Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Vagabirding Travel Magazine Awards - IATB #91

Another New Year now celebrated means its time for Vagabirding Travel Magazine's Annual Birding Awards for 2008. Let's take a look at the Ten most popular Birding Regions of last year as determined by you the reader. And while we're at it - let's meet the celebrity birders who blog about the places we love to go! We're also excited to announce the 2008 Amateur Bird Photographer of the Year.

#1 - Oklahoma
Oklahoma Panhandle - From the Far Away, Nearby

If there is a best kept secret in the birding world that secret would be Oklahoma. Recently named Best Undiscovered Birding Destination by Bird Spotter's Digest, Oklahoma's eleven eco-regions offer plenty for the world traveler on a budget with its all-in-one destination birding - it's the very best in economy-proof birding!

Must-See Birding Hot Spots of Oklahoma
Red Slough Wildlife Management Area, Hackberry Flats, Black Mesa, Great Salt Plains, Tishimingo NWR and the Wichita Wildlife Refuge.

Oklahoma Bird Bloggers:
The darling of the bird-art world, Debby Kaspari of Drawing the Motmot has been commissioned to illustrate the Field Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Here the award winning artist weighs in on the very subject of field guides.

Oklahoman Eric Beck, the Backdoor Biologist, was recently selected to receive a fellowship from National Audubon's Together Green Conservation Leadership Program. On a recent and much needed break from his biology studies, Eric spent a few days afield here preparing for Oklahoma's Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival, where he will be joined by Sharon Stiteler aka the BirdChick.

T.R. Ryan, From the Faraway, Nearby, is back in Oklahoma recovering from Africanized honey-bee stings, bullet ant bites and white-lipped peccary encounters after working on a macaw clay lick project in the Peruvian Amazon's Tambopata National Reserve here.

#2 Australia
Photo ©Tyto Tony - Tyto Tony Blog

Who doesn't love the land of Oz? They've got emus, cassowaries and cockatoos, oh my. Home to some of the most unusual and most venomous animals in the world, Australia is a naturalist's dream. Ophidiophobes and arachniphobes may want to sit this one out.

Must-See Birding Hotspots of Australia:
Bruny Island, Capertee Valley

Australia Bird Bloggers:
The Wizard of Oz is none other than Duncan at Ben Cruachan - Natural History Blog and when he starts to take things into his own hands , he is finally rewarded with the much sought-after Ballion's Crake in the Heyfield Wetlands. Click your heels three times and repeat after Duncan, "I want a Ballion's Crake, I want a Ballion's Crake, I want a Ballions Crake". It worked!

Over at Tyto Tony in the tropical wetlands of Queensland, Tony discovers some flying headstones in the local cemetery and along the way gets some magnificent shots of a magpie lark that should not be missed.

#3 Cross Timbers
Cross Timbers - From the Faraway, Nearby

In the verdant mixed grass and riparian areas and along the central flyway where the prairies meet the forests lingers some of the most prolific birding opportunities in the world. The cross timbered areas of Texas and Missouri seem to make our Top Ten list every year.

Must-See Birding Hot Spots of the Cross Timber zone:
Texas: Lower Rio Grande Valley, High Island to Galveston; Missouri: Prairie State Park

Cross Timbers Bird Bloggers:
Pablo is the resident birdatographer and award-winning short feature documentarian at Roundrock Journal on the edge of the Mizzouri Ozarks. He captures the peanut-eating blue belle of the corvidian ball quite nicely on video.

At Coyote Mercury, Texas novelist James may live in a place without a postcard but he does not lack for dueling wren species at the pine cone feeder. See what he's got here.

While waiting at the Birder's Lounge in Texas, Amber spots her first Northern Shoveler. And the great photos that follow leave no question how this bird got the name. Take a look here.

#4 Amazonia
Tambopata National Reserve - From the Faraway, Nearby

The Amazon basin easily holds more species of birds per square mile than any other place on Earth and comes with its own built-in alarm clock for early morning birders -- the ear-splitting chorus of bird and frog sounds at the pre-dawn hour remain perhaps equally unrivaled.

Must-See Birding Hotspots of the Amazon River Basin:
Ecuador: Podocarpus National Park; Peru: Tambopata National Reserve; Venezuela: Los Llanos; Brazil: the Pantanal; Bolivia: Madidi National Park; Guayana: Kaieteur Falls

Amazon Bird Bloggers:
Recently named Vagabirder Magazine's Sexiest Birder of the Year (winning hands down in both the 50 and over and under 50 age categories) - celebrity blogger, writer, bird artist, NPRsario, and mother of the much beloved Chet Baker (how do you think she really stays at the top of the Nature Blog Networks elite) Julie Zickefoose goes to Guyana and is wooed by the greats: luscious-lipped Rastafarians, stampeding giant anteaters, crab-eating raccoons, finger-sucking manatees - but finally settles for this Cock of the Rock.

School is finally out for Mel of Teach Me About Birdwatching. The Peruvian darling of the beginning-to-bird world had graduation day recently with her first official birding trip here. And with a life list that now includes amazilia hummingbird, croaking ground dove, canary-winged parakeet, blue and gray tanager and long-tailed mockingbird - we'll be expecting to learn a thing or two from her now. Congratulations Mel!!!

Mel was in good hands with the certifiable master of Peru birding - Gunnar Engblom of Kolibiri Expeditions. One of the world's most respected Amazon-basin birders, Gunnar details the benefits of birding at the cost conscious and community-supported Amarakaeri Communal Reserve within the Manu Biosphere area . Don't miss it here.

For those Living the Scientific Life, Grrl Scientist has a compelling report on the origin and evolution of birds and dares to climb up the psittacine
family tree with a red-crowned Amazon parrot and tackle the contentious issue of the arrival of modern birds. Brush up on your phylogeny and go here. And while you are there - checkout the other recent articles at Living the Scientific Life. This grrls got it!

Next we go to Venezuela to check on Nick Sly of Biological Ramblings where in the middle of a remote Venezuelan tropical field - he wonders how much of the field "work" has changed since leaving the fields of Cornell last summer. He also provides his fascinating view as a parrotlet biologist (shouldn't that be parrotlet biologistito?) -- not to be missed here, and learns to start looking at clouds from both sides now - definitely a treat.

And last, but not least, we go back to the Motmot where, from a naturalist and artist's perspective, she illustrates in vivid life five reasons for the Amazon. The Motmot has been hiding out in the Peru with brush and canvas drawing the Amazon for almost a month now. We can't wait to see what she brings back - should be any day now. Stay tuned at Drawing the Motomot.

#5 - The Desert Southwest/Southern Rockies/Colorado Plateau
Bosque del Apache NWR - From the Faraway, Nearby

From sea-level to fourteen thousand feet, from desert to snowy peaks - this area of the country has it all for the birder with a little time on the hands to explore this multi-geographic bonanza of beautiful landscape, scenery and species.

Must-See Birding Hotspots:
Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park; New Mexico: Bosque del Apache NWR; Arizona: Madera Canyon; Nevada: Red Rock Canyon; Utah: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge; California: Salton Sea NWR

Desert Southwest and Colorado Plateau Bird Bloggers:
Rick of Aimophila Adventures in Arizona had a very rare-birdy day with the Tucson Audubon outing to Whitewater Draw and Sulphur Springs Valley. This is why we like the Southwest in our top ten - if nothing else but the place names. I never meet a gulch I didn't like to bird. Go here and check out Rick's photo of a red-tailed hawk eating - yikes - a barn owl!!!! Fantastic stuff.

Speaking of owls, definitely not being eaten, let's go to the top of the food chain with Beverly at Rural Chatter in Colorado and her excellent and informative report on Great Horned Owls here. She goes from whoooo to phewwww with an update on their skunk eating habits. Who knew! (besides the Science Chimp!)

Writing from Nevada, photographers Bob and Cynthia Kaufman, Two Birders to Go, indeed GO after the elusive and not-so-Common Goldeneye in Nevada and California. Stop by their site here and check-out both their golden adventure and excellent bird photography.

When I lived in New Mexico I used to daydream about getting in the car and driving over to Sedona to see Ranger Paul who, to my mind, had THE dream day job. Oh the birds he would see every day! and the tarantulas and the cougars and the Gila monsters. I was ready to quit my round-the-world travel job and be his assistant. But I moved to Oklahoma and Ranger Paul got promoted way up to Glacier National Park in Montana -- but we still meet regularly at the Wandering Tattler to exchange a tail or two. I am glad to see that four of the Wandering Tattler's Top 5 Birdy moments were in Arizona before he left for the near-arctic. Brrr not meeting you there anytime soon!

Connie Kogler of Loveland, Colorado has to be one of the best Wingscape photo catchers in the southwest. Go here and take a look at some serious flicker mugging and here to some some fantasticly round robins at Birds O' the Morning.

Kevin at the visually inviting Natural Visons Blog in Utah learns some excellent things about brood parasitism. This quote should send you running here right now, "Oh well, if a female moorhen can get a grackle to do all the work and, in the end, she has more surviving offspring, why not? A grackle raising a moorhen! You've got to read it to believe it.

Sara, the self-proclaimed finch wench gets some great butter butt shots in San Diego here. Must be a big butter butt - he's already on the stair master.

"Where did you bird on January 1?" In California, poet, writer and celebrated bird blogger Liza with a Lee (not Lisa with an S) rings the New Years in with not one, but two lifers and celebrates the day with a question, a chestnut-backed chickadee and a published poem - catch all that here at Liza's beautifully written blog - It's Just Me.

Come take a trip to one of my favorite places to virtually bird in blogdom - Sycamore Canyon in Arizona. With the birds of Sycamore Canyon as a backdrop, Kathie and her husband Gus share both exquisite writing, breathtaking photography and birds the likes I can only dream of seeing. Look here, at the usually tranquil Reid Park, and see what this orange-crowned warbler is eating and why everyone is so upset.

#6 Central America
Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua - From the Faraway, Nearby

If Amazonia is the hulking, breathing, oxygen-making lung of the planet - then Central America, from the middle of Mexico to the tip of Panama, is the earth's heart and soul: magical, mystical and full of birds.

Must-See Birding Hotspots:
Mexico: El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve; Belize: The Ruins; Guatemala: The Highlands; Costa Rica: San Gerardo de Dota

Central America Bird Bloggers:
Writer, photographer, lead singer in a rock band and magazine mogul Bill Thompson III is the undisputed King of Birds in America and he, along with his spouse Julie Zickefoose, comprise what is now being called America's Birding Royalty. Not since Camelot and the Kennedys has America been graced with such a legendary legacy - one that historians are already dubbing "Bird-a-lot". This King Bill of the Birds delivers a royal flush with the some of the most beautiful bird photography in 2008 right here. His Montezuma oropendula from Guatemala should be considered a masterpiece of bird photography, along with the blue dancis and the frilled coquette. Who comes back alive from the jungle with a frilled coquette like that? The King - that's who.

According to Kenn Kaufman, Jeffrey A. Gordon is the quintessential Birding Ace, and compliments Jeffrey's ability to pull hyper-elusive birds out of a cloud forest. Now, from the top of Central America, in Oaxaca, Jeffrey delivers luscious landscapes and an unforgettable slaty vireo here. But with all this talk about what an Ace Birder Jeffrey is -- let's not overlook his beautiful photography. Has he got an eye! Don't miss a single post.

#7 - The Great Lakes
Photo © Seabrooke Leckie - The Marvelous in Nature

From the wetlands along Lake Ontario's shore, to the sand dunes along Lake Michigan, to the rocky shore of Lake Superior, the Great Lakes shoreline abounds in diversity. Millions of years of glacial formation, wind, lava flows, and changing lake levels have sculpted a unique and ever changing ecosystem that makes for unforgettable birding.

Must-See Birding Hotspots of the Great Lakes:
Ohio: Lake Eire; Wisconsin: Necedah NWR; Minnesota: Sax-Zim Bog; Michigan: Whitefish Point Bird Observatory; Ontario: Point Pelee National Park.

Great Lakes Area Bird Bloggers:
From Michigan, retired wildlife biologist John Trapp fights off carnivorous chickens and ponders their relationship to T. Rex. See if the Moas won here at Birds Etcetera. It's a great read!

Seabrooke Leckie is a writer, illustrator, photographer, gifted naturalist and nature saavy intellectual who wanders the Frontenac Axis of Ontario with an art for taking exquisite photos and pairing them perfectly with the splendid narrative. At the Marvelous in Nature she contemplates feeder bully dynamics on a cold winter's day here.

Note: Seabrooke will once again host the next edition of IATB, #92, at the Marvelous in Nature in two weeks. So get your next posts in to her by January 20th.

From Illinios, the folks at Birdfreak who bring you the meme "Bird Photography Weekly" provide a fantastic digiscoping comparison using five variations of digiscope bird photography here.

One of Minnesota's many birders, Lynn at Hasty Brook, posts that the highlight of 2008 was not the birds as much as the birders. Lynn had the opportunity to meet quite a few bird bloggers over the past year and recaps all the birding blog celebrities she was to meet and finally put with a face. Are you on Lynn's Blogger Life List? Check here. If not, come to the New River Birding Festival in West Virginia in April, I am looking forward to finally meeting her there. Lynn's one of the greats!

The Nature, Photography & Art blog debuts here at IATB with a splendid drawing of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Check out the drawing and the new blog here.

Another Ontarian, Michael invites you to Stony Lake to see the incredible photography of the Petroglyphs Christmas Bird Count here. Is the Great Gray Owl the star of the show?

Ohio's Nina H. at Nature Remains is the undisputed Prose Laureate of the Nature World; the Annie Dillard of the Nature Blog Network, if you will. Her award-winning, book-worthy prose reflects on the intimate beauty of nature and keeps this nature writer's blog at the top of the ranks. Come take a long slow walk in the Ohio woods with Nina and learn to see things in a way you never expected. Right now Nina is waiting for a nuthatch, here,... at least - "if wishing makes it so".

# 8 - India & Sri Lanka
India and Sri Lanka, are both famous for their rich avifauna and high numbers of endemic species. The subcontinent boasts an incredible diversity of birds, geography and habitat.

Must-See Birding Hotspots of India and Sri Lanka:
India: The Andaman Islands; Sri Lanka: Sinharaja Forest Reserve

India and Sri Lanka Bird Bloggers:
Amila from
Gallicissa cooks up a veritable Sri Lankan masala in a post that covers everything from ruby red dragonflies to black-rumped flamebacks - curried nicely with Hot Blogger Awards and Ananda's earth-shattering head and shoulder massage at Vajira Salon in Bamba. Lot's of delicious bird and dragonfly pictures here.

With 10,000 waves the big-time birders at
10,000 Birds say goodbye to 2008 and reflect on their collaborative year-end Top 10 which leaves this intrepid traveler breathless with all the fantastic places birded: India, Guatemala, Singapore and Kenya to name a few. In Sultanpur, India - Charlie spots ten Indian coursers here.

#9 Malaysia
Photo © Johnny Wee - BESG

Welcome Malaysia to the Top Ten List. With 42 endemic species, 34 specialty birds and 40 endangered species, Malaysia is an up and coming top birder's destination.

Must-See Birding Hotspots of Malaysia:
Danum Valley Conservation Area, Kinabatangan Rainforest Wetland, Sabah, Sarawak

Birders Blogging about Malaysia:
here to the Bird Ecology Study Group where Y.C. from Singapore crosses the border to Malaysia and highlights Johnny Wee's incredible shots of the blue-tailed bee-eater manipulating a dragonfly there. This is nature photography at its very best!

#10 - Mid-Atlantic Region
Photo ©The Ridger at the Greenbelt

The Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia offer some of the best all-around birding in the world.

Must-See Birding Hotspots of the Mid-Atlantic:
Delaware: Delaware Bay/Bombay Hook NWR; New Jersey: Cape May; New York: Central Park; Pennsylvania: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary; Maryland: Conwingo Dam

Mid-Atlantic Bird Bloggers:
The Ridger at
The Greenbelt in Maryland calls herself an amateur photographer. However, these images of Cedar Waxwings are tack sharp and certainly seem the handy work of a professional. Ridger -- I think its time to update your profile - the clarity and color of these images are breathtaking. You're a pro. Check this out here!

Dave Bonta, poet, editor and shutterbug at
Via Negativa in western Pennsylvania, waxes poetic and contemplates watery solitude in the great divide mimicing "the comic curtsying onshore" of a water ouzel. This is good stuff - here. Dave's blog shines like a sleek, smart, literary magazine. An excellent find.

John from
A D.C. Birding Blog goes birding in the New Jersey Meadowlands and ends up with a taste of the tundra - check here to see what had him feeling left out in the cold.

Nick at the
Birdlist posts an indepth interview with Brian Sullivan of ebird. Here they contemplate, among many things, data storage, record keeping and logging birding hotspots.

Will at the
Nightjar finds a northern Hawk Owl in Peru. Slightly out of range you think? You are right - check here to see how this story unfolds.

Speaking of
The Hawk Owl's Nest, celebrity bird blogger (how many birders do you know that have made an appearance on Martha Stewart's show?) and Jersey's #1 birder, Patrick Belardo, takes over the Long Branch CBC and is rewarded with 56,000 birds totaling 123 species. Go here to see what made the count.

Another world traveler, Beverly at
Behind the Bins, doesn't have to go further than her own backyard to capture these excellent images of beautiful brawling red heads right here.

Finally, the votes are in at Vagabird Magazine. America has decided. The world has decided. With 17,232,429 votes.......
the 2008 Best Amateur Photographer in the world is.....

Mary F.
of Mary's View

There is no one I know that can do what Mary can do with a compact camera. Her images of birds combined with her concise, sharp, witty narratives have endeared Mary to the hearts of millions through her blog - Mary's View. Go take a look at her award-deserving photography, meet the Licker Sisters and laugh until you ache. For her official IATB post - Mary captures some "not so bluebirds of happiness" as a nut plan is hatched here. Her photography really is amazing.

Photo ©Mary of Mary's View

It has been a pleasure hosting the 91st edition of I and the Bird. Please remember to send your next submissions for the 92nd I and the Bird to Seabrooke Leckie at The Marvelous in Nature by January 20. Details to follow at 10,000 Birds.

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