The Red Show

I might be short on paying work, but I am having a fair amount of success in getting my paintings shown. I will have another of my paintings in a show called The Red Show in Stoudsburg, PA. I don't know how long the show will be up, but the opening will be on Saturday, February 9th from 4-8 PM. 

I think the painting that will be on exhibit will be the one above, called The Four Humors. It could be the one below, called The Letter. I'll find out on Saturday! If you are in the area, please stop by! 


The Stroud Preserve, 1 February 2013

Today the Stroud Preserve was best described as pretty much an avian desert. It was cold, windy and quite. Very little was moving about at all. My walk today functioned more as a cardio exercise for me than a bird walk. However, there were a couple of patches of sparrow feeding guilds at kept the walk from being a total bird bust. These are usually dominated by White-throated Sparrows and will have other birds mixed in, including tree birds like , bluebirds, nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers. One of these mixed flocks had about 80% of all the individual birds I saw today. It also had a “herd” of cardinals, 38 to be exact. They were all feeding on the open ground with other sparrows and juncos. It was about evenly split between males and females. In my experience, I rare see that many cardinals in one group.


Start time: 9:15
End time: 11:20
Temp: 28°
Wind: brisk to strong from the northwest
Skies: overcast to start becoming clear by midday
Species Total: 28
  • Black Vulture – 4
  • Turkey Vulture – approximately 20
  • Canada Goose – approximately 250
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1, adult
  • Ring-billed Gull – 1
  • Great Horned Owl – 1, the now regular female on her nest
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – approximately 5
  • Downy Woodpecker – approximately 10
  • Northern Flicker – 2
  • Blue Jay – approximately 15
  • American Crow – approximately 150
  • Fish Crow – 3
  • Carolina Chickadee – approximately 10
  • Tufted Titmouse – approximately 10
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – approximately 5
  • Carolina Wren – approximately 10
  • Eastern Bluebird – approximately 25
  • American Robin – 3
  • Northern Mockingbird – 2
  • European Starling – approximately 30
  • Eastern Towhee – 5
  • American Tree Sparrow – 3
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 35
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 125
  • Dark-eyed Junco – approximately 20
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 50, including 38 in one flock. Bird of the Day!
  • House Finch – 4
  • American Goldfinch – approximately 10

The Stroud Preserve, 30 January 2013

I had company on my walk today. I met Kelly Nunn in the parking lot. She was visiting from the Kennett Square area. Now that I think about it, this was the first time that anyone has joined me for a full stroll around the place. I had also planned to met another other birder, Larry Lewis, this morning as well. But I didn’t see his group around at the parking lot, so Kelly and I took off instead.

While it was nice to have an increase in birders around the preserve, it would have been nice if more birds showed up. With the unseasonably warm weather that we had today I had high hopes for lots of bird activity. Even though the final species count was on the high end for this time of year, the total number of birds was fairly low.

Still of interest for me is the influx of Fish Crows. Today we counted at least ten in the scattered flock of American Crows. This is strange as I went most of the year prior to this with on a few Fish Crows at all. The Great Horned Owl was still tending to her nest. I am tempted to bring my spotting scope with me on the next visit so I can get a close up and personal look at it.

I did get an email from Larry later in the day. He said that they got to the preserve a little late but did have a nice walk. Their highlight was a Brown Thrasher. They also saw two Wilson’s Snipe and 5 Swamp Sparrows, which we did not see.

Other birds of interest were 2 Mute Swans, 8 Ring-necked Ducks, and 2 Black Ducks in a farm pond on a property adjacent to the preserve along Strasburg Road. The Swans have been there for about a week but the other ducks showed up today.


Stat time: 9:00
End time: 11:00
Temp: 47-55°
Wind: slight to brisk from the south
Skies: overcast with fairly low clouds
Species Total: 38
  • Great Blue Heron – 2
  • Black Vulture – approximately 10
  • Turkey Vulture – approximately 35
  • Canada Goose – approximately 500
  • American Black Duck – 2
  • Mallard – approximately 50
  • Common Merganser – 9
  • Cooper's Hawk – 1 adult
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 5, 4 adults and 1 immature
  • Ring-billed Gull – approximately 12
  • Mourning Dove – 2
  • Great Horned Owl – 1, female continues on the nest
  • Belted Kingfisher – 2, I don't see these as often as you might think. Only my second observation for the month.
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – approximately 5
  • Downy Woodpecker – approximately 4
  • Hairy Woodpecker – 3
  • Northern Flicker – 3
  • Blue Jay – approximately 20
  • American Crow – approximately 250
  • Fish Crow – approximately 10! Bird of the day, again. These continue to increase.
  • Carolina Chickadee – approximately 10
  • Tufted Titmouse – approximately 10
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – approximately 8
  • Carolina Wren – approximately 12
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet – 2
  • Eastern Bluebird – approximately 25
  • American Robin – approximately 12
  • Northern Mockingbird – 2
  • European Starling – approximately 50
  • Eastern Towhee – 2, heard only
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 25
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 25
  • Dark-eyed Junco – approximately 10
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 15
  • Red-winged Blackbird – approximately 10
  • Common Grackle – 3
  • House Finch – approximately 10
  • American Goldfinch – approximately 10

The Stroud Preserve, 29 January 2013

What a difference a few days makes. Today it was 43° Less than a week ago it was 12°. The birdlife was more lively as Carolina Wrens, Blue Jays and the likes were more vocal. Bluebirds were back in force. Actually, I don’t think that they ever left. I imagine if I were to check the Bluebird Boxes or other cavities around the preserve during the cold snap I imagine I would have found masses of them huddled up in a blue bunch of fluffy feathers. I do remember seeing a female Bluebird going in and out of a natural cavity in a tree a few weeks ago and wondered it that was an overnight roost for them.

I had a number of highlights on my walk today (in bold on the species list), but for me the best was having a Fish Crow and American Crow sitting near each other in profile where I could (finally) get a good look at the two. I have heard many Fish Crow calls from the preserve but being away from the area for nearly 20 years and knowing how variable crow calls can be I’ve been wondering if I am getting these calls correct. Also, I never hear of any other birders from the area mention that they see Fish Crows.

I heard what I would call a classic Fish Crow call from a small mass of crows in a tree near the Brandywine. I carefully watched until I found the crow that was making the Fish Crow call. I found it sitting just underneath a calling American Crow. The size difference was easy with the Fish Crow noticeably smaller and slimmer than the American Crow.

I’ve always been fond of Fish Crows as it was one of the few nesting birds in my old neighborhood at 5th and Cecil B. Moore in North Philly. We were some distance away form the Delaware River but they certainly liked the urban wasteland there. The only other native nesting bird that I can recall from there was American Kestrel. The photo on the left is a rotten shot using my phone. Both crows were in profile and facing the same direction. You can (maybe) make out that the bottom one is smaller. If not, you will have to take my word for it! I think the first thing I will do when I get gainful employment again is get a decent camera for things like this. Nonetheless, it will have to do for now.


Stat time: 9:00
End time: 11:45
Temp: 43-45°
Wind: None
Skies: Overcast, light fog
Species Total: 39
  • Great Blue Heron – 3
  • Black Vulture – 2
  • Turkey Vulture – approximately 10
  • Canada Goose – approximately 1000. About 750 were in the fields on the northwest side of the preserve.
  • American Black Duck – 2, in the old farm pond.
  • Mallard – 75, in the old farm pond.
  • Bald Eagle – 1 adult
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1 adult
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 3, 2 adults and 1 immature.
  • Wilson's Snipe – 2 just past the bridge over the Brandywine (the area in the banner photo).
  • Ring-billed Gull – 6, low enough to provide a certain ID!
  • Mourning Dove – 5
  • Great Horned Owl – 1, female on the nest.
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 3
  • Downy Woodpecker – 2
  • Hairy Woodpecker – 1
  • Northern Flicker – 1
  • Blue Jay – approximately 20
  • American Crow – approximately 250
  • Fish Crow – 3, Bird of the Day!
  • Carolina Chickadee – 2, low number
  • Tufted Titmouse – 2, low number
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – 3
  • Carolina Wren – approximately 12
  • Winter Wren – 1
  • Eastern Bluebird – approximately 25
  • American Robin – 7
  • Northern Mockingbird – 3
  • European Starling – approximately 100
  • American Tree Sparrow – 1
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 20
  • Swamp Sparrow – 4
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 20
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 1
  • Northern Cardinal – 6
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 1
  • Common Grackle – 1
  • House Finch – 2
  • American Goldfinch – approximately 12

Forensics Club, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Fancy Plants

[From Mary]

Good day all. Thought it might be time I shared in some blogging duties. 
Funny thing is once I sit behind the keyboard I got nothing to say...
Didley squat...

Well, actually, I do have a few events that may be worthy of your time. Last year, when my place of employment merged, I "inherited" the position of Forensics coach. That is really interesting mostly because I didn't have the slightest idea what it entailed, other than it actually means 'speech club, and not 'CSI Mother Teresa Regional Catholic'. I must admit I was a little less than enthusiastic. After all, this is my second year teaching all new subjects. Kids, I'm tired. 

UNTIL NOW!!!!! DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!! The first competition for the Forensics Club was held at St. Joseph Preparatory School in West Philly (hold the terror-filled screams ya'll. The parking lot had a security gate and guard). With students and parents in tow, we made it safely to what some call "Little Lebanon" (Not because it houses lots of Lebanese but because it resembles a war zone!). And there, after months of work, two of my students made it to semi-finals in our very first competition! These beautiful and brilliant girls made it there through sheer exuberance, and I was just in awe of their energy and focus. See photos from our visit here

I wanted to share something else. I love this city. Here I stood in a Jesuit prep school where affluent, hard working young men are pushed to make a difference in this world. If the young men who ran the program are any indication, the prep is doing an excellent job. They were impressive, to say the least. Established in what once was a thriving bustling area in 1866, this Catholic church and school was one of many going up left and right despite the attacks from the Know-Nothing party throughout the 1850's. With Irish pouring into the city, St. John Neumann oversaw the explosion of Catholicism as well as safely steering it through violence and destruction aimed at the Catholics and Irish. 

Just next to the prep is Girard College. The history of Girard College and its founder, Stephen Girard, just simply makes me weepy. This industrious French immigrant came to our city in 1776 (oh yeah, the big year) and amassed a huge fortune. In fact, he became the wealthiest American of his time! He had his hands in everything, from organizing the infamous Bush Hill Hospital during the yellow-fever epidemic of 1793 to becoming the first private banker in the U.S. He even helped to fund the War of 1812. As he had no heirs, he invested his fortune in the future, starting the school for orphans who would have little opportunity without help. It is still running today from the foundation he laid. He chose that location as it was near the then innovative Eastern State Penitentiary (focusing on humane incarceration) and a hospital devoted to the mentally ill. Phillie was the "it" place back in the day!

Man, that's just why I love this city. I just feel its story. I can see those immigrants, the free blacks, Ben and Johnny Neumann and Mr. Girard. I can see them all making their way down Broad and Girard and Market. I can see Frank Rizzo and Nicki Scarfo and our countless "notorious" standing around and making trouble. The art and artists. The museums. The food. I just can't help myself..... I just love this town.

Before I sign off, I hope you enjoy these photos and little clip of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. My dear Emily and I joined our lovely friends, Miranda, Lucy, and Isaac, on Saturday evening for a wonderful concert at Longwood Gardens. You may remember them from Paul Simon's terrific album "Graceland". Just a note, the gorgeous, tall young man on the far left is the front man's youngest son. 

I hope we chat soon,



The Stroud Preserve, 27 January 2013

I had a pretty late start today and things seemed slow that I thought perhaps I didn’t need to bother with any field notes for the blog, however, there were a couple of interesting things to talk about. Also, as you can see from the photo above, it's just nice to see the place in a different light some times. 

To start with, a couple of birders that I ran into as my walk began flushed up a Wilson’s Snipe, which is always a good bird to see around here. I then showed them where the Great Horned Owls nest was. The female was faithfully sitting on the nest.

Other than that most of the walk was as quite as I have ever seen it here. As I approached the Brandywine I saw a flock of 24 Common Mergansers flying south down stream. As I scanned for more birds on the wing, I noticed a flock of about 50 birds high overhead. Looked and they all appeared to be gulls. As on 18 January, when I observed other large groups of gulls streaming past, these were made up of mostly small gulls and a few larger ones. My assumption is that these are Ring-billed and Herring Gull. Today howerver, they were flying the exact opposite direction as they were a week ago and there seemed be fare fewer Herring Gulls mixed in. They kept streaming past in groups of 20 to 75 birds for the next 20 minutes or so. In all I estimate approximately 1500 gulls passed over with only about 12 or so Herring Gulls.

After it seemed that most of the gulls had flown past, I got into my car and head out of the parking lot. As I pulled up to Creek Road I saw a large raptor flying directly towards me only a few feet above the ground then right as it got the to road, it pulled up and landed on the telephone pole right in front of me! I saw a thing hanging from its feet that looked like the tail of some rodent. At last! A Peregrine Falcon!

Or not. It was without doubt a large falcon, but it was very pale, not anything like the Peregrines around here should look. I thought “is it a Gyr?” But it didn’t look right for that either. The sideburns were to distinct and it had far to slender of a build. Then I thought, perhaps the rodent tail wasn’t a tail after all but jesses instead. I looked. And indeed it was a jess. The photo on the right is poor, but you can make out the jess in it.

I looked at if for another minute or so and then it flew off across the field right to where the falconer was swinging a lure around in large circles on a tether. That was a bit of a relief because it makes my issues with identifying it a little less embarrassing. I think it was some pale race of a Peregrine or a Lanner, or some combination therein. I’ll have to wait a bit longer to get a wild Peregrine (or a Lanner) for my preserve list!


Stat time: 3:15 PM
End time: 5:30
Temp: 32°
Wind: None
Skies: Mostly clear
Species Total: 29
  • Canada Goose – approximately 45
  • Mallard – 13 all flyovers
  • Common Merganser –
  • 24, all flyovers
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1 immature
  • Wilson's Snipe – 1
  • Ring-billed Gull – approximately
  • 1500! Bird of the day!
  • Herring Gull – approximately 12
  • Great Horned Owl – 1, on nest
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 3
  • Downy Woodpecker – 5
  • Hairy Woodpecker – 1
  • Blue Jay – 2
  • American Crow – 1
  • Carolina Chickadee – 1
  • Tufted Titmouse – 2
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – 3
  • Carolina Wren – 3
  • Winter Wren – 1
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet – 2
  • Eastern Bluebird – 5
  • American Robin – approximately 10
  • Northern Mockingbird – 2
  • European Starling – approximately 30
  • Eastern Towhee – 1, heard only
  • Song Sparrow –3
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 10
  • Dark-eyed Junco – approximately 10
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 10
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 6

The Stroud Preserve, 25 January 2013

Today’s walk, like every other walk this week was cold. However, the wind was not blowing at all, so it was a pretty enjoyable walk. My first impression starting out was that it was going to be a really slow day because the landscape as such a dead silence to it. Nonetheless, it wasn’t that bad. The birds mostly occurred in bunches. I would walk for 5 or 10 minutes and not see very much at all, then all of the sudden the ground would be crawling with sparrows. Most of which were White-throated. The old pond bed was pretty active with sparrows as well.

Last spring I found a pair of Red-tailed Hawks with a nest in a large tree on the north side of the preserve near the high tension power lines. I thought  to myself when I saw “that will probably be were I’ll get a Great Horned Owl. All winter when I walk past it I have checked to see if I could see a Great Horned peeking over the side. Today when I looked up I did indeed see a pair of eyes looking back at me! My guess is that this is a female on eggs. I is kind of hard to think about incubating eggs in these temperatures!

Also was interest today were 6 American Pipits that worked their way through the grass nearly at my feet. Actually, they were about 8 feet away as they were at the edge of the near focus of my binoculars. The foraged as if I were not there.


Stat time: 8:50
End time: 11:10
Temp: 16-18
Wind: none
Skies: overcast
Species Total: 32
  • Great Blue Heron – 1
  • Black Vulture – 6
  • Turkey Vulture – approximately 20
  • Canada Goose – approximately 250
  • Mallard – 10
  • Common Merganser – 6
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 4, 3 adults, 1 immature
  • Mourning Dove – approximately 12
  • Great Horned Owl – 1, Bird of the Day! A new bird for the preserve for my list!
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 5
  • Downy Woodpecker – approximately 12
  • Blue Jay – approximately 15
  • American Crow – approximately 100
  • Carolina Chickadee – 1
  • Tufted Titmouse – approximately 12
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – approximately 10
  • Brown Creeper – 3
  • Carolina Wren – 5
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet – 1
  • Eastern Bluebird – 4
  • Northern Mockingbird – 3
  • European Starling – approximately 12
  • American Pipit – 6
  • Eastern Towhee – 1
  • American Tree Sparrow – 5
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 75
  • Swamp Sparrow – 3
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 350
  • Dark-eyed Junco – approximately 20
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 20
  • Common Grackle – 2
  • American Goldfinch – 12