Bird-centric business cards, a @stacebird speciality!

So I’m working on some new business cards, which is always fun, through Moo.com which is an awesome company I’ve patronized on various occasions over the years. I’ve always been pleased with the outcome..

binnez cards

The cards always great fun to give out, I’m always interested to see what image people are most drawn to when I let them pick. Obviously, my cards trend mightily toward bird-centric, though I do make sure to throw in some fun captures of butterflies, flowers and a bit of my own artwork as well.

Here’s a sample of what my next batch will entail..

 

So which would YOU choose? If you message me your choice along with your address before I leave for Costa Rica on Nov. 17th, I’d be happy to send one your way!

And to see more sweet nature-centric business cards, check out nature photographer Jonathan Rista‘s blogpost on the beautiful cards he created!

 

Update: My cards have arrived!! And much sooner than the presumed delivery date they gave me! Thanks Moo

 

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Southward on tireless wings..

So while I’m headed southward, I don’t have the advantage of tireless wings. Or any wings for that matter.

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Magnolia Warbler

Rather I’m talking about the tiny songbirds flying ever-southward, primarily under cover of darkness to evade daytime predators like hawks and falcons. They, along with many other kinds of birds, are carrying out the instinctual urge to migrate with the seasons, traveling to wherever the food is most abundant. As the cold weather breathes crisp hints of fall and the late summer sunshine wanes, the hatchlings of this year are finally grown, fledged and ready to fly south, following the biannual ritual along with the rest of their kind.

The fall harvest along the many pit stops along the way will hopefully provide sufficient resources necessary for the countless birds along their journey, but many birds die along the way nonetheless. Not only do migrating birds have predators to fear, but also concern about where to rest and refuel. Migratory shorebirds and seabirds rely on beaches and coastline boasting plentiful aquatic invertebrates and small fish and the warblers and songbirds, also known as perching birds or passerines, follow the insects and worms that can be found among the leaves and branches of trees. As human development consistently burgeons ever forth, areas for this bi-annual river of bird species looking for fuel become fragmented and overrun with predators. Tired birds resting on beaches constantly have to upend themselves upon every approach of human, pet or predator. The journey is hard enough as it is, but many variables come in to play that also create significant challenges for these relentless little creatures. And a lot of the time, those are human-related variables.

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Resting Royal Terns

But there are ways we can address this. Sometimes, rather than the excitement of running across the beach to flush a flock of gulls and terns could rather be turned into an interesting learning experience for a small child. Where did these birds come from? Where are they headed? Maybe we should walk a few extra steps to skirt around them rather than trundle straight through a group of migratory seabirds that are just trying to recharge for the next stretch of travel.

Anyways, just a thought. I can guarantee that I was probably right there, little stacebird, running ahead of the family in my excitement at setting foot in the powdery sand on Siesta Key, a cloud of gulls rising in front of me as I make a beeline for the water. Anytime I get preachy, just remember it’s to myself as well. We all try to help this big, beautiful, life-filled world our own ways and that’s what counts.

So now as I find myself in the stomping grounds of my youth, here in Maryland, I’m enjoying every chance I can to soak in the hints of fall that are licking at the leaves, tinging them in yellow, orange and red. While mom and I were in Maine, there were shocks of color, an entire maple that may have decided to get ahead of the curve among its still-green brethren. And just like up there, there is a flurry of activity among the leaves here as the birds find the remaining bits food before carrying on southward.

While I was in Puerto Rico, working on a project studying Smooth-billed Anis, I’d arrived freshly from a field season studying warblers in the Bay of Fundy in New

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Black-throated Green Warbler, Bay of Fundy

Brunswick. The very same species of migratory warblers I’d spent the summer netting, banding and monitoring throughout the nesting season were suddenly present in Puerto Rico where I’d just arrived for the winter to work on the project. Bird-jobs happen where the birds are and, in effect, I was following the birds. I remember seeing a Black-throated Green Warbler, a species I’d grown quite fond of up in Canada, for the first time in Puerto Rico and just smiling because I knew this jaunty little warbler had just travelled a long ways to get there and was going to spend the winter feeding on the abundant insect life offered by those tropical climes before heading back north to breed the following spring.

What is especially neat about the work we were doing in Canada was “resighting” bands, meaning, using our binoculars, we’d see if a bird above us in a tree was banded.  In noting the color combination of four colored bands on the legs of the a previously banded bird, we could even determine if very same individual who travels to Central and South America during the winter will actually return to the very same territory, down to the tree, that they’d previously designated as *theirs* in prior years. They do! So, while I did check for bands on the black-throated greens I saw in Puerto Rico, the odds weren’t in my favor that I’d come across a bird I’d recognize..seeing as how that would mean out of the hundreds of millions of migrating songbirds, we’d have to find each other just a mere two-thousand miles later. Not likely, but it sure gave me some perspective!

So while I stop to rest my tired wings, I’m getting prepared for a few more hops before the final flight south to Costa Rica. I’ll have a chance to see who’s hanging out on the beach once I get back down to Florida for a bit, and, in addition to hanging to with my amazing grandmother before I leave, I’ll get in on some Audubon walks to get a good look at the migrants passing through while I’m there. So stay tuned!

Thanks for reading, all and don’t forget to wave hi to the migrants as they trickle past. And keep your eyes ever skyward..

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~stacebird

 

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Next Up: stacebird Migrates South!

Upon departing Seal island,  my plan was to head back down to Florida where I’ve enjoyed spending copious amounts of time with my 95 year old grandmother over the course of the past year or so. Grandy introduced me to a love for international travel, she brought me to Kenya in 1999. I was 16 and she was in her eighties, making up the youngest and oldest member of the safari tour group. She took my brother Matthew to Europe when he was in highschool and a couple years later asked me, where in the world would you like to go? I said I wanted to see the wildlife of Africa. There was never a more lucky granddaughter.

IMG-8307For my highschool graduation, Grandy took me abroad to Costa Rica. As a bird-lover who has loved the feathered kind since practically before I can even remember (apparently in my mother’s arms as a baby, I tracked the birds, following them with my eyes as they flew over. My first word? Duck. Enough said.) travelling to the tropics was simply inevitable.

We spent two weeks exploring the rainforests which revealed to me a lush biodiversity that I had only ever dreamed about. I’m currently reading back through my journal from the 2002 trip and laughed while reading about my first morning in the country: waking up slowly to birdsong until I was suddenly hit with the glorious realization that each and every sound I was listening to was bird belting its declaration of love, territory and simple existence were species I’ve never seen before in my entire life, and they were right outside. You might be able to imagine how quick I bolted out of dreamland, out of that bed, and into that new world.

Well, since then, I’ve returned to the tropics as many times as I possible have been able to. Returning to Costa Rica in 2004, I went with my college class for the field portion of our semester studying tropical ecology and conservation. Instead of going home after that two-week study of the tropical climes, I worked at an ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula for a month. I spent five months in Guatemala in ’09 as an ecotourism volunteer while improving my Spanish and another month a year or so later in Nicaragua to continue pursuing fluency in that gorgeous language with the full intent of using it to help fully immerse myself in the culture. I’ve met so many amazing folks having lived in their homes, learning to cook authentic foods and enjoying the highly communal existence I continue to encounter among these various beautiful countries.

So, as you can imagine, I want to go back again. I always have it in the back of my mind that I’ll return. Meanwhile, bird jobs and writing jobs have taken me to all the most amazing places yet, that idea back of my mind always persists.

Well, this past week, coming off the island and then going camping along the coast of Maine while seeing some of my favorite friends from years past, I received an email. An internship I’d applied for got back to me, they’re still narrowing down what ended up being many more applicants than they’d expected. They wanted to do a skype call.

So, sitting on the Penobscot Bay, just a few yards from our campsite, I spoke with Susan and Harvey, the owners of a beautiful ecolodge in a remote corner of Costa Rica. I showed them the water, pointing my phone for them to see the view and they did the same for me (it took awhile for me to ratchet my jaw back up from the dirt). For the rest of the camping trip I was trying not to think about the dream that this possibility could turn into a reality.

Well, dream has become reality.

I’m beyond thrilled to let you all know that I’m officially headed to Costa Rica, where I’ll be joining at the Saladero Ecolodge team on the Gulfo Dulce. At this waterfront destination, accessible only by boat, my contributions will include leading birdwalks (!!!) as well as regular hikes through the rainforest and guiding kayak adventures around the coastal mangrove forests. We’ll also be participating in conservation efforts around the property (which is comprised of hundreds of acres of primary rainforest, meaning that it’s never been harvested for lumber or cut to graze cattle, for example) including coastal restoration, mangrove reforestation, wild cat monitoring, stream quality monitoring as well as assisting with university groups studying marine biology.

I’m also particularly excited that I’ll be returning to a Spanish-speaking country and reintegrating into the Latin culture. I’ve been so fortunate to visit and lend a hand in various countries in Central America several times in the past and have such a fondness for the richness of the culture itself, but also various peoples with whom I’ve been so lucky to spend time and have such respect and fondness for. I love that I’ll be returning to Costa Rica with an even fuller grasp of the language, which changes the experience completely. I’ve made such friends, worked alongside them and the only English we ever spoke was me teaching them new words while they were teaching me theirs.

I’m beyond thrilled at having “landed this position,” but also awed and humbled. I know I was up against significant and highly qualified competition, but I also know I’ve spent a great deal of time in the beautiful country of Costa Rica observing and learning the glorious diversity of birdlife there. I feel enormously fortunate and am more thrilled than I can even convey. I always say, every time I’ve left that beautifully stunning part of the world, that I’m going to come back. Well, I’m going to go back. It makes me smile to type those words.

Stay tuned for updates and, while internet will be limited out there, I’ll definitely be reporting from Saladero!

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Blog on, stacebird, blog on..

Well wasn’t I just completely gobsmacked in the best way possible yesterday to find that, in no more than a week, I’ve grown from having fifty-two followers to More. Than. A. Thousand.

Holy wow…

I just feel so humbled and can’t express my gratitude for all of your interests in my blog. To know I’m reaching more and more readers is so uplifting and motivating.

So this post is me sending out huge love and thanks to everyone who thought FeathersAwry was worthy of a read and a follow.

Thank you!!

I particularly want to thank Project Puffin (which is how I began this fieldwork journey, it being my very first bird job in 2003), explore.org, all the lovely and passionate puffin cam viewers who I hold so dear in my heart, Bob McGuire who encouraged me to start this blog when I was headed out to work the 2016 seabird nesting season on Seal Island, my mother who took me on my first Backyard Naturalist birdwalk when I was seven and who helps me with editing this blog (which I’m gonna buckle down on now, I promise Momma!), my brother and father who have always had all the love, support, encouragement and all the rest of you invisible readers out there!

Well, I’m having a lovely wind-down from leaving the puffin island and reentering civilization. Two weeks isn’t enough for the true culture shock of spending the entire season on-island, certainly, but I’m taking some time to further soak in Maine’s stunning coastline.

I’m getting in a little camping with the Momma before heading back south to Florida. Should be interesting to see how Sarasota fared Irma. My grandmother endured a bit of power outage at her assisted living place, but we were definitely spared the brunt that the more southerly regions were dealt with.

So what’s next for stacebird? Well, I have some things percolating and, of course, birds will be on the docket, just as they always are and will be..

Thanks again, friends!

Peace.

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Explore.org Puffin Chat

 

So I’m now back on the mainland having finished my 2-week stint helping with Project Puffin‘s post-season and closed down the island for the winter. While I was sad to watch that magnificent, magical island disappearing into the mist, I admit I’m now gleefully reveling in the forested landscape that was lacking on that treeless island. But to live fully immersed in nature, I felt truly at home. That a 66-acre slab of rock set out in the Atlantic can hold such a rich diversity of life and that I had it just about completely to myself is an experience that I will treasure forever into my future. This being my fourth time waving goodbye to Seal as the boat motors us back to the mainland, as I’ve said to myself every time before, I said it again, I’ll see you again.

What was especially thrilling and a new experience for me was to be invited by explore.org to do a live chat from Seal about the puffin season, my work with the project, and to answer questions from the passionate and enthusiastic viewers who watch the Seal Island puffin cams which transmit live-feed during the nesting season various views on the island where the birds like to congregate, or “loaf” as well as a front row seat in the burrow of one of the hundreds of puffins that nest between the boulders around the island’s northern shoreline.

While answering questions, I touch on the island research and it’s importance in having amassed some four decades of science: monitoring of the birds, collecting data on productivity, banding terns, puffins and guillemots and carrying out feeding studies to see what forage fish the birds are bringing in to feed their young throughout the nesting season. This ultimately gives us an idea of how the birds are surviving in the face of human influence and how they might be affected by climate change.

So I invite you to sit back and watch a very enthusiastic talk by your very own @stacebird as I talk about an island I adore and a project that gives me great hope for the future and pride and joy to have gotten all the opportunities to be a part of.

 

 

 

 

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Project Puffin: Seal Island 2017 Season Summary

Since I rolled into Seal for only the post-season this year, I thought I’d brush up on the deets of what went on this summer with our beloved terns and puffins as well as the guillemots, razorbills, eiders and all the rest!

 

Keenan was once again the Island Supervisor, although was missing his co-command, Isabel, who started a graduate program that we were so excited to find out about last year while on the island! This will be Keenan’s second season as sole Seal supervisor (alliteration much?) which he also was in 2015 so he was absolutely up to the task this year and then some!

 

The puffins and terns start their nesting season in late May and, while the tern colony declined by several hundred pairs this year, the puffins had an excellent turnout with an estimated 592 active burrows on the island, surpassing a previous high of 568 pairs. The Black Guillemots are doing great on the island, numbering well over 700 pairs. About fifty pairs of Razorbills nested on the island this year, which has gone up exponentially since back when I first came out to the island in the early ‘aughts when we were excited to find even just one or two nest burrows! The island also boasts a healthy nesting population of Leach’s storm petrels, Great and Double-crested Cormorants, the ever-present Herring and Black-backed Gulls, as well as shy Common Eiders, plucky Spotted Sandpipers and our flitty friends around camp, the abundant Song and Savannah Sparrows.

 

Where’s the food?

Common Tern (COTE) productivity was really good this year, says Keenan. Now, when we say “productivity” this means the average number of chicks hatched and fledged per nesting pair, usually a number somewhere between one and two chicks per pair. To determine common and arctic tern productivity, the team monitors nests within four pre-installed study plots (~1’ mesh fenced enclosures) set throughout the colony from which productivity and growth data are collected on a regular basis for the entirety of the nesting season.

 

       

 

For each pair of common terns, on average, 1.15 chicks per pair fledged  this year, which is actually a great outcome, this being the third-highest productivity for COTEs since monitoring first began on Seal in the early nineties. Last year, when I was here for the duration of the nesting season, the COTEs only fledged 0.5 chicks per pair, averaging to what basically amounts to half a chick per pair. This is not sustainable for the future of any nesting colony, neither for population maintenance nor for population growth. Last year was a particularly bad year for the terns on Seal thanks to nasty weather at key points in the chicks’ development, along with an inexplicably poor food supply. But this year resulting in a more than doubling of productivity is a hopeful outcome, however uncertainty in food availability from year to year obviously does raise concerns for the future.

Arctic Terns (ARTEs) productivity also went up from last year from 0.79 to 1.1 chicks produced per nesting pair. While the year was successful for tern productivity, there was actually a significant drop in the size of both the arctic and common tern colony size. The COTEs dropped from 1,300 to 1000 pairs nesting on the island between the 2016 to 2017 season while the ARTEs declined from 950 pairs to 700. While we don’t know the exact reason this happened, there are some theories. With the changes in food availability, especially last year having been such a poor year for the birds, they may have moved to a different location in search of a more reliable food source for the nesting season. Keenan mentioned that a common tern colony in his home area of Cape Cod, Massachusetts had over 11,000 pairs of common terns and seems to be growing by about 1000 pairs per year with what appears to be great food availability and productivity success. Perhaps Seal Island terns have found that colony or another of any of the seven Project Puffin-managed islands where the food supply might be more reliable. While we are not 100% sure about any of this, our close monitoring of tern populations along with banding chicks and adults might reveal what’s happening with our birds in the future.

 

 

The puffins had a great year this season, bringing in huge bill-loads of sandlance, hake and herring and haddock. It was especially exciting to see herring coming in, says Keenan, because out of all the fish these birds are eating in the Gulf of Maine, herring have the highest fat-content This means more calories “per package” which is great for chick development and growth. This further emphasizes that the kinds of fish being brought in by parents to their chicks can be more significant than the amount, because, as some might recall, several years ago the famed “butterfish year” left many chicks starving because the baby birds were unable to swallow the large, coin-shaped fish which piled up next to the dying birds because that’s what their parents were finding the most of out at sea and therefore bringing in to feed their young. In 2005, Seal supervisor Carlos and I observed a high amount of euphausiids (krill-like invertebrates) brought in by the adult terns to their chicks, this over-abundant food source which seemed to lack the nutrients that fatty, bony fish could provide and could have had a detrimental impact on the productivity that year. All speculation, but you can see how many variables come into play when it comes to raising a healthy chick!

 

Something interesting that we’ve seen more of in recent seasons is that the puffins are starting to nest in new areas of the island where they haven’t typically nested in the past. The majority of the colony nests around the perimeter of the tern colony on the northeast point of the island but now they’re spreading out to new areas southward down the island. This is exciting, says Keenan, because it shows potential for increased growth to the colony with more available areas being identified by the birds for potential nests While it’s hard to monitor these additional nest locations being that most of our attention is on the main colony where most of our blinds are located, the Seal island team does its best to find new burrows as they occur to keep track of the expansion.

 

With this year’s abundant and healthy food supply, there’s been more birds loafing (hanging out on the rocks) as observed by the Seal island team and viewers of the explore.org cams compared to last year. This is a result of the birds not having to spend as much time searching for a sufficient food source, giving them more time to rest and socialize, meaning more of a show for our beloved cam viewers over the course of the season!

 

Before Keenan and the island team left at the end of the nesting season, they had an all-time high count on August 11th of 1,012 puffins rafting offshore. These congregations occur as the birds get ready to move out to sea for the winter. By the time Frank and I arrived, we only saw a couple remaining birds floating on the choppy waters. Waving goodbye, I can see them in my mind’s eye, riding the swells over the continental shelf eastward off the shores of New York state, where they’ll endure the freezing winter, floating and feeding and waiting for the spring to come.

Next post I’ll be getting up close and personal with our explore.org puffin chick Conrad!

 

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Seal Island NWR: An Instagram Video View

stacebirdFrom 23 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, I present you with sights and sounds from around this beautiful, dramatic, biodiversity-rich seabird nesting island where I’ve been so fortunate to spend my time over the years. As we trickle into fall, the grasses slowly brown, the winds stir up and here we remain for the last weeks of the late-nesting cormorant season to ensure they survive to fledging.

These are some videos I’ve been posting on my Instagram which make for a great stacebird’s eye view of this island I’m so enamored with. Please enjoy!

Fish dinner cooked over the fire, a serene evening.. #islandlife #optoutside #purebliss #maine #islandgirl

A post shared by Stacey M. Hollis (@stacebird) on

Grey afternoon on the island. #aintcomplaining

A post shared by Stacey M. Hollis (@stacebird) on

Rocky island waves. #optoutside #maine #outdoors #island #hiking #islandguardian

A post shared by Stacey M. Hollis (@stacebird) on

If this makes you more curious about what I’m doing out here and the seasons I’ve spent here in the past working for Project Puffin, I invite you to visit my archives (see on right) for the months beginning with June–when I started this blog–through September for the entirety of the 2016 nesting season.

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