The Big Sit 2014!

Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
0 comments

 
Attention Birders Worldwide!

The 2014 Big Sit is coming soon! On the weekend of October 11 (Saturday) and 12 (Sunday) people just like you will be  positioning themselves in the middle of 17-foot diameter circles and watching/counting birds for as much of a 24-hour period as possible.

There's no rule about the number of birders you can fit in your Big Sit circle.
Big Sit teams get the chance at two prizes: one is simply bragging rights for your geographic area. For many years my Big Sit circle had the highest totals in Ohio and I bragged about that until I lost several friendships. The other prize is The Golden Bird, a cash award of $500 sponsored by Swarovski Optik NA. The Golden Bird winner is selected this way: All the species seen by all of the teams are thrown into a hat. One species is chosen to the the Golden Bird, let's say it's winter wren. Then all the teams that saw a winter wren are thrown into a hat and one lucky team is chosen to receive The Golden Bird prize! They are able to use the $500 to support the conservation cause of their choice. Cool, huh?

You can learn more and watch a goofy Big Sit video here. If you need further justification to do a Big Sit, here are my Top Ten Reasons. Teams can register here: http://www.TinyUrl.com/BigSit

The Whipple Bird Club in the indigo Hill birding tower during the 2011 Big Sit.
Some would argue that The Big Sit is the social highlight of the birding year.
After several requests from participants, and a bit of internal discussion, the Bird Watcher's Digest and the New Haven (CT) Bird Club (the organization that holds the trademark on The Big Sit!?) decided to open the dates for future Big Sits to include both Saturday and Sunday on the second weekend of October. For the 2014 Big Sit, sitters can choose to sit on either Saturday, October 11 or on Sunday October 12. Or you can choose to sit on both days and pick the best one to record for your Sit circle.

The Big Sit is a non-competitive event (although I compete with myself every year to top our Sit site record for number of species). This year we'd love to beat our all-time record of 72 species, but I'd be happy to top last year's measly 55 species. Weather has a huge impact on our numbers in southeastern Ohio. If a cold front comes through the week before, it clears out a lot of our warblers, vireos, tanagers, and other insect eaters.

So please make plans to Sit! Anyone can participate?it's free?and you don't HAVE to register, but we appreciate it if you do. And afterwards, please come back to the Big Sit web pages to enter your bird list and share your sightings. You can even share some of your team's photos. And you can see how your Sit compares with other Sits in your region, state, or country.

Mainly the Big Sit is FUN! It's like a tailgate party for birders. I'm already looking forward to sitting for parts of both days. And if Saturday is rained out, well there's always Sunday!

Good luck and happy, birdy sitting!

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New Podcast Episode: Sketches of Homer, Alaska

Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014
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Last May, I was the keynote speaker at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska. The festival was really rich in terms of field trips and speakers, the birding was excellent, the people were super friendly, and the weather perfect. My friend Marianne Aplin, a longtime U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service person working in the refuge system, had been inviting me to the festival for a number of years, but, because it usually coincides with International Migratory Bird Day, I could never go. In the spring of 2014 I decided to make getting to Homer a priority and I'm sure glad I did.

Homer is a wonderful small town on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, surrounded by Kachemak Bay. It's about a five-hour drive southeast from Anchorage. While the festival attracts mostly Alaskan birders, the town of Homer supports the festival fully and a lot of Homerites?even non-birders?participate.
Huge turnout for the Beginners' Bird Walk in Homer.
I got a life bird (spruce grouse!), got to see some other really special birds (Aleutian tern, tufted puffin, varied thrush, harlequin duck, and Northwestern crow), met a lot of new friends, judged a bird-calling contest, helped out a couple dozen young birders in a competition, experienced an earthquake, witnessed a birds and beers bash, participated in a beginning birders walk, gave my keynote talk, and played a lot of music.
BT3 with two of the members of the Fledgling Birders group in Homer.
I created a podcast episode for "This Birding Life" about my experience in Homer. If you give it a listen, I'll bet it'll make you want to head north to Homer. As I found out during my visit, Homer is the center of the universe?we're just not sure which universe.

"This Birding Life" is sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics and hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest.
For more information about the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, visit the Homer Chamber of Commerce website at www.homeralaska.org.


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Out There With the Birds!

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014
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Longtime readers of this blog may recognize the phrase "out there with the birds." It's been a kind of catch phrase of mine for a long time, used to sign-off from my presentations, my blog posts, and my podcast: "I'll see you out there with the birds!"

Now the content team at Bird Watcher's Digest has borrowed the phrase as the title of our new multi-author blog, Out There with the Birds. Why create a multi-author blog? That's a good question. Multi-author blogs are very popular these days. Two of the more successful ones focused on birding are 10,000 Birds and the American Birding Association blog?both are worth checking out.

Since BWD is a magazine for readers, we tried to emulate that for the blog. If you like reading good writing from new voices in the bird and nature realm, please give OTWTB a try. The topics and subject matter are all over the map. In fact, you never know what you're going to be reading, but we guarantee you that it's going to be interesting, well-written, and worth your time. Dawn Hewitt, BWD's managing editor, is the content wrangler for the blog. Her job is to keep the posts rolling in and to make sure that the blog and its contents help us reach our two goals: to provide engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking content for the blog's readers, and to expose the blog's authors to a new, wider audience.

http://otwtb.birdwatchersdigest.com/uncategorized/a-month-at-sea-in-the-california-current/


Among the many authors are some well-known names in the birding realm, such as Bo Beolens (a.k.a. The Fatbirder), artist, author, and marine-life expert Sophie Webb, poet and editor of Bird Watching Magazine (UK) Matt Merritt, as well as newer voices such as naturalist, photographer Erin Gettler, and ace bird photographer Tom Dunkerton. We've had individual posts by a number of other authors, including Jason Kessler, the filmmaker responsible for the Opposable Chums documentary about the World Series of Birding.


The latest post is a guest contribution from Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik NA recounting his recent Costa Rica birding trip with Birder of the Year contest winner Lyn Stallings. Swarovski and BWD partnered to sponsor the 2013 Birder of the Year (BOTY) contest with the grand prize of an all-expenses-paid, week-long birding trip to Costa Rica, plus a pair of new Swarovski SLC binoculars. Here's a hot tip: the 2014 BOTY contest will be announced soon, so watch for it in the pages of BWD.
 
BWD's content and events team, from L to R: BOTB, Wendy Clark, Kyle Carlsen, and Dawn Hewitt.

We also include some work from two of our BWD content team?Dawn Hewitt and Kyle Carlsen. Both of these folks are talented writers and avid birders, which is incredibly useful if you're producing a constant flow of bird-related material for a variety of delivery channels. I feel very lucky to have these two on our team.

So please check out the content on OTWTB and let us know what you think of it. Better yet, if you have something you'd like to contribute to be considered for the blog, please contact us via e-mail: bwd AT birdwatchersdigest DOT com. Use the subject line OTWTB.

Thanks, and I'll see you....well, you know the rest!








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Ponder This...

Friday, Jul 25, 2014
6 comments

Who brings baby storks to their parents?

It's a question that has befuddled mankind for centuries.
 I'd be interested in hearing your conjecture.




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Birthday Tribute to Julie

Thursday, Jul 24, 2014
2 comments

Happy birthday to Julie!

Who is, among other things...
A wonderful, loving Mom
A mother to thousands of baby birds
A science chimp
An amazing artist
 An enthralling writer
A writer of irresistible songs
And fantastic singer of same
A talented pennywhistler
A gardener with green thumbs (and hands, and feet)
A healer of broken plants and animals
A sought-after nature guide
A world-class speaker/presenter
A runner of country roads
A crazy dog lady (Boston terriers only)
a wanderer in the woods.
and a beautiful, loving (and fun-loving) partner.

With love,
B

 Here's a beso from our evening primrose.
 

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Happy 18th Birthday to My Favorite Bird

Friday, Jul 11, 2014
7 comments

 To my darling daughter on the occasion of her 18th birthday.

You are a miracle to me, little bird. 
You were wise from your first day...

 So alive and deeply aware, for one so young, of the things that make this life wonderful.
Like grandpas who say funny things and then smirk.

 And the perfect arc of a tire swing on a summer evening.

Or the smooth feel of a baby rhino's horn.

You have proven, since your youngest days, that you can be from the country and still have swag.


You are willing to indulge your little brother, who is your shadow, in his Halloween schemes, his wacky dreams, and encourage him to follow in your footsteps.

 Your running footsteps and all the others, too.

Not everyone can go from goofy...



To glamorous as effortlessly as you, Phoebe...


Even the animals of the forest (and kitchen) sense your special nature...


I'd like to take credit for your love of baseball, but that, too, you came to all on your own.
 
 I am just your happy baseball buddy.



 Your mama has made you into quite the Science Chimp and Nature Girl.

 

And it's a good thing, because you seem to have met another of your kind....








I was there when you were born.
I have been blessed to see you growing.


 I have seen you pass milestones, one after another.



And now you launch into a new world.
My sweet little bird, it's time for you to fly away.
 But please, oh please, return
for we cannot imagine our world
without you,
darling, beautiful Phoebe.
 Happy 18th birthday to Phoebe Linnea Thompson!

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New Podcast Episode: "Voices of Argentina!"

Thursday, Jun 12, 2014
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Magellanic woodpecker, female.
I've just finished episode #46 of my "This Birding Life" podcast, entitled "Voices of Argentina." In this episode I interview a variety of interesting folks whom I encountered during a recent birding trip to Argentina. We talk about birds (of course), culture, food, music, the landscape, and many other things.
Scanning the Iberá Wetlands.

Music and birds are the two largest rivers running through my life so I'm really happy to be able to include some Argentine music in this episode. The style of music is called Chamamé and it's a meeting or blending of the folk music of Europe (German accordion and Spanish guitar) and the Guaraní people of Argentina. We were entertained one evening by a duo playing Chamamé  and singing while some local dancers showed us the typical moves associated with each song. And all this was occurring while we were being fed a traditional Argentine asada meal of grilled meats and vegetables. Plus the famed Argentine wine. A memorable night indeed.
Duo playing Chamamé.

After they'd played two sets of music the band even let me play a bit during their break. Another thrill and yet another country where I've had the good fortune to bond with fellow musicians. After the show we exchanged CDs and hearty handshakes.

As you'll hear in the podcast, we birded in just two regions of Argentina (which is a huge country): the northeast around the large Iberá Wetlands Preserve and in the central southwest in the Andean foothills of Patagonia. The birding was incredible in both regions. Special avian treats included Andean condor, many-colored rush-tyrant, Magellanic woodpecker, greater rhea, and horned screamer. We saw a total of about 230 species during our 10-day trip, though, as our wonderful guides noted repeatedly, we were not there at the height of the birding season.
Greater rheas.
Andean condors.

If you are interested in learning more about birding in Argentina, please visit the travel page we've set up on the Bird Watcher's Digest website: www.birdwatchersdigest.com/travel/argentina. This page has links to Argentina's main tourism websites as well as links to the paces we visited, including lodging.
Drinking maté with Starsky, Dominic, and Tim.

My special thanks go out to Tim Appleton of the British Birdwatching Fair who invited me on the trip. And to Pablo Cagnoni from Inprotur, the organizer of the trip in Argentina, as well as to our wonderful guides, hosts, drivers, and planners.
Birding on a large estáncia in Patagonia with our lead guides Scarlett (dark hat) and Eugenia (second from left).


My fellow travelers on the Argentina adventure were Niklas Aronsson of Vår Fågelvärld (Our Birding World magazine in Sweden), Dominic Couzens (a popular and prolific nature writer in the UK), Matthew Merritt (editor of Bird Watching magazine (the original) in the UK). Click on their names to find out more about them.
From left: BOTB, Niklas, Tim, Dominic, and Matt.
Thanks for reading and listening!
http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/podcasts/thisbirdinglife.php

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Caption Contest #25 Winners!

Friday, May 23, 2014
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Hey everybody! We have winners for Caption Contest #25! Yes that's winners?plural, with an s. Our judges were stymied at the prospect of choosing just one winner, so we divided the entries into two categories and we have two winners!

In the Dirty Minds category:
WINNER:

Nilpad said...
Optics for all your middle-aged guy needs!


FINALISTS:
Alyssa said...

Although the invite specifically said "bare-naked birding", Geoff didn't feel comfortable unless he brought along certain..."enhancements."

Erik said...
Looks like Geoff stores his Viagra in his optics case.

In the Funny and Clean category:
WINNER:
Leslie said...
OK, scan north until you hit Michigan, look for third jack pine from the left, halfway up the tree, eight o'clock, sitting on skinny branch against the sky, yellow breast, black streaking, split white eye ring..........

FINALIST:
kevbosnafu said...
Our new 'Pinocchio' binoculars will let your birding friends know when you are....exaggerating... about that ivory-billed in the backyard.

Congratulations to our two winners and all of our finalists! And thanks to all who played!

Leslie and Nilpad, please contact me via e-mail to give me your details and claim your prizes! bt3 AT birdwatchersdigest DOT com. Use the subject line BOTB Caption Contest.

Thank you!

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Caption Contest #25!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
15 comments

It's been a while since we had a good old-fashioned caption contest here at Bill of the Birds. In fact it's been WAY TOO LONG! So here goes...


My good buddy and New River Birding & Nature Festivalco-founder Geoff Heeter is using some impressive binoculars in this image.

Almost as impressive is your opportunity to submit a clever caption for this photograph and garner a fabulous prize if your caption is chose as the winning entry. The prize is a personally autographed copy of The New Birder?s Guide written by yours truly.

Here are the rules:

1.     Use the Comments section of this blog (below) to create and enter your caption.
2.     Make sure there?s a way for our panel of esteemed judges to identify and contact you by including your Blogger name, non-linkable e-mail address, Google+ or Twitter handle, etc.
3.     Get your entry (or entries, there?s no limit other than your time and imagination) in by May 22, 2014.
4.     Entries must be in English or in one of the other identifiable languages of Planet Earth (no Klingon or High Valyrian entries please).
5.     Encourage your friends, birding pals, social media contacts, and frenemies to enter.
6.     Sit back, enjoy the entries from others less clever than you
7.     Wait for the announcement of your BOTB Caption Contest victory!

Thanks for playing and let?s be careful out there.
?BOTB

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Introducing The New Birder's Guide!

Thursday, May 08, 2014
1 comment


My latest book is out this week and I?m kind of excited about it. It?s The New Birder?s Guide published by my great friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston. This book?s core content?simple species profiles of 300 of the most-commonly encountered North American birds?is based upon The Young Birder?s Guide to Birds of North America which is aimed at young people between the ages of 8 and 12.


The Young Birder?s Guide to Birds of North America was itself an expanded version (with 100 western bird species added) of my original book in this series The Young Birder?s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America which was a best seller among nature books in its time and the winner of several book awards. After the publication of the eastern YBG I wanted to do a version for young birders in the western United States, but the folks at HMH were more enthusiastic about doing a guide for all of North America, so that?s the direction we took.


My original idea for doing a field guide for young birders came from my own experience as a 7-year-old who had sparked on birds but struggled with the available resources. It wasn?t until my family moved from Iowa to Ohio in 1971 and my mom fell in with a gang of birding women that I discovered that bird watching was a hobby and there were other people who thought birds were cool. This was also my introduction to Pat Murphy, leader of The Betsey Birders (affiliated with a local organization for women and girls known as The Betsey Mills Club) who became a birding mentor to our family and to dozens of others in the Marietta, Ohio region. Pat introduced us to field guides and bird feeders and taught us bird identification and bird songs. She also gave me my first look through a spotting scope. This gave my interest in birds and nature an enormous boost and eventually led to my family starting Bird Watcher?s Digest. But that?s another story?

So when it was time for me to propose a new book idea, my talented editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lisa A. White, asked my what I wanted to do. I told her I wanted to create a field guide for young birders. She asked what my vision was and I replied, ?I want to create the field guide that I wish I?d had as a young person interested in birds.?

Lisa liked this concept but wondered aloud how I would make this book different from ?all the other kids books out there on birds and nature.?

?I?m going to use my daughter Phoebe?s 4th grade class as my focus group!?

And that was the genesis of these three books. Phoebe and her classmates helped me for their 4th and 5th grade years, choosing photos, critiquing design samples, refining the content, and this made the entire book-creating process incredibly inspiring for me. We started out by going birding and using every single field guide I could find?both for kids and for adults. The kids told me what they liked and didn?t like. We followed the progress of the book through concept development, writing, editing, re-writing, more editing, image and illustration selection, design samples, production, proofing, galleys, and?finally?finished books. The day I walked into Salem Liberty Elementary School, halfway through their 6thgrade year, and handed out copies of The Young Birder?s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America to each of the students was the single proudest day of my professional life. I still get choked up thinking about it. We DID it! We made a BOOK! We all just stood there beaming?

The original Young Birder's Guide to eastern birds.
A month or so later I was at a birding festival?I can?t remember where?giving my first talk based upon the Young Birder?s Guide. Afterwards I was selling and signing copies of the book and the very first person to buy one was a friendly woman of about 70 who was buying a copy for her grandson who had shown some interest in birds. I signed the book and endorsed it to her grandson; she thanked me and walked out of the auditorium. About 20 minutes later I saw her come back into the room and get back in line. Soon she was back at my table, shaking her right forefinger at me.

?You should have called this The NEW Birder?s Guide! I was leafing through it in my car and the content and approach are so easy to understand! It?s PERFECT for a new birder like me. I?ll take another one and you can autograph it to me, my name is Irene.?

A light bulb went off in my head as I signed her book. And now, six years after that encounter, here is The New Birder?s Guide. It includes the same 300 species profiles as the all-of-North-America version of the YBGbut redesigned for adults. And it features almost 40 pages of new introductory material for the adult beginning birder. These introductory pages include advice on finding and identifying birds, on field craft, on bird conservation, how to dress, how to gear-up for a birding trip, how to choose optics, and so on. Perhaps my favorite section is the one entitled ?You Might be a Birder if?? I?ll let you be the judge of whether or not I get things right. At the very least I hope it?ll give you a chuckle.
That's me guiding young birders in Massachusetts.
If you are a new birder, or if you know a new (or young) birder, I hope you?ll consider getting them a copy of one of these books. After all, Phoebe is off to college this fall and we?re counting every penny. Have you seen what college tuition costs these days? Yikes!
Phoebe has helped me at many book signings.

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. I?ll see you out there with the birds!

Bill of the Birds


P.S. When The Young Birders Guide to Birds of North America came out in 2012, covering 300 species for the continent, it replaced The Young Birder?s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. The good folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt allowed me to acquire the remaining 1,500 copies of the eastern YBG with the stipulation that I not sell them. So I gave them away to young birder?s clubs, nature centers, scout groups, teachers, schools, and to kids who?d already ?sparked? on birds. I know this may have taken away of a few sales of my books, but I?ve always felt that my main mission on this planet is to help people discover the joys of bird watching. And there?s no better way to accomplish that than by giving someone a copy of the book I wished I?d had as a child?way back in 1968, when a snowy owl flew into our Iowa front yard and my life was changed forever.


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Racing to Save Birds!

Thursday, Mar 20, 2014
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Dear Birding Friends and Friends of Birds:

There are many, many worthy conservation causes vying for your attention these days. Birdathons, appeals to save habitat, funding for field work on endangered species, even bird club scholarships to send young birders to nature camp. All of these are wonderful causes, worthy of your financial support.

To this chorus of causes I am adding another?and asking for your support. My friends at BirdLife International and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are hosting a new event on April 1, 2014 with the goal of raising money to help stop the shooting and trapping of birds in southern and eastern Europe


The event is called Champions of the Flyway and while stopping the slaughter of migrant birds is its focus in 2014, the long-term goal is to support bird and habitat conservation efforts all along the major flyway that connects Eurasia with Africa?funneling millions of birds right through Israel.



Bird Watcher's Digest with financial support from some conservation-minded folks, is fielding a team for the Champions of the Flyway event! We're called The Way-off Coursers and our team members are George Armistead, Michael O'Brien, Ben Lizdas, and yours truly. We're not only planning to have fun whilst birding in the Eilat region of southern Israel on April 1, we're hoping to raise $5,000 to contribute to the Champions cause.

The event is a bird race (similar to a birdathon). All the teams will be birding within a limited geographic area, around Eilat in southern Israel, all day on April 1. Various awards will be given to the winning teams the following day, but the real winners will be the birds that we help to save through this very special conservation initiative. And the people all along the flyway who will get to see, hear, and delight in these birds in future years.

Why is Bird Watcher's Digest involved in a bird race on the other side of the world? Because bird conservation is a global challenge. And birding is a universal language, right? There are teams from England, the Netherlands, Finland, the USA, the country of Georgia, and a joint Israeli/Palestinian team! Truly international!
Palestine sunbird

Another reason I am committed to this project is thanks to the efforts of my dear friend Jonathan Meyrav, who is one of the event's creators and leaders. I met Jonathan in the Hula Valley of Israel a few years ago. We later spent time together when he came to visit my farm in Ohio. Jonathan is a world-class birder and a dedicated conservationist. When he asked me to put together a team for the Champions of the Flyway event when it was just an idea, I was determined to do so because his enthusiasm and dedication are contagious. And our friendship is something I cherish.
BT3 (left) and Jonathan birding in Ohio.

Won't you consider a contribution? Even a small donation counts toward our goal. As I write this, we're already at 32% of our fundraising goal! Wow!


Little green bee-eater.

You can follow the progress of The Way-off Coursers on the COTF website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. The event's Twitter feed is @flywayschampions. Our team hashtag is #cotfwayoff and we'll also be posting when we can on our personal social media accounts.

Thanks so much for your support! On behalf of the Bird Watcher's Digest Way-off Coursers, we'll see you (way) out there with the birds!

?Bill
 
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