Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Wise Old Owl Helps Me to Remember

Tonight (at exactly 11:30 PM) I heard a great horned owl while trying to get in the door that was nearly frozen shut. I have not heard a GHO in the wild in the past, only in captivity, two years ago when I was helping out at a wildlife rehab center (there was a huge, lovely, blind GHO who would call whenever you put a mouse nearby). So hearing the first few notes of the call caused me to stop dead in my tracks, standing with the door wide open, lock in key, completely shocked. I stood looking around at how bright everything is from the full moon, looking at the silhouettes of the trees, and waited...it seemed almost a full minute before it called again, a low, slightly raspy, slow "Hooooo HOOOOO...hoooo...hoooooo." I listened to it one more time before realizing my finger was becoming extremely painful - it seems I may have gotten a bit of frostbite on it from pumping gas in the arctic cold. Faaaannnntastic.

And then it dawned on me how easily I could ID such a species with hardly ever seeing or hearing it...while standing there listening to that call, I pictured in my mind the blind GHO from the center...it's my photographic memory, combined with audio! I'm naturally very visual and can remember things I see for long after I forget their names. I'm also quite aural, and remember sounds long after (I'm also very musical). My memory is a bit weaker on the sounds side, so if I hear the sounds alone when first learning them I might have some trouble learning what it belongs to. But once I see the bird opening it's bill and making noise, I'm bound to remember what that sound belongs to by trying to imagine it later on when I can only hear it. THAT is my trick! And it happens so swiftly and so naturally that it never dawned on me before.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Sky and the Earth

Those are the objects the bluebird is said to represent by it's colors. The blue I saw flashing before my car's windscreen two days ago was something more deep blue, resembling the deeper ocean or royalty. I could not decide, but I was so surprised to see that color in the dead of winter, even though I do know the bluebirds stick around. Females are quite a bit 'duller' in color, if you can even call them dull at all, so this was likely a handsome male making it's way across the Ridge Road/Haviland Road intersection in Queensbury. Haviland seems to be a popular spot for this species, the early spring sighting I had of a bluebird last year was down Haviland, by Adirondack Community College.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sporadic Birds

I have not done any solid birding since last post, but I always keep my eyes open. This winter has been a strange one in the Northeast - lack of plenty of snowfall, bitterly cold temperatures, and apparently no major irruptions of any species. I have not even seen a snowy owl this year (I usually see them at some point along Tripoli Road in Washington County). And the feeders are eerily quiet compared to last year with the massive exodus of pine siskin. It makes winter feel a little bit lonely.

I have seen all over Warren County some fairly solitary crows (though in fairly moderate numbers) waddling on top of the short snowbanks, looking for whatever food they can find. They also love roadsides as plows shove any food items to the side; I have seen plenty of crows with what look to be bits of baked goods.

Drives along Quaker Road have spots of rock doves (pigeons) resting plumply on the wires over the stoplights. Not many people like those birds, but I get a chuckle from seeing how round and large they are, sitting on a tiny line in the sky.

I also haven't seen many goldfinches this year, but spotted a bright yellow male flying around. Despite that they stick around in winter, I still think of them as a summer bird.

A mockingbird flew closely to my windshield while I was going 55 mph this week. I am not sure how it maneuvered in such a way to be completely missed by inches, but I got a nice view of the spread black and white undertail.

A single pileated woodpecker called from the woods by Aviation Road while I was at the Aviation Mall earlier this week, parked near Target. It called louder and louder the closer a solitary man walked to the thin corridor of trees by Friendly's.

I've been quite happy to watch the sun set slightly later and later in the afternoon. It seems like spring is so far off, but maybe I will get an early sighting of a bluebird in the next month or two, coming out of the deeper woods, it's winter home in the Northeast.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Winter of My Discontent

Winter is really beating me down. I've had no energy for weeks, and thus you guys don't see any birding from me happening. I forced myself to get out on this sunny day, being tricked into thinking there might be an inkling of warmth (see if I ever believe a weatherman again). It was as bitterly cold as has been for weeks, but I kept going! It also helped to run across Sue P. It fascinates me how I could have a week of crappiness but I run into one person who cheers me right up - plus it helps to have someone to chat about fun nature things with. It is not often that I find someone who is knowledgeable and excited to talk about things like birds and trees. I periodically complain about my peers, because most of them are more concerned with looking cool, getting wasted on a weekly if not daily basis, and smoking tons of weed, and having no true interests, so someone like Sue (or Jackie) is pure gold!

The bald eagle was not out today, but I noticed they tend to be bad weather bird sightings. Today is sunny, clear, and bitter. Actually, today wasn't all that great for birding overall, I'm not quite sure where the birds go when it's nice in winter. Odd that they aren't hanging out on the branches in the sun! I also noticed the river was almost all ice, compared to my last Betar Byway venture, so there was no chance of seeing mergansers this time.

I took notice right off that the pool at one of the water works buildings at the Betar Byway is now covered with banging pie tins, obviously to keep birds away from the pool. I thought that odd, as I have never seen a single bird hanging out there recently. Humans...I don't understand them.

I first headed towards the beach. Walking along I heard hidden American goldfinches calling their summer song. A white-breasted nuthatch was a bit less hidden, running around the trunks. I saw off to the treetops to the left a bunch of American crows having a fit, chasing something around. I stood and watched and got a glimpse of a shaggy-looking red-tailed hawk trying to shake them off in flight. I chuckled at how it looked like the hawk was expending much less energy circling and soaring than the crows were in harassing and wildly flapping. Silly crows.

The beach didn't have anything bird-wise to show me though I enjoy the view of the river from the boat launch and stood and looked around. I made my way back up towards the inlet and spotted three American black ducks enjoy what looked like some bathing in the tiny bit of open water hidden from the sun by tall trees. The ice around them periodically moaned but they seemed not to mind.

Walking back up to the Beach Road I heard a pileated woodpecker deeper into the woods.

This is when I found Sue and chatted with her for 50 minutes about all sorts of fun things!

Off I went back up the Betar Byway, up the hill, looking over the steeper hill onto the inlet. I wonder if the water in the inlet stays open all winter, as there's a large portion of it available for waterfowl. The same old American black ducks were down there, eight of them today, also bathing. The sun was shining on them and I got a rare sighting of their stunningly beautiful purple speculums bordered with a thick line of black. I have heard other birders talk about how bland these ducks are, but I find their muted dark browns and this patch of royal hue to be stunning.

I managed, with intensely painful hands (I do not know why the cold does this to them as I do not leave them exposed to the elements - I noticed it has only been this bad since I suffered a bout of Lyme), to make it all the way to the other end of the Byway. Along the way I was greeted with alarm calls from black-capped chickadees who were well camoulflaged. I heard plenty of loud, bright, cheery "peter peter peter peter!" and was shocked. Rarely do I actually hear tufted titmice singing instead of also alarm calling. I'm quite certain the last time I heard one singing was in May! They seem to prefer hoarsely yelling at things to get away. They too made the dreary winter woods seem more summery.

American crows
were all over, flying across the Hudson River multiple times to sit on various roosts. They couldn't seem to get comfortable. One nearby crow had a large hunk of something whitish/yellowish in it's bill and made me think of a small vulture when seen from a distance.

I was surprised to see a red-breasted nuthatch spiraling a trunk right in front of me, then hanging upside-down from a top branch, before pecking wildly at it's underside, causing bark to rain down on me. The only way I can describe the call it had today was a high "yip yip yip yip yip yip." White-breasted nuthatches were nearby, having a quieter, calmer snack lower on some trunks.

I got to see two male northern cardinals, both of whom were obviously quite disturbed by my presence. Another hidden cardinal called at some point. The cardinals looked like huge blobs of red feathers with a red mohawk and black mask. I'm not sure if it's their outfit or my experience with their bills that makes me think they appear as formidable opponents. They sat in low brush, peering out at me, making quite loud, metallic, clinking chips.

The field was surprisingly quiet - I always expect to see dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows there, but it never happens. However, the woods edge brought the sounds of two downy woodpeckers squeaking at each other, but I could not find them. It was strange that the rest of the Byway was lacking in woodpeckers today, usually it's loaded. I did also get to spy a chunky little dark-eyed junco well-hidden in some brush further north.

There is a special spot along the Byway that I love, thick with shorter trees all close to each other and completely covered with bittersweet. I sometimes worry that this spot could easily be demolished by the trees toppling under all of those viny plants. But for now it's been a great home to plenty of birds...in the summer I saw many, many yellow warblers hanging out there. Today I heard a cacophony of calls, sounding much like the American goldfinch but missing the more complex melodies; I suppose one could describe it as sounding more like a bunch of parakeets chattering. I could not find them in these trees, so looked lower in the brush where a single version of the chatter came from, and spotted myself a brightly red with thick brown underside streaks house finch. It never saw me, as it was busy picking off bittersweet berries nearby.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ebird

I certainly need to keep up with ebird, I just put in 2 months worth of birding data and it took me maybe 6 hours. It doesn't help that using ebird is actually rather time consuming itself. Just figuring out the mileage of the trips I take alone takes a lot of work. But it is still fun. Ebird organizes lists for you (though I can't say the lifelist for me is accurate because I did not have actual data for a few species from my past).

The best thing I looked at on there was seeing that for Warren County I am ranked #1 both by species and by completed checklists. Not for the competition, but because birders seemingly don't pay much attention to this county as nearby ones. I had 63 species for this county, making up 63% of the total, and 30 checklists (ebird has not even yet updated all the input of data I did today). Below me is someone with 16 checklists, one with 9, two with 7, and a bunch of 1's.

I was also ranked #1 for Washington County for number of checklists, at 40, and ranked #4 by number of species (making up 31% of the species for this county).

Saratoga County seems to be much more heavily birded, and I've done my fair share there, but only came in at #5 for checklists and #10 for species (making up 41% of the species for this county).

Fascinating! I often wonder who the other birders are with the high numbers, and if they have passed by me quietly without me noticing that they are fellow birders.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bald Eagle, part 2 (or 3)

I was thrilled to see my weather website proclaiming that today was warmer than yesterday, so I jumped in my car with birdsong CD and drove off to the Betar Byway. I parked, the only one there, off Beach Road and got out only to find that it actually felt colder than my snowstorm birding of yesterday. I grumbled and headed down Beach Road Hill and got a better look at the European starlings that were hanging out in the brush yesterday. They were beautiful blacks, purples, and greens with bright white spots all over, and shaggy feathers on their heads. They seemed as though they were playing something like musical branches, without the music. An individual would alight on a branch, then fly off to where a previous starling sat while another starling took it's place. Odd birds, they are. I noticed a big blotch of orange off the edge of a branch, which I thought was odd. It was the orange of an eastern towhee which made no sense for this season. The orange flew and landed near some red berries and I soon came to find two brightly colored, pudgy American robins with bright white eye rings wolfing down as many berries as they could find. They were mostly quiet, making a soft "tut-tut" when I got too close.

I checked out the inlet which was quiet today, no creaking this time. A white-breasted nuthatch yanked nearby, but all was quiet otherwise, until the jungle-like raspy trill of a red-bellied woodpecker broke the air. I looked all about for it, not finding it, till it flew right overhead to land on the side of a dead tree. Their nature is curious when compared to that of other woodpeckers. The other species tend not to care of my presence and ignore me; the red-bellieds become quite hyper, constantly alerting everyone else to my presence and running fast circles around the trunk to reach the top of the snag to peer down at me.

I wandered slowly to the beach, seeing a house finch couple resting in low branches and a nearby male northern cardinal loudly chipping away, flicking his tail and jerking his head back with each call note, turning semi-circles on the branches he sat on. The beach itself and nearby Hudson River were seemingly quiet, a few large American crows sitting in the branches of nearby trees. I scanned the waterline (and where forming ice met the sluggish water) and came to a lump of something awfully red. I watched it for awhile, trying to discern what sort of animal had recently been torn to shreds and left dead on the ice edge. No such luck, there was no form to it. I thought it odd that good, fresh meat was going to waste, and even stranger that the crows were not picking at it. I watched and watched but nothing happened, and turned around to head to the trail, when behind my back I heard a strained gull-like call, much like that of the red-shouldered hawk, one that I'm pretty sure doesn't have a wintering range here. Odd...I swung around to see the adult bald eagle coming in for a landing near the meat with a crow trying to intercept. The crow flew back into the branches, and the eagle gently set down near the dead animal, rustled it's wings and tucked them in neatly, walked up to the lunch and slowly pulled flesh away over and over for about 15 minutes. I thought it odd that such a large bird whose behaviors look fragile and pre-determined so as seemingly not to cause excess strain would be chosen for the national symbol.

I left the eagle to his or her lunch and headed to the Byway trail. At this point I was yet again cold right down to my bones. I noticed there is always a slight breeze here from the river, a very damp one, no matter what season. It makes winters bitterly cold here. I trudged along anyhow, meeting a friendly boston terrier and his master at one point, and another dog and man later on, both of whom were interested in the eagle but neither one seeing it.

The American black ducks were out but in lesser number today and much less snow-covered. They still seemed half frozen, standing in the little bit of open water in the inlet. Black-capped chickadees, mourning doves, American goldfinches, white-breasted nuthatches, and northern cardinals all called along my short walk to the first pier. Stopping here, I saw flashes of white from two waterfowl out on the river a long distance off. Looking through my bins, they appeared like two tiny loons with extra thin, long bills and too much white on the sides. I was thoroughly amused at how this is the exact description I read just last night in a book about identifying hard-to-ID species and realized I was looking at two male common mergansers. I rarely see them, so this was a treat. I waited and waited for them to dive, and they eventually did, in unison. Both guys with dogs stopped by to ask what I was seeing, and I could barely speak to them due to being half-frozen like the black ducks. Both asked, "What are mergansers?" I was more than happy to explain.

On my drive around Washington county after my birding trip, I was excited to see multiple red-tailed hawks in different locations. One was sitting right near the road, sitting in the snow, seeming to be concentrating heavily on whatever was under it's talons. I wondered how many other people passing in cars did not even see the large raptor.

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Yesterday I noted that I heard two screams at the Byway beach that sounded much like that of a little girl. I am now somewhat certain that they possibly came from the bald eagle.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Whoa, More Snow!

This seems to be the snowiest, coldest winter upstate New York has had in a few years! Though I have not yet forgotten the incredible Valentine's Day blizzard a few years back. I have photos to remind me.

But that's okay, today's early afternoon squall that bulldozed through the South Glens Falls area was not going to stop me. It was clear when I went out driving, but as soon as I arrived at the Betar Byway, the snow began to fall. I couldn't decide whether to be annoyed or happy, so I decided to just fully try to enjoy it.

I unfortunately had never been birding in a snowstorm with this type of snow, and quickly found out that visibility was cutting really low. I had to ID birds by shape and song alone (and where I had previously seen certain species along the Byway many times before). I literally could not see any color on any of them. Add to me not wanting to move much because despite my layers, the dampness of the bitter air was cutting down right to my bones. My bins are also good at collecting snow. I spent 25 minutes wandering around the Beach Road entrance of the Byway, not heading down the actual trail much of the way.

Fortunately I caught sight of some mallards in the pool just before the snowfall became heavy. There were two breeding males with their soft grays and metallic greens, a lovely female with her reddish and tan-browns and blackish spotting on orange bill, and a fourth mallard with a plain orange bill with black nail - likely another adult female. They did not stay for long once the snow fell heavier.

I wandered over to the beach-side view of the inlet, where I see the turtles, heron, and phoebe in warmer months. At first it seemed no one was around, but I heard a few black-capped chickadees hiding in the branches, and spotted a few silhouettes of ducks where the water was still open. I stood watching them, planning on getting a better view of them when I started hearing the strange sound of the ice in the inlet cracking and splitting. It was as if the entire earth was going to open up before me.

I wandered to the boat launch at the beach. At this time, I could not see across the Hudson at all, it was just a white sheet. I saw some hunched-up American crows resting on high branches in some deciduous trees near the beach, and one of them poking around the edge of the ice on the river. I stood on the pier, and heard twice what sounded like a little girl letting out a loud scream. It was certainly a hawk of some sort, probably unamused with the presence of the garbage-picking birds. I thought it odd to also hear a group of about 6-10 American goldfinches flying overhead. A downy woodpecker called at this point, probably disturbed by their sudden intrusion to it's resting spot.

At this point I was thoroughly shivering, toes cold despite 2 layers of socks and my comfy hiking boots. I was not about to let up though, still needing to scout out the inlet ducks. Around the pool I went, the utterly quiet pool, snowflakes flying in my eyes, making checking the trees impossible. I got to the other side and started my way along the Byway and peered over the ridge to get a better view of the inlet. I was surprised! I got my first view of ducks being caked by snow! Fifteen American black ducks were huddled together, some resting on the open water, others standing on tiny ice islands. Most had their heads under a wing. All had a layer of white on their backs and heads. I thought it odd that they did not occasionally shake it off, flapping their wings, as I myself was doing (well, I don't have wings). They obviously deal better with the winter weather than I.

Happy with my sighting, I jogged back as quickly as I could up Beach Road hill, but I soon was stopped by my curiosity. Beach Road hill has a densely brushy area to the left when running up it, and I started to see rather large (just smaller than the average crow) dark birds quietly rustling around the dead shrubs. Up my binoculars go...European starlings! Many birders would be annoyed or disgusted at their presence, but I rarely see them here, and enjoy their strange sounds (which they weren't making today), and love their tiny numerous white spots on such miserably-colored feathers. I wondered what they were up to, as there were about 12 of them refusing to sit still on any one perch, making a broad zig-zag pattern by heading up to the highest branches and then gradually skipping from branch to branch down to the brush again. I also wondered if they usually hang around some local softball field or school yard.

I decided I was finished and headed to my car, which I parked at the main waterworks building off Beach Road. This is a trailhead for the Betar Byway, and if you follow the trail left, you head through wooded forest with very little understory. I rarely visit it, as the birding is very poor, and seemed to rarely be visited during the summer by locals. So I was surprised today while warming up my car and cleaning it off to see many locals coming in to walk their dogs along that path during a snowstorm. And they all looked miserable!

My trip back north was a bit unnerving, the roads were slippery which for me was fine but I watched many other drivers slide all over the roads. At the intersection of Quaker Road and Ridge Road in Queensbury, a woman in a compact car did a 180 at the green light, nearly slamming a waiting car. She tried the same turn again, and slid again, almost the same way.

Heading up Ridge Road brought a nice surprise, as I got a solid view of a pileated woodpecker clinging only about 8-10 feet up a telephone pole right alongside the road by the Wesleyan Church. It was almost as if it was watching us silly, vulnerable humans risking our lives, for his or her own enjoyment.

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I received for Christmas a surprise CD of 'Birds of the Forest.' I was elated, though I know most nature CDs wind up with cheesy Kenny G-like music in the background. My CD says 'Tranquility Music' on the side and I have been concerned that I am going to hear piccolos and sax or some other world music instrument. I chucked the CD into my car today and hoped for the best...no music at all! In fact, it has 6 tracks of pure birdsong, running about an hour. Each track is a different habitat, each one with a brief habitat label. I wanted to scream for joy and jump around like a kid in a candy store. There are songs of savannah sparrows, red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, a few different owls, and plenty of other species I didn't yet identify because I instead tried to picture myself walking through these habitats. I'm now having a good laugh that my favorite habitat track right now is labelled as 'Florida Wetlands.' I would think I'd have more enjoyment listening to one that seems more close to home (such as 'Afternoon Forest'). And before I forget, there's even a thunderstorm in one track. While my blog is typically advertising free (besides me mentioning Wild Birds Unlimited here and there because that store ROCKS), feel free to glimpse the CD I'm talking about here: http://www.tranquilitymusic.us/products.htm It's amusing to see it is the ONLY nature CD there without music.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Recalling 2009

I don't really truly recognize January 1st as my New Year. My New Year comes the first day in early spring (usually around the Chinese New Year, which this year falls on Valentine's Day) when the scent of soft brown earth is on the air, the breeze no longer makes your eyes water, and the faint memory of running around playing with bubbles comes back. This is before the robins sing and the tulips bloom.

But alas, my nature friends are revisiting their nature haunts throughout 2009 and I couldn't resist. It was my first year truly birding, my first year really spending much of my free time out rambling around, enjoying the wild. And the great memories that come back are too awesome to not make honorable mentions:

- my first true bird presentation, for plenty of third graders who were visiting Moreau Lake with their schools, absolutely a great opportunity

- all the full moon hikes at Moreau, usually attended by my nature buddy Sue, with Environmental Educator Dave checking out all sorts of stuff to show everyone who couldn't keep up with speed-demon Naturalist Gary. Highlights of these include Gary doing a crow call and a mob coming in bringing a scarlet tanager with it, a truly dark walk, enjoying the scenery of the moon from the footbridge, weird noises Sue and I tried to scope out over the lake one night, and all the times other Dave cooked delicious hot dogs

- making the new lakeside trail with the boy scouts

- Wilton Wildlife Preserve birding with Rich Speidel and a group of seasoned birders - possibly the best birding trip I've had so far, as he has intense patience and was excited to help me see some lifers and took the time to go exploring with me to find them

- other WWPP birding, especially hearing and seeing Eastern Towhees for the first time ever (seeing my first Karner Blue butterfly hit the spot too, and long summer afternoons of resting near the open field listening to field sparrows)

- all of my solo hikes in Moreau Lake - highlight was shadbush up top of CP trail inundated with cedar waxwings, 1000' up!

- seeing other new sites right in the local area, such as the Glen Lake fen, Pilot Knob Ridge, Cole's Woods

- tasting many plants I have never tried before - wintergreen berries! Snacking on jewelweed seeds, sassafras, birch...

- Trailapalooza 2009 with Sue P. and Jackie D. - so much win

- meeting nature lovers and new friends Sue and Jackie and learning so much from both and seeing things I've never seen before with them (like frostweed!), enjoying long chats with Dave A., meeting other nature nuts briefly on my walks and discussing what has been seen

- so many hours of watching bird behavior and getting to know the feathered citizens better due to that. You don't really know birds until you see them sunning, fighting each other, wolfing down berries so quickly that their entire faces get covered with juice, and freaking out because a bee is nearby...and missing them when they go on vacation just as you would human neighbors. You don't really truly know your local area until you get to know the more wild side of it.

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Another huge plus this year was getting to see many bird species I had not previously seen and learning plenty of bird songs. I tallied up the species I saw in 2009 (take note: this is not my LIFE list, but a YEAR list) and my list totaled 93 species just for a 30 mile radius. Highlights:

- the one common loon I saw a few times swimming around Moreau Lake. An ethereal sighting. Did not sing till one day with Sue and Dave on Spring Overlook trail which gave me goosebumps.

- the juvenile double-crested cormorant I saw on the Hudson River off Betar Byway this autumn...the best fisher I have ever seen.

- a great egret hiding in the quiet, still marshy pond off Bog Meadow Trail.

- the green herons, osprey, and belted kingfisher that made Delegan Pond in Wilton a fantastic birding spot this summer.

- wood ducks and more belted kingfishers hanging around Mud Pond this autumn.

- the whistle of the broad-winged hawk throughout summer.

- recent adult bald eagle sighting in SGF with Sue!

- a spring merlin couple in Oneonta in their town park, seeing one of the individuals tearing apart a nestling of another species

- hearing red-bellied woodpeckers throughout summer and eventually figuring out the strange song belonged to them

- seeing a likely pregnant female yellow-bellied sapsucker on one of my first-ever trips in Moreau, in the woods near the beach/playground

- my first blue-headed vireo sitting two feet in front of my face on Western Ridge trail and then disappearing, only to defecate on my head

- all brown creepers. Always. <3

- finding out that Carolina wren populations here are actually higher than I was once told, enjoying describing their wide variety of songs with Sue, including renaming it the Belushi bird hearing it sing "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger!"

- my first time hearing the amazingly long song of a winter wren, pointed out by Sue while on Spring Overlook trail with Dave

- all blue-gray gnatcatchers in Moreau Lake

- all eastern bluebirds and their mournful songs

- all wood thrush, veery, ovenbird, and hermit thrush songs (and seeing that wintering hermit thrush recently), making the wet woods of this area dreamy and of another world

- gray catbirds for being the most hilarious bird

- northern mockingbirds being such earworms with their ability to copy so many songs and human-made noises

- while all the warblers I saw were wonderful, the most notable was hearing a prairie warbler in the power-line corridor at Moreau Lake and people not believing me for months after

- field sparrow, savannah sparrow, meadowlark, and R2D2 bobolink songs making hot, long summer days much more enjoyable

- broken tape-recorder white-throated sparrow songs in late fall, witnessed by Jackie, Sue and I on Trailapalooza

- the pine siskin irruption that lasted shortly into the beginning of 2009. I miss those birds dearly.

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One last thing to note is that 2009 was a continuation of the reminder that nature can seriously make you ill, maim you, and possibly kill you. The increased spread and explosion of populations of ticks has concerned and terrified me. I remember the days when one could lay in the grass and not even know what a tick was because they weren't around here. This summer I was bitten almost a dozen times and fought off another bout of Lyme Disease. May you all enjoy 2010 with increased applications of permethrin to your clothing.

To another year of happy birding, hiking, rambling, and nature blogging!