Monday, October 28, 2013

Owl Banding at Lucky Peak

At the end of my time at Lucky Peak in Idaho (I am now back in Indiana . . . at least for a little while)  I was lucky enough to cover a couple of owl shifts.  On my first shift, from 2-7 am, I ended up with 3 Northern Saw-whet Owls.  Unfortunately, two of the owls came on the last net run, when you are supposed to be closing nets.  The next night I worked the early shift from 8pm-1am.  I did a little better and ended up with 5 Saw-whets.  

A (friendly-looking) Northern Saw-whet Owl
A (not so friendly-looking) Northern Saw-whet Owl


Friday, October 18, 2013

New Bird Quiz Posted

We have now posted our bird quiz for the second half of October. Everyone did a great job identifying the Hermit Thrush that was our quiz bird for the first half of the month and we had 14 correct answers! Be sure to submit your answers for the current quiz by the October 31. Submit your answer here!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Preparing for The Lodge at Pico Bonito, Honduras

Rob writes: As fall migration is winding down here in central Indiana, I have decided to follow the birds south. How far south, you might ask? I will be heading to the Lodge at Pico Bonito in La Ceiba, Honduras for a week during the middle of November. This will be my first birding trip in Central America and I am extremely excited to get down there. Brian Zwiebel, Greg Links and I will be filming for a birding show that we are working on and also scouting for upcoming Sabrewing Nature Tours trips to the area. We will be announcing dates for 2014 soon so be sure to check here for updates,!

Can't wait to be sitting out on this porch in just a few short weeks!
One of the first things that I always do when going on a birding trip is to look for a list of possible species for the location. For this trip, the Lodge at Pico Bonito has a great list of the possible species that I was able to download from their website. I've been going over the lists of possible species and while having the potential to find over 150 life birds is awesome, it is also a little intimidating. That's over 150 species that I have to learn before I head down there! So, how in the world have I been preparing for the trip?

After printing the list of species for the area and realizing how few of the species I was familiar with, I looked for the appropriate field guide to study. It turns out that Honduras does not have a field guide that is specific to just Honduras yet. The best book that covers most of the species found in the region is A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. While this covers almost all of the species we are likely to see, it is also good to supplement this book with The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide to cover any of the species that might be missed by the other book and to give you more illustrations of the birds to study. I always feel that the more resources I can pull from, the more prepared I am for a trip.

In addition to learning what the birds look like, it is just as important to try to learn their songs and call since many of the birds I see are found by listening first. As is the case with many countries, there is not a CD to go buy with all of the songs and calls for the birds in Honduras. I found that the most effective method of finding the songs and calls that I wanted to study was to download them from Zeno-canto. This site is dedicated to sharing the bird sounds from all over the world and covers a very impressive 8,730 species worldwide. While it does take awhile to go through all of the songs and calls for a particular species and download them all, the results from studying these recordings can have a huge impact on your trip.

Stay tuned for another post about preparing for a birding trip such as my upcoming Honduran adventure.

The amazing Keel-billed Toucan that we hope to film during our trip.
Thanks to James Adams and The Lodge at Pico Bonito for all of the photos!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

BSBO's 20th Anniversary Banquet

Rob writes: This past weekend, Stephanie and I headed to northwest Ohio for the 20th Anniversary Banquet for the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). As anyone that follows this blog knows, BSBO is one of my absolute favorite bird conservation organizations in the entire world, and I am extremely honored to sit on the board of the organization. The weekend kicked off with a great shorebird workshop by Kenn Kaufman. It was a packed house at BSBO, and the workshop raised almost $1,000 for the Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC)!

The main event of the weekend was a very special banquet at the Catawba Island Club. I had never been out to this club, and I have to say that both Stephanie and I were blown away by how awesome it is. The banquet was held in an tent that had a beautiful patio overlooking Lake Erie. Just before dinner, Kim Kaufman talked a little bit about the history of the organization and where we are going. It was a truly inspiring talk, and I think it made everyone in the room even more committed to the mission of BSBO and conservation in general.

After a wonderful dinner, Kim introduced a video tribute to BSBO that Deb Neidert created. It was a collection of short interviews with everyone from board members to volunteers to local business owners and everyone in between about what BSBO means to them. It was an excellent tribute, and Deb did a phenomenal job putting it together and getting people from all over the country in the video. Then, Joe Duff from Operation Migration gave his keynote speech. Joe is an extremely engaging  presenter and kept the crowd thoroughly entertained. He was able to present a strong conservation message and keep the program exciting at the same time. The videos of Whooping Cranes' migration with the ultralight aircraft were exceptional!

The next morning, I helped lead a field trip to Meadowbrook Marsh where we also met up with members from the OYBC that were doing a big sit fundraiser. During the big sit, the OYBC presented Danbury Township with a check for $1,700 as a donation to the park from funds raised during last year's big sit. The property was saved from development by the township, and now they are adding acreage to the park that is sure to make it a birding hotspot for years to come!

We had a great weekend filled with friends and fun and I can't think of a better way to have spent my birthday.
Looking out over the marsh
A great grassland area at Meadowbrook Marsh. It was loaded with sparrows and a few rather late Indigo Buntings.
My friend Kelly and I checking out a group of ducks in the marsh.
Getting a closer look at one of the late Indigo Buntings.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

IBO Bird Banding at Lucky Peak

Eric writes: Over the last couple of weeks I have been busy banding birds and point counting at Lucky Peak.  Our songbird season ends in a week and I'll be heading back to Indiana soon after.  Here are a few more birds that we have been banding at Lucky Peak in Idaho!

One of our record number of Flammulated Owls caught
this year.  We only need a few more to hit 100!

A wing shot of a Flammulated Owl showing the orange
feathers they are named for.
We've been catching many more Saw-whet Owls lately,
this is one of many.
Kestrels may be small but they have a lot of fight.
This is a male we recently caught.

A female Golden-crowned Kinglet.  The smallest
songbird we catch.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2013 IAS Fall Festival Weekend

Rob writes: I spent this past weekend in northwest Indiana running the Indiana Audubon Society's Fall Festival at Indiana Dunes State Park. We had a great line up of speakers and were hopeful that the weather would cooperate and that the birding would be excellent.

The event kicked off on Friday night with a presentation about the long shore flight at the new Bird Observation Tower at the state park. The volume of birds passing by the tower each year is absolutely staggering, and I would encourage all birders to bird from the tower if they have the opportunity.

The forecast did not look good for the field trips on Saturday morning, but I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to overcast skies with no rain and very little wind. My group made our way to Michigan City Harbor, with the sun coming out just as we arrived. Our most interesting find of the day occurred shortly after we arrived when a very dark-backed gull flew in and landed on the beach. This bird had been reported from the area for the last several days, and there is still a lot of debate about what species the gull actually is. Some birders feel that it is a pure Kelp Gull while others think that it is a hybrid Kelp/Herring Gull that is known as Chaneleur Gull. We spent the rest of the morning birding around Washington Park and Indiana Dunes State Park looking for passerines.

Our afternoon programs got off to a great start with Tiffany Conrad from the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site talking about Gene's life and the historic site in Northern Indiana. It was extremely interesting to hear about one of Indiana's most famous writers and conservationists.

Next up was Sharon Sorenson to talk about her new book, Birds in the Yard: Month by Month. This book tells you everything you need to know about about attracting birds to your backyard, and her presentation was fantastic! As an added bonus, Sharon donated all of the money from the sales of her book over the weekend to Indiana Audubon Society's Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary.

John Kendall was our final presenter for the afternoon, and he spoke about his 15 day Costa Rican birding adventure. I think he made everyone in the room want to go birding in Costa Rica with his wonderful photos and stories.

Chad after receiving his award
Our keynote dinner and presentation took us just down the road to Woodland Park in Portage. After a tasty meal provided by Topperz Catering, IAS President Brad Bumgardner presented Chad Williams with the Earl Brooks Conservation Award for his work on starting and building the Indiana Young Birders Club! I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.

The evening concluded with keynote speaker Drew Lanham talking about "Connecting the Conservation Dots". His message challenged everyone in the audience to take a different perspective on conserving birds and their habitats and was very thought provoking. If Drew is ever presenting near you, be sure to check out his talk! He also has a wonderful blog,

Sunday was a day for birding, but the predicted rain finally caught up with us. It was pouring outside when everyone met up at 7 am and continued to rain as we made our way to McCool Basin to look for some special sparrows. Despite the weather, we all decided to get soaked looking for birds! I've always had great luck with Nelson's Sparrow on this property and this outing was no different. We had at least five individuals although the real number was likely more! Most participants also got great looks at Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow, and many other more common species.

Keynote speaker Drew Lanham with Rob
While my group was at McCool, some of the other participants were at Dunes State Park where Brad was banding songbirds. We were fortunate that the rain stopped there as well! The highlight of the morning was a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Be sure to join Indiana Audubon Society for next year's festival in Evansville!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Giveaway Winner

Magnificent Hummingbird - One of the many
great hummingbirds that can be seen in SE Arizona!
Rob writes: Congratulations to Jeremy Medina who was randomly chosen as the winner of a free online Hummingbird Workshop from Birds & Blooms Magazine! Jeremy is from Southeast Arizona, the best spot to see hummingbirds in the whole country, so it seems extremely appropriate for him to have won! Birds and Blooms will be contacting Jeremy soon.

If you did  not win but are still interested in the workshop, please consider buying it from Birds & Blooms as it is truly a fantastic course and you will definitely learn a ton about these magnificent little birds! You can purchase the workshop here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Review: Bird Homes and Habitats

From how to create bird-friendly habitat in your backyard to nest box plans, Bird Homes and Habitats by Bill Thompson III, covers everything you need to know to get started attracting nesting birds to your yard.

One of the most impressive parts of this book is that it is not just another book about how to build nesting boxes and where to put them. The author dug deeper to show how the habitats that you create in your yard can really effect what species chose to nest on your property. By starting with chapters on bird-friendly habitat and natural bird homes, this book puts habitat front and center.

There is also a long section that profiles many of our cavity nesting species. By reviewing this section, people can determine what they are likely to attract and plan their habitats and nest boxes accordingly.

Another aspect of the book that I really like is the section on "The Birdy Backyard All-Stars". Fifteen properties from around the country are featured. You can use this to find a yard near you and see how the  owners of the property were able to transform their yards into fantastic bird habitat!

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone that would like to improve bird habitat in their yards or would like to learn more about using nest boxes.

Title: Bird Homes and Habitats
Author: Bill Thompson III
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: September 10, 2013

We received a copy of this book from the publisher to review on The links are to our Amazon Affiliate account.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

September Bird Quiz Results

Northern Parula
Red-eyed Vireo

Rob writes: Our September bird quiz series has come to a close. We had a large number of participants and many right answers! Overall, 8 people got both quizzes correct and our randomly chosen winner from the correct answers is Chuck Anderson from Zionsville, Indiana. Congratulations, Chuck!

Be sure to check out our first of the two quizzes that we will posting during October at