Bird Banding Selfies

Bird Banders in the News Again!

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We caught a kingfisher! And I got to hold it! This is serious stuff. Hence the serious expression on my face.

Last week we had a group from the Martin Meylin Middle School (which is located somewhere in Pennsylvania) visit the banding station. They were such a great group! They were very engaged, and asked great questions. Continue reading

A Hike to Taggart Lake

On Sunday last week I decided to go for a short hike.

First though, I slept in til 8 a.m. (that’s super late for a bird bander, we normally wake up around 4 a.m.), then spent a leisurely morning over my coffee and Annie Proulx’s book Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2.

Annie Proulx

 

“They made a trip out to scout around. Mitchell was stunned by the beauty of the place, not the overphotographed jagsof  the Grand Tetons but the high prairie and the luminous yellow distance, which peased his sense of spatial arrangement. He felt as though he had stumbled into a landscape never before seen on the earth and at the same time that h had been transported to the ur-landscape before human beginnings. The mountains crouched at every horizon like dark sleeping animals, their backs whitened by snow. He trod on wildflowers, glistening quartz crystals, on agate and jade, brilliant lichens. The unfamiliar grasses vibrated with light, their incandescent stalks lighting the huge ground. Distance reduced a herd of cattle to a handful of tossed cloves. HIs heart squeezed in, and he wished for a celestial eraser to remove the fences, the crude houses, the one he bought included, from this place. Even the sinewy, braided currents of the wind, which made Eugenie irritable, pleased him.”

 

Man Crawling Out of Trees, in Bad Dirt by Annie Proulx

 (I apologize for the massive paragraph, but that’s how it was written in the book.)

 

After my coffee and reading, I headed out to Grand Teton National Park and the Taggart Lake Trailhead.

 

At first, the trail looked like this:

 

Grand Teton National Park Taggart Lake trail

Blue skies, sunny warm day, trail meandering through the aspens along a babbling stream, birds singing… eh, I guess it was okay.

 

I wore my usual hiking shoes:

 

Wyoming Grand Teton National Park

My trusty orange Crocs haven’t failed me yet!

 

I saw some flowers:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

 

Then, the trail looked like this:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

 

And then I was there:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

 

Taggart Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

 

It was such a nice day, I decided to hike on the mile and a half to Bradley Lake.

On the way, I saw a pine cone and some moss:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

I might have taken a number of moss/pine cone pictures. I also might have taken a number of fungi pictures, but unfortunately they didn’t end up looking nearly as cool on my computer as they did in real life. So if anyone wants a bad picture of a cool fungi on a tree, let me know. 

 

And I saw another pretty flower:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

 

However, after a short while the trail started to look like this:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

 

Good thing I wore my postholing Crocs:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming Crocs

 

The view through the trees of Bradley Lake looked like this:

Wyoming Grand Teton National Park

 

I wasn’t that impressed, and the trail was knee-deep in snow in some places, so I turned around.

And then I saw a marmot:

 

Grand Teton National Park marmot

I actually almost stepped on the marmot, who was about 2 inches off the trail. He/she/it was not at all concerned.

 

After the marmot excitement, I braved my way back through the snow to Taggart Lake, where I could kick back, snack on some carrots, and take in the view.

 

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

 

It was a pretty good day.

 

Jackson Wyoming

To commemorate the day, I took a selfie in front of this giant log. Definitely wasn’t trying to get the mountains in the background. Because who wants a picture in front of the Tetons when you can take your picture with this awesome log?

 

 

A Few Things That Make Me Happy

A Few Things That Make Me Happy

A List In No Particular Order

 

Anhinga, Everglades Natoinal Park, Florida

Anhingas also make me happy. Because they’re awesome. I mean, come on. Look at that eye makeup and hairdo.  Red eye, blue eye-liner, green eyeshadow, artfully disarrayed frosted spikes. Hotness. 
Everglades National Park, Florida

 



 

  • savoring a cup of tea while wrapped in a blanket in front of the woodstove.

cape breton highlands national park

Or savoring a cup of tea while sitting on a rocky beach in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, because you don’t have any pictures of leisurely tea drinking by the woodstove.


  • waking, realizing there is no real reason to be up yet, and staying in bed, eyes closed, half awake/half asleep, dreaming.

Memorial Day in the Mountains

Camping up on Black Balsam, in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina.


  • the smell of walking through a pine forest in the cool  just after dawn.

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest Oregon

H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon. I took this in May 2010. If I recall correctly, it rained pretty much the entire three months I was in Oregon.


  • the sound of woodpeckers tapping and hammering on branches.

red-cockaded woodpecker Carolina Sandhills NWR

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Carolina Sandhills NWR, South Carolina. I spent a great deal of time chasing them around in the woods. It was fun. Other than the chiggers and the poison oak.


  • getting sucked into a good book for hours, and only coming up for air when you desperately have to pee. Or eat.

Galapagos Islands lava gull

This has nothing to do with reading a good book, but surprisingly I don’t have any pictures of me reading. So here’s a picture I took of a Lava Gull and chick in the Galapagos Islands back in 2008. The adult is in breeding plumage, which is why it has the red eye-ring. And, it’s eye is closed. It’s napping. Parenting is exhausting, from what I hear.


  • having progressively logically ridiculous conversations, that are in turns creative, silly, and in a strange way logical.

Like planning our post-apocalyptic commune, or our skunk ape/NASA/unicorn conspiracy theory, or pretty much any time Meghan, Patrick, and I opened our mouths.

 

Dave Shealy's Gorilla Supplier

Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, Ochopee, Florida. Based on the drawings (which are based on a first-person description from someone who wasn’t the artist) in the “Skunk Ape Research Handbook,” that is totally a gorilla statue, not a skunk ape.


  • the smell of a rock wall, on the 2nd or 3rd pitch of a multi-pitch route.

 

Rock Climbing Utah

Climbing Castleton Tower with Max. I recommend climbing desert towers with someone who doesn’t say, “You know, if this tower fell over we’d be screwed” as you reach the belay on the 3rd  of 4 pitches. Near Moab, Utah.


  • singing along as loud as I please to a good song on the radio.

everglades national park, florida

Thankfully I have no pictures of myself singing, so here’s another cool bird picture (you can never have too many). This is a Purple Gallinule, a sweet bird that lives in Florida. They live other places too, but this one lives in Everglades National Park. Well, that’s where I saw it. Maybe it was just on vacation.


  • snuggling with my dog in my tiny bed

I prefer blonds in my bed

Extra happiness: snuggling with both a dog and a cat. All those blond pet hairs covering your person and clothing are just pet love stuck all over everything in your life.


  • riding my mountain bike down Game Creek trail, where I discovered one of the meanings of the world “exultation.”

Jackson Wyoming

One of the many beaver ponds along the trail. Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming.


And here’s a video of what is probably a Ruffed Grouse on Game Creek. It’s a good thing I ride slow, otherwise I might have run it over. These birds could definitely use some street-smarts.

Look both ways before you cross RUGR!

Kids (and Grownups) Say the Darndest Things

I spent last summer in Wyoming, where I was working with the Teton Science Schools to band birds. I won’t go into too much about what that entailed, but see Bird Banding With the Teton Science Schools; What Is A Mist Net?; How To Catch A Bird in A Mist Net; and Feathered Friday Article for more details.

Sometimes we would have visitors to our banding stations, educational groups made up of school-aged children and/or adults. It was great fun, sharing all the birds we caught with them, and hopefully passing on some of the passion that we all have for nature and birds. I’m going back again this May, and am very much looking forward to it. Songbirds and the Tetons, what more could one possibly want in a summer?

However…

Sometimes people say some, shall we say, interesting things.

I’d written down some of these gems, and then forgotten about them. To stumble upon them now brings back all sorts of wonderful memories of summer in the Tetons. I can’t say I dislike winter in Colorado, but it’s not quite the same. There’s a little more snow, for one. And it’s slightly colder. Like, I don’t know, maybe by 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit or so (my car told me it was negative 9 here in Boulder last week when I got up to go climbing at 6 a.m. Yeah, I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea either. At least it was inside. Climbing and birds are two of the only things I’m willing to wake up that early for). Though the snow did stick around up in the mountains fairly late into the summer last year.

The Flatirons are awesome, but it’s hard to beat the Tetons. I mean, come on. They’re the Tetons.

Jackson Wyoming

My first view of the Tetons last May.

People Say the Darndest Things:

Bird Banding Edition

  • The kid who kept insisting that they were “Warbling Videos” and “Cheddar Waxwings.”

I said, it’s “Vir-e-o,” there’s no ‘d,’ and “Ce-dar,” like the tree, not “Ched-dar” like the cheese. He insisted I was wrong. First time it was cute. Second, third, fourth, etc. times, not so much. He just would not let it go, and wasn’t willing to be corrected.

Jackson Wyoming Teton Science School

Cheddar Waxwing… or a Cedar Waxwing. Whichever you prefer.

Yeah, okay kid. You’re right, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about, and probably can’t read properly either. It’s not like I majored in both zoology and English or anything.

Warbling Vireo_565x461

A Warbling Video (not a Warbling Vireo, as the rest of the ornithological community seems to think).

  • “Look, I can make your scale say Error!”

Definitely one of the worst things to hear someone say about your research equipment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was a little boy. We quickly went over (again) the no-touching policy. Again.

And then I said, in that fake-happy tone you quickly learn when working with children,  “Go look at the bird that Sarah has!” (translation: Get Away From My Equipment You Little Cretin).

bird banding scales and weigh tubes

One of the scales and a set of weighing tubes. We stick the birds, head down, in the tubes to weigh them. It’s pretty funny looking. Turns out though that I don’t have any good pictures. Sorry.

  • “So what is there to do around here other than climb and stuff?”

This was a question from a high school student (also male) visiting from Miami, Florida.

I responded to that one with a blank look.

I don’t understand the question. You’re in the Tetons. What else could you possibly want to do?

rock climbing jackson wyoming hoback shield

Bo crushing at Hoback Shield.

  • “Do birds get periods?”

This question came from one of the adult chaperones, because she noticed the rather red stains on some of the bird bags I was holding. A bit of explanation: After we remove the birds from the mist net, we place them in small cotton drawstring bags and securely close them in order to transport the birds safely to the banding station. This keeps the birds from hurting themselves, and from stressing out too much as we carry them back for processing.

The stains were in fact poop stains, because we had been catching a number of American Robins and Gray Catbirds that had been dining on organic locally fresh berries, and when birds get freaked out (as happens when they suddenly and unexplainedly find themselves caught in a mist net) they tend to void their bowels, either in our hands, or in the bags, or all over our log books, or any combination of those places. Or, if you’re extremely unfortunate, in a projectile way all over your face/in your eyes/mouth. Poor Sarah. I’ve never had bird poop in my eye, but I imagine it wouldn’t feel very good. Or be fun to clean off contacts.

Yes, it’s kinda gross, but you get used to being pooped on. Bird bags make excellent poop-wiping hankies, in case you were wondering. I can personally attest that whatever those berries are, they make an excellent dye, both on clothes and skin.

So no, birds don’t get periods. That’s a mammal thing, and birds, as you (hopefully) know, are not mammals. Those red stains are poop, not blood. Also, those stains are huge, and if a bird lost that much blood during the few minutes it was in the bird bag it’d probably be in trouble and I sure as heck wouldn’t be this nonchalant about it.

We take bird safety very seriously, and if there’s so much as a speck of blood on a bird, we notice and do what we can to stop the bleeding before releasing the bird. However, injuries are very rare, and less than 1% of all the birds we capture in our nets are injured. There have been a number of studies about bird safety, and if you want to read one of them there’s a link on my post What is a mist net?

bird banding Teton Science Schools

Bird bags. These have been freshly laundered, but note the permanent poop stains on the bottoms. After a while, bird poo just doesn’t come out in the laundry anymore.

  • “So who can tell me what this bird is?”

“Oooo, I know, I know, it’s a House Wren!”

“Um… actually, wrens are a little bit smaller, and they’re all brown and kind of mottled looking. This one has a few different colors. It’s actually an American Robin.”

This was an older woman, who was really excited to be out banding with us (she was practically bouncing up and down with excitement). I was worried that she would feel bad that I had to correct her, so I tried to be very nice about it. She didn’t mind at all, because she was just so thrilled to be out with us seeing the birds. It was sweet, and her energy was infectious. I loved having people out to the banding stations who were this excited about everything. Though I tend to be pretty even-keeled, this is how I feel about just about every bird I handle– jump-up-and-down-excited. I just hide it well. That, and it would startle the birds, so I reign it in.

In case you were wondering:

American Robins weigh about 77-85 grams, and are usually 7.9-11 inches long, with a wingspan of 12.2-15.7 inches. House Wrens weigh 10-12 grams, are usually 4.3-5.1 inches long, with a wingspan of 5.9 inches. There’s a bit of a size difference there…

Hatch Year American Robin Jackson WY_461x615

Hatch Year (aka baby) American Robin. Note the size in relation to my hand. However, this bird is the same size as a full-grown Robin. Once they fledge, or leave the nest, they are fully grown, and won’t get any bigger. They’ll just grown in different feathers.

Jackson Wyoming Teton Science School bird banding

A not-very-good picture of a House Wren. Again, note the size of the bird in relation to the hand (this time, it’s not my hand, because it would be quite a feat to take a picture with both of my hands occupied by bird).

  • “I’ll bet this metal pole will float.”

That gem is from my brother, while helping me take down nets after banding and apparently contemplating throwing one of the poles in the river. He’s got quite a number of these profound comments, which you can see if you follow the link above.

My dad says, “Yeah Eric, I’ll bet they would.”

My mom says, “Don’t encourage him!” to my dad.

I said, “Eric, if you throw that pole in the river you have to go fish it out, and then explain to Keegan (the crew lead) why the poles are all wet.”

spreading the net_461x615

Spreading the mist net out on the pole. See my blog post What Is A Mist Net? for more info.

And one more:

  • “I’ll bet you can’t carry all 20 mist net poles up to the van.”

Said Sarah, the banding educator, to Keegan, the crew lead, because it was the last day of banding and she didn’t want to carry any of the poles.

To which he replied, “I’ll bet I can.”

And he did.

Up from the riparian area down by Blacktail Ponds Overlook, which involves wading through a few streams and then climbing up a pretty steep, though short, embankment to the parking lot. From the banding site to the parking lot is maybe a 10 or 15 minute walk, through uneven terrain, carrying a heavy load of banding equipment in backpacks and these awkward poles.

I found this video someone took of the overlook (see link below). We had nets set in the first clump of willows you see on the right, and then in the willows to the left of the giant open area. Basically, we were scattered around between the camera viewpoint and the pines along the river. Not real sure why the video is 4 minutes long, but if you just watch the first minute or so you can get a good idea of what Blacktail Ponds looks like.

Tetons from the Blacktail Ponds Overlook video

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Watch out for the moose!

Mist net poles are metal electrical conduit pipes, which can be bought at Lowes or Home Depot (which I have done). They are 10 feet long, and not particularly heavy if you have only one or two, but they quickly start to hurt the shoulder after walking any sort of distance. My limit is 10, which I can only carry for a max of 15/20 minutes before I have to take a break (after which I have no desire to resume carrying said poles).

Also, it’s not at all easy to keep them all together if you have any more than 10: they start to go all over the place, like giant Pick-Up-Sticks. There’s a reason Pick-Up-Sticks aren’t 10 feet long and made out of metal.

After he successfully carried all the poles up to the van (and proved, definitively, that he is much more of a man than Sarah, Bo, or myself– who are all female), we stopped at Dairy Queen and bought him a Blizzard. It should be noted though that he did this before he knew we were going to buy his Blizzard, from which I have learned that if you start any request with the phrase “I’ll bet you can’t [task you don’t want to complete]” you can probably get a guy to do it for you.

Anyone who wants to be my designated pole-carryer this summer, I’ll pay you in Blizzards.

The King of Drama hiking in Death Canyon.

I’m guessing Eric isn’t going to be volunteering to carry my mist net poles any time soon. Especially considering that this picture was taken about a mile up the trail.

Christmas Field Guide

My new favorite website! Science comics by field naturalist Rosemary Mosco, who seems like a really awesome person and has made some really awesome nature comics. Hard to pick a favorite, since they’re all so great. I’ve spent the last few hours reading them all and then sending them to all of my friends. I love the combination of nature and art. 

One of the biggest problems, to me, is that many people expect scientists to do all the public outreach for their research subjects. Some scientists are great at outreach, but we can’t expect them all to be interested in public relations, or to have the time for it! I think there should be more go-betweens — people called “science communicators” — who can help both sides. And art can play a part in making science clear to laypeople.”

– from an interview with Rosemary Mosco on The Birdist

This is exactly what I want to do (and what I’m currently applying to graduate school to do), only with words instead of art. Like with some of my animal poems. Yay for science communication!

One of my friends posted one of Rosemary’s comics on Facebook (bird sound mnemonics), which is how I have just now discovered this site. It’s fantastic! Check it out: 

bird and moon

And in honor of the upcoming holiday season, here is a handy-dandy field guide you should probably print out and keep in your pocket for easy reference. 

What messages do you try to focus on in your comics?

Hmm.

1. Nature is infinitely complicated.

2. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be funny and heartwarming.

3. So we should take care of it.

another excerpt from an interview with Speaking of Science. 

Black Vulture

everglades florida

Everglades National Park, Florida. 2009.

I have no doubt that one day I will be an old black vulture, my face a mass of wrinkles and sparse hair. I will sun myself along the boardwalk, and stare down anyone who gets too close. My walk, ungainly, slow, will take me along. I will pick apart dead things, old things, the decaying bits of conversation no one else wants. Those will be left for me, to have my way with. I will stare death in the face and not blink, I will circle it, be drawn to it, draw life from it.

It is how we gather, all of us, drawn together to bring life from death. To consume death, and become stronger because of it.

Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue Fundraiser

Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue Fundraiser

Hey everyone~

As you might have known from my previous post Max Seigal Photography, I’m good friends (I’d even go as far as to say best friends) with Max Seigal, who takes epic pictures. Seriously, they’re epic– check them out.

If you’d like:

1) the chance to honor Max’s mom Alice, a veterinarian in Boulder, Colorado and all-around amazing woman, who passed away in October,

2) to support the Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue,  and specifically a dog named Coco Puff who needs cataract surgery, and

3) the chance to win one of Max’s pictures (makes the perfect Christmas present!), then check out this Facebook link:

 

Post by Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue.

For only $10 you can be entered into a drawing to win one of Max’s pictures. There’s no limit to the number of tickets you can purchase. The RMCR is trying to raise $4,000 to pay for cataract surgery for one of their dogs, Coco Puff.
(Click on the link, or the picture of CoCo Puff below to read more about him). 

Rocky Mountain Cocker Rescue

To purchase tickets, write a check payable to:

RMCR, c/o Shannon Matthews, 2138 Doris Court, Loveland CO 80537.

You will be sent a receipt with your ticket(s).The winner will be announced Sunday, December 8th via email, and also posted on the RMCR Facebook page and RMCR website. Said lucky winner will receive a promo code to use on Max’s site for the 20×30 print of their choice, on either paper or metal (go for the metal– they look fantastic, don’t need to be framed, are much lighter than a traditionally framed picture of that size– no glass!, and are quite durable and easy to clean).

If you need any help selecting your photo, I’d be happy to make recommendations. My first recommendation is this: buy a couple tickets, and then go over to his site and buy a few pictures. One Max Seigal photograph is pretty sweet, but two (or more!) is even better.

 nature and wilderness photography

Max Seigal Photography

Hey Everybody!

My good friend Max Seigal has a new photography website, which everyone and their dog (and other pets) should be checking out right this instant! Here’s the link (I’ll make it real big so you can’t miss it):

Max Seigal Photography

 

Max and I have known each other since college: classmates, friends, rock climbing partners, travel buddies… ah, what memories (some, like the time I indirectly puked on his foot, or when we trekked up to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal, are more epic than others). I’ve been along on many of his photography trips, and have slept through a number of his award-winning shots, including the lightning strike at False Kiva (the first picture you see on his website. I wrote about it here: The eyes of this place). It’s hard to stay awake at night when you have to sit in the dark for long periods of time. He was worried that we were going to get struck by lightning, or soaked to the bone in the pouring down rain. I sat up, remember saying, “Oh look, that’s some big lightning,” and then immediately fell right back asleep. My mom did always used to say that you could send a marching band through my room and I wouldn’t wake up.

IMAG0939_615x348

Myself and Max, about to chow down on some delicious quesadillas in Moab, Utah.

I’m also asleep just out of the frame on the left in his self-portrait at Delicate Arch with the Milky Way (in both Personal Favorites and Night Shots). I tucked myself out of the way behind a rock, determined to sit there and enjoy the night sky. It was cold, so I had brought a down sleeping bag to sit in, and, well, when I’m warm and tired and it’s dark I tend to fall asleep. Max actually didn’t even know where I was, and had to call out for me a few times so I didn’t get left behind.

I also almost got lost trying to get out to the Arch that night (actually, I believe it was technically early morning), because my headlamp battery was dying, and I could only see in a 1 foot circle around my feet. Which isn’t so bad when you’re on a trail, but once you’re on slick rock and relying on rock cairns to direct you, it gets a bit trickier. There were a few moments I thought about just sitting down and waiting for Max to come find me once he was done taking pictures. Luckily, I’ve been out to Delicate Arch a number of times, and was fairly familiar with the trail. And, another photographer had left some glow-sticks at a few strategic points along the trail, which helped.

IMAG0836_615x348

Hiking the Narrows, in Zion National Park, with a bum foot. I think the freezing-cold water actually helped, because I went numb from the upper-thigh down.

He’d left me behind, as usual, because he was in a hurry to get up there and start taking pictures, I had to use the outhouse before I left, and I had badly sprained my foot just before we left on our trip and couldn’t really walk very well. In hindsight, I probably should have just stayed in the car. I should have also probably gone to the doctors and had it checked out, but we Smiths tend to follow the “walk it off” recovery method. Which could explain why my knee, which I dislocated a few years ago, still bothers me every once in a while (after my kneecap eventually popped back into place, it didn’t hurt as bad so I just kept working).

Well, while I reconsider my health/injury decision making, make sure you look at Max’s fantastic photographs! I shall include the link here again, so you don’t have to scroll up to the top of the page to find it:

Max Seigal Photography

Happy Picture Perusing!

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Joby, myself, and Max, enjoying breakfast on the trek up to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. The porters and other people we met along the trail all got a kick out of our sweet hats.

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”: the Owl Version

You may have heard the Daft Punk song “Get Lucky.” If not, here’s a Youtube video:

I enjoy this song, and find it very catchy. I also enjoy those snazzy sequin suit jackets they’re all sporting. Classy. However, I think they got the lyrics wrong. It’s pretty good as-is, but there’s a better way. One involving birds (therefore of course it’s better— see Portlandia- Put A Bird On It).

Here are the original lyrics, as best as I can figure. There is some discrepancy between the different sources I consulted during a quick Google search. Pharrell needs to learn to enunciate properly, then we wouldn’t have this problem. And what’s with the hand in the pocket in the video? Get your hand out of your pants, it looks weird.

“Get Lucky” (original version)

(first verse)

Like the legend of the phoenix

All ends with beginnings

What keeps the planet spinning

The force from the beginning

(bridge)

We’ve come too far to give up who we are

So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars

(chorus)

She’s up all night ’til the sun

I’m up all night to get some

She’s up all night for good fun

I’m up all night to get lucky

(repeat multiple times, changing the “I’m up all night…” to “We’re up all night…”)

(second verse)

The present has no ribbon (or possibly rhythm)

Your gift keeps on giving

What is this I’m feeling?

If you wanna leave I’m with it

(repeat the part about cups, then repeat the chorus a gazillion times. It’s a pretty simple song as far as lyrics go).

so cute_461x588

Why stay up all night if there are no owls involved?

Phoenixes, cups, presents, ribbons, all well and good. But owls? Better.

The first time I heard this song I didn’t really listen to the words of the two verses, just the chorus: “She’s up all night to the sun/ I’m up all night to get some…” Obviously, I thought, they’re talking about owl banding. Why else would you stay “up all night til the sun” unless you were catching owls?

So I rewrote the lyrics. Someone had to.

I used saw-whets in this version, as they are the only owls I have experience banding (and therefore the only ones I have decent pictures of), but I’m sure we could easily modify for other species.

“Get Lucky” (saw-whet version)

(first verse)

i am not happy right now_480x461

We are not amused.

We’re gonna catch some saw-whets

They’ll fly into our mist nets

And then we’re gonna band them

To study their population

(bridge)

They’ve flown so far to get to where they are

So let’s raise our nets and our poles to the stars

(chorus)

We’re up all night to the sun

We’re up all night to catch some

We’re up all night for good fun

We’re up all night to catch saw-whets

another saw whet_615x461

Bonding time.

(second verse)

Now hold your wing out lightly

I’ll shine my black light brightly*

What is this I’m seein?

Got my data, now you’re leavin’

(repeat bridge, which I am too lazy to type out again)

(repeat chorus)

*biologists use UV light (a black light) to age saw-whets based on molt pattern (the way their feathers have grown, and how old they are). They do this by looking at the underside of their wings. Young birds will have pinkish-looking feathers, and older birds will have a combo of pinkish and whitish feathers. Check out the McGill Bird Observatory’s Northern Saw-whet Owl banding page for more information and pictures.

trying to fly_614x461

What does an owl with an attitude have?
A scowl!

And here’s one more bad owl joke to send you on your way:

What do you call an owl with a sore throat? 

A bird that doesn’t give a hoot!

All pictures were taken in 2011 while banding in Presque Isle State Park, Erie Pennsylvania. 

Wildlife Linkspam for Your Reading Pleasure

If you haven’t been reading Rebecca’s nature blog, Rebecca In The Woods,  you should be! She’s a fantastic writer, and always has interesting observations about the natural world. She also has a link to my Cuteness Scale Poll, which if you haven’t taken yet you should! I’ve only had 12 people take it so far, I’m shooting for a much larger sample size before I start doing any stats. We need significant numbers here people, so let’s go!

And in the meantime, also check out Rebecca’s blog. Makes for some great reading!

Rebecca Heisman

It’s that time again – time for one of my irregular collections of wildlife and conservation links from around the web that have caught my eye. Bird-heavy, as always. Enjoy.

  • In Praise of Boring, Local Field Sites. This one brought back fond memories of doing my senior research project at my undergrad college’s nature preserve, a patch of unremarkable second-growth forest that I really loved.
  • Another post that brought back undergrad memories: turacos are a really cool group of African birds, and the only birds in the world with genuine green pigment (the reason we talked about them in ornithology class).
  • I freaking love antlions, and the melodramatic sound effects in this close-up video of one trapping and killing an ant are fantastic.
  • Remember I lived in Wisconsin until this June? They had their first wolf hunt last year. It was supposed to increase public tolerance of wolves. It…

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