Monday, November 25, 2013

Between a Rock and Hard Place

This blog isn't about birds.  Well, not entirely.  Recently the Peabody Museum (Link here) ran a geology hike though New Haven's East Rock Park (Link here) lead by Copeland McClintock, one of their Geologists.  The idea of understanding more of the geology and natural history appeals to me.  While I didn't expect to become an expert after just one walk, I thought that any information would benefit my understanding of the natural world.

Thoughts of a simple passive walk were quickly disspelled by the fact that when I first arrived, articles, clipboards, maps, and colored pencils were shoved into hands.  We were also put to work learning the three different kinds of rocks (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic) and then we were quizzed with samples.  McClintock then took us on a whirlwind history tour of the planet and then East Rock.  We were introduced into the Cooling Columns of Basalt and the New Haven Formation of Arkose.  The Triassic New Haven Arkose and the Jurassic Basalt helped us understand how rocks interact and showcase our planet's history.

We also learned to look at and use the tools of a geologist.  Learning how to look at rocks, measure angles of rock intrusions, and how to identify the evidence of glacial activity.  While I am not going to even pretend to think that I could do this on my own, I did enjoy learning how to see the world how a geologist see it.  As a birder, I most often use that lens to see the natural world.  Geologists look at East Rock and see the movement of rock, intrusions of igneous rock, and the evidence of glacial activity.  I enjoyed the Peabody's walk and can't wait to get out and see more of the natural world!

Told you there would be some birds on this one

Cooling Columns of Basalt at East Rock Park

A Geology Station in College Woods

A Sample of the New Haven Formation, mainly Arkose

More Arkose!

Above, a demonstration of a Sill Intrusion

This is an example of a Dyke Intrusion

These are pebbles that have been sheared into the Basalt by a Glacier

Lunar Scars of left by a Glacier and a Pebble

Monday, November 18, 2013

A First for Connecticut

For a few weeks, Connecticut Birding experienced a first, a Black-Chinned Hummingbird.  While I had seen my first one of these beautiful birds in Texas in May, it was great to see one in CT and see this record BCHU.  This wonderful find turned up at a private residence and the owner was kind enough to let a number of birders see this record little fella.

Record birds represent an interesting facet of ornithology and bird migration.  How did the bird get here?  How is it surviving in a strange environment?  What is compelling it to stay?  Are we even sure this is a rare bird?  Not that I have any answers to these questions.  I think its worth reflecting on the voyage that this migrant has made before it leaves and hopefully returns to its flock.

That last one was inspired by what I always say when I see a rare bird.  Am I sure that's a rare bird?  For this BCHU, I am fairly certain that it is a rare bird.  Since it was a CT First I decided to fill out a Rare Bird Report Form.  Even if this form wasn't the best one, I really enjoyed the experience of filling out the form.  As a closing, I leave you with a selection from said form. Until the next time...

"Since CT is home to the Ruby-Throated that was the first bird that I compared the bird I found to.  The first thing that I noticed was the unusual chin markings and eye markings. The Chin markings are the ones that lead to me to verify that this is a BCHU.  They are clearly different from a RTHU and the photos match the descriptions found in Sibley’s Bird Guide. "

A Black-Chinned Hummingbird in Connecticut

Another View

In Flight and Feeding

A Real Joy to Behold, a Texas Treat in Connecticut

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Selling Nature or Not

(C) Toys R Us

This commercial was aired recently by Toys 'R Us as they gear up for their busiest time of year.  This may be a surprise, but I am a big believer in diverse methods of play and lots of outside time for kids.  This Toys R Us Commercial both down plays the power of nature and forces it to compete with a commercial enterprise in a commercial medium.  The commercial isn't fair on many levels and isn't accurately portraying what kids need.  There are several ways to critique this commercial, but this is a nature blog and I will stick to that theme.

Is it possible for kids to be excited about nature?  Is discovery exciting?  The power of nature has an incredible effect on kids and their education.  The 'ranger' belittles the people who work at making nature exciting for kids and helping those kids discover and learn.  Nature has played a large part in my own education as a kid and an adult and I often can't wait to get back out into nature.  Finding something new or seeing something I don't understand is a great that joy than can help kids better understand the world.  My school took us into local parks and I remember finding an American Eel that had washed up on a river bank, seeing a monarch hatch, and playing the different parts of a tree in a skit for class.  These interactions were valuable to who I am today and who I continue to be.

I don't mean to critique toys and toys stores.  I have many fond memories of Toys R Us and has a fan of several cartoons, Toys R Us is often one of the few places to get the toys I am interested in.  I don't appreciate how toys and nature are made into enemies in this commercial.  We all need to work together to help improve children's education, relationship with nature, and future conservation efforts.  I'm not sure how this looks but I know that it will look better if we cooperate.  I know that Toys R Us cares about our children and their future and this incident of prank advertising hit the wrong mark.

Friday, November 8, 2013

ABA Rarity in My Backyard

While the Barnacle Goose is no longer my nemesis, hearing that one was in my backyard made me excited to add this rarity to my CT list.  The challenges of going on a wild goose chase are great.  You have to be prepared to sort through hundreds and hundreds of Canada Goose to find 1 or 2 odd balls out.  This particular challenge has to be one of bird's equivalents to finding a needle in a haystack.

Nonetheless, the possibility of adding a Barnacle Goose to my CT list not only makes the task doable, it makes it exciting!  Although getting a Cackling, Snow, Greater-White Fronted, Pink Footed Geese also fall into this category, I guess it doesn't take much to get me to look at a group of Canada Geese.  Back to the story.  I drove to the site where this flock of 450~500 Canadas had been hanging out and I hunkered myself down for a long search.  I scanned, scanned, and scanned... then I scanned, scanned, and scanned some more...

Then I realized the Barnacle Goose was no more than 75ft in front of me...  There's nothing like seeing an ABA rarity fairly close.  After locating the bird several other birders popped by and were able to enjoy it before it was scared off by a manure truck.  Of course, without the manure truck, the field wouldn't attract these birds.  Its also worth noting that also without the truck, the field would be a new development!

I was able to snap some photos before dipping on another bird that showed up in CT, a Short-Eared Owl.  While I never like dipping, it does give a much better appreciation when do get to see rare bird.  Until the next outing, enjoy some great shouts of a Barnacle Goose!

The Rare Barnacle Goose

Profile Shot of the Barnacle Goose

The Rarity is Flying Away!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

9 Things for the Mexican-American Birder

Recently Drew Lanham wrote an article entitled "9 Rules for the Black Birdwatcher" in Orion Magazine (Link Here).  This article was written with some good humor and a couple of reality checks for the birding community.  Indeed, the birding community could use better outreach into the different communities that make up our diverse nation.  Better Outreach means more effective monitoring of birds, conservation efforts, and a stronger community.

When I first became a birder, I could hardly tell one site from another and distinguish between the different kinds of warblers.  But as I grew and became a better birder, people started to know me, welcome me, and help me.  That was great of course, but I wondered how outreach from the birding community worked.  I know that many people going into school, spend their time mentoring and helping out science classrooms

The blessing of nature is that it helps people connect better to each other and better connections to nature help create better communities. We all have a responsibility to share the wonders of the natural world with each other for our own health and the health of the world.  While this didn't turn out to be much of a list, it is as the article was to me.  A great mental exercise and reminder of why we are outside and why we should try to share our joys with others.  Until the next, go outside and enjoy some pictures!

Coming Soon: an ABA Rarity, and a Reaction to a Commercial