to re experience winter for a day In all honesty now that I ve moved on to anticipating warblers I didn t realized how much I missed winter Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars fashion persistence warblers Zeiss on April 11 2015 by Julia Zarankin Post navigation Pondering the Nature of Things Happiness Click on a tab to select how you d like to leave your comment Birds and Words Twitter Facebook Google Login Login Login Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published Required fields are marked Name Email Website Comment You may use these HTML tags and attributes a href title abbr title acronym title b blockquote cite cite code del datetime em i q cite s strike strong Notify me of follow up comments by email Notify me of new posts by email 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 Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Miracle

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2015/04/11/again-for-a-day/ (2015-09-25)
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  • fashion | Birds and Words
    missed winter Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars fashion persistence warblers Zeiss on April 11 2015 by Julia Zarankin An Ookpik in an Ookpik by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Dearest Birders You may have missed the big news around here but Birds and Words got a new winter coat Believe it or not this is actually tremendously birdy information just bear with me While out on one of my many outings to find the Painted Bunting I ran into a woman wearing a gorgeous yet sporty red knee length coat that I instantly began to covet It turned out the brand was a Montreal based company called OOKPIK And once I learned that Ookpik is the Inuktitut word for Snowy Owl I knew there was no turning back Oh yes you read that correctly I based my winter coat decision solely on avian criteria As luck would have it the coat also turned out to be both warm and semi stylish which helps but it s quite possible I might have bought anything from a company called Ookpik And on Saturday it finally happened I saw an Ookpik in an Ookpik Truth be told I saw three Snowy Owls In fact it ended up only being a five species day Snowies were preceded by a million Red Tailed Hawks our most common Buteo which I finally learned to ID by the black belly band a few crows not anywhere near a murder and a delightful Northern Shrike affectionately known as the butcher bird given its predilection for impaling its prey on thorns but even so I couldn t have been happier The majestic miraculous magnificent wonder bird Photo from here I m not sure what it is about Snowies It might be their regal stature their fierce yellow eyes and this time I even noticed a hint of black bangs on the juvenile specimen Magical feels like an understatement Or maybe it s the allure of the Arctic yet another indicator that I m a child of Northern climes Whatever it is I m entirely smitten My fearless leader found our first snowy sitting atop a barn displaying its dramatic head rotations I could have sworn the snowy winked at me but I was in a bit of a trance so my narrative may not be 100 reliable I found the second snowy in a most improbable location he was resting atop a pine tree treating the upper branches as if it were an ottoman The top of the pine tree cradled the bulky owl and I stared and yelped etc in disbelief I could have watched that bird for hours The third and final Snowy was hanging out on an irrigation structure in the middle of the fields likely on the lookout for rodents of all and every persuasion It was a glorious day My snow tires got a workout

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/tag/fashion/ (2015-09-25)
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  • persistence | Birds and Words
    even considered looking at a bird in earnest Truth is I am not a natural scientist nor will I ever be narrative threads lie at the root of all perception for me no matter how much I may dream of it being otherwise I ve seen a Cooper s hawk in the hand at the banding station and much as I marvelled at the bird s physiognomy I couldn t bear to touch it or even entertain the thought of examining it up close A ravenous beast she seemed to me Why is it that a literary device defamiliarization in the right hands of course has the power to slowly acclimate me to hawks to teach me to appreciate them and see them anew At Beamer s we saw three red shoulders a sharpie and at least two dozen turkey vultures The sharpie terrified me he shot out of the woods just slightly above my head pierced the air with such precision I feared he might take out my nose thankfully he was headed for something to the left of my head and had absolutely no interest in my olfactory organ We watched the red shouldered hawks flying in along the escarpment from a viewing platform and I got great looks at their reddish orange breast and the brilliant black and white bands on its tail and from below the wings alight like a checker board Red shouldered hawk Buteo lineatus Not the hawk I saw but a decent approximation Photo from here An unexpectedly freezing spring day brilliant sun and not a cloud in sight And the hawks soared above me As if for the first time Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life nostalgia seeing and tagged binoculars outdoors persistence on March 31 2015 by Julia Zarankin Introducing Charlotte Wasylik aka Prairie Birder by Julia Zarankin 3 Replies Beloved Birders The people who bird fascinate me I ve written about this here and I continue to explore the people angle of birding on this blog I m interested in the compulsion to bird what drives birders out into the field what inspires them what they re reading and how birding intersects with the rest of their lives To that end I ve decided to start an interview feature here on Birds and Words If you re a birder at any stage of your birding career and would like to be interviewed let me know To inaugurate the series I interviewed Canadian young birder extraordinaire Charlotte Wasylik You may know her as the author of the fabulous blog Prairie Birder or you may have even heard her recently on the broadcast of Ray Brown s Talkin Birds radio show I ve been following Charlotte s blog for the past three years and am consistently impressed by her knowledge trust me it s vast her community involvement and commitment to conservation issues I also love that Charlotte is sharing her enthusiasm for all things avian and I admire her all round creativity She was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions and has great advice for beginning birders Charlotte Wasylik aka Prairie Birder from Vermillion Alberta How did you start birding I ve always liked birds and nature and I knew some of the common species around our part of Alberta including Western Meadowlarks Black capped Chickadees and Green winged Teals But until about six years ago I didn t pay that much attention to them I became hooked when lots of American Goldfinches visited our yard in the spring 2009 after my mother decided to put some nyjer feeders around the garden More and more goldfinches visited our yard and they were such fun to watch What was your spark bird Definitely those American Goldfinches they are such cheery little birds with a beautiful song but feisty when sharing a feeder with others Did you have a birding a ha moment when you knew you were hooked What when was it I can t remember exactly when I became hooked on birding but I think seeing the goldfinches at our feeders had that a ha feeling to it What do you love most about birding Birds are everywhere so if you travel to a different city or different country you ll see birds Birds are beautiful fascinating and often challenging There have been times when birds were so co operative and then other times when I d catch just glimpses of a bird I love the search for difficult to find species as well as the regular reliable species like Black capped Chickadees and Tree Swallows And then there s the challenge of trying to capture them in a photograph or a field sketch It s something I keep working on What have some of your birding highlights been Some highlights have been helping to tag Turkey Vultures banding a Ruby throated Hummingbird and getting the chance to see Common Cranes Black throated Blue Warblers Cinnamon Teals and Piping Plovers And because I m a lister getting to 100 species on my life list which is now at 333 species In August 2012 I was selected to be part of the Young Ornithologists Workshop at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario so I got to spend a week banding birds making a study skin and meeting other young birders from across Canada Until that time I hadn t met any birders my age In August 2013 I went back to Long Point for a four week Young Ornithologists Internship helping with migration monitoring and working on a personal research project a Monarch Butterfly census It was a wonderful opportunity to spend so much time in such a beautiful part of the country to devote so much time to a passion and to learn more about how Bird Studies Canada which oversees the programs works This past November I was invited to Washington DC to be a part of a special 500th show broadcast of Ray Brown s Talkin Birds a radio show I started listening to in 2010 I had a wonderful time with the Talkin Birds crew and meeting everyone in person for the first time You can listen to the show here And I just got back from four weeks in Europe with my family Although it wash t primarily a birding trip I did get to do lots of birding in France and Germany and saw more than 70 lifers I m impressed at how you ve been able to cultivate a birding community what have you learned about birders All the birders I ve met online and in person have been so welcoming and generous with their time and knowledge they re always happy to see a young or teenage birder show an interest in birds and nature When I started the Alberta Birds Facebook group in 2012 I never imagined that in fewer than three years the group would have over 2 500 members from across Alberta Canada and even other parts of the world Members post their birding questions photos provincial bird news and anything bird related I m so glad so many people enjoy the group How does birding intersect with the rest of your life Birding is just a part of my life I m happiest going out for a bird walk around our farm with my scope binoculars and camera Birding has also been helpful to me during the difficult times my family has had to face in the past few years both of my maternal grandparents died in 2010 my paternal grandfather had a serious stroke last year and my father had cancer I ve learned that going birding often also helps to relieve stress because whether I go around our farm or the provincial park nearby it means very long walks And because we home school I m able to incorporate extra biology and bird reading into my studies which is great I m working through the Cornell Home Study course of bird biology What s next for Charlotte bird wise and otherwise I m in Grade 12 and not sure what I d like to do yet Even if my career later in life doesn t involve birds or birding I ll still enjoy birding as a personal passion Who are some of the birders ornithologists conservationists who have inspired you Sharon Stiteler is one birder I look up to She s funny and makes birding cool which is something I hope I ll be able to do I ve also been inspired by Kenn Kaufman and his book Kingbird Highway about his decision in 1973 to drop out of high school at 16 and hitchhike across the United States for a Big Year It s a wonderful book and a fascinating read and I hope to have such a grand adventure before too long What advice would you give a birder who is starting out Put up some bird feeders in your yard I think this is one of the best and easiest ways to start learning about the different kinds of birds in your area and observing their behaviour Get to know experienced birders in your area since they are some of the best resources for new birders and they re always encouraging It s also fun to go birding with others and you might learn about new hot spots and new species in the area Keep a notebook to write down your observations or make quick sketches You don t have to write a lot at first just list the species you see and keep notes about the details of your outings You can then look back and remember what species you saw and when Whether you re waiting for the first birds to visit your feeders or seeing that nemesis bird on your list be patient It might take a while to see a certain species but when you do it will be worth the wait Thank you Charlotte Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Interview Life seeing and tagged American Goldfinch binoculars outdoors persistence on February 24 2015 by Julia Zarankin My First Twitch by Julia Zarankin 1 Reply Beloved birders I had a feeling I would one day wake up and decide to chase after a bird but I had no idea the day would be today There s been a Painted Bunting Passerina ciris in Oakville Ontario for the past 6 weeks or so and I ve been to see it twice and missed it both times after standing in freezing climes for over an hour I was pretty calm about the whole thing and just assumed that I d see the Painted Bunting one day in its natural habitat either in Florida or Texas or somewhere in between But then this morning I woke up the sun was shining for those of you not in Southwestern Ontario sun shining are two words that have not graced us that often this winter fall it s been remarkably grey out here I picked up my binoculars and decided to drive out to Oakville on a whim I had a feeling today might be the day I travelled by way of Kipling Spit where I walked for an hour and attempted to find the Harlequin Duck in vain but watched a Red breasted merganser for about twenty minutes marvelling at the duck s phenomenal hair and utterly amazed that this duck which only a few years ago had seemed so mysterious to me was now entirely familiar What continues to surprise me the ease with which our eyes and brains grow accustomed and the constant effort it takes to remind ourselves that the familiar is worthy of a second look and that it remains spectacular To marvel at the things we see daily that might be the single most important lesson birding continues to teach me The exotic so often lies right there buried deep in the familiar After a bracing 90 minute walk it s minus 8 degrees Celsius I hopped in the car and drove out to Oakville I was in no hurry to get there partly because I feared the two scenarios that had already happened I had stood in the freezing cold waiting for the bunting hoping staring and seeing absolutely nothing apart from a dozen ravenous chickadees I got to the Painted Bunting s stomping ground only to learn from a group of photographers that the bird had been seen ten minutes prior By this point it was getting so cold that I nearly hopped back in my car and abandoned the quest assuming it just wasn t meant to be But I waited around awestruck by a faraway scarlet Northern Cardinal that seemed to light up the bare trees around him And then I caught up with a White breasted nuthatch and followed him with my binoculars for a few minutes At that point there was commotion because of a coyote down below in the mini ravine and a few photographers departed in search of said coyote And before I knew it forty minutes had gone by a few more people had assembled one birder said this was his 14th attempt to find the bunting and suddenly out of nowhere the Painted Bunting appeared in the brambles hopped about from branch to branch and flew down to the ground where he fed happily on seeds looking entirely otherworldly Painted Bunting in Oakville Photo by Philip Waggett The bird was more magnificent than I had even imagined Blue head sparkly orange breast lime green back it s the kind of bird I might have drawn as a child only to be told by my parents that the bird wasn t entirely realistic How utterly magical this avian world is And how perfect this insistent first impulse of mine to twitch Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars ducks persistence on January 25 2015 by Julia Zarankin Happy New Year by Julia Zarankin 2 Replies Dearest Birders We ve been ambushed by the flu for the last couple of weeks here at Birds and Words which had me thinking all sorts of grim thoughts accompanied by a slight fever and an aching body And under the influence of this mind numbing flu that somehow engulfed everything I began to forget how much of this year really was truly wonderful in fact just about everything save the last two weeks So a recap 2014 turned into my birdiest year ever I spent nearly every Saturday out in the field with my amazing patient wise birding group well every Saturday until September hit whereupon a tidal wave of lecture prep had me hiding out in my home office for days at a time by November sanity demanded that I spend Saturdays outside again and never one to argue with Sanity I obeyed It worked life improved See previous posts about my difficulties with November I extracted my first bird from a mist net at the banding station nearly died of fright but did it anyhow The bird in question was a Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum one of my all time favourites and he was so confused and annoyed by said extraction that he proceeded to barf up berries all over my hand And in spite of that I found the experience nothing short of miraculous I completed my first Birdathon and wrote about it for Maisonneuve one of my favourite Canadian publications And I recently found out that Reader s Digest bought the article so come March or April every single doctor s office in Canada may well have patients itching to complete a birdathon of their own Nothing wrong with wishful thinking 18 hours 229 species including an extraordinary lifer a Yellow headed Blackbird I received valuable life lessons from an Acorn Woodpecker in Sedona when I was so frustrated by my inability to find a Red faced warbler that I nearly threw my binoculars into the recycling bin A few seconds before quitting birding entirely and tossing my bins the Acorn woodpecker busily tapped out a rhythm in front of me over and over again He was so persistent I couldn t ignore him and the more I looked the more mesmerized I became and to make a long story short it turned out it wasn t yet time for me to quit birding after all I assume it never will be I saw my first Great Grey Owl my first electric blue Mountain Bluebird watched my husband feed Sandhill cranes at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver marvelled at the Black terns flying low over Tiny Marsh near Barrie fell in love with Canvasback ducks found the dreamiest Red headed woodpecker and narrowly missed my first Pileated Woodpecker I also made countess mistakes called out misidentifications lamented the almost seen birds the just flew birds the was here yesterday birds and the came just after you left birds There was also a glorious CBC Christmas Bird Count one fall morning a week spent at the banding station a depressing morning of staring at hundreds of House sparrows trying to detect the lone Eurasian tree sparrow and failing miserably and a remarkable Varied thrush and a miraculous Spotted towhee who d lost his way and somehow found himself in Southern Ontario instead of California And there were countless other sightings And deep gratitude for the birds who never fail to teach me something new just by being for the ability and sustained desire to see them for the urban parks and paths and trails that sustain me and finally for the people I bird with they enrich my life by being my

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  • warblers | Birds and Words
    accepting where I m at and working from that place about not giving up about re learning patience about process Although I look forward to May madness much of spring birding hovers around frustration that s the downside of sensory overload And here s where winter birding enters the equation For me winter birding revolves around pure pleasure The stakes are lower I m thrilled if I see anything and the number of species is reduced to something more or less manageable I m a little ashamed of my disproportionate love of winter birding because I think my adoration might be a byproduct of my ego I don t feel as much like a bumbling beginner in the winter I m at the point where I can easily identify over a dozen waterfowl species and where I can even go out by myself and actually find birds I almost feel like a bona fide birder I suppose rather than feel ashamed about it I ll continue to embrace it and relish every Snowy owl sighting that s left of 2015 Here by the way is my panegyric to Winter birding published on Ontario Nature s blog And now just might be the time to start listening to those warbler song cd s Maybe I am ready for spring after all Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life and tagged ducks humility outdoors Snowy owl warblers on March 12 2015 by Julia Zarankin Miraculous November by Julia Zarankin 1 Reply Dearest Birders After today I promise you will never read another November gets me down post Ever It turns out that November has been the greatest birdiest best kept secret of 2014 Sure it s no match for May madness or even late September sensory overload warblers raptors ducks in eclipse plumage who on earth are you but it has it s had serious non negligible thrills This morning we headed out to Sedgewick Forest in Oakville in spite of the grey damp bitterly cold seeming disaster of a day I don t even think the sun bothered to make an appearance today Why bother it probably thought if clouds are going to eclipse me anyhow Lack of sun notwithstanding we made our way through the snowy microscopic forest until we reached the water treatment plant where a Northern Parula Setophaga americana and several Yellow rumped Myrtle warblers put on a little dance number for us Yes you read that correctly A PARULA warbler in late November The warblers must have been picking up stray insects in the water treatment plant but I really hope they fly south soon because their survival is likely in serious danger Northern Parula Photo from here I m of two minds about seeing warblers this late into the year Of course I m thrilled to hold on to the vestiges of songbird migration season the illusion that we aren t really plunging

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  • Nevada: Part 1 | Basin and Range Watch
    Decades later that still holds true Each one is different some are shear limestone razor edge ridges lacking trees others are lush with aspen groves icy streams and mountain meadows rife with wildflowers all summer long A few remind me of miniature Sierra Nevadas complete with granitic cliffs U shaped glacial valleys and alpine lakes Some are covered in bluebunch wheatgrass and bristlecone pine with summer monsoon thundershowers bathing them The rule of the road when driving into the outback on the dirt track network is always carry two spare tires gallons of water and forget about relying on cell coverage I have never been in a state where so many basins and wide valleys are connected to the outside world with the merest of a dirt road And sometimes impassable with mud after a snowy melt off There have been times when I was relieved to finally reach the comfort of the Loneliest Highway Interstate 50 that cuts across central Nevada I ll share more secrets of Nevada for desert lovers in coming posts Laura Cunningham Share this Email This entry was posted in Uncategorized on June 7 2013 by Basin and Range Watch Post navigation The view from Wildrose Peak Nevada Part 2 Leave a Reply Cancel reply Search for Recent Posts Nevada Part 2 Nevada Part 1 The view from Wildrose Peak Swainson s hawks How It All Started Recent Comments marte on Nevada Part 2 Basin and Range Watch on Nevada Part 2 GarryRogers on Nevada Part 2 Ron Parry on About Us Parke Ewing on How It All Started On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16

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  • Swainson’s | Basin and Range Watch
    desert Menu Skip to content Home About Us Visit our Main Site Coyot es Network Swainson s Published June 2 2013 at 700 826 in Swainson s hawks Dark phase Swainson s hawk in Fish Lake Valley Nevada Leave a

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