Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spring Preview

Here's a couple photos to brighten your day. I actually took these photos last May. Our site manager happened upon a fawn while clearing some downed trees. The fawn was wonderfully hidden between two logs just a few feet off our driveway. This fallen tree was cut into sections a few weeks ago and the deer was hiding between two sections. It was a great hiding place. At the bottom of the second photo is a fallen paper birch with sap sucker holes in it. The pattern on the deer's back beautifully resembles the woodpecker's holes. Fawns are usually moved by their mothers to different hiding spots twice a day. This fawn is likely only a few days old. It was only a little bigger than a house cat.


Friday, April 27, 2007

A Lunchtime Word Rant

Please allow me to get my writers geek on for a moment.

Chelsey pointed out to me today that the abomination of a word, disorientate, is in the dictionary. Here's some links.

I assume it is in the OED as well but I don't have a 20 volume copy handy and I don't have an online subscription.

Coming from a line of teachers and writers, I learned some time after finishing Dick and Jane that if Spot is lost he is disoriented not disorientated. Disorientate is a vulgar, pointless word.

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English says they are synonyms and both valid words but also says that those, "who seek conciseness and dislike polysyllables prefer disorient and argue that disorientate is both ugly and unnecessary."

Well, I have news for the Columbia Guide folks, disorient is polysyllabic too but, yes, disorientate is both ugly and unnecessary.

Look people, irregardless is in the dictionary too and so is ain't. Just because a word is in the dictionary doesn't mean you don't sound like and idiot when you use it.


Thursday, April 26, 2007


I was absolutely stunned yesterday when I heard the news that astronomers have found an earth-like exoplanet. Well, maybe not earth-like but a rocky planet in the habitable zone around a star. An exoplanet is a planet orbiting around a star other than our sun. When I was a kid this was purely the stuff of science fiction. We figured there were other planets but we couldn't prove it. In 1992, astronomers first detected a planet around another star.

Mind you, they didn't see the planet, they merely detected it was there by how it affected the light from the star. This was exciting news. In 1994 astronomers announced that for the first time they had imaged an exoplanet. This really blew my mind because I knew we were talking about relatively small objects that were almost unfathomable distances away.

Not life as we know it Jim
As exciting as these announcements were, the planets they discovered could not possibly contain, in the words of Dr. McCoy, "Life as we know it"." This is because the planets they discovered were what astronomers called "Hot Jupiters" We consider Jupiter to be a giant but these planets were even bigger. They were almost more failed stars than planets. The fact that they were so large is what made them detectable. These are nasty hot places. If they contain life it certainly isn't like anything we know.

All of this leads up to the announcement made recently about a planet orbiting the star Gliese 581 in the constellation Libra. Astronomers could detect it because it is big, about 5 times the size of Earth. This is certainly big but not enormous or even giant. Keep in mind that 1,400 earths can fit inside Jupiter.

The really exciting thing about it models suggest the planet may be made of rock and not of gas which makes it more like home. Also, given the distance from the star, astronomers calculate the surface temperatures could range from 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, sounds a lot like Earth. The news is exciting. I'm not sure how they came up with this number but if it is based purely on the size of the planet and distance from the sun I'm a little skeptical. Look at the Earth and Venus. Fairly similar size, Venus is a little closer to the sun but it also has green house gasses from hell and so the temperature there is way hotter than one would expect merely from the distance it is from the sun. the surface temperature is over 800 degrees Fahrenheit! In theory, if the atmosphere if Venus were more like Earth it might be more hospitable to life.

This comparison of rocky planets is a good thing to consider. We have four rocky worlds in our solar system. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Mercury is way too close to the sun but the other three might within the range for life. So, in our solar system we're looking at a 70% chance that life won't arise on a planet deemed suitable purely on distance. (There's still a possibility of life on some Jovian moons as well)

There's a lot we don't know and we're discovering more each day. It is an exciting time to be alive.

As a final note, this planet is 20 light years away (relatively close in the grand scheme of things) which means if there is intelligent life there they could be picking up our television and radio signals from 1987. Of course, we'd be picking up their signals from 20 years ago as well so unless they don't use broadcasting of any kind there likely isn't any intelligent life there or we would detect signals when we look at the star with radio telescopes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Birding Adventures (91-95)

Thursday, April 19th while coming back from an outreach program I saw a bird fly across county road 4 as I approached the corner of Norell ave. I caught a glimpse of yellow and thought to myself, hmm, Eastern Meadowlark? As I turned onto Norell I slowed down when I saw a bird sitting up on the telephone line. I sat forward in my seat and sure enough, sitting up on the wire with a bright yellow breast and a black neck was an Eastern Meadowlark.

At Warner Nature Center on Saturday the 21st I checked out the feeders before teaching a Plants class for brownie girl scouts and and I spied a couple of white throated sparrows.

Sunday was Earth Day and I worked in the morning deadheading plants and removing winter cover. My friend Awe came over to help. As we stood near the pond, a small bird came in and landed. It was a chipping sparrow. It isn't too often I get to add a new species to the yearly list from by pathetic yard but I guess anything can happen on Earth Day.

Tuesday the 24th I stopped off at Lake McKusick in Stillwater on the way to work as I was working late that day so I had the morning off. I quickly spotted common grackles and hundreds of red winged black birds. I also saw canada geese and 4 or 5 american coots. A man passing by asked me if I had seen the Myrtles. I hadn't. He said they had arrived yesterday. A little looking and sure enough I spotted a yellow rumped (myrtle) warbler.

( I later learned from Paul who lives near McKusick that the myrtle warblers have been there about a week)

91 Eastern Meadowlark
92 White Throated Sparrow
93 Chipping Sparrow
94 Common Grackle
95 Yellow Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ecological Discourse and the Nature of Meaning

(Here's some really long musings for Earth Day)

Back around 1998 or so I met weekly with some friends at Lori's Coffeehouse for what we finally came to call the Cultural Inventors Collective. Believe me, these were people who loved ideas and there were several get-togethers discussing why we felt the need to assign ourselves a name. That's a different story.

On a slightly balmy spring evening, we moved outside once Lori's closed. As we sat back on the grass looking up at the moon, I thought back to when I was a child looking up at the stars. As I stared at that same moon that had gotten me though so many nights I began to think about the nature of meaning. The topic was near to heart as one of my friends who was present was grappling with the issue of meaning in her own life. She was having a crisis of meaning.

Her spiritual path was Buddhism and her educational path was Cultural Studies. She told me that Buddhism teaches that meaning inherently exists and because she believed her teachings, it was so. Likewise, Cultural Studies teaches that meaning is not inherent but rather is a product of (or is created by) discourse and because she believed her teachings, it was so.

One of my favorite Zen sayings is:

If we understand,
things are just as they are
If we do not understand,
things are just as they are.

I guess we could have left it at that but we didn't. I felt the need to show that these two ideas are really the same. Discourse does create meaning but it can do so in a way that fundamentally springs forth from the inherent properties that exist in the world. That meaning is there whether a human bothers to ponder it or not.

Meaning According to Cultural Studies
The premise of meaning as defined by cultural studies academics is that discourse about existing texts, or discourse which creates new texts (though the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive) create meaning. This is a very general description. To be clearer, discourse creates meaning and a text is the record of that created and possibly shared meaning.

As my friend tried to explain the above to me and as we discussed the nature of meaning it became clear that this was at the very root of her spiritual crisis. The idea of meaning being created exclusively through discourse seemed to contradict her spiritual teachings with regard to the inherent nature of meaning in the universe. The Cultural Studies definition clearly states that meaning is not an inherent property in the universe but rather created and that the specific creative process is discourse.

I’ve gone to the trouble to lay out the cultural studies model because it so closely follows the cultural views of one particular culture, that being our scientifically driven “western” culture. We have an anthropocentric view of the nature of meaning. i.e. meaning is constructed and that construction is by humans. The idea is that we create meaning in the world though our language and since only we use language, we create and are in charge of all the meaning in the world.

Pushing Boundaries

Q. Is meaning created or inherent?

The answer is clear.

A. Yes.

How can it be both? Yes as an answer makes sense from an eco-centric rather than human-centric perspective.

In order to understand the dual nature of meaning we must examine the concept of text. Text is the link between discourse and meaning. It is the result of discourse and it is from texts that meaning is divined (according to cultural studies). Cultural studies views texts in the literal sense of a written document but also words that could be written down in such a form. I submit that discourse can be nonverbal, and can occur without conscious intent to do so.

I’ve now strayed beyond where the traditionalist Cultural Studies students will usually tread but I think most are still along for the ride. My friend begrudgingly came at least this far. It seems logical, though a bit unorthodox, to assume that a nonverbal discourse creates both text and meaning. If this were not the case the game of charades would be utterly unimaginable and mimes would be even less comprehensible than they already are.

This next leap of logic will lose all of the traditionalists who may have indulged in idle curiosity up until this point.

Discourse, both conscious and non-conscious can occur between two or more humans, between humans and non-human animals, between animals (humans included) and "inanimate" objects, and even (take a deep breath) between two inanimate objects. (Though according to my own definition there really is no such thing as an inanimate object since everything constantly interacts, albeit sometimes subtly, with everything else and as such is animate.)

In this context, let us say that an animate world is one in which all things partake in discourse. This discourse creates readable texts and these texts, since they are derived from discourse, form the basis of meaning.

When I walk outside, the world is full of meaning. To say the meaning is inherent is perhaps shy of the target. I am not sure the meaning is so much inherent, more that meaning inherently exists in a general sense since the discourse never stops. See the subtle difference? In the end, the difference may be of little consequence.

When two humans come to a conversation they bring with them the makings of discourse that can, in a general sense, be called properties. It is the interaction of these properties that craft the nature of the text that is created through discourse between the two humans. If we change the properties of the humans then the resulting text is changed. For example, if we change say one person's religion, i.e. beliefs, i.e. properties, then we may see a change in the text as the discourse will be different.

Ah, but physical properties change the discourse and resulting text as well. If I change the sex of one of the people then the discourse will most likely be changed and as a result, we have a different text.

Human to Human Verbal Discourse
Now, if I get into an intellectual fight with a person, I submit to you that this is a discourse and we will create a text as a result. To be very concrete about it let us say the text is an actual transcript of our words. This is the traditional model.

Human to Human Non-Verbal Discourse
Now, if I get into a physical fight with a person, I submit to you that this is a discourse and we will create a text as a result. To be very concrete about it let us say that the resulting "text" is a series of cuts on each other, scuffs on the dirt and maybe, just to be extravagant about it, some shed blood on the ground. This is truly a text as we can come by and “read" it and understand meaning, i.e. some sort of fight took place here. Sure, not mind blowing meaning but Dick and Jane books aren't mind blowing texts either.

Human to Animal Non-Verbal Discourse
Now, if I get into a physical fight with a rabid fox, I submit to you that this is a discourse just a surely as the above example and we will create a text as a result. To be very concrete about it let us say that the resulting "text" is a series of cuts on each other, scuffs on the dirt and maybe, just to be extravagant about it, some shed blood on the ground. The result is a text as surely as it is in the above example.

Animal to Animal Non-Verbal Discourse
If you accept that a human fighting a human creates a text and that we can substitute a fox for one of the humans and still create a text then why not submit a fox for the other human as well? I submit that the same paragraph could read "if a fox got into a physical fight with a fox. . ." (photograph by Robert Weselmann)

Here’s where we go into the realm of the supposedly “inanimate objects” We have thus far established that two animate objects, both bringing properties, can meet and have an interaction which we will call a discourse. It may be a non-verbal discourse but a discourse none the less. This discourse, like all discourses, will create a text, even if that text is a simple as a few marks on the ground. I ask you to consider the following.

"Inanimate" to "Inanimate" Non-verbal Discourse
If wind, in the form of a tornado, has a "fight"or interaction with a landscape, I submit to you that there will be an interaction between the properties of the tornado and the properties of the land. This fits our definition of a discourse. Two physical entities come together, both bringing properties, they interact (discourse) and the result is a text. To be very concrete about it let us say that the resulting "text" is a huge path of destruction. The text on a grand scale simply reads, a tornado came through here.

When humans read this text, they can see the inherent meaning that exists because of that text but also create new meaning based upon it. The text may say this was a very strong tornado, to say that it was an"F5 rating" tornado is to ascribe human meaning and classification on top of existing meaning. The existing meaning was “inherently” there as it was created before we arrived through the natural workings of the dynamic earth.

You could say my argument is, if a tree falls in the woods and no humans are there to see it happen does it still mean something? Of course it does!

A World of Meanings and Texts
In my line of work as a naturalist, everything is a text. There is meaning already existing in those texts. Our discourse of those texts creates further meaning, for sure, but that does not negate the inherent nature of the meaning already there. I hear the meaning in the Phoebe's call, I hear the meaning in the warning call of the chickadee. I see the meaning in cumulonimbus clouds.

Q. Is meaning created or inherent?

The answer is clear.

A. Yes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Birds 81-90

Bird 81 was an Egret on Easter. I spotted a bunch of Buffleheads during my commute to work on Tuesday, April 10th. I thought I caught a glimpse of a Northern Shoveler that same morning but it was just a glimpse at 55 mph so an official sighting will have to wait.

On Thursday April 12th I went on a hike with our intern Julia. We saw a winter wren down in the moat of the bog. We followed it around for a while. The ID would have been about 1000 times easier if it had bothered to sing. I next spotted a yellow-bellied sap sucker which was cool. It was on Red oak trail near the SE corner of the bog. It looked a lot like a hairy woodpecker at first but the white spot on the back of the head and the white stripe on the side really stood out. Julia said she noticed the white line running off the side of the head like a pileated. The yellow belly was barely noticeable. Another cool thing is that Julia saw sapsucker holes in the tree it landed on. My good binoculars were at home so I wasn't noticing those kind of details. She also had 10x binos while I had th 7x ones we give to the kids to use.

Almost immediately after seeing the woodpecker, Julia spotted a female eastern bluebird sitting on the bog. We watched it for a while as it hopped from hummock to hummock.

That's three new species for the year on one short hike around the bog, not too shabby!

On April 13th I had the day off from work so after picking up Doyle from the groomer we went to Little Lake Josephine in Roseville to go birding. We saw wood ducks, mallards, American coots, northern cardinals, robins, redhead ducks, lesser scaups, canada geese, ring necked ducks and a pair of osprey on a nesting platform. That's three new species for the year and my first official "life list" sighting of the ones in bold.

On April 14th we went to Crex Meadows for a work field trip and I added a Harrier and Trumpeter swan to the list. Overall I was a little disappointed in the trip. We were on this big bus and weren't able to stop too often to get off and really look for birds. It also wasn;t hte best time of year or time of the day but it was still fun.

On April 16th I came so close to getting bird number 90. I saw a swallow in the distance which was almost certainly a tree swallow but I couldn't be sure. I also heard the call of a tree sparrow but hearing isn't good enough, I need to see it!

On Tuesday, April 17th I went on a hike with Paul, Bekah and Julia out to the osprey tower at work. There weren't any osprey nesting but on the way I saw tree swallows. Number 90!

81 Great Egret
82 Bufflehead
83 Winter Wren
84 Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
85 Redhead Ducks
86 Lesser Scaup
87 Osprey
88 Harrier
89 Trumpeter Swan
90 Tree Swallow

My 2nd shot at Saturn

Finally warm weather has returned to Minnesota. Yesterday I got home from work to clear skies and I set up my telescope. Predictably, the sky clouded over. I held out hope and a half hour after dark I could see a small break in the clouds on the horizon. In between clouds I locked in on Saturn and started to capture quicktime videos as the clouds broke here and there. The conditions were awful. Seeing was a joke and saturn danced around on my screen from the turbulence. It is still a lot better than my first try!

My best video captured 389 frames of which I could only use about 125.
The picture above is a jpeg since blogger does not support an uncompressed format such as pict.

Here's the info.

Phillips spc900nc webcam
5 fps
Celestron 8 SCT
Orion 2x shorty barlow
image capture with Macam
Stacking in Keith's Image Stacker
Processing in KIS and Photoshop on a Macintosh

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Round Trip Light Time

Round trip light time is the amount of time it takes an electromagnetic signal to go to a spacecraft and back. While looking at the web page of the voyager mission I noticed that the round trip light time for the first voyager probe launched September 5, 1977 is 28 hours, 15 minutes, 56 seconds. It is currently 9,483,000,000 miles from earth. Half of this (roughly the one way time) is about 14 hours 7 minutes.

Traveling at the speed of light it would still take over 14 hours to get to where Voyager is and it is still within our solar system! The voyager spacecraft travels about 1 million miles each day which is quite fast. It boggles the mind to realize how vast just our solar system is let along the entire universe. Voyager is currently the furthest human-made object from Earth. Very soon it will pass into the heliopause and will officially be out of our solar system.

Nerds will celebrate.


Friday, April 13, 2007

My Glowing Hands

A few years ago I went "caving" in a lava tube in Hawaii. It was a fun experience and I usually enjoy getting underground. Our guide showed us something strange. We all turned off our lights and it was truly pitch black. We'd all had this experience before. I remember it best while on a tour of a gold mine in California but I'm sure we did the same thing when I went caving with my mom as a much younger kid. On to the weirdness.

The guide had us hold up our hand in front of our faces. What's weird? We could see them. Keep in mind this should be impossible. There was no light source in the cave whatsoever. The walls were black lava.

In the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel "It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

Still though, we could all see our hands. The guide had no explanation though he did note that you can only see your own hand. He thought it had something to do with each person being in tune with their own electrical system which sounded like a bunch of bunk to me, More likely, I thought, it is all your imagination. Sort of a visual hallucination ala phantom limb syndrome. Wait though, my brother and I experimented and sure enough, we could see each others hands. Our guide had never seen this before though he admitted he had never had brothers try. Weird.

Since that time I've gone into caves with other folks and we always do the pitch black bit. When I tried this recently with some kids in my Youth Adventure Corp, sure enough, the kids could see their hands.

Eyes work by picking up photons so it seems that there has to be photons bouncing off your hands somehow. I thought about your eyes being sensitive to a little infrared but I couldn't find any research on that. According to this article, "Retinal sensitivity sometimes extends (with very low sensitivity) to 1000 to 1050 nm. Note that if your eyes were sensitive to much longer wavelengths you would look through a sort of "infrared fog", since you would see heat energy everywhere."

Sources vary but the lower limit of what is considered infrared is generally between 700 and 800 nm. So, in theory, very sensitive dark adapted eyes could pick up some sort of infrared. I believe this is called "near infrared" though there aren't hard and fast rules. The human hand emits infrared at 8,000 to 14,000 nm. That is well outside what humans can possibly detect. Back to square one.

The other day I was searching for something completely different online and I came across a new study. Dr Mitsuo Hiramatsu, a scientist at the Central Research Laboratory at Hamamatsu Photonics in Japan announced that human hands emit photons.

An article in Discovery News suggests that, "Fingernails release 60 photons, fingers release 40 and the palms are the dimmest of all, with 20 photons measured." Unfortunately the article doesn't say what kind of rate that is. 40 photons per what unit of time? I know from my Astronomy work that the dark adapted eye can detect very few photons but without rate information I can't tell if this is the answer to my glowing cave hand mystery. The full research article on the glowing hands is here but I'm too cheap to pay for it.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sticky Spawn

I love the new Mac OS but it isn't perfect. Case in point. The dashboard based sticky notes. Sticky notes were really nice in OS 9 and the Mac team made them pretty much useless in OS X. If you want a new note you have to open your widget manager and load a new copy of the widget for every stupid sticky you want. Couldn't apple make a widget with multiple windows? Maybe not. It could be an inherent limitation in the dashboard architecture. Anyhow, the least they could have done is put a little (new note) button in the corner of each note that spawns a new copy of the widget.

Well, this widget called Sticky Spawn does almost that. It puts a mini sticky note on your dashboard. When you click it you get a new full size sticky note.

Nice easy solution. Now if only Apple had been smart enough to include a "trash me" button on each note. Do we have to think of everything?


Monday, April 09, 2007

Meet Doyle

Surprise. We have a new member in our family. This is our new dog Doyle. It isn't the best picture. He was kind out out of it when I took this as he had just gotten out of surgery. He and Odin are getting along well though the house is a lot less quiet with all of their rough housing. I don't know how my parents raised two young boys and survived.


Frozen Spring

I have a few moments left here for lunch so I thought I'd post a photo. This is the pond in my backyard. It has been so cold the last week that it has been freezing at night. The water fall keeps on going though which is nice. I took this photo one morning when we actually got snow. It looks like the forecast is for more snow tomorrow. Some spring. good thing there aren't any fish in the pond.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Inaugural Podcast

Here's my inaugural podcast. Enjoy.

Rocket Man


80 birds and counting

I'm off to a good start this year. Yesterday I hit the 80 bird mark. On my way in to work Monday I spotted an American Kestrel on the phone line on Norell Ave. That same drive I saw two Sandhill Cranes fly from the pond across from the entrance to the nature center and head in the direction of the prairie or Alder Bay on Terrapin Lake. It wasn't a great view of the cranes but good enough to count.
Yesterday (wednesday) I checked the bird feeders before leaving work and there were several fox sparrows.

American Kestrel
Sandhill Crane
Fox Sparrow

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ballooning In the Desert

We woke up at about 4:45 am to head to the deer valley airport for a hot air balloon trip. We met up with the crew and other passengers and then headed out into the desert.

At the site the crew readied the balloon on an old cloth billboard to keep it clean. The basket on this one was very large. It can hold 16 people plus the propane gas tanks.

The balloon in the foreground is the one we got into. At this stage it is attached to the basket and they are blowing it up with two large fans.

This photo really gives you and idea how monstrously huge the balloon is. Look carefully inside and you can see two tiny people standing in there.

Now we're cookin' with gas! As they ignite the burners the balloon starts to stand up and it tips the basket up with it.

Here Chelsey and I are all loaded in. The balloon is still tied to the bumper of a truck and with the weight of a dozen people they need to fire up the burners a bit before we take off.

Liftoff! We gracefully rise above the desert. You can compare the size of the shadows of the two balloons.

A few blasts of the burners and we rise higher.

Check out our little shadows. Chelsey took this one and it is a nice shot of the balloon but my eyes always land on the straight as an arrow hillside below the balloon. It is part of a flood mitigation project. There are a lot of them in the area. The flood waters from the mountains apparently go straight through phoenix on route to the river. Excellent planning huh?

The view from the balloon. Anyone think they can fly? Chelsey and I both had this really strange feeling like we wanted to jump out of the basket. Not that we would. The desire to not forcefully hit the ground was a whole lot stronger. Weird though. It wasn't so much a desire to jump, I think more the desire to fly. Maybe we need to take up hang gliding?

Hmm, should a tear in the balloon make us nervous?

Wow, my chin looks huge. I trimmed the beard just days before this. The more I look at this photo the more it look like I'm wearing a rigid underwater diving suit. Very odd.

With time running out we picked a landing site. Our pilot could see this big open area. Looks good right? It is a new construction site. It has two things going for it. 1) No Cactus. 2) It looks flat. Notice I said, looks flat. Looks can be deceiving from this height.

Here's one of many, many drop offs at the site. We had a fun ride when we landed. We didn't stay in one place.

Here's our drag marks. We jumped the ledge in the background and then jumped another 6 foot drop off just to the right of the photo.

Safely back on the ground.

Mom and Dad with the big ol' balloon deflating in the background.

How did they know to dress to match the balloon?

We had a great time that day and when it was all said and done we had to decide how to spend the rest of the day. I looked at my watch. It was only 8:30 in the morning. We still had a full day ahead.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Arizona Birding

What can I say? The birds in Arizona were fantastic. Even Chelsey thought some of them were cool.

When I first arrived in Arizona at the Kierland Villas I took out my binoculars and immediately spotted Great Tailed Grackles, a Green Heron, a bunch of Yellow-Rumped Warblers (Audubon's), Mallards, House Finches, Starlings and a Black Chinned Hummingbird. The birds in bold are new for this year.

Here's a shot of Chelsey and I at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. On Tuesday, Chelsey, and my mom came along as I met up with birder Jane Wicklund for some serious bird nerd fun. There was a threat of high winds that day so we started early and were able to catch some great sightings before it got too windy. Here's my list from that Tuesday.

On the way there I saw a Turkey Vulture and a Gambel's Quail.

As for new birds at the arboretum:
Gila Woodpecker
Pied Billed Grebe
Cooper's Hawk
Inca Dove
Broad-Billed Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Costa's Hummingbird
Black Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Bell's Vireo
Hermit Thrush
Yellow Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Abert's Towhee
Black-Throated Sparrow
White Crowned Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch

That's a pretty good list for one day. We saw one other bird that Jane said was a ruby crowned kinglet but since I couldn't verify it I didn't include it on my list. It was fun to watch people from the Pacific Northwest go all crazy about the northern cardinals. They are pretty amazing. I guess we tend to take them for granted.

On the way home from the arboretum I spotted a Killdeer on the side of the road.

Back at Kierland I saw two Golden Eagles flying over the golf course. I also saw Common ravens. When we went to Taliesin West I saw more gila woodpeckers and house sparrows but also a Curve-billed Thrasher which was fun. I went on a short stake-out at the hummingbird feeders by the pool back at Kierland but apparently no one bothers to fill them.

Once the rest of my family went back home, Chelsey and I headed off to Sedona. We stayed at Lo Lo Mai springs. Our cabin was just feet from the springs and the pond it feeds and I had some exciting new species. I immediately zoned in on a completely bizarre looking duck . Turns out it was a Mandarin Duck. They commonly escape from private collections and zoos. It was incredible and seemed to be hanging out with a couple of Wood Ducks. There were a bunch of mallards and a green heron as well.

At the Tlaquepaque shopping area in Sedona I spotted a couple of Cedar Waxwings.

In our adventures around the Sedona area we checked out Tuzigoot National Monument which is pretty much a waste of time.

It is as exciting as the photo looks.

There are far more interesting locations where you can see similar things. As far a birds I did add a Brown Crested Flycatcher though I must admit it was a difficult ID. I'm pretty confident though.

Far far more exciting was our last day in the Sedona area. I woke up and peeked out the front door to see who was in the pond. To my surprise there was a male Northern Pintail in breeding plumage. Nice.

Here I am ID'ing some Violet-Green Swallows along Oak Creek Canyon.

At Montezuma's Well I saw some great birds and this site was interesting even if you are oblivious to birds. I'd say it is better than Montezuma's Castle and did I mention that it is free?

In the "well," which is a limestone sinkhole, I immediately spotted a Cinnamon teal. Marvelous! The color on the male was wonderful. There were some mallards of course as well as a pair of American Wigeons. I spent a good deal of time looking at the swallows and determined they were Northern Rough-Winged Swallows. Trying Chelsey's patience, I ID'd a Rock Wren and then had a nice short conversation about birds with the ranger. She seemed to indicate that the rock wrens and canyon wrens look the same to her but I found that a little hard to believe. In all of the drawings I have, the canyon wren has a very distinct white throat but maybe not in this part of Arizona?

She indicated that a pair of black hawks were in the area but I didn't see them. I also ran out of time to track down a canyon wren. Oh well.

From Montezuma's Well we headed straight to the airport and I watched the entire way for a road runner. Pretty much everyone else in my family has seen one down there but my record of failure continues unbroken now for two years. I guess seeing something like 47 other species of birds makes up for it!

Here's the birds listed out. Only new ones here:
(Lifers are noted with a * 22 species are listed here for the first time)

Great-tailed Grackle
Green Heron

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
Black Chinned Hummingbird*
Gambel's Quail.
Gila Woodpecker*
Pied Billed Grebe
Cooper's Hawk*
Inca Dove*
Broad-Billed Hummingbird*
Anna's Hummingbird
Costa's Hummingbird*

Black Phoebe*
Vermilion Flycatcher*
Bell's Vireo *
Hermit Thrush
Yellow Warbler
Spotted Towhee*
Abert's Towhee*
Black-Throated Sparrow

White Crowned Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch*
Golden Eagle*
Common raven
Curve-billed Thrasher
Mandarin Duck*
Wood Duck
Cedar Waxwing
Brown Crested Flycatcher*

Northern Pintail*
Violet-Green Swallow
Cinnamon teal*
American Wigeon*
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow*
Rock Wren*

When I returned to work on Monday morning I taught down at the Science Museum and they had a spotting scope out so you could look for Peregrine Falcons on the High Bridge power plant smoke stack. I focused and zoomed in the scope and tally ho! There was a bird perfectly perched. That brings the yearly total to:

Peregrine Falcon*