Tag Archives: Bird Watching

Day 8 : My Sunday #fms_sunday

And we trudge on!  With a week of photo challenge under my belt I come to day 8:  My Sunday.  Today was a busy day with Mother’s Day visiting, yard work, and grocery shopping.  The morning started out with birding!  I have volunteered for the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas.  My mission is to visit my assigned area (my block) for twenty hours between April and October for the next four years.  Two of my visits have to be nocturnal visits.  I’m on the lookout for birds and especially birds who are trying to or have already made a love connection!  I have to keep my peepers open for singing males, birds collecting nesting materials, fledglings and other such suggestions that breeding is taking place in my block.  Not to sound like a total nerd, but it is super exciting!  Today I saw a pair of Northern Cardinals alerting their fledgling of my presence (score!) and a female Carolina Wren moving her fledglings along (double score!)

Day 8 #fmsphotoaday : My Sunday – Logging birds for the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas #vabba2

A post shared by Melanie Jo Moore (@melanie_jo_moore) on

This is an almost enchanting path located in my block.  I have high-fived myself numerous times that the owner of this property has granted me permission to bird here!  Eeeeee!  So much fun!

Tomorrow’s photo challenge :  A sign!

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Birding Under The Weather #mondayblogs

Thursday I felt a little “funny”.

Friday morning I felt “not quite right”.

By Friday afternoon I could feel myself starting to slip in No Man’s Land.  I was coming down with the disgusting cold that was going around my workplace.

I’m proud to say that I can shake most colds.  I may have a quick symptom or two and the short lived bug moves along to its next victim.  However, this has turned into one of those colds that cause you to stare at nothing and occasionally moan.  Stupid cold.

I was treating it with the best known remedies in my arsenal.  First, I was eating Mrs. Fearnow’s Delicious Brunswick Stew.  That’s right, ailments.  You should be in fear now of this delicious Brunswick stew.  My family has fed me this time and time again. (My grandmother would also throw in Caffeine Free Coke for good measure.)

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I recommend popping the top and eating it right out of the can.

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Too much of a wuss to do the real deal and eat it straight out of the can with a spoon?  I hear you.  In that case, put it in a coffee mug with a cat on the front.  Before enjoying your stew, you should down a shot of Dayquil.

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You see that right.  That is indeed a shot glass of DayQuil.  If you are going to hang with this cootie infested gangsta… you’ve got to be real about your DayQuil.  Get out the shot glass and be a real G.

This was how I was planning to spend Sunday.  Downing the DayQuil and drowning my sorrows in Mrs. Fearnow’s Delicious Brunswick Stew.  I was ready to veg out and get better.  Then I received this message from my bird watching mentor.

“I know you are sick but this bird is worth getting out of bed for…..”

That, my friends, is the Western Kingbird.  Isn’t he gorgeous?  Absolutely amazing in his natural setting.  The thing about the Western Kingbird is he should be in the western United States, not Virginia.

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Saturday and Sunday, the bird had been spotted perching on a power line twenty miles south of my home.  For someone who doesn’t fly (read:me) this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this bird.  I could barely slink off the couch but I knew I had to go find this bird.  At this point, he may have continued migrating on his lost route but I had to try.

After getting dressed, I grabbed my Honey -n-Lemon Hall’s cough drops, my Sibley’s Field Guide and my binoculars.  I stumbled to my car in a way that may have caused a neighborhood panic about the Zombie Apocalypse.

I know what you are thinking.  “Mel, you sound like you may have been too sick to drive.”  Don’t worry!  I thought about that.

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I brought Cody.  You may ask, “Why on Earth did you think Cody was up to the challenge of driving if you couldn’t?”

I can tell you that the best sign that a dog is ready to take care of you in a time of illness is if he tries to lick the snot out of your nose.  See the look on his face?  That dog is determined to help.

A side note here.  If you are asking your dog to drive the car for you, you will want to make sure he is wearing his best winter coat.  A recent study showed that police officers are much more lenient on unlicensed dog drivers if they are dressed nicely.

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We headed South, Cody with his nose out the window and I with my brain in a fog.  We turned off the highway and began patrolling a three mile area of country road where the bird had been spotted.  Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  I gave Cody an accurate description of what he should have been looking for on the power line.  This was either a ballsy move to trust a dog who doesn’t understand eating plastic is bad or a true sign of my mental stability while sick.

An hour later, the only thing we had found was a neighborhood of concerned citizens to why a white blazer kept driving by their houses at ten miles an hour.  I pulled off the road and blew my nose.

“Cody, I think we are going to have to give up.  It’s been an hour and we haven’t seen a thing.  We missed him, Cody.  We missed him.”

Now, that dog doesn’t understand bird watching, but he does understand disappointment.  (Examples:  Cody, why did you eat that plastic?  Cody, why did you pee on my new flowers?  Cody, why did you chew up the azalea bush?  Cody, why did you tear open that bag of coffee beans?  Cody, WHY?)  After I declared our failed birding attempt, he sighed and placed his head on my shoulder.

“Let’s go, Bud.”

Moments if not seconds after I put the car in gear, the Western Kingbird suddenly appeared.  I drove in panic mode to the closest driveway and jumped out of the car.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to see something that is so rare even if you are sickly.

I also can’t tell you why no one called the cops on us.  It had to be quite the scene to those homeowners.  A girl hobbling up their driveway, peering with binoculars at the sky and then in their backyard.  The girl who may be infected with some sort of plague is yelling to her dog in the car, (“Cody!  Are you looking?  Did you see how yellow his belly was?  This is AMAZING!” *cough, cough, cough*) and to the trees (Mr. Kingbird!  I am so thrilled I had the chance to meet you.  I’m so sorry you are off course but this is truly an honor!)

Some time passed and I realized it was time for us to move along.  I hopped in the car to head back to my couch but not before stopping at the Machipongo Trading Post and getting a celebratory snack.

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Mmmm… brownie sundae and Bac’n’Cheese dog cookies!

That’s another thing about Cody.  He doesn’t understand birding, but he certainly understands the post-birding reward system.

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For more birding adventures with Cody, check out That Dog Won’t Hunt and From The Desk Of The Dog:  How My Summer Flew Away. 

From The Desk Of The Dog: How My Summer Flew Away #Mondayblogs

Doggone it.

Where did my summer go?

I can tell you where it went.

It went to the birds.

That’s right. The birds.

I was so excited that winter went away. I was ready to greet summer with my ears flapping in the breeze. There’s nothing quite like peeing on a blooming azalea bush. I was ready! But then summer came and I had to share it with birds. You heard me right, birds.
First came a baby mockingbird named Chuck-Wee. I’d beg Food Lady to go on a road trip to the beach. She’d say no. She had to feed Chuck-Wee every hour. There was no time for the beach. Finally, Chuck-Wee grew up and started eating worms on his own. Yipee! My summer is coming back.

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But then, my mom brought home another baby mockingbird! Baby-Wee! I waited patiently as Baby-Wee grew and grew. He was a sickly little fellow so it took a long time for him to start acting like a big bird. The time finally came and Baby-Wee moved on to be a real mockingbird.

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I was so excited! Beach! Here we come! Long walks on wooded trails with Food Lady! Yay, summer I love you!

There was no beach because there were baby sparrows…
Food Lady! I want to go to the beach!

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I had given up. I would never go anywhere fun again. Birds. Stupid, stupid birds.

And then it happened! Food Lady got me dressed up and we got in the car!
She rolled down the window and I got to feel the warm breeze on my face as it flapped my ears!

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We went to a new walking place called the Eastern Shore Of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge in Kiptopeke. It was amazing! There was a path through the woods that led you to a giant staircase that took you up to the sky! You could see everything! And then… and then we went to the marsh! Oh, the smell of the marsh was so good! We continued walking through the woods and we found a giant bullet on display!

I sniffed it cautiously and turned to Food Lady. “It’s okay, Cody. This was an Air Force base a long time ago. That’s just for show. Not dangerous at all.”

Whew, was that good news.

“Do you want your picture taken in front of it?”

Do I ever!

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It wasn’t all fun and games. Food Lady wanted to stop and look at birds. What’s with the birds Food Lady!

Once it started getting hot outside, Food Lady said it was time to go home.  I don’t know why she made me leave.  It wasn’t like I was tired.

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We did get to stop at Food Lady’s favorite place! The Machipongo Trading Post! She loves the ice cream! I keep hoping she’ll share with me, but she says I can only have dog cookies.

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I was so close to that Java Jolt goodness!

Summer is leaving us now and the days are getting cooler. I was certain that the autumn air would get us out on the trails more frequently. I was ready to explore in the crisp, fall air.

And now we have baby goldfinches.

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Food Lady says Mother Nature goofed up and brought a late bunch of baby birds. I wish that nature lady would stop goofing up. She’s really making it hard for me to enjoy the outdoors.

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Want to know more about Cody and From The Desk Of The Dog?  Follow these links:

 The Original From The Desk Of The Dog

From The Desk Of The Dog:  Tell Me Where It Hurts

Poop All About It

From The Desk Of The Dog:  My Crummy Christmas

From The Desk Of The Dog:  Goodbye Winter! 

That Dog Won’t Hunt

Yum, Plastic! 

That Dog Won’t Hunt

As the Great Backyard Bird Count crept up on me, I continued to procrastinate on one particular decision.

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Would I involve Cody in the bird count?

To the non-birder, bird watching and counting probably appears to be a useless hobby that consists of a boring person staring endlessly at bushes.  In reality, birding takes a great deal of patience, observation and skill. Sure, sometimes it is as easy as seeing a bright red bird with a black face on your feeder in the middle of the yard, enabling you to put another tick beside ‘Cardinal’.  Other times it’s a flutter in your peripheral, a quick glance at tail posture, or perhaps a snippet of a song.  You have to manage to use all these pieces of a puzzle until you have figured out who is that little creature teasing you in the tall grass.  There are frustrating times when a flock of birds flies in the distance.  You can tell it is about a dozen birds, but what?  What are those birds so far off and out of focus?  How about that enormous soaring bird with black feathers over those trees?  Is it a bald eagle or is it a vulture?  Until it comes close enough, you don’t really know.

Against my better judgment, I decided that I would take Cody along with me as I explored our rural neighborhood.  It will be good exercise for him, I told myself over and over.  Great opportunity for bonding, I repeated aloud.  Cody was going to be a birding dog.

Months ago, some of you may remember that I was interested in adopting a puppy that was part German Shorthaired Pointer.  Quiet and obedient, I was sure she would make an excellent companion.  I could see us wandering trails together, intently focused on finding birds to watch.  In the end, I decided that one dog was really enough for our family.  The one dog who loves the beau.  One dog who is excited to see me at food time.  Cody could certainly have enough room in his heart to one day think I was the bee’s knees, too.  Right?

I didn’t need a pointer, right?

The first morning of the bird count, I spent my morning recording my feeder activity.  At lunchtime, Cody and I struck out on foot.  With notepad and pen, we headed down the street and then went off road to the old farmhouse.  I stopped occasionally, making notes about what I was seeing.

Small sparrow like bird.  Black crown, black ring around neck, ground behavior similar to robin.

Unseen bird: call resembles hiccup, hiccup.

These notes were sloppy a. because my handwriting is naturally sloppy, b. I was making these notes in a tiny handheld notebook, and c. there was a big meathead dog tugging at the leash enthusiastically to sniff at someone else’s poop.

“Cody, stop!  Focus!  We are looking for birds.  Look for birds, not poop!”

To the farmhouse, I continue to note birds I recognize and birds that I will need to consult a manual on when I get home.  Just behind the farmhouse is a creek that I planned to check out.  I had seen several Canada Geese but wanted to expand my waterfowl count.  The land comes to a point, and then sharply drops off into the marsh.  It’s not a cliff but it does take a little bit of foot placement planning to get down.  I could see just beyond the marsh a huge flock of birds.  There had to be at least a hundred.  Silly me forgot the binoculars, so I was going to have to make my way down the bank and into the marsh.  I start to slowly creep down the edge when suddenly the leash around my waist causes me to stop abruptly.  I turn around to see Cody still standing at the edge ten feet behind me.

“Cody, come down.”  I yank on his leash and he watches me in complete befuddlement.  “Cody, now!”  This disagreement quickly becomes a tug of war match which I surprisingly win.  He finally starts creeping down to catch up with me and I am relieved that the two of us are now on the same page.  However, once caught up, he begins looping the leash around every bush we come across.  I would have to backtrack, untangle the leash, walk forward, backtrack, untangle the leash, walk forward.

I approached the water’s edge and came to a heartbreaking realization.  I still couldn’t make out what species of bird was floating in the water.  Mad at myself for not bringing the binoculars, I begin to stomp back up the bank.  Walking forward, backtracking, untangling the leash, walking forward.

Back on flat ground, we start heading back home.  At this point, Cody is panting loud enough that some may have mistaken him for a freight train.  He’s always been a loud panter.  There appears to be no good medical reason for it, just a love of noisy oxygen exchange.  This is also frustrating because I feel that if anyone deserves to be making such thunderous respiratory noises, it should be the person who kept going back and to untie the other one from the brush.

I stop and tell Cody to sit.  He complies and continues his panting.  “Cody, you’ve got to be quiet.  Good birding dogs are quiet so you don’t scare away the birds.”  I don’t know how to explain this to him nicely, but I don’t see his career in bird counting going very far.  My thoughts drift off to the little pointer puppy that I talked myself out of adopting.  In my little daydream, I see her silently striding through knee high weeds, suddenly stopping, face intently fixed off in the distance, and then she assumes the pointing posture … signaling a rare bird off in the field.

My daydream dissipates as a shadow is cast over Cody and me.  I quickly glance to the sky.  A bald eagle soars over me and he is close enough I can see the expression on his face.  I’m pretty sure he thought the scene Cody was making meant he would soon die and could be lunch.  His yellow eyes met mine and an amazing moment was shared between bird and watcher.  A second eagle then swooped in.  I could barely contain my joy.  Two bald eagles!

The birds eventually lost interest in us and moved on.  Cody got to his feet and continued to be obnoxiously loud all the way home.  I have to remember that Cody’s breeding isn’t made for the same things that mine is.  Generations before me have been obsessed with birds.  However, Cody’s Rottweiler ancestors have been bred to be protective and to scare off any signs on danger, regardless if it is the UPS man with deliveries or a harmless mockingbird.

I’m sure you are thinking after this first disastrous day, that I would have left Cody home for the remaining three days.  I even surprised myself when I would put his harness on and head out with him at my side.  Even though he had no interest in the five swans flying over, the Eastern bluebirds singing, or my continued excitement at identifying the Horned Lark, he still found joy in spending hours at a time with me slowly making our way down old field roads.  I guess in the end, a relationship with a dog is much like that with a person.  You may not share the same hobbies and interests, you just have to like spending time with each other.