Monday, February 21, 2011

My First Book

Field Notes - A Birder's Journey to the Pacific Northwest

Well, I have finally finished! Last week the very first copy of my book arrived in the mail. Opening the pizza shaped box was a nerve wracking ordeal, as I had no idea how this book, that I had created using Blurb software would look or feel. I had no need to worry. I am absolutely thrilled with the quality of this book and am now very excited to share it with you all. 

For many years now, I have thought about compiling a book that would encompass trip reports and articles from my birding and banding excursions. The trip reports and articles have been left in their original format for the most part and are marked with an asterisk in the contents page.  To make sense of these, I have knitted chapters around each, so as to give a better understanding of time lines and the circumstances surrounding them. It has now morphed into a 240 page memoir spanning over thirty years, including twenty chapters and over 350 photographs. Though birds are the focus of this book, it also emphasizes the importance of friendships, family and experiences that have made all of these adventures more memorable. t the same time, paying tribute to, not only the birds, but to the people who have shared this journey with me.
"Join Rich as he recounts his formative years as a nest-pilfering ‘ooloigist’ (and one particular escapade involving some blue polyester Y-fronts). Follow his interest in falconry, raptor rehabilitation, bird ringing and eventual arrival as a fully-fledged birder. Rich’s tales make for a genuinely affirming read.
In these pages you will read of red kite reintroductions in Scotland, egg McMuffins in British Columbia and banding forays to Russia. Add a pivotal life-changing encounter with a great-grey owl and a horrific near-death experience on Vancouver Island, and we not only get a taste of one individual’s passion and dedication to birds and birding, but also how all these things have had a unequivocal effect on his life.  
Rich tells these tales with charm, and a refreshing sense of self-deprecation.       
The truth is, most birders, naturalists, and even stamp collectors, will recognise and share, many of the experiences detailed by Rich’s vivid recollections. And, even though our own specific routes may differ from the author’s, any bird-loving reader will find parallels that conjure up our own reminisces, and remind us why birds, and birding, mean so much to so many of us".  -- Jon Carter 
Click on the sidebar widget at the top of the page to preview Field Notes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Notch - Nanoose

Bald Eagle
Today Lori I headed up the Notch in Nanoose. It was the perfect end to a great weekend. We spent Friday evening at Justin and Amanda's getting our breaks fixed followed by some nice pies. On Saturday we took care of some wedding preparations in Nanaimo and spent some time with Kori, Mary and Cedar before finally heading over to our friends; Mark and Caroline, where we spent the night. This morning we hiked the notch where we found Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Common Raven and a single Hermit Thrush. My heart raced for a while when I spotted what I thought was a Golden Eagle. However, it turned out to be a bad call, and on closer inspection my stringy goldie was no more than a juvenile Bald Eagle. 
Rich and Lori on the Notch
After an enjoyable hike we headed into Parksville where I wanted to check a spot on Church Road for a kestrel. I had seen this individual on Friday while working in the area. En-route to Church Road we spotted a Northern Shrike hunting along the main Alberni highway and as luck would have it the male American Kestrel was in the same area hunting from a wire. 
American Kestrel

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bones, Fur and Leftovers

Nolan dissecting owl pellet
Pouring rain on Saturday was a blessing in disguise as homework was very much on the agenda for this weekend. With only a few days left to complete a school project we all chipped in and helped Nolan. Luckily, this was a parent participation activity, so we all got to enjoy the fun. Having said that, Nolan really did do a lot of the work himself and completed his experiment single-handedly. Nolan's chosen subject for the Nanoose Bay Elementary Science Fair was 'What is in an owl pellet?'

Owl pellet

Owls usually eat their prey whole. The nutrients are absorbed in the stomach, and the undigested parts that are of little nutritional value, such as; bones, teeth, skulls fur or feathers, are compressed into pellets and regurgitated. By dissecting these pellets you can discover what a particular owl has been eating. For many years I have kept a bag of Barn Owl and Little Owl pellets for just such an occasion. However, during a spring clean two years ago I must have thrown them out, so we got our pellets form the North Island Wildlife Association:

After microwaving two pellets for 3 minutes and 20 seconds, Nolan soaked two pellets in warm water before beginning his dissection. We were extremely impressed with Nolan's patience and attention to detail, as he methodically scrutinized every little bone that he discovered. It took about an hour to go through the first pellet and Nolan cleaned each bone in a small dish of water before placing them on a plastic lid. 

Bones from pellet
Once both pellets had been dissected the bones were then boiled to remove any small pieces of skin or feathers. We then glued and presented the bones on a display chart. Then we tackled  the display board. We were very happy to have Mom's help on this part, as she added a wonderful artistic feel to the project. We had our photos developed at Shoppers Drug Mart in Parksville before laying out the final draft. It was about 07:00pm before we had it completed, and though we were all getting a little tired, we were very proud of all our efforts.  We sure had a great time learning and working together. Who knows what mark Nolan will get on the day but in our books he gets a straight A: 10 out of 10!

Owl pellet display chart

Nice work Nolan

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Butcher Bird

Northern Shrike
As Lori was visiting our friend down in Victoria, I had to bird locally today. I took a walk down to the Englishman River Estuary where I spent an hour poking around. Species included: Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-winged Blackbird, American Robin, Northern Shrike, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Pacific Wren, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Song Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Evening Grosbeak, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Anna's Hummingbird, Steller's Jay, Common Raven, Northwestern Crow, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Bald Eagle and a few dabblers and gulls. Bird of the day was a beautiful Northern Shrike.