June 28, 2007

The Best Laid Plans...

...as Steinbeck wrote, "often go awry." Such is the case this week with my first ever go around at hosting the "I and the Bird" Blogging Carnival. Grandiose plans for posting the carnival in a manner that is uniquely me (something appropriately geeky, of course) sort of fell flat on my face as work, love and the trials of life all conspired against me this week.

Although, considering some of the ideas that had been bouncing around in my head (keep in mind that I am pretty giddy about the upcoming release of the new Transformers movie), maybe it's a good thing I didn't "geek out" for this post. You might have all been subjected to a multitude of obscure references to 80's pop culture, or even attempts to relate birding blogs to characters from old He-Man cartoons.

So, consider yourselves fortunate to have escaped such a fate. Instead, this 52nd entry into the I and the Bird blog carnival will be perfectly and delightfully normal.

Won't it, Frodo?

You got that right, Paul. You won't be hearing any mention about He-Man, She-Ra, or even the Smurfs from me. Too childish. Just ask Ultra Magnus, here.

Obviously, Frodo, those programs you mentioned are intended for an audience with significantly lower mental capacity than those who normally read the "I and the Bird" blog carnival. Take Greg Laden's post highlighting a popular YouTube video about a moonwalking manikin, for instance. Sure, the video is a bit silly, but do you honestly think someone who watches the Smurfs would find that interesting?

Exactly my point! You see, I and the Bird hosts need to maintain certain standards for their review of the submissions they receive. Likewise, post submitters often go to extremes to demonstrate just how sophisticated birders can be. For example, Clare describes the joys of early summer birding in the Arctic, a distinguished pastime I remember fondly from my time living in Fairbanks, Alaska. Although, to be honest, I never tried searching for Rock Ptarmigan while wearing a kilt before.

We've also got the Ridger, of The Greenbelt, who takes the time to share the frustration I myself have felt at being unprepared to capture an exciting bird encounter on film. She tries her best to capture the scene of two bitterns in a snag with her camera phone. Remember, when life hands you lemons.... Or, as my friend Samwise Gamgee would say, "What we need is a few good taters."

Uh oh... What's wrong, now, Malfurion?

Oh, nothing, Frodo. I just got done reading J Fischer's Ecobirder blog about his recent adventure photographing Great Horned Owl nests in Minnesota. Made me homesick, is all.

Wait, that's not my Homer Hanky from the 1987 World Series, is it?

Oh...um, yes, I mean, no...

Uhhh.... I'll wash it. I promise.

For crying out loud...anyway, I've still got a lot of blog submission to cover so I figured I'd enlist the help of some friends. Here are the Maul brothers. This is Darrel, and his other brother Darrel.

Ok, Darrel and I went through the list and picked out all of our favorite entries. Basically anything that had anything to do with blood, violence, monsters...

Or baby birds.

Yes, Darrel, or baby birds. So, first off we've got Lord Garavin’s Bird Blog, which highlights exciting photos documenting the fledgling flights of a group of young Peregrine Falcons in Rochester, NY. Now, you may be asking yourself where the blood and violence is in this post.

But they count, cuz they're baby birds!

Yes, I realize that. But my point was that these are raptors. And everyone knows raptors love to eat tourists. Just wait until these bad boys grow up and then you'll see the carnage. If you don't believe me, just pop in a copy of Jurassic Park sometime.

Next we've got Karen at Rurality, who shares some great close-ups of vicious Baby Barn Swallows. These little monsters have a bad rap with some folks (and are often the target of TV ad smear campaigns by the powerful and controversial mosquito-rights lobby), but they're perfectly harmless and are quite beneficial to have nesting in your yard, as Karen explains while trying to dispel the myth that these fascinating birds are a nuisance.

Third we have GrrlScientist treats us to a recount of a truly monstrous bird most of us are probably relieved not to have to worry about encountering on those cool, dark early morning birding adventures. This 26-foot long 3,000 pound “Giant Roadrunner” is my kind of bird!

And not to be out-done, we've got YC, from the Bird Ecology Study Group Nature Center in Singapore, who vividly describes the gruesomely unique behaviors exhibited by birds who prefer feed on the slimy, fleshy bits hidden behind the seemingly impenetrable shells of various mollusks. I tried eating an oyster once. Notice I said once.

Ok, those are the ones we wanted to talk about. Right, Darrel?

Thanks to the Darrels for their enlightening effort. Anyway, as you can probably tell, my wife here and I both love to travel. And the more tropical and exotic the better. So it was with great delight that I got to read through some amazing posts from all over the world. Now, while Peregrine Craig at Peregrine’s Bird Blog doesn't necessarily live in what I'd call a "tropical paradise," I was surprised to read about his life-listing story of spotting his first Common Spoonbill in Northern Ireland. A spoonbill just isn't a bird I would have expected to see on the Emerald Isles. He also shares some exciting news as the British Library recently invited him to have his blog archived forever!

Buzzing over to the other side of the globe we find another story about a spoonbill. This one in the Australian outback (ok, this probably technically isn't in the outback, but I'm an American...so anything located in Australia is automatically considered to be in the outback). B, from A Snail’s Eye View, reminds us that birds have evolved similar adaptations all over the world to take advantage of the food available in various habitats, as evidenced by the Royal Spoonbill she observed in an Australian marsh.

And no trip would be complete for a bikini-clad hula girl without a stop in the Caribbean! So we go to visit Tai, from Earth, Wind and Water, who posts some beautiful shots of an American Kestral perched atop a pole “somewhere in the Caribbean”.

Next stop, Africa! We actually have two entries from this fascinating continent. First off we have James, the Birdman, who shares a beautiful description of an encounter with the bird known as SpookvoĆ«l by Afrikaaners, as well as other fascinating birds observed in the wilds of Africa. And then we have David, from Search and Serendipity, who highlights some of the amazing birds that can be seen near his home in Yaounde, Cameroon. As David so aptly puts it, “there are indeed many things to love about Africa.” I think you all will agree once you see the video of the Splendid Sunbird (Cinnyris coccinigastrus), a species whose brilliance could put any of the hummers in my backyard to shame.

Forget about these posts over here you should not. Help you understand the force, they will. Hmm?

Yeah, yeah, I was getting to those...you know, if you're so smart why don't you talk about them.

Talk about them I cannot. See to my home I must. Snakes. Yes, many snakes must I arrange.

Whatever. Alright, fine. I'll do it. Anyway, several people submitted entries that highlight the work of others or share insights about bird behavior we may not have been aware of before. For example, Julie, from Pines Above Snow, reviewed David Gessner’s new book, “Soaring with Fidel,” a humorous account of the author’s adventure following the Osprey migration from Cape Cod to Cuba. And then we have Bora, from Blog Around the Clock, who explains that nesting habits of storks, unlike what we have always heard in fairy tales, typically do not include placing them on top of chimneys except as a last resort, as in the example he shares from Serbia.

Patrick, from the Hawk Owl’s Nest, spoke with reknowned nature artist Michael DiGiorgio, in the first of what he promises to be a series of such interviews. And the Birdfreak Team asks us the question, “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Brown-headed Cowbird?” in a valiant attempt to shed a positive light on one of North America’s “Most Un-Wanted” birds. They also offer up a few solutions to solving what many see as the problem with a very opportunistic (and highly successful) species.

Next we have Carel Brest van Kempen, from Rigor Vitae, documents and describes some of the changes in the behavior of White Pelicans at Gunnison Island in the Great Salt Lake of Utah, as some of them have been spotted frequenting new areas around Salt Lake City lately. And then there is Trevor, who provides some useful tips for anyone who wishes to attract wild birds to their yard, regardless of whether the birds in question are a North American favorite such as the Northern Cardinal or, in Trevor’s case, some fascinating Australian species like the Spiny Cheeked Honeyeater.

We also had quite a few submissions from folks who simply wanted to share their love of wildlife, like this little froggy here. I love these posts in particular because they remind me of the excitement, laughter and heartwarming stories that often result from a love of birds and birdwatching. Mike, the illustrious owner of everyone’s favorite birding blog, 10,000 Birds, not to mention the infinitely patient coordinator of this very blogging carnival, shares his account of his first ever encounter with his very own “nemesis bird”, the Ruffed Grouse, seen during a recent descent from the top of Wakeley Mountain in upstate New York.

Next we find John, from a DC Birding Blog, sharing a rewarding morning of birding at the National Arboretum filled with Blue Grosbeaks, Acadian Flycatchers and Indigo Buntings, only a few of the 45 species he encountered that day. Meanwhile, Julie reminds us never to stop looking (because you never know what you’ll see, as she says) with an eloquent story of a rather heartwarming encounter with a lonely Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Then we have Wren, of Wrenaissance, who reveals her excitement at spotting (and finally capturing on film) a killdeer family with, count them, three babies! And, of course, Ben Cruachen recounts the experience he had exploring Lake Glenmaggie encountering a flock of Cattle Egrets sharing a meadow with…well, cattle.

And finally, Bill, of Gulf Crossings, reports on the rare sighting (in June, no less) of a Common Redpoll who somehow found its way to Galveston, Texas! Talk about taking the long route to the Arctic…

So, there you have it. A completely non-geeky version of the 52nd "I and the Bird" blog carnival, courtesy of everyone's favorite hobbit...me! I hope you all had as much fun reading it as I had writing it. And, even though it's a little late (it is now officially five minutes after Thursday), I certainly hope to be able to host it once again someday. Maybe next time I'll be able to convince Gandalf and Bilbo to help out. In the meantime, when planning a birdwatching trip don't forget your lembas bread!

Happy birding, everyone!

June 25, 2007

Lights in the Sky

Last week Sonja and I spent an evening with friends when we went for a stroll in the dark. As we walked along the trail someone pointed out what looked like a really bright satellite appearing over the cliffs. When a second light appeared behind the first one, following the exact same trajectory, I knew what we were looking at. Earlier that day the Space Shuttle Atlantis had undocked from the International Space Station and had begun to move away to prepare for landing. And for the first time in my life, I was 100% confident that I was watching the space shuttle in flight. The show, which lasted less than a minute as the two bright specks of light zoomed across the sky, was absolutely spectacular. I spent the rest of the evening giddy with excitement over what we had seen.

Recently, Sonja and I have been tossing around the idea of taking a trip out to Cape Canaveral to watch a shuttle launch, something I've wanted to see my whole life. The only thing stopping us is the tendancy of NASA to delay the launches, sometimes for weeks. However, since the shuttle fleet is slated for retirement within the next three years our chances are running out. It may have to be a spur of the moment thing when the weather looks perfect. There are three more launches scheduled for this fall and only two so far for next year, but hopefully we'll be able to catch one of them.

June 21, 2007

Escaping the Heat

Sonja and I thought it would be prudent to head up and out of the intense heat that has been blasting the Verde Valley for the last week. So we decided to take the dogs to 8,500' on the slopes of Mt. Humphrey, outside of Flagstaff. The temperature was unbelievably pleasant once we reached an elevation over a mile higher than where we're at in Rimrock. Easily 20 degrees cooler. However, because the sun is still pretty intense, the sandy trail got a big hot for Harvey's feet, cutting our hike shorter than we had anticipated. It was still a nice afternoon, though.

And it doesn't look like it's going to be cooling down anytime soon...

At least we got our swamp cooler fixed, so the house stays pretty mild, even when it is unbearably hot outside. As a result, I have a feeling we'll be spending most of the summer hanging out inside. Which isn't so bad, really, particularly since the evenings are so nice.

Not much else going on. But next week I'll be hosting the 52nd edition of "I and the Bird", an online blogging carnival. So if anyone has any posts involving our many feathered friends, let me know if you'd like me to include it in my IatB post and send it my way no later than Tuesday (June 26).

June 16, 2007

New Iraq Strategy: Arm Our Enemies!

Once again, Jon Stewart demonstrates that he remains the only legitimate journalist in the country. Did any of you hear about this? Apparently, the United States has now decided to arm the Sunni insurgents. According to Jon, "this idea is so crazy it just might...be f---ing crazy!"

I guess we didn't learn from what happened after the last time we tried this.

June 14, 2007

Grand Opening!

I am happy to announce the grand opening of Ye Olde Wandering Tattler Shoppe, an online store soon to be filled with all sorts of liberal, left-of-center goodness. All proceeds from the sales at this shop go directly to the unofficial Fund for the Elimination of Paul's Debt. A worthy cause if I ever saw one. Over on the right you'll see a new button you can press to access the store. Keep checking back, as new and exciting items will be added whenever the inspiration (and motivation) strikes.

It's hot again. We had a wonderful respite from the triple-digits while Mom was here, but the last two days have been brutal. The forecast was for 105 today. Our outdoor thermometer says 111. Either way, it's damn hot.

June 10, 2007

A Visitor from Minnesota

Well, I've finally gotten a few minutes to post some images and movies from Mom's trip out here to visit. I've also decided to do things a little differently this time. I actually uploaded 30 of the best pictures from the past week onto Flickr.com, where you can watch them in a slideshow by clicking here. I'm also trying to put up a "badge" that you can click on, but I'm not sure it's going to work.


wolfcrazy_101's Mom's Arizona Visit photosetwolfcrazy_101's Mom's Arizona Visit photoset

I also uploaded several videos from the week. They're all extremely exciting, too. For instance, this first one gives you an opportunity to experience a trip on the Grand Canyon Railway. Be sure to watch this one all the way through.

One of the highlights of the trip was a drive up to Page, AZ, on the Utah border to take a tour of Antelope Canyon, a bizarre sandstone slot canyon famous for its strange formations and tight spaces. Our Navajo guide, Nate, spent almost two hours with us explaining the significance of the canyon to his people and playing his traditional flute in the accoustically unique alcoves in the canyon.

Mom also got a chance to feed our hummingbirds by hand, something she had never done before. I think at one time there were eight birds flying around her.

I've got several more videos that I plan to post here, so check back in a couple days for some more. And be sure to click on the link for the photo slideshow, too.

June 04, 2007

104° F

Fahrenheit 104: The temperature at which Olligs melt...

Anyway, it's too bloody hot to post, today. Instead, you can watch these videos from our last winter in Seward playing in the snow.

A boring video of a mid-December blizzard.

Hiking with Sonja, Luna and Harvey on the Grayling Lake Trail north of Seward, Alaska, last Thanksgiving.

I'll post more when it's no longer in the triple digits.