Skip to main content


Showing posts from November, 2009

Robins and Global Warming

Earlier this year, the National Audubon Society (NAS) released a report entitled: Birds and Climate Change: Ecological Disruption in Motion.

It didn't take much of a perusal to cause red flags to fly up. Basically, NAS studied 305 species of North American birds using the past 40 years of Christmas Bird Count data as their primary stock, and claim that the majority of the study subjects are expanding their winter ranges northward. The report garnered good press, which I suspect was the primary intent. However, the report has also been criticized as overly broad-reaching in its conclusion that global warming has caused widespread northward range expansions of birds.

I rarely use this blog to criticize, but the NAS has put this report forth under the mantle of good science; therefore it is only fair to dissect it. And dissect the report in detail I will not, but the claims of tying in some of these alleged range expansions with global warming is worth a look. Mind you, buried in their…

Avast! Merlin on the Mast!

On the last blog post, I discussed our recent Lake Erie pelagic boat trip, and the port of entry problems that we encountered. The fair city of Cleveland allowed one of its massive railroad drawbridges to rust shut in the down position, effectively preventing our triumphant return up the Cuyahoga River.

But, in a classic case of making lemonade from a basketful of lemons, we were delighted to stumble into a wonderful bird upon boating into Plan B destination - the Edgewater Yacht Club.

A lovely female Merlin. Wonderful compensation for any inconveniences caused by the uncooperative bridge. This particular bird is outfitted with all of the latest electronic gear from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as part of their ongoing studies of this charming little falcon. Our individual is equipped with live-time DNA sensors; high-precision radio telemetry hardware; infra-red nightime detection optics; several bands on each leg; and a weathervane. Collectively, all of this gear weighs over 9.3 lbs…

Lake Erie "pelagic" Part II

The city of Cleveland recedes as we motor our way down the Cuyahoga River, headed for Ohio's version of an ocean.

In the last post, I touched on our wildly successful expedition out into the open waters of Lake Erie, one of the world's most dangerous water bodies. We were looking for birds.

Perhaps more ships have gone down in Erie than any other comparably-sized puddle on the globe. We didn't, but had we, the news would have been full of the story, weird as it would have been: "Bird-watchers lost at sea!" We did have a mishap not of our own doing, but it was along the lines of an inconvenience, and all worked out well as we got a great bird of it.

We were of course ecstatic to see several Black-crowned Night-Herons lollygagging in streamside shrubs as we trolled down the river. Here we have two dapper-looking adults, with a much less conspicuous immature bird on the left.

Before you castigate me for the quality of this photo, it should be known that: I was on a mov…

Lake Erie "pelagic" birding

Voyage II of the Lake Erie pelagic series sailed today, and I was on board. It was, to use an oft-abused word, awesome. Voyage I, which launched last Sunday, was a success but we one-upped 'em today.

Big kudos to Bob Faber of Discovery Tours and the crew at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory for putting these cruises together. They have been very well done and wildly popular, with both trips quickly booking. Our guides, John Pogacnik and Kenn Kaufman, were great, as was the captain and his sturdy vessel, the Holiday.

Part of the gang waits along the banks of the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland for departure time. We had about 50 people on ship, and with all of those keen eyes not much was overlooked.

Not long after exiting the mouth of the Cuyahoga and entering Lake Erie's open waters, we encountered this beautiful Peregrine Falcon perched atop a breakwall. Chances are good that it is one of the birds that nests on the Terminal Tower, or elsewhere on one of Cleveland's b…

Brown Pelican bests Bugatti Veyron!

There’s a great chance that no one reading this owns a Bugatti Veyron. This French-built mega-car is the automobile world’s greatest super power. You’ll pay dearly for one – about $1.6 million a copy – but ownership puts the motoring sophisticado into a very exclusive fraternity. Only 200 or so units prowl the highways.

Bugatti Veyron. Menacing, eh? The 16 cylinder power plant produces a claimed 1001 horsepower, which rockets the car to 60 mph in an astonishing 2.7 seconds. Your sedan is going to be considered quite sporty if it hits 60 in 7 seconds. In the Bugatti, the passage of 7 seconds sees the speedometer pegging 125 mph. Keep your foot in it – assuming you slotted in the secret key that lowers the body and shuts diffuser flaps – and this beast will reach 253 mph.

Here’s a neat bragging facto for Bug owners: If a half-million dollar Mercedes McLaren SLR toasted by you at 100 mph while you sat dormant in your Veyron, you could punch it, shortly overtake the Merc and still beat the …

Buckeye Book Fair

The 22nd annual Buckeye Book Fair was held in Wooster, Ohio, last Saturday. If you like books, you should put this event on your literary itinerary for next year. It's the biggest book bash held in the state, with about 100 authors of all kinds of writings.

This was my second time there as an author. To qualify to make the invite-only scene, one must either be an Ohioan or have written a book that has something to do with the Buckeye State. My first trip, in 2004, came on the heels of the release of Birds of Ohio. This year the pen dripped lots of ink, and both The Great Lakes Nature Guide and Wild Ohio: The Best of our Natural Heritage tumbled forth.

My collaborator on the Wild Ohio book on the left, Gary Meszaros, and I man the table. Gary is without doubt one of the best nature photographers currently adjusting F-stops, and his work has appeared far and wide. Our book is full of his stunning images, many of which have never been published before.

That isn't a mirror Gary is …

Micro-hooters return!

A silent nocturnal army of feathered killers is once again drifting into our woodlands. Albeit, impossibly cute little killers that invariably inspire all sorts of overly anthropomorphic comments. Words like "cute", "adorable", and "charming" are bound to be heard anytime people are fortunate enough to get up close and personal with a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You'd say none of those things if you were a White-footed Mouse that just got snagged by one of these predators.

Tim Tolford, who is an active bander in southwest Ohio and adjacent Indiana, sent along some absolutely incredible photos of owls that he has captured. You can read all about his operation here.

It's shaping up to be a good saw-whet migration. Tim has already caught over a half-dozen, I believe, and Kelly Williams-Sieg and her crew are in the double digits down by Chillicothe.

Few people know that these tiny owls are prowling about, eve…

Golden-crowned Kinglet

It's been a great fall for Golden-crowned Kinglets. They must have fared well on their boreal breeding grounds, as I've seen - and heard - as many or more this season as I ever have. Anywhere that some trees, shrubbery, or especially conifers are found, you're likely to hear the thin lispy tsee tsee tsee of kinglets. Just the other day, I was in the heart of Columbus's interurban concrete jungle, with scarcely a tree to be seen, other than a spindly ornamental Norway Spruce. And there they were - a kindling of kinglets, working the branches.

Unfortunately, not all songbirds survive their peregrinations. My brother Mike found this golden-crown shortly after it plowed into a window. It probably broke its neck, as often is the case with window-crashers. But, before it becomes a museum specimen, we can have a good look.

The ruler reveals the truly diminutive size of this species. Kinglets - both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned - are only about 3 3/4 inches long. That makes …