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Blog Birding #140


Greg Laden, writing at 10,000 Birds, lays out the very real, and very distressing, impact of sea level rise on marsh birds:

We should be expecting sea level rise. As the sea level rises, existing salt marshes and other coastal wetlands will become flooded; as salt marshes are inundated, they will become lower tidal zones, and new areas will be recruited to salt marsh.

People like to deny the reality of climate change, but it is real, and sea level rise is part of that. We see indirect but very compelling
evidence of this when insurance companies, government agencies, and other big players act as though they considered climate change to be real. That is not a direct scientific argument for the reality of climate change, but it is nonetheless important and convincing.

What is it about birds that work their way into the core of our being? Julia Zarankin of Birds and Words explores this on her first Saturday without birds in a long time:

How is it that certain things become a part of us — a physical part, a need, I think — and how is it that this happens unconsciously? I could not pinpoint the exact moment when I recognized that watching birds had become a need rather than a whim or a fancy or a curiosity, but I can tell you for certain that today, the first Saturday of the year when I’m not out birding, I feel a physical lack, an ache almost, an uneasiness, a longing for something I never even knew I could miss since I had no idea it had become a part of me.

Attendance at an ornithological society meeting is a sort of rite of passage among birders. John Shamgochian offers a unique perspective at The Eyrie:

Of all the evolutionary twists and turns written in birding archives, very few of the world’s birding masterpieces have come out as fine as Wayne Petersen, the day’s announcer (a role he has played many times before). Standing on the slightly elevated stage, Mr. Petersen acquainted with the day’s main courses and in quick succession introduced us to the presidents of Mass Audubon (Henry Tepper) and the Brookline Bird Club (Eddy Giles), both of whom greeted the expectant audience warmly.

You might expect the birds to be especially prevalent during a periodical cicada outbreak, but Madeline Bodin, writing at The Crux, says not so fast:

Could it be that the din of the cicadas’ mating buzz drowning out the birdsong, so that the bird watchers only thought there were fewer birds? Cicadas aren’t toxic for birds to eat, but could it be something else about the cicadas was driving the birds away? Or is there another explanation? Koenig and Liebhold teamed up to find out.

They began by looking in the data from the Breeding Bird Survey, a yearly census of bird populations collected by the U.S.  Geological Survey since 1966.

On Machias Seal Island in Maine, Chris Petrek of the blog Tails of Birding, shares some lovely photos of courting alcids in their breeding finery:

It is very tempting to anthropomorphize the behaviors I photographed on Machias Seal Island, and to describe those behaviors with the smirking and chuckling terms often used. But alas, I don’t want blogger (or a prudish reader) to flag me for inappropriate content, so I will keep this on as even a keel as possible.

The most common courtship behavior I observed was “billing.” Billing among mated pairs of the birds I observed involves  touching, or as it appeared to me, caressing, each other’s bills.


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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. He is also the author of Birding for the Curious. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
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