Showing posts from May, 2008

The Layered Evolution of a Birder

I have been thinking about my evolution as a birder lately. I have noticed a kind of layering that has been added stage wise to my perspective on birds.

The initial stage, which started for me as a kid, involved rigorous visual identification of birds. I was raised on the Roger Tory Peterson field marks system that I learned from a dog eared copy of his 1947 edition of "A Field Guide to the Birds", which I still have and treasure. I was also given copies of a National Geographic book from 1964 entitled "Song and Garden Birds of North America", which I also still have and treasure. I ended up spending many cumulative hours just looking at these books and memorizing the field marks and the general appearance of the birds. I loved the idea of puzzling out the identity of a new bird. this became the basis for the fun of birdwatching as it was called in those days.

The next phase was to be revealed to me during a University of Wisconsin Department of Zoology field trip to…

Strikingly Beautiful Birds: Harlequin Duck

I find this bird to be one of the prettiest ducks around (male shown in all his glory at left). It is a rare visitor to the midwestern United States and when it shows up on the Great Lakes (e.g. Lake Michigan) it typically causes a stir among birders. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest in western Oregon, I would go over to the coast in the winter and usually find it along the rocky coast outside of Newport, Oregon.
A Different Migration Route

This species conducts an east-west migration in the Pacific Northwest, moving from the coast in winter to the fast moving mountain streams in Montana, for example. It is always a visual treat if a person is lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this strikingly beautiful North American duck!

Species information (multimedia)

Harlequin Duck with Duckling RidingJames HagerBuy From

Oregon Coast - Woody and LighthouseBuy From

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Florence, OregonAdam JonesBuy From

Beach at Sunset with Sea Stacks and G...…

The Toughest Migration of Them All

This time of year it seemed appropriate to write about bird migration. I recently ran across what appears to me to be the toughest migration of them all. Interestingly enough it is performed by the eastern Asian population of the intriguingly named Demoiselle Crane.
This bird, shown above, is the smallest crane in the world, weighing only 4-7 lbs (2-3 kg) and measuring 3 feet in length. Yet one population of this species must perform the herculean task of crossing the Himalayas to reach its wintering grounds on the Indian subcontinent! To me it doesn't get any tougher than that.I learned of this migratory route from watching the DVD of the BBC series "Planet Earth". It is on Disc one in the episode entitled "Mountains". The segment on the Demoiselle Crane shows them initially trying to cross as a storm begins to blow. As the narrator informs us they must turn back or risk death. They return the next day and push on through to success, despite what must be incred…