The next IATB

IATB #119 is here next week sometime… the 18th to be exact.


I need to get a handle on this, I think.

(mild panicking)

THE bird blog carnival is coming to Somewhere in NJ.

(deep breath)

I’ve studiously avoided it for years, but it’s my turn, now.

(another deep breath)

If I’ve not contacted you directly to ask for a submission, it’s only because I don’t have an email addy for you. So I’ll make it easy… send me something wonderful and birdy (by 2/16) at


I’d like something vaguely poetic or literary or rambling…

(typical of what you mind find here)


The current edition of IATB, # 118, is up at Ben Cruachan’s Blog.

Have a look and thanks.



A ritual walk on the sand, the brittle night and the wide blue sky of Winter boundless above us. With frozen lips I named the couple stars I’ve managed to learn and wondered why I didn’t choose to learn the warmer summer sky.


I’m tempted to start my naming with the Big Dipper and its arrow to Polaris; the Big Dipper being the only constellation I’d learned as a child and which I’ve since learned (thanks to Steve) is, instead, an asterism.

I turn my back to the chill wind and its view of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor to start instead with conspicuous Orion, whose belt (another asterism and don’t I sound smart?) points the way to Sirius and Canis Major and Canis Minor… in that general area, too, someone’s imagined a rabbit, but I don’t see it.

A couple spins (I did a lot of spinning to reorient myself in the sky and avoid the wind) and high in the sky I find the almost familiar “W” of Cassiopeia, whose name I can’t pronounce correctly, especially not with such numb lips. From the corner of my eye, a new one, the Pleiades, overhead.

That’s five at least, isn’t it? Have I learned my quota, can I get back in my car and out of this relentless cold, please?

The dark and the hush deepen, all a part of the beauty that touches the quick of understanding. We came for the night, as well as the stars, and it was there all around us. When at last my stiff fingers had thawed and I was on my way home again, the magic was still there. It’s more than the stars; it’s the cold and the wind, and the old, old stories across the sky.

34 in my 39 by 40.

Things that make me smile

Horses in blankets
Red-tails when they perch close together
Comfortable jeans


This video and Josh Turner


(gosh… he’s cute!)

Letting someone else give me what I want
Hay in my hair

Men with flowers sedges

Other people’s kids
A reluctant smile from the DH
(I love stories!)
The smell behind a bunny’s ears

Skimmers and their barking
Handwritten letters
(This is an ongoing list, I think…)

Of owls and seeing

Pete Dunne tells the story (and I like to repeat it) that one must be pure of heart to see most owls. He was speaking specifically of a particular barn owl that was purported to roost in a hacking box at Brigantine Wildlife Refuge years ago. At the time, I suspected his tactic was common among field trip leaders; an excuse for failing to produce an owl for a group of disappointed birders after having stood around in the freezing cold for hours, waiting.

In the intervening years, since having waited many times in the freezing cold for my own fair share of owls, I’ve come to understand the truth in Pete’s story. Owls are the stuff of imagination. Seeing these keepers of shadow requires exploring the edges of light… if one fails at it, the fault lies not in the seeing, but instead with one’s way of looking.

I’ve been sort of surprised in the last couple years to discover that I’m having trouble spotting birds… my distance vision is deserting me to the point that before long I’ll have to wear glasses when birding; glasses that I’ve stubbornly (and vainly) refused to wear anytime other than when I drive. I’ve become a dedicated listener instead: birdsongs I don’t recognize or can’t identify will drive me to distraction, but songs or calls help with only the easiest of owls.

Just as the omnipresence of noise makes it difficult to distinguish any one singer in the dawn chorus, the profane in a grove of pines can fill every nook and cranny of our time and space; the fertile silence that makes looking (and really seeing) is easily lost. When spotting owls, the looking is an art. Without true attention to it, an integral part of the reverence is destroyed… only the pure in heart are granted sight.

(Or you have a friend along who’s better at it.)

I was distracted with the trees and the pellets and the scattered bits of bone and feathers, the place this little forest made around me; no two trees the same, every branch saying HERE. I couldn’t stand still and let the trees (or the owls) find me.

It is the moon
not the finger
pointing at the moon
that calls us
back to ourselves

*Long-eared owl, regarding its own darkness in a well-known secret communal roost in Pa.

Swift hawk, Striker

“The resemblance between Cooper’s Hawk and the Sharp-shinned is not confined to color, but extends to habit, the Cooper being, if anything, because of its superior size, fiercer and more destructive. It will dash into the farmyard like a bolt, passing within a few feet of individuals and carrying off a young chicken with incredible swiftness.”

“The attack is accomplished so suddenly that, unless the gun is in hand, the robber always escapes. There is no time to run even a few yards for a weapon – the thief is gone before it can be reached. If there is plenty of thick cover in the run, the chickens will often escape, especially the more active breeds, like Leghorns. At my home, I have repeatedly seen them strike, but as the foliage is dense and brushy they have invariably been unsuccessful in securing the quarry. In four years we have not lost a chicken by Hawks.”

An idea, maybe, Kev?

“Cooper’s Hawk is preeminently a “chicken hawk” and is by far the most destructive species we have to contend with. Although not so large as the Goshawk, it is strong enough to carry away a good-sized chicken, grouse, or cottontail rabbit. It is especially fond of domesticated Doves, and when it finds a cote easy of approach or near its nesting site, the inmates usually disappear at the rate of one or two a day until the owner takes a hand in the game.”

How field guides have changed in 90-some years!

Hawks, however, haven’t changed in all those years. Late winter is lean for them and they’re getting desperate. Backyard chickens make for an easy meal. I’m glad my brother saves his ire for the woodchucks that raid his garden and reaches for his camera when Cooper comes-a-calling, rather than a weapon.

Reference info from Birds of America, first published in 1917.

All pics by the Reluctant Chicken Farmer.