Monday, September 27, 2010

Breakfast with Pete Dunne



Spending time in the field with Pete Dunne, the director of the Cape May Bird Observatory in Cape May, N.J., makes a good birder realize just how inadequate he or she is.

Rosann Kovalcik, owner of the Grosse Pointe Woods Wild Birds Unlimited Store, and Bill Rapai, president of Grosse Pointe Audubon, recently ate breakfast and spent time in the field with Dunne at the Kalamazoo Nature Center on Saturday, Sept. 11, and were wowed by his identification skills. Standing in a field near the nature center’s bird banding station, Dunne was able to identify a black-and-white warbler in flight, while the only thing all the other birders could see was a black silhouette against a leaden gray sky.

Dunne has taken bird identification to a new level by considering a bird’s shape and flight pattern in addition to its plumage. He was able to identify the black-and-white warbler by its shape and length of wings relative to its body size. Dunne says many birders still rely on 19th century identification skills that rely on plumage alone. He urges all birders to improve their skills by learning birds’ flight patterns and shapes. He adds that The Sibley Guide to Birds is the first field guide to include accurate information on shape and flight pattern, aspects that had been ignored in previous identification guides that relied upon plumage alone.

Still, Dunne is modest about his skills. He readily admits he has much to learn and, yes, has been known to make a bad call on bird identification.

Dunne visited the Kalamazoo Nature Center as part if its 50th Anniversary Celebration. He gave a speech at a fund-raising dinner and spent time in the field with birders the following morning. During an in-hand examination of birds that had just been banded, the birders got a sense of Dunne’s dry humor when he referred to a blackpoll warbler “vermin.” That’s because at Cape May, Dunne can see hundreds if not thousands in fall migration when a storm blows the migrating birds into shore off the Atlantic Ocean.

Dunne, who is also an author, signed books and posed for photos with participants. Dunne also writes the “Birder At Large” column in Birder’s World magazine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall 2010 Programs

Here's the schedule of Grosse Pointe Audubon programs for the fall:

Sept. 20 –“The Uncommon Loon”
Presented by Jeff Lange
Jeff Lange filmed and produced a movie that follows a northern Michigan loon family through a nesting season. Jeff will visit us all the way from Petoskey to narrate the film and answer questions afterward.

Oct. 18 – “Galloping through the Galapagos and Mainland Ecuador”
Grosse Pointe Audubon’s own Mike and Judy Florian will share their adventures on their trip to the amazing Galapagos Islands and Ecuador. Highlights will include their boat trip to the Galapagos Islands, as well as birding on mainland Ecuador. Mike will share his many photographs of the birds and other wildlife observed on this wonderful trip.

Nov. 15 – “Birds, Mammals, People and Places of Southern Africa”
Presented by Barb Baldinger
Travel with us to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa. Some of the places we'll visit are the waterholes of Etosha National Park, the Caprivi Strip, the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, Liwonde National Park and we'll see a colony of African Penguins near Cape Town, South Africa. Bring a friend and join us on this birding safari.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

GP Audubon makes recycling pay!

Grosse Pointe Audubon recently received a check for more than $200 from a California firm that takes the ink cartridges and old cell phones that we have sent them.

Keep collecting those HP and Epson ink cartridges, and bring them to our first meeting of the fall, Sept. 20. Or you can drop your stuff off at Wild Birds Unlimited in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Woods wins second-straight Birding Challenge

In a record-setting day, the Grosse Pointe Woods team of Rosann Kovalcik and Martin Blagdurn braved the rain to win their second straight Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge by a wide margin on Saturday, May 22.

Kovalcik and Blagdurn recorded 67 species of birds for a total of 89 points. The second place team, Mike and Judy Florian of Grosse Pointe Park, recorded 44 species for a total of 70 points. The Grosse Pointe Farms team of Mark O’Keefe recorded 42 species for 45 points, while the Grosse Pointe City team of Bill Rapai recorded 32 species for 34 points. A team receives one point for each species of bird it sees, plus one additional point for each species of bird that it records exclusively. Each team receives five points for seeing the annual “bonus bird,” which this year was the Yellow Warbler.

The competition is sponsored by Grosse Pointe Audubon, and the rules are simple. Teams have between 5 a.m. and noon to record as many bird species as possible within the boundaries of their respective cities. The teams gather at a predetermined spot at noon sharp, and a team is docked one species for each minute they are late. The challenge was started in 2005 as a fun competition among members. The winning team has possession of the Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge trophy for a year.

The Woods team not only stomped the competition this year, they bettered their 2009 total by 24 points. The team found many of their birds in the city’s Lake Front Park, where they sighted three species of tern (Caspian, Common and Forster’s) and five species of swallow (Rough-winged, Bank, Cliff, Barn and Tree). In a perfectly legal move, they recorded Cliff Swallow flying above the parking lot of a St. Clair Shores strip mall at Marter and Jefferson while standing the northwest corner of Lake Front Park.

Altogether, the four teams found 79 species of birds in the Grosse Pointes. The two biggest surprises of the day were pleasant and disappointing. A Northern Waterthrush, recorded in Grosse Pointe Farms by O’Keefe, was a great find, but none of the teams were able to find a Carolina Wren.

The sixth annual competition has been set for May 21, 2010.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Red-headed Woodpeckers at the Ford House


Two Red-headed Woodpeckers have been seen at the Ford House since Friday, and by the looks of it, they might be setting up the nursery. On Friday it appeared that they were searching for nesting cavities and on Sunday, it was reported that they were, um, consummating their relationship. This is important because this species of woodpecker is in serious decline due to competition for nesting sites from the European Starling. (Of course, there are plenty of those at the Ford House...)

Now, just because these two were seen consummating their relationship it does not necessarily mean that we should be passing out cigars. These two birds may yet find the area unacceptable and move on. I'm willing to bet, however, that if these birds are still here in the second week of May they will attempt to nest on the grounds of the Ford House.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rules for the 2012 Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge

Join us on Monday, May 14, for the seventh annual Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge. Teams from each of the five Grosse Pointes will be spreading out across their communities to count as many bird species as possible. The team that gets the most points at the end of the competition wins.

The rules are pretty simple:

1. The competition starts at 5 a.m.

2. The Ford House is off limits -- too easy.

3. We're on the honor system. Nevertheless, claims of extremely rare birds will likely be challenged by the other competitors. You may be asked to provide proof.

4. The bonus bird this year is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

5. Meet at Panera Bread in the Village in Grosse Pointe at noon sharp to tabulate. Each team will receive one point for every species they see. You will receive one extra point for any species you see that no other team sees. The bonus bird is worth five points.

6. Be on time for the tabulation. One point will be deducted for each minute you are late.

7. All decisions of the Commissioner of the Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge are final and are not reviewable by a court of law or by congressional committee.

Non-Grosse Pointe residents are welcome. Sign up for a team at our April 16 meeting. Good luck!

Spring Newsletter

Spring 2010 Newsletter

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Asian Adventures: Ornithological Discoveries and Rediscoveries"


Grosse Pointe Audubon has hosted lots of great speakers and interesting people, but on Monday, April 19, we're going to be visited by an absolute superstar in the ornithological world. Pam Rasmussen, assistant curator at the Michigan State University Museum and assistant professor in the MSU Department of Zoology, will present "Asian Adventures: Ornithological Discoveries and Rediscoveries". Rasmussen will recount stories of her involvement in the descriptions of five bird species new to science and the rediscoveries and taxonomic re-evaluations of three others thought possibly extinct. One of the birds she re-discovered, the critically endangered forest owlet, is pictured above in an 1891 painting.

Rasmussen is co-author of "Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide" and is a member of the American Ornithologists Union's Committee on Classification & Nomenclature.

As always, social hour starts at 7 p.m., and the meeting starts at 7:30. This meeting is free and open to the public.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring at last!

Significantly warmer weather has ushered the first migrating birds into Grosse Pointe over the past week. Red-winged Blackbirds are already staking out territories along the Lake St. Clair shoreline, Common Grackles are dominating the feeders, Killdeer plovers are crying their names and Song Sparrows are singing happily. It's not too early to be thinking about butterflies, either. The first hibernating butterflies -- Mourning Cloak and Eastern Commas -- should be emerging in this warmer weather. It's also time to monitor the migration of the Monarch Butterflies from their winter home in Mexico. For more information see: http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/index.htm .

Grosse Pointe Audubon will be holding is monthly meeting on Monday, March 15. The speaker that night will be Mike Fitzpatrick, who will present, "A Closer Look At Whitefish Point."

Finally, the date for the 2010 Grosse Pointe Birding Challenge has been set. We've had to juggle a little to accommodate everybody, but join us on Saturday, May 22, for this fun day of competitive birding. More information and rules will follow in the spring newsletter.

Friday, January 15, 2010