Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Birding Today

Went to Fountain Creek Regional Park with Kathy and Nina.

A few new ones for me:

white-crowned sparrow:

The females and juveniles are more brown, less white.  I think I saw one last time that was female but didn't know what it was.

virginia rail:

sharp-shinned hawk

The banding on the tail is pretty distinctive.  



I might have seen these at Prospect Lake a week or so ago but wasn't sure.

common merganser

These definitely weren't here last time.  The geese had moved on and there were interesting ducks everywhere.

belted kingfisher

Very beautiful; heard its call, too.

A few of these I've seen before but wasn't officially tracking yet or didn't know what it was.  The mallards were out in force and were beautiful and sounded just like Daffy Duck.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fountain Creek Regional Park 12/18/11

Mallard in the middle

American coot

Hooded Merganser lower right

1 pair snow geese

Red-tailed hawk, (dash and comma pattern)

female green-winged teal

I just think this is cute. :)

Beautiful Day!

Waiting for the feeder

Species I identified:  black-capped chickadee, magpie, cackling and Canada geese, snow geese, hooded merganser, american coot, ferruginous hawk, green-winged teal, house finch, red-winged blackbird.  Saw sparrows but not sure what type they were.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Bird Count 2011

Today I did my first Christmas Bird Count with members of the Aiken Audubon Society here in town.  I went first to a member named Patty Lovekin's house in OCC, and from there was assigned to go counting with a lady named Kathy Miller in the area West of Cimarron and bounded by 8th Street and Red Rock park.  We drove around and stopped whenever we saw birds and I.D'd them ( she did most of the I.D.ing but some are common enough that I knew them) and counted them.  In some places, like Bott Park or some empty fields near Fountain Creek or Fairview Cemetery, we got out and walked around.

Here's our count:
Rock pigeon:  45
Raven:  8
Canada Goose:  77
Crow:  25
Starling:  8
House Sparrow:  43
Collared Dove: 52
Junco:  6
Red-Shafted Flicker: 17
House Finch: 110
Pine Siskin: 2
Blue Jay: 1
Black-capped Chickadee:  3
Magpie:  13
Red-tailed Hawk:  4
Prairie Falcon: 1
Scrub Jay:  2
Robin: 2
White-breasted Nuthatch: 1
Downy Woodpecker: 1
Merlin: 1
Song Sparrow: 1
American Kestrel: 1

I recognized pigeons and doves easily, but she called everything a collared dove and I would've thought I would need to look more closely to see if some are mourning doves - I want to check up on the differences. I looked them up in a book and I can see the difference in the band, which I knew before, but now I see there is also a difference in color. Update:  Kathy said, "On the doves, the size of a Eurasian Collared dove is larger, they are "whiter" looking, and their tails are a smooth semi-circle with a whitish band near the tips, where the Mourning doves are slimmer, dusky colored, and have long pointed central tail feathers with the tail looking like a very elongated pointed V."  

I knew a little about differences between Crows and Ravens but learned some more.  I knew Ravens were bigger and a little scruffier in the neck, but I learned that Ravens have a v-shape on their tail (convex) while crows have more of a rounded-fan shape.

I recognized Starlings and Sparrows, House Finches, and Juncos, but I would've had to spend a lot more time telling them apart from a distance.  I learned to recognize the way the finches fly, and I would not have been able to differentiate a Song Sparrow or Sisken, etc., - a lot of those little birds I don't know the differences.  I learned I could use some stronger binoculars and some practice using them.

I learned that Mountain Chickadees have a raspier sound than the Black-Capped, and we might have heard one but we weren't sure.  I know the call of crows, doves and magpies easily enough but some of the songbirds I haven't really learned to differentiate.

I recognized the hawk and falcon, and I'd seen a nuthatch before but didn't know what it was called.  I wouldn't have known the name of the Merlin without using a book to I.D.   But in the field the birds may not stay still long enough for that.  I learned that Canada Geese come in larger and smaller varieties.

After the official count, we went down to the pond by the Doubletree on Lake/Circle to see a rare-for-this-area duck that had been reported there.  It was a long-tailed duck.  We also saw the two kinds of Canadian geese, Mergansers, Mallards, Gulls, a Coot, Shovelers, and Canvasbacks.   I wasn't sure about some others.

This is a picture of  Kestrel.  I didn't take this, but it shows how pretty they are.  This was maybe my favorite sighting of the day.  It does this kind of bowing/flicking thing with its tail that is pretty distinctive.  Kathy was very exciting by the Merlin, because it was a life bird for her, meaning it was a new bird for her life list, a collection of all the species of birds she has seen in her life. I think I will start my life list now, because I really had a good time doing this and hope to do it some more.  Notable about it for ID purposes is the yellow on the beak, the white "eyebrows" and the brown and white belly. This is a Merlin:

This is a merganser:
These were very entertaining to watch in the water - they were lively and diving a lot.

This is a shoveler:

This is a long-tailed duck:

She was by herself and spent more time underwater than on the surface.

This is a goldeneye:

These are canvasbacks:

This is a nuthatch:

This is a pine siskin:

This is a song sparrow:

House sparrows:

House finches:

Black-capped chickadee:


These are often near the ground flitting around in bushes.

red-shafted flicker:

They have a distinctive shape and a long beak, and in flight that white patch is very visible.  

This is a downy woodpecker:  Males might have a red spot on the head.

I found a cool app for my Kindle (also available for phones) that is like a whole bird I.D. website/book that has pictures, their songs, I.D. tips, etc.  Very cool!  It is called iBird 2.0 I think.  I want to work on some of the more common birds around here.  Maybe I'll use the county bird list I found on Aiken's site.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

from resolution to revolution

When I attended the International Reverts Conference last month, I received as a gift a truly wonderful and amazing book, "from resolution to revolution - The Message of Ashura:  Reflections on Religion, Ethics, Culture, Family, Youth and Citizenship" by Sayed Moustafa Al-Qazwini.  

This book is a compilation of three years of Muharram lectures delivered by Sayed Al-Qazwini in the years 2005-2007.  The lectures were designed for youth in the West and repeatedly address themes of challenges in the West, prayer, death, repentance, marriage, parenting, inter-gender relations, and self-reform.  The part of the lectures which strictly relate the events around Ashura are not included, but the personalities and events are referenced as examples and guidance in each of the themes.  

Each lecture is highly inspirational and readable and only around 10-15 pages.  Sayed Al-Qazwini's approach is very uplifting and loving and calls upon the youth to recognize their worth and build self-respect.  As he says in the first lecture, "When we respect ourselves, we will consider it beneath our honor to do any wrong actions."  He is very empathetic to the struggles faced by all believers and has a way of delivering excellent advice with great gentleness.  He properly emphasizes the Merciful and and Forgiving aspects of God without giving undue lightness to the effects of sin.  Rather than simply admonish youth for possibly doing wrong things, he teaches the harm and damage to the self caused by sins and encourages the believers to protect themselves and one another from these dangers. He also powerfully illustrates the beauty of worship, good deeds, and building one's relationship with God and Ahlulbayt (as) - he helps fuel appetite and desire for drawing near and communing with God.  He uses easily understandable, clear English and only minor and rare typographical errors are present in the text.  The resulting book is great for Muslims and non-Muslims of all ages seeking moral guidance.

As I was reading this book, I often could not wait until the next time I could open it again and found myself underlining and starring passages regularly.  I am eager to read it a second time.  If you can find this book, it is an opportunity to fall in love with Islam again (or for the first time) and get some good direction and motivation for self-improvement.  However, I am unfortunately not sure where to purchase this book.  It was published in March 2011 by the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County http://www.iecoc.org with layout and design assistance by the Islamic Publishing House http://www.iph.ca, yet neither website currently lists the book for sale.  I did find video/audio of some of the lectures, such as these: http://www.alulbayt.com/muh%201428/muharram%201428.htm .  

The lectures serve as excellent examples of delivering the message of Ashura in a way that its modern and personal relevance is understood by Western youth.  The transformative and uniting power of the lectures also show the importance of believers coming together for education and service for the revival of true Islam in the hearts.  Without that internal revolution of our individual hearts, we as a community cannot become ready for the Imam of our Age (as, ajtf), who is awaiting us.