Archive for October, 2011

The highly anticipated new movie “The Big Year” has opened.  The movie follows the efforts of 3 obsessive birders who are each attempting to set the record for the greatest number of species seen in one year.  The movie, which is based on a best-selling book of the same name, stars Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.  So I guess that makes it a comedy.

Birders’ Movie Night

In conjunction with all the local chapters of the Audubon Society, we have arranged a Birders Movie Night for all local birders to gather and see this movie as a group.  That should make an interesting evening.

When:       Tuesday, Oct 18th

Time:        Show Time is 7:20 p.m.

Where:     Saw Mill Multiplex Cinema,  151 Saw Mill Road (Rt9A), Hawthorne, NY 10532

                                                            Ticket Price:  $6.00



Post-Movie Owl Prowl

We are working on arranging an Owl Prowl to a local sanctuary following the movie.  Plans have not been finalized yet.  But keep binoculars and flashlight in your car just in case. 

Join us if you can.

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People often wonder how long the birds in their backyard live.  The sad truth is that most birds do not live to see their first birthday.  Youth is a dangerous time for birds.  Lack of food, flying accidents, and predators take their toll.  However, if they do survive the first year their expected life span increases.  On average, the small songbirds at your feeder may live to an age of 5-7 years.  Although the same living species in captivity will live several years longer because they don’t have to worry about finding food or avoiding predators.  

 As a general rule the larger the bird, the longer the life span.  A crow, for example, might live to 15 years of age.  An eagle, 20-25 years.  Parrots, which can live to more than 50 years, may have the longest lifespan.  Often, when someone buys a parrot for a pet, the pet outlives its owner.

 Which reminds me of the story of VanHumbolt’s parrot.  VanHumbolt was a 19th century German explorer and self promoter who made many trips to South America.  On one trip he was befriended by a small, remote native tribe.  The tribe, which had its own oral language but no written language, gave him a parrot that had learned to speak their language.  When he left their remote village, he took the bird back to Germany with him.

 Ten years later, a fatal disease attacked and killed every member of the small tribe.  The parrot, then, became the only creature on earth that could still speak their language. 

 VanHumbolt was a born promoter.  So he took the bird and went on a grand tour of Europe, displaying the parrot before large audiences that were mesmerized by an exotic bird that could speak a dead language.

 P.T. Barnum would have been proud.

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Eastern Bluebirds, the NY State bird, like to nest in cavities in small trees or old fence posts in open fields and meadows.  Unfortunately urban sprawl and suburban development destroyed most of this habitat in lower Westchester.  As a result, since the 1970s there were no records of Bluebirds nesting in Westchester south of I-287 for more than 25 years.  However, thanks to the efforts of Sandy Morrissey and a group of 28 volunteer bluebird monitors, Bluebirds may be making a comeback.

 Sandy’s Eastern Bluebird Project has been installing bluebird nest boxes in suitable habitats hoping to lure Bluebirds into the area.  Sites have included golf courses, parks, cemeteries and other open areas.  To date more than 200 boxes have been installed.  And their efforts seem to be paying off.

 In 2011, 62 bluebird couples used one of the boxes raising a total more than 250 young bluebirds, almost twice as many as in the previous year.

 Monitors check each box on a regular basis, seeing if it is occupied, counting eggs or the number of young, removing unwanted nests.  Sandy obtained her bird banding license this year and was able to band almost 300 adult and nestling bluebirds.  This banding will help identify these individuals again in coming years.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the Bluebird Project, contact Sandy Morrissey, sandym@cloud9.net or (914) 949-2531

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Sharing Birding Info

Below is an email I received from Andrew Vitolo, a reader of this blog.  What I like best about his email (in addition to the compliment) is that Andrew took time to share some information he had just found.  I encourage other readers to share their observations, knowledge, new info, ask questions, and create a dialog that will help everyone interested in birding and our local birds.

In Andrew’s case he uncovered info on new binoculars developed by Sony that contain a high definition digital video camera.  Imagine someday taking video of the mystery bird you are looking at so you can ID it later and show it to your friends.  For details follow the link in his email and then page down several pages.

Andrew, thanks for sharing.



 Just wanted to say, I’m diging the new Blog.

 Saw this on a Tech website and I’m sure its something new for Birders to drool over.

 Sony Binocs that record video and take pictures… but good quality pics and video.

 Im sure we will be seeing more of these as tech gets better and better.


Keep up the good work!

 See ya at the shop,

Andrew Vitolo


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It is difficult to explain why watching birds always relaxes me.  I can sit sipping a cup of coffee gazing at birds devouring seed in my feeder.  Every day I see the same birds.  Only occasionally a new species shows up.  Despite the seeming sameness, I can easily spend 5, 10 minutes or more absorbed in watching the same old birds.

Why is it such a relaxing activity?  I just watch.  Maybe it is because I am completely engrossed.  Forgetting momentarily about the woes and problems of real life.  Not thinking about the daily “must do” list.  Just watching.  Totally immersed in the moment.

Talking about this with store customers I realized that this is a universal experience.  Life is stressful; watching birds is anti-stress.  A customer once described it as “like therapy, but cheaper”.  I liked that concept.

The next day two women came into the store for the first time.  I repeated my customer’s theory.  One of the women responded “Could be.  But I am a therapist.  So don’t spread that thought or you’ll put me out of business”.

Whatever the reason, I still find watching birds to be very relaxing.

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Have you ever wondered how many feathers a bird has?  Me either.  But scientists did.  So they decided to count them.  Or, more likely, they had their graduate assistants do the work.  It is hard to consider counting feathers as cutting-edge scientific research, but someone had to do it.  How boring!

Imagine counting feathers on large bird, like a Tundra Swan.  It had the most feathers – over 25,000. 

Even if you were lucky enough to be counting feathers on a tiny hummingbird, you still had to count 800-1,000 individual feathers. 

So today, thanks to the diligent efforts of totally bored grad students, we know the number of feathers on a bird.

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Last spring I wondered “Do birds commit suicide?” as I watched and heard a robin fling itself into my dining room window.  It made a distinctive thud as it bounced off the glass pane.  Then it backed off a few feet and attacked again, hurling itself into the window with a vengeance.  Over and over. 

Obviously something was wrong with this usually cheerful little bird.  When I walked to the window for a closer look, it flew to an apple tree 20 feet away.  It looked OK.  But when I walked away from the window into the kitchen, the robin again crashed into the window at top speed.  I returned to the window, it backed away.  I walked away, it re-launched its kamikaze attack.  This pattern kept up for about 15 minutes.  Then stopped.

Very strange behavior.  This bird seemed intent on inflicting bodily damage.  I remember thinking that it might need mental health assistance.  But I soon forgot the incident.  Until the next day. 

The crazed robin returned, again flinging itself into the glass.  I rushed to the window.  It backed off.  I left.  It returned.  We kept up this dance until it finally stopped trying. 

On the third day, the odd behavior began anew.  Thud, into the window.  But this day I didn’t forget it.  Something was definitely going on here.  Why was it attacking my window?  Three days in a row.  At the same time every day.  At the same place in the window.  I tried to figure it out.

And I did. 

The sun was in just the right location in the sky so the robin was seeing its own reflection in the window glass.  He thought the reflection was another robin intruding on his territory and was trying to drive this intruder away. 

That shows how strong the instinct is to defend a territory.  But is also shows how instinct can overrule common sense.  I would expect that the robin would realize that the pane of glass was much harder than the feathers of a competing male robin.  It would have saved a lot of energy.

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