Sunday, August 26, 2007

No Country For Old Men

This looks like it will be good! The Coen brothers and Cormac McCarthy!

Compost Happens

Slowly Maggie and I are getting to where we want as far as gardening/composting/recycling. We are still looking for a "farm," but for living as close to Chicago (where we can make some money) we are pretty happy. Here is our compost in the back yard. We started with a worm bin, but it just wasn't large enough for all our compostable matter. When we got the compost bin I added the worms thinking that if it got too hot for them they could go down into the ground, but our compost doesn't seem to get that hot so it almost feels like we have a big worm bin now. Either way the thing works. We put quite a bit of waste in there and it never gets much higher than you can see in the photo. I'll probably add quite a few leaves this fall. We'll see how it does in the winter.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Montrose Beach

I spent a little time at Montrose today. There were quite a few birds, many Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, a Willet, a Ruddy Turnstone, a large flock of Short-billed Dowitchers, Sanderlings, Common and Forster's Terns, etc...

I've always loved Ruddy Turnstones. In Kansas they are fairly rare. I actually missed seeing one during my big year. So here in Chicago where they are fairly common I usually take even more interest in them. Here is a video and still.

Here's an American Kestrel eating something. I have no idea what though.

Friday, August 24, 2007


You can read about some of the birds seen at Montrose today on IBET. Here are a couple photos of a Semipalmated Plover.

Does anyone know these mushrooms? With all this rain mushrooms are popping up everywhere.

Storm Damage

Last night Chicago was hit with heavy thunderstorms. Here are a few pics of tree damage.

The Magic Hedge at Montrose lost a big Horse Chestnut.

The platform at Jarvis Bird Sanctuary took a hard hit.

Jarvis also had this tree completely uprooted!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rainbow and Montrose Beach

I was working at Rainbow Beach today on the south side of Chicago and had a flyover Whimbrel and a single Willet who landed. The Whimbrel was calling quite a bit as it flew over. The Whimbrel looked as if it was going to land but a woman was walking her dogs along the shoreline at the time. There had been a sighting of a Whimbrel at Montrose earlier in the morning so there is a good chance this was the same bird.

I also checked out the many Monk Parakeet nests at Rainbow Beach Park. Here's a pic.

Later I stopped by Montrose and had 7 Willets, a Baird's Sandpiper, Sanderling, Least Sandpipers and Semipalmated Sandpipers. It's always so cool watching Willets fly.
Baird's Sandpiper

Baird's and part of a Semipalmated Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

I saw that A DC Birding Blog used Bird Cinema for their videos so I tried them out. I like them better, but I don't like that they automatically start playing. Any thoughts? You Tube maybe?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More Rain!

This is the latest storm to hit our region. This was around 8:30 central time. I love weather and I just think radar is art. Now, I could do without the non-stop rain though!!!! Our plants are rotting!!

Squirrel stuck in feeder: News at 11

You've got to check out the video over at The Hawk Owl's Nest of a squirrel that got stuck in their squirrel proof feeder!

I have this same feeder. Crazy squirrels!

Birding Meme, the results

Thanks everyone who has answered my Birding Meme! I thought I would make a comprehensive list here so people can check out each other's answers. I'll continue to add links as they happen or I find them. The OC Warbler, A DC Birding Blog, Search and Serendipity, Bell Tower Birding, Wrenaissance Reflections, Jeff Gyr's Birding Blog, Steve Blain's Bird Porn, The Hawk Owl's Nest, Born Again Bird Watcher, 2 Birders To Go, Wild Bird On The Fly, Thomasburg Walks, 10,000 Birds, The Wandering Tattler, Nurturing Nature, bogbumper, Words and Pictures, James, Crafty Gardener, and . . .

Chicago Peregrine Falcon Pics

Chicago Peregrine Falcons were successfully reintroduced and nest on buildings downtown and elsewhere. Some of the Chicago birds like to come down to Montrose Beach to hunt during migration. I've seen them chasing shorebirds mostly, but you can go under the tower and find flycatchers and the sort. I took these photos last year. I watched this bird bathing in Lake Michigan and then fly up to its spot on the tower.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


In less than one week I will be on my way to Morton County Kansas!!!!!!!

Native Plant o' the day: Pasture Thistle

Since I am a restorer of all things native I am often destroying thistle, Canada and Bull Thistle for the most part. So it was refreshing to come upon Pasture Thistle (Cirsium discolor) at Ashburn Prairie. I'm pretty sure this is the only native thistle in all of Chicago park land. I'd estimate there are around 30-40 plants this year.

As a side note, I've been looking for some plains birding blogs and mostly coming up with nothing. I'm pretty sure there are no Kansas birders blogging, but I did come across a nice blog called Nebraska Birding run by Kayleen. Stop on by and say hi. And if you run across any other plains birders who are blogging send me a link!

Obedient Plant

I took this at Ashburn Prairie at Marquette Park on the south side of Chicago.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jarvis Bird Sanctuary (Fall Migration!)

During the summers I work in the Chicago parks doing native plant restoration. It sounds more glamorous than it is. What I do is kill invasive plants. Anyway, I am based out of the Jarvis Bird Sanctuary shed so I am very close to one of the better birding spots in the city. I don't really get that much time to bird, but I am always birding no matter wht I am doing, at least on some level. Anyway, I had about 10 minutes this morning to bird before I had to start work. Here's my list --

Wood Duck (family)
Chimney Swift
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Carolina Wren
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Philadelphia Vireo
House Finch
American Goldfinch (many feeding on Cup Plant)
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
American Redstart
Mourning Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Baltimore Oriole

Sure wish I could have stuck around!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Peep ID

Check out this excellent article by Cameron Cox on Sandpiper ID

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Birding Meme

I thought these questions up and wanted to know how other bird bloggers would answer. Here are my thoughts.

1. What is the coolest bird you have seen from your home?

When I was growing up outside of Wichita, KS there was a mini fallout of migrants at our house on a rainy spring morning. Warblers were a bit of a mystery to me and only found in my Peterson guide so when I started seeing all these tiny colorful birds zipping around I about lost it. I skipped school and sat under a tree with my guide and binoculars. I think that day I was most enthralled with a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

2. If you compose lists of bird species seen, what is your favorite list and why?

This is a tough one because I really like adding birds to my Morton, Stafford and Sedgwick County, KS lists, but I guess I would have to go with my Kansas list. Especially now that I am in Chicago I truly miss Kansas birds and when I look over my list I see home.

3. What sparked your interest in birds?

Well, that is kind of tough. That mini-fallout day really catapulted me into birding, but as a kid I loved being outside, making and putting up bird feeders and houses, building brush piles, etc... Just growing up in the country helped me appreciate the flora and fauna.

4. If you could only bird in one place for the rest of your life where would it be and why?

I would have to say Morton County Kansas. It is in the far southwest corner of Kansas and even though it is thoroughly explored during migration it doesn't really have anyone that birds there regularly. I would love to bird there daily!

5. Do you have a jinx bird? What is it and why is it jinxed?

Nothing is too glaring. I've been pretty lucky in seeing species reported by others, but I think Red Phalarope might be it. I've "chased" them a few times with no luck. I think I've been passed this jinx bird from my pal Pete Janzen who finally saw one not too long ago.

6. Who is your favorite birder? and why?

Many of my birding pals are high on my list, but I think it would have to go to Kenn Kaufman. As a boy he lived in Wichita, KS (where I grew up) before he took off on his birding adventures. I very much wanted to follow in his footsteps. I wrote him a "fan letter" when I was a boy, and one day not long after, I got a message from my mom saying some guy named Kenn Kaufman had called. What? No way! I thought she was pulling my leg. I called him back and he said he would be in town and wondered if I wanted to do a little birding. Obviously I did (sadly I had a broken ankle at the time!). We went to Oak Park and went birding. A great guy and a great birder and naturalist.

7. Do you tell non-birders you are a birder? What do they say to you when they find out?

I mention it if it comes up. I don't walk around with a sign around my neck, oh wait, my binoculars! Every single time any talk of listing comes up people ask me how I prove I saw the bird. They just assume people will make up birds. I want to SEE the bird not just TELL people I saw a bird!

I'm going to tag The Birdchaser, A D.C. Birding Blog, Vagrant, Jeff Gyr, Birds Etcetera, 10,000 Birds, Birding Is Not A Crime, Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog, Steve Blain and Birdchick.

And if anyone else wants to answer these PLEASE DO! Just send me a link to your post. I'd love to see your answers.

Black-bellied Plover

I wanted to try out iMovie and see what captured stills from video would look like. Not great, but at low res they are ok. I'm not sure how to get rid of the vignetting. Hopefully with practice.

Montrose Beach

I birded Montrose Beach this morning. Here are a couple videos and a still. I don't care for the pixelation on Google Video so I may try something else at some point. I didn't get as much vignetting this time. Baby steps!

Black-bellied Plover


Sanderling still

Friday, August 17, 2007

Digiscoping with my Fuji e900

So I headed out early to Gillson Park hoping for some migrants and hoping for some digiscoping practice with my new Fuji Finepix e900. Well, the birds were few and far between. I saw Chipping Sparrows, Red-breasted Nuthatches, American Robins, Baltimore Orioles, a Black-and-White Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Canada Goose, etc... So I focused on trying my hand at digiscoping.

I don't have an adapter so I used a Gatorade cap, cut a hole in it and taped it on my scope (Kowa TSN-4). I have to hand hold my camera up to the scope and hope for a steady hand. That is not very easy.

Here's what my scope looks like with the bottle cap. can you see the cottontail?

Here's an attempt, a bit blurry, but you can tell it's a rabbit!

Here's a still of a Baltimore Oriole.

Here's what it looked like with the naked eye. He's at the very top of the middle tree.

Here I started messing around with the video function. The shaking at least seems appropriate with the live action shots!

I still need a lot of practice and some more subjects to practice on, but I'm at least happy that I can get record shots in case I come across something rare.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Couple More Garden Pics

These pics brought to you courtesy of my new Fuji Finepix e900. I got it to do some digiscoping of birds. Hopefully I'll get some presentable photos soon, but for now here are some non-digiscoped shots from the garden.

Things are slowing down in the garden a little. Today I got one full basket whereas we had been getting about two baskets.

Here is the path in front of our plot. Ours is on the right with all the sunflowers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

White-eared Hummingbird Nest

While going through some old photos I found this.

When I was working at the Southwestern Research Station in 2000 I heard a report of a White-eared Hummingbird nest up in higher elevations. I had seen a WEHU before, but a nest in AZ. That was too cool to pass up.

New Blogger

Well, I finally caved. I joined the new Blogger. I'm not liking my page right now so it will be changing quite a bit, but it really is easier to add links, etc... so I hope I can make things look a little better.

Some Garden Pics

The community garden has been a success this year. We've been inundated with tomatoes and squash to the point where we can't give them away. The corn has been attacked by Western Corn Rootworm. Little bastards. But we did get some corn and it is so sweet! The cherry tomatoes have been great. This was a bit of a learning experience as far as how to place plants in a way to get the most out of them in a small area. Our Cucumbers, Peppers and Eggplant got shaded out by our squash, but still produced enough for us. Broccoli sure takes up a lot of space for such a small return. Here are a few pics we took before the tomatoes started to turn.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Elkhart Sewage Lagoons

Birders love sewage. Well, birds love sewage ponds, lagoons, treatment centers so what is a birder to do? My favorite sewage lagoon is in Elkhart, KS. It laps its green, floaty-filled water against cement in the furthest reaches of southwest Kansas. If you are a Kansas birder you've heard of or been to this birder friendly lagoon. Unlike here in Chicago where sewage is guarded like Fort Knox, Elkhart has nice dirt roads outlining their lagoons. A window mount and scope are well suited for a nice leisurely drive around the lagoons. Many rarities have been seen there including, Red Phalarope, Little Gull, Eurasian Wigeon, Lesser Nighthawk, Sabine's Gull, etc...

A welcoming sign to birders!

Not as welcoming, but we know we are loved.

Maybe some of the locals aren't quite so sure what we are out here looking for? Well, yes, I guess they are Toyd Boyds!

A few birders checking out the lagoons. From left to right: Pete Janzen, Dave Williams, Brandon Percival

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Burrowing Owls

So I'm planning a birding trip to Cimarron National Grasslands in a couple weeks and I'm going a little bird crazy. So I was looking over some old bird stuff and found a couple things I thought I'd post.

Back in the summer of 1996 I worked at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in SW Oklahoma with the Student Conservation Association. I did a lot of different things there, but probably the most memorable was transplanting a family of Burrowing Owls from an unstable area and onto the refuge. This consisted of building a Burrowing Owl burrow, leg trapping the male Burrowing Owl and digging up the female and young birds and then after transplanting them, watching their behavior and supplementing their food with chilled (slow) walking sticks, grasshoppers, etc... It was quite an experience. The male took off, but the female stayed in her new burrow and raised 3 young (the total number we transplanted). Here are a couple of pics. I scanned them so they may not be the best quality.

Ken with male Burrowing Owl

Ken holding baby Burrowing Owl, cute huh?

A drawing I did of a young Burrowing Owl