Birding the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Green Jay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX

In January, my partner and I were on a birding vacation traveling between South Padre Island and McAllen/Bensen State Park, Tx. The first three days we enjoyed the beautiful, warm type of days we had planned on. After that, a dramatic cold front rolled in with temperatures in the low 40’s F (4.5 C) and winds gusting 20-30 mph (32-48 kph).

Nevertheless, the birding was good and we added a respectable number and selection of birds to our life lists — including, but not limited to:

    black-vented oriole (at the trailer park near Benson SP)
    neotropical parula (Estero Llano Grande SP)
    white-tailed kite & white-tailed hawk (Laguna Atascosa NWP)
    crimson-collared grosbeak (Pharr, Tx)
    vermillion flycatcher (McAllen, Tx)
    greater peewee (McAllen, Tx)
    common pauraque (in broad daylight and only 3 feet away! Estero Llano Grande SP)

and several others including, for me a long-sought southwest native, the roadrunner! (Don’t laugh, I’ve looked for these in Arizona, Nevada, and California to no avail. At Laguna Atascosa we watched a pair of them for ten minutes).

It was not the sunny, winter get-away that we had hoped for but it was very rewarding. I’ve posted some pictures in my Facebook photo album.

The iPad and the Microscope

My iPad has not be the topic of a blog post until now. Maybe that is because I’ve had so much fun browsing the Internet and reading books with it that I’ve not stopped to write about it; besides, so many people have written, and continue to write, about the iPad that anything I might think to say would be surplufuous — other than the heretical wish that it had a tiny track ball like my Nexus One Android phone has for fine positioning of the cursor between letters. My finger tips are not well designed for navigating 10 pt fonts, even with the pop-up magnifying bubble to assist.

Magnification is, in fact, the topic that brings me to mention my iPad today. I’m excited about a purchase I just made to outfit my iPad for fun, education, and maybe a bit of citizen science. I just ordered the ProScope Mobile, a wireless, wifi-enabled microscope with exchangeable lenses. The microscope creates a wifi-hotspot and to transmit images to the iPad (or an iPone, iPod) and accessed with AirMicroPad (or AirMicro) software. Actually, it can transmit to over 250 devices at once, which is a bit of overkill even if it is being used by students in a large classroom. AirMicroPad can display stills and video from the microscope.

I am so looking forward to playing in the garden and woods with this. In addition to exploring tiny things to whet my own curiosity, I see this as being useful on field trips. Once I get it I’ll post some pictures from the micro-world here and give a review of how everything works. I wonder if AirMicro might someday be available in an Android version?

Tandayapa, Ecuador Photos

Cloud forest

Originally uploaded by Michlt

I’ve added an additional set of  Ecuador photos to my account. These are selected photos taken while we were staying at Tandayapa Bird Lodge. While there we birded on the old Nono-Mindo road and we spent the better part of a day at Angel Paz’ family farm. Their main crop is blackberries, but they also raise cattle and grow corn and ‘tree tomatoes’ (tomate de árbol). They supplement their farming income with eco-tourism dollars. The big draw is an Andean cock-of-the-rock lek and three different antpittas (giant, yellow-breasted, and moustached) which Angel, by means of extreme patience, has persuaded to overcome their renowned timidity…. for wages — he pays with clean and carefully cut up earthworms.

First Ecuadorean Photos Posted

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
I just posted the first set of my Ecuadorean photos to my Flickr account. Click on this photo to go to them. These are my Quito pics.

Michael, Stephen, and I flew from Philadelphia to Miami and then on to Quito. During the last days of our trip we toured Quito and visited a cultural museum on Reina Virginia Street, the Quito Botanical Garden, the home of the Alexander von Humboldt Association of Ecuador, the Old City, and an Artisan Market.

The rest of my pictures are from the rainforest lodges where we birded on the western and eastern slopes of the Andes for 11 days.

Philadelphia from the Schuylkill

Center City Left

Originally uploaded by Fen Branklin

Flickr contact Fen Branklin took this great photo from a kayak in the Schuylkill River. He has many exceptional shots of Philadelphia. Click on the photo to check out his Flickr album. (Thanks to him for allowing this photo to be blogged.)

Ochre wall – Passing of Winter

One of my Flickr contacts, Linda 6769, posted this and I was strongly drawn in by the fine reflection of trees, the contrast of colors, and the large-boned shadow of the bike.The bare trees and the ochre color are typically evocative of fall/winter but there is a quality to the light that reminds me of the springtime sun.

Thanks to Linda for allowing this photo to be blogged. She has a lot of really beautiful shots posted to Flickr and taking the time to browse through them is definitely worth it. Enjoy.

I’m curious if this photo elicits very different responses from other people. Drop a comment on this if you have a very different reaction to it.

Ben Franklin Bridge

Ben Franklin Bridge

Originally uploaded by chrisinphilly

It has been a while since I posted a Flickr Feature. Recently, Chris in Philly has posted come really impressive photos of Philadelphia taken from on high. I don’t know what building he took these from but the perspective and picture quality is exceptional. Thanks to him for leaving the ‘blog this’ button on to allow me to share these pictures and draw your attention to them.

Mind Boggling Migrations

10,000 Penguins

The fall is marked by migrations of mammals and birds in numbers and distances that are simply mind boggling. Fall migration is an awe-inspiring and fascinating phenomenon. Fall migrations in the northern hemisphere coincide with the equally miraculous spring migrations in the southern hemisphere. The online edition of London’s Daily Mail from Oct. 23, 2007 published the article Amazing pictures as 10,000 penguins come to shore to breed with a truly impressive image of 10,000 peguins, part of a 100,000 colony, coming ashore on the island of South Georgia. It’s spring down there in the neighborhood of Antarctica and these penquins are coming together to mate and molt.