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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Birds and Birthdays

I went out birding today with Jason and we saw a couple of cool things of note. One was a western meadowlark down near South Beach! Apparently, western meadowlarks used to be common breeders in the San Juan Islands until about 1960. It's unlear why they declined, because there seems to be some great grassland habitat for them here. They're no longer believed to breed here, and are pretty much just seen from September-April, although I've only ever seen one and it was last October. It's ironic that they're mostly a winter visitor to the islands now, because when I saw its bold yellow chest with distinct black V it made me think of spring!

The mew gulls at False Bay were up to their foot-paddling again, which is such a comical little dance to watch.

Down at the south end of the island is a pair of red-tailed hawks that we think probably have a nest down there since they're always in the same area, and a few weeks ago we observed them carrying grasses (nesting material?!). Today was the first day I really got a good look at both of them, and it turns out you can tell them apart because they are different color morphs. Red-tailed hawks come in all sorts of colors that were originally thought to be different species. At first I thought the dark one we were seeing was a Harlan's hawk (the darkest red-tailed hawk) but I forgot this morph actually has a black and white tail. Instead, we were looking at the relatively rare rufous morph, which makes up only about 10-20% of the red-tailed hawk population. Jason put digiscoping to the test and took a photo of the other "regular" red-tail with his digital camera through the scope we were borrowing. He'll post the cool shot he got on his blog.

I also wanted to remind you that this weekend, starting tomorrow, is the Great Backyard Bird Count! The purpose of the project is to get a snapshot of the birds across the US and Canada, and to give birders an excuse to spend at least 15 minutes a day monitoring what's in their yards. Some of us bloggers are participating in the (much much smaller) Great Bird Count of February just for fun, but its definitely worth taking a weekend to report what's in your yard for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Finally, you should join me today in raising a toast to the 200th anniversary of the birth of two very great men. Amazingly enough, both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on February 12th, 1809. They both changed the world in very different ways, but both for the better, in my not-so-humble opinion. I admire both these men, their genius, and their tenacity very much, and will be honor their legacy with a raised glass tonight.


The K said...

You're not the first one to recognize Darwin and Lincoln having the same starting point in history. There are some interesting articles that discuss this in at least Newsweek and Huffington Post

Monika said...

Haha, I know I'm not the first to notice. Seems like it was on every magazine cover this month.