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Blog Birding #314

The idea of rows and rows of dead animals is one that doesn’t necessarily sit well with many birders, but the role that museum collections have played in our understanding of natural history cannot be understated, as Duncan Wright explains at 10,000 Birds.

You’d be hard pressed to find a 19th century scientist more despised than Richard Owen. For all his qualities as an anatomist (at a time when the profession was so esteemed) he seemed to lack anything so unbecoming as integrity or decency. Not for nothing has he been cast as the villain in the story of Darwin’s life and the development of evolution, to say nothing of his role as the supervillian in the tragic life of Gregory Mantell. But as Bill Bryson notes, he did make one great contribution to the world (beyond his anatomical contributions of course), his reconceptualisation of museums from places only of research to places of research and public entertainment and education.

Common Eiders come in a number of different subspecies, at least two of which are common on our side of the North Atlantic, and others on the opposite side. At Birding Frontiers, Guillermo Rodríguez details some strategies for identifying females of Atlantic eiders.

Given that both subspecies have been recorded in Europe, but only/mainly in adult male plumage, it’s interesting to take a look at some females to raise awareness about how distinctive these birds are. As far as I know, the plumage variation of borealis is poorly known due to lack of information from the breeding grounds, so this post contains a lot of speculation!

And continuing in a Euro these, the exceptional Birdcast site is introducing migration forecasts for a number of European migrants as well, starting with birds arriving to the United Kingdom.

Thanks to eBird’s global scope, we can also have a look at what is going with species on the move in other parts of the world outside of the United States. For example, we can look “across the pond” to see that in the last week the United Kingdom has seen arrivals of two species, Common Chiffchaff and Eurasian Blackcap. The percent of eBird checklists reporting blackcaps has increased by 423% in the last week alone (63% for chiffchaffs).

At On the Wing Photography, Mia McPherson shares some photos and stories of an quintessentially North American bird, the Long-billed Curlew.

After the clouds moved south yesterday morning Antelope Island State Park was bathed in beautiful light. It felt great to see the sunshine but the cold north wind was miserable at times and chilled my hands right down to the bones. Spring is here but that north wind reminds me that winter still hasn’t quite lost its grip yet. Still, I took advantage of the light.

I saw quite a few Long-billed Curlews yesterday wandering in the spring grasses and this time I was able to get nice images of them. Nicknames for Long-billed Curlews include “sicklebird” and “candlestick bird.”

Birders, particularly those that keep bird feeders, often wonder about the paucity of birds this time of year, and Laura Erickson at For the Birds, takes the opportunity to answer those questions.

What I do counsel on is how to ensure that our bird-feeding practices are genuinely helpful for birds without harming them. We know, based on several studies in Wisconsin as well as other places, that bird feeding does help winter survival of Black-capped Chickadees and almost certainly some other species. We also know that some elements of feeding can be harmful, directly or indirectly, and we need to factor those into our decision about whether our feeding practices are harmful or not.

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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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