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Blog Birding #312

Owl ethics are a hot topic in the birding internet these days, and Jeremy Bensette, at Jeremy Birder, shares his strategy for finding owls on his big year.

I think it’s worth first addressing the topic of owl ethics, suppressing sightings, and why I asked that people do not post strong opinions. Why suppress owl sightings? Owls are very susceptible to abuse by those who are more interested in their own sightings or photos than in the well being of wildlife. They’re large, impressive looking, fairly stationary, rarely seen, and are more often than not pretty badass – naturally attracting much interest and attention by naturalists, biologists, and general public alike. Some photographers enjoy baiting owls (releasing live mice bought at pet stores to attract nearby owls) in order to get those amazing photos we’ve probably all seen in nature magazines, as this is nearly the only opportunity one may have for such photos.

Mark Dennis of Cape Sable Birding takes a moment to appreciate the Turkey Vultures of Nova Scotia.

Sandra and I were out that way recently and this little bunch were being surprisingly calm around the end of Chebogue Point Road. Usually the vultures are a little wary, they don’t get many invites to parties with a face like that, and will scoot off when you get within reasonable lens range. This lot must have had something very attractive nearby and there for a while too as they’d been quite liberal with their guano, selecting a parked truck for special attention.

We all love hearing about reports of rarities, and a Slaty-backed Gull in Newfoundland is worth an effort by Bruce Mactavish of Newfoundland Birding Blog.

The Slaty-backed Gull was seen next on Saturday at 4 pm by Lancy Cheng. He had some good looks and got the first images of the ‘string of pearls’.  Today, Sunday, Quidi Vidi lake was monitored on and off. It was such a beautiful calm sunny day that birders were scattering around outside the city.  At 1:30  pm John Wells found the bird on the ice at the west end of the lake.  A half dozen birders who happened to be by the lake at the time got to see the bird. I heard about the bird too late.  I got there just after an eagle had flushed the gulls.  A couple of hours at Quidi Vidi Lake and checking other gull hang outs produced nothing so I went home.  Five minutes later Lancy Cheng texted the Slaty-backed Gull was back at the lake, it was at the west end and close. I got back in the car.

David Sarkozi is running a Texas Big Year at his blog, David’s Big Year. He reports back from the lower valley.

I headed over to the Starr County Park hoping for a Clay-colored Sparrow. I circled the park with nothing but Lark Sparrows. I was almost back to my car when I heard a Red-billed Pigeon call from an Ebony Tree I approached the three and before I got within 50 feet a pigeon jetted out and left the park. I was walking back to the car and another two came from another Ebony Tree. These landed in trees not far away and one called again. They were easily spooked but I managed a few photos of one and even a recording.

It’s easy to oversaturate your bird photos, making them look like caricatures of the species they are supposed to depict. Mia McPherson at On the Wing Photography urges photographers to use a light touch.

A few times this past week I have seen photos posted to Facebook groups about birds and bird photography that made my eyes want to close because they were so over processed. One was a Great Egret that had a shadow on the dorsal side of the wings that turned so blue with over processing that that photographer called it a Blue (not sure if they meant Great Blue Heron or Little Blue Heron). Why would that bother me? Because Great Egrets are white and are never blue and the birder and bird photographer in me wanted to scream.

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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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