October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

We're kind of disappointed with the kids of Manlius. It's 6:30 PM and we haven't had a single trick-or-treater. All our lights are on, pumpkins lit, candy ready... what more do they want? Stupid little brats. Fine, we'll keep our candy. Then someday when there's a worldwide candy shortage they'll all come running and we'll be like, "You had your chance and now you'll just have to deal with the consequneses." Okay, we just had two kids but one of them wasn't even wearing a costume so he doesn't count.

Becky and Sarah - helping me not hand out candy
Abby
I am so freakin' cool you have know idea

October 22, 2008

A few things on my mind...

Number One: Stuff Smith This guy has totally rocked my world. I've never heard the violin swing so hard... it's truly amazing. Every freakin' note! Plus, I really like his hat. Check him out here.

Number Two: Orson Scott CardScience fiction isn't usually my first choice for reading material but I've gotten sucked in to the whole Ender's Game saga and I just can't stop reading it. Cool stuff.

Number Three: VeggiesI've been thinking that I really should make fruits and vegetables a bigger part of my diet. After all, meat is kind of expensive and often makes me feel lousy afterward. For a long time I thought every meal needed a dead animal to be complete. Bacon and sausage for breakfast, ham or turkey for lunch, chicken or beef for dinner. Seems kind of ridiculous. Sarah made this great vegetable curry dish over the weekend; it helps when your wife is a great cook. I'm hardly a vegetarian but I'm going to give the burgers a break for a while anyway.

Number Four: Harvey PekarLike sci-fi and veggies, comic books aren't usually my thing either. But tonight Sarah and I watched the American Splendor movie with Paul Giamati and we both really liked it. You know I've been thinking, all I'm really into is birds and music. This blog is called "Birds & Music" because that's pretty much all I know anything about. I and don't even know that much either. It's just fascinating though that people can be interested in soooooo many different things. And when you are interested in something and begin to learn more about it, the only thing you find is how much you don't know. I've never heard of Harvey Pekar before. Never. I don't know a thing about comic books. But apparently they're incredibly important to tons of people out there. I start to think that I'm just really narrow minded because all I do is play music and watch birds. So I try and learn something about something I don't know anything about. And it's always fun and I always enjoy learning new stuff. But then I guess you do what you love and you love what makes you happy. And music and birds make me happy. They aren't the only things that make me happy of course. There's my beautiful wife, my friends and family, ultimately Christ's love for me is the major kicker. Just some stuff I've been thinking about.
The other news is that Noah and I had a great rehearsal this past weekend with our friend Rachel Bell on accordion and Kailyn singing harmonies. I think some of our new material is pretty strong... we'll see what happens!

October 20, 2008

New England events

Breaking news: the anomaly known as Giant Robot Dance invaded Massachusetts this past weekend with incidents reported in Concord and Greenfield. The pristine calm of October in New England was recklessly shattered with blaring accordion, shredding guitar, bludgeoning drums and honking trombone solos (amid the din there were some who claimed they heard a sprinkling of very tasteful piano melodies but this is widely discounted as a myth). The extent of the damage is still unclear but experts say that it may take sometime for Noah's brushes to regain normalcy.
Noah and I left the rest of the bots on Saturday and headed down to Madison, CT. What a beautiful day!

October 14, 2008

An Ever Popular Classic

October 01, 2008

California VI - The Lovely Miss Kailyn Wright

It has come to my attention that I have as of yet neglected to dedicate a post to the lovely miss Kailyn Wright and I must address the business of rectifying this grievance in a timely manner or accept the consequences (the details of which I am not privy and indeed would wish to remain so). Thus, I give you, the aforementioned lovely miss Kailyn Wright

California V – The Inevitable Birding Post

These are my birding journal entries.
Feel free to skip down to the pics if you get bored. August 31 – We arrived in San Diego on August 28 and stayed with Terry Akin and John McClure in Jamul. Picked up some common stuff but it was all pretty exciting for me. Some of the first birds we saw after we left the airport were HEERMANN'S GULLS (Life Bird) in the harbor. CALIFORNIA TOWHEES (Life Bird), Lesser Goldfinches, Western Bluebirds and Bushtits were all easy to find in the neighborhood. I also had a single LARK SPARROW (Life Bird) and a Say's Phoebe in the area. On August 29 I finally got a few decent looks at Anna's Hummingbird and my first looks at BLACK PHOEBE (Life Bird) in the yard next door. Later that afternoon we drove to Camp Cedar Glen near Julian, CA. Lots of neat more-or-less common birds like Mountain Chickadees, Stellar's Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers and Band-tailed Pigeons and a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Life Bird). My only new species on August 30 was CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Life Bird); a small group along the road into camp. This morning I had a very nice assortment of new birds including NUTTALL'S WOODPECKERS (Life Bird), a female WESTERN TANAGER (Life Bird and Year Bird #300), OAK TITMOUSE (Life Bird), PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCER (Life Bird) and a pair of PHAINOPEPLAS (Life Bird). There was also a beautiful dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk at the bottom of the hill and a fly-catching WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Life Bird) on a trail near the camp. My year list is currently 305.

September 8 – It's been an incredible week of birding in California! We flew to San Francisco on September 2 and met up with Sarah, Kailyn and Dave and stayed with our cousin Elaine in Alameda for a couple nights. I picked up several new birds in and around San Francisco. California Gull, Red-necked Phalarope and ELEGANT TERNS (Life Bird) were all seen from the ferry, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES and PYGMY NUTHATCHES (personal favorites) were in Golden Gate Park, LONG-BILLED CURLEW and Western Grebes were very close to the Golden Gate Bridge! On September 4 we spent most of the day in Muir Woods and it was an amazing experience. Birding was a little quiet but I did have a couple TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS and HUTTON'S VIREOS (Life Bird) in with the Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Things started to pick up when we headed south toward Monterey Bay. On September 5 I finally got a definitive look at BRANDT'S CORMORANT (Life Bird) and our first MARBLED GODWITS of the trip. A highlight was watching several WHITE-TAILED KITES hunting over some fields along Route 1 near Watsonville; only my second look at them and by far the best. Sarah and I got up early on September 6 and had a very successful morning birding in the Elkhorn Slough area around Moss Landing. We had a lot of great shorebirds including Willets, Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, Red-necked Phalaropes, Black-necked Stilts, BLACK TURNSTONES (Life Bird) and SNOWY PLOVERS (Life Bird). Eared Grebe and a beached Pacific Loon were also great to see although we missed Clarke's and Western Grebes. Later that afternoon, we took a trip down to the Big Sur area with Noah and Kailyn. We made lots of stops along the coast; beautiful scenery. There were many vultures along the road but we saw one flying about eye level that caught our attention. We all noticed it was large with exceptionally spread primaries. I got a VERY brief look at the bird through binoculars and noticed the white underwings and distinctive bare head – it had to be a CALIFORNIA CONDOR! Unfortunately a high speed chase along the highway didn't give us another look. I was absolutely speechless at the time but I've since learned that condors are in that area and it could have been a legit, wild bird. Not sure what their status is as far as being countable and since the look was so short I've decided not to put the bird 'officially' on my list. But still, quite the encounter. My last new birds of the day were a small flock of BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS (Life Bird), thanks to Sarah who decided to pull over and check the rocks. September 7 was our long anticipated pelagic trip out of Monterey Bay with Debra Shearwater. We left the harbor with a packed boat at 8:00 AM and were out for about seven hours. SOOTY SHEARWATERS (Life Bird) were flying in and out of the fog within minutes, closely followed by our first PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS (Life Bird). After a while we had a single BULLER'S SHEARWATER (Life Bird), a striking bird that we enjoyed picking out all day. We had quite a few Rhinoceros Auklets and Red-necked Phalaropes as well as distant, judgment-call jaegers. I had at least one definitive PARASITIC JAEGER and a couple POMARINE JAEGERS (one being chased by an ambitious Heermann's Gull!) but the only Long-tailed Jaeger of the day went by before I could get a decent look. We had good views of two NORTHERN FULMARS (Life Bird), many BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSSES (Life Bird) and several SABINE'S GULLS (Life Bird) as well as definitive but distant and not very satisfying looks at ASHY STORM-PETREL (Life Bird). However, the real highlight of the trip for me was getting great looks at at least five SOUTH POLAR SKUAS (Life Bird). Two came right up to the boat; what an impressive bird! It was a great trip and a nice introduction to a whole new family of birds. This morning Sarah and I had a single WHIMBREL fly by us on the beach at Carmel-by-the-sea. My year list is now at 335.

September 15 – On the evening of September 8 we arrived in Yosemite National Park. The next morning Noah, Kailyn, Sarah and I went for a hike near Glacier Point. One of the first birds we saw was a WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER (Life Bird), one of our trip favorites! Between Taft Point and Sentinel Dome we had decent looks at WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Life Bird) and CLARKE'S NUTCRACKER (Life Bird) as well as several TOWNSEND'S SOLITARES. On September 10 we went for another hike in the Tuolomne Meadows which were roughly 9000 ft elevation. Again, one of the first birds we saw was a beautiful PRAIRIE FALCON (Life Bird) that put on a great show and flew right over our heads! We went most of the way to Glen Aulin and while it was pretty much quiet we did get a look at a female WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER (Life Bird). On the morning of September 11 we walked around Mariposa Grove and got more great looks at White-headed Woodpecker and a quick view of a male Williamson's Sapsucker before we left for Sacramento. We met our hosts David Wright and Susan Jones that evening and enjoyed talking about conservation with them all weekend. Susan took us out to look for Yellow-billed Magpie along the American River on September 12 before we headed up to camp. No luck with the magpies but we did get another look at WHITE-TAILED KITE. No new birds over the weekend but before our plane left this morning Jim Stratton took us out one final time around Sacramento. We cruised through some riverside neighborhoods for a while before we finally found a group of about six YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES (Life Bird); a juvenile right in the road and others scattered around on lawns, roof-tops and nearby trees. It was a great moment; bird number 130 for the trip and the final lifer a true California endemic! All told I had 32 life birds during the trip and 59 new year birds, bringing my year list up to 343!

Long-billed Curlew video
Marbled GodwitWilletGodwits and WilletsRed-necked PhalaropeBlack OystercatcherWhite-headed WoodpeckerHeermann's Gull