Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A little family, a little friends and a little birding.

This weekend was great and terrible all at the same time. It all started with me taking the commuter train home Friday at 5pm only to put the kids in the car and drive right back to the city. This weekend we did something most people would never think of doing, we traded houses with a couple in the city. They needed a break from the city and we needed to be in the city for a wedding, so, we traded houses, for 2 days. We arrived at their place later than expected because there was lots of traffic getting into the city. Traffic would be a common theme for the weekend. I really don't miss a single thing about living in the city but traffic jams 24/7 are the nail in the coffin of my once city dwelling self. The stress of it comes off of me with the force of a nuclear explosion. I hate it.

Saturday was spent mostly in traffic as well, with us desperately trying to get from place to place. Between bouts of excruciatingly slow car drives, we got Shep's hair cut. It was worth it. He got his first real haircut. Mom and a few other people had chopped at it from time to time (mom showing the best results) but this was a proper cut. John Roth, owner of Crow's Nest Barbershop, did an awesome job as he always does with mine when I'm not sporting this Mohawk for the documentary. We got Shep a fade. He now looks like he can kick some serious ass. He even got a comb from John at the end of the appointment. I think you'll agree looking at the shots that he suits is new cut very well. I think Rachel shed a tear or two when she first laid eyes on him after john was done.

Shep getting his cut, 1920's style footage.

Later that evening, we to our friend's wedding while Rachel's brother Derek and his girlfriend Kate watched the kids. Normally I'm not a fan of going to weddings but this was a long time friend of mine who had been married once before. Needless to say, he's with his soulmate now. I understand what he went through. My first marriage didn't work out either. But, the way I see shit, it was necessary to have that first one and all the terrible trouble of it falling apart to get to the person I'm with now. I have nothing against the previous marriage, it just wasn't the right person. Nothing more, nothing less. I think he feels the same way. I took some shots at the wedding but that's for them to share, not me. Well, maybe just one.

Matt and Tiina on their special day.

Sadly, it was such a good time that I drank too much and went to sleep about 2 am. So 6 am Sunday morning came way too soon. Why would I get up at that hour after such an evening? The only reasons I can think of would be for Rachel, the kids or birds. This weekend, was birds. I snuck out of the house and drove to pick up my cameraman. Jon was ready right away. We grabbed a shitty coffee at McDonalds (sadly not bird friendly) and hit the highway. We had at least an hours drive to get to the meeting spot of the OFO guided walk. The leader of the trip was Dave Milsom. You might remember him from that amazing and terrible trip I took to Manitoulin Island looking for Sharp-tailed Grouse. He's great and is always eager to tease me if things aren't going well. I managed to pull shit together enough that he may not have noticed how I felt. There was a group of 45 birders present. It was great, especially when I saw the two wearing metal band t-shirts. I knew I needed to talk to them. They stood out in the crowd like I usually do. They were new birders and loving it. They had been birding for about a year and had a list of a little over 200. Not bad at all for a first year. He programs games for X-Box 360 and she works for a recycled clothing company and teaches belly dancing. And I thought I was different...

Birding the Beeton Sod fields.

Birder convoy.

Anyway, we did well and we saw lots of good birds. I even managed to add 5 to my year list, bringing it up to about 220. The new birds were Baird's Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper. A couple of those I think I had a few days previous but I was alone and am a novice shorebirder at best. Those I was with were not so I can be more confident in adding them to my list. Also, I got a confirmation on something I saw Thursday last week. You may remember me saying I got a dowitcher but was sure if it was short or long-billed. A fellow named Charles was at the same spot the day after me and saw the same bird. He identified it as a Short-billed Dowitcher. He also told me how to tell the difference. It's the shape of the bird, not markings and certainly not bill length, despite their names. He said that a short-billed will have a flatter looking back while a long-billed will have more of a hump on it's back. After much conversation with Charles, I learned that with shorebirds, it can be easier to go by behaviour than markings. The way they feed and act is more important to helping distinguish one shorebird from another. I learned a lot that morning, let's hope the slight hangover and lack of sleep doesn't cloud my memory.

Baird's Sandpiper by JulioM.
Semi-palmated Plover by A. Davey.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Seabamirum.

Shepard and I about to go shorebirding.

Short-billed Dowitcher by omarrun.

After getting into yet another traffic jam heading into the city to drop Jon at  home and pick up my family, we were finally going back to Orono. Oh how I had missed it. What others might deem boring, I call paradise. It's funny. I wasn't always this way. There was a time when I didn't leave the city once for 3 years. But this past weekend made me realize I can never live in a big city again. Who the hell stands outside a house and yells another persons name for 3 hours. I swear that's what was happening outside our bedroom window. Though the house we traded for was beautiful, there's no place like home. Will we trade again, yes. Will I drive around doing things in the city again, never. Next time we go in for the weekend, I want to park my car in the driveway and just relax, maybe take the streetcar to Kensington market for another haircut or lunch, but forget driving, it's just not worth the anger that builds up inside me. Here's a shot of Orono that I was happy to come home to.

Orono. Home sweet home.

Thursday August 25 day list
Short-billed Dowitcher

Sunday August 28 day list
Baird's Sandpiper
Semi-palmated Plover
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper

Punk Rock Big Year
Paul Riss

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A lotta' meat and almost no fowl.

This past weekend was spent with family again. Now don't worry, the birds are coming back soon. I hope I've been able to keep your attention this summer with so few birding posts. Things are going to get better this weekend. I'm going to a friend's wedding Saturday evening and birding early Sunday. That's more like it you say. Make this punk ass birder suffer. Hung over birding rules. OK, maybe not but I'm sure to be awfully tired when my alarm goes off a couple hours after I pass out.

Last weekend I ate meat at almost every meal. Sorry if you're a vege but I'm just not. It's not the life for me. You might be a bit healthier and live a few years longer but I'm OK with that. As long as we are all happy I say. First, Thursday evening, was a party for the creative department where I work. It was held at an incredible BBQ joint in Toronto. The place is called Barque and if you ever find yourself here, you NEED to eat there. If you're one of the aforementioned veges, there ain't nuthin' for you at Barque. Then, a small Stag outing for my friend Matt Friday night. He's the one getting married next weekend, so we went out for  a big fat steak served on a wooden board complete with a blood groove. The place was once a king among steak houses in Toronto I'd bet, but now, it's just a place with too old carpet, wood panelling and grumpy servers. That said, I loved the place, and that stern server was right up my alley. I couldn't help but wonder if the Beastie Boys Check Your Head wasn't playing just for us. Saturday, I took the family out to see Bradleyboy play in a small town 20 minutes north of Orono called Keene. It was a fund raiser held in the town hall and was catered by the incredible Muddy's Pit BBQ. Shit, was it ever good. Ribs, corn, wings, a whole pig, I was in heaven. I love great BBQ. The place is owned by the singer of another fun band, The Venisons. We had fun dancing and partying well into the night, kids and all. To give you an idea of the meat fest that was last weekend, enjoy some photos and videos of the days and nights.

Steak at Senior's Steak house.

Tomatoes I grew and ate. They were delicious.

That cooked the pig.

The incredible sign out front of Muddy's.

Muddy's in all it's lo-fi glory. Mmmmmm, meaty.

Very tempting...

Muddy's ribs for leftover Sunday breakfast.
And now for some video. It's a bit dark but you get the idea.

Shepard pretending to be the half zombie from the beginning of Walking Dead.

Even a couple shorebirds Sunday afternoon.

Solitary Sandpiper by kenschneideruas.
Pectoral Sandpiper by Henry McLin.
Lesser Yellowlegs by Rick Leche.

Punk Rock Big Year
Paul Riss

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Five days off, no new birds.

Last week, my wife went to a wedding in Calgary. She was at Lake Louise, a great place to see western birds. I, on the other hand, was at home with the kids. We got up to a lot of stuff, none of it birding. I really feel the need to go birding. It's driving me crazy. I also feel like getting some tattoos. I'm slipping into a phase of feeling like a failure again. Like I'm not doing a big year at all, or even a documentary. There's just so much going on in the rest of my life. The twins are starting school in 2 weeks, there's a ton of stuff to get done at the house before the winter, I'm in the process of finding a new partner at work on top of doing three really big campaigns for Subaru, Cialis and Manulife Financial. Argh. But forget all that, here's some photos of my week as a single dad.

Muddy feet.

Beds I made from old barn boards.

Flower garden I made for Rachel to fill with plants.

Saturday lunch in the yard.

My personality can be a tad exhausting...

Even for Lucy.

Naptime. Shep piled up pillows in case she rolled off. His idea.

Dinner with skipping-rope eyes.

Noodle Shark.

Sunday afternoon in the yard.

"Dad, open the door, I need to dance on the sidewalk."



Served. The twins ate Cheerios. Losers...

Breakfast at Olympia. Ordered pancakes. Never ate anything...

GIant Hibiscus flower. Kid for size reference.

The storm that hit just as I went to get Rachel from the Airport.

Punk Rock Big Year
Paul Riss

Friday, August 12, 2011

I can't play a note, and who cares?

Birding is the shit for me but for some, it's flowers, others it's old cars (I'm sort of into them too) and for some it's music. I'm not talking about people like me that collect music. I'm talking about those lucky souls that can make their own. It's something I've ways longed to do. Music has been a huge influence in my life but I can't read a note or play a chord. It started because my mom and dad loved it. They never loved the same music. My dad grew up in nazi Germany. My mom in a tiny town in Saskatchewan. He was into jazz of course. A bit of a Swing kid. My mom maybe a bit more wholesome. But hey, she's 20 years younger than him, she wasn't even alive when he was living through hell on earth. Some of the stories he tells me make me feel like so lucky to have been born when I was. My mom and dad also owned a record store when I was young so I was always surrounded by music. Some of my fondest memories are sitting in the Harwood Place Mall Records on Wheels in Ajax.

1970s me. Music was already in our house.

My dad in Germany with an early iPod prototype.

Anyway, enough about me. This post is actually about other people, and what I can learn from them. The first person I will tell you about is a great friend of mine. We live in the same town, have the same intolerance of fools and both drive cars that were made about the time we were born. His name is Brad Mac Arthur. But musically, he goes by Bradleyboy. He has played in 6 piece, 5 piece, 4 piece, 3 piece and 2 piece bands. There's a lot of stuff that goes with being in a band. Egos, personality clashes, creative differences and so on. Not to mention splitting the pay-check. So one day, he asked himself, why don't I just do the whole thing myself? That way, the whole band will always show up to practice, there's only one ego to deal with and any creative differences can get worked out in thought rather than open arguments that can destroy the foundation of what made the band great.

Brad playing at The Dakota Tavern in Toronto.

Cover of his new record, Salt Gun. Wood burning by Pete Commanda.
Cover design by the stay lucky design.

There's not much Brad doesn't do. He is half of the team that renovated my house in Orono. He's an amazing musician that doing a soundtrack for my film. He makes furniture, or whatever else he needs. He's a firm believer that if you need something done, do it, then it'll be done. That is another quality we share. He played a couple shows Friday and Saturday evening. I went to both. One in Peterborough and the other in Oshawa. He played with 2 other great bands. Catl from Toronto and The Venisons from Peterborough. It was a meat heavy show. Both shows put me to bed after 2am so it was a pretty sleepless weekend. Those kids are up at 7 or earlier no matter what happens.

Then, on Sunday evening we went out to a rather new acquaintances farm for dinner. This guy is living the dream. He owns a company called Green Side Up Environmental Services. They are an ecological contracting company specializing in natural resource management and the environmental science industry. His home is about 30 minutes north of Orono. We arrived and after a short time we were wandering the farm, checking out the chickens that supply their eggs, the garden that supplies all the vegetables and the ponds that will hopefully supply fish dinners someday. There's a great feeling of self-sustenance you feel on a farm. It was the same feeling I got from digging up potatoes with Shep in the morning and eating them as a potato salad made by Rachel later that evening, but on a grand scale. It was like I was looking at my future. Once the advertising world is done with me, I'll need a plan. And I saw things that I might want to apply on Doug's farm. We sat and ate a great meal, talked and listened to Brad and Doug play music. As I sat listening and writing this, I realize that I don't need to make music, I make other things. I write, I make art (the non-commercial stuff) and now I'm making a film. Be it a good, bad or just plain average film, I will have made something from nothing more than an idea I had riding my bike along Harbored Street. Just like the song Doug is playing and singing right now, I'll be proud to share it when I'm done.

Later in August, it's back to birding and tattoos. Shorebirds are coming through and the scientific name changes are released so I can get more inking done. I'm looking forward to a trip on the 28th of August that will net me some new birds for the year, and to having Pete hurt me with his needles.

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm not alone.

I'm not as unique as I may have thought. That doesn't sound like a compliment but in the case of birding, I'm glad I'm not. I've made acquaintances all over the world while doing Punk Rock Big Year. A teenaged metalhead birder, a guy that used to see Black Flag shows until 4am and be birding by 6am, other folks with bird tats, a school teacher that was into the UK punk scene back in the day that equates birding with punk ideals. I haven't met many of them except online but I'd love to go birding with some of them if they ever come here or I ever end up in their area. Turns out I was right, there's punk or punk-ish birders everywhere. One Brit I've met has no bird tattoos, yet. But if we are willing to donate some cash to an environmental charity, he'll cover his entire arm with bird tats. Donate for the birds or just to see him squirm (he's afraid of needles).

I'd like to share a great idea that I came across by way of one of you. Somebody put me on to his site a while back. His idea is simple. If he can raise 10,000 British pounds, he'll give his right arm. He isn't going to lop it off, he's going to get a tattoo of the ten most iconic birds of Turkey, covering his entire right arm. His name is Tristan Reid and this is his idea (in his own words).

Note: All images supplied by Tristan Reid.

I guess I’ll start this post by introducing myself! My name is Tristan Reid and I am a UK birder, my obsession is birding! Exciting eh? So what does an overweight almost middle-aged father of four have in common with the cooler than cool Punk Rock Birder? Tattoos of course!
Well, to be completely honest I don’t have any tattoos presently and I have a fear of needles! However this situation is all going to change soon (all except perhaps my fear of needles)! I will be having a full sleeve and shoulder tattoo on my right arm that will feature a design that will include, Northern Bald Ibis, White-throated Robin, Wallcreeper, Caspian Snowcock, Pallid Scops Owl, White-breasted Kingfisher, Masked Shrike, Black Francolin, Spur-winged Plover and Rüppell’s Warbler.

Why these species and why the massive piece of body art? These ten species were voted for by regular readers of my blog (www.binocularface.co.uk) as their top ten iconic birds of Turkey. Turkey is country that has really stolen my heart; a recent trip to this amazing country saw me well and truly hooked! The amazing birdlife, immense scenery at superbly beautiful people all played a part in this country having a massive impact on my life!
On my return home I was saddened to learn that the Turkish government had sold off all its water ways to private companies and there are a planned 1,740+ Hydro Electric Power Plants planned and a further 2000 dams in construction. This will have a disastrous impact on the countries globally significant biodiversity and it is estimated that over 2,000,000 villagers will be forced to migrate. 

This situation is unacceptable on both humanitarian and conservation terms. Suffice to say, I knew I had to do something to help stop this destruction. After all aside from the humanitarian issues, Turkey is home to 30% of the global population of the Critically Endangered Northern Bald Ibis, 25% of the European breeding population of the Endangered White-headed Duck, more than 10% of the global population of the Endangered Egyptian Vulture, more than 30% of the global population of European Rollers, more than 70% of the global population of the near Turkish endemic and Near Threatened Krueper’s Nuthatch and more than 90% of the global population of the Cinereous Bunting. Additionally Turkey holds five endemic mammals (mountains here still apparently hold the Anatolian or Asia Minor Leopard Panthera pardus tulliana), has 52 endemic freshwater fish, 13 endemic reptiles, 30.6 Turkish plant species are endemic to Turkey and the nearby Aegean Islands.

I had a mission on my hands to help raise funds for Birdlife Internationals partner in Turkey (Doğa Derneği) and to raise awareness about the proposed developments. Given that I have always been a fan of bodyart I had a plan! The main reason I had never had a tattoo before (besides fear) was because I wanted to get something that really meant something. I have now got my cause and reason! So the plan was hatched; after running the poll on my website, the selected species would feature in a commissioned piece of artwork (currently being designed) and the last stage is for the artwork to be tattooed onto my right arm and shoulder (all costs will be paid by me allowing all donations raised to go directly to where they are needed). So the title of my fundraising campaign seemed fairly obvious ‘Giving my right arm to help protect Turkey’s biodiversity’!

You can find out more information about this here:
and keep up to date with my campaign by following me on twitter @givemyrightarm

You can also donate here:
Big thanks to Paul for allowing me to post this to his blog. Check out my blog  as rumour has it that your very own Punk Rock Birder will be featuring there very soon!

I hope you enjoyed reading about Tristan. And if everyone that visited this blog last month donated just 5 British pounds (about $10CDN), we'd raise nearly 7000 pounds. (I don't know how to make the pound symbol on my keyboard).

Punk Rock Big Year
Paul Riss