Monday, December 28, 2009

Another post without a day list...I'm not liking this trend.

An hour ago, as I sat in front of my parents' computer listening to George Michael, reactivating my Twitter account, and greedily jamming handfuls of Slowpokes down my gullet, I decided that maybe it was a good time to actually take advantage of the rare occurrence of a working rural Ontario internet connection and post something on Cerulean Sky.

It's December 28th and we're nearing the end of the year, so I'm going to provide you with some goals I have for the new year. These are by no means concrete and I might still add a few (there are still 3 days left in 2009 remember).

Goal # 1: Be prepared for my Scotland trip. Yessss I'm going to Scotland in September!! My dad's doing a duathlon there so we're taking a 2-week trip to Scotland followed by a few days in England. As much as I hated Russel Brand's biography, My Booky Wook, he did teach me something very important he learned while he was in therapy for drug addiction. If you add "To my shame" before any admission or embarrassing statement, you can get away with it sans judgment. Let's try it, la? To my shame, I am 24 years old and have never left North America. There, it doesn't sound as bad when you've already shamed yourself, does it?
How will I achieve Goal #1? Well, I just ordered Where to Watch Birds in Scotland, a guide that was published in 2002 that includes details of where specific species can be found, the abundance/reliability of each species, and very importantly, a calendar that shows when each species is present by season. Let's hope September is a decent month for variety (if I have another Florida Panhandle-during-the-off-season experience in Scotland, I will not be a happy traveler). I'll give this book a good perusal, plan an itinerary that fits with my parents' idea of the trip, and also buy the Princeton Guide to Birds of Europe when the next edition comes out in February.

Goal # 2: Add 10 species to my life list (in Ontario). At first I thought, let's make it 5 lifers within this province and make it easy...but hell, it might as well be a bit more challenging. Mind you, 10 likely won't even be that difficult for me since I am missing a good chunk of uncommon to common birds of Ontario. A trip to Algonquin during the right time of year, for example, could add at least 5 species to my life list! Throw in a few rarities and a trip to Van Wagner's Beach for Jaegars and 10 lifers will (should) be a breeze.

Goal # 3: Continue to be an active member of the Toronto Ornithological Club and volunteer for or join another natural history group in the GTA. I volunteered for FLAP in Toronto 2 years back, but very briefly and I have heard about a number of other clubs in the area but have never made a larger effort to find out more about these opportunities. I'm keeping this goal wide open.

Goal # 4: BUY CLOTHING THAT'S APPROPRIATE FOR BIRDING! Current status: no winter boots, no gloves, no scarf...I sometimes wonder how I survive through Canadian winters.

Hmm, let's just stop there. Various bigger goals are firing through the synapses of my brain at an alarming rate and most of them aren't realistic. Marianne's thinking big...a big year in the Pelee Birding Circle to be exact (I will help you all I can!) Last year, I made a new years resolution to post to Cerulean Sky at least once a month and you can see where that got me. One very good thing I have going for myself in the new year is that I'm no longer a loner-birder in the Toronto area. I have developed a good network of folks that are as excited as I am to get out birding when time permits that will no doubt keep my lists rising, my knowledge expanding, and my horizons broadening (how's THAT for a terrible last sentence!).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Top 20 Most-wanted North American Birds

A while back, Marianne sent me a list of her top 20 most-wanted North American birds and asked me what my list would be. As per usual, it has taken me light years to respond but I decided it'd be fun to include my list here on Cerulean Sky so that the masses can see how far I've got to go with my N. American list and what some of my favourite birds that I haven't yet seen. I am pretty determined when it comes to certain lists so I have no doubt over my lifetime that I will eventually check off each of these species (unless some go extinct, which is an unfortunate possibility). I might make it a new years resolution for 2010 to take a trip within North America to a location where I can get a laundry list of new species and strengthen my experience (somewhere cheap and possibly Florida for a fourth time but actually at the right time of year). As of now, I have only substantially birded Ontario, the east coast of Canada, and Florida. There's a large expanse of land out there with a great number of birds waiting to be seen.

It was quite fun coming up with the list. I threw on Queen's best album, A Night at the Opera, sat down with my lover, The Sibley Guide to Birds, and reminded myself how lucky we North Americans are with our diversity of bird life. In evolutionary order:

1. Clark's Grebe (I would put down Western Grebe but I still resent that species after last year's epic fail trying to find it near the Leslie Street Spit. I think these two species together make up our best-looking grebe).

2. Blue-footed Booby (I don't know what it is but this species represents a symbol of evolution for me. It must be one of the most familiar of the world's birds and when I think of Darwin, I think of boobies).

3. "Wurdemann's" Heron (I haven't gone far enough south in Florida for this hybrid of morphs but the white splash over the head actually makes it a more attractive version of the Great Blue Heron in my opinion).

4. Roseate Spoonbill (This has always been my number one most-wanted N. American species since I started birding and picked up a cheap Waders of N. America book with the Roseate Spoonbill on the cover. It's such a bizarre bird; a mixture of beauty and homeliness. As you will see with the next on the list, I also think I included it 'cause I just like pink birds!).

5. Greater Flamingo (The flamingo is one of my favourite birds in the entire world. They're beautiful but almost look cartoonish in appearance, their stilt legs and S-curved neck make them seem agonizingly fragile, and I have a thing for tall birds).

6. Steller's Eider (It was hard not including Spectacled Eider in this list for its remoteness and odd look but I do think the Stellar's Eider is just a more beautiful duck).

7. California Condor (It's enormous, majestic, and it's hella rare. 'Nuff said).

8. Ferruginous Hawk Light Morph (Our most attractive bird of prey. The more white a bird has, the more I like them and this is our whitest hawk, discounting albinos, which I would love to see. I'm always jealous when folks see an albino red-tail at the hawk counts).

9. Greater Sage Grouse (Of the game birds, this one is the most fascinating to me and I would love to witness their courtship display).

10. Whooping Crane (Such a tall, attractive bird. Another symbol-bird for me, this time a symbol of conservation).

11. South Polar Skua (I honestly have some kind of obsession with cold grayish birds. American Black Duck and Dark-eyed Junco are other examples. I also think Skuas are just really cool, impressive birds).

12. Rhinoceros Auklet (am I the only one that thinks this bird looks like an elderly wizard?)

13. White-tipped Dove (I think this is N. America's most elegant dove after Eurasian Collared-Dove, my favourite of Family Columbidae

14. Greater Roadrunner (I don't even think this needs explanation).

15. Barn Owl (By far our most beautiful owl. Ghostly, heart-shaped facial disk...I can't wait to finally see this species).

16. White-headed Woodpecker (I am obsessed with this bird for some reason).

17. Florida Scrub-Jay (Unbelievably I didn't pick up this bird on any of my trips to Florida but in my own defense, I was not in the right area).

18. Varied Bunting (I've always seen the Varied Bunting as a Painted Bunting that was splashed with too much paint. The colour pattern of this bird looks completely random to me, a mix of too many colours until you almost get brown).

19. "Cape Sable" Seaside Sparrow (This is our rarest sparrow, la? Next trip to Florida, I'm getting it).

20. Yellow-eyed Junco (My favourite species in the whole wide world, the Dark-eyed Junco, my winter friend, has a counterpart and it's the only other Junco in N. America so I must see it).

Next up, I'll throw down some of my most-wanted WORLD birds!