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.
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.
The Big Year is coming to the home market on DVD and Blu-ray on January 31st. The Blu-ray includes an extended version of the movie, as well as some other extras not available on the DVD version.
In the extended version of The Big Year, the story is told not via Brad Harris but by the narrator of the intro in the theatrical version (John Cleese). Because of this, certain scenes are edited a bit differently, and the movie has a slightly different feel from what was shown in cinemas last fall. The relationship between Brad and Stu is still pivotal, but it has a less one-sided feel (an improvement). In the extended version we also learn just a bit more about Brad’s personal life, which may have been awkward if included in the narrated-by-Brad version of the story.
The narrator talks during many of the scenes that Brad narrates in the theatrical version of the film. In these scenes and in others, John Cleese’s narrator often uses bird analogies when speaking about the characters of The Big Year. Some of these are a bit cheesy, but for the most part they work. In a movie about birders, it makes sense to compare important moments in the lives of the main characters to the pivotal moments in the lives of birds.
Parts of the extended version are framed by scenes featuring a Ruby-throated Hummingbird; the female bird’s migration in particular transitions between certain parts of the movie in a very effective way. The bird is CGI and looks beautiful.
These small differences between the theatrical and extended versions of The Big Year actually make a big difference in the story; I loved what I saw in the cinema but I may have loved the extended version even more. If you enjoyed The Big Year in cinemas last fall, you’ll probably enjoy the extended version, too. And if you didn’t get a chance to see it (its run was quite short!), I suggest you give both versions a try. I give The Big Year extended version 5 Goldfinches out of 5.
Thank you to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Think Jam for providing me with a screener copy of The Big Year for review.
Threadless has another great clearance sale going on right now with shirts as low as $9. As usual there are some cool bird ones among the dozens of sale tees. Here are some of my favorites.
Bird Brain ($9 on sale) is a detailed anatomical drawing hummingbird mashup. To see the design details, click through to the original submission, where the artist wrote this shirt makes a fantastic way to impress that pre-med / ornithology co-ed you’ve had your eye on all semester.
The Northern Black-capped Gumchewer is on sale for $9. I think this funny design of birds chewing bubble gum is my favorite shirt of this bunch. May have to buy this one before the sale ends!
Song Bird is also on sale for $9. The bird kind of looks like a Limpkin with short legs (and something wrong with its head). Click through to the original submission to read the artist’s cute description of this whimsical design. In part: Native lore credits the long necked bird with the origin of music.
The Incredible Hawk is available on sale shirts ($9) and hoodies ($24.50). The hoody has a neat shield design on the front pocket area with the full “angry bird” design on the back.
Field Study 01 ($9 on sale) is a really beautiful design with a couple of very unfortunate spelling errors. The silhouettes are accompanied by a key, and two of the bird names are misspelled. Bummer.
The Messenger is on sale for $9. Like many other Threadless designs, this one is available on other products like iPhone cases, prints, and laptop skins, too, at society6.
Owls Ask Too Many Questions ($9 on sale) is really popular, though its not my favorite. The girly style is nearly sold out (just one left as of this writing).
Bird Nests ($19 on sale) was part of a imaginary sports league challenge. The back of this shirt has a circular logo for the Fighting Bird’s Nests along with the slogan “Go Nesty Go!”
The annual Bald Eagle Watch at Starved Rock State Park is coming up later this month. I am posting this as a public service to all of the visitors who land on my blog looking for updated information about this event. You can find the details on the Illinois Audubon Society site, or read on.
Bald Eagle Watch Weekend
2012 Dates: January 28-29
Location: Starved Rock Lodge and Illinois Waterway Visitor Center
Events include live raptor programs by the World Bird Sanctuary and the Illinois Raptor Center. There will be other vendors and programs at the event, which takes places at the two different spots noted in the map below. The Illinois Waterway Visitor Center is north of the river; Starved Rock is to the south. See the IAS Bald Eagle Watch Brochure for other events and further details.
The Big Year will be coming out on DVD and Blu-ray in just a few weeks, on January 31st.
I really enjoyed the movie both times I managed to see it during its theatrical run, which was unfortunately quite short.
The first time was a midnight screening opening day where Arthur and I were the only attendees. Just three weeks later we caught it again, this time at a second-run cinema with a handful of other viewers.
I’m looking forward to seeing The Big Year again in the comfort of home in just a few weeks, and I’m especially looking forward to seeing the extended version and what extras the producers will be including with the release. Extras slated for the Blu-ray include a behind-the-scenes feature, 14 deleted scenes, and a gag reel.
The publicity department at Fox is gearing up for The Big Year release; here’s hoping that DVD and Blu-ray sales perform better than the initial box office run! If you’re gearing up for the upcoming home video release too, here’s a cute graphic Big Year / New Year’s Resolutions Checklist you can print out as a reminder. January 31st – save the date!
Pete Dunne’s Tales of a Low-Rent Birder is subtitled 19 Flight of Fancy by America’s Second-Best-Known Bird-watcher. The book’s forward comes from the best-known birder of the time, Roger Tory Peterson. Low-Rent Birder republishes 19 essays and articles which first appeared in birding newsletters and magazines from 1977 to 1985.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed other Dunne works, I found the 19 pieces in this book to be hit or miss, with more misses than hits. I love the poetic style he uses for factual essays, as in the wonderful “Overflight,” which recounts an epic day of shorebird surveying over Delaware Bay via small aircraft. I could feel the excitement in the plane when staggering numbers of birds were spotted on Moore’s Beach. Dunne also has a fantastic way of infusing humor into birding stories. I enjoyed “Birdathon ’83 — A Saab Story” — but then I’m a sucker for an exciting Big Day tale. Another enjoyable piece is “First-Year Bird,” which remarkably brings the reader in to the intimate world of a young and struggling Red-shouldered Hawk, without anthropomorphizing her at all.
Whether told with tongue in cheek or not, the non-fiction essays are by far the most enjoyable in the book. However, several of the fictionalized tales fell flat for me. There is “SVAT,” a fantastical story about the Species Verification Attack Team, a division of PABLUM, the Pure American Bird Listers Uber-Membership. At nearly 23 pages, its one of the longer stories in the book. With bad German accents and ridiculous character interactions, this was a struggle to read in its entirety. “The Legend of Jesse Mew” is another unsuccessful piece. Here we learn the story of a legendary Peregrine Falcon spotter, a man whose eyes are deformed, “the result of incalculable hours spent looking into the sun for towering Peregrines.” Another goofy fiction tale that I just didn’t enjoy at all.
So while I would gladly give a 5-finch rating to several stories, others barely warrant 1. Overall, then, I give Tales of a Low-Rent Birder 2.5 Goldfinches out of 5.
My birding library grew by leaps and bounds in 2011, with a high number of books acquired and a very short list of books traded out. In 2011 I only managed to review 11 books (out of a goal of 20) and got rid of less than that. *gulp!* Here’s where those 11 came from, and where they are now.
Thank you to everyone who entered the WBU giveaway! I used a random name picker to select the winner. Congratulations to Jeremy M on winning the WBU prize of his choice, the WBU Medium Quick-Clean™ Seed Tube Feeder. Jeremy, I’ll contact you via email for further details.
Since moving house in June, I’ve been trying to get the hang of back yard bird feeding here in Florida versus what I was used to in northern Illinois. I made the mistake of keeping unsealed bags of bird seed in the garage (hello meal moths), of offering nyjer bird seed in summer (no takers), and of using uncovered feeders in the rainy season (leading to a wet block of spoiled seed). I’ve gotten rid of the moths but I’m still working on using different feeders to offer appropriate seed to the regulars.
The EcoClean Dinner Bell Feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited is just what I need in our yard now. The small open feeding tray is covered with a sturdy, over-sized, clear plastic dome. The dome can be raised or lowered depending on the type of birds you’d like to attract. I’ve left it about as high as possible to offer the contents to any bird who wishes to visit. The dome protects the seed from the elements, which means the seed stays fresh longer when it rains. The tray has small drainage holes, which would be especially handy in case I ever decide to use the feeder without the dome. Click any photo for a larger view.
Easy to assemble
The EcoClean Dinner Bell is sold disassembled; assembly was extremely easy and only involved screwing the dome and the tray onto the metal wire.
A versatile feeder
This feeder came with a bag of Bark Butter Bits, which I have been offering along with some other general wild bird seed.
The EcoClean Dinner Bell is also compatible with WBU’s seed cylinder system, and is appropriate for almost any other type of bird food. The following video from WBU shows birds feeding on live mealworms and on a seed cylinder, both from this great feeder:
Bark Butter Bits are small suet balls (kind of like Dippin’ Dots for birds!). Bark Butter is known to attract over 100 species of bird (wow!) and these little balls of suet are perfect to offer a small amount to our small-but-growing group of back yard birds.
Cleaning is easy
According to WBU, the EcoClean products “feature a patented technology that inhibits the surface growth of damaging bacteria, mold and other microbes. This protection won’t wash or wear away, and it uses environmentally friendly technology.” This means that there’s no need to use bleach when cleaning this feeder. And cleaning is a breeze with this open feeder. While it’s extremely easy to completely disassemble the unit for cleaning, it’s not really necessary with such an open-style feeder.
In addition to providing me with the feeder-bark butter combo for review, WBU has generously offered my blog readers the chance to win a product of choice (valued up to $50) from their great catalog of back yard birding supplies and gifts.
Here’s how to enter the giveaway:
1. Mandatory entry: Visit http://shop.wbu.com/ and then leave a comment on this blog post telling me which product you’d like to win (up to $50)
2. Get one extra entry by becoming a fan of Wild Birds Facebook Page. Leave an additional comment on this post to let me know you’ve done this.
3. Get one extra entry by signing up for the Wild Birds Unlimited Newsletter (sign up in the sidebar box here: http://www.wbu.com/). Leave an additional comment on this post to let me know you’ve done this.
So go ahead and browse through the WBU online shop catalog and pick out your favorite product. Here are some links to feeders and seeds to get you started:
This contest is open to anyone with a U.S. address. The winner will be picked via random drawing next Tuesday, December 20th, so all entries must be received by 11:59PM EST on Monday, December 19th. Good luck! Even if you don’t win, visit http://shop.wbu.com for great holiday gifts! For standard shipping, place your order before 9AM PST for holiday delivery.
I’ll leave you with a Wingscapes BirdCam image of the very first visitor to my EcoClean Dinner Bell: a Carolina Chickadee – keeping dry along with all that seed in the rain!
This is a list of current (as of December 5th) 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 the latest in regular series of monthly posts appearing on the first Monday of the month. However, I question the value of this regular post to the general birder community, so this will likely be the last (I may keep a list of contests elsewhere on the site, just not in monthly-blog-post form).
CONTESTS WITH DEADLINES near and far
Bird Watcher’s Digest is giving away a BirdCam 2.0 by Wingscapes. Enter before December 14, 2011; see contest page for details.
Visit Jamaica is giving away a birding trip to the island nation. Fill in the contest entry form for a chance to win. Enter by December 15th.
Birds and Blooms’ Great Backyard Giveaway runs through December 19th (separate entries for each day). Prizes include spotting scopes and bird feeders. See the contest page for more information.
Two-Fisted Birdwatcher is giving away a blog-branded hoodie. Find this month’s hidden bird (Scarlet Ibis) to be eligible for the drawing. This regular giveaway usually ends by the end of the month, so submit your answer before the year is over! See the contest page for details.