Opposable Chums Competitive Bird Watching Documentary

We got a copy of a movie called Opposable Chums: Guts and Glory at The World Series of Birding. It's a documentary about the "famed" birding competition that happens in Cape May, NJ in the spring where teams of birders go out and compete to see who can see the most species of birds in a 24 hour period. There are different competitions from the all out listing to county listing to a big sit to photography. I was on a digiscoping team this past spring for Swarovski.

I made Non Birding Bill watch the dvd with me. I wanted to see if it would have appeal to both birders and non birders. I really enjoyed it, but I think part of that was because I know quite a few of the people in the film. "Oh hey, there's Gail."

The film follows some World Series teams from midnight to midnight as teams go along to tally their species and is interspersed with interviews of past participants like David Sibley and Kenn Kaufman. There are tales of war wounds and food poisoning and how birders go the extra mile to get as many on their list as they possibly can.

When it was finished, I looked at NBB and asked what he thought, fully expecting a non committal shrug as his review. He said, "That should be required viewing for anyone who is thinking of dating a bird watcher!"

I asked if he thought there were too many inside jokes for a non birder and he felt that the film really captures the nutty nature of birders and serves as a good primer to the uninitiated. We both especially enjoyed the part when participants were asked if the World Series of Birding was competitive: "yes, no, no, yes, yes, no, I WANT TO WIN!"

So, bottom line? Check out the movie and it's approprate viewing that will be enjoyed by both birders and non birders alike.

Random Acts Of Birding

While doing some digiscoping around Cape May, I found a cooperative flock of yellow-rumped warblers. These are such a challenge to photograph and finding a big flock of butter butts is always a good practice. I remember when I first started digiscoping, I thought warblers would be impossible. But after lots of practice, it is possible to get a warbler shot. Maybe one day this will all pay off and I'll be posting a blackburnian warbler?

It was a fairly busy day when I was taking these photos, it was beautiful fall weather and lots of people were out--even non birders. Some people were really polite, they'd pause to let me get the shot before continuing on the trail past me. People are generally curious when they see you with a large scope and want to know what you're looking at. Some are surprised that it's a bird and not some mammal. Some are surprised that it's a brown bird. Many are happy to tell you about other birds they've seen that they think you would rather photograph--the most common being the bald eagle.

I like to set weird goals for myself. Something like trying to get a shot of the red eye on a coot. But often people passing by, I think feel sorry for me for going after something like a coot and want to tell me about the bald eagle they just saw. When I was taking photos of the butter butts above, a couple passing on the trail kept encouraging me to head towards the beach to get a photo of the bald eagle flying around the beach. I thanked them and went back to the warblers, but they insisted, "That eagle isn't going to be there all day, you should go now!" I thanked them and stayed put, but the man pressed me to go for the eagle. I finally said, "I appreciate that, but I live in Minnesota, we have the largest breeding population of bald eagles in the lower 48. I've seen 'em."

I feel bad, eagles shouldn't be taken for granted and I love seeing them and I don't want to minimize someone's eagle sighting--but darn it, I'm after more difficult fish (er-birds). When I'm digiscoping at Carpenter Nature Center, I periodically run into a guy who regularly walks the trails and is always trying to get me to go take eagle photos. The best part is that he also is ready to interpret bald eagles for me: how long it takes for them to get the white head and tail, their mating habits, prey items, pretty much an abbreviated program of what I would give at The Raptor Center. I often think that he should sign up to be a volunteer there--he's full of info and ready to share it with the world.

I am just of guilty of doing these impromptu bird interpretive sessions. While digiscoping some ducks at The Meadows in Cape May, I heard a group of ladies walking by who were trying to identify all the ducks I was photographing. They didn't have a field guide with them and they were trying to remember what they'd seen so far, so they could identify it later. I was happy to say, "Hey, those are pintails, if you want, you can look at them through my scope."

And I was happy to point out other birds I speculated the had not noticed, "If you're interested, there's a male hooded merganser loafing on a mound, check him out through my scope." They seemed very excited and that just kind of goaded me on, what other waterfowl could I point out to them? Why, how about my favorite duck:

the gadwall! And it's about the time that I start pointing out the all gray duck that I realized I was getting that polite look of "Okay, you've been really nice, but please let us go on our way."

So, why this undeniable need to interpret? Is it to try and recruit more birders? Is because we are all so excited by what we see (no matter what our birding level) that we must share it? Is this some sort of lek behavior, "Gee whiz, look at how much I know!"

Anyone else out there ready to interpret birds at a moment's notice?

Skywatch Friday, Cape May, NJ Style

It's Skywatch Friday again! I think I may actually be getting it in on time this week. I'm very confused because it's called Skywatch Friday, but apparently, it begins on Thursday where I live.

This is a view of one of my favorite places that I've been blogging about this week. It's called The Meadows and it's an area run by The Nature Conservancy. I think when people think of New Jersey, they may often think of maybe the opening to The Sopranos with Tony driving over the bridge and you see a lot of factories and industry. Believe it or not, you can find places where you are in a remote area.

While at the Cape May Autumn Weekend, I spent a lot of time at The Meadows, some for workshops, some just on my own. I had a magical Sunday morning there when I was surrounded by tree swallows. All weekend I could see huge flocks of them feeding on bayberries. Tree Swallows have already moved out of Minnesota, so seeing huge flocks in Cape May was a treat. They can afford to be later migrants because unlike most swallows that eat only insects, these will also eat berries, helping them to survive the late migration should they find a lack of insects.

I saw a huge flock off in the distance. This photo really doesn't do it justice. I may look like light blue paper sprinkled with fine ground pepper, but these are all tree swallows. I watched them wheeling and spinning in the air, just enjoying the spectacle. I wondered if I could walk towards the flock, but before I could take the first step, I noticed the flock formed a large cylinder and was heading my way.

Within seconds, I had swallows zooming overhead and whizzing on either side of me. I tried to take photos, but realized quickly that it was in vain, they were moving too quickly. There were thousands of them, a groups so loud, they sheer number of dainty wings flapping was an audible rushing sound. The tree swallows dipped down towards the water and took sips, then zipped over the grasses searching for insects. It was an intense, magical experience and my reverie was broken only when a nearby mute swan gave off it's farty sounding call (yes, that beautiful exotic species that rips up nesting habitat of our native ducks, also sounds like flatulence when it calls).

When the swallows were in the distance, I tried to take a video through my spotting scope. It's not the best video ever, but you get an idea of the the size of the flock. I would say that the birds you see through my scope is about one fourth of the entire flock. There were thousands of tree swallows:

Quite a spectacle to have all those swallows be part of the sky.

Digiscoping The Meadows During Cape May's Autumn Weekend

I think my favorite place at Cape May is The Meadows, an area managed by The Nature Conservancy on the southwest tip of the Cape May peninsula. It has dunes, fresh and saltwater marshes, meadows, ponds, and a mile of beachfront. The lighting can be beautiful and during migration, you can get some great bird shots. There are plenty of ponds and marshes on either side of the trail so that you can get birds in both morning light and evening light if you take the time. Check out this swamp sparrow that was lurking in some of the bushes with some white-throats, the same area were I got the Carolina wren. In the morning or the evening, this place is just the best. Part of my fill in duties at the Cape May Autumn Weekend was to do Clay's digiscoping workshop. It was supposed to be both indoors and outdoors and the forecast was 100% chance of rain, lots of wind and probably some thunder and lightening. Most spotting scopes can take that...but not most cameras. Fortunately, it barely rained and the worse we had to digiscope in was some strong wind.

I had the pleasure of doing the workshop along with Cape May Bird Observatory volunteer Betty Lemley who does digiscoping workshops locally. She is a hoot and if you are going to be at CMBO and do any of their events, sign up for one of hers. A big part of digiscoping is just getting out there and working with your camera. I met one woman who was understandably frustrated with her digiscoping set up. She said that she could never get her photos to come out clear and sharp. She's seen photos on websites that are digiscoped images and were tack sharp, but hers did not turn out that way. I asked how many photos she took and she said not many and that she stopped because they weren't turning out like what she'd seen from others. I assured her for every photo that looks as good as the sparrow above, there are about 200 that look like this:

...or even worse. It takes a lot of photos to get one that looks in focus, even if you have great light, a great scope, and the best digiscoping camera on the market. Here's another example:

I can't tell you the number of duck shots that I have that are like this. It's tough to get them completely in the frame when they're swimming and feeding, plus figure out light settings and focusing. But with some patience and taking lots of shots, you can get a wigeon shot that looks like this:

I was having so much fun working my digiscoping mojo on the wigeon. I just love this duck: some rust, some green and then that big ole honkin' white stripe down the forehead. If you ever hear someone refer to a duck as a "bald pate" they are talking about the wigeon.

Sometimes you get birds that are back lit, like the above Savannah sparrow (there were a ton of these guys scurrying around all the surrounding vegetation, running along the trails, and hiding just as you were about to get the scope on them. You generally want the sun behind you when you're taking photos, but you can get what I call arty shots. Okay, sure this bird is never going to grace the cover of a birding magazine, but since I'm the person in charge of my own blog and I say it's arty, it's all good. Incidentally, I did work my way around this bird so the sun was behind me. It teed up on a stalk, in perfect light. Just as I was getting it in focus I heard the familiar "per CHUP per CHUP per CHUP" of a peregrine falcon. Just as I was thinking, "Crap, that sparrow is gonna bail," it ducked down in the grass before I could snap the photo. Peregrines, I love you guys, but not when you spook my photo subject!

When we took our group out for the field trip portion of our workshop, the rain had stopped but the wind picked up. We decided to go for it and though a few drops fell here and there, we stayed mostly dry. We went to the beach at the meadows and participants got to practice taking gull shots while being pelted by beach sand. Taking shots when it's cloudy is a challenge too, not always the easiest light to work with. In this shot, you can see some of the sand blowing around the great black-backed gulls.

We did work our way around and got the chance to get some waterfowl in the evening sun. I love the gadwalls. It's a gray duck but has the funniest quack. I've actually got it as a ring tone on cell phone, but it just lovely soft grays and black...even with a bill full of aquatic vegetation.

There was also a male hooded merganser hanging out with the waterfowl, a pleasant surprise.

A fun selection of birds and I hope people had a good time and have time to really work with their cameras. One big digiscoping mistake is that people order all their stuff right before they leave for a trip of a lifetime. You really need several days to get used to using the scope, know how to adjust the head on the tripod, what your camera is capable of. The more you play and become one with your setup the more usable photos you'll have.

Common Cape May Birds

I digiscoped so many images this weekend, I'm having trouble organizing them into blog entries. I found a most cooperative northern mockingbird at Higbee Beach. I know for some of you southern readers that a mocking bird is not the most exciting bird on the planet, but for a Minnesota girl, getting a chance to see that yellow eye gleam in the sun. The hawk migration is still going strong in Cape May and Cooper's hawks like this juvenile above were all over the place. A DC Birding Blog (who is banding hawks at Cape May this year) mentioned that they are seeing more Cooper's hawks passing through than sharp-shinned hawks. We usually see the opposite at Frank's banding station in Duluth. A quick scan over at Birds of North America Online says that the ability of Cooper's hawks to adapt to humans has been great, their population has increased very well, however it's uncertain if their increase in population could have a negative effect on other raptor (or even prey for that matter). There is some evidence that Cooper’s Hawks regularly take American Kestrels, and that they may be playing a role in the current declines in this species in the eastern part of their range.

I was trying to take a photo of a couple of black vultures and I even got a blur of a Coop's passing behind it.

I did get a shot of the full black vulture. This was was another common to Cape May but exciting to a Minnesota girl type species. All we get in MN are turkey vultures, so the smaller guys with the all dark head were a treat.

Here is a pair. The one higher up is an adult, the lower, shaggier looking one with a black bill is a juvenile. They had a beautiful blue sky behind them and were on a blue water tower. Looking at the photos, the two blues look kinda weird.

I wonder what we're missing in Minnesota so that we do not get black vultures? We have turkey vultures for part of the year. I'm sure we'd have places for black vultures to nest. It's interesting to note that turkey vultures find their food using their sense of smell, but not black vultures That ability is not nearly as highly developed in black vultures, so they follow turkey vultures to find carrion.

Doing some reading on BNA found an interesting theory: according to some studies, the large communal roosts that black vultures form at night might serve as a means for communicating food locations. They had several studies to back it up. Birds that were marked returned to same carcasses on successive days, could they be leading birds at the roost to food? When the black vultures leave the roost in the morning, smaller groups fly off at different intervals...are the groups following a specified forager vulture (kind of like a forager honey bee)? In one study, black vultures deprived of information about local distribution of carcasses and were released in evening at communal roosts and joined the ends of groups departing from roosts to feeding sites the next morning and tagged vultures that were not privy to a carcass and released to a roost, still arrived at food sites in early morning as members of groups that have come directly from roosts.

Fascinating stuff!

Monday Morning Carolina Wren

I dedicate the following video to Hasty Brook and hope that she got a Carolina wren before she left Cape May to return to Minnesota.

A posse of bird bloggers gathered again for the Cape May Autumn Weekend and since I ended up working the festival, I was able to see them. They had gathered informally and I didn't think I'd get to meet up with them, but when I ended up coming, they invited me along to a dinner for some hearty laughter. Some, I've met before like Hasty Brook, Somewhere in NJ, Susan Gets Native, and Beginning To Bird, but this time I got to meet KatDoc and DC Bird Blog (he's actually banding birds at Cape May this fall--sweet) face to face. Jay Davis from birdJam came along too.

We must have gotten quite rowdy at the table, I noticed that the bar kept turning up the ambient music to louder and louder levels. However, we were able to keep the talking and laughter to new ear splitting level.

A big bonus to this trip is that I hit my 500th bird--I didn't get to digiscope it but I got. And after I saw it, I saw them everywhere. I needed a black scoter, so after the first day of working the Optics Corner at the festival, Jim Danzenbaker, Jeff Bouton, Jeff Gordon, and Bill Stewart (that really cool guy who organizes the bird a thon to buy up migratory habitat to save the red knot). We watched for lines of scoters and after a few lines of surf scoters flying by--a flock that had both surf and black flew by and I could see the difference. Whew! That hump has been passed. Now to work on getting 600. Although, I suppose I should work on padding the 500 on the off chance the AOU is planning to lump some species together.

Oh, and while we were at the beach gettin' my life, a marriage proposal was finishing up. A man made a sand castle for his sweetie, asking her to marry him. There was a small sand treasure chest next to the sand castle that she apparently had to dig the ring out of the chest. It was very cute. We didn't hear what was actually said between the two, but considering they left hand in hand with smiles on the faces and a bottle of champagne, I thinking her answer was yes. Cute.

Bald Eagle Attacks Swan

I did not take the photos of the eagle attacking the swan, they were taken by Kelly Munday. It's another one of those viral photo series filling up inboxes--almost as popular as the Golden Eagle vs Fox series. I get sent stuff like this from time to time and it rarely has the name of the photographer and each email seems to have a different location for where the photos were taken, so I like to take time to see if I can figure out the back story before posting them in the blog. And now, I present in the same vain as Bald Eagle vs Sandhill Crane a bald eagle attacking a swan--with photos taken by Kelly Munday at Waterlily Bay Resort:

Yes, that is an adult bald eagle attempting to grab and kill a fully grown swan...I believe its a trumpeter swan and not a tundra swan or mute swan. I don't see any yellow on the bill that you would see with a tundra swan or orange that you would see on a mute swan. The bill on the swan in the photos, looks big and chunky like you would see on a trumpeter.

Check out the size different between the eagle vs the swan. If it is in fact a trumpeter swan, then its average weight would be about 20 pounds, the average weight of a bald eagle would be around 10 pounds. If that eagle is able to grab and kill the swan, it will have to eat it where the swan body lands on the ground--eagles are only able to carry roughly half their weight when in flight.

Alas, there is not a lot of info to go with the photos (like was there a trumpeting sound coming from the swan, clinching its id as a trumpeter swan). The website that posted the photos just has the photographer's name (Kelly Munday) but no more about what initiated the attack, the end result, or how long it lasted.

I can only guess from the photos that like the bald eagle with the sandhill crane interaction we witnessed this past March, this swan got away. However, was the swan mortally wounded? Did the eagle continue the chase out of the view of the photographer? Again, you can see the entire photo series here and read a quote from the photographer here.

I've heard more than one birder wish that bald eagles would figure out how to attack and kill the non native (in the US) mute swan (my photo above taken at the World Series of Birding in Cape May, NJ). Mute swans are a big threat to wetlands when they show up, they destroy the vegetation native ducks need for food and nesting and have even been observed killing smaller ducks that wander into their territory. From time to time, I get email press releases asking me to protest mute swan eradication programs, but I can't get on board with it. Like starlings and house sparrows, mute swans are an introduced species and causing problems with our native wildlife--it's not pretty to watch one kill a teal. I wonder if these same groups would be just as quick to protest starling, house sparrow and rock pigeon eradication programs or they just jump on board with mute swans because they look pretty (arguably prettier than our native trumpeter swans and tundra swans)?

We saw quite a few mute swans while in Cape May. Above is a flummoxed animal control officer trying to figure out what to do with a mute swan taking refuge in a neighborhood. This younger swan had been pushed out of the nearby ponds by nesting adult mute swans. Every time it went back it was chased and even flew into some power lines. The animal control officer was trying to figure out if he should get it to a vet or try to find a pond without mute swans.

The mute swan question is not easy to answer, but if our native ducks, rails, smaller herons and other waterfowl have to compete with the mute swans for food and territory, a management system will have to be put in place to deal with them.

World Series of Birding 2008 Report Part 1

I have so much catching up to do before the Detroit Lakes Festival this weekend--how will I fit it all in? In the meantime, I need to catch you up on all the wacky fun that is the World Series of Birding and some of the photos we got like the above red-winged blackbird. Essentially, it's a contest that turned 25 years old this year that requires a team to see the most species of birds in the state in a 24 hour period. There are a few different ways to win, like seeing the most birds in Cape May County in a 24 hour period or what our team did: digiscope as many different species of birds as possible in a 24 hour period. Our team was the Swarovski Digiscoping Hawks consisting of Swarovski Optik Rep Clay Taylor, me, and our driver, Amy Hooper (aka WildBird on the Fly). Incidentally, her magazine WildBird sponsored a winning team as well and you can read about that here.

There was on big challenge for the day: the weather! It rained--blah. It's hard enough if you are a team just trying to see and hear as many species as possible, it's even worse for camera equipment. I was hoping to come home with some really hot shots of shorebirds and species I don't normally see like the brant in the above photo, but I had to settle for just getting identifiable.

I don't think I could do a World Series team any other way than digiscoping. Here we are getting ready to load into the vehicle to get started at 5am. We can't really shoot photos in the dark, so unlike the other teams who drove out to their birding spots Friday night, so they could start the count right at midnight Saturday morning, we got a compartively late start. We were out for a total of 15 hours because of light, as opposed to teams who went for the full 24 hour birding blitz. Digiscoping is a more relaxing way to go.

I've heard people try to say that birding is good exercise. I don't know if I agree with that since you are generally trying to creep through areas looking for species and if you get to a hot spot, you stand around and stare. A world series team is constantly moving at a brisk pace--you need to rack up the species, you can't just dilly dally around. The only problem is that you are out for so long, you tend to load up on sugary drinks and junk food so it counter acts all the movement. It was great for us when we would get to a spot like the above, and you could knock out several species in one frame: whimbrels, short-billed dowitchers, and gull-billed terns.

But, I have to say, I thought we did a few things that would keep us from winning. Clay is my kind of guy. We enjoyed the sport of going out to get bird photos, but when a merlin flew in and landed, we had to take a moment. With merlins, attention must be paid. We saw this bird fly in and land not long after we arrived at this spot. We got an identifiable photo, but Clay, Amy, and I went over to get as many photos as we could. I love that even though it was a competition, we still could take a merlin moment. Incidentally, merlins were everywhere that day. We first saw one at the Meadows and it flew by too fast for us to get a photo, but we watched it fly over a couple of other teams who were not digiscoping and the completely missed it. I wonder how many birds we missed like that?

There were some challenges for me. We didn't see too many feeding stations and I'm used to Mr. Neil's where all I need to do is place a feeder in great sun and bam, I knock off the birds. When I heard a rose-breasted grosbeak overhead, I was sweating trying to line up the scope with the bird popping out periodically from the leaves to sing his song.

Even more shocking was that I was able to knock out a tanager. Again, a not perfect photo, but it's identifiable.

Clay has some mad digiscopin' skillz. I used a point and shoot digital camera with my spotting scope. He uses a digital SLR attached to his. He also has developed a technique of taking his scope off the tripod and holding it to get flight shots--note above. Yes, he's holding a Swarovski 80mm scope that is attached to his SLR--and he can get some great flight shots that way.

Check it out, he even got us a snipe in flight! Snipe are hard enough to find and photograph, he got one on the wing. See what I mean people, mad digiscopin' skillz. You can see examples of this free handed digiscoping technique at this blog entry when Clay and I were at the Connecticut Bald Eagle Fest.

I was really curious who we were going to get swallows, they were zipping around all over the place and that's a challenge even with Clay's technique. Fortunately, a whole line was perched on a wooden railing and we were able to systematically knock off barn swallow and cliff swallow (both above) as well as northern rough-winged and tree all in a few snaps.

I think this is the best photo that I got all day long. It was pouring rain and I was trying to get a white-eyed vireo and for all my pishing, about three catbirds came out to stop and stare. Perhaps they were thinking of incorporating that into their usual mimic song routine?

This is one of the photos that Clay got, his SLR really was able to get the color of this tri-colored heron even in the crappy light. We were actually trudging around through a salt-marsh trying to get a photo of a salt-marsh sharp-tailed sparrow...man, a salt marsh...that's a special kind of stinky.

While Clay got the heron, I got this banded osprey feeding on a fish. When I showed this photo to Non Birding Bill and pointed out the band, he asked snarkily, "Can you read the numbers?" I zoomed in on iPhoto and we could make out a 0 and an 8. He was impressed.

I think this is the last photo that I got for the day. We already had a turkey vulture flight shot, but again, a turkey vulture that was perched in the rare moment of sunshine for the day was just too good to pass up.

We actually ended our day at around 8pm because it got too dark to photograph. We went back to the hotel, showered and Clay worked on our PowerPoint for our checklist presentation. At around 11:30pm, we went to the finish line which was bustling with activity. Here is the long line of volunteers who verify your numeric total of birds. Teams were pouring in all the way to midnight. Teams who were just trying to observe birds were out til the last minute trying to listen for black rail and saw-whet owls.

Some teams were collapsing from sheer exhaustion. Birding hardcore for 24 hours. Could you blame them. There was also some press there--even Animal Planet! They were following one of the teams for a potential birding series pilot. Hope it makes it on tv. After midnight, we went back to our hotel and slept, resting up before the morning awards ceremony.

Here, Clay and I are reenacting me learning that we won--that was total shock. I really thought with some of the birds that we missed, the crap weather, and things like merlin moments that we would come in at a respectable number, but not win. But at 113 bird species identifiable in our PowerPoint, we won.

I was a big ole honkin' cheese ball when we went up to get our award. I think I said "Holy Crap" about four times (although, better than the words I actually used when I learned we won--my mom would get out a bar of soap). I even took a photo of the audience while we were getting our plaque.

Here is our award. They used Clay's photo of a marsh wren in the background. Since Swarovski was the sponsor, the plaque will go to their offices. That's fine they get the award, I got to have all of the fun out in the field.

More to come later.

Rules for the World Series of Birding

I went out today and did a bit of scouting for the World Series of Birding and went over the rules with Clay Taylor for our team: Swarovski Digiscoping Hawks. It's an okay team name, but I'm having some major envy of the team named Blue Oystercatcher Cult.

We have to try and photograph as many species as possible in a twenty-four hour period. The photos do not have to be printable or even blogable, but the bird in the photo must be identifiable.

A regular WSoB team would be able to count species heard and seen. We can only count what we photograph. I wondered if we could use the possibility of digivideoing. For example, we were hearing clapper rails all over the place, could I take a digivideo with the scope and pick up the audio of the call? Clay says "no" we can only photograph. Fortunately, one of the clapper rails came out of the reeds and I was able to get a photo...let's hope it's that easy this Saturday during the actual event.

These are some of the other general rules that just made chuckle:

A sick, injured, or oiled bird counts--as long as it's alive. However, eggs do not count...unless you see the parent bird.

To avoid disturbing a raptor nest, a team that knows the location of a nest where flushing an adult is possible does not have to see the actual nest. On the day of the competition (and if the species was seen simultaneously by two people from the team during some scouting the week ahead) the team can park in close proximity during daylight hours and wait inside or beside the vehicle for as long as it would have taken for all members to get to the nest...the team must wait a minimum of five minutes.

During the competition, a team cannot find birding help from other resources like birding hotlines, listservs, or any other general alert via phone, pda, or computer. So, Non Birding Bill can send me text messages saying how much he loves and misses me or that he sees a Nashville warbler outside the bedroom window, but he would not be allowed to send me a text reading that a wood stork was found a Higbee Beach. Further, if my team is out and we encounter other birders--even if they are not part of the competition, we cannot ask them, "Seen any good birds?" Now, there is a provision if we accidentally hear about something. For example, if Clay and I were walking by a group not involved with the competition was walking past us and one of them exclaimed loudly to her group, "Oh my! I can't believe I got my lifer blue tit outside the Lighthouse in Cape May!" we could use that information.

Now, what if a team found an eskimo curlew and it was just too exciting of a bird and such a once in a lifetime event that all the other teams should know? Well, it would be okay to tell us and it would b okay for us to hear that information...however, if we went to see the eskimo curlew, it would not be countable for our team because we didn't find it on our own. This is known as the "Outlaw Birds" clause.

Wacky stuff, but if you're going to have a competition, you need to have rules. You can read the full rules and guidelines here.

While doing some scouting, I noticed these two laughing gulls. They started perched on the roof of a shelter and then started fighting each other. A few flaps and then they stayed locked in this position for about eight minutes (yes, I timed it).

The gull on the left that is stuck in the bill hold did not move to much. I wondered if it was nervous about having the sharp tip of the attacker's bill so close to the eye? Just I started to wonder aloud just how long this would last...

In flew a fish crow that flushed the gulls. I don't think it was an altruistic motive to keep peace in the bird neighborhood. I think the crow wondered if the birds were fighting over some food and if it could steal the food during the fight. There didn't appear to be food, but it was an interesting interaction that once again leaves me with questions rather than answers.

I hope I was awake enough for during this entry to only have five typos instead of two dozen.