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Blog Birding #309

The poor European Starling still feels like a stranger in North America despite being an established part of our avifauna for more than 100 years. Bill Thompson III of Bill of the Birds appreciates the tricksters, though.

You fooled me, trickster
with your staticky singing
from the pear tree in late morning
a perfect call ringing:
“killdeer, deer, deer,”
from your bill to my ear
made me drop the axe I was about to swing
and run to the open yard
searching skyward for that
shorebird sign of spring!

Common Redpoll (perhaps soon just redpoll?) is a classic bird of the boreal forests, and often the first northern specialty one see when one travels to the far north. Justin Cale at Notes from the Wildside writes about a recent experience.

My father and I arrived at our first destination in northern Minnesota on a cold but sunny morning in mid February. Stopping in a church parking lot just east of Meadowlands Minnesota, we hopped out of the car to gear up as it was only 1 degree outside. Greeting us as we opened our doors, was a familiar call. The bouncy, cheery call of the Common Redpoll. I breathed in and then deeply sighed, happy to once again be in the great white north, among boreal birds.

It’s almost time again for singing Brewer’s Sparrows, holding court in their vast sagebrush kingdom. Bryce Robinson, at Ornithologi, is ready for them.

One of the best parts of spring in the Sagebrush landscape of western North America are it’s singing inhabitants. The Brewer’s Sparrow may be my favorite, because of its subdued but beautiful plumage and distinct trill song. On a spring morning at sunrise, one can walk through a healthy stand of sagebrush, songs erupting all around, as multiple males sing atop their sagebrush posts.

The slow birding of late February isn’t going to get Steve Brenner down. He’s found ways to make the relatively slow time exciting, and he shares at The Nemesis Bird.

But while you may not think it you need any more work on downy vs. hairy woodpeckers or song sparrow vs. everything else, it can never hurt to study the common species of your particular area. It’s easy to forget that chickadee vocalizations and titmouse vocalizations are not all that dissimilar, and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen good birders get tripped up (myself included) by a titmouse song in the woods in late April or a Carolina Wren in May thinking they are some type of rare warbler. And what about robins? A little refresher on their song never hurts to prep for the arrival of rose breasted grosbeaks and scarlet tanagers.

Project SNOWStorm is still carrying on, doing amazing work figuring out just what Snowy Owls do when they’re not in front of the lenses of photographers in the Lower 48. Scott Weidensaul tells a really fascinating story about a pair of owls called Dakota and Hardscrabble.

We already knew that Dakota had nested last year on the Boothia Peninsula in northern Nunavut; we’d already retrieved her data through early July, showing her barely moving as she incubated and brooded. But now we could see how her activity area expanded as (presumably) her chicks became more and more independent, and she helped her mate with hunting and protection. After remaining in an area of about 5 sq. km/2.5 sq. miles through August, she moved northwest a few kilometers and hung out for two months on Cape Barclay, along the eastern shore of Chantrey Bay.

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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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