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Monday, August 31, 2009

Biggest Threat to Birds?

When I was at Audubon, I frequently had to deal with statements along the lines of "Global Warming is the greatest threat to birds and biodiversity in our lifetimes." Most of the time that would leave me scratching my head. How do we know if this is true or not? What about habitat destruction or modification? These are complex issues that leave most of us concerned but feeling helpless and wanting to just turn off the computer and head go birding.

What should we do about global warming when the issue seems to be so complex scientifically that it is hard to know what is really happening, let alone what we should do about it? How would we know if it is a bigger threat than habitat destruction or modification?

We've been trying to save birds for over 100 years and the news seems to just keep getting worse (a few bright spots like Kirtland's Warblers and California Condors--which we will have to manage forever--aside). Have the issues become so complex scientifically, politically, and culturally that all we can really do now is just enjoy the birds and hope for the best?

Not a Knot?

There's a bird out in California right now that was originally identified as a Great Knot, an Asian shorebird never before seen in California. Now folks are starting to look more closely at the bird and wondering if it really is a Great Knot or maybe a hybrid sandpiper--maybe part Surfbird. Take a look at some of the photos and see for yourself. The bird is molting, so doesn't look like a classic anything. Sometimes birds aren't what the first seem.

Monday, August 24, 2009

21st Century Bird Collectors

I'm bugged about the bird surveyors in Louisiana that shot the first Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher ever discovered in North America instead of alerting the U.S. birding community.

(PS I'm in personal communication with folks from LSU and those involved in collecting this bird. We clearly disagree about the merits of collecting vagrants but we aren't going to change each other's minds through online debate. I'm not accepting further comments on this post since I'd prefer to disagree without being disagreeable and would rather not risk flaming the fires online where passionate words often miss their mark. These are discussions more suited to personal communication, preferably while out in the field enjoying the birds we all love.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Words for Old Birds: Carolina Wren

For years we've been taught that the Carolina Wren sings:

teakettle teakettle teakettle (listen here).

That's all well and good, but who in the upcoming generations has any connection to teakettles? Can't we come up with a new up-to-date mnemonic to help us remember the voice of this original Mouth of the South?

I'm leaning towards something like
Braves baseball, Braves baseball, Braves baseball

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Birding in the Rain

Been laying low a bit lately, but ventured out for a couple hours in the rain today and found a few fun birds. Best was an adult Black-bellied Plover at Lake Nockamixon. It came in during a shower and landed next to 15 Ring-billed Gulls in a marina parking lot.

At the next boat landing up the lake, three Snow Geese were unexpected by me--two adults (one with a lame leg) and a juvenile. Apparently they've been around for a couple months (like I said, I've been laying low lately!). No bands on these birds, so not sure if a wild (injured) pair or escapes. But apparently breed locally.

At another small local lake (Lake Towhee) I found a Solitary Sandpiper--one of the more regular migrant shorebirds in the county.

Not a whole lot of birds around, but still a better than average day.
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