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Blog Birding #325

What is the most commonly misidentified bird in North America? Mia McPherson of On the Wing Photography makes a strong case for the female Red-winged Blackbird.

I have seen novices identify female Red-winged Blackbirds as Seaside Sparrows, young Varied Thrushes, “some kind of sparrow” and many other misidentifications. In one group alone I think they are misidentified about 10 to 12 times a day.

Bill shape, bill size, body size, shape, color, plumage patterns, leg color, leg length and eye color can all be used as keys to identification in Red-winged Blackbirds and all other birds.

Is there a more pastoral image in North American birding than a mother Common Merganser with babies riding along on the back? Laura, The Afternoon Birder, discovers that not only is the shot tempting, but incredibly risky too.

The place we were staying had free boat rentals. I made a split section decision to get in a canoe to try for a closer shot. Canoes are stable right? I sat in the front of the canoe and Pete sat at the back and did most of the paddling. Initially, everything went smoothly and within minutes we were in photo range of the Merganser.

The water was quite rough with waves from nearby boat wakes and I was having a hard time holding my camera still. I noticed that the canoe felt extremely tippy, but I was concentrating on trying to get the shot.

Seeing birds is one thing, but there’s nothing like their sounds to really put you in a time and place, as Laura Erickson writes at For the Birds.

The sounds of nature can be just as evocative. This week I’ve been digitizing and getting onto my web page a few of the natural sound recordings I’ve made since Russ gave me a good parabolic microphone for Christmas in 2000. He gave it to me in anticipation of my first trip to the tropics—I headed for Costa Rica on 01/01/01. The most satisfying recording I got there was when I left the little omnidirectional microphone, without the parabola attached, on a branch in the middle of a hummingbird feeding station.

At 10,000 Birds Jason Crotty breaks down a lawsuit filed by the American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory concerning placement of wind turbines on Lake Erie near Ottawa NWR.

The Preliminaries:  Paragraphs 1-5 identify the issues at a high level:  the lawsuit involves a proposed turbine at a facility near Ottawa NWR in Ohio that will allegedly kill birds in violation of federal law.  Paragraphs 6-17 identify the parties, the two nonprofit plaintiffs and the various federal defendants, primarily officials with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Department of the Interior, and the Air Force (technically the Ohio Air National Guard). Paragraphs 32-39 set forth an overview of the laws that plaintiffs argue would be violated if the turbine constructed.

At Bourbon, Bastards, & Birds, Steve Tucker attempts some birding in Northern California.

After mild success at Pilarcitos, Seagull Steve ventured north to once again see the Emperor Goose wintering on the golf course at Sharp Park in Pacifica. The Emperor was still crippling and still seemed to be doing typical goose things, but not for long. “Rise, my friend,” he bellowed to his dark and powerful protege, a nearby Common Raven.


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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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