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Blog Birding #71

Nathan Pieplow at the always amazing Earbirding.com offers a useful and insightful post on identifying Black-tailed Gnatcatchers when they don't look like you expect them to:

Just 30 years ago, the dapper Black-capped Gnatcatcher was ultra-rare north of the Mexican border.  Today it can be found with some regularity in decent numbers in several different locations in Arizona and New Mexico.  But separating it from the more numerous Blue-gray Gnatcatchers can be a real challenge, especially in winter, when the males don’t sport their namesake caps.

Voice is a key field mark, but good descriptions and recordings of Black-capped Gnatcatcher vocalizations have until recently been in short supply, and confusion about the vocal differences between eastern and western Blue-gray Gnatcatchers has compounded the issue.  Add Black-tailed Gnatcatcher to the mix, plus a dash of the genus-wide tendency to say unpredictable things, and you’ve got a recipe for confusion.

Birdchick does some birding in New York City's subway system:

There are all sorts of animals all over the station and it’s worth taking the time to explore and see what’s there.  It’s an evolutionary chain from the Big Bang to the plethora of fauna seen on this planet.  I love the random birds on there. It’s not all cardinals and eagles, it’s cool birds that perhaps the average person may not be aware are out there like the above black-bellied whistling ducks.

Seagull Steve of the irreverent Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds, considers why there aren't more birders out there:

Birding, as a pastime, has been consistently a big (and apparently growing) hobby in the United States for some time now. A lot of people do it. If you have ever chased a truly rare bird, you know what I mean….there are a lot of us. WE ARE EVERYWHERE. There is even a major motion picture about us. Because we, as a group, spend so much money, birders are a force to be reckoned with. The amount of cash that gets dropped every year on optics/cameras/books/fuel/airplane tickets/camping/motels/guided trips/pelagic trips/food/park admissions and, most embarrassingly, birder clothes, must be staggering. Really, we should be forming our own political think-tank and sending our own lobbyists to Capitol Hill…birders, by and large, are not poor people. But I digress….

Canada's Greater Sage-Grouse need help, head over to Prairie Birder to find out what you can do:

The main cause of the decline is human disturbance of  the sage-grouse habitat. Oil and gas and other development on the areas where sage-grouse breed, winter, nest and raise their young is a leading factor in their population drop. I know this is a problem because within 20 miles of our farm there has been a considerable increase in gas and oil well development in the past year. Farmers’ fields and pastures are scraped clear of grass and topsoil, rendering useless what would have been a field or a pasture that could have sustained some sort of bird life.

Kate St. John of Outside My Window is searching for Timberdoodles:

When the weather’s good in early spring the male woodcock picks a suitable scrubby field as his stomping ground.   In the hour before sunrise or the hour after sunset, he lets the ladies know he’s available and the guys to stay away by stomping around in the dark saying “peeent, peeent, peeent.”  He sounds like a small rhythmic buzzer.

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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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