Blog Birding #299

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In this season of bird feeding it’s important to remember the obligation we owe to our feathered tenants, to keep the feeders clean to limit the spread of disease. Ron Dudley at Feathered Photography offers some illustrative reasons for doing so.

Several years ago when I was new to bird photography I would often practice photographing birds that would come to my back yard feeder in order to improve my skills. Later that year I began to notice birds with deformities, especially on or near their bills, eyes, legs and feet. At first I thought they were some kind of tumors but on the morning I took these shots I saw three birds (two House Finches and one Mourning Dove) that were affected so I became alarmed and took the photos to the Vertebrate Disease Specialist at Division of Wildlife Resources here in Salt Lake City.

Sadly, research continues to show how climate change adversely affects iconic Arctic species like the other-worldly Ivory Gull. John Platt, writing at Extinction Countdown, has more troubling news.

Gilg and his team used Argos satellite transmitters to track 104 ivory gulls between 2007 and 2013. The data they collected, published this month in Biology Letters, reveals that ivory gulls rely almost exclusively on the thickest, most concentrated sea ice during their breeding season. That happens to be the same type of ice that is already becoming rarer due to the effects of climate change.

For birders in the north, the svelte Forster’s Tern is a real treat, as Bruce Mactavish of The Newfoundland Birding Blog had reason to remind himself recently.

I was birding in Cape May County, New Jersey for the last week of October 2016. One of the species I enjoyed coming from a Newfoundland point of view was winter plumage Forster’s Terns. The adults had clean frosty white uppers parts and a sharp black eye patch.  The young of the year had shorter tails, dusky markings in upper wing coverts and more fine speckling on the crown but the same black eye patch.  The Forster’s Tern in breeding plumage resembles a Common Tern in appearance. In winter it becomes a much different looking bird.  They recall a small gull in appearance and even in some of their manners of feeding over the surf.

John Weigel, writing at Birding for Devils, has put together an incredible year with a surplus of fascinating stories. His recent trip to Quebec in search of a shelduck offered some logistical challenges.

I’ve spent a bit of time on ‘dodgy ducks’ – having seen the especially dodgy Eastern Spot-billed Duck (looking now to be a hybrid) in Massachusetts a few days ago, and the apparently more valid Common Shelduck in Sept-Iles, Quebec this morning. Both birds were surprisingly shy. The Shelduck took a bit of work in this morning’s snowstorm, and flushed unexpectedly from several hundred metres ahead of me as I followed the river from bridge to sea, where after it flew, and flew, and flew.

ABA Big Years aren’t the only ones worth following this year. As we get to the end of 2016, the year put together by the mysterious author of the Undercover Big Year continues to take shape. Take a crack at sussing out his identity before the month comes to a close!

Often times when I posted, I used names of areas from the map of Narnia in the place of the real names of places I was visiting to try and give context. Now my state is not a square, (hint: I don’t live in Wyoming or Colorado), but I tried to use the map pretty close to point out things in the north, like the Witch’s Castle or Frozen Lake. Just like places in the south included Anvard and Aslan’s Camp (I didn’t use the word “camp”, but you get the idea). In the east was Cair Paravel, a place I have a deep affinity for and one of Narnia’s most prominent features.

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