Sunday, March 29, 2009

What happened?

Last week Wednesday night eHostSource.com upgraded their servers. After being off-line for over 24 hours, I sent them an email about the downtime. They responded:

"We knew things would not be seamless, however, we NEVER anticipated all the problems that have occurred. We are still in the office now working on these issues. We will not stop until we have them resolved. I assure you that we will not forget about you."

I wonder if they're still working on it at this moment - they must be very tired! Well, now it's March 29th and if you try to access www.birddigiscoping.com you will still receive the following error:

Forbidden
You don't have permission to access / on this server.
Apache/2.2.3 (CentOS) Server at www.birddigiscoping.com Port 80

This is just totally unacceptable. At the recommendation of another birder I changed my provider to Verio.com (too bad they didn't name their company “Vireo”). Anyway, my transfer wasn't seamless either, but I was able to restore just about everything in less than a day. Unfortunately, because the staff at eHostSource are so inept, I wasn't able to keep the original domain name.

My new domain is www.birddigiscoper.com.

What's working:

  • I can post new blogs.
  • You can comment on them.
  • My digiscoping gallery is on-line.
  • RSS and ATOM feeds are on-line.
  • Redirecting link from the old site is installed.
  • My new email: mike@birddigiscoper.com
What isn't working:

  • Everything is working great!
If www.birddigiscoping.com ever comes back on-line, I'll install a redirecting link to the new website. Though the original site had great search engine position, top Google ranking isn't everything. I thought it was more important to get my website back on-line as soon as possible even if it meant a domain name change. I'm sure if enough bloggers out there post about it, word will get out to all readers of Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog.

There may be a few tweaks and bugs remaining. Should you find any problems, I would appreciate it if you report them via email mcdomik@gmail.com.

Lastly, remember to backup, backup, backup your files!

Thank you for your patience!

Addendum - March 30th, 2009:

I tried to email them today:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

support@ehostsource.com

Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 554 554 5.7.1 : Relay access denied (state 14).

Mike McDowell

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Songs of the Corridor



During the night, early spring migratory birds continued to push northward into southern Wisconsin. When NexRad really begins to ignite, I'll try to remember to post a few animated maps that illustrate what evening exodus looks like. So, after a visit with the barber this morning, I headed off to the Pheasant Branch stream corridor. Upon arrival, I found the east trail access blocked by high water from all the rain we got yesterday. It's simply too dangerous to cross, so I headed down the west trail.

The corridor was filled with jubilant trills of Dark-eyed Juncos punctuated by occasional melodious Fox Sparrow songs. Adding to the exquisite spring choir were Northern Cardinals, Song Sparrows, and American Robins. Surrounded by busy Brown Creepers, hyper Golden-crowned Kinglets, and stationary Cedar Waxwings on the perch, we've entered the stage of birding season those that can identify birds by ear simply love. Further down the trail I found a slightly skittish Eastern Phoebe near the first bridge. A short distance past the bridge, I found my first Hermit Thrush of the year. The amount of bird activity was wonderful to behold, but I was running out of time. I checked my watch - my hour of birding was over for another day.

Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 3/25/09
Number of species: 30

Wood Duck
Mallard
Killdeer
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Hermit Thrush © Mike McDowell

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wildlife officials worried about whooping cranes



From the Houston Chronicle:

"ROCKPORT, Texas - Wildlife managers are worried that some of the whooping cranes wintering at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge may be too weak and malnourished to successfully make their return to Canada this season. The drought has affected the flock that spends each winter on the Texas Gulf Coast. The birds have had trouble finding food because low water levels have decreased the number of blue crabs, which make up 85 percent of the endangered species' diet."

Link: Read the rest of the article.

Link: Tom Stehn's most recent census flight reports (PDF).

We cannot lose sight of the fact that the Aransas population of Whooping Cranes can be decimated within in a bad season. It's possible we could lose a substantial portion of their population to some other unanticipated calamity, like a disease ravaging the flock. Though much progress has been accomplished, we have not yet saved these birds from the threat of exctinction. Operation Migration's Wisconsin-Florida flock, as we learned a few years ago, can also experience dramatic losses and setbacks. Though I know many of us are less willing to donate to charities during economic hard times, I encourage my blog readers to try and keep giving whatever they can to conservation groups like Operation Migration and the International Crane Foundation. Buy a Federal Duck Stamp! No amount is too small!

Link: Operation Migration

Link: International Crane Foundation

Link: Friends of Aransas and Matagorda Island NWR

Whooping Crane image courtesy of USF&W

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring's first Performers


Yesterday's weather was truly glorious - sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60's. I'm grateful for taking full advantage of it because the forecast calls for seven days of darkness. There's even a chance for snow this coming Friday, but the highs will be in the 40's and 50's so whatever snow we do get will likely melt the next day.


A night of southerly winds brought returning spring migrants to the Pheasant Branch Stream corridor: Great Blue Heron, Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and Fox Sparrows. Not gone unnoticed by me was the number of Song Sparrows that virtually showed up overnight at the prairie. The common and simple aren't necessarily so. After reading Donald Kroodsma's The Singing Life of Birds, I've never looked at Song Sparrows the same.


Enjoyed by birders to be among the first to report their return, abundance and ubiquity relegates them to the ordinary within a short period of time. But if you know what's going on, they're super exciting birds to watch and learn from. Naturally, I would probably never choose to spend so much time watching and photographing Song Sparrows during any part of May, but as a photographer their sweet March songs are an invitation to practice, practice, practice. And so these “little brown jobs” help remove whatever rust may have materialized in my digiscoping technique over the course of winter. But mostly, whenever I see them now, I'm reminded of the fascinating chapter in Kroodsma's book about the complexity of Song Sparrow behavior and song.


Once at the top of the drumlin, I took a break on the bench that overlooks the marsh and began to drift. Before falling asleep, I heard songs of Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Meadowlarks, an Eastern Phoebe, and Red-winged Blackbirds. The late morning sun kept my body comfortably warm as I napped for a half an hour to the songs of birds and the gentle breeze blowing through the oaks.

Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 3/21/09
Number of species: 42

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Hooded Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2009 Mike McDowell

Friday, March 20, 2009

The First Phoebe


And so it's spring! I saw my first Eastern Phoebe of spring migration Wednesday morning at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Naturally, it was flycatching near the entrance of the bridge over the stream at Park Street. I do not know for sure why they seem to favor such structures; perhaps food items (insects) are more plentiful there. Eastern Phoebes build nests situated on rocky ledges, walls, ravines, or in caves – something usually with an overhang. Human-made bridges may simply offer too much of an invitation to pass up. As I walked down the path, the phoebe flew up, perched high in one of the nearby oak trees and began singing with the sunlight illuminating its drab but smart looking plumage. I fixed my binoculars on the bird. I'll probably see and hear many individual Eastern Phoebes throughout this migration, but there's nothing like spending a little extra time admiring the first arrival encountered. Perhaps watching the diminutive flycatcher, I might advance my knowledge and understanding, even if only a little, of its habits and habitats. The phoebe's voice is simple poem, but one seemingly foretelling of great journeys yet to come by other birds. They are well on their way and will soon be in a natural area near you.

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can't be repeated.

Mary Oliver - The Place I want to Get Back To

Eastern Phoebe © 2009 Mike McDowell

Thursday, March 19, 2009

State of the Birds



"Birds are a priceless part of America’s heritage. They are beautiful, they are economically important—and they reflect the health of our environment. This State of the Birds report reveals troubling declines of bird populations during the past 40 years—a warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems. At the same time, we see heartening evidence that strategic land management and conservation action can reverse declines of birds. This report calls attention to the collective efforts needed to protect nature’s resources for the benefit of people and wildlife."

Link: State of the Birds

Only after the Last Tree has been cut down,
Only after the Last River has been poisoned,
Only after the Last Fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that
Money Cannot Be Eaten.

- Cree Indian Prophecy

Magnolia Warbler © 2009 Mike McDowell

Monday, March 09, 2009

White-nose Syndrome



Though not a bird related article, I think the White-nose Syndrome (WNS) that's killing bats is a very important ecological issue to follow. This malady is named for a white fungal growth appearing around the muzzles and wings of bats as they hibernate in caves. The mortality rate of WNS is high; bat populations at some caves have declined as much as 90% in a relatively short timeframe – entire bat species are potentially at risk. It was discovered in caves in New York in 2006 and has since spread to Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut during 2008. Already this year it's been confirmed in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The cause of WNS remains elusive. The latest issue of The Nature Conservancy's magazine features an article on the plight that's killing our bats and is a very worthwhile read.

Link: In the Dark - The Nature Conservancy

© 2009 Mike McDowell

Thursday, March 05, 2009

First of Spring



A southerly wind was a saving breath
Black bird red eased winter’s death
Dozens gathered in leafless oaks
singing from atop pines and posts
Killdeer, Killdeer, Killdeer
Sights and songs that spring is near
I couldn't be happier and yesterday such dread
I watched a flock of robins; I wasn't dead.

© 2009 Mike McDowell