Feathers on Friday

(I probably won’t have a Mammals on Monday post because I’ll be with my own mammals at our 4H beef club achievement day.)

On Tuesday afternoon on the first of two days of soaking rains, I saw this pair of Wilson’s Phalaropes,

Off to Long Point!

I just found out yesterday by email that I’ve been accepted to the one-week Young Ornithologists’ Workshop at the Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO) in Ontario, on Lake Erie. I’m so very excited and happy to have been selected, especially because only six young birders, ages 13 to 17, are chosen each year. The workshop is sponsored by the Doug Tarry Natural History Fund, and I just have to pay for my transportation to and from Hamilton or London.

I learned about the program last year through the Bird Studies Canada (BSC) website when I signed up for Project FeederWatch. Bird Studies Canada is the country’s national wild bird conservation organization. The Long Point Bird Observatory at Port Rowan, Ontario, was established in 1960 as a bird banding station and over the years grew to include not just local but also regionalnational, and even international programs, such as Project FeederWatch, Canada’s Christmas Bird Count, and the Baillie Birdathon. With the scope of the work and programs growing, LPBO was renamed Bird Studies Canada in 1998. The actual programs at Long Point work toward the conservation of local breeding and migratory birds and their habitats, and include everything from local school and community outreach programs to the Young Ornithologists’ Workshops. Since 1986, Long Point has been a United Nations World Biosphere Reserve.

The deadline for the application was April 30th, and until Friday I was waiting nervously. Along with the application form, I wrote two essays, one on why I would like to attend the workshop and the other on my favorite bird (I couldn’t choose just one so I wrote about the Hummingbird family), and also a letter of recommendation from the president of our naturalist society, who is the program head of Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation at the local college in town. I will probably turn both of my essays into posts next week.

I was so excited to get the acceptance email yesterday morning, but now an even longer wait will begin because the workshop isn’t until the beginning of August, from the 4th to 12th. I am very, very excited and hope to see many new birds while in Ontario. I’m looking forward to meeting other young birders and also all the workshops. The workshop focuses on training in field ornithology and other hands-on learning, which is terrific because these are things I can’t really learn around home. I’ve read and watched online videos about bird banding, and read artist Diana Sudyka’s Tiny Aviary blog posts about preparing specimens, but now I will have the chance to learn to do these things myself. We’ll be living and working at the Observatory’s Old Cut field station, and will also go on various excursions including the Tip of Long Point, weather permitting. You can see some wonderful photographs taken at Long Point in jormungund’s Flickr photostream.

Here is some more information about the workshop from the website: “Participants learn how to identify, age and sex birds, and to study their populations and behaviour. Careful and skilled instructors teach the secrets of bird handling and banding techniques, how to prepare specimens for scientific study, and an array of bird censusing techniques. Regular afternoon field trips are taken to places of biological interest within the internationally designated Long Point Biosphere Reserve. Evenings too are busy with slide presentations and nocturnal field work.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

The full name of the program is the Doug Tarry Bird Young Ornithologists’ Workshop, named for Mr. Tarry who was a humanitarian and naturalist. The workshop/natural history camp at the Long Point Bird Observatory was started in the 1970s and its goal is, as the BSC website writes, to “foster the development of ornithological interests in Canadian teenagers”.

I’m hoping my parents can drive me to Ontario, because I’d get to see so many more birds and maybe stop off at Point Pelee on the way home, but because we farm it’s hard to get away in August so I may have to fly.

If you’d like to see Long Point for yourself, here are some very good YouTube videos, all by Nathan Cox

Bird Banding at the Long Point Bird Observatory

Owl banding at the Long Point Bird Observatory

Long Point Marsh by month

Birding and Long Point, Part 1

Birding and Long Point, Part 2

Birding and Long Point, Part 3

Learning to Draw Birds

I’d like to get better at drawing birds, for better field sketches among other reasons. So I’ve been sketching some practice drawings, like the ones below.

My first sketch of a Black-capped Chickadee, I’m not sure if I will finish it,

A drawing of a male Purple Finch I haven’t finished yet,

I decided I needed some help, and started looking online for some book and blog suggestions, because we live about three hours away from the nearest city where I could find a class. I found some very good blog posts by John Muir Laws — including “Drawing Birds” — and then learned that Mr. Law has a book coming out in September, The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds to be published by Heyday Books, with a foreword by David Allen Sibley (whose bird drawings I like so much I have several of his posters in my room). It sounds wonderful and I can’t wait for it to be published.

Since that book won’t be out for several months, some other books about drawing birds I’ve been looking at are Drawing Birds with Colored Pencils by Kaaren Poole, and Drawing Birds by John Busby. I’m going to see if I can find them at the library so I can decide whether they would be worth buying. Mostly, I think, I need to practice and stop being afraid of drawing a bird even if the picture isn’t perfect. But I think a good book or two would be very helpful.

Do you have any suggestions for drawing birds, field sketching, or books or blog posts that could help me? Thank you!

Spring Birding

At 7:45 yesterday morning I went out for some birding, hoping to find some warblers and shorebirds.

I walked to the alkaline lake behind our house, only a five-minute walk away. On the way there I saw 10+ Tree Swallows, one pair of Barn Swallows, eight Savannah Sparrows, two Clay-colored Sparrows, four Black-billed Magpies, two Western Meadowlarks, a flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds, and one Yellow rumped Warbler.

When I got to the lake I saw two Green-winged Teals, four Northern Shovelers, two Lesser Yellowlegs and two Mallards. On one of the sandbars was a Semipalmated Plover, a life bird for me. It flew away to another sandbar and where there were two other Semipalmated Plovers. I tried to take a photo of them but my camera batteries were dead. I quickly ran to the house to grab new ones and ran back. I was very lucky that there were still there! Also with the plovers were three Baird’s Sandpipers, two Spotted Sandpipers, four American Avocets, one Solitary Sandpiper, and one Killdeer. When I got back to the house I looked at the feeders and saw a female American Goldfinch.

I had a very productive morning with lots of shorebirds, but a little low on warblers, so I hope to find some new warblers soon.

A Semipalmated Plover,

The Semipalmated Plover and Baird’s Sandpiper,

Can you see the plovers and sandpiper?

Two species of plovers,