GBBC. Get outside and make a difference

Valentines, shmalentines! Do something that really matters – take part in the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

The count dates are February 15–18, as in this upcoming Friday through Monday.

Anybody can do it. You don’t have to be an expert, you can do it by yourself or locate a group in your area to hang with, and it doesn’t have to to take much time — you only need a minimum of 15 minutes, and you can record your observations online.

Here are the hows and whens.


Why do it? What difference can you make anyway?

Bird populations are constantly changing. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to keep track of the complicated patterns of movement of so many species over an entire continent. The information from GBBC participants even more valuable as scientists try to learn how birds are affected by environmental changes.

The information you send in can provide the first sign that individual species may be increasing or declining from year to year. It shows how a species’ range expands or shrinks over time. A big change, noted consistently over a period of years, is an indication that something is happening in the environment that is affecting the birds and that should be followed up on. GBBC information also allows us to look at what kinds of birds inhabit different areas, such as cities versus suburban.

All the information from the GBBC and other surveys goes into a massive bird database called the Avian Knowledge Network. AKN now holds 36 million records of bird observations which are used by scientists around the world.

It’s been my experience and observation that a lot of us liberals talk a big line about science and the environment but too often, we don’t put our asses where our mouths are, even when something as easy and as important as this presents itself.

Now, go outside!

Geococcyx californianus, aka Badass!

It’s a difficult, and ultimately pointless, exercise to pick a favorite from the local avian wildlife but I will say I’m awfully fond of the roadrunner. Look at him! Isn’t he a magnificent creature?

As some of you may know, roadrunners are in the cuckoo family. The Peterson’s entry begins thusly:

The cuckoo that runs (tracks show two toes forward, two backward). Unique; slender, heavily streaked, with a long maneuverable, white-tipped tail, shaggy crest, strong legs.

Even though the photo leaves something to be desired, it’s the best I’ve yet achieved, after many failed attempts to get a good shot of one of these guys. Of course it would help if I had a better camera with a longer lens. I stalked this guy on foot for quite a while. He flew up into trees and skipped around and hid behind cactus, peeking out to see if I’d left yet. After a while, he ran off, I got back in my car and drove down the road, then doubled back and caught him returning to the spot he’d been in when I interrupted him.

I’m waiting for my ACME telephoto lens and birdseed to arrive any day now and when it does, watch out!

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Hummingbird Nest


Nests are first constructed from spiderwebs and moss, then twigs, leaves and other material are added on the outside for camouflage.


White-tailed deer are ubiquitous where I live, like pigeons in Manhattan. It’s easy to get so accustomed to them that you don’t notice them, other than when they are eating the landscaping or jumping in front of the car.

But then comes fawn season….

It’s all about the legs, baby.

A friend of mine calls these brand new fawns “poodle-sized”- it’s true, they are very tiny.

And remember, folks, if you find a fawn (or any other infant animal) by itself in the woods or the weeds: unless it is obviously badly injured or sick, LEAVE IT ALONE. Hundreds of fawns are separated from their grazing mothers by well-meaning humans every season. And if you find a fawn, don’t wait around for mom to come back, either. Don’t touch anything, just back away and let the little baby be, because the mom is likely nearby.

A recent study conducted by Texas rehabilitator Ann Connell found that, in some years, 40% or more of the deer fawns referred to her were not orphans or injured, but “kidnapped” from their mothers. Typically these incidents were well-meaning but misguided attempts to “save” seemingly abandoned fawns. Anecdotal data suggest that the situation for baby birds is similar or worse. These data indicate that such unnecessary referrals to rehabilitators are not only detrimental to the wildlife, but also disruptive and costly to wildlife rehabilitators during the time of year when they most need to concentrate limited resources on truly orphaned or injured wildlife.

Just because Sunday creatures great and small pictures.

Ira! He’s pretty much completely shed his winter coat.


Sceloporus olivaceus, aka Texas Spiny Lizard. Actually, this was taken at the same intersection as the Ron Paul sign, just a day later. These are wonderful lizards, primarily found in trees or on roofs, getting up to a maximum of 11 inches in length. This one, about 8 inches, had a lot more color than I’ve seen on one before. I stopped to take his picture from the car, then a dude on a motorcycle stopped to wait for him to cross the road. We all three sat there for a bit till he skedaddled.


An —I think—Orange Sulphur.

Eyesore? I think not!

As noted before, I’ve allowed my spare lot to run rampant this spring, and while the thistles are, at chest-high, admittedly ungainly and unkempt, it’s like a Luby’s cafeteria after Sunday church out there! The patch is crowded with bees, their hind legs packed full of pollen, their buzzing audible from a distance, and I’ve simply lost count of the butterflies.bff

UPDATED: Speaking of bees, Eli is completely down with the bee-portage, here and here.

New monarch


Here’s a sample of the offspring of those battered and ragged travelers that arrived from Mexico during March and April: a large, perfect young Monarch.  Its estimated lifespan is possibly five to six weeks, likely much shorter.