Sunday, October 23, 2011


Nope, I'm not dead.
I have not jumped out of my apartment balcony.
Nor have I impaled myself with my binoculars (which seems highly unlikely)
And I have not been pecked to death by an insane red-bellied woodpecker with high energy levels and ...evilness.

I have only blatantly neglected my blog for several months.

You see, dear readers (wherever you are), I have a nasty habit of writing stuff down on my mind, building entire paragraphs filled with wonderful descriptions of how I dissected and smelled deer scat, or whatever other adventure I have had that isn't particular of a 12-year old who should be "playing video games, commenting on my state and posting self-glorifying images of herself on Facebook" (not quoted from anybody, but that's pretty much the attitude of today's stereotypical 12-year-old females) and completely forgetting to write/ type it down. Durn it.

So much interesting stuff has gone by, it would be impossible (for me) to make a post describing every single event, life bird, adventure, birthday gift, etc. that has gone by. From getting a brand new pair of binoculars in for my birthday in March (Nikon Monarch 8X42, ATB with dielectric coating, new edition 7294, hail o geekness), to a relaxing trip back to Cost Rica and visiting Tortuguero Nat'l Park and Santa Rosa Nat'l Park, to a wonderful Outdoor Education program, or our moving to a new apartment, and much more.

I have changed a lot, not in personality and hobbies, but in my way of writing. A lot of recent reading (mostly Temple Grandin, Alexander F. Skutch, Jeffrey Moussaief Masson, J. R. R. Tolkien and Irene M. Pepperberg, and am beginning to introduce myself to Shakespeare) has developed my writing skill quite a bit.

I wanted a fresh start on my blog, thus I will create a new blog (link will be shared soon) but will not delete this one. I'll give it a new name and look and all of that. It will also become more personal; not only about birds, but about my own life and many more adventures.

So,  farewell, faithful little blog of mine! Thank you for letting me share several months of adventures with you!


Saturday, March 12, 2011


Male, female at far bottom left
Just a few minutes ago, I was finishing dressing myself when suddenly a whispered cry blurted from my mom,


I ran to the kitchen with the window that had a view to the feeder, snatched my camera and very carefully peeked out. There, on the thistle sock feeder a strange brownish bird with a red cap clung, competing with the greedy House Sparrows for a place where to feed. For some reason the first name that popped into my mind was "bushtit", even though they don't look AT ALL like the bird that I had in front of my eyes.

I crept in closer, hiding behind the wall. Then I was able to see what it was. A male House Finch, with a female (perhaps his mate, I'll never know). It was the second time I saw this bird. Ever. Ironically some people have HOARDS of house finches at their feeders, gobbling up the entire content of a birdfeeder in just a few hours. And here I have this lonely pair, whom I am wishing will come every day from now on.

I took as many pictures as I could before they went away, annoyed by the greedy sparrows that just won't give them some space where they can eat in peace. Sigh...

Yet still I was terribly happy to have new customers at the birdfeeders. I hope they come back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day...

Second news is that, after a week without checking the mail (caused by mysteriously disappearing mail keys), my mother found between the mail nothing but my FIRST BIRDWATCHER'S DIGEST MAGAZINE ISSUE! I had asked for it for christmas, and here it is! WOOHOO!

Ridiculous Thirst For Bird Art

These past couple of days I have been having a terrible urge to paint birds.

 I enjoy sketching them, that's for sure, but I want to bring those gray drawings to life. I think my mom has had a part in this not-so-strange art instinct. 

"Kity?" (she affectionately calls me that)
"I really need you to do me a big favor"
"Um, what is it?"
"I need you to draw me something, and then paint it. I want to fill our home with them, Kity. I love them."
"Well, um, sure why not!  But I need, you know, tools to do so."

I do have some artist tools, but they are school temperas and oils. The temperas, I don't think I have to talk much about them. They are very basic, that's why you use them in school. My wonderful oils--I don't have many of them. I'm out of zinc white and other important colors,  many of the caps won't come off, and oils don't fit that much with what I really want to do. 

So I went about searching on the Net for some medium I would find good. Now, I'm battling between two choices--acrylics and watercolors.

Acrylics are very versatile and dry quickly. You can paint really smooth-looking and detailed art, such as this:

Aquatic Warbler (C) Lukasz Bednarz,
I am completely in love with this picture, but of course don't expect to paint like that without some truly formal-formal art education, but a girl can dream can she?
Plus, you can use acrylics as watercolors or as oils. Told you how versatile they are!

Now with Watercolors. Watercolors are not very expensive and are fairly easy to use, but you need Practice. 
My objective would be to get to this amount of detail: 

Lark In The Morning-Eastern Meadowlark by Julie Zickefoose
But that needs a lot of practice, yet I won't give up. When it comes to art, I can't stop until I have what I wanted to have. I need to be a perfectionist in order to accomplish my goal, which will then lead to extreme satisfaction and peace of mind. Ahhh.

Maybe I'll see if I can get my parents to buy me some art supplies. 

PS: Sketches of mine coming soon!

Spring Preps

Singing male Canada Warbler from Wiki Commons
Soo, I'm currently making my own spring preparations. If I don't, I'd go cuckoo and end up in a birding emergency room  "T-The songs. S-s-so m-m-many sss-s-songs I-I can-n-ot  I-IDENTIFF-FY!!!". Or, maybe I'll scamper crazily across the woodland, trying to catch a glimpse of the mystery singer that hides in the foliage, eventually getting kidnapped or ending up with a serious case of "warbler's neck"*.

To avoid such events, which are real possibilities for birders, I am making my own preparations for the Springtime. Yep--learning birdsongs.

I have been going steadily, step by step. One warm day, the loud, whistled and varied song of the cardinal, another the fee-bee-fee-bay of the Carolina chickadee. The peter-peter-peter and here-here-here! of the Tufted titmouse. I was trying to learn them all, steadily, but I knew that I would have to get a quicker method to learn many bird songs at once. Then came the trip to the library...

After drooling for a long time on nature books 'til my brains hurt, the library began to close. We hurried to check out whatever books we wanted, and as I hurried to the check-out something caught my eye. Why, it was Peterson's Eastern and Central North America Birding By Ear. Just what I needed!

I quickly snatched it from its shelf and was able to check out my books and the CD just in time, leaving the library with that feeling you get when you notice that today they DID have that delicious blueberry cheesecake   you always dream about in the lunch counter. Yum.

A couple of days later I began my self-tutoring.  I reviewed each of the 86 species shown on CD, and am still doing so. This way, I will be able to enjoy the beautiful songs a whole lot more when knowing what is making the sound.

The only drawback is that the CD shows only common Eastern birds, and you can't expect that every single bird you encounter will  be one regarded as "common". Thus I will be making my very own bird song recompilation. I'll lump every single Eastern bird in a Word document with a link to its song and call (whom I will get from the Macaulay Library) and try to learn as many as I can (specializing on birds I'm most likely to see around where I live).

Well, that's pretty much it. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 11, 2011


This is how our balcony looked in the summer. I can't believe that it looked
like this. Just look at all this...this...this GREENESS!!!
I have never in my life missed seeing trees with exuberant foliage so ridiculously. Being a Tica I am used to seeing trees with exuberant foliage, but here in North America winter has been cruel on me.

It was certainly beautiful to watch the trees change color in the fall, and begin losing their leaves. The days got shorter, the trees went naked and I began to see my own breath every time I breathed. I had never seen or heard a single Northern flicker since, and the feeders began getting more and more crowded with birds. Winter was here, and soon snow would begin to fall.

But now I simply can't believe how much I miss seeing trees overwhelmed with green leaves. I drool on pictures of green forests filled with warblers, orioles, tanagers, vireos and many other birds. I just can't take it anymore. Tropical fish need coral reefs. Period.

But now, I feel like there is SOME hope that spring is on its way. About 3 weeks ago we had an entire 60º F week, with lots o' sunshine. The birds went NUTS! Titmice, chickadees, cardinals and mourning doves began to sing. Deer stepped out of their hiding places in the woods and let themselves be seen. I actually saw a pair of mourning doves mating. Uh huh!

Every single one of those glorious days I came back from school, grabbed my birding gear and went outside. Jesus, everything just woke up! Insects crawled under my feet, and I marveled when one of those days I had a very close encounter with a doe that was springing about the woods.

The doe, who approached me unafraid. She passed only one or two meters
away from me.
Yet, as all good things do, it only lasted for about 6 days, and on Saturday the party was ovah'. 40-30º degrees outside, and everything just crawled back to sleep (except the songbirds, they are still singing, fortunately!). Darn it.

But I knew there was still hope, that in one or two months it would be blooming and singing all over again. The grass has gotten greener, trees are filled with moss and one morning I found a House Finch perched on an oak tree, singing its lungs out. Carolina wrens have gotten into it, and Robins (American ones) have reappeared on the lawns.

Let's hope, let's hope Spring comes soon... Ticos like me die out in all this deadness/grayness/coldness/winterness.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fish Crow!???/ ¡¿¿Cuervo Pescador!??

Corvus ossifragus?
I know, I haven't posted anything for a week or more so here's a story I have been longing to finish up:
On Thursday (Feb 5th) me and my younger brother (Daniel) were coming back from school. I took a different path home while Daniel headed to the playground with his friends. As I walked, a strange bird called from some unknown site. It sounded corvid-like but certainly not coming from a crow. I tried to look for the bird, and finally found it perched on top of an apartment building. It kept calling and calling, and after standing idle, looking at the puzzling black crow-like figure, I ran home and pounded on the door. When my sister (Mariela) opened I whispered hurriedly "GIVE ME THE CAMERA, QUICK!". She quickly whispered back "I DON'T KNOW WHERE IT IS!" My mother appeared, asking what was going on. Impatient and worried about the "crow" flying away, I flung inside the house and rushed to our parent's bedroom were the camera stood next  to our laptop. I quickly snatched it and ran back outside.
The crow had stopped calling, and for a moment I believed it had flied away. But to my delight the crow was still perched on the apartment building, having ceased its calling. I had the camera ready for action, and seeing no activity from the corvid I temporarily switched my attention to some house sparrows on a nearby rose bush.
Suddenly the crow let out a call and took flight. I quickly changed my attention back at the crow and put the camera on the "Video" setting. This is what I got:

To my relief the crow flew to a nearby oak tree, and I saw who it was calling to. Another crow was perched in the same tree, not far from the first crow I'd seen.
For a few moments they kept silent, while I prayed under my breath "Please, caw some more, crow, will you?". As if I had been answered, one of the crows began cawing a couple of times, but for the moment I had my camera recording they had stopped.
But they began cawing a lot afterwards, and this I WAS able to record!:

Excited about being able to record their calls, I played what I'd recorded and discovered that nothing could be heard. I was extremely frustrated, but wouldn't give up. I got closer to the tree, trying not to scare the corvids. One of them (the one you can see on the left from the video above) got nervous and flew off to another oak far from the tree were it had been--exactly what I didn't want to happen--and settled there to caw at its companion. To my relief, the other crow stayed in the tree  "Man! We were havin' a mighty good conversation here! Come and get hold of your guts, for heaven's sake! That human down there can hardly walk in this snow!"
I tried to move silently, slowly and very carefully towards the oak were the crow was. I stopped for a moment, afraid to scare the crow away. Suddenly, it began calling its companion, who then called back. It was my moment! I began recording:


I replayed the video I had recorded, and again I could barely hear a thing! I simply stopped recording and  looked at the remaining crow, who had stopped calling after its companion flew away from the tree it had gone to after I had got too close to it and made it fly away. Afterwards the remaining crow let out a series of calls, and I tried to record them, but began recording right when the crow was flying away:

"Wait for me, man! This human's givin' me the creeps!"
While heading home I decided to play the video once more, just to make sure I had really failed to record the crow's sounds. But then an idea came to me. What about putting the camera right next to my ear while the video play, and try and see if I could hear anything? I held the camera right next to my ear and played the video. To my surprise, I was able to perfectly hear the crows! The camera's volume was on a very low setting, making me think believe that I hadn't recorded any sound, only video. What a HUGE relief!

 I ran home and, after meddling about with my field guide and crow recordings on the Internet, I finally came to confirm that what I had seen were fish crows, for 2 reasons.
1. Its sound
2. Its wings
The fish crow's call is a dull, rather nasal Uh, uh, or Cuh, Cuh! or a very short, hoarse Car! instead of the American crow's strong CAW! or CRAW! You can hear their sound here and here (On the "Songs and Calls part, the first recording is that of a Fish Crow, the second one of an American Crow for comparison).

Now, you may be stumped on the wings. Why the heck would the wings of a fish crow would help me, if the are jet-black like that of other crows, with no special markings? Well, the wings of a fish crow are pointier than those of the American crow, that's why, only that it can be hard for one to see in the field (I guided myself by stopping the video and looking at pictures of the wings of an American crow).

Since that first sighting I've heard and seen many more fish crows, sometimes in flocks, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs. I think that's pretty weird, how after an isolated sighting you start seeing more and more...little avian mysteries...

Traducción vendrá pronto


All images and videos are (C) me /Todas las imágenes y videos me pertenecen.