May 31, 2006

Music: Electric President

Hello everyone. It's soooooo (as my brother would say 'FREAKIN') hot today. I feel like a Hershey's bar that God just stuffed in His jeans pocket before going mountain climbing. Or something like that. And our pool is still this nasty oozing-green color because we haven't hooked up the pump or filter yet. So I'm planning on finishing this post but if the words just randomly stop in the middle of a sentence somewhere you can probably assume that I died of heat stroke and you can go back to doing whatever you want.

Now, what I really wanted to tell you about is my latest discovery while surfing the remote corners of the iTunes universe. The band is called Electric President. It's a little unclear if the name of the album is actually "S/+" or if it's just part of the cover. Now I'll consent that not everyone is likely to enjoy these guys as much as I do. The lead vocals toe the line between effective, laid-back emo and the infamous wimpy white guy with a sore throat effect. But there's a lot to be said about musicality of this group. Ben Cooper and Alex Kane wrote, played and recorded the entire album themselves in a tool shed and a bedroom but the end result is very professional. Their sound is a lot like a cross between Death Cab for Cutie and The Flaming Lips. Imagine Ben Gibbard and Wayne Coyne having a baby together. Or maybe not. But the analogy still stands! They make ample use of guitars and various guitar effects which is a nice change from the keyboards that often dominate this niche. What I think I like most about this recording is it's unique approach to every track. It's not your typical pre-packaged electro-pop: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus, chorus, etc. Cooper's songs seamlessly morph from one theme to another in a pristine (albeit hazy) atmosphere of melancholy, smartly avoiding the usual relentlessly repetitive lines. Some simple programming, a thouroughly unpredictable drum set, or subtle acoustic guitars played in reverse; these are the kind of things Electric President uses for a beautiful and unique take on an over-recorded genre. So, there's my review. If you guys know of any music, songs, bands, etc, that I should check out just...... (heat stroke)

May 25, 2006

Birds: 200th Bird & Birdathon results

Hello everyone. Today I saw my 200th year bird! Or heard rather; it was a Black-billed Cuckoo in case you were wondering. Migration is beginning to wind down although there are still a few more birds I could get before the end of the month. I told you I was going to report on our Birdathon results. The truth is, I've kind of been avoiding it. It's not a very pleasant story and, well I guess I've just been trying to put the whole thing behind me. But I'm not the kind of guy who goes back on his word so here it is... Birdathon 2006.

This is a pic of Jay and I after we'd been in the field almost 20 hours. The weather was nearly as bad as it could have been: wind and rain all day long. And it was really cold too. Rain and cold are no fun but the real criminal here is the wind because you just can't hear anything. We started at about 1:00 AM at Whiskey Hollow. First bird of the day was Ovenbird (as usual) but our best pre-dawn finds were LEAST BITTERNS at both Peter Scott and DeWitt marshes. At 5:30 AM we made a second stop at Whiskey Hollow for ACADIAN FLYCATCHER and we also added a singing LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH before heading back to Oswego County. At Great Bear we did have GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (photo by Jay) but we started to run into trouble with more common inland birds. There just weren't enough of them around. On our way to the lake shore we had two UPLAND SANDPIPERS and GRASSHOPPER SPARROW at the Oswego County Airport. We had great luck with (mostly breeding) warblers at Sithe Energy and Sunset Bay Park but little else. We missed Black Tern at Pine Grove for the first time in years. But there were some bright spots. A quick stop to look at the lake produced WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS and a single RED-NECKED GREBE, both rare finds for this competition. Still when we left Oswego Harbor a little after noon it was with a dismal 99 species. We picked up a few more breeders like GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET and VESPER SPARROW before heading towards Oneida Lake. The supposedly ultra-reliable, virtually un-missable Prairie Warblers on Churchill Road were a little to cold and miserable (I presume) to show themselves while we were there and our foray into Happy Valley was mostly unsuccessful. Things began to pick up a bit in the evening as they often do. PROTHONOTARY and CERULEAN WARBLERS were both in their traditional places at Toad Harbor and a pleasantly surprising CAROLINA WREN was also singing in the vicinity. Phillips Point had COMMON LOON, COMMON TERN and Jay managed to pick out our last missing swallow, a male PURPLE MARTIN. Our last few birds of the day were a female HOODED MERGANSER in Constantia, a male NORTHERN HARRIER working the fields near the mosquito station, a single WHIP-POOR-WILL that finally called after nearly an hour of waiting at Roosevelt Road, and an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL back at Toad Harbor. We missed lots of easy stuff like American Bittern, pewee, White-crowned Sparrow, kestrel, both nuthatchs and creeper. Our 'grand' total for the day was 122 species which essentially amounts to our worst Birdathon ever. Still, we placed third overall which isn't that bad considering. So that's the lowdown on Birdathon 2006. I think we're due for a comeback next year. Or at least I hope so.

One parting shot... this is an odd white duck Sarah and I found this morning in West Monroe. Any ideas on what it is? Probably domesticated but it doesn't look quite like a Mallard to me.

May 17, 2006

Birds: Gearing Up For Birdathon 2006

Hi everyone, sorry I haven't posted in a while. Last weekend Great Bear played a dance festival in NJ and today I've got finals in History and Economics so it's been pretty busy. I have managed to get out birding quite a bit this spring, although I have not had any luck finding the rarities that others have reported during the past few weeks (Laughing Gull, Snowy Egrets, Sandhill Crane, etc). But I can't complain really. This morning I had a life bird: Acadian Flycatcher. Sorry, no photo. Trust me, you're not missing much. There have been nesting Acadian Flycatchers at Whiskey Hollow (near Baldwinsville) for years but I've never made the time to go see them. Now I have. Check. On to more interesting birds. Actually I did see something really cool this morning... a Barred Owl! I've heard Barred Owls for years but this was the first time I've ever had a visual. The bird gave me a great look, I wish I hadn't left my camera at the bottom of the hill. Oh well. I have managed a few photos recently. Here are the highlights:

Belted Kingfisher
Mullen Road Marsh

Turkey Vulture
Pine Grove Boat Launch

Grasshopper Sparrow
Oswego County Airport / Landfill

I'll probably be spending the rest of the week gearing up for this Saturday: Birdathon 2006! Some of you may not know what the Birdathon is so here's a quick explanation. The Birdathon is an annual fundraiser for the Onondaga Audubon Society. Birders have 24 hours to find as many different species of birds as they can. Most of us are on teams of two or three, some go solo. The boundary is Region 5 - the counties of Oswego, Onondaga, Oneida, Madison, Herkimer and Cayuga north of Route 31. This will be my ninth Birdathon. Our team "The Snipers" is down to just me and long-time teammate Jay McGowan this year. Noah's ditching us to go to the contra-prom with Kailyn. Where are his priorities? Just joking Kailyn. Anyway, it's a ton of fun and we're always looking for new participants and / or donations. If you're interested in taking part in Birdathon 2006 contact our heroic competition coordinator David Wheeler by email at or by phone at (315) 373-5350. If you'd like to sponsor our team please contact me at or by phone at (315) 598-3923. Wish us luck! I'll post the details on our big day sometime next week.

May 01, 2006

Birds: I love spring!

I think it is entirely impossible not to be in a good mood today. So if you're having a bad day or happen to be in a less-than-good mood, you probably want to stop reading this post right now. Isn't spring great? All the little baby leaves are out on the trees. There are flowers and tree frogs and bugs. The whole world (at least the tiny little slice of it that I see) is just totally psyched to be alive. God is so cool! I mean, he didn't have to make spring so nice. In fact, he didn't have to make spring at all. Didn't have to make me either for that matter so I'm rather glad he decided to go ahead with the whole creation business after all. Okay, I'm beginning to ramble. This is, after all, supposed to be a bird post. So, here are some more-or-less recent photos of some more-or-less interesting birds.
Upland Sandpiper
Oswego County Airport

Great Horned Owl
Near Lake Ontario
Now these guys are still technically birds, they're just a little preoccupied at the moment with whatever it is that unborn baby Robins have as preoccupations. The nest is in the bushes right next to our house so once they hatch I'll keep you updated on their progress. There are only three eggs now so I hope the rest of them make it. My Region 5 Year List is currently at 136 but I should be able to add quite a few this week. And now I've put off doing my Econ homework long enough. Enjoy the weather everyone!
"We live in a beautiful world. Yeah we do, yeah we do."
Don't Panic - Coldplay