Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Home Sweet Home

It sure is good to be able to sleep in my own bed with my wife next to me. It is also nice to bird some places that I know well, like my own property. I walked some of our trails yesterday morning which was on the cool side compared to Florida. I saw 22 new birds for the week including 2 new year birds--acadian flycatcher and yellow-breasted chat.

Last nite we had 2 of our neighbor friends and chefs over to share some food and wine. They brought hot out of their oven a small appetizer pizza topped with cheese, arugula and speck--yummy! We drank an '08 arneis from Giacosa with the pizza, and then followed it with an '00 pur sang (sauvignon blanc) from Didier Dagueneau while we finished cooking the main course.

I grilled some deboned and pounded flat chicken/thigh meat seasoned with herbs de provence, salt, pepper and Tuscan olive oil. Alongside the chicken I also grilled some asparagus from both our garden, and my sister's. My wife made a risotto with leaks from our garden, raw milk asiago cheese made at the dairy that is part of our shared property, and my sis's husband's shitake mushrooms grown by him on oak logs. We imbibed a '90 Beaucastel chateauneuf du pape, and a '90 barolo from Aldo Conterno. These were in honor of our daughter's birth year and month. The food and wine combined was one of the best meals of my big year so far, and reinforces that the food made in your own kitchen can qualify for the big night part of this big year.

There was still room for dark chocolate cake, strawberries picked from our garden and vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately, we tried a 1986 white riesling dessert wine from Navarro which had slid way down the hill from its glory days. You can't win them all when drinking older wine!

This morning I was up at 6 AM to pick up my Chapel Hill friend who had just birded in Florida with me to drive 90 minutes to a place called Howell Woods. It is one of my very favorite birding spots in the spring. I always find swainson's warbler here, which I still needed for this big year, and today was no exception. We saw one soon after starting the loop drive, and had another near the end of the loop. In between we found the barred owl shown at the top, and also a group of bird banders. Each spring people volunteer to train with a woman who currently lives in New Jersey. There is a beginner's group one week, and then an advanced group the next. The second photo above is of a northern waterthrush that was caught in a mist net (remember you can click on the photos to make them larger).

The banding group also learns how to identify the age of the bird by studying it briefly before releasing it. While we were with them--about 20 minutes--they banded a white-throated sparrow, veery, carolina wren, cowbird, white-eyed vireo, indigo bunting, and the waterthrush. It was a very informative 20 minutes and made our birding day so much better.

We also saw a red-headed woodpecker (new year bird), mississippi kite, several warblers (kentucky, black-throated green, prairie, american redstart, prothonotary, pine and common yellowthroat), blue grosbeak, loggerhead shrike, summer tanager, and many others birds adding up to 64 different species in about 3 hours.

Back in Chapel Hill we found a mother wood duck (new year bird) and 5 ducklings. After dropping off my friend, I took a walk along our creeks and found one of our resident louisiana waterthrushs--also a new year bird.

So 5 days into this week the overall bird count is at 122, and 6 new year birds in the past 2 days brings the YTD number to 527. I will bird our land again tomorrow before leaving early Thursday for Washington DC and beyond. Stay tuned!