Friday, 1 December 2006

Welcome to Bell Tower Birding,

the site entirely dedicated to my birding adventures in and around Ann Arbor, a lovely spot in Michigan. I might have to stretch "around" quite a bit once I have a car at my service, but for the time being this blog will be about watching and enjoying birds within the city limits, in walking distance of my flat or wherever the local bus service can take me.
To make for a difficult start, there are currently some inconveniences hampering the quality of the blog (apart from awful writing and not having a car). As for now, I don't own a digital camera and thus cannot provide any potential readers of this blog with nicely illustrated adventures. I am working on this with all my might and promise to improve soon. Until then, I will try and spice things up with old shots from back home (see below to learn where that is) and from a trip to Michigan and Ontario in spring 2005.

Why "Bell Tower Birding"?
The blog's name is derived from the beautiful Burton Memorial Bell Tower. Burton Tower lies right in the centre of Ann Arbor and if I turn my head around a bit I can view it from my desk. The beautiful chimes of its 55 bells (not kidding, 55!) are an acoustic trade mark of down town Ann Arbor and add to its lively charm. Furthermore, and much more appropriate for having a bird blog named after it, the tower hosts a pair of Peregrine Falcons. Apart from Domestic Pigeons, House Sparrows, and European Starlings, these birds are the only species I get to see on a regular basis during my working hours at home, so regular readers of this blog (if ever there will be any) will get to share quite a few of my many moments with these falcons.
Actually, being a down town birder in Ann Arbor isn't even half as boring as is sounds. There are quite a few nice parks all over the town and the Huron river meanders right through it, providing desperate bird watchers with views of at least a few waterbirds. As with the Peregrines, many of these parks will be introduced to the inclined reader in the near future.

The person behind "Bell Tower Birding"
The man behind all this is a birder from Germany, more precisely the German Baltic Sea coast around the cities of Greifswald and Stralsund, who has followed his wife to Ann Arbor for a year or so. For a very nice impression of my former birding haunts, take a look at this. There you'll also see a picture of me in one of my all-time favourite birding spots, the Kieshofer Moor.
I thoroughly enjoy investigating the variation of species, be it subspecific or individual variation, and have taken a deep interest in pipits and wagtails back home in Germany. With this latter specific interest being almost completely useless in Ann Arbor, I don't know yet what will keep me busy here over the winter, maybe ageing and sexing Cardinals or trying in vain to find a Carolina Chickadee amongst the Black-capped Chickadees. Who knows? Visit again in January and find out!

Today's "Pic from the Past"
As I mentioned before, I will regularly upload a bird photo from my archive to add a bit of colour to this blog. Today's bird shot from my archives is of a Black-headed Gull in winter plumage, photographed at the Stralsund harbour in February 2003.

The identification itself is rather straight forward. It can really only be confused with the North American Bonaparte's Gull, but the latter species has never been seen in that part of Germany, so there you have it: definitely Black-headed Gull.
The reasons for choosing this picture for the blog are manifold. The picture was taken in the snow and we are expecting 20 cm of snow here in Ann Arbor this coming weekend, so it puts me in the right mood for winter. Then, this gull is the most common gull in Germany and a true city dweller in winter, just like I am at the moment, so there's my emotional connection. Finally I am of course hoping to provide a comparable picture of the species this winter here from the Huron River, so this pic is also about putting things in perspective.
And frankly, I published it mostly because - believe it or not - I somehow like it.

Fine! Now that we've gotten over the introduction, let the bird blogging begin!

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