October 26, 2015
Last week, NPR’s “Fresh Air” featured an interview with photographer Gerrit Vyn and writer Scott Weidensaul, both venerable contemporary birdmen. The occasion was a new book on bird song published by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Click here to hear that 35-minute radio segment.
Vin travels the world photographing and recording songs of birds. Both men are professionals in the world of bird research. Weidensaul is now working on project to track owl migration. He speaks about the widespread migration of the common, rarely seen, Saw-whet Owl.
There is also a section where they discuss the apparently doomed Spoonbill Sandpiper. It has a great call, BTW.
This show features many recorded bird calls.
October 26, 2015
OCTOBER 26, 2015
This is the day that Noah Strycker may break 5000 in his global big year. He ended yesterday with 4990. Click here for updates daily.
It is getting harder to add many new species. Noah has long ago gotten his mynah, his Rook, his common gulls and woodpeckers. Now he’s chasing down the shy, the rare, the bird in obscure corners or limited range. However, he has wisely saved the southern hemisphere for his end of the year birding, where days are much longer than up here where days are getting shorter and shorter.
March 30, 2015
We now take for granted the success of two of our most common, weed species of bird in America, the House Sparrow and the Eurasian Starling. Both birds are in trouble in England where intensive agriculture and pesticides have altered the landscape and habitat. Loss of old-fashioned hedgerows may have hurt the sparrow along with other rural species like Yellowhammer. Read here for details.
Back in the 18th Century when Gilbert White was observing and writing about the Wiltshire countryside the Wood Pigeon was a scarce bird. The drop in forest hunting and the bird’s adaptation to city parks has changed all that. As large as our Band-tailed Pigeons, they’re now are as common as Rock Pigeons over much of England. The abundance of Collared-Doves in suburban England does not seem to have hurt the Wood Pigeon.
March 27, 2015
Species come, and species go. But virtual extinction occurs when a species is undiscovered by man, or when it goes decades without being found. For two birds we have good news. They’re still here!
Herdon’s Babbler is first on our back-from-the-dead list. Click here for full story. It’s been rediscovered in Myanmar.
The babbler family is full of dark brown skulking birds. The only one who lives in the New World is our Wrentit, and any Oregon or California birder can tell you they are easy to hear in coastal scrub, but to see one…
The rail family has suffered mightily around the world. Many species have gone extinct in limited habitat, like Pacific island chains. Many others have suffered from human encroachment and draining marshes. Just recently a dedicated ornithologist has proved the Zapata Rail survives in Cuba. Click here for details.
If you want to see some rare and even endangered birds on your next trip outside the U.S., contact PIB.
March 23, 2015
One of Partnership for International Birding’s founding partners is publishing a book om the Great Gray Owls of the Pacific Slope. Harry Fuller, PIB co-founder, and photographer Peter Thiemann have worked on this book for two years. It draws together many of Peter’s fine photos of the Great Grays in action. It also includes much information of the world’s southernmost population of this phantom bird. The Great Gray Owl is notoriously difficult to survey for and to track during nesting season. Yet once found the owl is aloof and easy to observe because it ignores mere humans, far preferring to concentrate on voles and pocket gophers. The Canadian population concentrates on lemmings.
The book covers the GGOs in California, Oregon and Washington State–a population largely overlooked in most previous books on the species and even in widely distributed general field guides. Many books still in print describe Great Grays as a “boreal species” yet the authors have verified breeding populations along the Pacific Slope that summer where temperatures regularly climb above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The book will also include original, detailed breeding range maps for the species in the three Pacific States. If you’d like to see nesting Great Gray Owls near a meadow full of wildflowers in the glorious Cascades Mountains, contact PIB about a trip to Oregon. Some bonus birds will include Vaux’s Swift, Williamson’s and Red-breasted Sapsucker, White-headed & Lewis’s Woodpecker, Hermit Warbler, Wrentit, Black Tern, Tricolored Blackbird and White-tailed Kite.
If you’re interested in the owl book, email Harry Fuller at: firstname.lastname@example.org
GGO photo by Karl Schneck.
January 30, 2015
The severe drought and almost tropical “winter” that is occurring along the Pacific Coast will speed up the breeding season for many resident species. Difficult to find birds like Wrentit and California Gnatcatcher are easiest to locate during breeding before they become even more secretive. In southern Oregon the Turkey Vultures have returned a month early and Scrub-Jays have been seen building nests. In an area where snow should be likely until April I have seen not a single snowflake, just warm rains out of the south. Frogs are singing in seasonal ponds. A bat flew past my car window on January 25; they are supposed be asleep, with the bears and Belding’s ground squirrels. Mushrooms are sprouting at 6000′ in the mountains where there should be snow on the ground. Lakes at 5000′ are ice free and full of Canada Geese. I wouldn’t be surprised to suddenly see a small flock of Tree Swallows up from California, or an Osprey fishing. All this is unseasonally early. So if you are planning a Pacific Coast trip, think of doing it earlier in the year than in a normal year which this will not be.
December 22, 2014
I already knew that we humans are woefully slow to see what’s happening in the natural world, but here comes scientific evidence that even without TV weathercasts, warblers foresee weather problems far better than some slow-moving bipeds.
Here’s one newspaper account of how warblers fled the U.S. to avoid a killer storm.
Here’s a summary of that same report on warbler wisdom from a science website.
That violent series of storms killed 35 humans who chose not to migrate. Final Score: Warblers +1, Humans -35.
December 1, 2014
Once again today I heard, and didn’t see, a singing male Wrentit at Ashland Pond in southern Oregon. The distribution of this unique American bird (only member of its family this side of the Bering Strait) is an example of both adaptation and inflexibility in this species. Famously, the Wrentit is sedentary, rarely wanders far and eschews open water. Thus the species’ northern range limit is now the south bank of the Columbia River. Its ancestors must surely have come across the Siberian land bridge eons ago and moved south only to be isolated from all over babblers (widespread in Old World forests) and marooned south of the Columbia River when it was formed after gigantic ice sheets melted. In Uganda once I saw a dark brown, skulking babbler with a big voice…larger than our Robin. It looked and sounded much like an over-stuffed Wrentit.
Here in southern Oregon the Wrentit is found in scrub and heavy thickets, mostly at lower elevations. Most likely locations in Jackson County are along the Rogue River and then south along the Bear Creek riparian corridor. Willows, cottonwoods and blackberry thickets often signal Wrentit presence. It seems most likely that our Jackson County Wrentits arrived here by spreading from the coast up the Rogue River Canyon and then along the corridors of its major tributaries, like Bear Creek. BIRDS OF OREGON (Marshall, Hunter & Contreras) points out the species is still expanding its range. Not in weeks or months like the explosion of the Eurasian Collared-Dove, nor even over a few decades like the Starling or Red-shouldered Hawk, but one thicket to the next…ever so slowly.
EBird does show a record for the Klamath Falls area at slightly over 4000′. Otherwise the bird is not seen east of the Sierra Nevada crest or the Cascades further north. The species is also found in the Sierra Foothills and some higher plateaus in California. It is most abundant along the California and Oregon coasts wherever brush dominates and forests are broken or absent altogether. There hillsides often are alive with singing male Wrentits, each bouncing his only vocal rubber ball downhill at requent intervals. The habitats most likely to be home to the Wrentit are coastal scrub and inland chaparral. They are not treetop singers, quite able to sing loudly while staying concealed in brush humans do not penetrate. I have yet to meet anyone who gets Wrentit to come to a suet or seed feeder. They are not a suburban adapter like the Mockingbird or House Finch.
The Audubon Society’s recent climate change report on North American birds gives no map for the Wrentit, but the American Dipper, also found on our low elevation streams here in southernmost Oregon does have a map. The Audubon projections are very bleak for that species. If the climate does get hotter and dryer and plants like blackberry disappear the Wrentit is not going to be able to nest in sagebrush and feed on open ground.
This Wrentit photo was taken at Ashland Pond some months ago by Majorie Palmer, a birder visiting Ashland from the Olympic Peninsula. This is a bird she’s not going to see in her own backyard 200 miles north of the Columbia, the Wrentit demarcation line. These birds are very hard to photograph because they do not often appear in public, preferring their seclusion and being undercover. Their territory is year-round so I have heard one sing in January during a snowstorm. “My thicket. Stay out.”
PIB has numerous trips to Asia and Africa where you can see many and larger babblers. If you want to see a Wrentit, sign up for one of trips in California or Oregon.
November 30, 2014
We got to see the documentary on Brown Pelicans at our local movie theatre. It’s called “Pelican Dreams.” Beautiful video of the big birds and told around the touching stories of two injured pelicans, one of whom has now flown back into the wild.
This is worth seeing just for the great slo-mo of the pelicans diving in oceanic feeding frenzies.
It touches on conservation issues, climate change and the necessity of human awareness to allow these great birds to survive in our altered world. It was shot mostly in California and Oregon with some video from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coast.
PIB offers trips to Florida, Texas and California–all good venues for watching Brown Pelicans.
Here are a few of my own pictures of a feeding frenzy at Elkhorn Slough between Santa Cruz and Monterey on a PIB trip to California: