Friday, February 14, 2014

An Illustred Life List: American Crow

I love watching crows, especially in the winter time.  Last week I saw a group of crows seemingly playing in the fresh snow while driving to work along Victor Memorial Parkway in Minneapolis.  Some of them were perched on a very skinny branch that hanging almost vertically, others were in the snow below.  They were very active with their cawing and flapping.  Maybe there was something good to eat under the snow.  Maybe they were just having fun.

Corvid quiz: name three species of birds that could be easily misidentified as an American Crow in North America, and name a state or province were they would be found.  This is a closed book (physically and virtually speaking) quiz. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Illustrated Life List: Long-eared Owl

I've avoided birding posts for most of the life of this blog - mainly because I thought it would distract from my main goal of learning more about mushroom identification, and because I didn't really think I'd have much to add to the multitude of excellent websites already in existence.  But this blog has, of course, evolved, so I think it is time to open up it up to the world of birds and birding.  After all, birding was my first love (in a temporal way, not numerically - Sara, Naomi and Adele come first, and maybe even a good bowl of spicy noodles is higher on the list than birds).

I thought I would spend some time posting about my life list.  Yawn, you are probably saying, we don't really care.  But my life list has always been more than a list or scorecard.  Many of my life's major events, travels, and tribulations have been recorded and entered with a particular bird in the journal form of my life list (for the record I have three versions: a homemade, taxonomically ordered list, the journal version, and a copy of The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World).

I've thought for awhile that an illustrated life list would be pretty cool.  And usually in February I get a little list crazy and plan an improbable trip to some exotic and warm location in the world - but instead go further north and drive up to the North Shore or Sax-Zim Bog in the hopes of adding a boreal forest inhabiting bird to my list (last year I saw a Boreal Owl!).  But for a variety of reasons I haven't had a chance to make any trips this year; and it's been so cold this year that I've barely been out to search for potential new life listers more locally . . . such as Long-eared Owls.

I've never seen one.  It's one of the top birds one my nemesis list.  Perhaps this post should be titled An Illustrated List of Birds I Really Want On My Life List.  They are a difficult bird to find in Minnesota; they are very nocturnal, secretive, well camouflaged, and seemingly sporadic in their choice of locations - which might the hardest part of finding one.  It's probably the bird I've spent the most time looking for, but haven't found, if such a thing could be quantized; maybe a better way to put it is that it's the bird I've spent the most time wishing and hoping to find, while out and about in the woods and fields.