Friday, February 17, 2017

Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count

News Release

Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird watchers around the world take part, February 17-20 
For release:  February 2, 2017

Bird watchers from around the world enjoy counting their birds and entering the GBBC photo contest. Photo by Ann Foster, Florida, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON—A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was held in 1998. Each year brings unwavering enthusiasm from the growing number of participants in this now-global event. The 20th annual GBBC is taking place February 17-20 in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches—anywhere you find birds.
Bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years.
“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success!” eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.
That first year, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2016. Over the four days of the count, an estimated 163,763 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists reporting 5,689 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.
“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” says Audubon vice president and chief scientist Gary Langham. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”
Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show many more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining further north than usual because they are finding open water. If that changes, these birds could move southward.

Bohemian Waxwing by A. Blomquist, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
Also noted are higher than usual numbers of Bohemian Waxwings in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. And while some winter finches have been spotted in the East, such as Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and a few Pine Grosbeaks, there seem to be no big irruptions so far. A few eye-catching Snowy Owls have been reported in the northern half of the United States.
Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s National Program Director, reminds participants in Canada and the U.S. to keep watch for snowies. He says, “The GBBC has done a terrific job of tracking irruptions of Snowy Owls southward over the past several years. We can’t predict what winter 2017 will bring, because Snowy Owl populations are so closely tied to unpredictable ‘cycles’ of lemmings in the Arctic. These cycles occur at intervals between two and six years.  Nevertheless, there are already reports of Snowy Owls as far south as Virginia.”
In addition to counting birds, the GBBC photo contest has also been a hit with participants since it was introduced in 2006. Since then, tens of thousands of stunning images have been submitted. For the 20th anniversary of the GBBC, the public is invited to vote for their favorite top photo from each of the past 11 years in a special album they will find on the GBBC website home page. Voting takes place during the four days of the GBBC.
Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at where downloadable instructions and an explanatory PowerPoint are available. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.
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Saturday, February 4, 2017


Wilson's Snipe

Well, once again we have survived January. Time for things to brighten up a bit. Before you know it; honey bees will be crawling over the Pussy willow catkins and crocus will pop from the snow. Yes, soon. Not quite yet; but soon. It will not be long before some trout will be going from near freezing water and in to the freezer. Yep, it will not be long. At least not as long as it has been.
We all know that it definitely isn’t a good idea to wander through life without any purpose. On the other hand it can be a good thing to do just a little bit every day. Our structured world doesn’t usually give us much free time. We need to take advantage of the time we are given. Wandering around a little bit every day without any worries can be very productive. We just need to allow ourselves to do it when the opportunity arises.
Have you ever taken time to notice that brown clump over there in the grass that seems to be out of place? Hmm, it seemed to move a little. Maybe you are just seeing things. The wind blows and it doesn’t move when the leaves around it does. Oh, it’s just a brown clump of something. Ever think about taking a closer look? Nah, too much trouble. Wonder why that blade of grass is moving back and forth while the ones surrounding it aren’t. Take a few aimless moments and go see. Its OK nobody will care. What is making those ripples in the water? You will never know unless you go look. It might be something good.
Some people work very hard all year so they can go to the store and buy food. Others work very hard all year long so they don’t have to go to the store and buy food. Neither are wrong; they just have different views about life. We are all in this together and we need to get along. Neither group will ever change. Nor is there any need to do so. None of us are ever going to be rich and we are all going to die. We need to take those precious aimless moments to make our lives more enjoyable. You’ll be glad you did; in the end.
Take the time to ride down that road you have never been down before. You might just find something good or you might just tear your fender off; like I did. But, you will never know unless you go. Find a quiet spot on your break and just sit and stare (not a your phone) you never know. You might just see something good. Learn to look and actually see, learn to listen and actually hear you will feel some fulfillment creeping in. You will become more aware of the real world. You will feel better and be happier, too. I can guarantee that.

The next time you have nothing to do try doing nothing but staring at your surroundings. You will see things that you didn’t know existed. You will find things that you would never have found if you take the time to do a little wandering without a purpose. I know I have.

This is my article for the February 2017 edition of Two-Lane Livin
(c) 2017 High Virginia Outdoors Photo (c) High Virginia Images ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Saturday, January 28, 2017

New U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy on lead fishing tackle blindsides
recreational fishing community

January 23, 2017 – Alexandria, VA – On the day before President Obama left office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an edict to phase out the use of traditional fishing tackle on the hundreds of thousands of square miles of public lands under its management.

Director’s Order No. 219 will, “require the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on Service lands, waters and facilities by January 2022, except as needed for law enforcement or health and safety uses, as provided for in policy.”

Scott Gudes, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the trade association that represents the recreational fishing industry, issued a statement of behalf of the industry.

“The sportfishing industry views this unilateral policy to ban lead fishing tackle, which was developed without any input from the industry, other angling organizations and state fish and wildlife agencies, as a complete disregard for the economic and social impact it will have on anglers and the recreational fishing industry,” said Gudes.

Gudes further said, “In the limited instances where lead fishing tackle is demonstrated to harm local wildlife populations, the sportfishing industry supports actions to minimize or eliminate these impacts. However, unnecessary and sweeping bans such as this Director’s Order will do nothing to benefit wildlife populations and instead will penalize the nation’s 46 million anglers and hurt recreational fishing-dependent jobs.”

Gudes concluded, “A sound, science-driven and durable policy could’ve been crafted with input from industry and the broader recreational fishing community. We are hopeful that new leadership at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will repeal this Director’s Order and develop public policy in a way that is open, inclusive and based on science.”

Monday, January 2, 2017


Once upon a time, long long ago I used to live in three distinct regions every year. I did that for quite a while, too. The worst part; other than packing and driving, was regional dialect adjustment. It usually took me a couple of weeks before I could understand the locals; wherever it may have been. My normal route would take me from Appalachian American to the Deep South and then to the salt marsh dialect of the Maryland and Virginia Eastern Shore. Major adjustment was needed with each stop.
One conversation that really stood out was a park ranger telling me about the zinc he put in his house. The best I could get out of what he was telling me was that he spent the weekend painting his bathroom or kitchen with zinc. My mind was trying to get sense out of the conversation and the best I could come up with was that maybe it was something people on the Eastern Shore did because of the marshy environment. I had him painting his walls and floor with some kind of zinc paint. I came to find out that all he had done was replace a kitchen sink. My ears were hearing one thing and my mind was trying to get something logical out of what I was hearing.
The Deep South never gave me as much trouble; except for certain words or phrases I had to figure out. One was the pronunciation of Albany, GA. One of the people I worked for pronounced it Al-BANE-EEE. I never could get used to that. The one bright spot I had during my time down there was that I worked with a Cajun from way south of New Orleans and he didn’t know what anyone was saying, either. We spent a lot of time trying to figure stuff out. I’m not even going to go into the Cajun stuff other than to say that I sure do not need the captions they show on Swamp People.
Our boss was a Florida cowboy, ex-professional bull rider who was highly excitable and had a sharp high pitched voice. His family had sold their orange groves and moved to Alabama when all the Yankees started taking over Florida. I think you are getting the picture, now. The Ragin Cajun & I are down there7 months out of the year trying to pick words out from a central Florida cowboy and a bunch of central Alabama residents; both Caucasian and African American. I know many of them thought we were complete idiots. The reality was we had to figure out what everyone was talking about; before we could react. The understanding would eventually come and as the years went on it got a bit easier. But, still the first week or so on new turf was usually fairly tough.
There was one word that we could never figure out and the cowboy used it in a phrase quite often. It was always preceded with That’s a and ended with one. We could never get that 3rd word. It became frustrating and was our inside joke. Every time he would say it; we would just grin and shrug. It could come out at any time, too You could be handling money, a car might pass by, a pretty girl might walk by and he would say it. I finally asked his brother; whose speech was slowed down a bit from falling off too many bulls. He said its Shiny (as in shiny new, new or pretty). Mystery solved.

I Hope You All Have A Shiny New Year

This is my January 2017 article for Two-Lane Livin (c) High Virginia Outdoors ALL Rights Reserved Photos (c) High Virginia Images                                                                              

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why We Go Look

Northern Pintail
I was sitting around this morning looking at my eBird tally for the year. It isn't bad but I missed several species this year. I had no terns, Sanderlings or Dunlins. Of course I had zero scoters (I use scoter repellant).
No Short-eared or Long-eared Owls. I missed Snow Buntings (twice) plus the Lapland Longspur. Missed the White-fronted Geese, too. In 2 states.
I figured the best chance for something I needed for the year was a Herring Gull or a Northern Pintail. six days left in the year, so not much chance of that happening, either.
Couldn't stand it. wet, dreary and boring. So, I decided to go to Elkins and get gas for some excitement. I rode through Glendale park hoping that maybe the White-fronted Geese flew down here. Nope, just a clump of Mallards. I looked one more time as I was driving out of the park and there it was amongst the Mallard mass..A lone Northern Pintail !! Yep, that is why we go and why we look. Even when we figure there isn't much use.

eBird 2016 — Year in review

American Tree Sparrow

eBird 2016 — Year in review

Masafuera Rayadito—one of the 20 new species added to eBird in 2016. Photo by Héctor Gutiérrez Guzmán/Macaulay Library.
2017 will mark the 15 year anniversary of eBird. In just a decade-and-a-half, the bird checklists that you have shared have helped make eBird the largest citizen science biodiversity project in the world. More than 1/3 million eBirders have submitted 370 million bird sightings, representing 10,313 species from every country in the world. We are continually humbled by the amazing power and passion of the birding community, and have nothing but excitement as we look to the future of what we can do together. As we compile this list of eBird’s achievements in 2016, we are reminded that these are all truly your achievements. It is your contributions that power this knowledge engine. Every time you go out and keep a list of birds you see, you’re making a real contribution to our understanding of the world’s ever-changing avian biodiversity.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Flexible Flyers & Shotgun Shells

Flexible Flyers & Shotgun Shells
I’m just sitting around thinking back to the times when trucks had gear shifts and roll up windows. Yes, you cranked the window up and down manually with your own power. You could even break the window loose from an icy grip; or break the window crank. How about actual brass keys? Remember them? See you’re not that old. Flexible Flyers now may be a little different. That is something that popped into my head today. Things tend to do that.
I do not know if they are still made. I doubt it. Metal runner sleds that you could steer a little and had no braking methods seem a bit risky for these times. Sand those runners off and rub some paraffin wax on and see how fast you could go. Down the middle of the road!! Yeah, not anymore. Remember those waffled cotton insulated” underwear? I sure hope you don’t still have some of those atrocious things stuck in a drawer somewhere. Take those frozen pants off and stand them in the corner beside the wood stove. Yep, frozen up to your zipper. Stand on their own; until they melted into a soggy clump. Fun wasn’t it?
Have you ever gotten a box of shotgun shells under the Christmas tree? Can you smell the aroma of a freshly opened box? I liked the Peters True Blues. I think they smelled the best. They were pretty, too. How about a Model 37 to go with the shells? Bringing back any memories? That is what the Christmas Season is all about. It was a time when families made their own decorations. We hadn’t even heard of Sri Lanka, yet.
Take a few moments to reflect back in time. Just think about the trouble your parents and grandparents went through to get you something special. They had to either search or create. There was no one-click shopping. Yes, times have changed and it has been a quick process in the grand scheme of things. I’m really not sure that it is for the better, either. We shall see.
There are two things that cannot be taken away from us. Those are memories and knowledge/. These are also two things that can be shared and passed on without any expense. Think for a few seconds and you will come up with something that you are glad you know today that was a gift given to you by someone you thought was being facetious at the time. Probably made you mad, too. Aren’t you glad they spent those few seconds on you?

We have all acquired knowledge over time. Things are stored somewhere on our heads. We can help and learn from everyone around us. Sharing knowledge freely to create memories for others seems to me as if it is something we all should be doing. The problem with our busy world that consumes us is that we don’t think we have time for the simple things in life. You do have the time if you take it and you will be glad you did. Give the gift of knowledge and create some memories; enjoy the simple things, slow down and live. Merry Christmas

This is my December 2016 Article for Two-lane Livin (c)2016 High Virginia Outdoors
Photo (C) High Virginia Images All Rights Reserved