Friday, October 18, 2013

Birding Resources Part II: Other People

I will say this up front: I am not an expert birder. I like birds, I can identify most the ones that come through my yard, and when Matt quizzes me on bird calls as we're hiking, I have about a 50-50 chance of being able to say what that bird is.

Bird of prey-watching in the Trossachs
Photo credit: Saskia Heijltjes
That's why it's so awesome to occasionally go birding with people who really know what they're doing. There are many, many people in this area who can hear a birdsong and be able to tell you -- without seeing the bird -- what it is, how common it is, where it's been lately, whether it's worth looking for...and if it's worth looking for, they'll help you find it.

If you're not one of these people, consider going out birdwatching with one of these groups sometime, and see (and hear) what you're missing. (And if you are one of those people, please comment and let me know if I missed anything!)

Maryland Ornithological Society has meetings and field trips all over Maryland, including some in Rock Creek Park. Their September/October schedule is nine pages long!

Audubon Naturalist Society has free birding trips in the metro area and beyond. Also look through their catalog for paid classes and trips that focus on birds -- there are many.

Prince George's Audubon Society has regular walks on 1st and 3rd Thursdays at Lake Artemesia, and 1st and 3rd Saturdays at Patuxent River Park.

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia has classes, programs, and field trips at local sites like Huntley Meadows, Riverbend Park, and many others.

The Northern Virginia Bird Club lists a couple of outings a week on their calendar as well.

The Nature Conservancy has free birding outings for members about once a week this fall.

This post is part of a series on birding resources...

Birding Resources Part I: Bird ID Books

Up next: Birding resources on the web & birding apps. Let us know if you have any recommendations!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Things to look for in October

October is here, time for apples, crisp nights, and fall colors. And, the brain-hurting exercise of coming up with an original Halloween costume. For help with that, we once compiled a list of ten relatively easy (for a somewhat crafty person) nature-themed Halloween costumes. The mushroom hat was a hit.

Here are some of the other things we try to take time to enjoy in October. What have you been noticing lately?

Maryland Shore
Maryland shore of the Potomac by Todor Kamenov
Fall foliage will start becoming more apparent soon. See our list of favorite local places to enjoy the color, and leave a comment with your own favorite spot. Or try our quiz of 10 fall leaves.
Wild Grapes
Wild grapes by Memotions
Wild Grapes are tart but tasty trailside treats -- if you can reach them. We had some at Carderock in September; have you found any lately?

Acorns on tree
Acorns by VS Anderson
Acorns are dropping. We've been playing around with making acorn flour: take off the shells, grind the nutmeats into coarse flour, then put them in a filter and let them soak in repeated changes of water over several days. Then dry and grind into finer flour. Use it to replace a little flour in any baking recipe that doesn't require a lot of gluten. We love it in pancakes.

Virginia Creeper
Virginia Creeper by Rene J
Virginia Creeper has started to turn a brilliant red in some places. It's the harbinger of fall color.

New England Aster
New England Aster by giveawayboy
New England Asters are lighting up our backyard right now, and on a sunny day they're covered in pollinators. Do you have a favorite spot that they grow in the wild? We'd love to hear about it.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar waxwing by Kelly Colgan Azar
Cedar waxwings are beautiful but gluttonous birds that come through our yard every fall and feast on our holly berries. I love to find them by their high-pitched calls, which you can hear on a video in our post.
Stink Bug
Stink bug by fangleman
Marmorated stink bugs will probably start coming into your home as it gets cooler, if they haven't already. These bugs just came to Pennsylvania around 1998, and have been spreading through the eastern United States with stinky abandon.
chicken of the woods
chicken of the woods by zwavelzwam
Matt just brought home a couple pounds of chicken of the woods this week, and this rain should keep bringing out the mushrooms. It might be a good time to join the Mycological Association of Washington for a foray, and keep an eye out for new walks with Matt.
Jack-o-Lantern Mushroom
Jack-o-Lantern by pellaea
Jack O'Lantern mushrooms are a poisonous orange mushroom that glow in the dark. Don't expect to use them to light up a pumpkin though...the glow is so faint it requires absolute darkness to see it.
We always love to hear what other people are noticing out there...leave us a comment below about your favorite things or new finds for this time of year!