BookBar this Saturday

November 8, 2018

Reminder:  this Saturday, 1 pm, I’ll be at the BookBar in Denver with Betsy Dornbusch, reading stuff and celebrating SF&F.

Colorado has a pretty dodgy record in regards to LGBTQ rights. That infamous cake baker is here, and 25 years ago there was Amendment 2, which tried to ban laws protecting the rights of LGBTQ people — it was overturned in court as unconstitutional, and rightly so.

Well, this week Colorado elected an openly gay governor, Jared Polis. We’ve come a long way, and it feels pretty damn good.  Polis served several terms in the House of Representatives, and I used to live in his district but moved out a few years ago. I was happy being able to vote for him again as governor this time.

 

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birding victories

October 8, 2018

Saturday the Cornell Lab of Ornithology held a Big Day, and I managed to get out and get a few checklists to send them. Only about 30 species, but it is firmly, drearily autumn in my part of the world and many birds have migrated away.

But it’s been kind of exciting down at Walden Ponds east of Boulder. I’ve never seen as many birders there as I did on Saturday, with lots of spotting scopes and lots of copies of Sibley’s on hand. So, I’m really only a moderate birder. I don’t follow any forums, I’m not signed up for any alerts when rare birds show up in the area. But I can always, always tell when an alert has gone out because I’ll get to Walden Ponds and there’ll be a dozen birders with scopes all clustered together looking at a Thing.

This time, it was a Vermilion Flycatcher. We’re way north of its usual range so it’s a really cool sighting.

But that also meant I was around a lot of other birders, which always makes me self conscious because I’m pretty sure I’m not a very good birder. I’m either the Best Worst Birder or the Worst Best Birder. I haven’t decided which.  I’m usually the one in the clump of birders asking, “What’s that? What about that?” and being annoying.

So imagine the thrill when I got to school one of these hard-core birders on an ID.

“Oh look, Dowitchers!” he said confidently, gazing over his scope rather than through it.

Me:  “Are you sure those aren’t the flock of Snipes that have been hanging around the last few weeks?”

(Looks through scope.)  “You’re right! Those are Snipes!”

(Confession: I made this exact mistake the last time I was at the ponds a couple of weeks ago. So I was ready for it. I am a learning monkey.)

I tried to do some digiscoping with my scope and iPhone. I’m not sure I’ll ever take really good pictures this way — it’s a wonky set up, with an old scope, an adapter that throws off the scope’s balance, and a breeze that rattles the whole thing and gives the images a kind of hazy filter.  I could also probably learn some photo editing to fix some of these issues.

But for helping me with ID’s? It’s really cool. The scope gives me such a good look at them.

Here’s the Wilson’s Snipe:

And here’s the Long-billed Dowitcher:

It’s really easy to see the ultra-long bill from a distance and think one or the other. But the second look makes it all clear.

They’re all so cute!

 

end of summer camping

September 10, 2018

I’m not ready for summer to be over. I feel like I never got enough camping/outdoor time. So I wrangled some friends together for a random weekend of non-SCA camping, just sitting around the fire and chilling out and drinking cider and all that good stuff.

Did some birding. Heard what I think was a Great Horned owl and saw a bunch of Wilson’s warblers, which are adorable. Some flycatchers which I was entirely unable to identify. Got one lifer: a Cassin’s vireo.

On one of my walks I encountered this:

I think this is the remains of an abandoned irrigation canal. My suspicion is this chunk of decayed concrete isn’t all that old. Sixty years, maybe? It really doesn’t take all that long for vegetation and the freeze/thaw cycle to do their damage. When working on Bannerless and The Wild Dead, I worried that I was being too radical, showing too much of civilization vanishing in too short a time. Then I come across something like this and think, no, civilization vanishes a lot quicker than we think it does.

This is at Pawnee National Grassland, an area I want to explore more of. I think I’d like to camp there in the spring, to catch some of the spring migration/breeding season. Camping, so I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and can just roll out of the sleeping bag, grab the binoculars and go.

 

pony!

June 22, 2018

This is the mini-horse who lives at the farm where I’ve been riding. She’s so fluffy!

Tomorrow is Cornell Lab’s Global Big Day, where thousands of birders go out and try to spot as many different species as they can. I’ve had some other things come up tomorrow (SCA Kingdom of the Outlands Coronation, with some good friends of mine stepping up as King and Queen so I’d like to be there), so I’m not sure I’ll get a full day in. But we’ll see what I can do. Barr Lake is right on the way to the event, so I can drop by and get my annual quota of Western Grebes in. Aren’t they pretty?

 

birds!

April 18, 2018

As you might have gathered, birds make me happy. They’re interesting, and they’re everywhere.

As I do every year, I’d like to point you to the local Osprey nest cam. This pair of ospreys have been nesting here for more than a decade, and the current brood is well under way. Yesterday, we had a massive wind storm in the area. 80 mph gusts. (We sometimes remind ourselves, if we lived on the coast this would classify as hurricane-force, but because we don’t, it’s just WIND.) The camera on the nest went out, which was a bit nerve wracking. But lo and behold, while the nest took some damage, the ospreys and eggs are all well. Love those guys.

And in two weeks, the Global Big Day is once again upon us. I’m not sure what my strategy is going to be this year, but I’m definitely going to get out and try to turn in some counts.

 

more birding adventures!

April 11, 2018

I got tired of holding my point-and-shoot up to the spotting scope to try to get pictures, so I got an adapter to attach my phone to it, to try to take pictures that way. Went out to try the setup for the first time yesterday. I can see there’s going to be a learning curve — the phone and attachment throw the scope off balance and it’s hard to get it all steady. But I managed to get a few shots I’m willing to show off. Here’s one, a pair of American Avocets.

I love the detail that comes through with the scope and my phone. Those colors are so sharp. And I love avocets, they’re so slick and graceful. Now I need to work on getting the whole scope set up better and figure out photo processing to clean them all up. But, not bad for a raw image.

I’m not sure how people get pictures of songbirds with their spotting scopes. Water birds are there in the open, easy to see, and you generally have time to point, focus, etc. Near as I can figure, to get pictures of the little manic birds you basically have to point the scope somewhere and wait for something to fly into view?