Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Game

You Are a WerewolfYou
Are a Werewolf

You're unpredictable, moody, and downright freaky.

You seem sweet and harmless, until you snap. Then you're a total monster.

Very few people can predict if you're going to be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.

But for you, all your transformations seem perfectly natural.

Your greatest power: Your ability to tap into nature

Your greatest weakness: Lack of self control

You play well with: Vampires

Dining out in Cape May

Finding food in a new place can be a challenge, but advice from locals or people who have been there before always help.

Susan recommended this pizza place for a quick bite on our first night in Cape May. Here I got "a slice" and a Snapple lemonade.

Pizza by the slice has a very New York sort of feel to me. And an East Coast "slice" is much more generous than one in Ohio.

Susan and Laura had also eaten here before:

I wonder if the shorts-wearing waiter had anything to do with their rave reviews. The cheese ravioli and huge meatballs were to die for. I was surprised at the number of Italian restaurants in Cape May. I didn't see any Mexican or Chinese places, but lots of Italian ones.
Maybe it has something to do with the Guidos?

Susan, are you dreaming about the waiter?
Or plotting a way to get corporate sponsorship for your blog?

Here is a Cape May institution, right on the beach:

Birders are practically required to have breakfast at Uncle Bill's at least once during the Autumn Weekend. Sadly, once was all I could afford; pancakes, sausage, OJ and milk plus tip ran me nearly $20.

I didn't get a photo of the C-View Inn, sports bar cum restaurant, where we ate, drank, and made merry on Saturday night. Nine televisions and the rumor that Pete Dunne eats there were good enough for me. The crab cakes were good, though small. They don't do a frozen margarita, only on the rocks, so I settled for Corona with a wedge of lime. Good thing, too, as I don't think the group was ready for KatDoc on tequila.

This little diner
was not in Cape May, not even in New Jersey, but across the bay in Lewes, Del. It was the site of my oh-too-brief dinner with Holly-the-person, my e-friend of 8 years who I finally got to meet in real life.

The food was good but the company better. I had flounder, stuffed with crab meat (yum!), loaded mashed potatoes and a cake called "Tres Leches," which was made of three kinds of milk.

"For I have friends I've never met."
Well-met, Holly!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Skywatch Goes to Cape May

The lighthouse at Cape May State Point Park is a landmark. The Hawk Watch platform is nearby, and everyone gravitates to "The Point" at some time during the weekend. If you get lost, just drive toward the lighthouse and you''ll make it there.

click here for more Skywatch Friday images

Black Skimmers and Co.

One of my goals for the trip to Cape May was to see Black Skimmers. I had heard about them from Susan and Laura, seen photos on the Internet, and read about how their oversized lower mandible is used to skim fish from the surface of the ocean, but nothing prepared me for the sight of these beauties in person.

I had gone back to the condo on Friday afternoon, to shower and rest after a hard morning of birding. I was clean and dry and comfy, ready to relax, when Susan called me from the beach. "Laura and I are at the Second Avenue jetty and there are tons of skimmers! Get down here," she exclaimed. I thought about it for 30 seconds, then reluctantly declined. My bed was calling.

Saturday morning, Lynne and I came out of Uncle Bill's Pancake House, a Cape May institution. Breakfast here is a requirement of the Autumn Weekend. As we were taking pictures of the sign (don't ask!), I noticed an odd flock of birds wheeling and diving over the water's edge. "Look at those strange gulls," I commented. Lynne did a double-take. "Those aren't gulls," she replied. "They're ..." We looked at each other. "SKIMMERS!"

We hopped in the car and followed them along the beach. When they stopped, we stopped, parking the car quickly and grabbing our bins and cameras. We tracked them to their resting place.

Black Skimmers - what an incredible bird!
click on any photo to enlarge

The adults are black and white, with an outlandish red-orange and black bill. First year birds are sooty gray, smudged versions of their parents. The difference in bill length is less dramatic, too.

With the skimmers were a flock of Forester's Terns and a Laughing Gull.

foreground: Laughing Gull
middle left: adult Black Skimmer, followed by 2 juveniles
rear and right side: Forester's Terns

The whole flock, including some tern action.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Birder-Bloggers and Friends

Although my first post focused on the birds I saw at Cape May, some of the best memories I will carry with me are of the people I met. Here is just one story about them.

The Flock and company descend on the C-View Inn

The Second Annual meeting of the Flock, fall migration, convened at the C-View Inn in Cape May on Saturday night. Founding members Susan (Gets Native), Laura (in NJ), and Delia (of Beginning to Bird) welcomed new Flock members Lynne (Hasty Brook) and myself. Conspicuous by her absence was Susan from Lake Life. (Do you have a doctor's excuse,
Susan, or at least a note from home?)

Invited guests included John from A DC Birding Blog, This is the best view I could get of shy John

birdJam founder Jay,
and the original party animal herself,
Sharon, aka BirdChick.

Just try to catch a candid, un-posed shot of the BirdChick.
I swear, it can't be done.

A wonderful surprise was meeting Beth. You've never heard us mention Beth, have you? That's because Beth is our groupie, a lurker who reads our blogs every day and never leaves a comment.
Lynne and I met her on a 7:30am bird walk at Cape May Point State Park when she called out, "You're Hasty Brook, aren't you?" We invited her to dinner, and she fit right in with the rest of us. (I'm not sure if this is a compliment or an insult.)

You've been outed, Beth. We will all be expecting comments now, followed by your own blog some day.

Isn't this a lovely group of ladies? from left to right: Delia, Sharon, Beth, Susan, Lynne

I handed out lucky buckeyes to the group, hoping to assure an Ohio State victory over the Nittany Lions. (Alas, it was not to be.)

One of these buckeyes will never be the same
(and you know what I mean!)

When the table of Penn State fans behind me noticed my scarlet and gray sweatshirt, I gave them a buckeye, too. I thought perhaps a gift of a poisonous nut might be appropriate.

Some candid shots of the evening (and some not so candid):

Laura, looking relaxed, contemplates stealing John's fries.

Ever hear the phrase, "Eat like a bird", Sharon?

Susan showed off her talents, among other things:

Our waitress looking shocked, Delia looking bored, and Sharon looking for that lost buckeye.

All too quickly, it was time to wrap up the evening.

Delia, sad to leave so soon

Reminder to all current and future Flock members: Spring migration happens at the New River Birding Festival in West Virginia in just six short months. Have you made your reservations?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Confession Time: I'm a Lister.

heard at an LA (Lister's Anonymous) meeting:

me: "Hello, my name is KatDoc, and I'm a Lister."
group: "Hello, KatDoc!"

KD: "I always claimed I wasn't a Lister. I mean, I had a Life List, but who doesn't, right? I don't do Birdathons, Big Days, Big Years, or Big Sits. I don't count the numbers of birds I see (usually.) I don't travel to faraway places just for birds. (Well, New Jersey was kinda far.) I don't chase birds to add to my List (except the really rare ones, like Snowy Owl or Black Rail.) I don't go birding just to tick birds off a list- I go for the peace and quiet of nature, to watch bird behavior, and to see my old friends again, not just to meet new ones. How could I be a Lister?"
group: "We hear you, ListerSister."

KD: "It started with keeping a Yard List. It was a simple step, just keeping track of what birds came to my feeders. Nothing dangerous, just a little Yard List."
group, nodding heads in agreement: "Uh, huh."

KD: "Then came Trip Lists. Well, it seemed harmless enough, noting what birds I had seen that day. Trip Lists couldn't be so terrible, could they? And, once you write it, you need to keep that list around, maybe in a special file, so you have a permanent record, don't you?"
group groans, some sniffing and covertly wiping their eyes

KD: "Then, one day on a field trip, someone asked me if I had a Year List. It sounded tempting, to keep track of how many birds I saw in a calender year. I bit, and thus a new List was started. My OBBA atlas work encouraged me to keep a Nest List (confirmed breeding activity, including nests or nest-building behavior.) My Yard List is now annotated, with marks for those which breed in my yard, feeder birds, and those which are rare/unusual. While I was at it, I added an Ohio List - the birds on my Life List that I have seen in Ohio. I blame Jim McCormac for this one: I use his
book, Birds of Ohio, to keep this list."
group member, stands and shouts out: "Take responsibility for your own actions, Doc! Don't pass the buck!"

KD: "Sometimes it takes a friend to point out the obvious. Driving back from New Jersey, I commented that the Red-tailed Hawks weren't on my official Cape May Trip List. They were part of the Road List, since we had technically left the island and were headed home. Susan turned to me and said, 'You are SUCH a Lister.' Of course, I was in denial, but after her intervention, I had to admit she was right. It's true. I AM a Lister."
group, leaping up to hug KD: "It's OK. Recognition is the first step. We're here for you."

KD: "In conclusion, I'd like to share with you my Official Cape May Autumn Bird Weekend 2008 Trip List. Please note, this list includes only birds seen or heard while on Cape May Island. Special dispensation granted for birds seen at the Sea Watch at Avalon, since this was an event sanctioned by the CMBO/NJAS joint task force."

(Life Birds in bold; Heard Only birds followed by HO)

Canada Goose
Mute Swan (debate if this species is "countable")
American Wigeon
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal (very good looks)
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter

Black Scoter
Ruddy Duck
Common Loon
Northern Gannet
(first in US; seen in Scot)
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant (first in US; seen in Scot)
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret

Black-crowned Night-heron
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover

American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forester's Tern
Black Skimmer (my #1 target bird of the trip)

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher (HO)
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (HO)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
White-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow

Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet (HO)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird (flocks of 'em!)
Hermit Thrush
American Robin

Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher (swept the mimics!)
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing (hotly pursued by a sharpie)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Eastern Towhee (HO)
Chipping Sparrow

Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

{not counted: A "heard only" nuthatch, which I misidentified as a white-breasted that was actually a red-breasted; a "peep" sandpiper which I couldn't get field marks on; and a Sora, which I am 90% certain was living in the phragmites of the marsh behind our condo. I am fairly confident I have the right ID, based on its call notes, but it didn't do the classic descending whinny I am used to.}

85 species, 8 Life Birds

Totals are now
: 309 Life Birds,
199 Year Birds (30 Lifers) in 2008

group: Cheers and "high-fives" all around before disbanding to go birding, surreptitiously tucking Trip Lists and pens into pockets


Thursday, October 23, 2008

We're Off!

Truth in advertising time. This post was written in advance and timed to publish at 6:00 AM, Thursday, October 23. That is the time that Susan and I are planning to be on the road,* driving east to Cape May, New Jersey, for their Autumn Weekend event. Our goal: To celebrate the fall migration of flocks of birds, and the second annual migration of The Flock.

The Flock consists of a loose association of birder-bloggers who first met last fall at this same event. I'm not sure who all the original members are, but I know at least three names: Susan, Laura, and Delia will all be returning. New migrants include Lynne and myself. Sharon the Birdchick may meet us for a meal, as well as John, Patrick, and Jay from BirdJam. In fact, we don't really know who all will be joining us.

So, if you are a birder-blogger and you see us in Cape May this weekend, say "Hey!" and join us for a drink, a joke, a field trip, or whatever trouble we are getting into at the moment. I'm sure you'll be welcome.


At least, we are planning to leave at 6am. Since Susan's clock only recognizes 6pm, not 6am, I'm not sure what time we will actually be departing. One thing is sure - there will be plenty of stops for caffeinated beverages!]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cape May prep nearly complete

Have a look in my trunk:

[gee, i hope susan doesn't want to bring anything]

If that isn't being prepped and ready, I don't know what is! I've got a coat,
hats, gloves, boots, hiking socks, sweatshirts, insect repellent, sunscreen and rain gear. I've got binoculars, spotting scope w/ tripod, my lens cleaning kit, iPod w/ speakers, birding bags, notepads and pens, trip lists, field guides, other books to have signed, flashlights, extra batteries, linens (our condo doesn't supply them), and some surprises (in the cardboard boxes.) I think I'm ready. Oh, yeah, I forgot - I haven't packed any clothes yet.

Hmmm - better get to work!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A funny story

Everybody who reads this blog knows I am going to Cape May, New Jersey for the Autumn Bird weekend. Most of you know the Cape May trip is this coming weekend, Oct. 24-27. And, a few of you may also know that, as well as birding, I am going to finally get to meet, IRL, an on-line friend I have known for 8 years.

Everyone knows the date of the Cape May event, that is, except my friend. She is a regular commenter here, and you may know her as Holly-the-person, a name she gave herself to be sure we know she isn't Holly, my dog.

Holly-the-person is so excited about our meet-up, scheduled for next Sunday evening in Lewes, Del., that she actually arrived at the ferry terminal to pick me up


Yes, at 6:05pm on Sunday, the 19th of Oct, I got a phone call from Holly. "Are you here?" she cried anxiously. "I have watched everybody get off the ferry, and I haven't seen you."

I was momentarily disoriented. "No, I'm in Ohio," I replied. Just then it struck me. "NEXT Sunday, Holly. It's NEXT week that I'm coming."

We had a good laugh, and made promises to meet next weekend, same time, same place.

Isn't that the sweetest compliment? Someone is so excited to meet me that she is a whole week early! Holly, I'll see you soon. And I will endeavor to be the FIRST person off the ferry, so you don't worry.

(PS: She gave me permission to tell this story.)

Harvest Time

Sunday morning dawned crisp and cold. And early. Despite my inclination to huddle into my comforter and cuddle up with my dogs, I had made a commitment to attend Harmony Hill's "Big Pick." It is harvest season in SW Ohio's wine country, and the overnight frost increased the urgency to gather the Chambourcin grapes that will be the next vintages of "Chamber Suite" and "Rubato." Besides, it was a not-to-be-missed blog opportunity! So, I hauled myself out of bed, put on several layers of my finest garb - Cuddle-duds, blue jeans and a sweatshirt - grabbed my work gloves and camera and headed out.
Bright yellow totes stacked in the vineyard await the bounty of the vines.
First, we had to pull back the netting used to protect the fruit from greedy birds.
Then, the bins were distributed along the row for the volunteer laborers to fill.
Bill, demonstrating the proper technique for picking grapes. You can tell he is a professional winemaker by his backwards-facing ball cap. By the way, the "work stools" were empty plastic buckets that formerly held kitty litter. No expense spared for the HH staff!
My first bin of grapes.
"Many hands make light work." We had two rows picked by the 10am coffee break.
Evan and Bill load up the Gator with full totes, capably assisted by a Harmony Hill dog.
Each bin holds about 25 pounds of grapes. Weights were recorded before stacking the bins.
A pallet of bins awaiting the next step in the journey.
A full pallet is transferred to the stemming machine, a piece of equipment used to crush the grapes and separate the fruit from the stems.Grapes and juice come out one side while the stems are spit out the other. Bill kindly invited me to climb up and see inside the top of the stemming machine, where a large auger propels the grapes along to their fate.
Once filled, the large plastic container is moved aside, and a new one is shoved into place.
I had to leave by noon, but the faithful were staying on. Because of the frost, Bill was anxious to pick nine rows of Cabernet grapes as well as the nine rows of Chambourcin he had originally planned for today. Once the leaves die back, the vines begin to pull energy from the grapes, and that had to be prevented at all cost. The future of Clermont County wine was at stake.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


While my colleague has been away, we have been boarding her pets at the office, including this vicious watch-hound, Mitral. Alert readers may remember this handsome Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as the model for my series on puppy handling and training.

When it is slow or during our lunch hour, we let Mitral out of his cage to patrol the treatment area. Here he is on one of his frequent rest breaks.

For the record, I did not give him this stuffed toy. I disapprove of toys that encourage dogs and cats to bite their veterinarians.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

OSU Football, Oct. 18

I'm not one to brag or gloat ("Since when?" my sister asks), but my OSU Buckeyes are kicking some Michigan State butt this afternoon. We're only in the first quarter, and we are already up 21-0. Now, that's what I'm talkin' about!



Edit: And, OSU won, 45-7. The Pryor-Wells machine is practically flawless.

Next week, 7-1, 4-0 OSU plays 8-0, 4-0 Penn State (who handed Michigan their hat yesterday, thankyouverymuch) at 7pm, in a battle for the lead in the Big Ten(11) conference. Wonder if I can talk the Flock into eating at a sports bar Saturday night, so I can see the game?

Hey, ladies: "Are you ready for some FOOTball?"

Friday, October 17, 2008

An overdose of cute

This is "Carly," aka "Grandma," an elderly dachshund who boards with us frequently. Carly brings her blankie along and has to arrange it just so. This makes for a lot of very cute photo-ops.

"Please, no photos! Darned paparazzi!"