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Blog Birding #267

Birders love the National Wildlife Refuge system, not only because they offer great places to birds, but also because the habitat protected there means birds are better off in the other places we can find them, too. Jason Crotty, writing at 10,000 Birds, explains why birders need to get deeply involved in issues regarding public lands.

These protected areas are not merely convenient, they are essential. Development has dramatically reduced the amount of suitable wildlife habitat. The Refuge System protects and, in some cases, restores, some of what remains. Additionally, funds from Duck Stamps allow the System to gradually expand, as FWS purchases land and obtains conservation easements from willing sellers.  (A list of NWRs that have been created or expanded with such funds is here.  Birders will see many favorites)

Don Freiday, of Freiday Bird Blog, makes that case that March is the best month for gulls, with lingering wintering birds and the promise of migrants. He offers some tips for picking out that much desired Black-headed Gull from your local gull flocks.

Right, so how do you find a Black-headed Gull in March? The standard i.d. competitor is Bonaparte’s, and there are solid field marks differentiating the two. Black-headed’s bill is red, Bonaparte’s is black. Black-headed’s legs are coral red, Bonaparte’s pinkish. Easy-peasy, or so you would think.

But what if you are sifting a flock of 450 Bonaparte’s floating on the water 300 yards offshore. Can’t see the legs on a floating gull. And that red bill of Black-headed can be tough to see, because it can be a dull red.  Now what?

Can birders take their hobby too seriously? Larry at The Brownstone Birding Blog suggests that it might appear that way to some.

I think some non-birders would answer yes to that question. Part of the reason might be that birders stand out in the crowd with their binoculars and other equipment pointing in every direction. For example, gourmet cooking is a popular hobby for many but you don’t see people walking around a park with frying pans hanging from their neck and bullet belts filled with spices.

South Florida is hopping with crazy great vagrants right now, and Aidan Place at The Birding Place takes us along on his trip to touch base with some of them.

The first chase was for the two vagrants which have been seen recently at Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys. The two birds there have been black-faced grassquit (code 4) and, even better, a zenaida dove (code 5). I pulled into the State Park a bit after dawn. It took me a couple of minutes to reorient and figure out where I was going as I had last been to the park last year for the Key West quail-dove being seen there.

And if you’re interested in following the state of migration from week to week, Birdcast is back with their weekly forecast, worth keeping tabs on for the next couple months.

An active weather week will be in store for the West and the East, the former experiencing a pulse of favorable conditions early with light to moderate flights followed by largely unfavorable conditions and the latter exhibiting nearly the opposite pattern. Flights in the east, when favorable conditions are present, will be moderate to locally heavy. Note also that two strong low pressure systems are forecast to move through the central and eastern portions of the US, creating concentration and fallout potential when and where they pass.

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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.
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