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Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Best Birds of 2010

2010 was filled with some great birds, though perhaps not as many outstanding birds as the past few years (how can I even dare to say such a thing!). Here are my top 10:

1) Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush. I don't think anyone will ever understand how this bird got from Mexico up to the Black Hills of South Dakota, or the miracle of how it was found singing deep within the trees along a small creek there. But I was happy to hear this bird, and catch a glimpse of it with my kids this summer on our way back from Oregon.

2) Northern Wheatear. Since I've chased and missed this species before, it was a great Christmas Eve present to see this bird in Delaware with my kids. ABA lifer #2 for the year.

3) Tufted Puffin. My kids got to see a couple of these guys flying around Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon on our vacation this summer. It's always a good day when you see a puffin.

4) Tufted Duck. I spent fun hour or so watching this bird. I don't get to see too many of these in North America, and it was my first for Pennsylvania.

5) Glossy Ibis. Less than a dozen of these birds have been reported in Utah, so it was fun to find one of these with a flock of White-faced Ibis when I was visiting the inlaws in Cache Valley this summer.

6) Flammulated Owl. Got my best looks ever at these little guys in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah with Bill Fenimore. Super bonus: got to show them to my kids, as well as their cousins and some of my inlaws.

7) Cuervo de los Chontales. A mystery finally solved. Great trip to Mexico.

8) Northern Shrike. Another fun morning, after having missed it once before, spent watching this visitor to my corner of Pennsylvania.

9) Boat-billed Heron. Loved seeing this guy hanging out above a pond in the La Venta museum in Villahermosa, Mexico.

10) Yucatan Jay. Enjoyed seeing these guys in Tucta, Villahermosa. On the edge of their range there, my visit was timed just right to see the only briefly held white juvenile plumage of otherwise black and blue young Yucatan Jays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Banded Snow Goose in NJ

Glad I stopped to scope out a flock of 30,000 Snow Geese on my way to give my final exams at Rowan University last week. Here's what I found out about a neck-collared Snow Goose that I found in that flock. Cool!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Upcoming Birdchaser Talk in DC

If you are in the DC area, join me next month for this fun presentation.

Friday January 7, 6:45 PM
Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC January Lecture

“Birds and Bird Lore Among the Ancient and Modern Maya”

Birds have played important roles in Mesoamerican cultures for thousands of years. Rob Fergus explores the connections between birds and various Mayan cultures as revealed in their ancient art and his ongoing field work with seven modern Mayan communities in Guatemala and Belize. In addition to reviewing the role of birds in Mayan writing and iconography, if you want to know how the Turkey Vulture got its red head, which bird you can burn to a crisp to make into a love potion, why you can't have sex before you plant your corn crop, or how to cure warts, this is the program for you!

Sumner School,
1201 17th Street, NW,
Washington, DC

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Latest on Birds and Windows

I've been posting about the problem of birds hitting windows for a long time, though not as long as Bill Watterson (see above). Recently I got to spend an afternoon with Dr. Dan Klem who is the leading researcher on this topic. He teaches at Muhlenberg College just up the road from me in Allentown. I've posted an interview with him over at Urban Birdscapes. So if you want to check out the latest on birds and windows, that's the place to be.

birds and bed bugs

Is there a connection between birds and bed bugs? Check out my short article here. While the connection between birds and bed bugs shouldn't be on the top of your worry list, the likelihood of having a problem with bird bugs, while still tiny, is a possibility if you have birds nesting on your house.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hog Island Update

Here's the latest from Audubon about Hog Island. Let me echo the final suggestions here--if you agree that Hog Island is an important treasure as part of Audubon's legacy, then by all means sign up to attend the great programs there and consider donating to make the operations there sustainable. If you are a member of an Audubon chapter, how about making it a tradition to send your Volunteer of the Year up there as a reward each year!

Audubon Update on Plans for Hog Island
December 7, 2010

Q: Will Audubon continue to own Hog Island?
A: Yes.

Q: What happens after 2011?
A. Audubon is committed to the ongoing preservation of Hog Island’s biodiversity and wilderness. And we treasure the transformational education and conservation experiences its programs have provided. However, for more than a decade, Hog Island has faced financial challenges related to running and operating residential camp programs, including increasingly high operational costs, shifting consumer travel choices, and changes in the camping industry. That said, we know that Hog Island has many passionate supporters, and we are optimistic that the Friends of Hog Island will be able to develop a sustainable business plan and obtain adequate funding support.

Q. Is there a chance that Audubon would turn over the management of the Island to Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. or some other entity in the future?
A. At this time, we are committed to seeing if Friends of Hog Island can work with Audubon, Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. and Maine Audubon to develop a viable business plan and raise the needed money to support the operations and programming on Hog Island. However, if that does not happen, we will continue to explore options with Kieve-Wavus Education.

Q. How long will you give Friends of Hog Island to see if they can raise the support needed?
A. We are in discussions now to determine an appropriate timeline and process.

Q. Why would you work with Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc.? What’s their reputation?
A. We conducted an assessment of potential partners in 2009 and it led us to our current discussions with Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc., a local nonprofit organization whose camps “promote the values of teamwork, kindness, respect, and environmental stewardship” for youth and adults. Audubon and Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. have been working together informally for more than 30 years, and we have been working more closely together in the past two years. Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. has an excellent reputation for offering high-quality active-learning educational experiences for young people for the past 85 years. A partnership with Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. allows Audubon to reach a broader audience, including young leaders. Keive-Wavus Education, Inc. reaches more than 9,000 young people each year. By giving these young people a chance to learn, discover, and explore on Hog Island, we will be helping to build the next generation of conservation leaders. In addition, Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. has been extremely helpful in ensuring that Audubon’s summer programming last year was successful!

Q. What is Maine Audubon’s role?
A. As mentioned above, Maine Audubon currently manages the buildings and overall upkeep, and they will be transferring those management responsibilities back to National Audubon. (They took over management of the Island in 2000.) Maine Audubon will be working with Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. to integrate environmental education into Kieve’s programming. In addition, Maine Audubon will continue to work with Audubon to support high-quality programming on the Island.

Q. How can other supporters of Hog Island help?
A. There are many ways you can help support Hog Island.

The first is to sign up for programming. We want to make sure that all sessions are full, enabling us to meet our programming and financial goals for the season. For more information, visit

The second thing you can do is to provide financial support for the Island’s operations and programming. We need funding to support the operations and the development of an endowment. In addition, we need funding to support building upkeep and upgrades to allow for continued programming. If you are interested in donating to Hog Island, please visit Even small amounts can add up to make a huge difference. And finally, you can volunteer on the Island, working with Friends of Hog Island and Audubon staff to help prepare the camp for programs.

Audubon looks forward to working with everyone who is interested in the future of Hog Island. And if you have questions, please email jbraus AT

Friday, December 03, 2010

Field Guide to Cartoon Birds

Here's a page from my upcoming Field Guide to Cartoon Birds. This book will revolutionize birdwatching by including the most commonly seen birds in America, no matter what network or original format. Stay tuned for more news as we get closer to a release date!

Original Cocoa Puffs Cuckoos

I didn't realize that Sonny was only one of two original Cocoa Puffs cuckoos--once upon a time Sonny was paired with Gramps. Question--are Cocoa Puffs made with bird-friendly cocoa?

Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites