Sunday, May 25

Friday Bird Blogging: Maine Trip Report

Crossposted to Birding New England:

Note: every photo on this page is a clickable link to a larger version of the photo
This chestnut-sided warbler was popping in and out of visibility, but at one key moment, it landed on a nearby tree.  I knew I only had one chance to get it right, so I took a shot of the bird and got the best one I've ever taken of one.This week, we took a few days to do some birding in Maine, staying in Wells and visiting a few nearby areas. Some of our best looks were at Warblers, like this Chestnut-sided warbler, but we also had great looks at some other birds, including two new life birds.

Our primary place to bird was Laudholm Trust, a great spot for finding all sorts of warblers, as well as Eastern Towhees, thrushes and, apparently, a porcupine.

Wells Beach, on the other hand, can give great looks at a variety of birds, such as this surf scoter, and this pair of horned grebes (the first I've ever seen).

This black and white warbler landed on a nearby tree and gave me a great opportunity to photograph it.Day one started off with a walk through Laudholm Trust, which yielded several species of warblers, including the black and white warbler shown here. We also spotted a porcupine, and a trip to the Wells Beach later in the evening resulted in my first ever sighting of horned grebes and this really nice look at a Surf Scoter.

Best photo of a surf scoter I've ever managed.

The next morning we did a walk on the Marginal Way. We thought it would yield nice warblers (as it did last year), but no such luck. Afterwards, we went to Scarborough Marsh, and didn't see a lot (again, last year, it had a lot to offer, but this time it was quieter).

Another walk through Laudholm Trust didn't yield much birdwise, but it did get us another great look at the porcupine we'd seen sleeping the day before.

The next day was the really great day. The morning's extensive walk through Laudholm yielded two species of thrush (Veery and Hermit Thrush) as well as some great warblers and a bobolink:
Nashville warbler.This black and white warbler almost landed on my head by accident before it realized what it was doing and flew to a nearby tree.   Fortunately, I was still able to get some good shots of it.

The afternoon included a trip to Fort Foster Park in Kittery, which gave me my third thrush of the day, a Wood Thrush and a scarlet tanager.

This eastern towhee was singing like crazy while I photographed it.The next morning involved another quick walk through Laudholm, which gave me some great looks at the Eastern Towhee pictured here, another look at a Veery, a look at a bird we haven't been able to ID yet (and have no photo of so I don't know why I'm even mentioning it except it was frustrating), a Magnolia Warbler, more chestnut-sideds and a black and white warbler.
A walk in the fields gave me the chance to get several very nice looks at a group of Prairie Warblers.After packing up we decided to swing by Kennebunk Plains on the way home, in the hopes of spotting two life birds: a grasshopper sparrow (no) and an Upland Sandpiper (YES!).

The Upland Sandpiper was a treat because we were just about to walk to another part of the plains when we heard this very odd sounding bird call, then land. We moved close enough to get a look at it. I was sure it was an upland sandpiper primarily because I know the look and call of just about every other sandpiper in that bird's size range that we'd be likely to see in New England and it didn't fit any of them, so that was cool. Looking at Peterson's after the fact verified that we were right about the I.D.

We also managed to spot some vesper sparrows, along with a Pine Warbler and a small flock of prairie warblers (see photo on right) which were moving around like crazy and not easy to photograph, but I still managed to pull them off.

So, no grasshopper sparrow, but still, a day with a new life bird was cool, and it's not like it's as easy for me to find new life birds as it was two years ago.

All in all, this was a great trip: lots of good walks, some extremely good looks at very small birds, some great views of two new life birds and some pretty amazing looks at birds we've seen before.

Wednesday, May 21

Wedding Bells for George "Sulu" Takei

Per Reuters:

Actor George Takei, best known for playing Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek," says he plans to wed his longtime partner now that the California Supreme Court has overturned a state ban on gay marriage.

Takei, 71, told Reuters on Monday that he and Brad Altman, his 54-year-old business manager, are going through the "delicious process" of planning their nuptials.

(h/t Meteor Blades)

This is really nice to hear. Takei's been out for an awfully long time, but he's also incredibly outspoken on gay rights, on human rights (he was interned with his family during WWII) without ever being hostile or bitter. He's a tremendous spokesman and I have a great deal of admiration for him. I can't find the archive of the audio for this, but on coming out day (October 11), I think in 2006, he gave an amazing interview to David Bender on Air America radio in which he discussed the experience of being interned and still spoke of everything with an incredible sense of optimism and hope.

He is also, by the way, *incredibly* funny:

Tuesday, May 20

Julie Waters e-notes: Tue, May 20, 2008

Hey all; sorry I've not been posting much as of late. Things have been a little crazy.

I'll start with the sales pitch: I've now fully entered the world of digital distribution. All my CDs are now available online, via, iTunes CD Baby and soon Rhapsody will have all of my music as well.

I've done a major revamp of the music site, so if you're interested, check it out ( It includes links for online sales.

I've been composing up a storm and am currently trying to find time to get a new CD out by the end of Summer (I make no promises). This will, if things work as planned, be a duet CD, a mixture of blues, contemporary & jazz, working with all three of my primary instruments (6-string banjo, acoustic guitar and baritone guitar) at various times.

The music we're doing so far has real potential. It's a lot of fun to do stuff with other musicians again. After so much energy spent on solo work, it's nice to have someone else to share the burden a little.

Photography, by the way, is going amazingly well. Check out the photo site to see some of what I've been up to.

Hope everyone is well. I'll post more, but not today.
More info:

Julie's photography:
Upcoming events for Julie Waters
Wednesday, June 18th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Wednesday, July 9th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Sunday, August 10th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Friday, May 16

I did clinic defense for three years

Clinic defense: it's getting up very early on Friday and Saturday mornings and driving to a clinic which performs abortions in order to help the women who are coming to them from medical care get into the clinic without having to deal with the harassment of anti-abortion protesters.

It's challenging work. It requires you learn to focus on the clients and not react personally to *anything* the protesters say to you (gay-baiting, race-baiting, threats on your person, etc.).

When you do clinic defense, you don't even refer to one another by name where it can be overheard because if they have your name, they make the attacks much more personal.

It was difficult work, but it was well worth it. It taught me a lot about myself, about responding to personal attacks, and it taught me a bit about courage, too.

The job itself was simple: when someone pulls into the parking lot, do your best to help them into the clinic and distract them from the protesters to ease their way in.

Sometimes, the protesters would play games, like having one of their people pull up and then drive away as they convince the person not to have an abortion. Like we don't recognize their cars that are parked along the road every week and don't recognize the drivers in them as well? But, I digress...

I'm talking about this because despite my occasional differences with NARAL (I'm not fond of groups which endorse incumbents over challengers just because the incumbents have acceptable voting records, even if the incumbent can do a lot better, so I've clashed with NARAL a few times over this), I think they're a good organization that does good work.

So, if you're angry about their endorsement, please be sure to let them know what your preference would have been, and if you're happy about it, let them know that, too.

But whatever you may think about their decision, NARAL is no traitor and if it weren't for them, some of these clinics I volunteered at wouldn't even exist today. They've been a major force supporting abortion rights for decades and they deserve some respect for that.

I'm going to close this with two quick stories:

The women who owned the clinic I volunteered at developed a brain tumor which eventually killed her. While she was still alive, one of the protesters found out about the illness and they started mocking her for it.

They would shout to her, telling her that this was God's punishment for her sins.

These are the people who should be our common enemy here.

Once, one of the protesters herself came to the clinic to get an abortion. She asked for special permission to come around through the back entrance so her friends protesting outside wouldn't see her.

The clinic complied.

We didn't challenge her on this. That would have been unacceptable. She had every right to get an abortion and she had every right to protest. The contradiction between the two was her issue to deal with, and it wasn't our place to make her feel terrible for it.

The next week, she was out there protesting again.

We never said a thing.