RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Birds of 2009

I've already come up with my best birds of the 2000s, but here's my quick list of my best birds of 2009:

1) Whooper Swan--great to chase this bird in Idaho when I was out doing some consulting on eagles and a transmission line right of way back in February.
2) Aplomado Falcon--stopped by border patrol agents because of my suspicious birding activity right along the Mexico border in New Mexico, but got this beauty and some spectacular scenery.
3) Snail Kite--great to watch this one catch and eat some snails in Florida.
4) Short-tailed Hawk--after missing this one a couple times in Florida and Arizona, finally got it on my North American bird list when one flew low overhead as I pulled up to look for one on the Peace River in Florida.
5) Hawfinch--missed this one in England on my last trip to Europe, so good to see a couple in Germany this April.
6) Allen's Hummingbird--should be on the West Coast, but the one here in Pennsylvania was a treat to see earlier this month.
7) Horned Puffin--we only saw one on our Alaska cruise, but it was great to see floating on the ocean as our Cruise West ship passed through Icy Straight on the way to Glacier Bay.
8) Oahu Amakihi--took several hikes up the mountains near Honolulu, but finally got a good look at a female high up in the native forest above the ecological nightmare that passes for modern Hawaiian countryside.
9) Bristle-thighed Curlew--great to see in Hawaii.
10) Hawaiian Duck--nice to see with Hawaiian Stilts, Moorhens, and Coots.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wild (Pink-footed) Goose Chase

So last night after I got offline word went out about a Pink-footed Goose in Allentown about half an hour away. I saw the note this morning and got there as soon as I could, but the bird was already gone. I spent the day driving around checking out several ponds where it had been seen, and waited until foraging birds came in at dusk to roost on the ponds, but ended up empty-handed. Here's hoping it shows up again!

Original notes on this bird here, map here

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Search for the Slender-billed Curlew

This winter, there will be an extensive search for the possibly extinct Slender-billed Curlew across its previously known and presumed winter range around the Mediterranean and across the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Formerly abundant, no sightings of these birds have been confirmed since 2001, though when I was in The Netherlands last month I heard reports of birds still occasionally being offered for sale at Middle Eastern markets. Here's hoping there are still Slender-billed Curlews out there somewhere, and not just in museum drawers and shelves--like these photographed in the Naturalis Museum in Leiden, The Netherlands.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best Birds of the Decade

Hard to believe that I've lived in Pennsylvania now for half a decade! In response to a thread on the PABIRDS email list, I've compiled my Top 10 PA Birds of the 2000s. I suppose it's time to start getting more serious about my PA bird list, since as an expat Westerner I've let a lot of good state birds slide by without a chase. At any rate, here's my Top 10 PA birds for the past decade:

1. Fork-tailed Flycatcher (made up for the one that spent a month at my local patch in Texas a couple months after I moved up here)
2. Yellow-billed Loon (missed more than half a dozen times growing up out in Oregon)
3. Long-billed Murrelet (10 minutes from the time I saw the email to the time I saw the bird at Nockamixon. Sweet!)
4. American Oystercatcher (fun to find this one at Nockamixon)
5. Allen's Hummingbird
6. Barnacle Goose
7. Lazuli Bunting (one of only a few Western birds I chased in PA, 'cuz it's so beautiful)
8. White-winged Crossbills
9. Snowy Owl ('cuz I got to show it to my kids our first week in the state)
10. Swallow-tailed Kite ('cuz I got to show it to my sister visiting from Utah)

As far as ABA birds go, the past decade was a lot of fun, and I added 62 new ones to my ABA list. My favorites:

1) American Flamingo (6 Jul 2000--TX with my global listing friend the late John Gee)
2) Blue Mockingbird (1 May 2001--TX)
3) Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush (24 Jul 2004--TX)
4) Lawrence's Goldfinch (11 Apr 2005--CA, unforgettable enchanting area up Mines Rd out of Livermore)
5) Atlantic Puffin (17 Aug 2005--ME, Eastern Egg Rock thanks to Steve Kress and my time at Hog Island Audubon Camp)
6) White-eared Hummingbird (10 Sep 2005--AZ, playing hookie from an Audubon meeting with Sheri Williamson)
7) Ivory Gull (26 Feb 2007--NY, got to show it to my oldest daughter playing hookie from school)
8) Western Reef-Heron (6 Aug 2007--NY, after three failed chases in three states, got to see it with all three of my kids on the fourth try)
9) Whooper Swan (18 Feb 2009--ID, fun chase after spending a weekend with relatives in Idaho)
10) Kittlitz's Murrelet (22 Jun 2009--AK, my first trip to Alaska, a ten day wildlife cruise with my sweetie)

Globally, only six short trips outside of the ABA birding area, but some highlights:

1) Oahu Amakihi (2009--my first Hawaiian Honeycreeper--now to get to the other islands and see some more!)
2) Totoweh (2008--Mopan Mayan for Barred Antshrike--love the onomatopoetic name and my time doing ethnoornithology in Belize)
3) Hawfinch (2009--fun to find this one while playing with my kids in the forest in Germany)
4) Bristle-thighed Curlew (2009--don't know when I'll see this in the ABA area, but great to see in Hawaii)
5) White Stork (2009--a pair on a light pole over a freeway in Rotterdam on an urban birding conference field trip)
6) Black-and-White Owl (2008--a great night in Belize)
7) Black Hawk-Eagle (2006--fun day trip to the Tuxtla Mountains in Veracruz)
8) Waco (2006--Ch'orti' Mayan for Laughing Falcon--an omen of rain in eastern Guatemala)
9) European Golden Plover (2009--thousands in fields in southern Holland in the yellow light of late afternoon)
10) Fairy Tern (2009--the prettiest urban bird ever in beautiful Waikiki)

Here's to more PA birds, ABA birds, and global birds for everyone in the next decade!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PA Allen's Hummingbird Chase

So last weekend the Pennsylvania birding community was excited to learn that Scott Weidensaul had banded an Allen's Hummingbird--normally found in California--in a Lancaster County backyard. The bird is a female, and only identifiable for sure by measurements in the hand. So even though nobody can identify the bird themselves, dozens of birders have been going to see the bird for the past few days.

This morning after getting the kids off to school, I jumped in the car and headed over to Leola about an hour and a half away to see this little jewel, the first Allen's Hummingbird ever identified in Pennsylvania.

A good map of the neighborhood where the bird is found is online here.

Instructions are to park in the visitor parking spaces of the townhome community, walk back between the end towhhome unit and the low white fence, turn and walk between the arborvitae bushes and tall white fence, and stand behind the arborvitae bushes where you can see the feeder on the back deck of the second townhome from the end.

Here's the layout of the place with notes and directions:

I got to the scene about 10am, and after 20 minutes the bird flew in from a neighboring yard, landed in a small tree for a few seconds, then went to the feeder for maybe 15 seconds before zipping off again. In the hour I stayed there, the bird visited the feeder 3 times.

Each time it came from a neighboring yard where it was not visible, and the first sign of it coming was the chittering hummingbird noises it made. Or by looking down the path between the fence and the arborvitae, you could actually see it zip across that opening a few seconds before you could hear it arrive.

In a new low for rare bird documentation, here's the best photo I could get on my camera phone through my Zeiss 7x42s (don't laugh, there really is a bird there, hovering to the right of the feeder).

Much better photos by Geoff Malosh are online here.

So while I didn't get good photos, couldn't technically identify it from the very, very similar female Rufous Hummingbird, the smile on my face is the result of yet another fun and successful bird chase.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Owling with kids

Wednesday night I took a dozen kids from church on an owling expedition. We only had an hour, which was about enough time to hit three wooded areas near the church. At the first, where I've had very good close looks at Eastern Screech-Owl in the past, we got nothing. Second stop, same thing. We spent a few extra minutes showing the kids some constellations in the clear December skies, but I was getting nervous. SE Pennsylvania is crawling with screech owls. Where could they be?

Finally our two vans had to blitz down to another spot 10 minutes away where I've had owls in the past. After five minutes of playing the tape, a lone Eastern Screech-Owl answered the call. We couldn't get it to come in close where we could spotlight it, but all the kids got to hear it trilling off in the darkness.

Mission accomplished! Sort of. Most of them still haven't seen an owl, but now they've at least talked to one in the night!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Birds 1, Feral Cats 0--Court Orders LA To Stop Controversial Feral Cat Program

The songbirds of Los Angeles may get a reprieve from feral cat predation. Six conservation groups won a lawsuit on Friday against the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Animal Services to stop the practice of encouraging feral cat colonies until the legally required environmental impact reviews are performed.

The Los Angeles Superior Court found that the City of Los Angeles had been “secretly and unofficially” promoting “Trap-Neuter-Return,” a controversial program to allow feral cats to run free, even while the Department of Animal Services promised to conduct an environmental review of the program. The Court ordered the City to stop implementing TNR. The plaintiffs, The Urban Wildlands Group, Endangered Habitats League, Los Angeles Audubon Society, Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society, Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, and the American Bird Conservancy, sued the City in June 2008 to ensure that the controversial program to sanction and maintain feral cat colonies was not implemented before a full and public environmental analysis.

The groups decided legal action was necessary after their investigation revealed that the City had been unofficially implementing a so-called “Trap-Neuter-Return” program and the City repeatedly declined their request to stop implementing the program until environmental review was performed.

Although the City insisted that no such program existed, the Court concurred with the conservation groups and concluded in its Friday ruling that, “implementation of the program is pervasive, albeit ‘informal and unspoken.’”

“Our goal was to see that the City follows the California Environmental Quality Act by thoroughly assessing the program’s impacts on the environment and considering alternatives and mitigation measures before making specific programmatic decisions,” said Babak Naficy, attorney for plaintiffs. “Feral cats have a range of impacts to wildlife, human health, and water quality in our cities. The impacts of institutionalizing the maintenance of feral cat colonies through TNR should be discussed in an open, public process before any such program is implemented,” Naficy said.

In June 2005, the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioners adopted TNR as the “preferred method of dealing with feral cat populations as its official policy.” Thereafter, the Board directed the General Manager to prepare an analysis of the program under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This analysis was never completed but the Department implemented major portions of the program anyway.

The Department issued coupons for free or discounted spay/neuter procedures for feral cats being returned to neighborhoods and open spaces, including parks and wildlife areas. It also began refusing to accept trapped feral cats or to issue permits to residents to trap feral cats. The Department assisted outside organizations that performed TNR by donating public space, advertising their services, and referring the public to their TNR programs. The Department even encouraged and assisted in establishing new feral cat colonies at City-owned properties.

The Superior Court recognized these actions as illegal implementation of the TNR program that could have an impact on the environment and enjoined the City from further pursuing the program until it complied with CEQA. Dr. Travis Longcore, Science Director of The Urban Wildlands Group, said, “Feral cats are documented predators of native wildlife. We support spaying and neutering all cats in Los Angeles, which is the law, but do not support release of this non-native predator into our open spaces and neighborhoods where they kill birds and other wildlife.”

Even when fed by humans, cats instinctively hunt prey, including birds, lizards and small mammals. Colonies of feral cats, often thriving with the aid of handouts from humans, harm native wildlife and contaminate water bodies with fecal bacteria. Longcore continued, “TNR is promoted as a way to reduce feral cat populations but scientific research shows that 70–90% of cats must be sterilized for cat populations to decline. This is virtually impossible to achieve in practice, but population reduction can be achieved with only 50% removal.”

The City must now stop its TNR program and any further proposal to implement such a program must undergo objective scientific review as part of the CEQA process. This will ensure that the public has adequate opportunity to comment and that significant impacts on parks, wildlife, water quality, and human health are avoided.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Find more birds with BirdsEye

I haven't had a chance yet to check out BirdsEye, the latest iPhone app from Birds in the Hand LLC, but sounds like an amazing concept--getting all eBird sightings from your local area, including directions to how to get there, and pointers from Kenn Kaufman on how to find each species once you get to the right area. If you get a chance to check it out, let me know how it works for you.
Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites