Friday, September 21, 2012

Binocs for kids and seniors - not so different ...

I was going to reply just to the mich birders list, but wanted to share with a wider audience. So I cut the whole thing out and post it here and just left a ref posted on the birders list. Heck, it is about time I said something on my blog!
refer to the thread posted by Bryn on Friday, September 21, 2012 2:05 PM for many suggestions and comments on bonocs for kids in  reply to a posting earlier by another mich birder:

(Well I just tried it, but it looks like crap because of the list serv not handling any punctuation, so I am not referencing it. It looks fine as a post in e-mail! Anyway, I put the original notes at the base of my article here - removing all names. There were more great comments on the list serv, but this has the most.)

However, I highly recommend the list serv! Unlike some state sites, they even allow "rambles such as this - if on topic! Besides the e-mail stuff, be sure to check out the photo-sharing page and especially check out the HUGE list of references and URLs compiled by the amazing Brice Bowman!!!
See to learn more about mich birders!

I am glad Bryn kept the thread. Yes I know it is longer, but it is so much easier to reply than with bits and pieces.

I think this is really important!!! But what I want to add is a note about getting seniors into birding.

Seniors – like kids – often have diminished capacities for holding weights aloft for long so we need something light. And, if we are not already interested in birds, we gotta have something easily visible that might stick around for awhile so we can focus in it! The birds gotta get our attention and make us want to see and learn more. Not so different, I think!!!

I know for sure the weight thing is huge! I have two older binocs (1970s): 10x50 and 7x35. I just gave up on the 50s – heavy – a backup pair in car! I now use the 35s at my kitchen table in the mornings.

I have had a decent pair (not most expensive – ca. $250) for birding. They focus close – like for b’flies and d’flies which I love as flappy things because I am still a kid – and are decent for most birding. Yet, at Pte. Mouillee for Hawk Fest, even with very specific directions as to location of birds, I could not even see the “dots”! Now I do have to account for the fact that my eyes are older, and I was only using 8x (I no longer can hold 10x), but wonder about whether better optics would have helped. On the other hand, the “kids” (maybe 50 and younger) might have had 10x? But several other birders (mostly elderly) admitted they could not see them either.

But back to the question …

My wonderful wife and faithful companion Judy got into birding because I did. I got into birding because as a re-born photographer, I shot birds and wanted to know their names. Yes, I was trained as a biologist, but after over 25 years in a cubicle, I mostly had forgotten the joys of photography and Nature (well, exaggerating quite a bit here …), and certainly never knew mid-west birds.

Even with decent zoom cams, Judy always focused on bigger birds (geese, ducks, herons, etc.). She tries to get the smaller birds, but they move and the cam autofocus makes it hard. Yet, she does get great pics that often surpass mine! Cool!

I tried to get Judy to use my binocs on several occasions, but I think she did not want to deprive me of them for long. So, I finally bought her a personal pair. Now she really looks like a birder with binocs and cam. Cool!

The other fact is that she never really had a chance to “practice” with the binocs. It really takes some time to set the distance between eyes for binocular vision, and it takes even more time to learn to focus – especially with moving birds! And it is very frustrating when the darn bird does not sit there long enough to get the focus!!! Big, slow birds are better!!!

Hey! It works for me- both for viewing and photography!!!

I went thru a dilemma as to which binocs I could get at a reasonable price for Judy. Certainly price was my first consideration! - Would she use them and for how long? It ended up that as we were reloading feeder seed at WBU in Rochester Hills, and I asked to try all of the binocs. I settled on Eagle Optics 8x25 Triumph. I think it was less than $100 at the time – possibly closeout. I also think it has a lifetime guarantee! Light and decent! Judy had problems in the beginning (as noted before, it takes learning), but she really likes and uses them now!

There are many cheaper binocs out there, but the questions are really not about what WE want to share, but more about interest. Yes, the weight is important, and yes, the optics will become more important with use, but it really becomes a matter of interest.

I remember my first uses of binocs – the teacher wanted us to make a field book about bird behavior. Heck, I could never even put my binocs on the bird before it flew off! And teacher forgot the first thing about birding – he never really taught us any bird ID features! Sure, ecology and behavior is important, but my field notes of “bird flew from bush into tree” were ridiculous. Boring! Forget birds! Bad teacher! Fifty years later I am trying to learn birds! And, as a well-trained biologist by many others, I probably understand more than most birders that ID is not the main contribution I can make! Yet, you gotta start with taxonomy – and for that you need good optics and good field guides! And – I might say – lots of help from your birding friends!!!

So, consider the audience! First is interest! That takes a good teacher (You!). Then consider weight and possible longevity of interest. Some toys only have short half-lives. Again, it is interest (You!). As experience grows, and the larger birds become smaller birds, maybe it will be a time for an upgrade. But, wait and see!

"Dr. Bob" Setzer
Streamwood Estates, Rochester Hills (Crooks & Hamlin), Oakland County


From: Bryn Sent: Friday, September 21, 2012 2:05 PM

Subject: [birders] Re: binoculars for young children

From my perspective, just as or more important than bins are field guides (birds, insects, reptiles, etc...). My girls love thumbing through them and really like when I show them what we saw/are seeing. They're starting to understand the range maps and some of the symbols in one of their guides. By far the most important thing, though, and I think most people would agree with me, is just taking them outside and spending the time with them. They will pick up on your enthusiasm and grow fond memories of just going out on adventures.

Other excursion items (that work for us):

Camera (to document the memories with my kids and to photograph the creatures we see so we can go home and share them with "Mama")

Field guides (if we see a turtle, the girls have fun looking at the different turtle pictures to see if they can identify which one it is)--the books mean more to them back home when they know they are full of real things that they saw or could potentially see on future excursions

From: curt
Indeed! Kalila LOVES going dragonfly hunting, or butterfly, but dragons are easier to catch, and much less delicate.
Outdoor excursion items:
1. snacks and water
2. clothes that love mud
3. something to put cool stuff in (a bag or box, or old soda cup)
4. net
5. yes, pink is good.

From: Bryn

A few things from my perspective: When I take my 4-year olds out, we bring their pink bins. They are not very good, but they like "being official" and having them. They do enjoy finding big things in them and finding things to them is more important than identifying important characteristics. A scope works great at this age. Most of our excursions are general nature trips. We have bins, but we also have insect collecting gear, etc... I never have them try to see flitting passerines through their bins. Their bins are for them to experiment with and to try to look at things like herons. (They also like looking through the "wrong" end just as much.)

From: John
At the risk of being being seen as someone desperately trying to save face in the midst of all these great examples of hands-on experience directly countering my point...

I still think a good option is to acquire a decent spare binocular to have handy for those times when lending is appropriate.

But I especially like Dea's and Curt's advice regarding birding adventures with young children. More important to just get out and have an adventure than worry if you've got the right equipment.
From Fred:
Right on Curt! Kids will be kids and a happy kid is one who discovers how to have fun on their own. Like Adam Ant said in their song…”It’s so sad… when you’re young… to be told…you’re having fun”. I’ve seen way too many people buy the most expensive stuff for kids and then get all shocked and depressed when “junior” decides he’d rather play with the box the thing came in! I’m speaking in general of course and there is always room for the exceptional “budding” birder but childhood interests change too frequently to warrant the expense.

Buying a child a $500 bow does not necessarily make a world-class archer…I wonder how much Tiger’s dad spent on Tiger’s first set of clubs? Or…Eddie Van Halen’s first guitar? Hmmm

From: curt
I recall taking my first daughter out to Point Mouille in the winter (back in my survey days when I could drive there), and very excitedly getting a Snowy Owl in the scope and showing her. I had the impression she thought she was looking at a picture of some kind. If she couldn't see the bird with the naked eye, it was just too abstract. She had no excitement what-so-ever. I'm not sure if she was 3 or 4 at the time though. I know that my current 4 year old loves binoculars, but generally prefers to look through them backwards. Its much funnier that way. I am on the market for bins for her, I think, but I believe I will go for something like 4X and as wide angle and bright as possible. Then, if she sees a Robin or a Blue Jay, (birds she can identify) in the yard and wants to show me, she'll actually be able to do it herself.
I have never found it worthwhile to struggle to show a young kid a bird. My older daughters have seen so many cool birds, but they remember pretty much only the birds they discovered themselves. They do remember the trips. My 17 year old daughter remembers being small and having me carry her to the van in her jammies at 5 in the morning for a drive to Sarnia in an October storm, still remembers the Tim Hortons. She has no recollection of the adult Sabine's Gull, or the Pomarine Jaeger. To a young kid a mallard and a King eider are exactly the same thing: a duck, except a Mallard is better because they can know it.
For the most part, my kids like to go birding with me, they love nature and the outdoors, but they don't give a crap about identifying birds.
Just my 2 cents

From: Deaver
My experience with 3rd and 4th graders (walking through the Arb, all with very small field of view binoculars that they could hold and that fit them and were light-weight enough to carry easily) is that they were far more excited just being outside and seeing birds that you can see without binoculars (hawks,cranes, vultures, herons, ducks, large flocks of Cedar Waxwings and woodpeckers, etc) than they were about focusing binoculars on a fast moving small passerine. Probably because the binoculars were not too good and had such a small field of view. Though I cannot put my hands on Laura Erickson's book about birding with kids at this moment, I think that she says that she doesn't usually use binoculars with very young "birders". But kids want binoculars around their neck if you have them so get something light and that you won't feel bad if they get used infrequently. Young children will pick up on your excitement about birds and that will drive their interest the most. Almost any article about finding the right binoculars talks about "fit" and for kids, that is very small but also constantly changing as they grow. What I wouldn't do is spend lots of money. Optics are not the prime thing. For great close up views get a step stool for your scope when you are using it so you and your young birding companion can look through it without constant height readjustment or achy back on your part. Young kids can hop up faster than most of us can bend down and with good instruction can learn how to look thru a scope eyepiece.

In another article by Laura Erickson, she talks about good cheap binoculars for older kids and first time adult birders. Here is her cheapest suggestion. The article was written in 2008, but it will give you an idea ...

Bushnell NatureView Birder 8x40 -- $69.95

Reasonable price and light weight make this model a great choice for beginners, and the price and quality of optics make it a popular choice for groups. In fact, it is one of the only binoculars in this price range with good optics. It's great to pass out on field trips to children and casual wildlife viewers. The Tucson Audubon Nature Shop has sold it in quantity to a tour leader in the Grand Canyon and also to a world-famous health resort in Tucson.

I suspect others out there have some personal experience with kids and grandkids and I look forward to hearing what they have to say.

Been gone ...

Sadly I have not published for some time! Been busy! Also might just say I have been overwhelmed. So it goes. I will try to do better!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2012 Biggest Week In America Birding

Oh, how I really envy the bloggers who DO it, SEE, it and POST it! And most of them have great pics as well!

Judy and I came home from the Biggest Week in America Birding with SO many wonderful stories to tell. To date, they only live in our memory banks, and indeed (!), I think many are already fading - there were SO many! So I gotta get something down on "paper" (i.e., e-paper) before our entire experience becomes the stuff of dreams that only WE could imagine and re-experience.

Last year we decided to go to nw Ohio during the Biggest Week. We hate crowds, and the year before last we made sure to go fore and aft - but not during. Yes, there were lots of birders anyway, but not the big rush. Last year, we went to see what a difference "THE week" made. Yes, tons of birders and crowds - but also amazing guides on the boardwalk!  "See the whatsa-ma-jiggle"? "No". "Well follow my laser pointer up the tree - now go to the branch on the right". "OK, I got it! Another lifer!"

So this year we scheduled three nights (4 days) during the Biggest Week. I probably would have come home after two nights, but really wanted a chance to possibly meet some birding Facebook friends out birding after a "meet and greet" over pizza rather than just drive home after meeting them. YES! Great decision!

We met so many "lifer birders" and as well saw a few more lifer birds! What a great trip!!!

This blog will probably be written in "chunks" - and illustrated in chunks - as I process the multigigs of pics we took, but I know I need to start! (The hardest part is just starting ... as my wife Judy always tells me ...).

I think, maybe I can do it if I organized it day by day. Let's see.

(Well, where the heck are my notes recorded on 3x5 cards? All I find are all the recent spring records I need to add to eBird ... and the card from the last day of our trip).  See - I knew I needed to get with it! I can't even  find my notes...! Where ARE they?

Found my notes ... the first days were wrapped in the receipt from the motel and still in my backpack,. Whew!

Day one (Sunday, May 6):

Fortunately learning of a total closure of the main route for many miles of  I-75 downriver from Detroit and reading the MDOT road closure site, I chose an alternate route. It worked very well!

The first thing we did on arrival was hit the Ottawa NWR for a pit stop and to check if the extended route we took last year was open. It was not.

We drove the Ottawa NWR Auto Tour (special weekends only!) with high expectations! Boring!!! Last year was fantastic, but this year, the best we could get excited about was the nice view of many Great Egrets on the pond on the last leg of the tour (pond by fancy duck blind) where we met another birder who was similarly disappointed. Boring! The ponds were too full of water for wading birds. I do remember last year they had not only pumped out ponds in the extended loop, but had also mowed and reinforced the loop and that it was a really memorable time with not only Snowy Egrets, but also an abundance of shorebirds in the extended loop. We had pulled off  and enjoyed the ambiance for a very long time. I am not sure, but suspect the recent heavy rains made this impossible. We did see two Bald Eagles - always love them, but otherwise Boring!!

Magee Marsh (3:30-6:30 pm) - was much better!

We picked up many birds, including lifer Northern Waterthrush and a neck-breaking look and butt & fluff photos of Eastern Screech Owl (lifer). A birder (I think a relatively new birder) on the boardwalk (he had no idea what might happen)  played the Screech Owl sound on his electronic device for his girl friend, and the mostly-hidden owl repeated it over and over again. I think the owl was sleeping, but thought he heard a friend and wanted to make contact... (I doubt this was the best thing for the owl - probably not - like,  if I were taking a nap and heard a familiar voice, I would certainly wake up and jump at the opportunity. Yet, I admit hearing the owl doing the response was quite memorable. Geez, the owl sounded just like the recording!  Yes, I said it tongue-in-cheek  (whatever that symbol looks like in e-world).  But, yes, whatever recording he played was precisely what I heard in response - over and over again ). It was quite fascinating for me, but poor birdie - where is my friend -  as I said, unintentional, but we have to think about our impacts in the new e-world!!!

The best thing about the day was meeting up with Kim and Eric Smith (local Rochester Hills birders) on the boardwalk (we knew they were in the area and had discussed meeting up - cell phones are so cool!) - we had never met Eric before. We walked them to the boardwalk spot where you could stand on a bench and see the Great Horned Owl babies in a stump and Kim got some great shots! Yes, indeed, this spot got me my best ever GHOW baby shots! Kim and Eric are such enthusiastic birders it made our day!!! Hey, Eric! Kim is your birders "face to the world" now that she is on the birders list, and it is was SO nice to see YOUR support and enthusiasm! You are another "unsung hero" for Michigan birders (as SO many of us who have have great spouses behind us...)! Judy and I indeed want to bird with both of y'all again!! What fun!!!

Kim Smith and lovely wife Judy on Magee boardwalk

After Magee, we headed off to Our Guest Inn and Suites in Port Clinton. We started staying there 3 years ago because they are BSBO supporters and contribute to BSBO and we selected the original lodging from BSBO supporters.. We always have stayed in the "back" building and have been quite satisfied except last year when the fridge did not work. It is not the fanciest accommodations (no elevator to second floor), but it is normal for us. We really like the fact they have a small fridge and a microwave in all the rooms now - albeit to make the microwave work this year, I had to transport it to an available plug. No problem. We also know where to shop for groceries in Port Clinton, so we were set for the duration.

Day Two (Monday, May 7):

In the morning, it was raining continually. Having seen the radar maps at the motel, I suspected and hoped it would quit soon, so we stopped at Wild Wings for breakfast. I call this place the Marathon station on Rte 2 between BSBO and Port Clinton because we always stop there to see if the BCNH are "out and about".   Typical of fishing haunts, they give a large breakfast, including grilled sausages with eggs (first time with grilled ones - quite good). We saw a couple of parties of mostly older camo-covered folks there - maybe duck hunters (is it the season or do they just wear this stuff?) or fishermen (who needs camo on big water?) waiting out the rain as we were. I do not seem to remember Wild Wings being a BSBO supporter. With a name like that, they sure NEED TO BE  - especially during the Biggest Week (check it out Kim Kaufman)! Tell them "Dr. Bob" said so - I dropped a BSBO card!

After breakfast, Metzger had several shorebirds, but we did not scope them (or really even see them!).It was really hard to see anything thru the wipers and rain - even with binocs!

Finally the rain quit. We went to Magee Marsh and birded 11:30 am to 4:00 pm. The boardwalk was slicker than ice! After a few slid mis-steps, we went to an ice walking step - quite tiring. Lotsa birds!! Lotsa warblers! SO different than the day before! I guess the birder thing about "raining warblers" means so much more when rain stops their migration!!!! Yes, indeed (!), "raining warblers" and other good birds!!! Besides the lifer Hooded Warbler and an Ovenbird, indeed the most spectacular memorable event was having a Woodcock fly about two feet higher right over the heads of everyone on the boardwalk!!!  We had come upon a group of birders and were hearing "it is right there at the edge of the wet spot" and could not see anything from our position, then Boom! Wow! Ooooh! I never knew a Woodcock had such a brilliantly orangish butt in sunlight!!! It is one of the birds most birders only record on their life lists by its distinctive sound. Boom! Wow! Saw it!!! And from the assembled masses: "Ooooh!"! What an experience!!!

Metzger was much better (11:30 am-4:00 pm) now without rain! Two Semi-palmated Plovers (do I say "pluver" - like lover - or "plow-ver" like farming? I never know ...). I tend to think it was not a lifer (gotta check my eBird... I think I saw them at Pte. Mouillee), but it was certainly my best viewing of one!!! And, for sure my best pics!!! And I got much better shots of the Blue-winged Teals than the week before/ (Yes, I know it's not a big teal deal, but it is for me! When do they ever come close enough? These were "right there"!)

Heading back to  Port Clinton, we checked out the Marathon station on Rte 2.  YES! Someone was cleaning fish! The tarp was off and the birds were interested! We shot 8 BCNH (Black-crowned Night Herons). I originally thought five males and three females, but in looking at my field guides, I learned that the strongly-obviously-different birds were immatures! (So how does a BCNH decide to mate with whom???!). Fascinating! Great pics!!!

Day Three (Tuesday, May 8):

Definitely a most memorable day! Mostly for birders rather than birds! Yes good records from Magee - both morning and afternoon! But our most memorable experience of the day was the Ohio Birds Facebook "Meet and Greet" at Porky's Pizza where we met many birding friends known only from FB contacts! I chose to work on photos of birders before my bird pics so I have something photographic to post here now. I already put some these up (and more) for my friends on FB. Geez! At least birders do not hide in the leaves!

Day Four (Wednesday, May 7):

Heading home, first Judy and I had our "traditional Ohio Breakfast" at a picnic table on the Port Clinton waterfront. We split a foot-long Subway sandwich and with refrigerated milk from the motel, enjoyed watching swallows, gulls,  and just generally enjoyed the ambiance of the harbor! It reminded me so much of harbor views I had on my Pacific coastal waters. Oh, the addition of deep-fried pork rinds (found and impulsively previously bought at the grocery) - added quite a bit to the Subway concept! Yum!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2012-04-17 Beaudette Park (Oakland County, MI) - 2 lifers!

Admittedly I am very far behind on my blog! I tend to go places and see cool birds and then just need to tell the birders of the southeast Michigan listserv about them instead of putting my "rambles" here on my blog and just referencing them with a URL to the listserv. I truly suspect I am driven by a need to give back to Michigan birders for all their help and encouragement over the last few years and just want to directly write my birding friends and heroes immediately. Anyway, I think I will try to write here first and post a URL to my birding friends. Testing - testing ... how does this work?

Judy and I went to Beaudette Park in Pontiac today. Last year it was great for warblers, and I wanted to see if any were there yet.

I did see one Y-R Warbler ("butter butt"), but that was all so far.

But I got two lifers and decent views at a possible really great bird! And I have pics to verify! (Later ...)

1) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! Geez, I always wanted to see one just to tell people I had done so! I really think this is one of the birds that - when telling the story of conquests - by its mere name really makes non-birders think a birder is nuts! I am slowly climbing the life bird ladder with another name that inspires curiosity among those not inthralled with the subject. It might also inspire much laughter and disdain - or even fear - among those not so inclined to avian pursuits, but I'll take the accolades! Yes, I am nuts over birding, and I just love the way "Yellow-bellied Sapsucker" flows off my newly foreign tongue! Cool!

2) Brown Creeper! Yes, that confirms it! It sounds so mysterious and so potentially dangerous. Another addition to a life list and another addition for casual bar conversation.

On the other hand I do not frequent bars, and most people Judy and I know or meet already know my desire for new avian conquests (to wit: "Are you Dr. Bob"?), and they already suspect I am a bit "touched". Takes all the fun of a surprise revelation out of the equation! Yet I can just imagine and chuckle about a scenario where "Dr. Bob" walks into a bar (... now there is a beginning of a story to explore for humor!) and sits down next to a gorgeous female and we exchange formalities and it gets down to "What did you do today?" "Well, honey, I saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Brown Creeper!"

I love it!!! What a pickup line!!! Certainly different that the norm! ("Geez! Where did my honey of the night go?...")

3)  I think I also got a Wood Thrush! (Yes, I got pics, and it would be a really great bird!). The name does not sound so interesting for casual conversations, and I cannot even use it in a sentence without verification, so I will have to add details for birders. It had strong spots - merging into streaks - all the way down the belly. The back seemed a relatively uniform rufous color - unlike the Hermit Thrush I saw at Metro Beach last week where that color on the back was just above the butt. It went from mid-level in trees to the "floor" near the lake edge, but seemed comfortable in either place. I need input, please! Yes, please guess before I put pics on this blog!

I also tried to get my binocs on a dinky fast-moving pointy-billed "LGJ" (little gray job). I never really had a great view, and could never tell coloration or if it had an eye-ring (not that that feature would have helped ...), but out of dozens of pics mostly focussed on the background, I finally saw a flash of red on the head. OK, forget vireos (my initial thought) - it was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet! They have been reported on the Mich birder's list recently so it makes sense, but they are always amazing. I know nothing about vireos (or flycatchers), but do think I know the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (another LGJ) because it has outer white tail feathers. I thought vireo, but is the same great spring bird that always flies down a few feet way from us at Magee Marsh in Ohio this time of year. I think I finally learned this year that the Golden-crowns come thru first, and am quite happy I saw them this year.
Sure, we saw other birds as well, but these were my favorites!


1) I happened to speak with GBB (good birding buddy) Ed while there and I told him that I thought I had just seen a lifer Sapsucker. As always he provided positive feedback suggesting that with my growing experience, if I thought I had a new bird, I probably did. His clue was that a quick view of a Sapsucker looked "dirty" compared with the very abundant Red-Bellied Woodpecker that also has a red head. Cool! My pics bear this out!

2) I have told the birders list before that I needed to see a Creeper. The main advice was that (paraphrasing here) a creeper is like a Nuthatch except the WB Nuthatch goes down a tree and a Creeper goes up a tree. The creeper flies lower to the next tree and starts going up again. It did so! Even with purely back-lit silhoutte pics, I could see the curved bill, but I actually got some decent pics of coloring as well to confirm. Again, cool!

Y'all birders are the best! Thanks to the Michigan birding listserv and birders to whom I write this blog!!!

BTW, Beaudette Park is a great place for winter ducks and - as I learned last year - a really great place for spring migrants. Recommended! We often go there. On the other hand, there is a normal "cast of characters in cars" doing their own thing - whatever it is. My personal advice is to never train binocs or cameras in their direction. There are no birds there anyway. Besides, if you never train optics on them and you are approached (never happened yet), all you have to do is say you were looking for a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker as reported on the internet. Not only would they think you are totally nuts, but also that you have connections!

Now to go off and work on pics - to be added later!

2012-04-12 Lake Saint Clair Metro Park (Metro Beach MP)

Place holder.

Ramble and pics later. I gotta do another blog tonite.(... Oh, I am so far behind ...)

2012-04-06 Good Friday. Really a Great Friday! Inwood Trails at Stoney Creek Metro Park

Place holder.

We went to see the Ospreys nesting on the cell tower there. We saw them and shot lots of pics! Then we walked about on our first visit here and I shot several pics of a Kestrel - one in flight! - and a lifer field sparrow.

Ramble and pics later. I gotta do another blog tonite.(... Oh, I am so far behind ...)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012-04-03 - eliminating Ruddy Ducks in England. Huh?

OK. I am still doing it. I really need to start here on the blog first and make a reference, but I just go off into space to comment on something on the birders list. I saw a message from Michigan Birders tonight and felt compelled to respond. I share it here.

Here is what I wrote. If you start near the bottom, you will see the note that triggered this "ramble".

Unbelievable! (Hey, it's after April 1, so I gotta believe it ...)

Without going into the previous messages listed on the referenced web-site (I am very sure they are interesting...), the first ref:
gave me a look at the endangered White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala). Interesting! I guess, if here, I would have thought it a leucistic "Someduck" - maybe Ruddy - and asked birder's advice. I never even heard about it before tonight - not in MY books!

Maybe the prevailing winds in the northern hemisphere from west to east are why we do not see the White-headed duck? Yet thinking about the winds again, why do the Brits and Spaniards not think "our" Ruddy Ducks again will interfere after some big blow during migration? And, I also suspect some blown-over duckers might be unfaithful in a land of new opportunities...

Yes, I continue to be clueless yet found this fascinating, but one point it raised in my mind - What if we in the USA were living on an island, or in a small country (small compared to the USA)? What we might then do to protect "our" species?

I also cannot help but think of an analogy from fishing. Carp fishing is a huge thing "across the pond". They have evolved an amazingly sophisticated culture for fishing for carp. We are learning from the Brits about how to fish for carp developed because of their limited fishery options. What do you do for fishing fun where the population per fish - and especially fishable access - is so large? Carp are really fun on light tackle, and become with fishing pressure, a hard species to catch!!! But what else do they have as a major fishery? Geez! And what access is available to the public? !!! Everything is private!

Here in Michigan we can fish for bass (maybe the best smallmouth fishery in the world and good largemouth bass fishing as well) as well a huge number of fish only dreamed about on the other side of The Pond - think walleyes, and muskies, and a Great Lakes salmon/steelhead fishery that often rivals our own west coast!

And birds? I can only surmise, but certainly land mass and migration patterns suggest many more possibilities here. I think Michigan is an amazing place to bird!

But, I also know our native (undeveloped - yet also secondary in a historical sense) landscape is rapidly dwindling thru development. And I wonder - how long will it take before we regard our own special (maybe not endangered, but dwindling) bird populations as special enough to cause concern?

I love "tippy tails" (Ruddy Ducks), and only began seeing them a couple of years ago. It took a couple of years to learn how to ID them. I rarely see them. Any guesses on this side of the pond as to whether we should be concerned?

But more importantly, I wonder and pose a question:

If you were on an island (no, not the traditional coconut-filled desert island of such questions, but one like Great Britain) or living in a very limited geographic space (think Europe), how would YOU respond to threats of species extinction? Sure we all cite Kirtland Warblers in Michigan as a success story, but what else? Sadly, EPA and similar USA safeguards have been very much weakened in the last couple of decades and are very much still under attack. I suspect we are complacent with our much larger land mass and we tend to forget the older song that basically said "pave Paradise and put up a parking lot".


It can happen here!

No, I really do not care much about Mallards hybridizing with American Black Ducks - It happens. I know few examples so far. But what else? And what do we know about Whobird does IT with Whombird in the birding world? (Yes, genetics suggest stuff, but like I said before, I know little ...)

I just got fired up now on a "ramble". I call it "just wondering". But what if WE lived in a very limited geographic space? What birds would WE protect?

"Dr. Bob" Setzer
Streamwood Estates, Rochester Hills (Crooks & Hamlin), Oakland County
"Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day." Teaching a man to "bird" is much harder!

P.S., And, of course, what are OUR spending priorities? What percent goes to environmental and bird-related concerns? I just read some article that suggested that if we cancelled only seven (of 200+) fighter jets currently funded for a yet unknown battle with an unknown enemy, we could give every grade-schooler a tablet computer thing. Maybe they might learn about birds! In an era of federal deficits, this sounded quite amazing!

-----Original Message-----
Subject: [birders] $318,000 Found To Finish Off The Ruddy Duck

WWT = Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, a UK conservation organization RSPB = Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Defra = Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

1 = US $1.59 as of 3 April 2012

The following is quoted from British Birds, April 2012, Volume 105, page 221:

UK Government finds 200,000 to finish off the Ruddy Duck

The latest report on the Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis eradication programme concludes that there are now fewer than 100 Ruddy Ducks remaining in the UK and confirm that the cull has been extended to finish the job. Since the early 1990s, Ruddy Ducks, probably originating from the large feral population in the UK, had appeared in Spain where they hybridized with the globally threatened White-headed Duck O. leucocephala and threatened the native species with extinction. The Spanish Government requested action.

Between 1903 and 2004, the UK Government undertook research to determine the most effective techniques for culling the Ruddy Duck. An initial programme of killing the birds in the breeding season was largely unsuccessful. In September 2005, Defra estimated the Ruddy Duck population to be 4,400 birds and embarked on a comprehensive cull in the breeding season and in winter. According to the annual bulletins from Defra, 3,691 were culled in 2005-07, 1,190 in 2007/08, 738 in 2009/10 and 322 in 2010/11, a total of 7,225 birds, well in excess of the original estimate of 4,400 in September 2005.
The cull has been controversial, particularly since the WWT and the RSPB supported it. The RSPB lost members because of its support for the cull, but David Hoccom, head of the RSPBs species policy unit, told BBC News: It is very sad that such measures are necessary, but we expect the White-headed Ducks future to be more secure as a result. The White-headed Duck has undergone a rapid worldwide decline, making extinction a real possibility.

Over 7,000 Ruddy Ducks have been killed at a cost of 5m. That a further 200,000 can be found in these austere times to cull the remaining 100 is an intriguing insight into Government spending priorities.

2012-03-27: GBBC via CARP

OK, that’s a title to decipher!

It translates to: Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) via Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP). At least that I think how CARP started out. I just looked it up. They no longer use it as an acronym for reasons explained at their site:

I picked up on this idea from a newsletter from Bird Studies Canada. (Hey, Canada is closer to se Michigan than the UP!)

(You do not need to subscribe. The URL gives links to their programs on the left side. It was just the fastest way to drop a URL for those curious …

Here is a link to the GBBC summary from the CARP site:

I think it is interesting to see what our northern (and southern – in the case of sw Ontario) neighbors experienced on the GBBC.

But actually the main reason I want to send this out is that there was a post to C.A.R.P. members about the GBBC that generated a huge response for GBBC:

Does anyone know of anything by AARP in a similar vein? I am an AARP member, but do not recall anything. There are so many AARP members in Michigan! I know some are on the birders list. I know some did the GBBC. But I really believe there is a HUGE number of AARP members (the majority!) who have bird feeders and yet do not consider themselves formal birders or are actively involved in activities that promote birding or the conservation of birds. Not only would it be good for GBBC, but having that group become actively involved in this one activity (as a starter) would generate SO much interest in our birding fascination!

Similar to local news outlets, this is another place to create a positive presence for birding! And, all such forums need ambassadors to post occasional notes.

Anyone see anything on GBBC from local news or AARP?

Just wondering … (or is it rambling and wandering?) …

2012-03-23: Just keeping up with past posts to MI Birders:

OK, I just cannot refrain from immediacy. Here is what I wrote to MI Birders on March 23:

After doc appointments today in the same area, we visited Dutton Fields to see if the Horned Larks were still there. It has been a long time since I seeded the area figuring out this year we would never see Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs. I was very curious about the Horned Larks that seem to love the habitat anyway!

Initially we saw no Horned Larks, but I was quite rewarded and amazed as we arrived to see a small hawk-thing flying towards me. I did have my binocs out and got great looks at a lifer AMERICAN KESTREL! The camera was still stowed at the time and the bird landed no more than 30 feet from me. Beautiful basically reds and blues! Amazing!!!

By the time I got camera in hand, the bird was off again, but stayed in the general area. It kept landing on the white pipes sticking out of the ground. After pursuit, I finally got a few recognizable pics of it. What a great bird! A lifer! We had only seen a live one before with the falconers who present occasionally at birding events

Check it out:

Do “next” to see white tips on some tail feathers. This detail often seems lacking in bird books.

No, the pics are not the greatest. When I shot the bird, it was at least 75 yards away – a mere speck in my camera view. But I was lucky!

On reflecting on my pics, I need to again thank my mentor Jerry who taught me how to make the best of my pics.

And, then you can go to the next pic to see really horny Horned Larks! Judy and I loved watching his pair for about 15 minutes! Up in the air intimately singing lovely songs within inches of each other, and then back on the ground as if nothing special were happening. Then I guess his posing got to her, and off they went again!

Finally, I walked to get some new pics at home (really got some good ones of female Downy WP and WB Nuthatch), but my favorite was some birdie plants doing what I suspected the horny larks were doing! Siberian Squilla.

Any day birding is better than …

Friday, March 30, 2012

New post to MI birders

OK, Rob Golda! I just saw a link on your great Hiking Michigan site to my blog!

Damn! And thanks I think! Yes, like everyone you meet, you are trying to make me better! OK, now I am really embarrased that I have not kept my blog up to date!

In my defense, I note I am quite an active participant on the Michigan Birders list administered by the amazing Bruce Bowman. Like Hiking Michigan, the "Birder's List" has grown exponentially in the last couple of years. I forget the numbers, but both of your subscriber lists have more than doubled in that time - I think HM quadrupled! There is a wonderful interest in the outdoors in Michigan facilitated by y'all: - Rob Golda (HM) and Bruce Bowman (birding) - and more people than ever before are joining both forums to learn what natural treasures we have in Michigan and gain an opportunity to experience them.

I came to Michigan from southern California over a decade ago, and guarantee that in such an over-populated space as S. Calif. (even then) there is nothing to compare! There were then, and certainly are now,  more people in the Los Angeles/S.Calif. basin alone than the entire population of Michigan! Although southeast Michigan has lost  much of the paradise feeling it initially suggested to me through development and housing tracts (I drove thru farmfields less than three miles to reach the Clinton River - Yates Park by the cider mill - with an amazing steelhead fishery! All housing now ... yet the steelhead fishery is getting better thru great management!), the southeast Michigan fore-fathers had enough sense to reserve state and local parks and (especially) Metro Parks as sanctuaries! For about 5 bucks annually, I had access to over 200 DNR access sites where I could launch a boat if I had one. Now for 10 bucks added to our annual vehicle license fee, we can get access to all DNR sites and all state parks!!! As a senior, an annual sticker costs $15 and allows unlimited access to all Metro Parks! Wow! Indeed we are blessed to have open spaces amidst the growing demands and limited opportunities for profits from land! Never take our open spaces for granted lest they disappear! Yes, far less open space thru which to drive than when I arrived, but accessible open natural spaces none-the-less! Michigan is still Paradise considering alternatives!!!

Over the last few months I have not been good at tending my blog. I generally read  the "birders list" and respond to things I find interesting before I consider whether thay might be more applicable to a general audience. And perhaps, some birders might indeed have preferred I posted my "rambles" (ramble =  a lengthy story) to some other venue. On the other hand, I definitely know from feedback that many birders - especially "newbies" - appreciate my "rambles". I suspect I "gave license" to encourage many "lurkers" (people more shy than I who read the e-mails) to start posting. I am really encouraged that so many new people are posting on the birders list! It is a greatly accepting and very reinforcing forum! I am "hooked" as a birder! And it is really great to see more postings in our local Oakland/Macomb county area than ever before! With the shorter distance, Judy and I have the chance to go see ("chase") new birds.

What I should really do is post my "rambles" on this blog and just post a link on the birders list. I know/knew that. I just get caught up in the moment.

With you, Rob, linking my blog to HM, I really must get better!

Being basically lazy, I cannot do both, so I will strive to post here (on the blog) first and just reference the URL on the birders list. We shall see...

I think I will drop another "ramble" or two from my postings on the birders list here on the blog for now and try to get better.

In any case, Rob, I am sharing with your extended audience! Yes, like everyone you meet, you drive me forward!

BTW, I encourage everyone to share your experiences! Pick any forum! There are lots of folks who will become "activated" when you speak of something local and/or near-and-dear to their hearts! They will learn! You will learn! It's all good!
- "Dr. Bob"

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bird and bee - 2012-03-13

Yesterday I saw my first ever Bluebird here at Streamwood – a new record after more than a dozen years! I did get a few pics; they were not great but confirmed a positive ID.

Judy and I had a great walk! Besides the bluebirds, I shot pics of Crocus and Snow Drops. As I was working on the pics tonight (quite fast as I tend to do things …), in one pic, I saw a bee working the Snow Drops. WOW!  It seems really early for bees, but this is a weird winter!
(BTW - I had posted this to a listserv and incorrectly ID'ed the flower as Lily of the Valley - I always really appreciate feedback! Thanks, Joyce!)

Anyway, I think my shot of a Robin is one of my best so I am not embarrassed about posting. It’s different. See:

Do “previous” to see the bee and a few more pics from yesterday.

Gotta love this “winter spring”! This week looks like great weather for birding!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Summer Fall Winter Spring - 2012-02-10

OK, I just "rambled" on the Michigan birders list. With great personal lazy drivers, I repost it here. Geez! I just have to "reuse"

Begin post:

OK, I miss-spoke about “Spring sprung” broken. We did have one more wonderful day of “winter spring”. Now, I really suspect Spring really sprang and our wonderful false Spring will now be broken in the following days bringing the jet stream down upon us from the north. (I suspect all local birders know Judy and I are “fair weather birders” so we will “hibernate” for awhile…) Judy coined a new word for the winter we have had so far: “uncomplainable”. Cool!

Today was a beautiful day in high 30’s with wind chills in the high 20’s and Judy and I went to Stoney Creek Nature Center to “hang out” and watch the feeders. We planned no big walks, just wanted to see birds,.

With about an hour of observation, we again saw and photographed the Pine Siskins (feisty birds – they “win” over goldilocks at thistle feeders – see pics) and the Common Redpolls (pics). We saw several Juncos and both Downy and Hairy WP as well as many other birds. Great winter stuff!!! Wonderful!

Note: Y’all should visit your local Nature Centers for fun and warm birding at their feeders!!! Forget the walks! At least as far as I have seen, most birds are around feeder areas! No, not the “best birds” who, albeit displaced, know how to “make it” here in winter, but if you want to see lots of cool birds, some area around a place with feeders is best.

Then we went to Winter Cove (the whole parking lot was open again vs. the last time we went here) and saw two Coopers Hawks and two Eastern Bluebirds! Huh? - Bluebirds? Spring!? OK. Now I need to give up on “land birds” and think about the wading birds as possible harbingers of Spring! Hey, you can’t wade in a frozen pond! (See, I am learning!) Really, what IS the true birdie sign of spring in Michigan? And, do not say Robins, or Red-winged Blackbirds (my former choice) or even Bluebirds or Sandhill Cranes! And do not get too fancy (like the Clay-colored Sparrow). SO WHAT IS the birdie harbinger of Spring in SE Michigan? Please, “Come on back Good Buddies”!

I am not sure about summer and fall, but seeing winter and spring birds in the same day was just SO cool!

Now back to winter that as I predicted in my last note was about to “fall” upon us! In “summery” (sic), how often can one see spring Bluebirds and winter Redpolls and Pine Siskins in the same day?

The obscure ref in the subject of the e-mail was to a phrase I remember from my childhood. I remember Mom talking about “Princess Summerfall Winterspring”. Ref: I think I might have seen Howdy Doody on some occasions but it really made no huge impression, but I have remembered that name after all these years. Interesting that today re-triggered the memory.

See my PBase (URL below) for winter and spring birds in the same day.

I don’t know, I just remember Mom’s words. I certainly do not remember why, but I guess it must have been an important moment for her when I was a kid (I assume we shared something important!) , just as like why today was an important moment for me seeing special winter birds at the same time as I got FOY spring bluebirds. It all comes back sometime. I always really think Mom was the reason why I appreciated Nature and the outdoors to begin with! God bless you and the memories I have of you Mom!

Just thinking/rambling: if I could think of anything especially wonderful to do with kids in our area, I would certainly take them to Kensington Metro Park to hand feeding birds near the Nature Center area. In California we had the ocean where Mom liked to go. Yet with all the wonders and treasures of the ocean, I never had a lighter than air being light on my hand! (Geez! Y’all do not know what you miss ….!), I suspect nothing would have compared with a flighty weightless being landing on your hand. Never mind, it is not seasonal, I just went off into another ramble … Point here is half of a memory of a childhood princess triggered today …

I put the pics on my PBase site: Oh, just click around … and enjoy …

Do “next” for a total of 4 new pics.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Recent stuff - Spring sprang and now springing Spring broken?

I posted this on the Michigan Birder's list. I copy it here. I really no longer have the energy to generate more than one "ramble" at a time, and wanted to thank Mich birders for their help. Yes, I often "ramble" on the Mich birders (a very accepting forum!) and ignore my blog ...

Many great days recently! My indicator of spring – the Red-winged Blackbird – appeared twice. Yes, Allen I really appreciated your note to me (relative to robins and my spring RWBB indicator) about your sighting of so many RWBB at Erie Marsh this January and I see some postings on the list about RWBB recently and so maybe I need to revise my spring indicator. So, maybe – like Robins – some RWBB hang around. Or is this a weird year? So if not Robins, RWBB, Bluebirds (Stoney recently and Kensington most years), Sandhill Cranes (most recently at Stoney and I am sure Kensington as in most years) and the Kinglets and “butter butts” also being reported this year, what bird is the true indicator of Spring?

At Holland Ponds we were rewarded with the sighting (and backlit pics) of American Widgeon male and female. (Thanks listers! We rarely go there in winter). This is only the second time we ever saw a Widgeon and never so close! As we were walking the main road to Waterfowl Pond to see the ducks, four Red-winged Blackbirds (“tik”, “chuck”, or whatever the familiar sound issuing forth) flew overhead. Huh? Spring?

The next day a RWBB appeared on my deck! Spring! Geez, it was 50 degrees – could have been spring! There were a few more back in the woods making beautiful “here I am” noises at Streamwood. Silly birds…

And at Holland Ponds, I heard some other weird noises – short whistles! Seemed like the older bird-watching couple across the pond was whistling, but the noise did not seem to come from them. From my books, I learned Widgeons make a whistle. Interesting. It was sure strange! Geez, I sure would love to see a Fulvous Whistling Duck (not in Michigan) just to be able to say I saw one! It is in the books and its name sticks in my memory and just rolls off the tongue enough to make it so fascinating! Well anyway, I think I heard a whistling duck (Widgeon), but not the unrelated Whistling Duck. Or was it just the older couple on the other side throwing their whistles and messing with me? We later saw them walking back to their car holding hands. That sight was a true treasure and a lasting memory of a beautiful day birding!

Also while I was watching the Widgeons, I heard some new sounds. Mallards for sure, but very weird - Judy pointed me to the source and I managed to get a few pics of a male Mallard pushing a female under water while biting her neck. First time we ever saw that. Quick!!! Ah, spring! (Is this the time they DO that? What’s the gestation?)

At Stoney Creek Nature Center, we were lucky to get two Common Redpolls (male and female) and a Pine Siskin – both FOY for us. Again, thanks to the list for steering us there! By chance (binocs are good for people too!) we saw my former best bass tournament fishing buddy Terry across from the observation deck where we started and called him over to the Nature Center. He has now traded his bass boat for optics and is hooked on birding. It sure makes sense! Fishing and birding are not so different – seeking, finding, capturing (pics). Both are addictive! And, it is a heck of a lot cheaper considering the amount of gas the 250 hp engines on a bass boat eat, and also more convenient considering that you can “bird” anywhere at any time! It is cool that Terry is now birding! Anyway, the siskin and redpolls were “lifers” for Terry.

On another recent day, while walking the Stoney Creek West Branch Trails, we were fortunate to meet up with Kevin again. On the phone while I asked about the last location of my nemesis PIWO, he had asked me if we saw the Barred Owl. No, I said. I knew exactly where it was supposed to be, and we looked and did not see it as we had walked by. After we met up with Kevin (Thanks, Kevin for meeting us there!), we looked with “new eyes” on the same tree. There it was! It looks like a “bump on a log”! The streaking on the owl’s breast blends perfectly with the bark pattern of the tree! A beautiful “bump on a log”! Go see: (do “next” for one more pic)

Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone for reporting your sightings and to pass along a new “ramble” of the brief spring we enjoyed. I suspect from the weather reports I may finally be able to get “doing” what I need to do at home instead of impulsively birding every nice day. (Hey, in Michigan in winter we take any great day as an opportunity!)

Well, if the brief “Spring spring” is rewound and winter cometh, then bring on more Redpolls, Siskins, and Crossbills – and a few Lapland Longspurs would be nice as well! That would be wonderful! And, for sure the Snowy Owls are amazing! Let’s hope they find food and stay healthy!

BTW, I am going to repost this on my blog. I notice I never posted anything since last summer. “Doing” sure beats blogging… and as much as I would like, it seems harder as I age to do both. I sure heartily applaud the people who can do both!!!

2011 Recap

Placeholder! I want to recap our last year.

Lots of stuff to post! Been busy "doing" and not posting. This has been a mild winter in Michigan, so we have been still "doing". I suspect winter will soon be upon us and I wil have time to catch up.