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Blog Birding #20

Not too much of a surprise, but climate change is having measurable effects on bird migration, as illustrated by Neal Losin of LabSpaces with Timing is Everything:

Unfortunately for migratory birds, the times are a-changin’ – and in natural ecosystems, the timing of major annual events is changing too. Global climate change has caused shifts in the timing of everything from plants flowering to birds laying their eggs. But different organisms use different methods to fine-tune their annual rhythms, so some species are growing increasingly out of sync with others. Imagine a predator, for example, that use changes in photoperiod (i.e., the duration of daylight) to time its annual activities, while its prey uses changes in temperature. In a world where temperatures are changing quickly, this simple difference among species can quickly result in mistiming – a bit of luck for the prey species, but a potential disaster for the predator.

Birdchick stares down a Great Horned Owl with What's an Uptown Owl Eating?

Like Indiana Jones at an artifact, I carefully dislodged the large pellets from the snow. It suddenly occurred to me that where you see owl pellets and poop, the owl is generally overhead–at least, that’s what I often tell people and have only found that to be true a couple of times.  I looked up and was so mad I didn’t have my camera.  There was the male, directly over my head, about 20 feet up.  He stared down at me and was totally giving me the hairy eyeball…or would that be the feathery eyeball in a bird’s case?  I quickly gathered the pellets and went on my way.  The owl never moved and is clearly accustomed to human activity.

Dave Dolan from North American Birding Blog gets some nice photos of noteworthy LRGV rarities in Another run at the White-throated Thrush.

On Thursday, I decided to leave that night, not sure where I would stop.  I either would stop in Corpus and bird early morning there before driving to the valley to see what was in Bentsen or Estero Llano Grande or I would drive all the way and start in the valley in the morning.  I was hoping to get on the road early after work, but had to get some last minute things done, so I didn’t get out of town till almost 9:00. Not realizing that I was heading into a 3 hour long drive into a fog bank, when I got to Corpus Christi which is a little less than half way to McAllen, I decided to make the whole trip that night.

Woodpeckers are displaying across the continent, and David Sibley offers tips to figure them out in Identifying Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers by drumming sounds:

Instead of song, most woodpeckers use a mechanical drumming sound as their audio advertising display. It’s easy to tell when you hear a woodpecker, harder to tell which species. Nevertheless there are distinct differences between species, and with practice most drumming sounds can be recognized with a high level of confidence.

The Bluebird by John Burroughs is a classic of nature poetry, so says Corey at 10,000 Birds:

There are no deep meanings in this poem.  Burroughs says what he means and you can tell that he really means it.  He is happy the bluebird has returned and he hopes that it will nest by his house in “Downy’s cell,” that is, the abandoned hole of a Downy Woodpecker.  Considering how many people now build or buy nestboxes in the hope that bluebirds will take up residence it is clear that Burroughs is not alone in this sentiment, though in the early 1900s it seems likely that there were less people specifically beseeching bluebirds to nest by their homes.  The simple language, with no words over three syllables, combined with the straightforwardness of the text makes the poem accessible, much like Burroughs tried to make the meanings of the natural world accessible to his readers.

A really fascinating look at consistency in bird vocalizations from Nathan Pieplow's Earbirding blog with To Stereotype or not?:

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about stereotype. Not the racial or ethnic kind, but the degree to which a bird’s song is the same each time it’s sung. In a couple of recent blog posts, I showed that Violet-green Swallows and Evening Grosbeaks produce stereotyped vocalizations in complex strings, and therefore I argued that they were exhibiting true singing behavior. Shortly afterwards, Andrew Spencer asked me an intriguing question: why does a vocalization have to be stereotyped in order to qualify as a song? Are there any birds that sing non-stereotyped songs?

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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