Blog Birding #300


Seen and heard birds both provide opportunities for mistakes of different sorts. The cryptically named “mbalame” has more at North Coast Diaries.

Bird ID by sound can be tricky, in part, because many sounds can be imitated. We imitate owls. Jays imitate hawks. Starlings imitate all sorts of things. Then there are all those nearly-the-same calls. I was pretty sure I was hearing a Swamp Sparrow at Wireless Rd the other day only have a Black Phoebe pop up (I’m still getting used to the idea of ubiquitous phoebes). Weeks earlier, I thought I was hearing a Black Phoebe only to have a Swamp Sparrow pop up.

House Sparrows are ubiquitous in urban landscapes across the continent, but oddly they’re not doing as well in their home range, as Laura Erickson explains.

When I went to Europe in 2014, I hardly saw any, though Eurasian Tree Sparrows were quite easy to find, and I saw very few in Uganda last month. American ornithologists aren’t quite prepared to say any decline in House Sparrows poses a problem, at least on this side of the Atlantic, but even here their numbers have dropped precipitously according to Breeding Bird Survey data.

They’re big. They’re flashy. And they’re increasingly a common part of the ABA Area’s bird life. But that wasn’t always the case, as Kenn Kaufmann writes at Audubon.

I was 17 years old, an obsessed teen birder a thousand miles from home, hitch-hiking around south Texas in pursuit of new birds. Back then, the field guides showed two kinds of kingfishers: Belted Kingfisher, found at the water’s edge all across the continent, and the little Green Kingfisher, a Texas specialty. But word through the birding grapevine was that a third species, Ringed Kingfisher, was being seen on a wild stretch of the Rio Grande just downriver from Falcon Dam.

When you’re trying to see all of the breeding birds in the ABA Area in one year, you can’t ignore the Gray-headed Chickadee, despite the exceptional effort it takes to find one. Christian Hagenlocher writes about his trip at The Birding Project.

I was startled out of the trance of my own thoughts when the hum of the engine changed, and the plane made a sharp banking turn, and we made a pass on a small gravel bar in the middle of a river. On the second pass, we landed, bouncing over short bare saplings and avoiding larger patches of willow brush. Within minutes we were dropped off to wait for a smaller Piper Cub to shuttle us one by one to the frozen lake. This was awesome! I can’t describe how cool it was, so I’ll share a video I took with my phone.

The introduction to birds is a little thing in most of our lives, and it sprouts into something akin to an obsession; a path that we end up walking for years. Ron Dudley of Feathered Photography considers where his path began.

It was with my pigeons that my interest in animal behavior germinated. Most days I would spend hours inside that coop with my birds, learning the nuances of their behavior and the very real personality quirks of each bird. It was with my pigeons that I became what I call a “watcher” (that word always reminds me of the book and movie “Never Cry Wolf”) – someone who revels in the tiny details of the natural world that are most often missed by others.


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