Ah, Prairie Birding...

Ah, prairie birding: the thrill of longspurs; the agony of icy high winds, and ticks...

...and interfering cattle!

Speaking of ticks...ew! As I was driving home today, I had my iPod in my lap so I could easily skip or repeat songs. I had just finished eating a Nut Goody and went to press the wheel on my iPod. I put my finger on the click wheel and felt a crumb--oh if only it had been a crumb! I looked down on my iPod only to discover it was not a crumb from my candy bar:

It was a blood sucking tick--ARG! I pulled over to (take a photo) and remove it. Vile creature! Does this mean that I need to get my iPod tested for Lyme's disease? After having typed this entry, I suddenly feel like I have ticks all over me--ick.

I am so tired, I'm pretty sure that in the last 48 hours that I have had roughly 7 hours sleep--but I loved every minute I was awake. Birding festivals are like chocolate chip cookie dough for me. I make it, and I start eating--it tastes so wonderful that I know I should stop. But I don't stop, I keep on going--even when I start to get to the point that I can tell I should stop--it's so good, yet I keep at it...and then I finally get to the point where I'm moaning and asking, "Why did I eat so much?" However, I still have the great memory of how much fun it was to eat the bowl of dough. I am so tired and achy and about to loose my voice.

Lots of stories of the fabu Detroit Lakes Festival--the birding was great, albeit a tad of on the cold side yesterday and today. I sang so much karaoke--it was a great audience who pretty much danced to anything anyone sang. We learned from Krazy Karaoke Dave that I did several firsts:

1. Sang a Liz Phair song ("Polyester Bride")
2. Called someone (NBB) on my cell phone during the instrumental break of a song, picked up singing right on cue, and sang the rest of the song to that person over the phone (Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over"--how could I not do that?)
3. Sang the song "Xanadu" (which is opening as an off Broadway musical this month--I wish I could go!)

Other songs I sang included "Holding Out For a Hero", "Sledgehammer", and "Space Oddity". Others did participate in the karaoke but a new rule about not blogging such activity has been ratified or I don't get invited anymore. What happens at Detroit Lakes, stays in Detroit Lakes. I will say, the other participants rocked very hard.

I must sort photos of godwits, phalaropes, and bobolinks for updates--and shower--and sleep.


And So It Begins

Well, I've seen some nice purple martin action so far. That's a male and female above. I can never see and hear enough of these large swallows. They have such a musical song--most swallows have a more click-ish type sound--like little dolphins. Purple martins sing it loud and sing it proud.

I did a demo of birdJam outside. We got into the who ethics of calling in birds. When to do it, if you are going to do it, do it responsibly, etc. As we got into some of the controversy, I referenced an infamous story about a pygmy nuthatch. Years ago before I moved to Minnesota, a pygmy nuthatch was reported along the Red River in North Dakota. Just a short trip across the Red River puts you in Minnesota. The nuthatch was at a feeding station on the North Dakota side and someone played a tape and it flew over to the Minnesota side--and was a first state record...or was it? The jaunt across the river was minimal and the bird probably would have flown over of its own accord (if it hadn't already). It caused a huge rift in the birding community and accusations and arguments exploded all over. What is "artificial means of attraction" when it come to birds anyway? Technically, a feeding station is artificial attraction. The distance the bird flew was only a few hundred feet--was it really that big of deal? It wasn't nesting, it wasn't on territory--what did it matter?

Anyway, this story has reverberated throughout the birding community. I had heard of it, but never knew the parties involved. Last year at the Rio Grande Valley Bird Fest, Jeff Gordon referenced it during his program "The Top Ten Birding Moments of the last 100 Years". Well, as we were discussing it, a man laughed, raised his hand, and said, "That was me!"

Ah, connections.

And now I leave you with a male tree swallow. I must go to bed, I have to get up at 4:30am for my field trip. I'm so excited, the Country Inn and Suites in Detroit Lakes (where I am staying) is going to have breakfast and coffee going by 4:30am--sustenance--Whoot!

Little Update On The Prairie

Boy, you can tell it's spring migration, blogging updates are few and far between. I had a great time at Detroit Lakes, but boy do I feel like I've been rode hard and hung up wet. I think I have a bird hangover.

I just plain exploded when I got to the Detroit Lakes Festival. The warblers hadn't shown up yet, and the weather and been cold and rainy. We were actually a little nervous on Thusday night that we would not be able to find to many warblers for the weekend trips when wouldn't you know it on Friday afternoon, the warbler floodgates opened and they were dripping off of the trees. They must have just flown in. It was funny because we started with a couple of redstarts and yellow-rumps and then someone found a Wilson's warbler. I said, if we had a Wilson's anything is possible, so one of the other trip leaders and I started calling out species we could use including blackburnian, blackpoll, magnolia, Cape May--wouldn't you know it, we got all of those--and two surprise parulas!

What I really like about Detroit Lakes, is that you can visit three different habitats: hardwood, boreal and prairie. I ended up co-leading the prairie trips, which is what I wanted. I have a soft spot for bobolinks and they were everywhere.

Here is one of the hundreds we saw. I really enjoy leading field trips but it's hard to digiscope. When you're a field trip leader the priority is to make sure everyone on the trip is seeing the birds around and to help find target species. The bobolinks really put on a show. At one point two males were fighting over territory and were flying within 7 - 8 eight feet of our heads. There were also several upland sandpipers around. You can' help but feel attractive with those birds around. Their call sounds like a wolf whistle.

Since there weren't a lot of tall perches for the birds of the prairie, they made do. Above is a Wilson's snipe balancing on a wire. We also saw a couple of upland sandpipers do this. Can I say how weird it is to see shorebirds perched on a wire?

We stopped at a great spot called Felton Prairie. I loved all the marbled godwits, they scolded us almost everywhere we went. The grass was almost as tall as the godwits. I got a chuckle out of them. As I would scan the grass you would see these little heads pop up with these enormous bills.

We were all standing in one spot watching for horned larks and godwits when we heard the rumbling and thumping. Some cows were running straight for us.

They stopped along the edges of the road and watched. If we moved ahead, they would follow. I think they thought we might feed them.

I offered to teach them how to use binoculars, but they didn't seem that interested.

Here is something unexpected at a Nyjer thistle feeder: clay-colored sparrows. I had no idea these guys would eat Nyjer. I love their buzzy little call.

When Cinnamon learned about all the ticks festival goers were gathering, she laid out a huge disapproval. She only made one brief appearance at the booth, she didn't want to risk the ticks. Can't say I blame her.

There was an odd incident with the manager of the hotel we were staying in. Pets were welcome, but he was greatly concerned about Cinnamon and warned me I would pay for "any soiling" she may do to the room. Cinnamon was most upset and disapproved of this. After all, it's a well known fact that I am somewhat of a slob. Ask anyone who has ever worked for me. Ask WildBird on the Fly, she's roomed with me, she would know. Take look of Cinnamon's space in the above photo.

Above is my bed in the room. I ask you, who is more likely to soil this room, my rabbit or myslef? After Cinnamon corrected the manager as to who was the mess maker, he gave her a pack of little mineral blocks--what a nice guy! Since I was messy, I didn't get anything.

After three days of getting up at 4am, working the binocular booth, giving workshops and performing, I was barely awake enough to drive, so Jeff the ever helpful Leica rep led me to some much needed coffee. We did get a kick out of the billboard in the above photo. Are there any male readers of this blog that would like to call that number?

I am so tired, I must sleep more. I apologize for typos, I'm too tired to go over this more carefully.