Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bird Parents and a Killdeer Ball of Fluff

I was headed out of my office tonight to go home.  As I was locking the door, a Northern Mockingbird flew toward me, squawked and landed on the step railing near me.  I said, "What?  Do you have a youngster out here somewhere?" (Yes, I do talk to birds.)

I looked around without moving and discovered a pristine juvenile sitting on the sidewalk, two feet away.  
Killdeer chick above.

The white edging of the juvenile's plumage was brilliant against pale gray feathers and when she looked up at me, her yellow gape was SO yellow.  I wondered if she had just fledged.  I stood without moving and coaxed, "You need to fly."   A few beats later, she flew to the holly with parent close behind.

Bird parents.  They are loyal, hard working, vigilant.

And that brings me to killdeer. Along with mockingbirds, this is a bird I have known and loved since childhood.  I first became acquainted with them in farm pastures, their loud cries on the wing unmistakable.  My latest encounter was last week in the grocery parking lot.  But it was not until my June visit to Brevard County, FL, on my way to the Pelican Island Overlook at Sebastian Inlet, that I actually witnessed the famous broken wing display.  Immediately, I was on the alert for young.  
And what we found (I was with Marge Bell and Jim Angy of Brevard County) was this little fluff ball, busily foraging on long legs.  If you enlarge the image below, you can see the webs on the chick's feet.  Though killdeer, a plover species, are found in many dry open places frequented by people, such as ball parks, gravel roads, abandoned fields and parking lots, they are also wetland birds.  And both the adults and juveniles are proficient swimmers.
But our visit with the juvenile was cut short by an unhappy parent who let out an ear-piercing alarm call.
She got our attention and the attention of the juvenile who immediately adopted a crouched, motionless posture and blended with the dead debris on the ground.
Nature at her best.

To see my previous posts on the Space Coast, Brevard County, FL click here

For more Brevard County Links visit:
Space Coast Beach Buzz
Jim Angy Photography
Space Coast Wildflowers

Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #99 at Birdfreak.com to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

And don't miss your chance to win a free copy of the 8th Edition of Simpson and Day's Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Visit my book review and leave your comment before midnight (EDT) July 31st.  The Winner will be announced August 1st and receive their free copy directly from Penguin Australia.  Good luck!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Simpson & Day Field Guide to the Birds of Australia--A Review and Give-Away

The 8th edition of the Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day has been completely revised and updated and is now available from Penguin Australia.  And I have the pleasure of offering this book free to one of my blog readers!
Bound with a durable soft cover, this guide's pages are packed with beautiful illustrations, key points of identification, species location maps, and alternative views to aid identification, all easily located within a two-page spread.   

Below, the species page spread for the Laughing Kookaburra (top left on the color plate).  
In the detail below, you can see a comparison between the Laughing Kookaburra and its close cousin, the Blue-winged Kookaburra.  Smaller illustrations compare the two birds' color patterns in flight.
As you move to the left of the page spread, you find a description of key plumage along with a location map.  Supplemental line illustrations give more ID clues showing postures, behavior and plumage variations.    

And if you need a refresher on just what constitutes this bird's 'open forest' habitat, there is a handy reference section in the back entitled, "Where the birds live", an illustrated key to all the habitats found in Australia.  Every field guide should have this feature!  Habitat is crucial information, important to learn right along with field marks.

Some of the other outstanding features of this guide:
  • How to observe a bird
  • Key to bird families
  • Vagrant bird bulletin  
  • Breeding information 
  • Australian island territories checklists
  • Hints for birdwatchers 
  • A glossary of terms
  • List of birdwatching and naturalists organizations
  • List of recommended books to enhance your bird knowledge   
Of course, as an artist, my favorite part of the book is the visual species information found in the 132 beautifully illustrated full-color plates.

As a relative beginner, I loved the handy and practical 'Hints' section.  And as a person who always enjoys digging deeper, the glossary of terms and breeding section were both winners.  Designed for experienced birders, as well as, beginners, this field guide browses like eye candy, packs volumes of information in every page, and offers over 900 line drawings to give its user even more information in a snapshot.  A highly recommended addition to your field guide collection!

And now for the GIVE-AWAY!  
If you would like to win a free copy of this guide, all you have to do is write a note in the comments section of this blog post telling me why you're just the right person to receive a free copy of the 8th Edition of Simpson & Day's Field Guide to the Birds of Australia.  Enter your comment by midnight July 31st (EDT).  I will select the story that impresses me the most and announce the winner on August 1st.  The winner will receive their new field guide directly from the publisher, Penguin Australia.  
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For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham