I'm a herpetologist by training but a naturalist at heart. My masters thesis is looking into the Panamint alligator lizard, Elgaria panamintina. In particular I'm focusing on identifying its range and testing out a variety of novel techniques which may benefit the field of herpetology as a whole. I post things that interest me and often post updates on what I'm doing in the vertebrate museum, in the field, or in the lab.

 

Update from the field- day 2: the birds…

Bird highlights from today included: lifer chukar (with young, and numerous calling as I walked around), a pair of mystery birds who had a distinct call I had never heard before but intrigued me enough to stop my site survey and spend half an hour scanning the talus-type slope to find them (photo 2), a pair of peregrine falcons racing down the canyon passing over my head, and more black-throated sparrows than seems reasonably possible (easily over 25 individuals in the one canyon).

Meowing bird?

What birds “meow” other than gray catbirds?

Bird was “meowing” every five to thirty seconds for a five minute period in dense reeds adjecent to a water treatment pond and trail.  Despite my best efforts of pishing, and tapping on my waterbottle (which oddly was making it call more often)… the bird just would not let me get a look, and by the time I remembered I had the capacity to record calls with my phone it stopped calling. Seemed smallish in size, definitely not a cat/mammal.

Horrible quality picture… But look! They’re almost done! I’m going to look for my magnets tomorrow, if my quest is successful then some of these will be magnets, some pins.

I also think I figured out the pendant/earring dimensions so I’ll be making some of those next.

I have the list of recommendations from a few posts ago… But I’m almost done with all those birds… So I need more recommendations!

What birds should I draw next? And should it be a magnet, pin, earrings or a necklace… Or something else?

Horrible quality picture… But look! They’re almost done! I’m going to look for my magnets tomorrow, if my quest is successful then some of these will be magnets, some pins.

I also think I figured out the pendant/earring dimensions so I’ll be making some of those next.

I have the list of recommendations from a few posts ago… But I’m almost done with all those birds… So I need more recommendations!

What birds should I draw next? And should it be a magnet, pin, earrings or a necklace… Or something else?

And shrunk!
Next step: apply the finish, then attach the pins… then photograph and list on etsy (and then hopefully sell them to pay for field season gas).

And shrunk!

Next step: apply the finish, then attach the pins… then photograph and list on etsy (and then hopefully sell them to pay for field season gas).

I stayed up until 3am reading this book about Phoebe Snetsinger.  It was really interesting to read a book about a famous birder from a non-birders perspective, especially a famous birder I knew very little about. However now that I really want to read the book Phoebe wrote about her life, I discovered it seems to be one of only a few birder-written books I don’t currently possess. 

Also… now I really want to go birding abroad but I’ll have to settle for birding locally for the foreseeable future… maybe I can save up and do a small trip sometime next year.

ARGH! I should’ve turned around…

Yesterday as I was driving home on my favorite road-birding/shortcut road I saw a very very odd bird, but I was running late and didn’t bother to turn around and get another look, and I’m kicking myself big time for not doing it… and all I can think about is that bird.

The bird?

BIG white egret (it looked to be a good inch or two bigger than the great egrets standing next to it)… but no yellow on its face.

 None.

Nothing.

Jet black bill… and by jet black I mean JET black. Not muddy, not a trick of lighting, pure solid black.

Blue lore… a nice tumblr background blue (a little lighter than that actually).

Did I have my camera? no.

Did I get a hauntingly good look? yes, that image of that bird is seared into my brain.

Will he be there when I drive home from work? I really hope so because…

if I’m right its the African subspecies of great egret, and that’s pretty amazing.  If I’m only partially right (and fail miserably at judging size at 25 feet, and can’t tell gray from black) its another little blue heron (still super awesome), and if I’m not right on either its still a wicked cool color variation of a common bird that I want to photograph… because that guy was gorgeous.

"It took him until he was 81, but a veteran British birder has become the first person in the world to officially see 9,000 species of bird” (via World’s greatest birdwatcher sets a new record – then hangs up his binoculars)

"It took him until he was 81, but a veteran British birder has become the first person in the world to officially see 9,000 species of bird” (via World’s greatest birdwatcher sets a new record – then hangs up his binoculars)

crotalinae:

So I just spotted this guy, and can’t seem to figure him out. At Mitch Park in Edmond OK.

Anyone able to ID this guy?

Thanks astronomy-to-zoology! 

Dickcissel! The bird I was specifically looking for, its pose made me think sparrow, and then I got stuck…

crotalinae:

So I just spotted this guy, and can’t seem to figure him out. At Mitch Park in Edmond OK.

Anyone able to ID this guy?

Thanks astronomy-to-zoology! Dickcissel! The bird I was specifically looking for, its pose made me think sparrow, and then I got stuck…
So I just spotted this guy, and can’t seem to figure him out. At Mitch Park in Edmond OK.

Anyone able to ID this guy?

So I just spotted this guy, and can’t seem to figure him out. At Mitch Park in Edmond OK.

Anyone able to ID this guy?

I just found this cute little armadillo and it’s sibling… this picture was taken with my PHONE! I just sat on the trail and they foraged their way over to me, I watched them foraging 1-5 feet away for half an hour before it started raining. On the way back I was able to photograph my lifer indigo bunting.

I just found this cute little armadillo and it’s sibling… this picture was taken with my PHONE! I just sat on the trail and they foraged their way over to me, I watched them foraging 1-5 feet away for half an hour before it started raining. On the way back I was able to photograph my lifer indigo bunting.

5 more lifers this morning!

Went back to the same spot as last night and picked up 4 new birds: eastern bluebird, chimney swift, Carolina chickadee, and field sparrow.

A brief stop at another park yielded my lifer ruby-throated hummingbird (a female).

Not bad for less than two hours of midmorning birding.

Look who I just saw… Elegant Trogon!!!

(Also today- sulphur-bellied flycatcher, vermillion flycatcher, scaled quail!)

Look who I just saw… Elegant Trogon!!!

(Also today- sulphur-bellied flycatcher, vermillion flycatcher, scaled quail!)

The Sensitive Birder

birddiva:

With a winter storm of snowy owls this past season and now a garganey duck at Ethan Allen Homestead, it’s important for all nature enthusiasts to take a moment to think about wildlife watching ethics.

Our enthusiasm to “get a closer look” or to “capture the perfect shot” as photographers, can sometimes get the best of us. And that can be bad news for the object of our attention. 

My plea is not only us as individuals to be more sensitive birders, but to start kindly calling each other out when we are not. Really, it’s not about you or me, it’s about the birds. 

Follow the American Birding Association’s Birding Code of Ethics and share these practices with other birders and wildlife watchers. 

For more on protecting and respecting sensitive species, read this recent post by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

So, give that garganey a little extra space, leave the bad-ass goshawk alone to nest, and maybe keep your next sensitive species sighting on the down-low so it doesn’t become the next species of special concern.

The overly enthusiastic pursuit of the marsh sandpiper by people (especially photographers who just had to get as close as possible to get a quick shot as it flushed) is more than likely what scared it away so fast (I’m really surprised it stayed for so long, given how many times it was put in the air by people).

The group I was with kept ethical distances and let the bird come to us (eventually it fed its way to within fifteen feet before wandering back away) and we were able to watch the bird for about an hour until it was finally fed up with the photographer guy who was harassing it (and not listening to our requests to stay back and not chase the bird with his car) and flew down the road.

Based on second-hand reports of the other days where it was only seen for a few minutes at a time people were being incredibly disrespectful and not birding intelligently or politely (ie stay in a group, stay a far distance, and only sneak forward a little bit at a time making sure the bird doesn’t seem stressed, if at any point it does… back off).

Today was AMAZING!

The animals were insanely cooperative (albatrosses so close they wouldn’t fit in the camera frame,a group of four friendly humpback whales within touching distance swimming around and touching the boat)… I managed to take some great photos and picked up several lifers:

1) laysan albatross x2! My target bird for the trip

2) wandering tattler (finally, been looking for one for several years)

3)pink footed shearwater

4)Sabine’s gull

plus several others technically already on my life list, but with the want-to-see-better asterisk, including: northern fulmar, ashy storm-petrel, sooty shearwater, and cassin’s auklet.

I had a funny reaction to the ocean, it made me both incredibly nauseous and sleepy at the same time so I kept drowsing off with the gentle rocking (there were a few big swells early on which likely caused the seasickness) but everytime that happened I was awakened by a shout by the guides about a cool bird, and didn’t miss a single new bird.

I highly recommend Alvaro’s Adventures (no fuel surcharges=great bonus!).

Pictures eventually…. I took a lot.