2007 List of Banished Birding Words

Check out djringer’s 2007 List of Banished Birding Words, based on Lake Superior State University’s List of Banished Words. I know I’ve been guilty of some of these.

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Eastern population of Golden Eagles being tracked

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh and Powdermill Avian Research Center are both working on satellite tracking several Golden Eagles that were trapped this fall near the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch near Bedford, PA. I was lucky enough to be in the trapping blind for a day when 39 Golden Eagles and 1 Bald Eagle migrated past but unfortunately we only caught two Red-tailed Hawks. The eastern Golden Eagle has been recognized as a geographically and genetically isolated population for more than two decades now and it is crucial that we understand how their migratory behavior might be affected by proposed wind power projects along the Appalachian ridges. According to one article…

The possible increase of wind power on Appalachian ridges may threaten golden eagles as they travel their historic migratory corridor that follows these mountains through Pennsylvania to reach their nesting grounds in eastern Canada or wintering grounds in the southern reaches of the mountain chain. Since all known eastern golden eagle migratory routes track over the Appalachian Mountains, possibly along or in close proximity to ridges targeted for wind power development, the Game Commission must ensure the well-being of this state and federally-protected species – as well as other wildlife – as this growing industry sites turbines between the state’s Allegheny Front and Blue or Kittatinny Ridge. -according to PaForestCoalition.org

Below are the tracks of two Golden Eagles that were trapped this fall.

For more info on this project, click here.

Ten Laws of Winter Birding:

I saw this on the Birdchat listserv and enjoyed it. And boy, are they true.

1) The older we get, the colder it feels while birding. Global warming is counterbalanced by personal cooling.

2) The possibility of seeing a Gyrfalcon is inversely proportional to the listing need.

3) Red Crossbills never land. Never. As in nada.

4) “It was just here 10 minutes ago.” (Note also spring, summer & fall birding rules.)

5) Boreal Chickadees respond to pishing. Once a decade.

6) Golden Crowned Kinglets have three distinct calls. Except when Brown Creepers are also in the area.

7) Cardinals will sing in the winter. Period. This is not an event, but a ruse.

8) Walk the snowy winter trail. Miss the bird. Walk back on the winter trail. Miss the bird again. Warm up the car, see the (potential) bird fly by, binoculars fog. Until the bird disappears.

9) Vagrants always occur in the portion of the state farthest from you. If vagrants do occur in your area, your schedule will become unbelievably jammed – until the day after it leaves.

10) Prayer does help. But God also has a sense of humor.

Study reveals further declines for the world’s waterbirds

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)
In the somber news category, the fourth edition of the Wetlands International report on waterbird species around the world has been released. It’s based on annual field surveys by 15,000 voluntary expert observers across hundreds of sites worldwide, including many IBA’s. Of the 878 species that they present estimates and trends for, 44% are either decreasing or have become extinct since the last edition was released 4 years ago.


Read the full article.

Solitary Sandpiper © 2006 Drew Weber

How to count birds

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Snow Geese flock, originally uploaded by topherous.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird site has just posted Bird Counting 101. For anyone who spends time out in the field watching large flocks, whether they are shorebirds, waterfowl or hawks knows that estimating flock size can be ridiculously hard. Just looking at the flock of Snow Geese above is overwhelming if you want to try and estimate the number of birds. Estimating sizes of flocks can be biologically important because it is an additional data set that can be more useful than just knowing whether a species is present or absent.

Cornell puts forth several different tips for counting in their first installment:

  1. It is very important to write your observations down right away. No one can remember counts for 40+ species at a time. You will also end up second guessing yourself if you don’t write down what you see, particularly with the more common species, “Did I really see a Mourning Dove today or was that yesterdays walk?”
  2. Be conservative in your estimates, making sure you are not counting birds twice.
  3. For larger flocks, count a small portion of the flock and then extrapolate for the rest of the flock. For instance, count 10 birds in the flock and get a good idea of what that feels like. Then count the flock in 10 bird increments. This fall I was the counter on South Lookout at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA on the morning that a flight of over 5,000 Broad-winged Hawks migrated through. I mainly counted in 5 and 10 bird increments because the birds kept coming and coming and coming.

One fascinating fact from the article was that we have a hard time estimating flocks when they are flying in 3D space. If a large blackbird flock is 100 birds wide, 100 birds long, and 100 birds deep, that is 1,000,000 blackbirds! I have a hard time imagining that.

Check out the full article.

The Long-billed Murrelet Quandry or "Would you Count it?"

Well, I was there. And I most certainly saw an alcid. Could have been a murrelet. Definitely not a Razorbill. Hmm… So is this the record that I put on my life list? It seems questionable, for all I know, I could have seen a Marbled Murrelet. But most of the people there were looking at a Red-throated Loon and will probably mark it down as a lb murrelet. Does that justify my tick? Anyways, the wind was ridiculously strong and the surf rough which made seeing any bird well almost impossible. If you were in this situation would you record it or not. Please leave me a comment about what you would do!

The chase is on!

A stray from Asia, the Long-billed Murrelet has been sighted at Sandy Hook, NJ and I am off to meet Cameron and some other birders in Bucks County to carpool to the site. I will let you know tonight if I am successful!