12 December 2018

Holiday card...

Although it seems a bit like a Hallmark Christmas card... it isn't.  It's just a male NORTHERN CARDINAL out the back window here in Missouri after a recent snow:
... and Hallmark, if you're listening, I'll sell you the image for $15000.  Thanks.   

And in the meantime, I may as well make it my title background.

11 December 2018


Well, ok, I've been back from Australia for a month or something now so there's no excuse!  To my blog I go.

But let's face it, it's daunting posting here when I have 600 photos from my Australia tour (and that's after trimming it down from 4000).  It's way too daunting, actually.  So, this time, I'm going to change it up a little.  I need a rule to guide me.  Ok.... the rule... I'm going to share one photo from each day I was there.  No more, no fewer.  One a day.

20 Oct
The day I left St. Louis.  Flew into LAX.  Oh the humanity, what have we done to this planet?

21 Oct
Whoops.  See, because I left LAX flying west, and because it was a 14 hour flight to Sydney and I jumped the date line, this day on the calendar DIDN'T HAPPEN FOR ME.  I skipped directly from the 20th to...

22 Oct
We landed in Sydney and had a long enough layover that John and I went out birding for a few hours.  One of the highlights?  This POWERFUL OWL, a species I had never seen before:

23 Oct
We had this day to scout some areas near Darwin which is where our tour was to begin in a few days.  I enjoyed hanging out with some fine FOREST KINGFISHERS:

24 Oct
Today was another scouting day.  We had some nice looks at this MISTLETOEBIRD, a gorgeous specialist that feeds on (and spreads) mistletoe berries:

25 Oct
The tour began today and we took the group to the botanic gardens in Darwin straight away to see this stunner; a huge RUFOUS OWL glaring down on us:

26 Oct
We birded around Darwin a bunch more, cleaning up on a lot of the specialties from the Northern Territory.  We also had a great fly-by by this BRAHMINY KITE north of the city:

27 Oct
This morning we birded the Fogg Dam area and, although this photo wasn't my best from the epic day, I was probably most happy to see this species.  This lifer, seen here hiding under some of the vegetation, is a WHITE-BROWED CRAKE.  Can you spot it?

28 Oct
We flew from Darwin to Cairns this morning.  We spent that evening along the esplanade in Cairns which is a gorgeous place to be.  A highlight from our beachside walk there was spending a few minutes with this handsome RED-CAPPED PLOVER as the sun set:

29 Oct
Today was a great day around Cairns with amazing highlights like point-blank looks at SOUTHERN CASSOWARIES and other goodies.  However, in the end, I'm deciding to share a picture I took in the shade at the Cassowary House of a PACIFIC EMERALD DOVE:

30 Oct
We stayed at the Chambers Rainforest Lodge a couple of nights and this lodge is surely one of my favorites in terms of birding on the grounds.  For example, this stunner, called a VICTORIA'S RIFLEBIRD came down to eye-level for us just outside the rooms.  This is in the Birds-of-Paradise family and yep, it lived up to its name:

31 Oct
Trick or treat.  Today we left the Cairns area and drove west to the dry country near Georgetown.  On the way, we snagged this sought-after bird... the huge and flightless EMU.  A crummy pic but... meh:

1 Nov
We woke up early and went out to some waterholes/ponds that attract birds and critters.  They have to drink water, after all, and that's hard to find out there.  Anyway, this pic isn't of a weird hawk or a hornbill or something.  No, this is a cuckoo... the largest cuckoo species in the world, the CHANNEL-BILLED CUCKOO.  Tower... this is Maverick requesting a fly-by.....

2 Nov
This was our final day in the Georgetown area so I had to make the most of an encounter with this RAINBOW BEE-EATER:

3 Nov
A year older today, now halfway between 30 and 40.  Anyway, remember the Cairns esplanade?  Today we drove back to Cairns where we'd be based for a couple of days.  Although picking a pic is especially tough for this day, I feel like I have to share this one.  It's a RED-NECKED STINT sporting some jewelry... it had been captured before by researchers!  We tracked down the info and found that this bird had been banded in Japan a month or two prior.  So cool to find random jackpots like that:

4 Nov
Today we caught a flight from Cairns to Brisbane.  Once in Brisbane, we got driven up into the mountains to O'Reilly's Mountain Lodge which is basically in Lamington National Park.  This place is magic.  Here, things like CRIMSON ROSELLAS come down and feed at your feet:

5 Nov
The entire day was spent birding around the lodge and Lamington National Park.  It was a great day with some amazing sightings like GLOSSY BLACK-COCKATOO and many many others.  In the end, I'm deciding to share this picture of a WHIPTAIL WALLABY.  Yes, it's a macropod... in the same genus as other kangaroos, wallaroos, and some species of wallaby.

6 Nov
Today was actually the final day of birding on the normal tour (if you don't include the Tasmania extension).  Before we drove back down to Brisbane, we spent it around O'Reilly's again and one of the highlights was this vista from the Luke O'Reilly farm.  It really was a beautiful day:

7 Nov
For those of us continuing on the Tasmania extension, we had ourselves an early flight from Brisbane to Melbourne.... and then Melbourne to Launceston where we met our new driver.  We loaded up, started birding on this island state, and promptly found our first endemic... a species found nowhere else but Tasmania: GREEN ROSELLA:

8 Nov
It was another day where it was really hard to pick just one photo.  We drove from Launceston over to the Mountain Valley Lodge which is one of my favorite places.  We saw a slew of endemic birds and some nice scenery as well.  However, top photo prize for the day went to this SUPERB FAIRYWREN with blues that nearly burned the eyeballs right out of my head.  Lovely bird, perched right outside our cabin:

9 Nov
Today was epic for mammals... we saw a Common Wombat, Platypus, Short-beaked Echidna, Spotted-tailed Quoll, and even Tasmanian Devils!  The birding was top-notch as well.  However, I'm sharing a pic I took first thing in the morning at this amazing lodge; the air was crisp, a shroud of mist hung in the air, the sound of a gurgling mountain stream was offset by distant calling currawongs, and the mountainsides were a bed of huge and ancient ferns that seemed to house infinite mystery... I just love this place and I can't wait to go back:

10 Nov
We said goodbye to the Mountain Valley Lodge today and made our way south to Hobart.  Along the way, we stopped and saw this BLACK-HEADED HONEYEATER, an endemic only found in Tasmania:

11 Nov
Today was exciting because we took the ferry over to Bruny Island.  It was there that we saw a variety of tough-to-see species like the endemic FORTY-SPOTTED PARDALOTE, the handsome HOODED PLOVER, the very rare SWIFT PARROTS, and many others.  However, being that it was our last day of birding in Australia, I feel like I have an obligation to share this iconic bird; the LAUGHING KOOKABURRA.  It's a huge kingfisher that eats snakes... among other things.  Yeah, they're amazing... and their laugh is a classic sound.  Cheers.

12 Nov
Woke up today at 4:00AM in Hobart, traveled for 25 hours, and went to bed at 11:00 PM at home in Missouri!  How is that possible... well, that pesky time-travel deal.  My 12th of November literally lasted between 30-40 hours!  Here's a picture of some chumps getting ready for the 14 hour flight from Sydney to Los Angles.  Oh, except I was a chump stuck on there with them!

In all, it was a fun 3-4 weeks abroad!  We tallied something like 350+ bird species, 25+ species of mammals, and even some awesome dragons (which I haven't even shared here) .  You know, if you want to read ALL ABOUT THE TRIP, including way more photos (some of which you'd recognize now), you can read the triplist I put together.  The photos alone might be worth it (wink wink nudge nudge).  It's public and you can view it by clicking here.

Cheers, I'm off to Costa Rica in 10 days.

26 November 2018

... more to come

This post is a sign....

... or rather, a sign on a post... but it's also a sign that more posts are on the way (if you can believe that).  Yes, I know, another month has slipped by with nary a whisper on this here blog.  I, however, HAVE been rather busy.  Included in the last month was a lengthy tour to Australia.  And THAT, I believe, will be the focus of the next post.  Speaking of a sign on a post, the next blog WILL host a platypus photo.... and not just a photo of a sign on a post.  Ok, I'm getting confused.  All for now.  c.

20 October 2018


Although I'm headed out of the country tomorrow (off to Australia!), I figured I better at least post some photos from Oregon before another two months go by!  No seriously, my previous blog post, posted a full week ago now, has amassed a staggering.... 11 views.  ELEVEN.  Goodness.

But yes, I was fortunate to lead two back-to-back tours to Oregon with Field Guides this fall.  It was a blast!  I'll be returning in 2019; feel free to check out the tour webpage here.

One of the main targets was SOOTY GROUSE and I'm happy to say that we had outstanding luck with this sometimes-tricky species:

Another oft-wanted target is MOUNTAIN QUAIL.  Yikes, what a tough bird to try to track down.  One of the tours had luck in tracking some down though which was excellent:
Another quail on tour, this one being much more common, was the CALIFORNIA QUAIL.  These were everywhere around Hines and Burns.  Beautiful birds too!
This Oregon tour can be very good for woodpeckers.  In fact, 11 species were tallied which is pretty decent!  One of the target sapsuckers is RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER and we had awesome luck with these:
It's a crummy pic but it's of a female WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER, another fancy western woodpecker:
Although often a tough bird to track down, we had good luck with BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER as well:
Of course, perhaps the most-wanted woodpecker by visitors is the WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER.  Although they were never abundant for us, we did eventually snag a couple of these fascinating birds:

One of the perks of doing fall tours are the waders; we tallied 28 species of shorebirds between the two tours!  One of the rarest species we saw was this STILT SANDPIPER at Fern Ridge Reservoir.  This is not a species we'd expected to find on the west coast:
The coast of Oregon comes in a couple of different varieties... here's the rocky version at Boiler Bay: 
Of course, this rocky coast is the winter home of some rock-loving shorebirds.  These specialties were of high interest to our folks and we had a good time with species like SURFBIRD and BLACK TURNSTONE including these north of Newport:
Another in that category is the BLACK OYSTERCATCHER... here's six at once!
Not the entirety of the Oregon coast is rocky though... here you can see it transitioning from rocky to sandy:
Here's a sunset we enjoyed one fine evening:
But get this... that sunset photo was taken from our dinner table one evening!  What a nice mealtime view.

Shifting gears to the owls... we had a few species and none was as numerous as GREAT HORNED OWL; here's one we spotted alongside the highway south of Hines:
At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, there is often a pair of Great Horned Owls at headquarters and, I have to say, we couldn't have gotten better looks at them:
Perhaps the rarest owl sighting wasn't of a Barred Owl... or a Spotted Owl.  Instead, this bad boy:
... is actually a hybrid of the two!  Pretty cool, it was a lifer hybrid combo for me.

Another species of owl we saw, and this one a bit smaller, was BURROWING OWL.  What cute little dudes out in eastern Oregon:
Eastern Oregon, by the way, is beautiful.  Lots of open vistas, sage flats, and beautiful clouds:
Owls weren't the only birds of prey though, we enjoyed sightings of a variety of raptors including PRAIRIE FALCON, PEREGRINE FALCON, MERLIN, SWAINSON'S HAWK, and, one of my favorites, FERRUGINOUS HAWK:
Being out west, we enjoyed a variety of jays such as STELLER'S JAY, CANADA JAY (formerly known as Gray Jay), CALIFORNIA SCRUB-JAY, and an amazing encounter with PINYON JAYS.  We were in downtown Sisters when a flock of 175 of these streamed through.  Here's one of those nomadic jays as it passed by:
At higher elevations, we also spent time around CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS including this one at Crater Lake National Park:
Have I mentioned Crater Lake National Park yet?  Goodness, the view we enjoyed on the first tour was spectacular!
Second tour, same spot... this time with clouds:
I'm really happy this tour is able to visit this iconic National Park.  In fact, we get to eat lunch in the historic lodge that sits right in Rim Village, a beautiful setting.

Although not on Crater Lake proper, this BARROW'S GOLDENEYE was on a nearby lake:
We even had a nice variety of nuthatches on tour... WHITE-BREASTED, RED-BREASTED, and PYGMY NUTHATCH.  Here's the latter, not a species you'll find in the eastern half of the US:
I was thinking about this... in how many other areas can you routinely pick up 3 species of chickadees in a matter of hours in the Lower 48?  Oregon certainly has some spots.  We had this BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE near Roseburg:
At higher elevations, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES were ubiquitous:
One of the more range-restricted chickadees in the US, the CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, was a fun addition for folks from back east:
A decent SIX species of wrens were tallied on these tours.  They were BEWICK'S, MARSH, PACIFIC, HOUSE, CANYON, and ROCK.  Here's the latter at Chickahominy Reservoir:
A bit of a West Coast specialty, the WRENTIT was a species we were keen to find.  We did just that, on both tours:
Personally, I found it a lot of fun trying to track down some sage specialties.  We had great luck and ended up seeing SAGEBRUSH SPARROWS on both tours:
Also, eastern Oregon is a good place for SAGE THRASHERS too.  Here's one near Chickihominy Reservoir:
Shrikes!  We had looks at LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES on both tours in the eastern half of the state:
In terms of hummers, we tallied 4 species between the tours: BLACK-CHINNED, RUFOUS, CALLIOPE, and ANNA's.  Here's the latter sitting pretty in Roseburg:
And lastly, in terms of birds, the second tour snagged this northwest specialty, the VARIED THRUSH, on our final day:
There were some cool mammals on tour too.  One of the common little dudes was LEAST CHIPMUNK:
Much more limited in range was this TOWNSEND'S CHIPMUNK we enjoyed finding up on Marys Peak:
Of course, it would be a shame to not mention the whales!  We saw GRAY WHALES nicely on both tours!  From a bouncing boat on the ocean?  No, from dry ground (the way I like it).  Here's a fluke:
Sadly, I didn't get to spend much time with butterflies.  The MYLITTA CRESCENT was perhaps the most common species though:
It was pretty fun seeing a few MORMON METALMARKS though, not a species we have in Missouri:
All in all, it was a lot of fun exploring Oregon and showing folks the birds, landscapes, mammals, etc.  I'll be back in less than a year!