Classical birds

Besides birding, another thing that I love but don’t know much about is classical music.
So I can’t resist a link in which the two intersect.
I got it from Classical Music Public Radio, which got it from National Public Radio. It’s a quiz in which you hear an excerpt from a piece of music and guess which of six birds inspired it.
The nice thing is that you can keep guessing, so eventually you get all six right. Your success is determined by how many guesses it takes you to get there. I ended up six for nine. In truth, there’s only one that I was sure about. I’m guessing you’ll be sure about it, too, even if you think Bach, Beethoven and Brahms is a law firm.
Here’s the link.

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Birds on stilts

What bird species has the longest legs in relation to its body size?
That would be the aptly named black-necked stilt, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Richard Crossley in “The Crossley ID Guide” editorializes: “Nothing belongs on such long skinny legs.”
You’re not likely to see black-necked stilts in the Upper Midwest. You have a much better chance in the ponds and marshes of Louisiana. That’s the site of a video from Cornell Lab that I couldn’t resist sharing. You can see it here.

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Raptors of spring

Raptors are returning to the Northland, and counters from Hawk Ridge are keeping track — but not at Hawk Ridge. The counters set up shop either at the Rice’s Point pullout below Enger Tower or at the Thompson Hill rest stop, depending on the winds.
This is the minimalist version of Hawk Ridge. There aren’t any naturalists or activities for children or T-shirts to buy. It’s just the counters, who will be glad to chat with you during slower times but might be too busy to talk if there’s lots of activity.
Spring migration for eagles — lots of bald eagles and some golden eagles — typically peaks about March 25, with various kinds of hawks to follow.
You can get much more information at the Hawk Ridge website, here.

A big, beautiful bird book

“The Crossley ID Guide (Eastern Birds)” came across my desk this week. It’s a big, beautiful book, 529 pages long and heavier than my “Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.”
The book, which came out this year and was published by Crossley books and Princeton University Press, was written by Richard Crossley, a native of Great Britain who lives in Cape May, N.J.
The book’s emphasis is pictures, and it was made possible by the magic of digital photography. Most of the more than 600 birds are shown in a variety of poses on a single plate, from close up to off flying in the distance.
Here’s what I like and don’t like about “The Crossley ID Guide”:
* The pictures are gorgeous. If you buy this book, I predict that you will spend a lot of time just gazing at the pictures and enjoying them.
* I especially like the inclusion of the far-away images. Even I can eventually identify most birds if they’re up close. I need all the help I can get with those far-away views, which seem to be more common.
* Crossley’s descriptions of birds are short and lively.
* Because it’s so heavy, you aren’t going to take it in your pack. It would be fine to keep around your favorite bird-watching spot at home, and perhaps to take along in the car.
* Crossley uses alpha codes for birds; a red-breasted nuthatch is a RBNU, a mourning dove is a MODO. He gives the common and scientific name of each bird on the page where it’s presented, but every other reference is to the alpha code. In his description of the yellow-throated warbler, for example, he says it is “often creeping around limbs like BAWW,” and later compares its singing to “CARW qualities.” Unless you happen to know, you have to flip through the pages to figure out that a BAWW is a black-and-white warbler, and a CARW is a Carolina wren.
Is it worth the list price of $35? Well, if you don’t already have some kind of bird guide, I would start with a basic field guide you can easily take anywhere, such as the “Sibley Field Guide to Birds.” If you do already have something like that, you might enjoy this as a supplement. It’s sure fun to look at.

On another topic, a sign of spring: On Monday, I saw my first chipmunk of the year foraging for bird food on the deck.

Your bird pictures and stories welcome at:

More Bohemians

Tony Mitchell reported today (Friday) that he got a tip that there were about 800 Bohemian waxwings near the Hartley Nature Center. He checked it out and didn’t find 800, but he did find more than 200. Take a look at Tony’s amazing pictures:

And now you probably want to see one of these beautiful birds up close. Tony provides this picture he took in his backyard in March 2007:

Breathtaking. And a great reason to visit Hartley Park this weekend.

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Barred owl in Barnum

Isn’t this a beautiful bird?

Julie Salmon took this picture of a barred owl — she calls it Barney the Barred Owl — from the deck at Mayflower Gardens in Barnum, Minn. Thanks for sharing it, Julie!

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Count the Bohemians

Can you count the Bohemian waxwings in this picture?

At first you might not see any at all. The longer you look, the more you see. It sometimes works that way when you’re on a walk or looking out the window, too. The picture was submitted by Kurt Kuehn, who reports he has about a hundred Bohemian waxwings in his backyard in Lester Park.
Kurt also provides this closeup of one of the waxwings:

What a wonderful addition to anyone’s backyard.

On another subject, has anyone else noticed how much singing the birds are doing all the sudden? It’s a hopeful sign.

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Blue on white

We don’t often see bluebirds around here (at least I don’t), let alone bluebirds against a backdrop of snow.
So thanks to Karl Riggle in Zanesville, Ohio, for these beautiful pictures he took of these Ohio bluebirds:

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Heading north

Last week, there was some conversation here about how to track birds migrating north. One of the suggestions was to look for signs of migration on National Weather Service radar.
If you’re interested in following up on this, I’d suggest checking out the Minnesota Birdnerd blog here.
A couple of days ago, Minnesota Birdnerd’s blog included radar maps of the Southeastern United States and Texas from Sunday indicating bird movement. I’m not sure how the difference between bird movements and weather systems is discerned, but I trust that the Birdnerd does.
The migration blog is a little ways down from the top. And after you’ve checked that out, keep scrolling down and take a look at Birdnerd’s gorgeous recent pictures of a boreal chickadee and a pine grosbeak, taken at Sax-Zim bog.

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