6.26.2008

Longboarding in Mt. Horeb....


There is no shortage of long, smooth, steep hills in Mt. Horeb, WI where I live. Shortly after I moved there, some local friends and I decided to get longboards and see what kind of fun we could have. Between the 3 of us, we've only destroyed one of our 6 ACLs!
We typically cruise the streets after 9pm. By this time our kids are usually in bed and traffic is pretty low. Last weekend we broke from our routine and got a permit for a "street rally", which allowed us to get one of our favorite hills closed off for the afternoon. Not having to worry about cars meant we could focus on more important things, like going faster.


video


Jeff Scott wonders why we don't ask the village to close off streets more often.

6.20.2008

Marbleseed Prairie

Recently I made the 15-minute trek from my house to Marbleseed Prairie in search of Bell's Vireos. A short grass prairie remnant with scattered thickets of dense shrubs, Marbleseed Prairie is the ideal habitat for this bird.


Bell's Vireo is one of those birds on my "target list" that has managed to elude me for a number of years, despite the close proximity of nesting sites to my home. It always seems much easier for me to find time to bird in Texas, Florida, California, etc. while I'm on the road than it is to pry myself away from family, work, and household obligations that inevitably pile up when I'm home.
A few weekends ago, in between dropping the kids off at birthday parties and swimming lessons, I had 2 hours to myself to get out on the prairie. When I arrived, I was delighted to see one of my favorite prairie plants in bloom, Creamy False Indigo (Baptisia leucophaea).
This Willow Flycatcher and its mate were not shy about informing me that they had staked a claim somewhere in the vicinity of the parking area. The loud "Fitz-bew" cry was the first call to greet me as I stepped out of my car.
Another shortgrass prairie plant that caught my eye was this Hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens).
This House Wren caught my attention for a moment with a call that was very Bell's Vireo-like, so much so that I stopped to find the bird for a quick confirmation. While I was disappointed that I had this common wren in my binos rather than the vireo, my birding diligence paid off as a Bell's Vireo flew into the tree directly above me and began belting out it's distinctive call, said to resemble the sound of a squeaky marker on a dry-erase board. This shy and elusive bird didn't stop for long as it quickly flew off, presumably in search of creatures more interesting than I.

Like the vireo, I had places to be and obligations to my offspring. Swimming lessons and birthday parties were drawing to a close and we had a date in Madison to forage with some friends at a pizza place.



6.19.2008

Wedding Bells in Boulder

Tim is a long-time friend of mine who I have known for over 18 years. He's a writer, teacher, and artist working on an MFA at the university in Boulder, CO. Last weekend he got married.
Roger is Tim's friend who I met for the first time in Boulder. He was my roommate while I was in town for the wedding. Roger is a fan of punk music and Robert Crumb. We got on well from the start.
To pass the time before Tim's wedding, we played Frisbee Golf in various non-sanctioned public places around downtown Boulder. The greenhouse pictured above was hit no more than 3 times by errant discs. We did our best to be courteous to those who we shared the space with.
Pedestrian coming.
Coast is clear.
This was an environmentally friendly event. To reduce our carbon footprint, we used public transportation to get to the wedding.


Everyone had a good time...
...and at the end of they day, my friends were married.
Congrats Tim and Dana!

6.10.2008

Guatemala

Here is an assemblage of images from my recent trip to Guatemala. Nikon had hosted this trip to launch their new EDG binoculars. On this trip were many notables from the birding industry ranging from retailers like myself to product reviewers, tour leaders, and magazine editors. I was using the 7x42 EDG. They featured an amazing depth of field and field of view, accompanied by outstandingly crisp optics.

Nikon's new introduction to the high-end binocular market will fit in nicely and compete well with the current top offerings from European manufacturers such as Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski.

We flew into Guatemala City but soon boarded a bus for the mountains and countryside. As we proceeded to higher elevations, the sugar cane fields morphed into rubber tree, coffee, and tea plantations.


The digiscoping opportunities were limited primarily due to lower light and rainy conditions in the forests. The dense foliage made it challenging to see many birds, much less digiscope them. Some of the birds I was able to capture included the Cinnamon Hummingbird, Clay-Colored Robin, and Green-throated Mountain Gem, all pictured above.

Pictured here are the the excited tour participants getting their first taste of tropical birding on the trip, the morning after we arrived in Guatemala City. The first stop was a preserve called Finca Patrocinio.

The look on Pete Dunne's face best

captures how we all felt that morning as the tropical birds introduced themselves to many of us for the first time. The sights, smells, and sounds elicited grins all around.


Mike Frieburg, the product specialist in the birding market for Nikon, stares angelically into the canopy of the cloud forest at Los Andes private reserve. Unfortunately, there were no sightings of our target bird for that day, the Resplendent Quetzal.
While one half of our group was exploring the cloud forest, the other half was treated to wonderful views of this Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl found at the estate house.

There was speculation that the owl's prey was a Golden-crowned warbler. The picture above was taken at the hotel in Guatemala City on our final morning of the trip. The amenities in Guatemala were wonderful!