Amy
ABOUT ME - My name is Amy and I'm a birder living in central Florida. On this blog I post book and birding product reviews as well as birder gift ideas and announcements related to my birder gift shop on this site. I also have a personal birding blog called Powered By Birds.

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Unless otherwise stated, all books and other products reviewed on this blog were purchased or independently acquired by the reviewer. Readers who make a purchase by clicking on links in product reviews or featured t-shirt posts (T-Shirt Tuesday) may result in the blogger receiving a commission or referral fee.
Archive: October, 2010

T-Shirt Tuesday: Birding Addict

Posted on October 26th, 2010 in T-Shirt Tuesday

This week’s highlighted t-shirt sports a simple text design in a collegiate-style font. Birding Addict is distressed for a vintage look.

Movie Review: OwlCam: The Hidden World

Posted on October 25th, 2010 in Behavior, Movie, Movie Review

OwlCam: The Hidden World follows a pair of Barred Owls as they raise three chicks in a nestbox in eastern Massachusetts. All of the footage was obtained through nestbox cameras or super-telephoto lenses, both of which provide intimate looks into the private lives of the adult owls and growing owlets.

The adult Barred Owls, nicknamed June and Ward by the filmmakers / nestbox hosts, nested in the box for at least eight years; the film follows the 2001 season from springtime courtship through the branching and fledging of the chicks.

The footage of Barred Owls is remarkable (although as a disclaimer I might say here that I have a big soft spot for this species). We get to see some amazing milestones in the lives of the chicks: hatching; first meals; their first glimpses of the outside world from the nestbox; branching mishaps and triumphs; and fledging. Adult behavior is also fascinating to watch, from June begging for food while continually incubating the eggs, to the two adults allopreening in one of the first moments June leaves the nestbox after caring for the chicks nonstop for several days. The video quality is very good and the fine editing turns the footage into an interesting story.

While the footage of the birds is compelling, I found the narration to be rather poor. The birds are constantly being anthropomorphized, with continual references to their feelings and motivations. Possibly more maddening, however, are the long pauses between narration at key points in the film. For example, as the first chick hatches, June can be seen eating the eggshell. I would imagine if you don’t expect this behavior or already understand it, it might appear to be gruesome, or even gross. The narrator makes no mention of it. As the chicks begin to branch, they are sometimes identified (they are also given names) by text on the screen, but this is frustratingly inconsistent, so viewers are left to guess who is who at some very exciting moments.

Despite the narration flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed the look into the lives of these Barred Owls. If you’re interested in bird behavior in general, and owls in particular, I think you will, too. I give OwlCam: The Hidden World 4 Goldfinches out of 5.

The movie is available for purchase from Amazon.com or as a DVD rental via Netflix. The filmmakers also have a website where you can learn even more about June, Ward, and their adventures through the years. The DVD is available for purchase there, too, and there are some video clips from the film.

T-Shirt Tuesday: Yin Yang / Zen Birder

Posted on October 19th, 2010 in T-Shirt Tuesday

This week’s highlighted t-shirts both feature the same main image: a Yin Yang symbol. The dots of the symbol are turned into small passerine birds, which makes this a perfect t-shirt design for any “zen birder”! Available with or without caption text.

T-Shirt Tuesday: Pop Art Owl Face

Posted on October 12th, 2010 in T-Shirt Tuesday

This week’s highlighted t-shirt is a colorful pop art inspired design. A stylized face of a Great Horned Owl is shown in different colors inside nine contrasting squares. Pop Art Owl Face looks great on dark or light apparel.

Netflix Instant Watch for birders

Posted on October 8th, 2010 in Movie

We love our Netflix subscription. Arthur has been catching up on television series with discs in the mail. We also use Netflix to watch recent DVD releases and the number of DVDs we purchase nowadays is virtually nil. Yay for less stuff! (Actually it means we have more room for books, so it may be a wash….)

Anyway, it’s fun to browse through the titles available on Instant Watch. There are a lot of shows or movies I’ve never heard of, and a lot that sound really intriguing. Here are some of the titles I’ve found that might be interesting for birders. Note: the images are affiliate links to Amazon.com, where you can purchase the title. The text links go to Netflix.

Kestrel’s Eye “This intrepid documentary by Swedish filmmaker Mikael Kristersson follows two European falcons as they go about their daily activities. Two years in the making, the film is shot without any supplemental audio, allowing the two birds to be the sole focal point. As the birds hunt for food and care for their offspring, viewers are treated to a literal bird’s-eye view from their nest at the top of an old church steeple.”

Rare Birds “In this outstanding independent comedy, down-and-out restaurateur Dave Purcell (William Hurt) is ready to close his doors, until his friend Alphonse devises a wacky plan. They fake a sighting of a rare bird, and soon the place is filled with bird watchers, famous folks and a potential love interest. But Alphonse has another not-so-benign scheme that could put Dave behind bars and close the restaurant for good.”

The Life of Birds Of all the titles here, I’m sure this one needs the least introduction… but just in case, here it is. “Presented by world-renowned broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough, this arresting documentary series is the definitive film exploration of the most colorful, popular and perfectly adapted creatures on earth. To create it, researchers traversed the globe, exploring 42 countries and examining more than 300 species of birds using a variety of techniques, including infrared, slow motion and computer-enhanced effects.”

March of the Penguins “Award-winning photographer Luc Jacquet takes documentary film to new heights — and depths — with his first feature film, a stunning insider’s look at the life of emperor penguins living in one of the cruelest climates on the planet. The product of more than a year of filming on the Antarctic ice, this Oscar-winning documentary reveals never-before-captured footage of the penguins’ underwater life and explores their steadfast quest for monogamy.”

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill “This poignant documentary chronicles the true story of a modern-day St. Francis of Assisi, a homeless San Francisco street musician by the name of Mark Bittner who adopts a flock of wild parrots as he searches for meaning in his life. With a surprise ending that left festival audiences cheering, director Judy Irving’s film celebrates urban wildness — human and avian — and links parrot antics to human behavior.”

Have you seen any of these? Can you tell me about any other gems you’ve discovered on Netflix Instant Watch? I’ve only seen March of the Penguins and The Life of Birds; I hadn’t even heard of Kestrel’s Eye or Rare Birds. They are in my queue now!

Book Review (2/2): Birds of Europe

Posted on October 6th, 2010 in Book Review, Books

Earlier this year, I got my hands on a copy of Birds of Europe: Second Edition (Princeton Field Guides). This review is part two of two; the first part is here.

Back in April, when I first looked at The Birds of Europe, I had high praise for the illustrations, species text descriptions, and the family overview pages. After using the guide in the field, I stand by this initial assessment.

During that initial review, however, I did have some concerns, addressed below. Although our visit to the Netherlands was not a birding holiday, we were able to spend a couple of days out, and I did get to use the book to help me with identifying birds.

Concern: “One thing I miss in this guide is a similar visual summary.”

My concern here was that I use the visual summary provided in Sibley a lot. I’m talking about the first page of a family, for instance the two-page overview of warblers that precedes the individual species descriptions. I tend to use the summary pages in place of the index, because I can rather quickly page to the section of the Sibley I’m looking for. And because I’m forever looking at the same stuff: warblers; sparrows; raptors; ducks; etc. Although the taxonomic order of the Birds of Europe is similar, I needed to use the index to find the family of birds I was looking for, just because I wasn’t familiar with the book. For this short trip/use, I didn’t mind. And if I was going to be using the guide for a longer period, I think I would miss the convenience of a visual-type summary page.

Concern: “The book is also lacking a quick (one- or two-page) index, but I can live without this feature.”

This was no problem while I was using the book during our birding excursions. The index is nearly 20 full pages, and includes common and taxonomic names. Sub-entries are indented and the text is clear so I didn’t have any trouble using it to quickly find what I was looking for.

Concern: “The thick paper cover is not too much sturdier than the average paperback; I can imagine a well-used book will quickly begin to show its age [...]. My review copy has only been traveling around my office for a couple of weeks and the corners are already starting to fray.”

A totally needless worry, so far. The book got more wear moving around my office, somehow. I carried it into the field in my little book bag and took it in and out many times, including in the howling wind and rain. It’s in fine shape. Sturdier than it first appears, I suppose!

So there you have it. There are a lot of things to love about this book, but the the fine illustrations really stand out, and the detailed yet familiar species descriptions are outstanding. I give Birds of Europe 4.5 Goldfinches out of 5.

Disclosure: This is my own original, honest review of Birds of Europe, a copy of which was provided to me free of charge by the publisher.

T-Shirt Tuesday: Alpha-code Ovals

Posted on October 5th, 2010 in T-Shirt Tuesday

This week’s highlighted t-shirts feature bird alpha-codes in Euro oval sticker style. These were designed for oval bumper stickers, but the design works on t-shirts and apparel as well. There are 16 species to choose from, and your requests are welcome! Shown here are GHOW (Great-horned Owl); IBWO (Ivory-billed Woodpecker); and MAFR (Magnificent Frigatebird).

Bird blog & online contests for October 2010

Posted on October 4th, 2010 in Contest

Here’s a list of current (as of October 4th) blog & online contests by birders, for birders, and/or offering bird- or birder-themed prizes. Click on the links to learn more, check eligibility, and enter to win! If you are running a contest or know of something that should be added to this list, let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. This is a monthly post appearing on the first Monday of every month. I will add any updates I find during the month as a comment on this post. If you’d like to stay updated, you can subscribe to the comment RSS feed for this post.

CONTESTS WITH DEADLINES near and far

Cornell’s Celebrate Urban Birds project is running a photo-video-art contest to showcase wild birds eating. Visit the Bird Chow Challenge contest page to learn more. Submit your entry by November 1st; prizes include bird feeders, books, and more!

Two-Fisted Birdwatcher is giving away a blog-branded hoodie. Find this month’s hidden bird to be eligible for the drawing. This monthly giveaway usually ends by the end of the month, so submit your answer before October 31st! See the contest page for details.

Enter to win fabulous prizes in Swarovski’s Digiscoper of the Year 2010 contest. Enter your photo by October 31st. Be sure to read all the details on the contest page.

ONGOING CONTESTS of interest to birders

Birder’s World magazine runs a Photo of the Week Contest. Check out the rules page to find out how to enter. Prizes include gear from Zeiss optics.

Subscribers to Birding Adventures TV’s digital newsletter may enter the regularly-occurring BATV quiz for a chance to win $10 Nikon gift vouchers or other prizes. You’ll need to subscribe to the BATV News mail list to see the bird ID quiz photos.

Members of 10,000 Birds’ Conservation Club are eligible to enter giveaways offering prizes from Conservation Club sponsors. Have a look at the current and past giveaways, and then sign up! Membership costs $25 per year and the funds go towards various conservation causes.

Duncraft hosts a caption contest on Facebook every week. Become a fan of Duncraft to see each contest posting. Enter to win a $10.00 Duncraft Gift Coupon. New caption contests start each Monday.

WildBird on the Fly periodically gives away books and other prizes with fun, short-notice contests. Follow her blog and her Twitter account @WBeditor to get in on the prize giveaways.

Each month the Birds & Blooms website runs the Where’s Webster? contest. Find Webster the duck on the website and enter to win. Prizes vary and the contest runs month to month.

The Eagle Optics Email Contest is ongoing for anyone subscribed to their newsletter. A new winner is chosen every month and prizes vary. Click here for details.

Birder’s Lounge runs a monthly ID Challenge. Contestants play for their favorite bird/nature/conservation charity. The prize is a $10 donation to the winning charity, in the winner’s name. (Thanks to Amber for the details!)