- Only 4 more WATCH assignments to fulfill my yearly obligation.
Ed Yong watches John Hutchinson and his team dissect a Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), our 3-meter long monitor lizard.
I am generally burned out on plays that take place backstage, but I might make an exception for Anne Washburn’s new 10 out of 12, previewed by Alexis Soloski. Washburn wrote the mind-bending Mr. Burns, a post-electric play that I was just crazy about. (And crazy.)
10 out of 12 takes place during the technical rehearsals of a new play.
Ms. Washburn said she first began taking notes at rehearsals, because “a playwright is useless at tech, and it’s too dark to read.” She wanted to capture how a technical rehearsal is “immensely boring, but then immensely sort of interesting and weird.” … She joked that there’s a version of this script that “takes five days and is completely immersive.”
Here’s hoping I can make a run to New York or that the script will travel to D.C.
CBS This Morning finally ran its feature about Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson’s Tiny Desk Concerts. They were there to film on a couple-three occasions many weeks ago, including February’s awesome Mucca Pazza show. Apparently the producers felt that my colleagues made for more interesting audience shots than me, but you can see my chin and my wristwatch starting at 3:59.
An uncommon look at a common wildflower: Tamara Bonnemaison considers White Clover (Trifolum repens) at Botany POTD.
… one small, one large.
Since I’ve started serving with Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, I am more attentive to equivalent efforts at the state level. The state of Ohio promotes a Wildlife Legacy Stamp. I bought one when I was in the Toledo area for the Biggest Week in American Birding. For $15, you get a stamp, of course, but you also get package of collateral: stickers, a thank you card, and a very fine pin that you can attach to the back of your favorite birding cap. Funds are collected by the Department of Natural Resources and support
- habitat restoration, land purchases and conservation easements
- keeping common species common
- endangered & threatened native species
- educational products for students and wildlife enthusiasts
- wildlife and habitat research projects
“Keeping common species common:” I like that.
Last year, when I was working onsite, I got a message from my colleague Erin, who was prepping a move to the Pacific Northwest. She wrote something to the effect of “I have this book about birds that’s too big for me to pack; would you like it?” Figuring it was some inconsequential coffee table book but to be gracious about a gift, I replied, “sure, thanks.” It turns out that the volume in question was a copy of the National Audubon Society/Peterson and Peterson reprint of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. This book is gorgeous. It’s also huge: it weighs 18 pounds. It’s a good thing that my own coffee table has a top made of two inches of solid walnut. Thank you, Erin!
Drain Lake Powell! That’s one of the provocative suggestions by former head of the Bureau of Reclamation Dan Beard. He makes his case on an episode of Colorado Matters.
I did a little birding and naturalizing in this municipal park, a square of suburban woods and swamp. A few takeways:
That big tree with the blocky bark? It’s not a Chestnut Oak, but good old Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), dominant in habitats like the lake shore. And often growing straight up, just to confuse visitors from the east and west.
I also spotted a Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) and a couple species of mystery mushrooms.
My final van trip was led by Greg Miller and Drew Weber: we visited two sites in Erie County, with a side trip to a field across the road from the J. H. Routh Packing Co. to check out two Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) doing what they should be: hanging out with cows.
Conditions at Pipe Creek were very drippy, swinging from light drizzle to a steady rain, but we nevertheless had A+ looks at a Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) (named neither for Abraham nor Frederick Charles, but for Audubon’s travel companion Thomas).
The weather cleared by the time we arrived at Sheldon Marsh, and the birding was quite fine here. I picked up my eighth lifer for the trip, Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus).
All told, I had great numbers for the Biggest Week in American Birding festival. My cumulative species count came to 113, give or take the odd Rock Pigeon, and my warbler count was 21. I’ll need to come back for Connecticut and Mourning.
Spring is a few weeks behind us in D.C.: Spring Beauty is still in full bloom here in northwest Ohio. Ethan Kistler led the walk-drive through this park (which apparently came about because property values crashed when the nearby airport expanded). No matter how the park came to be, it was good for two lifers (Blue-winged Warbler [Vermivora cyanoptera] and Henslow’s Sparrow [Ammodramus henslowii)]) and a second-look bird (Grasshopper Sparrow [A. savannarum]). As well, the park was filled with Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) and Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus).
We returned to the same wetland complex in Sandusky County that we visited Monday, this time circumambulating the Decoy Marsh restoration project with Ray Stewart and Drew Weber. Drew coached me through my lifer Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii). We got a look at a pair of Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)—it’s easy to focus on the crescent on the face as a field mark, but as I was showing a California birder the Peterson guide for this bird, we both realized (and observed) that the bird does indeed show a sky-blue wing. What a nice walk: full sun on the forest edge rimming the wetland, and enough twists and turns to the path that we could adjust our views of shorebirds and ducks to compensate for the sun.
We heard Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) calling in the distance, and on the drive back to the meeting point, we found a nesting pair on a unnamed pond for an A+ look for the trip.
Man oh man, some of the robins in this part of the country have a brick-red breast; very confusing. And the Song Sparrows sing a different dialect.
On my own in the afternoon, I walked the Adam Grimm Prairie at Ottawa NWR. I did not detect the target bird for this stop (Henslow’s Sparrow [Ammodramus henslowii], which has been reported recently here), but the stop was worth it. After the crush of the Magee Marsh boardwalk, for almost two hours, I had. The. Grassland. To. Myself. At the end of my quiet walk, after working through a different sparrow ID, I was treated to the sight and sound of at least two Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna).
I spent about an hour on the Magee Marsh boardwalk (I took a long time working out a Palm Warbler [Setophaga palmarum] that for once was not bobbing its tail because it was busy preening, not foraging), and then I joined one of the informal walks that are part of the Biggest Week conference registration. Sarah Winnicki co-led a group down the Crane Creek Estuary Trail. I got another, better look and listen of the Warbling Vireos (Vireo gilvus) that are fairly regular here—an A- look, but good enough for a twitch. Even better was the look at a Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus) skulking about along one of the dikes.
The winds picked up over the course of the morning—much more blustery than yesterday, but no crazy rainstorms in the afternoon.
Tom Kashmer and Katie Andersen led a canoe trip down the sleepy Green Creek to its mouth at Muddy Creek Bay. This body in turn flows with the Sandusky River into Sandusky Bay. At the start, we found it tricky to manage the boats (I haven’t been in a canoe since I was a kid at summer camp) and see any birds. But soon we were picking up warblers and tanagers and other songbirds that we hadn’t seen yesterday.
The target bird for this trip was Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and it was a slam dunk. We found a good dozen-plus birds, both adults and immatures, in the lowest reaches of Green Creek and over Muddy Creek Bay. But the big pleasant surprise was a quick flyover of three Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator). I’ve probably seen this bird before, but I’ve never been confident of an ID. For that matter, I’d like to have had another look at the three we saw today.
I love these old marker posts. This one along U.S. 20 is dated 1842 on its top, so it’s from the time before Lower Sandusky was renamed Fremont. I interpret it as signing 26 miles to Lower Sandusky (to the southeast) and 5 miles to Perrysburg (to the northwest). Most of the paint has weathered away. The only problem with my reading is that Lower Sandusky/Fremont is much closer than 26 miles at this point.
That’s perhaps the only way to describe Magee Marsh in spring migration. I picked up two lifers, Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendroica castanea) and Tennesssee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina)—perhaps the only two that I will find this trip.
I watched Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) picking insects off the ground to carry back to the nest. I saw multiple Yellow Warblers (D. petechia): if the sight of a bright Yellow Warbler doesn’t give you a little jolt of joy, you don’t really like birds. An iridescent Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) foraged in the wet leaf litter (dishwasher downpours of rain yesterday), tossing leaves aside and cocking its gimlet-eyed head like a cop looking for your dope stash.
In the afternoon, I went to a slide-show workshop by Kenn Kaufman on flycatcher ID. The talk was held at the visitor center of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and who should be there in the lobby to greet me but Puddles the Blue Goose!
From my most recent report:
So this past Sunday was a little rough. We have evidence of predation, probably by Raccoon, at 6 boxes, as well as evidence of visits to at least 2 other boxes. Of the 6 predated clutches, 2 were started since our last visit, in April. It’s hard to keep the species bookkeeping straight when you have only broken shells to work with. The predated boxes are in the southern half of those we monitor, from #13 to #61. The door to #67 was partly pulled off; we did a spot repair and M.K. plans to return to make a more permanent fix.
We happened upon Dave Lawlor on the trail, who said that he had recently ordered predator guard cones from Ducks Unlimited. If we can be of assistance installing the cones, please let us know.
On the upside: Kat and Chris found Box #2 in the process of hatching out. We have 4 clutches still in progress. And Paul and I got a look at the Virginia Rail that has been hanging out within the boardwalk loop.