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Blog Birding #183


Richard Crossley says don’t worry about bird ID. At least that’s what he told Laura Kammermeier in an interview on the Nature Travel Network.

In our 35-minute interview, he explains how we’ve been going about it all wrong in the United States when it comes to bird identification. Drawing on common-sense principles and the scientific literature, he talks about why his photo collage-series of field guides is a realistic interpretation of field conditions and therefore, a solid method for introducing newbies to the art of birding.

With so many birds arriving in the ABA Area every day, it’s tempting to say some things you don’t mean under the influence of warblers. Steve Tucker at Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds explains why you might want to hold off on using the f-word.

Look, lets be clear. A dozen birds in your yard or favorite patch is not a fallout. A hundred probably isn’t. And if they’re doing their normal thing, foraging in the trees, singing their songs, then that’s all it is. It’s bird migration! It’s great! It’s so, so sick. It’s what birds are expected to be doing. Sometimes there are more birds than other times. But that’s not enough to conjure up the magic word. Increasingly popular bird migration forecasts seem to suggest a fallout in a region pretty much every week during spring migration. I’ve even seen the phrase “modest fallout”….what the hell is that? What would an immodest fallout be? The word is just getting a lot of abuse.

Our understanding of the evolutionary relationships of birds has advanced in leaps and bounds in the genetic age. David Ringer at 10,000 Birds shares five of the most evolutionary unique species in the world, and there are some real doozies.

It’s important to understand that the evolutionary distinctiveness ranking proposed by Jetz et al. is not primarily a measure of the divergence dates of major clades of birds but rather of individual living species. For example, the split between the ratites and all other living birds is very ancient, the earliest split that still has living members on both sides. But you won’t find Ostrich or another ratite in first place on Jetz et al.’s list because those birds have closer living relatives than some other birds do, despite their membership in the oldest extant group.

How bird species will be able to adapt in an ever changing world is a huge open question, one that Jacob Gorneau considers this week at The Eyrie.

A species’ inability to adapt could result in a detrimental population decline. However, another European bird, the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) has evolved a new overwintering sub-population in the United Kingdom, thought to be a result of warmer temperatures resulting from climate change. The overwintering Blackcaps in the United Kingdom have an advantage in interspecific competition as they reach breeding grounds prior to the southern migrants (University of Berkeley 2008). The early bird not only gets the worm, but a crucial evolutionary edge!

Anyone who has picked up a camera knows that bird photography is not easy. At Nancy Bird Photography, Nancy McKown shares some tips on using exposure lock for great results.

Exposure Lock is a button on the back of the camera (labeled with an asterisk on the Canon) that allows the photographer to lock in the meter readings while the lens is comfortably centered on the subject. Once locked, you can move the camera anywhere to reframe the scene and take the photo with the previously locked in settings.

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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.
  • Name

    Is there really such a thing as the “Global Birder Ranking Scale”??

    • Rick Wright


    • No, it’s a bit of a joke on the part of Seagull Steve.

  • Mark Brown

    The first rule of Global Birder Ranking Scale is you do not talk about Global Birder Ranking Scale.

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