aba events

The Kaufman Challenge, v. 0.5

What could be simpler? Learn the names of fifty plants and animals around your home. That’s all there… [read more]

The Kaufman Challenge, v. 0.5 The Kaufman Challenge, v. 0.5

It’s OK to Talk to Strangers – at Least if They Have Binoculars

I was desperate to find another birder, but generally speaking there are few to be found in the Black… [read more]

It’s OK to Talk to Strangers – at Least if They Have Binoculars It's OK to Talk to Strangers - at Least if They Have Binoculars

Open Mic – The Endangered Species Act and Birds: A Wild Success?

At the Mic: Jason A. Crotty The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is difficult to evaluate, as its success… [read more]

Open Mic – The Endangered Species Act and Birds:  A Wild Success? Open Mic - The Endangered Species Act and Birds:  A Wild Success?

Announcing the 2016 ABA Awards Recipients!

The ABA Board of Directors recently voted to make three presentations of ABA Awards in 2016. The awardees… [read more]

Announcing the 2016 ABA Awards Recipients! Announcing the 2016 ABA Awards Recipients!

Introducing the 2016 ABA Bird of the Year!

We're excited, at last, to share this year's ABA Bird of the Year and artist. Thanks to artist… [read more]

Introducing the 2016 ABA Bird of the Year! Introducing the 2016 ABA Bird of the Year!

The ABA’s Spark Bird Project Puts Binoculars in the Hands of Kids

What could a kid discover if they had the tools we birders often take for granted? What could they find? Birds,… [read more]

The ABA’s Spark Bird Project Puts Binoculars in the Hands of Kids The ABA's Spark Bird Project Puts Binoculars in the Hands of Kids
Nikon Monarch 7

#ABArare – Jabiru – Texas

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On August 24, Dan Walker found and photographed an ABA Code 4 Jabiru in southern Victoria County, Texas. He reported the bird to the TEXBIRDS Facebook group. The bird was seen briefly, but disappeared into ditch in a nearby wet pasture and did not show itself again. It is possibly, even likely, that it is still in the area.

Photo: Dan Walker

Photo: Dan Walker

The specific location of the bird was near the intersection of HW 87 and FM 1090 (Lake Placedo Rd), just north of the Calhoun/Victoria county line. The location is just shy of 90 miles northeast of Corpus Christi and 140 miles southwest of Houston, Texas.

Jabiru is a dramatic neotropical stork that has ventured into the ABA Area about 14 times previous, almost exclusively in the late summer and associated with post-breeding dispersal during the dry season in southeastern Mexico into northern Central America. Most records come from Texas, but Jabiru has also been recorded in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

For regular updates from those who seek to find the bird today, please see the ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook Group.

In Praise of New Technologies

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A recent Facebook thread (doesn’t everything these days start with some kind of social media post) lamented the apparent reliance on instant gratification and use of technology in the pursuit of birds these days. It’s true that the use of cameras seems to be greater than the use of binoculars for today’s beginners, both young and old. Many of the posts start with “When I started birding….” followed by the usual walking up hill in both directions, three feet of snow kind of sagas about how much more difficult it was back then. Digital apps, endless streams of common birds with ID help requests attached –oh, my! What is this world coming to?

Fellow ABA blogger Greg Neise has written several pieces on the use of photography in birding including 21st Century Audubons. Have a look at Greg’s article, then have a look at the comments, especially those from beginners.

I guess it’s not surprising to hear people comparing how easy it is now to how difficult it was when they started birding. We do it all the time. About everything. I’m not sure why this is, but the resistance to change seems to be something we acquire in early adulthood and it grows and grows until we turn into old codgers. Well, hopefully not all of us. I can only imaging the outrage when the Peterson Guide first came on the scene. It probably went something like this: “In my day, we had to memorize the critical markings and draw our own pictures!” Or when optics became accessible: “What a lazy way to birdwatch! I had to make do with my own eyeballs!”

Many of the people lamenting the changing tools and technology had the great fortune of birding as children, learning field craft at that most absorptive stage of life and becoming expert at an age that is half, or even a quarter, of when a lot of us identified our first new bird. One of my life regrets at 40 was not having learned the names of the birds as a child. I had an old pair of binoculars. I’d even bought a couple of field guides. I think I could identify about 20 species. Big, colorful, obvious species. It wasn’t until a work colleague offered to take a group of us out birding that the lightbulb went on. Not only could he identify the birds by their songs, but he could tell me what features to look for to help identify those yellow-colored birds and little brown jobs. The fleeting looks I could get at them (pre-digital camera era) were rarely sufficient for me to find them in my books, but a walking talking field guide was the best it could get! When you don’t know the difference between a warbler and a sparrow, the books are not as helpful as you might think. Local checklists and bar charts?  Who knew that they even existed?  Thank goodness for eBird for beginners these days!

Preparing to walk into the spruce forest to look for Pacific Wren and Three-toed Woodpecker.

Birding with an expert remains one of the best ways to learn about local birds.

For me, and for many others, the tipping point between being casually interested in birds and becoming an enthusiastic birder was patient and ongoing help from other birders. What a boon social media is for this! Now even the tentative solo beginner has access to experienced birders to help with their identifications. I’m delighted that groups have been set up to let newbies post their photos of juncos and flickers without the derision that I’ve seen in other online forums.

It may come as a surprise to many that the help with identification of common birds drives most of those posters into seeking out more knowledge. “Holy crap, I’ve got a Cedar Waxwing in my yard!” leads to looking up the bird and getting more information. I’ve marveled at the pace people are transitioning from newbie to expert these days, and social media gets a lot of the credit. Sites like Xeno-canto and digital apps are helping people learn birds sounds when the birds aren’t even singing. Back in the dark past of 1996, I spent the winter with a computer program that included a “Song Tutor”.  It moved me ahead in months with what would have otherwise taken years. Yes, modern technology has taken some of the drudgery out of this hobby, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Less time drudging means more time actually studying the birds!  Admittedly, there are a few who will never take the time to learn, but in my experience, they are a tiny minority.

I think the most important point, though, is that any of these approaches — field craft (with or without a mentor), textbook study, and technology-assisted learning — are not mutually exclusive. You can be a photography fiend that spends hours scrutinizing a backyard bird’s behavior just to get that perfect shot. You can spend weeks studying the songs of birds that you hope to find at your upcoming vacation destination. You can ask for help in identifying your first Yellow Warbler, and a year later be helping other newbies posting photos of common birds. And you can make the hobby as difficult as you want by delving into the world of obscure hybrids or identification of birds by chip notes.

With regard to new technology, I say, “Bring it on!” Anything that reduces frustration and keeps people interested in finding and watching birds is a good thing in my book–or tablet!

Who Can See a Toucan? You Can! — Free!

Channel-billed Toucan photo by Theo Ferguson on the Asa Wright website: http://asawright.org.

Who wants a free birding trip to Panama? Who wants a free birding trip to Trinidad & Tobago? Who wants a free world-class Zeiss Victory SF binocular?

It’s time to get your friends and extended family to join the ABA. There are just 4 months left in our membership recruitment contest. This is a separate [read more…]

Blog Birding #285

Birding attracts naturalists, but also writers too, as if there something about the pastoral avocation that is so appealing to those who look for inspiration in unusual places. At Literary Hub, Katherine Towler explores.

With birds I have found another way of being in the world. The time devoted to watching birds is about nothing [read more…]

#ABArare – Pacific Swift – Alaska

On Friday, August 19, Isaac Helmericks discovered and photographed an ABA Code 4 Pacific Swift in the Colville River Delta in the far north of Alaska. This species is almost exclusively known in the ABA Area from the Aleutians and the Bering Sea Islands.

Helmericks was able to get impressive photos of this fast-flying [read more…]

Rare Bird Alert: August 19, 2016

It’s hot and buggy across much of the ABA Area, but at least the birds are beginning to move in good numbers. Not the continuing ABA notables, however, which are mostly unchanged for the last month and a half. The Maine Little Egret (ABA Code 4) can still be found, though it is moving around [read more…]

The ABA and the NABCI, Securing a Future for North America’s Birds

Established in 1999, the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) Committee is a forum of government agencies, private organizations, and bird initiatives helping partners across the continent meet their common bird conservation objectives. The Committee is working to secure a bright future for North America’s more than 1,150 species of birds, in conjunction with [read more…]

Open Mic: Seabirds and Plastic Pollution – What it Means for Ocean Ecosystems

At the Mic: Veronica Padula

Birds are fascinating, and I was instantly hooked on studying them in college, especially when thinking about birds’ roles as environmental sentinels. Their health and well-being can tell us so much about what is happening in an ecosystem, and what could potentially be happening to the people in that ecosystem. [read more…]

What We Know—And How We Know It

It’s an annual tradition. Each year on August 12, we wake up early, crazy early, and watch the Perseids. This year there are ten of us: my two kids and I; a preteen and her parents; a woman from Belgium, about my age; two “little old ladies,” as formidable as they come; and, in the [read more…]

Blog Birding #284

Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers are notorious for their penchant for interbreeding, but the upcoming publication of a study in Current Biology clarifies the relationship between the two “species”, and forces us to question what we think about these birds. Gustave Axelson explains at All About Birds.

In many ways, Golden-winged Warblers and Blue-winged Warblers [read more…]

Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
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Recent Comments

  • Steve Holzman, in #ABArare - Jabiru - Texas... { Although the message is garbled it looks like it was seen again this AM: http://birding.aba.org/mobiledigest/TX#1163626 Also, just saw this: Dan Walker Jabiru is at location... }
  • Rick Wright, in #ABArare - Jabiru - Texas... { I've dreamed of seeing that bird in the ABA area ever since I first heard its name. Good luck to the searchers! }
  • Diane Yorgason-Quinn, in In Praise of New Technologies... { I agree and carry a camera myself, BUT -- multitasking can lose you some birds. I've seen birds that better birders than I am missed... }
  • Greg Neise, in In Praise of New Technologies... { I am in agreement (as the article I wrote that you linked to is as well) ... but the point I tried to make then--and... }
  • Jared Clarke, in #ABArare - European Golden-Plover - New Jersey... { It's worth noting that there is NOT currently an accepted summer record for European Golden Plover in Newfoundland. Four "greater" golden plovers that have shown... }
  • Older »

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