Yep. I am hitting the road again. Another 5,000 miles and lots of birds! I will be making some updates here, but hope to update Facebook & Twitter daily. I hope you will be able to follow me vicariously. And, for those of you in my path, maybe you can bird with me. Much of this itinerary is in flux–quite optional. I’m hoping to have some fun seeing and photographing birds along the way. I just got a PhoneSkope adapter for my iPhone and Swarovski telescope. This will be a good test and you all will be my Quality Assurance team to rate the pictures. And I will be eBirding along the way, too.
Tonight I am doing laundry and packing. I will be leaving tomorrow morning. Here is my tentative itinerary:
Fri Apr 11 - Sugarcreek OH to Bowling Green KY (420 miles)
Sat Apr 12 - Bowling Green KY to Little Rock AR (411 miles)
Sun Apr 13 - Little Rock AR to Keller TX (351 miles)
Mon Apr 14 - Keller TX to Beaumont TX (314 miles)
Tue Apr 15 - Birding at High Island TX (86 miles r/t)
Wed Apr 16 - Beaumont TX to Corpus Christi TX (291 miles)
Thu Apr 17 - Birding in Corpus Christi TX
Fri Apr 18 - Birding in Corpus Christi TX
Sat Apr 19 - Corpus Christi TX to Fort Stockton TX (457 miles)
Sun Apr 20 - Fort Stockton TX to Tucson AZ (556 miles)
Mon Apr 21 - Birding in SE AZ
Tue Apr 22 - Birding in SE AZ
Wed Apr 23 - Tucson AZ to Cottonwood AZ (219 miles)
Thu Apr 24 - Verde Valley Birding Festival in Cottonwood AZ
Fri Apr 25 - Verde Valley Birding Festival in Cottonwood AZ
Sat Apr 26 - Verde Valley Birding Festival in Cottonwood AZ
Sun Apr 27 - Verde Valley Birding Festival in Cottonwood AZ
Mon Apr 28 - Cottonwood AZ to Albuquerque NM (387 miles)
Tue Apr 29 - Birding in Albuquerque NM
Wed Apr 30 - Albuquerque NM to Oklahoma City OK (541 miles)
Thu May 1 - Oklahoma City OK to Rolla MO (394 miles)
Fri May 2 - Rolla MO to Lexington KY (441 miles)
Sat May 3 - Birding NE KY
Sun May 4 - Lexington KY to Sugarcreek OH (291 miles)
Mon May 5 - Sugarcreek OH to Oak Harbor OH (125 miles)
Tue May 6-15 - Biggest Week in American Birding
Aack! I am at a hawk watch and I just misidentified a Red-tailed Hawk as a Red-shouldered Hawk. Oh, my! I just pointed out a Lesser Yellowlegs and it called and it was really a Greater Yellowlegs. Sigh. I just posted a picture of a bird that I identified as a Song Sparrow but really it was a Savannah Sparrow.
How frustrating! Making mistakes in front of other birders makes you feel foolish, embarrassed, and very self-conscious. But how can you avoid birding mistakes? Just give up trying? Let someone else call out the birds? Don’t lead any more bird walks? Just stay silent every time you are with a group? Stop birding altogether? Hopefully you haven’t considered quitting. Continue reading →
This data is taken from eBird, a Citizen Science project to collect birders’ checklist data from around the world for use by researchers and scientists. Data in this chart was accessed on 3/18/2014 from ebird.org. The data is for all of the month of May [only] and is for all years (1900-2013). The cheat sheet is for Northwest Ohio including the counties of Erie, Ottawa, and Lucas. Even though this chart covers the whole month of May, it can still be used as a guideline for Biggest Week this year which occurs from May 6-15, 2014. Check out the main festival site here: http://www.biggestweekinamericanbirding.com/.
The first column is taxonomical sequence. The second column is a difficulty rank based on the highest number of individual birds per checklist for a specific species for May in the Biggest Week area. The lower the difficulty number, the easier the bird is to see (more birds per checklist). Likewise, the higher the difficulty number, the harder that species is to see. The third column is the week in May in which that species peaks–reaches its maximum value for birds per checklist. Column 4 is the species common name. Column 5 is the actual maximum value of birds per checklist that a species achieves in May in the 3-county area. Column 6 is like column 3 but is specific to actual day (as opposed to week of the month). The last column is the average number of checklists submitted during May in the 3-county area to see 1 (one) individual bird. This is calculated by taking the reciprocal of the peak value of abundance (birds per checklist). For example, Ovenbird reaches a peak of 0.480 birds per checklist. So 1 divided by 0.480 equals 2.0833 [checklists to see 1 bird]. But since a fraction remains I add 1 to it to get to 3 checklists to see 1 bird. Got it? Good.
At the end of February I went to Southeastern Colorado for the High Plains Snow Goose Festival. And there were thousands of Snow Geese. For me, the raptors were a treat. This Prairie Falcon is one cool camper! And ther are Red-tailed Hawks of all different colorations. Below is a “Western” Red-tailed Hawk.
Western Red-tailed Hawk
And a beautiful light morph Ferruginous Hawk.
Light morph Ferruginous Hawk
After a few short days at home I drove to Louisville KY to speak to the Beckham Bird Club. We had a great time during my quick visit. Below is one of the Red-necked Grebes on the Ohio River.
In the next day-and-a-half I drove 1,000 miles to reach LaBelle FL for the tail end of the Big “O” Birding Festival. I birded Devil's Garden during the day and gave a slide presentation that evening. The next day I got to bird Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA5). Here are a few highlights.
After the Big O, I traveled north to Spring Hill FL for the Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. It was cool to bird this area of Florida–an area I had only birded once before. I visited lots of cool places. And the Saturday keynote went very well. I had a great time. Highlights of Naure Coast are below.
After a fun-filled schedule at Nature Coast I drove north to Tallahassee FL for a couple days of recovery and also to wait out the snowstorm in West Virginia. While in Tallahassee I got to visit Maclay Gardens–an awesomely beautiful place to visit at this time of year. Enjoy the pics!
I've finally waded through 8,000+ photos. My amateur strategy for good photos=volume. When shooting, it's easy to say “It's digital” and shoot away. What is harder is going through the results of that “digital” logic. Volume takes a lot of time. But I have to say that I like taking photos. And lots of them. In the end, I ended up with a number of decent photos that were very satisfying to me.
I have to say that I enjoy photography enough that I actually am willing to put some work into becoming better. Why? Well. Because I want to. Here are few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them, too.
It is hard to believe just a week ago I was delayed multiple times in the Atlanta airport on my way north to meet the Polar Vortex. I am still going through the 8,000+ photos I took at the end of January in wonderfully warm Florida. Sigh. But the photos get interrupted by shoveling snow…and going to work. This bird was photographed during Wildside Nature Tours Florida Birds Photo Workshop. In the mean time, here is another animated GIF file–a series of six photos of a diving Pied-billed Grebe that I found quite interesting. Check out how the bird seems to sink slightly before diving. And watch its back feet kick water upward to get some force downward on its dive. Very cool!
Pied-billed Grebe diving – Viera Wetlands – Melbourne FL – 2014-01-27 photos by Greg Miller
Yes. It has been forever since my last post. I just returned from a 10-day trip to Florida for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival and a Florida Birds Photo Workshop with Wildside Nature Tours. I am going through my 8,000+ photos while occasionally glancing up at possibly the most boring of Super Bowl games ever. Even the commercial are mediocre. Well. Here is something new. I will try inserting an animated picture here. It is not a video. And I am sure it will not work in the email form of this blog (sorry). I will have plenty to post in the coming days.
Great Blue Heron eating large fish – Viera Wetlands FL – 2014-01-28 photos by Greg Miller
Great Kiskadee displaying crown – Quinta Mazatlan – McAllen TX – 2012-12-12 photo by Greg Miller
Have you been following the Big Year drama this year? Several birders are doing really Big Years and one, Neil Hayward is tied with Sandy Komito’s 1998 record at 745 species plus 3 provisional species (new birds for North America yet to be approved). Will he break the record this year? Time will tell. You can read more about his Big Year here.
Hopefully you all have had a delightful Christmas with family and friends. I have had a wonderfully quiet Christmas and some time to collect for next year. Are you thinking about next year yet? Do you have any birding goals? Have you ever thought about a Big Year? They can be awfully expensive. Maybe you have fancied a smaller Big Year but didn’t know best how to go about getting to your goal.
Enter eBird, a fabulous Citizen Science project on a grand scale. They collect birding checklists from around the world in an online database. This data can be accessed by anyone, not just scientists. It provides a terrific resource. But can it make a plan for Big Years with goals for 300, 400, or 500 species? The quick answer is, Yes. Yes, it can. That is what this post is about–Fast Track Big Year Plans for goals of 300, 400, and 500 species in the ABA Area (American Birding Association’s designation includes the Lower 48 United States plus all of Canada and Alaska). Let’s get right to it: Continue reading →
Bay-breasted Warbler - Magee Marsh - Lucas County OH - 2013-05-05. Photo by Greg Miller. Nearly 1 out of every 5 sightings of this species in North America in May 2013 was recorded in NW Ohio (18.9%). eBird as of 11/29/2013.
Each year, birders from across the U.S. and around the World come to northwest Ohio to go birding. Spring in particular is a great time when visitors come by the tens of thousands and spend millions of dollars in the area. I do not have the exact numbers, but I am sure others do.
Two years ago last month (October) the movie, The Big Year, was released. I personally have seen the movie 24 times since then. Of course I really liked the movie. I am biased though. I got to proofread the script and I got to be on the movie set as a Bird Consultant. What a surreal experience! It still seems like a dream. Like it never truly happened. A Hollywood movie with A-List stars (Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson) was the last thing I would have expected from my Big Year in 1998. So many things had to happen to make this a reality. I often wondered “Why me?” Most folks reserve that for bad experiences. But I soon realized it really wasn't about me. It was waaay bigger! What is it? There is a new wave of popularity in birding. And I am privileged to be riding along with this one! And I can't help believing that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of what is about to be! I am full of hope for our future!
Recently someone asked me how many times I've spoken. Great question. I was curious myself. My friend, Erica Rusk, compiled a list of all the places I've been in the last two years. She has been keeping my calendar for me these last two years. Thank you, Erica! Here is a map I put together with Erica's list and a website called Batchgeo.
Thank you everyone! It has been wonderful traveling all over America (and Canada, too) talking about a contest I didn't win and signing books I didn't write!