Blog Birding #106
by Nate Swick
For those looking to ride the hurricane this weekend, eBird offers some helpful advice:
In general, the areas north and east of the storm's center are most productive for rarities, but rare birds can appear anywhere in the storm's path that gets strong wind and rain (and rarely well outside the storm's path at its very fringes). For this storm, we cannot recommend birding coastal areas, since the storm surge will be extremely dangerous. Expect the storm to carry birds far inland though, and given the size and strength of Sandy, we expect the Great Lakes to be a part of the action for storm-blown rarities. It may be reasonably safe to check inland bodes of water, the Chesapeake and or Delaware Bays, Lake Erie and/or Lake Ontario, and inland rivers (e.g., Susquehanna, Delaware, and maybe the Hudson if the storm makes landfall closer to New York), provided the birder uses excessive amounts of caution in doing so, with consideration to the risks of flooding, extreme tides, windblown debris, etc. Pay close attention to the weather reports and do not put yourself at risk in any way!
Rick Wright at Birding New Jersey tracks down the history of an old copy of the AOU Check-list:
Obviously, this was the book of a well-traveled birder, a suspicion neatly confirmed by ticks next to, for example, Emperor Goose, Common Teal, Steller’s Eider, Slaty-backed Gull, Red-legged Kittiwake, Bluethroat, Arctic Warbler, and so on. A few Old World species are scrupulously noted as having been seen in Egypt, making it apparent that the rarities without such annotation must have been seen in North America–in Alaska, obviously.
Happily, there is a stamp on the foredge of the book block.
Lillian and Don Stokes, writing at their own site, share some photos of a very unusual Pine Siskin:
We just had a strange Pine Siskin at our feeder with a very light head. This is what is called a leucistic bird. Leucisim in birds, is a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, especially melanin, from being deposited in a normal way on a bird's feathers. Usually the leucistic areas are noticeable on birds with black or brown feathers, as in the above cases. Leucistic birds may have white splotches, or look paler or bleached. This is different than albino birds. Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents the production of melanin in a bird's body. Albino birds usually appear all white with a pink eye. Scientists are still working out what these two conditions are and how they affect birds.
We've all seen the incredible videos of starling flocks whirling, Alex at Nemesis Bird shares some images of raptors harassing those flocks:
Everyone has seen massive flocks of starlings moving across the sky like a haunted black cloud at some point in their lives. They move in unison so perfectly that it can be hard to comprehend. Here in central Pennsylvania we don't get flocks of millions of starling that other parts of the world see, but we can still see small versions of those incredible flocks whenever a raptor decides to bother a group of starlings foraging in a farm field or when heading to roost. The flock balls up and begins to weave back and forth, as if they are all tied together by little strings between their wings.
At The Birdist, Nick looks at birds used in military insignia. As you might expect, it's eagle heavy, but there are some unexpected species mixed in:
While killing some time last week in the Bangor, Maine airport I noticed a wall covered in stickers representing different military units. There's a large military presence at the Bangor airport: it's often the first or last stop in the US for troops going to or coming from overseas. I was fascinated with the different unit's insignias.