Wednesday 23 January 2008

The things I have been up to...

It's been a while, I know.

I have missed blogging throughout this time and was delighted to see and read that there are indeed a few people out there who noticed my absence and actually demanded a new post.

This is very kind!!

Okay, to take the burden off my soul I must say that there has been a good reason for staying off-line, possibly the best reason there can be.
No, I did not visit Panama with Nuthatch's group, although that would be another acceptable reason.
I am also not dead, haven't even been ill lately, am knocking on wood right now, everyone else around me - as far as I can tell - is fine (hear me knock again), I did not visit the Ross's Gull that's been hanging around Denmark for ages now..., nope, nothing of that sort.

What kept me from Blogging was the arrival of my son

His Hungryness Prince E. M. Belltowerbirder the Smallest

on December 11th, at 9:36 am. For the first time ever, I am a father.

All of us - my wife, son and also myself - are fine and healthy. Well, my wife and I have shown recent signs of massive fatigue and ageing, but I suppose that's just the normal evolutionary process of withering and wilting age in the face of the next generation.

As many of you might have noticed, his arrival hit our planet 6 weeks ago and I still haven't even managed to send out emails with pictures to our closest friends.

Shame and honest apologies.

Well, he's someone who can keep you quite busy and even though this is all more than fine, any spare time we accidentally chance upon is used to maintain basic biological functions through eating, drinking or catching some sleep.

Well, of course parental duties severely impact birding possibilities and I was therefore very relieved to find that Lovely Belltowerbirder Junior (or LBJ as his closest friends and relatives are allowed to call him) shows all the signs of becoming Germany's Next Top-Birder.

I therefore took him on his first real birding excursion to the vast outdoors, which is the city's harbour right outside our little apartment.

I have documented his first approach to birding with a few pictures that I'd like to show and comment upon here:

This is my new perspective upon birds and birding: Mallards, Gulls and Coots viewed over the front of a stroller. Oh come on, it could be worse - as soon as I get bored, a quick glance into (and not over) the stroller will immediately get me an excitement fix to carry me through the next 50 Black-headed Gulls

But you do know the birding is lame when you get excited over finding a largely black-headed Black-headed Gull in winter. And yes, those are rain drops...

This is what those with decency are supposed to look like now...

... and that flasher of courtship signals in winter and totally out of season surely got the disapproval of the whole flock.

Some may remember that in my former life as a birder, I took a deep interest in the variation of the Common Gulls wintering here around Stralsund. Well, that project has hit a nasty snag recently, and not through diaper duty: it's pretty hard to study the variation of winter gulls when winter has decided to skip a few years here. Indeed, there are hardly any Common Gulls around and the following one, the only one I was able to photograph this winter, isn't too exciting as it shows all the field marks of the western form Larus canus canus, the usual form around here.

The common Common Gull

Once in a great while, exciting birds show up around the ponds and harbour waters of Stralsund, and during this first ever birding excursion, LBJ got to see a very close Great Crested Grebe.
Well, he would have gotten to see it had he not fallen asleep the moment I left the house with him.

Another Great species (though not really crested around here but man, that would be a neat record) regularly seen by myself and LBJ on our bird excursions - well, the one we had - is the Coot. As a matter of fact, anyone who's seen them in courtship fights knows why there's even been a song written about them ("Black Balls of Fire" as sung by Jerry Lee Lewis) and incidentally, there's a growing number of scientist who maintain that the Titanic did not hit an ice berg after all but was just unlucky in getting in between two fighting Coots. I endorse their theory, no matter what their pinkish bills might make you think.

And last but not least, my new birding hot spot offers a chance to take a look at the common species from a completely different angle and possibly gain new insights and inspirations.

My son LBJ always enjoys to make a deep and profoundly good impression on people and has thus decided to demonstrate his scientific motivation to his parents and the world by proving that the term "fuzzy baby" hasn't been taken to the extremes, yet. Therefore, and quite often so, I find myself placed in the push position behind a stroller containing LBJ and walking the nightly streets of Stralsund.
Yet again though, I can see that LBJ means only good and Stralsund at night isn't all too bad.
Here for example is the Gorch Fock, a beautiful sailing ship with quite a history that you can read about here.

Day after day, day after day we stuck no breath no motion, as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean ... or as an old ship with no money for repair at a remote harbour.

While the pubs and bars are still out of bounds for LBJ and me on our nightly tours...

... the harbour's breakwater is a good compensation and a very social one, too if you enjoy the sole company of a sleeping baby.

Yet again though - and even in his sleep - LBJ's birding genes amaze me: through our night excursions, I found out that up to 1,400 Black-headed Gulls use the jetties as a roosting site during the night.

Happy birding trails and all the very best from LBJ as well!


Katie said...


A while back, when one of my colleagues started birding with a pram, I had the genius idea of developing a sort of 'pram-clamp' which would enable the user to take a scope AND a baby out birding together. Like a hide-clamp but for a pram handle. Do you think it would work?

Jochen said...

Thanks, Katie!
Sounds like a good idea, but a simple clamp won't do the trick as the pram needs some rocking while the scope doesn't... But there's got to be technical solutions to walking a baby and digiscoping Denmark's Ross's Gull at the same time.
Maybe your concept is something we can extend from?

Nate said...

I suppose this is a valid excuse for such a long absence.

Congratulations and all!

Patrick B. said...

N8 stole my line. Congratulations!!!! Stay away from large birds of prey.

noflickster said...

Herzliche Gluckwunsche (sorry, can't make the umlauts on this keyboard)! Listing and chasing as you knew it may take a hit for a while, but obviously that all works out. Now, about squeezing out time for blogging, good luck!

Seriously, good news, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
- Mike

Anonymous said...

congratulation to you and your sweet wife. happy to get some news from you!!!!!

I thought the baby strollers were pretty advanced, these days, so maybe you should check on yours, maybe there is some sort of wind-compensating gyroscope, insuring the stability of the whole thing.

At least you can hide your binoculars from the rain, pack a lunch, birding guide etc. As a matter of fact, I think it would be specially convenient on the trails of pointe mouillee.....


Anonymous said...

Cute kid, Jochen. I'm glad to see you're starting him off right. We should start planning an intercontinental parent-child birding adventure.

Clare said...

Woah. Congratulations Jochen. Welcome to the great sleep deprivation experiment. There is nothing more rewarding.

Rurality said...

Awwww! He's so cute! Happy birding to all of you. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations - and thank you. The world can always use another birder.

Best wishes to you all.

Tom said...

Glad to see you back JR. Happy parenting!

PS Up the Irons! :-)

Anonymous said...

Congrats and welcome back to the internets!

We've missed you...

I'll bet LBJ sees a Black Woodpecker before I do!

Anonymous said...

Congrats for sure and your life has officially changed (for the good)! Thanks for the wonderful update and can't wait how down the line your upcoming adventures that you cross! BTW: I would have loved to see a Ross's Gull!

Jochen said...

A heartfelt thank you to all of you!!!

It's great to be back, I've missed you.

Larry said...

congratulations! Somehow,I think you may have less time for birding and bloggin now. It will be great when you get to introduce your son to birding though.

World Bird Sanctuary said...

Amazing blog. I used to live up in Toledo and we frequently visited Ann Arbor. Great pics!