Space Coast Festival and Florida Birds Workshop – January 2014

Some Upcoming Events

High Plains Snow Goose Festival Feb 20, 2014 Lamar, CO
Beckham Bird Club Annual Dinner Mar 11, 2014 Louisville, KY
Big O Birding Festival Mar 13, 2014 LaBelle, FL
Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival Mar 20-23, 2014 Spring Hill, FL
Verde Valley Birding and Wildlife Festival Apr 24-27, 2014 Cottonwood, AZ
Biggest Week in American Birding May 6-15, 2014 Oregon, OH
Ecuador: Northern Andes and Amazon with Greg Miller Aug 8-23, 2014 Quito, Ecuador

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.

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Pied-billed Grebe Diving

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

Pied-billed Grebe diving – Viera Wetlands – Melbourne FL – 2014-01-27 photos by Greg Miller

Great Blue Heron Eating Fish

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

Great Blue Heron eating large fish – Viera Wetlands FL – 2014-01-28 photos by Greg Miller

Fast Track Big Year Plans

Great Kiskadee displaying crown - Quinta Mazatlan - McAllen TX - 2012-12-12

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

The Birds Migrating Through NW Ohio Need Your Help

Bay-breasted Warbler - Magee Marsh - Lucas County OH - 2013-05-05

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.

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Two Years After The Big Year Movie

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!


View After The Big Year Movie in a full screen map


Letter To Dad 2013-11-22

Green Jay on arch - Bentsen Rio Grande SP - near McAllen TX - 2012-12-06

Green Jay on arch – Bentsen Rio Grande SP – near McAllen TX – 2012-12-06 photo by Greg Miller

Dear Dad,

A whole lot of people remember JFK on this date.  He was a leader that inspired many people to reach beyond themselves and do great things.  But a few folks will remember you.  Like me, they valued your friendship and respected your character.  And it was you that helped me gain the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  JFK I did not know.  But I did know you.  You were my father, my birding mentor, and my friend.  And for that, I am glad.

I lost you on this day 13 years ago, November 22, 2000. I had just moved back to Columbus, OH and got a job there so I could be closer to you during your final days. Little did I know that those final days would only be 2 weeks. <sigh> Your physical presence here on this planet is sorely missed. Much has happened since then. Continue reading

Panama in January 2014

Yep. I’m behind on my target list for Panama. I’m behind with my blogging. I’m behind at work. I’m behind with half a dozen other projects. Sigh. It happens. What’s hollering the loudest? Panama, of course. It still seems just like a dream. But it’s only just 2 months away! I am writing tonight because there’s been some shuffling on the roster and there are now 6 spaces available. I know it is a last minute proposition but this is a great opportunity. The trip is with Wildside Nature Tours and is January 18-25, 2014. Full info can be found here.

Are you afraid you will be sleeping in mosquito nets? Roughing it without electricity? Eating canned food? Haha. Check out this short video from the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Maybe you are afraid I will push you to build your bird list at a relentless pace? Relax. We will get to see tons of birds and enjoy them, too! And wowzers! Have you seen any of the fabulous butterflies in Panama? Check out a few of these pics! And don’t forget the fantastic flowers! Pretty awesome, eh?

Did you know you can use U.S. dollars in Panama? And we are only gonna stay in one spot–no need to pack up your bags and move around every couple days. The hikes will be relatively easy–so easy, in fact, that I can do it. 🙂 Here is a longer YouTube video (unofficial) of the lodge and surrounding grounds.

Ok. I’m done for the evening. Sweet dreams (it’s brisk tonight in Ohio as the temperature is slated to drop below freezing). Just imagine how cold it will be in January. Now replace that with a warm, tropical breeze and a comfy hammock.

North American Birding Macro Trends – November

Macro trends?  What??!!?  Haha.  I will get to that in a moment.  It’s been a month since I last posted here.  Sorry.  In that month I drove from Colorado to Virginia for the Eastern Shore Birding Festival.  I had a great time in Cape Charles, VA.  I drove home to Ohio and worked for a week and then headed back south to North Carolina’s Outer Banks for the Wings Over Water Festival.  It was a terrific week packed full of fun events and lots of birding.  I worked last week and my schedule finally caught up with me.  I was down a couple days with a cold.  Ok.  I still have a cold but I’m functional…sort of.  When I finish this week I will drive to Massachusetts for Athol Bird and Nature Club meeting and some New England winter birds.

Have I forgotten about Panama in January?  No.  I have not.  In fact, there are still several openings available.  You should consider coming along with me (and Wildside Nature Tours) to the Tropics during January!  More information can be found here: Panama Canal Zone and Pipeline Road Birding with Greg Miller, January 18-25, 2014.

North America Macro Trends - Nov 1-7 - eBird - 1900-2012 as of 2013-02-22

North America Macro Trends – Nov 1-7 – eBird – 1900-2012 as of 2013-02-22

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2013 RMBO 25th Anniversary

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory celebrated its 25th anniversary on October 5, 2013. A nice crowd showed up for the event. Above, folks gathered to hear some guy talk about being a bird consultant for a Hollywood movie, The Big Year, and his experiences meeting Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson.


We had a good turn out for a very chilly early morning bird walk. This is a phone-scoped picture of the morning sun beginning to light up a very distant Long's Peak. It was taken handheld with my iPhone through my Swarovski ATX 80 telescope at 25x.

An American Kestrel posed long enough for everyone to get a scope view and fortunately, long enough for me to capture a quick phone-scoped picture (same set up as above).

And as all my readers know by now, I love visiting local restaurants and trying out new dishes. This is a “regular” sized bowl of Pho (noodle soup) at a Vietnamese restaurant in Brighton, Colorado. It was gargantuan! I didn't even make a significant dent in this Goliath-sized bowl of soup. I think it must be half a gallon. Haha. Check out that quarter beside the glass of water for a size reference! The portion I ate was delicious, too.