Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hey, where's the decoder ring?

Today is getting so much better! After telling a coworker, at shortly after 5:00, that I was heading home to my gin bottle, I decided to take the scenic route and biked to Alki. It's a gorgeous day in Seattle, with sunny skies and the temperature in the high 50s. Lovely biking weather and lovely birding weather. I know that birding while biking is probably ill-advised but it's also a fabulous way to improve one's state of mind.

 I  saw what I thought was an exciting, and somewhat unusual, bird but on consulting Sibley, I think it was likely a western grebe and that all of the "western grebes" I've been recording for the last stretch are more likely horned grebes. It could be discouraging to realize just how weak I remain on some birds that I see pretty darned frequently.

 But I got home to find an envelope had arrived in the mail with the words "Project FeederWatch materials enclosed!" in bold letters on the front.

You'd better believe I was pretty excited even though it seems that the Project FeederWatch 28th Season ends on April 3rd. But because it's so late in the season, Cornell is automatically signing me up for next year for free! I'm sure that the decoder ring will come in the kit for renewing participants that is sent out in November. In the meantime I can study up on the other materials provided in today's envelope: a poster of common backyard birds, a bird-watching days calendar, the sample tally sheet, and, most promising of all, the FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions!

 Oh, I mock but I expect to find it at least somewhat instructive. Alas, the "backyard" aspect of the project means that none of it is any use at all with my grebe problem.


  1. I'm happy you're cheerier, and enjoy your Master Birder Kit, but please, Mrs. Updike, do not bird while biking.

  2. Oh, wait until you read the email I've just sent. -Mrs. U.

  3. Here's a handy hint: Western Grebes are nearly TWICE AS BIG as Horned Grebes. Their bills are TWICE AS LONG. Also yellow. Which Horneds are not. Bills, that is. They also have REALLY LONG necks with very distinct white/black definition, whereas Horneds have short necks without such clear distinction. Horneds are more likely to be closer to shore, Westerns prefer being farther out.

    A DWB infraction is Driving While Birding so I suppose you would get a BWB or CWB fine. Be careful out there.

    And did you really post 4 of the past 5 days???? Geez, you sure know how to make up for lost Internet Time!

  4. Alex, yes, yes, yes. It wa the realization that yesterday's "special" bird was twice the size, with a longer neck and beak, that led me to look at Sibley anew and to realize that the western grebe description did not so much match the birds I've been seeing. I don't think. I'm just going to have to be more attentive rather than assume that I've correctly identified a bird immediately.

    Is there really a DWB? I shall take care. And I'm sure my posting here will drop off; it's just been *such* an exciting week.