Friday, December 18, 2009

Twas the night before Christmas.......

To continue this holiday poem tale, here's another poem I came across a couple years back thanks to an inquiry on a listserve.  Thanks to Sean Conrad for sending this my way.  Enjoy!

Twas the Night Before Christmas 
(Bird Count that is) 
by Henry Lappen, Amherst, Massachusetts 
 'Twas the night before Christmas (count that is) 
           when all through the dark 
   not a creature was stirring 
           not even a lark. 


The stockings were hung 
        on their feet with care 
   in hopes that real frostbite 
           would not settle there. 

   The birders were quiet 
           listening for owls 
   filled up with coffee 
           which gurgled their bowels. 

   And Jan in her kerchief 
           and Scott in his cap 
   were straining their ears 
           to hear any yap. 

   When out in the field 
           there arose such a clatter 
   we sprang from the forest 
           to see what was aflutter. 

   When what to our wondering 
           eyes should appear 
   but a miniature flock 
           of eight tiny Killdeer. 

   I got out my camera 
           lively and quick,  
   I knew in a moment 
           I must have a pic. 

   More rapid than eagles 
           the birders all came 
   and they whistled and shouted 
           each calling a name. 

   They're buntings. No, warblers.  
           They're swallows. No, grouse.  
   They're Mallards. No, nightjars.  
           Or maybe titmouse. 

   To the tops of the trees 
           the birds flew away all.  
   Oh dash it! Oh darn it!  
           Did you hear a call? 

   As varied opinions that before 
           no proof will fly 
   the arguments of birders 
           will mount to the sky. 

   They're sparrows. No, bobwhites.  
           No, alcids. You dolt:  
   They were Black-headed Gulls 
           in second-year molt. 

   And then in a twinkle 
           we heard from the air 
   a trilling or chirping 
           or something unclear. 

   As we drew in our heads 
           and were turning around 
   down to the clearing 
           they came with a sound. 

   They were all dressed in feathers 
           from head to their foot,  
   they were dark as if tarnished 
           with ashes and soot. 

   A bundle of speckles 
           they had on their breast 
   their belly and shoulders 
           but not on the rest. 

   Their eyes-how they twinkled,  
           their mandibles-how pale.  
   Their cheek patches brownish,  
           not much of a tail. 

   Their dull little coverts 
           were brown like the wing 
   and their backs and their heads.  
           They had no eye ring. 

   They were chubby and plump 
           all filled up with berries 
   and also from composted 
           maraschino cherries. 

   A wink of an eye 
           and a twist of a head 
   soon gave us to know 
           we had something to dread. 

   They sprang to the air 
           to our team gave a whistle 
   that sounded as raucous 
           as an incoming missile. 

   But we heard them exclaim 
           e'er they flew out of sight 
   many starlings to all 
           and to all a good flight! 

Two nights before Bird Counts

The following poem was composed and posted to the Minnesota bird listserve a few years back by Roger Schroeder. 
It is one of my favorite Christmas bird count period pieces and helps describe how difficult it can be to decide where to go each year.  I have reposted it here (as I do somewhere every year). I hope you enjoy it. :D  

Two Nights Before Bird Counts-- by Roger Schroeder 

Two Nights before bird counts And I'm, wide awake;
Been tossing and turning Since a quarter past eight.
The birds and the places have my heart full of cheer
But I just can't decide who to help out this year
A Snowy Owl turned up in the County of Murray.
Now Janet is hoping the bird does not scurry.
She's trying to get in place a good team
So Audubon accepts this count with more glee
Gray Jays are flooding in to the northwest
For DL and Crookston that may be the best
Now, Tamarac and Warren may get them too
But how will I get to them all? WHAT TO DO?
But three! Not just one Gray-crowned Rosy Finch
Seem very reliable  - that may be a cinch
Though Carlton-Cloquet is across the whole state
And would mean a long drive after its already late
But darn it the Marshall Count's on the same day
 ( Maybe I'll pass it off and get far away. ) 
I've always wanted to help the count in Duluth 
 (I'd like to live there to tell you the truth)
Now what about those counts in the Southeast
that get titmice and eagles to the just the least
Winona, I think, would be a neat place to go
I'd rack up some new county birds then, you know.
La Crosse-La Crescent - one of my favorite locations
Consistently get waterfowl while on their migration
Then perhaps I could join Hockema on Rochester's count
Wait. That's the same day... that idea's out.
The Falls are quite scattered to travel by car
International, and Fergus might be just too far
Redwood is closer, Little I've done
(And I mean the location, the count there was fun!)
Oh how I long to bird all these great places 
That congregate together so many nice faces
Grand places like Rapids, and also Marais
(Places I'd also love to permanently stay)
Cook, and Mankato, and Itasca State Park
Owatonna, New Ulm, and Rice Lake NWR, 
Pine County, Long Prairie, Crosby, Battle Lake
Wild River and then Albert Lea - - heaven's sake!
I've already done Beltrami Island, and Big Stone
And know I can't make it to Ely by my own.
Aurora and Bemidji I'd both like to try
And want to get to Wabasha 'fore I die
New Year's day offers its set of challenges then
I want to try Pillager, and do Philbrook with Ben.
Mountain Lake-Windom is closer to Home,
But how I would love to again Baudette roam.
The vast metro area always turns up good birds 
Maybe for Northern Wright County this year's my turn.
Excelsior, Afton, Cedar Creek Bog, Hastings-Etter
The possibilities just get better and better.
One in Minneapolis - There's two in Saint Paul
How can I possibly get to them all!?!
There's more than 70 Christmas Bird Counts this year!
The choice will be difficult, that's perfectly clear.
WOW! The news from Bloomington is something to say!
Will that Slaty-backed Gull stick around two more days?
Austin that next day then might be it,
But that conflicts with Two Harbors, oh I quit!
Sorry, Dad, I can't cover your ground there in Hutch
For me, this list is growing way too much.
Willmar, Virginia, Sherburne NWR
Morris, just maybe, or Isabella by car.
I should help out the portions close by North Dakota;
Moorhead, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
Yet Fairmont and Roseau and Hibbing need help
as they all too often are stuck by themselves.
Sax-Zim, Faribault, and Henderson would be new.
But St. Cloud-Collegeville needs some help too.
How can there possibly be this many choices
Thirteen days could be filled with birds and their voices.
Now I'm getting stressed, and I'm losing sleep
This frantic a pace - although fun - I could not keep.
I suppose its the same old thing this year again
Lamberton, Cottonwood, and Lac qui Parle...
                                        ... with good friends.
Strange how we see each other but just once a year
Yet the room comes alive with refreshing new cheer.
Reliving the day, and the days that have gone by
Perhaps close to home are the best counts to try.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do YOU bird by GISS?

GISS, or jizz as it's sometimes called is a mnemonic for "General Impression of Size and Shape." 
It's a term that many birders use this term to describe the way they bird. However, is it truly what we use?   

This post at the Bell Tower birding blog offers some insightful comments as to what we really do:

Definitely one of the more interesting blog posts I've seen lately.  Enjoy! 

How would you like to win a free trip to Peru??

I'm not joking. Seriously.  Kolibri Expeditions out of Lima, Peru has pulled a massive PR stunt. They are offering 14 free places on 14 tours to Peru. Destinations are Manu and Carpish/Satipo Road. 

Check it out! 

It's an awesome offer! 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Robert Frost

I have been sort of suffering from writers' block recently. Ever time I go to post something, I get stuck, then distracted and never finish. I currently have a whole post about chasing Ivory Gulls that is still in the works, as well as one about the Port Washington Kittiwake that I have yet to start. Not to mention at least two posts in progress for the ABA's Young Birder's blog "The Eyrie."  

Since I have little to say myself, I thought I'd let someone say it for me. The following is one of my favorite poems, by my favorite poet: Robert Frost.  

Frost was born in 1874 in San Fransisco, CA and was named after confederate general Robert E Lee.  In 1886, he moved to New Hampshire where he finished school and then attended college at Dartmouth.  He doesn't even finish the first year of school and leaves, bored with the whole thing. During the same year, he also becomes engaged to his girlfriend and fellow student Elinor White.  in 1897, he entered Harvard as a freshman but drops out at the end of the school year. It will be his last attempt at college.  Over the following years, his family is ravaged by disease and death, but despite this, he takes, and subsequently drops, several teaching positions and still manages to write several pulitzer prize winning poems. He also moves several times during this period. After several years of ongoing medical problems himself, in 1941, he moved to Cambridge, MA where he would remain the rest of his life. In 1959, he predicts the election of John F Kennedy and is appointed to three-year term as Honorary Consultant in the Humanities at the Library of Congress.
In 1962, he falls seriously ill with pneumonia and is hospitalized.  In 1963, he is awarded the Bollingen prize for Poetry. Not long after, he suffers a pulmonary embolism and dies Jan 29th, 1963. 

A more complete biography of Frost's life can be found here

So, without further ado, here is one of my favorite poems ever. 
It is entitled "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening."  Enjoy. 

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.