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Blog Birding #167

The Snowy Owl news does not seem to be waning any time soon, so here’s a reminder from Kate St. John of Outside My Window that not all of these arctic waifs need our help.

Joe Monahan of Boone County, Iowa generated a heated discussion on PABIRDS last week when he urged folks to save snowy owls by feeding them store-bought mice.  According to Joe the owls are starving: “The dead owls found here that were necropsied were found to be emaciated. Which is why I decided to start feeding the one remaining in our area.”

His idea raised ethical issues but Joe’s argument was that, based on those found dead, snowy owls are starving and ought to be fed.  The core of the discussion came down to: Were the dead owls evidence of a starving population?  Will feeding help or hurt?

Tis the season for winter raptors that are not white owls too, and Jerry Liguori shares a primer on what to look for when you’re looking for those bird northern Accipiters.

My original post on this subject had lots of nice color photos of Goshawks, and the B&W composite below, and I thought to myself — why am I showing these color photos when the composite is the only thing I want to show? Goshawks are easy to identify in pictures showing all the field marks, but in the field with less than ideal views…maybe not so easy? Knowing how to identify Goshawks in flight is absolutely a matter of experience, there is no trick — the more you see and study, the more familiar you become with them! But knowing the key ID traits helps speed the learning process.

Neil Hayward’s Big Year has gotten a lot of attention lately, but how quickly and easily could you get to 500 species for one calender year? Greg Miller has broken it all down.

So where does one start in planning any birding Big Year?  Go for the very best place to give you the biggest variety of species in the shortest amount of time.  Then the next best place where you can find the most amount of species that would be new (not duplicates of what you already found at the best place).  This method would be continued until you reach your goal.  Fortunately, someone has taken eBird and done all the work for you.  It should be noted that this information is only as valuable as the accuracy of the submissions into the eBird database.  Still, this may be your best information for now.  So here we go.

Speaking of Neil Hayward, while we’re all busy waiting for him to update his blog, Accidental Big Year, with his latest bird, he’s spending Christmas with a representation of his year in ornaments.

I’m appreciating the slower pace this week, after the racing back and forth to Alaska over the past month. It’s great sleeping in a bed rather than a car / plane / airport. And I’m appreciating eating proper food (apparently, cranberry scones from Starbucks are not proper food.) Also – having more time to check out social media and catch up on communications has shown me just how big this year has been for many people who’ve lived vicariously through this blog. For birders seeing familiar places and birds, or new places and dreamed-of rarities. And for non-birders, who’ve hopefully caught a glimpse of what makes birding so special.

And last but certainly not least, a primer on Snowy Owl spotting from Steve Brenner at Nemesis Bird focusing on what is not a Snowy Owl.

As if the fact that there was non-biodegrable plastic floating around an open field wasn’t enough, this shimmering pod of refuse has to linger in a corn field at 200 meters away, barely obscured and dotted with dark markings that up-close read “thank you for shopping”, but at a distance look at lot like the barring on  first year female snowy owl wings. In short, you try so hard to turn this into a live creature, but in your heart you realize that this is just a glorified version of that scene from “American Beauty”

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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.
Nate Swick

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