Author Archives: Amy

Results: Birding Goals for 2010

Last December I came up with a few birding-related things I hoped to accomplish during the coming year. My targets weren’t too lofty, really: use eBird; read some books; see some birds. So how did I do with my 2010 Birding Goals?

I started using eBird regularly right from the start, but on repeat visits to regular birding spots, I didn’t keep regular lists as the year wore on. In my initial blog post I expressed some frustration in understanding certain nuances of eBird, especially when it came to bringing up reports. Happy to say I got the hang of it enough to be able to find what I’m looking for, mostly, but sometimes it’s still a small struggle to find what I need. I can use it, but it doesn’t come naturally just yet. With a total of just 122 checklists entered for the year, representing an estimated 85% of my birding trips, I’d say the eBird goal I set for myself was met, but just barely.

Another goal I had was to read most of my birdy natural history books. Total failure! What once took up just over a shelf in my office now occupies an entire case plus. I did end up cycling out quite a few books out (see Book Reviews Revisited), but I took in far more. Book shelf space is a small issue, though, and I am happy with some great titles I managed to snag this year, even if I didn’t manage to read everything I wanted to.

Lastly, I hoped to see 200 birds in Illinois AND get my life list up over 500 birds. This was kind of a wonky goal, seeing as how my life list isn’t really recorded very well in the first place. I share most sightings with Arthur, who keeps a list with Birdstack. He has a bird or two on me, but I was using his list as a basis, saying at the end of last year that 13 new lifers were needed to hit 500. Together we got 44 new species which brings Arthur’s life list up to 545. Yeah, something’s not right with the math, I know. I can say with certainty that MY OWN Illinois list for 2010 only reached 165 species, and MY OWN world list for 2010 was 235 species. So, another big all-around fail.

Of course two failures and one just-barely met birding goal don’t mean all that much, really. I certainly don’t feel like the birding I did in 2010 was any kind of failure, especially since I learned a lot (!!) and had a lot of fun (!!). Those are the only goals that matter, anyway, and they will remain year after year.

Did you have any birding goals for 2010? How did you do? I’ll post my own goals for 2011 tomorrow.

Posted in Books, Illinois, Life List | 1 Comment

I can’t resist

Using animals for our own amusement is wrong, absolutely. So the sight of dyed pigeons first gives me a feeling of dismay. But hand feeding beautiful, sweet, hungry birds — the lure is too much for me.

Pigeons at the Efteling

A mixed flock of dyed Fantail Pigeons (a domestic breed) and Rock Doves hangs out in one of the Efteling‘s beautiful open areas. A vendor sells seed in small packages and I cannot resist.

Pigeons at the Efteling

From what I have been able to find out online, the birds are colored using pigeon-safe dye. They are all fully flighted, and mix freely with non-dyed pigeons as well as Jackdaws, House Sparrows, and even a Wood Pigeon or two.

Pigeons at the Efteling

Pigeons at the Efteling

The first time I saw the dyed birds was on my first visit to the Efteling back in 2000. On a much later visit, perhaps in 2008, the flock of pigeons was in the same place, but there were no dyed birds. I thought, Joy! They stopped dying them, but we can still feed them, now that’s some progress. I was surprised to see the dyed birds again on this latest visit, August 2010.

Pigeons at the Efteling

Pigeons at the Efteling

If you’ve ever seen dyed pigeons, or know more about the process, or even if you have an opinion about the practice you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Pigeons at the Efteling

Posted in Netherlands, Pigeons! | 3 Comments

African birds in Holland

One day during our visit to Holland we went to an art and craft fair at a garden center. Arthur’s cousin had a table there and we went to see her pottery work (check it out, Dutch friends!) and the other artists.

One of the tables represented the metal sculpture gallery Birdwoods. A company now based in New Zealand distributes and sells metal sculptures of (mostly) birds made from recycled oil drums by families in Zimbabwe. That’s a mouthful; read more here, and enjoy these photos of the interesting and beautiful sculptures.






Posted in Africa, Art, Netherlands | Leave a comment

What a difference

What a difference a year makes! It’s hard for me to believe, but it was just about a year ago that I had “first contact” with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. I visited the Itasca facility during the annual Open House. There I learned about the Raptor Internship, which I would later take. I learned about the Rescue & Recovery teams that save migratory birds in downtown Chicago, which I would join in the spring. I learned about the education birds, the clinic that saves lives, and got just a taste of all of the amazing work done by this hard working organization.

Pip the handsome Barn Owl, one of FCWR’s education birds

The 2010 Open House takes place this weekend, and I’ll be back, this time as a volunteer. The Open House is a great way to learn about not only FCWR specifically, but also about education birds – there will be live raptors for you to meet! – and about wildlife rehabilitation.

And if you care about the welfare of wildlife, especially Chicago area wildlife, think about what a difference YOU can make! Please consider making a donation to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation this holiday season. Illinois birders, I’m especially talking to you! FCWR does tremendous work to help our injured feathered friends (the bulk of which are injured directly or indirectly through accidental or intentional human contact, interference, or stupidity) and other area animals in need. FCWR has an annual fundraising campaign, going on now, via FirstGiving. Donating is extremely easily done online via the FirstGiving site (the link will take you to my fundraising page). You can donate ANY AMOUNT, and each donation helps FCWR save lives. You can also donate to FCWR directly via Paypal.

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Natuur Museum Brabant

Back in August, we visited the Natuur Museum Brabant in Tilburg, the Netherlands. I was really impressed by the bird collection and other displays in this small provincial natural history museum.

Natuur Museum Brabant

A large part of the permanent exhibit features common Dutch wildlife, especially that found in Brabant. This includes an impressive number of birds – and rather small numbers of everything else, really. Notice the pet dog (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?) and domestic sheep bolstering the mammal numbers.

Natuur Museum Brabant

Natuur Museum Brabant

In another room, there was an interesting display depicting several species that were extirpated from the Netherlands, and recent reintroduction efforts. For example, the last breeding pair of Ravens was found in south Limburg in 1944; 200 Ravens were re-introduced in the natural area Veluwe over a period of 20+ years.

A temporary exhibit on reproduction and sexuality was pretty interesting, with a couple of bird-related tidbits that stood out.

First, it was neat to see a side-by-side comparison of male vs. female size in a couple of raptor species. In birds of prey, the female bird is almost always larger than the male.

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Next, it was kind of fun to show this duck display to my cousin- and mother-in-law. And I thought crazy duck genitalia was common knowledge! 🙂

Natuur Museum Brabant

The caption below reads in part: Record penis: Most birds have no penis. But if they do have one, boy do they steal the show. This Argentinian Stiff-tailed Duck has a penis nearly a half meter long.

Posted in Museum, Netherlands | Leave a comment

Through the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, darkly

Following our stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, we entered the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution. The Galerie is a major natural history museum, and features hundreds of animal specimens and dozens of interesting displays. Four floors of exhibits are arranged around the main gallery located on the ground floor.

Grande Galerie de l’Evolution

The lighting is extremely dim, making some of the displays hard to read and all of them difficult to photograph.

Grande Galerie de l’Evolution

Many of the animal specimens aren’t covered, which makes an exciting initial impression. Visitors can get up close to the animals, but so can dust.

Grande Galerie de l’Evolution

One neat display called “Birds of the Tertiary” showed the fossilized remains of several early bird species. The Tertiary Period was 65 million to 2.6 million years ago.

Birds of the Tertiary

Scaniacypselus, related to modern swifts (none of my other shots of captions came out)

Birds of the Tertiary

Birds of the Tertiary

Birds of the Tertiary

If you look for information about this museum online, you’ll find a lot of sites recommending it as a place to bring children. While the exhibits were pretty neat, the museum was a bit stuffy and lacked the type of hands-on exhibits usually aimed at kids. After a while the dark conditions wore us down so we kept our visit relatively short.

Posted in France, Museum | Leave a comment

A walk through the Jardin des Plantes

While in Paris, we visited the natural history museum in the Jardin des Plantes. The Jardin is a large botanical garden containing several museum galleries and a small zoo as well as horticultural displays. We walked through parts of the public garden before heading to the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution.

Stork Statue

We stopped for a rest by a large Lebanon Cedar tree. The tree had a plaque on it indicating it was brought to Paris in 1734. Holy cow, that’s old! I gave the tree a hug.

Lebanon Cedar

Lebanon Cedar

Outside of the Galerie there was a huge map of France and her territories.

Big map of France

The natural parks and wildlife reserves of each area was highlighted in different colors. Local flora and fauna, ranging from abundant and common to endangered or extinct were shown for many of the areas. Of course, quite a few of them were birds.

Map of France

New Caledonia

Bearded Vulture

After checking out France’s natural riches on the map, we headed to the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution.

Posted in France, Zoo | Leave a comment

Pigeons on the Tour

Eiffel Tower

One of the places we visited in Paris back in August was the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

It was partly overcast, and would rain later in the day, but the view was still splendid. Here Sacre Coeur is in the distance.

Paris from the Eiffel Tower

It was the first time I was able to go all the way to the top (the sommet was sold out on earlier trips). The lines to the top floor were incredible; we waited about an hour on the second level before we could board elevators to the third (top). While crowded with tourists, some Paris residents appeared to seek relative solitude on the Tour Eiffel.

Pigeons on the Tower

Three French Pigeons

Pidge on the Tower

On the third level, I was surprised to find a paper diorama depicting the use of the tower in carrier pigeon experiments.

Pigeon Diorama


I’m pretty sure I was the only one there taking photos in this direction. 😉

Posted in France, Pigeons! | Leave a comment

The birds need us! Helping is EASY!

There are so many worthwhile projects, organizations and initiatives set up to help birds. Non-profits working with wildlife are always in need of funding. Here are two really easy – and totally free – ways that you can help a couple of important bird conservation initiatives.

OM class of 2010
Operation Migration’s class of 2010 Whooping Cranes fly over Winnebago County, Illinois

Help Operation Migration: vote daily

You can help Operation Migration receive a $25,000 grant from Pepsi by voting for OM every day until the end of the year. The grant will be awarded to the two top projects; as of this writing OM was in 10th place (up from 72nd at the start of voting). Voting is easy! Visit the Operation Migration project page, and click on Vote for this idea. The first time you do this, you’ll have to register, which takes about 30 seconds. Then, return to the Operation Migration project page every day until December 31st to place your daily vote. You’ll have to enter your email address and password in each day, but it only takes a few seconds and your vote could be the one that pushes OM over the top! I have the page in my startup Firefox folder so I don’t forget to vote every day.

Help Spoon-billed Sandpipers: vote weeky

You can help save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper by voting in the Saving Spoony’s Chinese Wetlands campaign. BirdLife International is working to save the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, which may be down to just 400 birds. The project is set to receive $25,000 from Disney’s Friends for Change initiative, which is fantastic. But the project has the chance to receive up to $100,000 from the Disney initiative, if they get the votes. Voting is easy! Visit the Spoony Needs Your Vote page on the BirdLife International blog to find your country’s link to the Disney voting page. You will have to create a Disney account if you don’t have one already (which was kind of annoying, I admit, but only took about 90 seconds to complete. You’ve got the time, do it!), and log in. Then place your vote for BirdLife International. It’s that easy! You can vote every week; voting started on November 29th but it’s not clear when the poll closes. Better just go back and vote each week as long as you can! I know I will.

Calling Spoon-billed Sandpiper (uploaded to YouTube by user phonescoper)

Posted in Charity, Conservation, Disney | Leave a comment