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Blog Birding #304

There have been a number of Old World/New World splits approved by the AOS (formerly AOU) in recent years, one that is flying under the radar is Sandwich Tern. Yoav Perlman at Birding Frontiers offers some information on what birders should look for. Written from a European perspective, it is nonetheless useful for birders on the American side of the ocean, as well.

These two tern species from both sides of the Atlantic look very similar, but in fact are not even the closest relatives – based on genetics, Cabot’s Tern was found to be a sister species of Elegant Tern. Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis is monotypic, and Cabot’s Tern includes Thalasseus a. acuflavida and another taxon – Cayene Tern T. a. eurygnatha. This post deals only with nominate acuflavida.

Artist Debbi Kaspari, of Drawing the Motmot puts our some suet and takes the opportunity to sketch the birds it attracts.

There’s this magic suet recipe that’s easy to make and highly effective for attracting birds. Once you start putting Zick Dough out there, the mobbing never stops until the last crumb is picked by the smallest wren. Just place a feeder by a window and watch it from a comfy chair with hot tea and sketchbook in hand. You will have instant live models. Ready, set, sketch.

It’s a wonderful time of year to seek out congregations of birds, including the spectacular Sandhill Cranes in south Texas, as Linda Murdock shares.

This guy is a regal subject, surveying his range. The largest ones are almost 4 feet tall, with a wingspread of six and a half feet. Males and females are the same size but a flock may have juveniles that haven’t reached full growth yet. Sandhill Cranes mate for life and generally raise one chick who stays close by until the pair is ready to breed again.

Ron Dudley, or Feathered Photography, had the good fortune to find a Swainson’s Hawk in mid-pellet regurgitation, and took the opportunity to see what it was eating.

Western Montana had been awash in Swainson’s Hawks that summer. From the Canadian border (Glacier County) to the southwestern border with Idaho (Beaverhead County) I found them in significantly larger numbers than I’d seen in previous summers. I hope that anecdotal observation was accurate because their numbers have been declining to the point where they’re listed as a Species of Special Concern in several western states.

There have been some great gulls in Ontario this year, and Josh Vandermuelen of Ontario Birds & Herps had a nice experience with a rare Slaty-backed Gull.

On New Year’s Day, Chris Kundl started his year off right by discovering a Slaty-backed Gull in the shallows south of Goat Island in the Niagara River. This species is typically found in east Asia, though some breed in western Alaska as well. However it is a species that is prone to long-range vagrancy, and there are records across North America including thirteen for Ontario. I had previously seen two in my life, both in Ontario – however views were far from ideal as both birds were in the middle of the Niagara River, quite a distance from the Control Gates above Niagara Falls where I was standing on both occasions. Slaty-backed Gull was also one of the 23 bird species that I had seen in Ontario but had never photographed within the borders of the province. Because of these reasons, and because I really enjoy gull watching, this was a bird that I was itching to see.

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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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