Heinlein said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.* He must not have been a birder. When the American Ornithological Union met this year, many birders added a new species to their life lists without even leaving their arm chairs. It’s time to update our field guides—even the brand new Sibley’s. The Western Scrub-Jay has now been split into the California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica, left) and the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii).
We interrupt this blog for an exciting, bird-related announcement. It seems incredible that an animal as large as a thrush could go unnoticed until now, but scientists have recently discovered a new species of thrush! It was separated from, and is similar to, the Plain-backed Thrush, shown here courtesy of Wikipedia.
The bird lives in the Himalayas of northeast India and the adjacent parts of China. As I haven’t been traveling to that part of the world lately (I haven’t even been out of the country in far too long!), I’m posting some links to a couple of the better articles I found on the discovery.
Conservation India has an very informative article. (To put this discovery into context, this article mentions that, “Since 2000, an average of five new species per year have been discovered globally, most of which are from South America.” I had no idea!)
With the hardscape decided, it’s finally time to consider the plants—my favorite part! Since our home came with a certificate good for a free garden design (e.g., they make you pay for it in the price of the house), I decided to hire a professional. She asked for a scale plan of our property and a list of plants I particularly like. I gave her four pages worth! (Really, I tried to only list my favorites). I also included a shorter list of plants I do not want in my yard—with junipers in the number 1 slot. (See last month’s post.)
Three weeks have now passed since we took ownership of our new house. Three weeks of lugging heavy furniture from room to room until it looks “right”—or ends up in the “to sell” pile. Three weeks of unpacking boxes only to find we need to add shelving to closets before the contents have a place to land. Three weeks of making decisions—picking out new bar stools for the counter in the great room, choosing a table and chairs for the deck, researching what kind of window coverings we might want. Three weeks of spending every spare moment indoors, settling in.
Last spring, our daughter and son-in-law moved into their first home. For the first time, she has a yard of her own. And being my daughter, of course she couldn’t wait to grow her own veggies. Although they moved in March, her advanced state of pregnancy took priority, and instead of carrots and beans, she grew an adorable baby girl. But this year, it’s time to garden!
At first, things seemed to go well. We consulted on the best crops and varieties for her area, and she wrote away for some local seed companies’ catalogs. Seeds were ordered in plenty of time, the packets arrived, and she started preparing the garden space where things were to grow.
Eva was jumping up and down, pointing at a medium-sized light blob on a near-by lightpost.
“Wow, what a great bird to start our day!” she enthused. We had just met up to go birding, and hadn’t even left the parking lot yet. I grabbed my binos and squinted harder at the blob.
“I’m interested in learning how to watch birds. How can I get started?”
The question was music to my ears. Who doesn’t love to share their passion with someone else? It wasn’t so long ago that I was a new birder, trying to juggle a crummy pair of old binoculars with a mysterious field guide, all while trying (unsuccessfully) to keep an eye on the bird I was trying to identify. I’ve come a ways since those early days and even though I still have much to learn, I’m eager to pass on my limited birding skills.