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Blog Birding #240

Splits and lumps in the birding world are always full of drama. At the Leica Birding Blog, Steve N.G. Howell calls out the AOU for what he sees as an inconsistent approach, and shows a better way forward.

I often hear puzzled birders bemoan AOU decisions, perceiving them as seemingly inconsistent and idiosyncratic: Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles, split, lumped, split; Myrtle and Audubon’s warblers, split, lumped, in limbo; Xantus’s Murrelet split; Leach’s Storm-Petrel not split, and so on. There’s a very simple reason for this perception—the decisions are inconsistent and idiosyncratic! They are simply opinions, some with more baggage than others.

Ears are every bit as important as eyes for appreciation of bird diversity, and audio recording has never been more popular among field ornithologists, both amateur and professiona. At The Eyrie, Aidan Place, sings the gospel of recording birdsong.

This lack of popularity is clearly not for lack of reason to record bird song. Birding is a hobby in which a participant’s ears are just as, if not more important, than their eyes. Bird song is also beautiful and is one of the big draws of birding. You can see how recording bird song can be just as good of a way to document birds and to cement memories of a certain outing as photography.

The thought process behind the identification of birds is often times a subconscious act for some birders, something you can be aware of doing but something you may find it impossible to explain. Thank goodness, then, for Don Freiday, at Freiday Bird Blog, who shares his internal monologue mid-mystery bird.

But supposing you came at this bird without pre-conceived notions.  Then what?  Well, for starters, a lot of bird identification is about what it is not. This is not a goose, swan duck, turkey, loon, grebe, shearwater, gannet, cormorant, pelican. . . you get the idea. . .then you get to some things that it could be, like a dove, cuckoo, flycatcher (ding ding ding!), jay, swallow, thrush, warbler, sparrow, finch.

With shorebird pouring down the continent en masse these days, sometimes it’s nice to think about where these birds come from if it isn’t North America. At the Euro-based Birding Frontiers, Martin Garner offers some tips as to sub-specific identification of the familiar and common Dunlin.

My little treat was watching a  flock of fresh baby Dunlins as various stage of moult from their bright fringed juvenile feathers into duller plain greyer ones on the upperparts Most I suspect now with slightly longer bills are nominate alpina. One piece of plumage information which is interesting to record is the pattern of white in the primaries.

Few in North America are as devoted to the identification of gulls as Amar Ayyash of Anything Larus. He shares his top 20 favorites, which is an impressive list as you’d expect.

A collection of some of my favorites. Some were picked based on “rareness”, some because of the stunning plumage being worn, and some simply because I’m fond of the circumstances involved in taking that photograph. Enjoy!

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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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Recent Comments

  • Nate, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { That's fair about the weather timing. I recall the observers saying something about Hurricane Nate being involved, but how much is not clear. As to... }
  • Gary Bloomfield, in Birding with a Tricorder... { Great essay, Ted! Feel sorry for the guy in the photo who's wearing a red shirt, though. }
  • Steve Shultz, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { I believe the NC swift was seen on Saturday, October 7 (unless the date indicated by the observer on the photo was incorrect). Nate did... }
  • Rick Wright, in #ABArare - Yellow-breasted Bunting - Newfoundland & Labrador... { What a great bird! Sadly topical: }
  • Nate, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { Whoops. You're right. Those I names turned me around. I'll fix when I get a chance. Sent from my phone }
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