I and the Bird

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good News Tuesday

The past 6 years haven't had a lot of good news for environmentalists. Global warming, oil drilling, Katrina, urban sprawl blah blah blah it's not been a party that's for sure.

Recently, however, some events have occured that have given enviros something to celebrate. Here ya go:

A year ago everyone as abuzz about the rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in Arkansas. 6 months ago, those who celebrated the birds re-finding awoke with a bad hangover and the news that, well, that little video clip probably didn't show an IBWO. Things were grim, until recent stories have come our proclaiming that the Ivory-Billed is alive and well in the remote forests of the Florida panhandle. Although no photos or video have been produced, there have been many sightings, several discovered nest cavities and hundreds of recorded kent calls. Bravo.

Second, a federal judge last night blocked an Interior Department plan to lease 389,000 acres around Alaska's Teshekpuk Lake for oil and gas drilling. Teshekpuk Lake provides crucial summer breeding grounds to millions of geese and other shorebirds, as well as habitat for caribou, bears and fish. In his decision, Judge Singleton cited the Interior's failure to assess potential environmental impacts of the plan. Bravo.

Third (but not least), a judge in San Fransisco last week invalidated the Bush administration's plan to overturn the 2001 Roadless Rule. Passed by President Clinton, the Roadless Rule protects 49 million acres of national forestland from logging and mining. Bush repealed the rule and instead left it up to state governors do decide the fate of their roadless areas, knowing full well that most state governors would choose logging dollars over the conservation of resources. The judge, as in the Teshekpuk Lake case, cited improper analysis of that environmental impacts of logging in roadless areas in his decision. Bravo.

I'll be at the 9:30 Club tonight drinking beers and being thankful I live in a country where laws are upheld and good things can happen.
Saturday, September 23, 2006

How Am I Doing?

Pretty good, thanks for asking.

My 2006 birding year totals have already surpassed my 2005 (technically, March 05 to March 06) totals and I've got a lot of birding ahead of me. Let me keep you up to date wth my totals, cool?

Life list: 237. For one and a half years of birding in the East (save for a trip to Tahoe for snowboarding, not birding) I'm happy with this total. I'm hoping to hit at least 250 by the end of the year, a goal that will be helped for sure by a pelagic trip with See Life Paulagics in the middle of October. I'm pretty siked. Never been out to see looking for birds before, and I'm ready to see some Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and, hell, I'm feeling like there'll be an Albatross sighting. Just a hunch.

Year list: 205. Already 6 ahead of my 2005 year list. This is mostly thanks to the excellent shorebirding opportunities I've been able to get to on DelMarVa. Here are some numbers, and some commentary (these numbers thanks to the EXCELLENT Ebird.com site):

The 38 birds I've seen this year that I didn't see last year

200 Laughing Gull - seen from Anacostia Park, I was surprised at how big they were.
201 Caspian Tern
202 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - I was the first person to see this bird hiding near the beginning of the boardwalk. When I walk past on my way out there were a bunch of other birders proudly pointing their scopes at it. That, for a birder, is a good feeling.
203 Pectoral Sandpiper
204 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
205 Palm Warbler
206 Northern Parula - A bird I had been seeking for a long time. I'm sure I had heard them before, but I wasn't up on my calls...
207 Eastern Screech-Owl - this is the only 'heard-only' bird on my life list.
208 White-faced Ibis - this guy caused quite a stir in DC. I saw it after waiting a long time in the rain, but I saw it just the same.
209 Anhinga
210 White-eyed Vireo
211 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
212 Black-billed Cuckoo - this bird and the following Grosbeak were part of an awesome trip to Kenelworth park. I managed to see both these lifers in one frame
213 Blue Grosbeak
214 Acadian Flycatcher
215 Spotted Sandpiper
216 Gray-cheeked Thrush - May at Rock Creek had LOTS of thrushes, this one took a lot of effort.
217 Swainson's Thrush
218 Black-necked Stilt - not as exciting a bird as I had hoped.
219 Willet
220 Marsh Wren - Great call, got one of my favorite photos
221 White-rumped Sandpiper
222 Grasshopper Sparrow
223 Henslow's Sparrow - Very satisfying conclusion of a trip to Frostburg, MD
224 Eastern Meadowlark
225 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - countable or uncountable? It was certainly less tame than more starlings, rock pigeons or house sparrows I count...
226 Piping Plover - this and the least tern were pleasant surprises on a day of surfing at my favorite beach in Maine
227 Least Tern Scarborough
228 Clay-colored Sparrow - extralimital bird whose call gave me the most confident ID of any
229 Vesper Sparrow
230 Tricolored Heron
231 Royal Tern
232 Sandwich Tern
233 Long-billed Dowitcher
234 Least Sandpiper
235 Little Blue Heron
236 Cattle Egret
237 Black Skimmer

Birds I saw last year but haven't seen yet this year (off the top of my head):
orchard oriole
American woodcock
Northern gannet
American white pelican
red-breasted merganser
greater scaup
common and Barrow's goldeneye
ruffed grouse
common moorhen
American golden plover
American avocet
solitary sandpiper
monk parakeet
yellow-throated vireo
orange-crowned warbler
northern waterthrush

That's all I've got for now. I think I'll be showing up at Rock Creek Park tomorrow morning where I can hopefully add to these numbers a bit. See you out there.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

UPDATE! Manaia, the National Zoo Kiwi

Back in April I interviewed Kathy Brader, the Senior Bird Keeper at the National Zoo here in DC, about the birth of a North Island Brown Kiwi named Manaia. This was the newborn on his first day:

And here he is now:

A little bigger (now up to 882 grams!), and every bit as cute.

Kathy told me that people can now visit Manaia at the Zoo as part of their Meet-A-Kiwi program. Visitors can meet young Manaia on Mondays (soon expanding to Wednesday and Friday as well) at the Bird Resource Center inside the Bird House. Attendance is limited to 20, so get there early for the 11am talk.
Monday, September 18, 2006

Interview with Peter Lund

Probably the best way to describe my uncle Pete would be to call him a 'character.' Armed with an open mind and a boisterous laugh, Pete has done more in his life than most anyone else I've ever met. Among the hats that Uncle Pete has worn since I've been around include: publisher, singer/songwriter, writer, artist, reggae band keyboardist, mystic, seller of quartz crystal, treasure hunter, cairn-creator and, when I was little, part-time babysitter.

Uncle Pete is also remarkable with animals. Tripper, the dog he had when I was young, was the best-trained dog I've ever met. Pete also took in a standard poodle named Hunter that had proven too wild for my family. When Hunter bit (playfully) one of my brother's friends, Pete volunteered to take in the dog and, in no time at all, had turned the dog into one of the friendliest and most recognizable (thanks in part to the Hunter's new deadlocks) dogs in Portland, Maine.

In addition to dogs, Pete has always been able to interact, mostly through call-and-response, with American Crows. Recently Pete and I exchanged emails about his relationship with crows and his insights into their social behavior.

bDC: Yo, Pete. When did you first begin to understand the social behavior of crows and how did you go about first attempting to participate in their behaviors?

PL: The first real knowledge of the social nature of crows came from two stories that I read when I was quite young. The first was a very touching story about a young boy in a village in Japan who was kind of a social outcast, who, during an opportunity to speak at a village gathering, imitated how the crows' calls sounded depending on what was going on. In particular I remember that he imitated how the crows cawed when a person in the village had died. It changed the villagers ideas about both the boy and the crows.

(This story was reflected in an experience I had when I was 18, when, after leaving a memorial service for a fellow who had passed away, two crows flew down low over us as we left the funeral home, uttering very plaintive, sad-sounding caws.)
I also had, as a young boy, read a short story written by the famous outdoor author, Jack London, where he detailed the social activities of a group of crows. He transcribed different crow calls onto a musical staff. Having been taught to read music, I understood the "danger" call, and I recognized it when I heard crows using it. I tried it out when there were crows around, and they would flee the area while repeating the call when I used it.

The first attempt that the crows made to include me in their interactions that I really noticed was when I was about 35, when two crows flying forty or fifty feet up dive-bombed me (it was a dry run) to about eight feet above my head as I was walking through the middle of the huge empty parking lot near City Hall in downtown Portland. It seemed playful, as they were not harassing me vocally, which they do when they are upset with me.

There are a few events leading up to this, and many thereafter, which serve to document the growing awareness and interactions between me and the crows, which I can expound upon later.

bDC: How did you react to these birds playfully diving you? Did you feel you understood why these birds were acting this way?

PL: When I got over my initial reaction, which was surprise and astonishment, I assumed it was their way of acknowledging me and welcoming me into their extended family, sort of like an fraternity initiation. It made me feel included, and special. It also made me feel happy and lucky. I've never seen or heard of that happening to anybody before.

bDC: After you felt that you were initiated, how did you proceed to interact with crows? Did you continue to see the same pair from the City Hall lot or did you feel a connection with others?

PL: The "initiation" encouraged me to continue to interact with them, of course.
My usual method of communicating with the crows is to call to them when I see them, or use my signature piercing whistle. That's whistling with the lips drawn back and the tongue folded over, which carries for quite a ways.

Honestly, I can't tell one crow from another with the exception of the head of the group, who has a distinctive halting call. He uses the call to identify himself when he wishes. I use it back to acknowledge him, or to let the other crows know that I know their group leader, or to see if he's around.

They have several places they hang out in town, on top of a few different buildings.

I used to be too self-conscious to talk to them in public, but once after I saw an old man calling to them I figured, hey, if he doesn't care, why should I? After that I didn't are who was around, I'd just let loose with a few caws when I saw them. Sometimes the crows would jump up in surprise but they got used to it after a while. After they learned I was being friendly and social, they would occasionally put on a show and all come fly high over me, just higher than the buildings, circling and cawing. Once it happened right in front of the police station downtown. It was a riot! Five or six crow can make quite a racket, I was very pleased.

A little while before that, I had seen a young crow, too exhausted to fly anymore, kind of skid down the side of a building right on to the sidewalk. There were people walking by not seeming to notice, but his parent hid in the nearby tree so as not to draw the attention of any predator. I crossed the street and picked up the young crow, then about the size of a robin, looked him in the eyes, cawed gently to him a few times, and put him safely behind a chain-link fence onto the lawn of a church building that used to be across from the old Levinsky's clothing store on Congress St. Then I left, and cawed to his parents to say hi. This was in the springtime.

Early that fall, I saw a crow sitting on the telephone pole at the same location, and, as I watched, he left his perch and flew, hovered in the air for fifteen seconds or so, right over the place I had picked up the young crow. I suddenly thought, this is the same crow I picked up, showing me proudly how well he could fly now.
That was cool!
It could have been his parents that had dive-bombed me as a way of saying "thanks!".

Once as I walked by a group of high-school students, one of the students cawed. I think I was being teased because I had been noticed talking to the crows in public.
I thought it was funny!

The main times I would interact with the crows was when I was walking my dog(s) in the areas away from the inner city where there were a lot more trees and open spaces.

bDC: How did the crows react to Tripper and Hunter?

PL: I don't know exactly how the crows reacted to the dogs. I think it was more a way that the crows identified me, because I usually had one dog or the other, or for a while, both of them, with me. But also they could see that I had dominion over the dogs, that they obeyed me, so the crows had some idea of our relationship.

Tripper (my first dog, a mid-sized terrier mix) loved to speak with a loud "ROOOOOoooo!" anytime I asked him to. He was full of enthusiasm that way. And any time I noticed crows around when I was out walking, I would have him speak. I think the crows took it as a greeting. I hadn't yet started talking to them directly yet.

I think the crows liked Crow-dog ( a standard poodle) because he was black, like the crows. His name was "Hunter" when I got him, when he was three-and-a-half years old.
But he was so independent and headstrong that I couldn't scream "Hunter" fast enough before he got into mischief..

One day I had brought a crow skull and some bones down from up the hill under an apple tree where I had placed a dead crow I'd found on the road, a couple of years before. I had the skull and bones by the front door with intentions of making some kind of artistic arrangement of them on a board to hang on the wall or something. The next morning, after I had let Hunter out, I noticed the bones were gone. He'd eaten them. Just then a crow flew very low over my backyard, cawing. That's when I named him "Crow". It seemed as if the crow knew what had happened. So Crow was actually part crow, seeing as the bones he ate went into his bones, most likely.

bDC: What are your interactions with crows like now? Do you hope to
communicate more closely with them as time goes on?

PL: My interactions with the crows are generally less intense than they were in the past. It has settled into a fairly predictable routine. For example, as I crossed the big parking lot close to City Hall yesterday, I gave a loud whistle, and a couple of crows who had been in Lincoln Park flew out and lit on the top of Franklin Towers, which is the tallest building in the area, overlooking that section of the city. From there one of them started calling down to me, and I responded in kind. I stopped walking for a few minutes to watch them and "hang out", then continued my trip to the post office. It's the same way I interact with my neighbors or acquaintances.

I don't really know how I could communicate with them more closely, but if I could, I would. For now it seems enough for both of us to enjoy mutual recognition and appreciation of each other's presence in the world.

Sometimes I wonder about re-incarnation, thinking that it might be cool to come back as a crow. But I don't know about having to sit in a tree by the side of the highway waiting for a car to run over a squirrel.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

DC Weekend Birds

Took a couple of quick trips this weekend to look for migrants: yesterday at the National Arboretum and today at Rock Creek Park.

I wasn't expecting much at the Arboretum; it was cold and grey drizzly and it had been that way for a couple days. Most listserv posts had indicated that the migration had stalled, and so I went hoping to find a bit of fallout, or just get lucky. My first stop was the azalea gardens which, to my surprise, we full of birds. Only problem was they were all robins. And I say that only in the most snobby birder way...there's no problem with robins, I was just hoping for something less common. OK well there was also a veery and a pair of rt hummingbirds, but other than that all way quiet.

I moved over to the Capitol Columns parking lot and looked in vain for the red headed woodpecker that frequents that area. The small field behind the lot, though, which was overgrown with giant sunflowers, appeared to be another fallout point. A huge flock of goldfinches, in all sorts of plumages, were zipping and yelping in the field and in a large bush. Goldfinches are usually kind of a hassle - they're the right size and color to be a whole lot of less common birds - but it was nice to see a huge flock of them. Also, as is common in large flocks, there were a couple other birds joining the group. Most notable of these by far was a worm-eating warbler that I got good looks at as it hopped around in the middle of the bush. Another, larger, bird popped out of the grass and perched in plain view. I was dumbfounded...too big to be a sparrow or goldfinch, yellow with a striped crown and eyeline...? It took me about 10 minutes to ID the bird as a fall-plumage bobolink. First of the year bird for me.
Kate and I didn't show up to Rock Creek Park as early as I'd like, but, hey, sleep is important. On the way into the maintenance yard we saw, without much trouble, a beautiful Canada warbler flitting in a bush. Good start. Some other birders we passed on the way said that things had calmed down quite a bit, but we managed (with the help of a large group of birders working over the maintenance yard) to see a magnolia warbler, a couple common yellowthroats, a great-crested flycatcher, a pileated woodpecker (always a crowd favorite) and my first of the year (believe it or not) broad-winged hawk. The paths back to the parking lot continued to provide good birds, and I had good looks at a black-and-white warbler and a black-throated green. All in all, good couple days.
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Birder Profile: John from A DC Birding Blog

As the author of A DC Birding Blog, I assume that John B. lives a pretty similar life as mine. We both live in East DC, we both frequent the Arboretum and Kenilworth, and we both write about our experiences for a blog. Why, then, you might ask, is his life list so much longer than mine? Well, probably because he's a darn good birder. Here's his birder profile:

Name: John

DC Location: East End

Years Birding: 3

Organizations: DC Audubon Society, Maryland Ornithological Society, American Birding Association

Lists: ABA: 283, DC: 195, ABA 2006: 247, DC 2006: 167

Field Guide: Sibley Guide, supplemented by others when necessary

Optics: Swift Audubon 8.5 x 44 (porro version)

Favorite Bird: Winter Wren

Least Favorite Bird (C’mon we’ve all got one): Corvids - they're just too loud.

Bird You’d Most Like to See but Haven’t: Any alcid (besides Razorbill)

Wish You Were Better at Identifying: Shorebirds and birds in flight

Favorite DC-area birding location: National Arboretum, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Favorite non-DC location: Bombay Hook NWR (Delaware)

Best DC area Sighting: Rufous Hummingbird (Dec. 2003)

Missed Opportunity: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Smyrna

I and the Bird #32

My Chesapeake Bay Road Trip post has been included (along with many other awesome bird posts) as part of I and the Bird #32 over on Sand Creek Almanac. Enjoy!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Birds and College Sports

I was intruiged by a post about birds and professional sports teams on the EXCELLENT 10,000 Birds blog...so I decided to rip it off I mean take it even further.

10,000 Birds covered pro sports, but I figured that college sports would uncover even more team names after birds...and boy was I right. The following is a list, procured from this website, of American college teams names for birds:

Bald Eagles ---
Lock Haven University (Lock Haven, Pennsylvania)

Blackbirds ---
Long Island University-Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York)

Blue Hawks ---
Dickinson State University (Dickinson, North Dakota)

Blue Hens ---
University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware)

Blue Jays ---
Elizabethtown College (Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania)
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)
Polytechnic University (Brooklyn, New York)
Saint Joseph College (West Hartford, Connecticut)
Westminster College (Fulton, Missouri)

Bluejays ---
Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska)
Elmhurst College (Elmhurst, Illinois)
Tabor College (Hillsboro, Kansas)

Cardinals ---
Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana)
Catholic University (Washington, DC)
Concordia University (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Lamar University (Beaumont, Texas)
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy (Boston, Massachusetts)
North Central College (Naperville, Illinois)
Otterbein College (Westerville, Ohio)
Saginaw Valley State University (University Center, Michigan)
St. John Fisher College (Rochester, New York)
St. Mary's University of Minnesota (Winona, Minnesota)
State University of New York-College at Plattsburgh (Plattsburgh, New York)
University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, Texas)
University of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky)
Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut)
Wheeling Jesuit University (Wheeling, West Virginia)
William Jewell College (Liberty, Missouri)
York College-City University of New York (Jamaica, New York)

Ducks ---
University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon)
Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey)

Duhawks --- (means, Dubuque Hawks)
Loras College (Dubuque, Iowa)

Eagles ---
Alice Lloyd College (Pippa Passes, Kentucky)
American University (Washington, DC)
Asbury College (Wilmore, Kentucky)
Ashland University (Ashland, Ohio)
Avila University (Kansas City, Missouri)
Bartlesville Wesleyan College (Bartlesville, Oklahoma)
Benedictine University (Lisle, Illinois)
Biola University (La Mirada, California)
Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts)
Bridgewater College (Bridgewater, Virginia)
Carson-Newman College (Jefferson City, Tennessee)
Central Methodist College (Fayette, Missouri)
Chadron State College (Chadron, Nebraska)
College of St. Elizabeth (Morristown, New Jersey)
Concordia University (Irvine, California)
Coppin State University (Baltimore, Maryland)
Daniel Webster College (Nashua, New Hampshire)
Eastern College (St. Davids, Pennsylvania)
Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti, Michigan) (former nickname: Hurons)
(efforts exist to change the nickname back to Hurons)
Eastern Washington University (Cheney, Washington)
Edgewood College (Madison, Wisconsin)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, Florida)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Prescott, Arizona)
Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia)
Faith Baptist Bible College & Theological Seminary (Ankeny, Iowa)
Faulkner University (Montgomery, Alabama)
Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers, Florida)
Georgia Southern University (Statesboro, Georgia)
Green Mountain College (Poultney, Vermont)
Judson College (Elgin, Illinois)
Judson College (Marion, Alabama)
Juniata College (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania)
Lambuth University (Jackson, Tennessee)
Mary Washington College (Fredericksburg, Virginia)
Messenger College (Joplin, Missouri)
Midway College (Midway, Kentucky)
Morehead State University (Morehead, Kentucky)
National-Louis University (Evanston, Illinois)
North Carolina Central University (Durham, North Carolina)
Northwest College (Kirkland, Washington)
Northwestern College (Saint Paul, Minnesota)
Oklahoma Christian University (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
Pensacola Christian College (Pensacola, Florida)
Trinity Baptist College (Jacksonville, Florida)
Robert Morris College (Chicago, Illinois)
Sierra Nevada College (Incline Village, Nevada)
Post University (Waterbury, Connecticut) (former name: Teikyo-Post University)
Toccoa Falls College (Toccoa Falls, Georgia)
University of North Texas (Denton, Texas)
(This school has three official nicknames: Eagles, Mean Green, and Mean Green Eagles.)
University of the Ozarks (Clarksville, Arkansas)
University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse (LaCrosse, Wisconsin)
Williams Baptist College (Walnut Ridge, Arkansas)
Winthrop University (Rock Hill, South Carolina)

Falcons ---
Air Force Institute of Technology (Dayton, Ohio)
Albertus Magnus College (New Haven, Connecticut)
Bentley College (Waltham, Massachusetts)
Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio)
Concordia University (Mequon, Wisconsin)
Fairmont State University (Fairmont, West Virginia)
Fitchburg State College (Fitchburg, Massachusetts)
Florida College (Temple Terrace, Florida)
Friends University (Wichita, Kansas)
Messiah College (Grantham, Pennsylvania)
Notre Dame College (South Euclid, Ohio)
Pfeiffer College (Misenheimer, North Carolina)
Seattle Pacific University (Seattle, Washington)
St. Augustine's College (Raleigh, North Carolina)
United States Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
University of Montevallo (Montevallo, Alabama)
University of Texas of the Permian Basin (Odessa, Texas)
University of Wisconsin-River Falls (River Falls, Wisconsin)

Firebirds ---
University of the District of Columbia (Washington, DC)

Gamecocks ---
Jacksonville State University (Jacksonville, Alabama)
University of South Carolina (Columbia, South Carolina)

Golden Eagles ---
California State University-Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Clarion University (Clarion, Pennsylvania)
Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
John Brown University (Siloam Springs, Arkansas)
La Sierra University (Riverside, California)
Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) (former nickname: Warriors)
Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago, Illinois)
Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, Oklahoma) (former nickname: Titans)
State University of New York-College at Brockport (Brockport, New York)
St. Joseph's College-Suffolk Campus (Patchogue, New York)
Tennessee Technological University (Cookeville, Tennessee)
University of Charleston (Charleston, West Virginia)
University of Minnesota-Crookston (Minnesota)
University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, Mississippi)

Golden Falcons ---
Felician College (Lodi, New Jersey)

Gulls ---
Endicott College (Beverly, Massachusetts) (former nickname: Power Gulls)

Harriers ---
Miami University-Hamilton (Hamilton, Ohio)

Hawks ---
Hartwick College (Oneonta, New York)
Hilbert College (Hamburg, New York)
Hunter College-City University of New York (New York, New York)
Huntingdon College (Montgomery, Alabama)
Monmouth University (Monmouth, New Jersey)
Quincy University (Quincy, Illinois)
Rockhurst College (Kansas City, Missouri)
Roger Williams University (Bristol, Rhode Island)
Saint Anselm College (Manchester, New Hampshire)
Saint Joseph's University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
San Diego Christian College (El Cajon, California)
Shorter College (Rome, Georgia)
State University of New York-College at New Paltz (New Paltz, New York)
University of Hartford (Hartford, Connecticut)
University of Maryland-Eastern Shore (Princess Anne, Maryland)

Herons ---
William Smith College (Geneva, New York)

Hustlin' Owls ---
Oregon Institute of Technology (Klamath Falls, Oregon)

Jayhawks ---
University of Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas)

Kohawks ---
Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Larks ---
Hesston College (Hesston, Kansas)

Marauding Eagles ---
Marycrest International University (Davenport, Iowa)

Mountain Hawks ---
Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)

Nighthawks ---
Thomas College (Thomasville, Georgia)

Ospreys ---
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (Pomona, New Jersey)
University of North Florida (Jacksonville, Florida)

Owls ---
Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania)
Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, Florida) (all sports except for men's baseball)
Hellenic College (Brookline, Massachusetts)
Keene State College (Keene, New Hampshire)
Kennesaw State University (Marietta, Georgia)
Rice University (Houston, Texas)
Southern Connecticut State University (New Haven, Connecticut)
Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylania)
University of Maine-Presque Isle (Presque Isle, Maine)
Warren-Wilson College (Swannanoa, North Carolina)
Westfield State College (Westfield, Massachusetts)
Widener University (Wilmington, Delaware)
William Woods University (Fulton, Missouri)

Peacocks ---
St. Peter's College (Jersey City, New Jersey)
Upper Iowa University(Fayette, Iowa)

Pelicans ---
Spalding University (Louisville, Kentucky)

Penguins ---
Clark College (Vancouver, Washington)
Dominican College of San Rafael (San Rafael, California)
Youngstown State University (Youngstown, Ohio)

Purple Eagles ---
Niagara University (Niagara University, New York)

Ravens ---
Benedictine College (Atchison, Kansas)
Franklin Pierce College (Rindge, New Hampshire)
Anderson University (Anderson, Indiana)
St. Meinrad College (St. Meinrad, Indiana)

Redbirds ---
Illinois State University (Normal, Illinois)

Redhawks ---
Indiana University-Northwest (Gary, Indiana) (former nickname: The Blast)
Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) (former nickname: Redskins)
Seattle University (Seattle, Washington)
Southeast Missouri State University (Cape Girardeau, Missouri) (former nicknames: Indians for men and Otahkians for women)

Red Hawks ---
LaRoche College (Pittsburgh, Penbnsylvania)
Montclair State University (Upper Montclair, New Jersey)
Ripon College (Ripon, Wisconsin)

River Hawks ---
University of Massachusetts-Lowell (Lowell, Massachusetts)

Roadrunners ---
California State University-Bakersfield (Bakersfield, California)
Dalton State College (Dalton, Georgia)
Metropolitan State College of Denver (Denver, Colorado)
Ramapo College (Mahwah, New Jersey)
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas)
University of Texas-San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas)

Running Eagles ---
Life University (Marietta, Georgia)

Sagehens ---
joint team of Pomona College and Pitzer College (Claremont, California)

Scarlet Hawks ---
Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, Illinois)

Screaming Eagles ---
SiTanka Huron University (Huron, South Dakota)
University of Southern Indiana (Evansville, Indiana)

Sea Gulls ---
Salisbury University (Salisbury, Maryland)

Seahawks ---
Northwood University (West Palm Beach, Florida)
Salve Regina University (Newport, Rhode Island)
St. Mary's College of Maryland (St. Mary's City, Maryland)
University of North Carolina-Wilmington (North Carolina)
Wagner College (Staten Island, New York)

Skyhawks ---
Fort Lewis College (Durango, Colorado)
Stonehill College (North Easton, Massachusetts) (former nickname: Chieftains)
University of Tennessee-Martin

Soaring Eagles ---
Elmira College (Elmira, New York)

Stormy Petrels ---
Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, Georgia)

Sunbirds ---
Fresno Pacific University (Fresno, California)

Thunderbirds ---
Cascade College (Portland, Oregon)
Southern Utah University (Cedar City, Utah)
Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management (Glendale, Arizona)

Thunderhawks ---
Miami University-Middletown (Middletown, Ohio)

V-Hawks ---
Viterbo University (LaCrosse, Wisconsin)

Warhawks ---
University of Louisiana-Monroe (Monroe, Louisiana) (former name: Northeastern Louisiana University) (former nickname: Indians)
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (Whitewater, Wisconsin)

Well there you have it! That's quite a list. A few things stand out:

-Hawks and Eagle are the most commong school name, which makes sense because hawks and eagles are commonly considered fierce, honorable birds. However, teams take different approaches when name a team and eagle or a hawk. For instance, when a team wants to include Eagle in its name, it usually just sticks a random adjective in front and moves on. Eagles on this list are Screaming, Running, Marauding, Purple, Golden and of course, Bald. When a team wants to have a hawk in its name, they're a bit sneakier about it, often trying to pass off the bird as an actual species by sticking a geographic feature in front of it (some of these names, like Marsh Hawks for example, may at one time been actual names for hawks). In this list we have River Hawks, Mountain Hawks, Skyhawks, and Seahawks.

-Why did a team from Kentucky name themselves the Pelicans?

-My favorite name? I admire the attempt of Oglethorpe Univversity (another Atlanta bird team) to go with an uncommon pelagic bird, however they slipped and call themselves the Stormy Petrels instead of the Storm Petrels (which is a pretty fierce name I think). So...I'm going to go with the Thomas College Nighthawks. Uncommon bird (I wonder if they think it's an actual hawk...), fierce name. I like it.

10,001! New Species Discovered in India

First discovered in May, India has a new species of bird, the Bugun Liocichla. A type of babbler, this beautiful little guy is the first new species to be discovered on mainland India since 1948. Oh and guess what else? The only place he's ever been seen is scheduled to have a highway built right through it. Enjoy while you can!
Sunday, September 10, 2006

Quick Trip Yields Nothing Much...

Between football (and a nice come from behind by the Patriots), baseball (sox 9 royals 3), the US open men's final (Roddick is putting up a good fight) and general laziness I found an hour this afternoon to go birding. Now, I wasn't expecting much. The middle of the day in September is not an idea time for birding, but I'll take what I can get. I headed off over the Anacostia and into Kenelworth Water Gardens.

But it was closed. C'mon now, 4 oclock on a Sunday? What's the point of closing so early? Cut me some slack here...the water gardens was the only place in the district where I could see some waders. Alas, I headed over to the barren wasteland that is Kenelworth Park.

The road into the Park has gone from bad to miserable. Potholes and erosion have really shredded the road and caused people to create a sort of jeep trail on the grass...not good. I parked down near the barrier (I couldn't bird the fields because of 109203 soccer players) and headed off into the wilderness.

I saw that the stream was pretty low, so I worked my way through the dense vegetation on the right bank (scaring a Black Rat Snake in the process) and onto the muddy streambed. It's sad how much trash there is down there. Sometime in the near future I'd like to organize a clean-up of the area under the bridge down there...let's discuss that later.

I quickly saw the only warbler of the day, and beautiful black-throated green calling softly and actively hopping through the branches. Just a beautiful bird. Along with this bird, I saw an eastern pheobe, catbird, 4 cardinals and a ruby-throated hummingbird. No complaints, if anything else standing silently in a muddy stream in the middle of DC will clear your head and let you appreciate this city for providing such a spot, as dirty as it is.

After climbing out of the streambed I took a walk down down the paved path and caught a glimpse of a red-shouldered hawk being chased from a tree. Pretty bird, and a nice hour in the outdoors.
Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oil Spills and Fines Timeline

It's a little-known fact that the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System - the corrosion and neglect of which has recently been in the news and has resulted in round of Congressional hearings for BP, starting today - has had a history of spills and problems dating back to the late 70s.

Here is a timeline of Trans-Alaska Pipeline spills and fines from 1998 to the present:

- The Prudhoe Bay oil fields and Trans-Alaska Pipeline have caused an average of 504 spills annually on the North Slope since 1996 according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
- There were 4,532 spills between 1996 and 2004 totaling more than 1.9 million gallons of toxic substances, most commonly diesel, crude oil and hydraulic oil.

August, 2006
BP forced to shut down half of its Prudhoe Bay production after finding severe corrosion in its pipeline. BP, which hadn’t cleaned its Prudhoe Bay pipelines since 1992, discovered the corrosion after being ordered to clean and test the pipes by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

August 23, 2006
BP still working to control a small leak at an offshore oil rig damaged nearly one year earlier in Hurricane Katrina.

August/September, 2005
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused 124 spills of petroleum products into the Gulf of Mexico totaling 741,384 gallons of product. The majority of the spills were minor and none of the oil reached shore. During the storms 457 pipelines were damaged and 113 drilling platforms were destroyed.

July 18, 2006
BP was forced to shut 12 oil wells after a company whistleblower reported that over 50 were leaking.

July, 2005
Thunder Horse, the largest semi-submersible oil platform in the world, incurs heavy damage from Hurricane Dennis.

March 26, 2005
Corrosion causes a pipeline in the Kuparuk oil field to leak 111,300 gallons of oily water onto the North Slope.

March, 24 2005
An explosion at a Texas oil refinery owned by BP results in the deaths of 15 workers. BP accepts full responsibility for the incident.

January, 2005
BP fined $1.3 million (reduced from a proposed $2.53 million) for safety violations at a Prudhoe Bay well accident that seriously injured a worker in 2002.

January, 2005
BP fined $102,500 for violating gasoline well pressure buildup rules drawn up after a well explosion.

October, 2004
Aging ConocoPhillips tanker spills 1,500 gallons onto 20 miles of the Puget Sound.

August 2004
ConocoPhillips fined $485,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act at drilling platforms at the Cook River Inlet, AK. Over a 5 year period there had been 470 violations of the rig’s National Pollution Discharge Eliminations System Permit, and six unauthorized discharges of pollutants.

March, 2004
ConocoPhillips fined $80,000 for violations of the Clean Air Act at the Alpine oil field.

January, 2003
BP fined $6,300 for failing to protect workers in an explosion that killer one worker.

December 2002
BP placed on criminal probation for failing to install a leak detection system that could promptly detect spills from the Prudhoe Bay pipeline.

December, 2002
Arctic Utilities Inc. and TDX North Slope Generating Inc. fined $130,000 for violating Clean Air Act at Prudhoe Bay power plant.

November, 2002
60,000 gallons of crude oil spills from pipeline at Prudhoe Bay. Oil spilled into wetlands and into a drinking water lake. BP fined $675,000 for spill cleanup problems.

November 03, 2002
Magnitude 7.3 earthquake shakes the pipeline along the Denali Fault. Several vertical support columns are damaged, but the pipeline remains intact.

June, 2002
BP fined $300,000 for delays in installing leak detection systems for Prudhoe Bay crude oil transmission lines.

March, 2002
Houston/Nana, a North Slope contractor, fined $67,500 for failing to report 142 instances of worker injuries or illnesses from 1999 to 2001.

February, 2002
BP fined $22 million and given 5 years probation for late reporting of hazardous waste dumping in Endicott, AK wells.

October, 2001
A drunken hunter shot the Trans-Alaska Pipeline north of Fairbanks, AK and caused a spill of over 285,000 gallons of crude oil.

April 15, 2001
92,000 gallons of processed water (1% crude oil) spilled from a Phillips pipeline that leaked due to external corrosion.

April, 2001
BP fined $412,500 for failing to properly analyze discharges from Prudhoe Bay Central Sewage Treatment Facility from 1996 to 2000.

December, 2000
Ruptured pipeline at Prudhoe Bay spills 9,400 gallons of crude oil and 2,100 gallons of methanol onto the tundra. The spill is not discovered by BP until February of 2001.

April, 1998
Doyon Drilling, contracted by BP, fined $3 million for dumping hazardous wastes down Endicott, AK wells.


Facts: North Slope Oil Development: Air and Water Pollution, Spills and Industry Sprawl

BP North Slops Spill Reveals a History of Substandard Environmental Performance

Recent Oil Company Fines and Penalties in the North Slope Oilfields

American Experience: The Alaska Pipeline
Monday, September 04, 2006
willet at Assateague, VA

Chesapeake Road Trip

Kate and I woke up early on Sunday and started hauling ass down through Virginia. Our destination (well, my destination. She just wanted to get out of the house...) was Point Lookout State Park, where the Potomac and the Chesapeake come together. I had spent all day Saturday without my car looking at listserv posts recounting magical seabirds (sooty and bridled terns! jaegers!) being pushed by Ernesto's winds into odd areas. I figured Pt. Lookout might be a good place to catch some of the birds on the way back to the ocean.

But, as things tend happen with Kate and I, our plan quickly went awry. We missed the turn to Point Lookout and drove for about a half-an-hour before realizing it. Ah screw it, let's not turn back. Is there anything coming up? Sure, let's try to get a ferry to Tangier Island.

Whelp we obviously didn't know what was going on, and we drove into Reedville without knowing if there was even such a thing as a ferry service to Tangier Island, let alone its schedule or where to catch it. Plus, Ernesto had really inflicted a lot of damage onto this part of the coast. Just before, Kate and I had rolled into George Washington's birthplace, but had to turn back due to a power outage. willet with a snack at Ft. Story Reedsville, too, was kind of a mess. So, everything coming together, we didn't find or catch the ferry. Anything else close? Sure, how about Plum Tree Island NWR?

Fine let's roll. A hour or so later we were cruising slowly through Poquoson, trying equally hard to find the Refuge and pronounce the name of the town (Po-quo-sawn? Po-quo-sin? Paw-cwa-sin?). Whelp we followed my crappy little map to where the entrance to the Refuge should have been and we saw two interesting things: 1) a rail with a broken foot hobbling across the road. Although the bird was clearly a rail, it wasn't close enough for me to identify, which it too bad because it was the first rail I have ever seen. It was also too bad because the bird was obviously in trouble. It was hopping wildly across the road and Kate and I watched it tumble into the grass on the other side...not a promising future. 2) There was a public boat ramp and and a turnaround...and no mention of Plum Tree Island anywhere. Guh.

We backtracked about a mile and asked the owners of a convenience store where the entrance to the Refuge could be found. They had no idea (this always seems to happen). One lady said you could only get there by boat. juvi Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Assateague, VAAnother woman said something about unexploded bombs. A man kept telling us to go back down past the church...right where we had just come from. We turned around and headed for Virginia Beach.

I was familiar with First Landing State Park from listserv postings, and was hoping to finally get some good migrant looks after a long day of not seeing birds. Boy was I disappointed. Kate and I walked all along the Bald Cypress Trail and a couple other small trails WITHOUT SEEING A SINGLE BIRD. Not one. Not that it wasn't beautiful - I had never seen a cypress swamp before - but seeing no birds was depressing. We left, and headed across the street to a place called Fort Story, which on our map was labeled as a military base but looked like it might have public access to the beach.

Kate and I rolled up to the entrance/guard post completely unready for a full car search. Thankfully, I am a completely law-abiding citizen, because the MPs checked our engine, glove compartment, center console, trunk and backseats before letting us in. We parked in the lighthouse parking lot, walked over the dunes and were in birder paradise.

It was incredible. The first thing I saw when I crested the dune was an american oystercatcher flying down the beach. Looking out across the beach saw thousands of terns (royals, commons, forster's and a least or two), gulls, semipalm sandpipers, semipalm plovers (and one I thought was my first Wilson's, but wasn't), willet and...what the heck...pelicans! About 20 brown pelicans, which I only associate with Florida and Louisiana, were cruising around. So awesome. [note: it didn't dawn on me until just now that Ft. Story is where the Brown Booby was sighted earlier this August. A quick search proves that a lot of rare birds turn up here: razorbills, Clark's grebe, little gulls, lark sparrow, Sabine's gull, white pelicans, cave swallows...it's enough to make a man enlist!]

Happy, Kate and I decided against driving back to DC that night and instead I convinced here to cross the CBBT (where a LOT of Ernesto birds had been seen) and try Assateague for today, Monday. She agreed, and we set off.

But, our luck had run out with Ft. Story, and we completely blew the bridge. After driving all day thus far, I asked Kate to tricolored heron, Assateague NP, MDdrive across the bridge so I could better look for rare terns and (gulp) jaegers. Unfortunately, the bridge was too bumpy to hold binoculars and Kate missed the pulloff to the gift shop on the bridge. Awful. Oh well. I saw lots of terns, mostly Royal, and a bunch of Pelicans. We headed north, and slept soundly in a cheap hotel.

Cool. Up this morning and ready to get to Assateague...but of course we didn't know what we were doing. We drove back do Virginia and crossed into Chincoteague (which was beautiful) and through to Assateague. I think because of Labor Day, there was no entrance fee and no rangers, so we just drove in and parked. In retrospect, this wasn't a good idea because we had no idea that there was a giant, awesome wildlife drive on the VA end of the island...so we just checked out the beach. It was nice, though. I saw my first black skimmer, a bird I had always wanted to see, and my first little blue heron, close enough for an easy ID. Outstanding. There was also thousands of snowy egrets, my lifer cattle egrets hanging out with the famous Ponies and lots and lots of terns and semipalm sandpipers. I was happy, and we rolled out to the Maryland end of the park.

The Maryland end was a bit more productive, although all my lifers were in the Virginia end. After checking out the beach we walked over to the "life of the forest" trail, where to hoped to see some of the passerine migrants that Mark Hoffman the author at Ft. Story.  FYI I'm not real fat that's wind in my shirt...mentioned in my Fall Migration post. Unfortunately, Ernesto's damage had forced the park to close down the forest section. Undeterred, I peaked my head in just to check.

It was pretty amazing. The trees, just in the first 10 feet of the forest, were full of migrants. I only had a couple minutes, but I saw a great crested flycatcher, a foy magnolia warbler, a pair of white-eyed vireos, an american redstart, black and white warbler and common yellowthroat. After a lot of recent shorebirding, these passerines were a welcome sight.

An added bonus, and something I realized on my way home, was that the magnolia warbler was my 200th bird of 2006, breaking my 3/16/05-3/16/06 record of 199. Hooray! What a trip! Kate and I got home safely, about 24 hours later than expected, but with a lot of good memories and, for me, new birds.

brown pelicans, Ft. Story
Friday, September 01, 2006

Fall Migration: Where to Be in DC

September somethingth will mark my 1 year anniversary of living and birding in Washington, DC. When I first got here I lived with my aunt and uncle in Woodbridge, VA...which was hell. Not that there was anything wrong with my aunt and uncle, or anything wrong with Woodbridge per se, it's just that for a then-22-year-old intern who was moving to a big city for the first time, 4 hour daily commutes and 0 social life (because the last possible train left DC at 7pm) was not what I was looking for.

Long story short: I didn't have any time to bird until I moved into my Ames Place house in October and by then I had missed the fall migration. So the current months (late-August and September) are my first fall migration in DC. Problem is, I don't know where I should go. So, I asked the users of the Va-Bird and MDOsprey listservs for their help, and got a lot of responses.

Using their expert suggestions, I have created the following list of Official and Recommended DC-Area Fall Migration Spots! Enjoy!

The New York Monuments at Manassas National Battlefield Park
MapQuest directions from DC

This was far and away the most suggested spot for birding the fall migration (and only the fall migration). It's located off Route 29, behind the monuments set up to honor regiments from New York, and it's Stop #8 on this map.

Bev Leeuwenburg provided these detailed directions from Route 29, a mile west of the intersection with Rt. 234:
"You'll pass a private farm with a pond, including fountain, on the left.After that you'll be going up a slight rise with woods on the left; before the top ofthe hill there's an entrance (drive) to the monument on the left. If you follow thispast the field you're traversing, upon entering the woods there's a parking area. Park. Bird the grown up area in front or the carpark and the field to the left,not neglecting the edges!"

The park is open 8:30AM to 5PM, but most birders recommended getting there early. Also, Jim Coleman provided this valuable piece of advice: "use plenty of bug spray on your legs and ankles to ward off the ticks and chiggers."
Also thanks to Bill D and Larry Meade for their help.

Snickers Gap Hawk Watch
MapQuest directions to Sky Meadows, then follow this map to #4.

Down near Sky Meadows State Park in Loudoun County is the Snickers Gap Hawkwatch. According to the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail website, the watch is at its peak from September 14-21, when thousands of raptors and passerines cruise through each day. Bev Leeuwenburg praised the watch's convenience, as there are no hills to climb or equipment to lug, just a parking area with some excellent birding. Sounds good to me. Thanks also to Laura Weidner, who suggested checking out the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy website for some other good spots in that county.

Turkey Point Hawk Watch
Directions from NE DC

Located inside the Elk Neck State Park along the top edge of the Chesapeake in Maryland, Turkey Point Hawk Watch is a great place to look for 17 kinds of migrating raptor, as well as passerines. According to the Turkey Point website, the hawk watch will start the official tally any day now (not so much fun in Ernesto, though), and there is a bird walk scheduled for tomorrow. Thanks for Pat Valdata for the information.

Rock Creek Park
MapQuest map of the center of the park

In fall as it is in spring, Rock Creek Park (and especially the back of the maintenance yard) is a great place to see migrating passerines. Canada, Blue-Winged, Nashville, Magnolia, Black-and-White and Chestnut-sided warblers have already been seen along with several warblers-whose-name-doesnt-include-the-word-warbler: American Redstart and Ovenbird. Also appearing already are wrens, orioles, woodpeckers, vireos and a ton of other stuff.

Assateague Island National Seashore
Driving Directions. About 3 hrs from DC.

If there's one thing I've learned from birding around DC it's that DelMarVa is the shit. Cool vibe, good beaches, good restaurants and bars and a lot of great birding...and I've never been below Ocean City. If you keep your eye on the MD-Osprey listserve like I do you'll quickly recognize that Assateague Island (and nearby Chincoteague) are great places to find migratory birds. Mark Hoffman put it simply and sweetly: "Assateague Island is the premier place for fall birding in MD - both for the fly-over warblers and the rarities." Good enough for me.

Tyson's Corner Nighthawks
Try the Cable & Wireless Building at Gallows Rd. and Boone Blvd

There is no better spectacle in Metro-DC birding that the nighthawks displaying at Tyson's Corner. I think the largest numbers were in mid-August, when birders were seeing 50 or more nighthawks, but as of last night more than 20 birds were present. Runner-up option: Try RFK stadium before the season is over. Nighthawks have been seen there a couple times (but not by me, I've only seen a Sharp-Shinned Hawk), plus you get to see the Alfonso Soriano, which is always a treat. Thanks fro John Hubbell and Paul Woodward for this advice.

This afternoon, in Ernesto's rain, I struck out for the reflecting pool on the mall hoping for some warbler fallout...and got nada. Looks like I better start listening to the advice of all these DC birders...

Location: Portland, ME

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