Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reedsport CBC

Christmas Bird Counts have been going on in North America since the year 1900, but this is this first year for it to be done in Douglas County in the Reedsport circle, thanks to the efforts of Matt Hunter.  Matt asked us to participate and do a section of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area because of our experience with the coastal locations, and after some discussion we settled on the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail.  We enlisted the help of our friend and fellow volunteer Glenn Pannier to help us. After a meet-up breakfast in Winchester Bay with a number of other counters we drove to the Oregon Dunes Day Use Area to begin our hike.  Although at 8:30 we had cold temps still in the 30's, it was a dry day.  We were out for four and a half hours and hiked six miles, counting 22 species.  You can see our observation list and photos here.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

A December Favorite

A Great Blue Heron and a pair of Mallards share a corner of a pond at the Lyons City Park where be birded this Christmas Morning. We first discovered the Lyons City Park as an excellent place to bird in December of 2013.  Today was my 10th trip here and the start of our third year of birding at this eBird Hot Spot. Although we like to bird here year around, winter is a favorite time because of all the migrating water fowl.  It's a mystery to me, but at this point no other person has turned in an observation list for this location. It further astounds me because it is such a beautiful place to bird.  A number of ponds, both man made and beaver constructed, with a network of trails and bridges provide a setting that Walt Disney would have been hard pressed to improve. But, why should I complain, once again we had the park to ourselves. To see the lists for this eBird Hot Spot click here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Backyard Birding

Mourning Dove
When I paused this morning to do a quick two minute stationary bird count in our back yard there were only two species.  Two Mourning Doves and three Northern Flickers. It's unusual to only see two species, I can usually spot close to half a dozen at a time.  The Mourning Doves were on the ground, fluffed up to keep warm, and the Northern Flickers were up in a tree trying to dry out their feathers from the last rain shower. The astute reader of this blog will no doubt recognize that an unusual high number of photos and posts come from my backyard. There may be a number of reasons, any place from laziness to convenience.  The startling thing to me is how all these little observations I record add up. November began the third winter we have been at this location in Salemtowne, and during this time Jeanette and I have identified 59 different species of birds from our back yard. Which says to me that our backyard is a legitimate birding location even if it is easy.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Buster's New Coat

Our dog Buster got a pre-Christmas gift of a new bright red winter coat.  With our staying in Oregon this winter, and being out walking and birding on a daily basis, he needed a little more protection.  He has worn sweaters for years, but doesn't particularly like them, they seem a little restrictive to his movements, and they soak up the rain.  This stylish new coat complete with faux pockets is insulated for warmth, designed to shed water to keep him dry, and allows for good movement for him to run.  He got a good test this week with a trip to Siltcoos Beach where he ran with unabashed freedom in the sand dunes.  In this photo he is shown at a view point on the Siltcoos Lagoon Loop Trail during a bird walk.  Click here to view our eBird observation list.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Under Cover

House Finch

 It's pouring rain on an everyday basis right now.  This morning I ventured out anyway, put on rain gear and walked down to check a flooded area that had a lot of ducks a few days back.  It was a bust, so much wind I think the ducks had left for more cover some where else.  Back home, and changed out of my rain gear,  I decided to watch for birds in our back yard from the cover of our living room.  The birds were also seeking cover, multiple Juncos were on the ground feeding under the cover of the rhododendron. A couple of bright male House Finches sought the cover of the bird feeder. In addition a Song Sparrow and a House Sparrow also took turns under the cover of the feeder.

Song Sparrow

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Merlin a Winter Favorite

Yesterday we had a brief window of sunshine in the late afternoon in which we got out for a well deserved walk.  To our surprise we also saw a record high number of diverse bird species.  You can see our observation list here.  One of our winter favorites is the Merlin in the above photo that I took yesterday. This is a small bird, about the size of a Morning Dove, but do not be fooled by its size, it is a member of the falcon family and a fierce competitor that is capable of taking a sparrow in mid-air. This is the third winter we have seen a Merlin in Salemtowne where we live.  Looking at my eBird records, I notice we see it arrive in October and is gone by the end of February to travel to the far north to breed. We have watched it enough that we know three different trees that it prefers to use that we can spot it most days.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

More on the Copper's Hawk

Beyond being surprised to see this Copper's Hawk on our back yard fence yesterday, we were also intrigued to notice that it was leucistic.  Leucism in birds is a condition in which there is a loss of pigmentation which results in patches or areas of pale or colorless feathers. Since learning of this condition a couple of years ago, we are surprised how often we see birds with this strange white coloring. In the case of this hawk, the leucism shows up in a white patch on the top of the head.
top view
left view
right view
back view

Monday, December 7, 2015

Backyard Visitor

Jeanette called out from the kitchen for me to come look at the backyard fence.  This menacing looking adult Cooper's Hawk had just arrived and doesn't look at all happy.  Only a few minutes earlier I had  made up a 5 minute observation list of the birds in our backyard which you can see here.  Cooper's Hawks are in a small group of hawks called accipiters, which make their living feeding on small birds. He looks like he just missed the group of small birds that were at our feeder. He also may be not too happy about all the rain we are having as he looks pretty wet. All in all, he's probably not having such a good day.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bright Birds of Winter

Rain is the main component of the next 15 days of weather, but a window of sunshine was in the forecast for nine o'clock this morning, so we planned accordingly. We arrived at one of our favorites, Fairview Wetlands, at nine o'clock sharp, dressed for cold and wind.  I think it was a good plan and we got in a nice walk and identified 22 different species of birds.  You can see our observation list here.  Below are three species I was able to photograph.

 White-crowned Sparrow
One of the little sparrows we see consistently here at the Fairview Wetlands is the White-crowned Sparrow.  This photo seemed appropriate for the Christmas Season with the Sparrow possed with the bright red rose hips.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbirds are a common staple here too.  Noisy creatures, they are usually heard several times before being seen. Only the males have the bright red and yellow patch, which they are able to flash to show their assertiveness. 

Spotted Towee
We can also always count on hearing and seeing the Spotted Towee.  They are usually to be found on the ground scratching for tidbits, or hiding in the bushes. The rusty breast, white spotted wings, and bright red eyes, are to be enjoyed in any season.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Indoor Birding Weather

This morning it was a cool 20 degrees at our house on Walnut Place in West Salem and it seemed like a good day to stay inside.  As I started noticing the various birds in the backyard foraging for food, I decided to make up a bird list for the day for just what I could see from my windows. As the day went on I next started to take some photos.  The most interesting photo to me was this Yellow-rumped Warbler, all puffed up presumably in an effort to stay warm.  In all I counted 19 different species that visited our yard through the day.  For the complete list of birds plus additional photos click here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunny Days and Icy Ponds

It's hard to see from this photo taken at the south end of Huddleston Pond, but the far north end of the pond is completely covered in ice.  We came here yesterday morning hoping for enough warmth from the sun to keep us warm from the freezing temperature. The pond, located in Hampton Park in the small town of Willamina is becoming a favorite of ours for winter birding this year.  This community and former logging pond are tucked up next to the coast range, leaving their south-east side exposed to the morning sun.  With half of the pond covered with a sheet of ice, the ducks were crowded up on this south end.  Although not a large variety, there were large numbers of American Wigeons and American Coots. The observation list and photos can be seen here

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Birding from my Window

This is a male Downy Woodpecker at our suet feeder this morning. It's a cold and wet here in Salem, which lends its self to count birds from the comforts of my living room window.  It also fits right in with eBird's November challenge and drawing, which this month is to submit 15 complete observation lists for the same location.  I thought about this at the first of the month and decided that observations from my own yard would the easiest way to assure 15 lists for the same location. I've been doing what known as a stationary count, which means you are stationary at one point for a subscribed amount of time.  Todays stationary count was for ten minutes and it produced the following observation list:
 Downey Woodpecker - 1
Western Scrub-Jay - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
Song Sparrow - 1
House Finch - 3
Pine Siskin - 4
House Sparrow - 1 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sheridan South Side Park

 Entrance Parking Lot

Of the three birding stops we made on Monday, I was most interested in returning to the Sheridan South Side Park.  Despite "Sheridan South Side Park" being the official name of this location, I think it is more commonly known as the Sheridan Pond or simply the fish pond.  It's claim to fame may actually reside with the fishing population, but we are looking at it through the lens of birding. My interest in returning was basically I felt that we could do a better job of birding with nicer weather, and although today the temperature was nearly the same we did have sunshine which made it seem warmer, and we did actually get a larger variety of birds.  You can look at the observation list and photos here.

Fishing dock at far end

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Day In The Bird Mobile

Today was another day we needed to evacuate our house while the painters went to work, so we piled into our RV, which I am starting to refer to as the Bird Mobile, for a day of birding. With the weather rather cold and wet, it made a perfect mobile base for birding.  We totally love being able to stay warm and dry with all the comforts of home no matter what the weather.  We made a total of three stops for short walks to seek out birds.

Our first stop was an unplanned one at the Brigittine Monastery, the result of a mis-turn. The temperature was a frigid 39 degrees with a bitter wind from the south.  We only lasted a short 18 minutes at one of ponds scoping out water fowl, but we did make a list. The Monastery seemed rather quiet, I suppose the brothers were still at morning prayer, so we missed sampling their famous chocolate. Continuing on we were still cold so we pulled over in Ballston at the Ballston Park with a quaint pioneer school house (shown above) for some hot chocolate in the bird mobile.

Our second birding stop was at the Sheridan South Side Park.  Temperature here was a balmy 47 degrees, perhaps in part because of it's location, protected to the west by a hill top cemetery, and to the south by a large federal prison complex. In spite of this unique almost hidden location, it was the best birding location of the day, producing this list.

Our third birding stop was at the Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina.  I made a brief circle of the pond here in between rain storms, and made this list.

We spent the remainder of the day on couch and recliner, enjoying having a furnace, TV, and a bathroom. Oh yes, also hot coffee, tea, and chili.  I think there are many more trips to be made this winter in the bird mobile.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wintering Pintails

Yesterday we went birding at Fairview Wetlands primarily to check on the progress of the arrival of wintering birds.  We were pleased to find in addition to the expected Mallards, three male Northern Pintails.  (The Pintail is the duck with the brown head in front of a male Mallard with the green head.) I normally think of Northern Pintails as ducks with long slim necks, but here in this instance they seem to be trying to blend in with the Mallards and adopting a squaty profile. Jeanette counted 88 Mallards, with an approximate even mix of males and females, but we could only find three Northern Pintails and they were all three males. Although it's possible to find Northern Pintails year around in the Willamette Valley, their numbers only become significant in the winter when they migrate from their arctic breeding grounds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Grand Island Access

We are always on the look out for new locations to walk and watch birds.  Yesterday morning we went exploring to check out Grand Island Access,  It's a part of the Willamette River Greenway, a concept born in the late 60's and administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. This particular parcel, which incidentally we just learned contains the states largest continual Black Cottonwood forest, is located along Lambert Slough on Grand Island just north of the Weatland Ferry. Primarily a canoe and kayak access point at river mile 70, it has the amenities of a port-potty, a picnic table, a couple of fire pits, and large flat areas that would work for camping. We were more interested in the informal trails that wander through the cottonwood forest to different access points to Lambert Slough.  It was a cold quiet morning for birds, but will be worthy of future trips in spring and summer. 

 A tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet bathes in a mud puddle.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Of Birds and Beavers

Once again we took advantage of the best part of the day to get in a bird walk.  Based on the weather forecast for rain that was moving in, it looked like the best window of opportunity would be in the morning to the south-east of Salem. It was just starting to sprinkle when we left Salem and we drove into dry weather before we got to Lyons and our destination the Lyons City Park. The skies stayed clear for an hour and we almost made it back to the car before it started raining.

The Lyons City Park is a favorite of ours for birding, but beyond that it is a perfect place to observe nature in harmony.  Busy beavers continue work on dams that have resulted in a series of ponds that provide the perfect habitat for water birds like ducks and geese.  On this trip we saw newly arrived migrants of Ring-necked Ducks and Gadwalls, augmenting the resident Mallards, Canada Geese, Mergansers and Wood Ducks. Additional birds that like to hang out around the water were Kingfishers and Herons. 

At first glance you may assume this photo of a beaver is taken looking down directly above him.  If so, your eyes are playing a trick on you.  The photo was taken from the side and the reflection in the water is making an almost perfect second image.  I didn't realize I had a reflection in the water until I got home and downloaded the photo into the computer. While walking the trails around the many ponds, we spotted this beaver up against the bank holding very still, I think he assumed he might be unnoticed if he held very still. These ponds used to have a large population of Nutria when we started birding there in 2013, but at some point someone did something, which is a good thing, and yesterday we only saw beaver and their handiwork.  They have constructed some amazing dams that well are worth the trip to the park just to marvel at their expertise. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Seeking the Sunshine

The arrival of dawn yesterday morning revealed that we were completely shrouded in fog at our home in Salemtowne, dashing our hopes for a morning bird walk.  Jeanette wondered if we could check the Internet to look at road cams and see if other areas would be free of fog, like for instance, Fairview Wetlands.  I checked some road cams in the vicinity and was amazed to find the south-east area of Salem almost free of fog.  We made an instant decision to drive to Fairview Wetlands where you can see from the above photo that we had an abundance of sunshine.  Sunshine certainly enhances our out door experiences and provides such a lift to our spirits.  I say it's better to seek the sunshine than sit at home and curse the fog, sort of my version of the old adage of "better to light a candle than curse the dark".

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Huddleston Pond

Our daily schedule operates something like this.  When the first person makes a suggestion for a birding location that everyone agrees with,  we pack up and head out.  Today it was Jeanette that suggested we go back to Huddleston Pond in Willamina. Serious readers of this blog will remember we were just there the Saturday before last on our way home from the Tillamook area. I was delighted with the suggestion to return to Huddleston because Jeanette and I both felt that we could do better than the 13 birds we found that day.  We hit the pond this morning just before 9:00 with the resolve to find more birds.  Although the temperature was rather cool, we had bright sunshine and a whole raft of waterfowl. We ended an hour later with a list of 21 species. Our observation list and photos can be seen here.  Interesting, we left Salem in sunshine, endured rain on the drive which stopped when we arrived in Willamina, and then started raining again just as we finished birding.  The rains seemed more like spring showers than real fall rain.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Riverfront Park Swans

This morning while birding at Wallace Marine Park in West Salem a walker stopped to tell us he thought he had just seen Swans in Salem's Riverfront Park.  We finished up our observation list at Wallace and went in search, hoping he wasn't confused with perhaps Great Egrets.  We found two swans, which turned out to be Mute Swans not the Tundra Swans we were hoping for.  These may possibly be the two we found last year at Stone Quarry Lake by the airport. Those were considered to be released pets and not countable on eBird.  Mute Swans are not native to North America.  The thing is, last winter we found Mute Swans in Anderson California, see blog post here, and they are an accepted species there I think because their numbers are large enough. I guess these bear watching to see if there are any more. Maybe with Global Warming the California birds will eventually find their way north to Oregon.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Water Finally in the Wetlands

Jeanette with umbrella at lower pond

The first significant storms of the year this weekend brought in enough rain to recreate ponds at the Fairview Drive Wetlands in Salem.  A long time favorite hang out of ours for birding, the wetlands have been completely dried up this summer and fall, the ponds exposing their bare cracked clay bottoms.  We have been watching them with each small storm only to witness the small amount of moisture instantly absorbed in the parched soil. But today was different, finally we had enough rainfall to have water back in the wetlands.  As we had hoped for, some ducks had already found the the now usable bodies of water.  We only saw Mallards, 30 in the lower pond and 20 in the upper, but soon other varieties of water fowl will find their way here and once again we will be seeing the large variety of birds that we have come to enjoy here at the Fairview Wetlands.

Mallards in flight from upper pond

Saturday, October 31, 2015

October in Review

This spider web photo, taken on the first of October at Willamette Mission State Park perhaps symbolizes the month of October for us. October was basically a month we stayed home, that is to say we weren't off some where volunteering, but for the most part stayed close to home. Despite saying that, we still did a fair amount of coming and going in birding. Looking at eBird I can see we birded in 8 different counties,  turned in 42 observation lists, visiting 25 different eBird Hot Spots, and identified 90 different species. I love using eBird, it is so easy to keep track off all kinds of numbers. In addition, I took around 300 photos, and my camera just rolled past 9,999 photos and started counting over from zero. Before some one thinks we are a little crazy, let me put some perspective to our little web of weaving.  Our species total for the year through October is 217 birds. Noah Striker, a young man from Cresswell who also posts to eBird, just passed his 5,000th species for this year in his trip around the globe. Proof positive we are not THAT obsessed.

October also saw the completion of Phase 1 of the City of Salem's new park, Eola Ridge in West Salem, which I am proud to say is now an eBird Hot Spot.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Western Pond Turtle

I photographed this native Western Pond Turtle sunning its self during a window of sunshine we had yesterday morning at the Row River Nature Park in Cottage Grove.  We stopped to bird at this park while on our way to Henderson's Alignment in Grants Pass to have the rear Sumo springs replaced on our Winnebago View. The park is one of our all time favorites and we make it a point to stop here every time we pass through.  Yesterday was our highest number of observations at 33 different species.  You can see our list here.  Ironically, even though we saw a record number of birds, my best photo of the day was not a bird but a turtle.  However, seeing a Western Pond Turtle always puts a smile on my face. This native turtle is having a tough time being crowded out of its natural habitat by the invasive Red-Eared Slider.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trip Wrap-Up

We stopped yesterday on our way home at the Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina for one last bird walk.  This is a fine example of what can be done with an old log pond, develop it into a nice park that attracts fisherman, walkers and birders.  

All in all we had a great three day escape in our RV to the coast for some camping and birding.  We are so fortunate to have an RV that enables us at the drop of the hat to take off for an adventure with all the comforts of home.  Besides visiting the Kilchis Point Reserve in Bay City as I posted earlier, we spent two nights at Nehalem Bay State Park walking at birding the trails there. 

We feel like this is a good working model for our winter; watch for a window of good weather, then pack-up the RV and head out for a few days.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kilchis Point Reserve

Finding a break in our work schedule around home, and a promising weather forecast for the coast we took off yesterday morning for a three day trip to Tillamook County.  Kilchis Point Reserve has been on my list of places to visit since reading about its dedication this past May.  Located on Tillamook Bay, Kelchis Point has a long history of importance to native Americans and then to early pioneers and later to the logging industry.  It has recently found a new life in the roll of Nature Reserve, thanks to efforts of the Tillamook Pioneer County Museum, the Ford Foundation, and the Spirit Mountain Community Fund. With 200 acres and over 2 miles of trails it is a sanctuary for a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. For us it was a location to look for birds, but place is always paramount in our birding experience, and this reserve has it in spades.  It was actually a little hard to stay focused on birds, the beauty of the trail and the abundance of trees and shrubs kept grabbing our attention. The numerous historical interpretive displays slowed our pace to a crawl.

The western end of the trail leads to this gazebo overlooking Tillamook Bay rich with waterfowl. The amount of work that has gone into the design and implementation of this park is unbelievable. Whether you simple enjoy a walk in the woods, or want to walk your dog, or have an interest in native plants, or want to learn more of the history of the area, Kilchis Point Reserve is a place reserved for you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Let Our Dog Explore???

This is the sign that greeted us when we stopped to go birding today at the Kilchis Point Reserve just north of the town of Tillamook.  Notice the forth line in the "Go ahead" block, "Let your dog explore".  Are you kidding me????  What ever happened to "No Dogs Allowed" or the most common, "All Dogs Must Be On A Leash"? I almost dropped my camera.  I unhooked Buster's leash and let him roam. Actually he likes to stay right with us. This turned out to be an unbelievable park, I will  write more tomorrow and post more photos.  This is just sort of a teaser.  But I will reveal that we saw a record number of birds which you can see on our observation list here. The dogs? Well, they were all very well behaved.  Even the black lab that chased sticks in the bay did not seem to cause much concern with the water fowl. It was a peaceful place, everyone just got along. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mid-Day Snack

The middle of the day is normally the slowest time to see birds.  They seem to feed earlier in the morning and then again in early evening.  But today, early afternoon this female Downy Woodpecker stopped by for a snack at our suet feeder.  Seeing her prompted me to grab my camera and pay a little more attention to my back yard.  There were three American Crows, five American Goldfinches, one Morning Dove, a Dark-eyed Junco and a Song Sparrow.  But the one we were the happiest to see, with the aid of binoculars, was the Merlin pictured below.  This is a winter bird for this area, and the third winter in a row are that we have watched a Merlin, perhaps the same one, from our living room window perched on the very tip-top of the very same tree in a neighbors yard a block away.  From that very perch we have witnessed it take a hapless sparrow in mid air. I guess you could assume it was looking for a mid-day snack this afternoon too.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jeanette - Substitute Photographer

This afternoon, while I had my butt firmly planted on the couch watching a football game, Jeanette made an end-run around the couch into the den, snatched up by camera, and made it back to the back yard to score with this winning photo of a brilliant displaying male Anna's Hummingbird.  The thing is, she wasn't even picked in the photo draft, but is simply a walk-on.  Now my concern is that I may be relegated permanently to the bench, oops, I mean the couch.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

White-throated Sparrow

Jeanette found and I photographed this White-throated Sparrow yesterday during our bird walk at Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area. We were in the South Unit, also known on eBird as the Vanderpool Tract. As sparrows go, I think this is one of the more colorful ones.  He appears to be ready to voice his disapproval of me taking his photograph.  None the less we were quite pleased to see him.  White-throated Sparrows are winter birds here in the Willamette Valley, arriving in October and hanging around until May.  This is our first one for this season and special after seeing so many common Song Sparrows.  You can see our bird list for the morning here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Albino Squirrel

I put this photo on Facebook a few days ago and asked if anyone had a different idea and no one did so I'm going with Albino Squirrel.  Albinism is a lack of pigment that causes hair, or fur, or feathers to lack any coloring.  We found this guy while birding at nearby Brush College City Park.  We are used to hearing and seeing squirrels in the parks where we bird so don't always pay close attention. But the odd lack of color in this squirrel caught our attention.  I believe it to be a Eastern Gray Squirrel, which is a non-native squirrel that has been introduced and is very common in the urban areas of the Willamette Valley.  You can bet in future bird walks at Brush College we will be keeping an eye out for this particular and unusual squirrel.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Osprey Proof

During an afternoon stroll through the park at Darrow Bar yesterday I thought I heard an Osprey.  A little later we thought we heard it again and after some searching, (Jeanette is not one to give up), we spotted it fly in with a fish and I got this photo.  I wanted to have proof, because it's getting late in the year for Osprey to still be around. In fact Osprey have never been reported in Polk County to eBird in October. But I say, if it sounds like an Osprey, and looks like an Osprey, and fishes like an Osprey  its probably an Osprey. And, a photo is the ultimate proof.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Best Photo Opportunities

I'm always surprised, amused and delighted to find my own backyard is on many occasions the best location for birding and taking photos.  It just happened again today, I am sitting on our patio having a cup of tea and I look up and see this juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk in our neighbors tree.  This is after just spending numerous days driving to good locations at a number of parks and walking many miles of trails, and essentially not coming up with any good photographs. In terms of time and effort the success ratio is probably highest in my backyard.

Sharp-shinned Hawks belong to a small group of hawks in the genus Accipiter.  Another member of this genus is the Coopers Hawk.  Both are very similar in size and looks, which always leads to taking a closer look.  I believe this hawk has the characteristics of a squarer tail, smaller head, broader breast stripes, and thinner legs compared to a Cooper's Hawk.  The beauty of this problem is all the observations, photographs and research of guide books all take place in the comfort of my own home.