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Blog Birding #337

Young birder camps change lives and expand horizons. At the ABA’s young birder blog, The Eyrie, Dessi Sieburth shares his experiences at Audubon’s Hog Island Camp.

I attended the camp at Hog Island from June 18th to June 23rd, 2017. Hog Island is a short boat ride away from the mainland in Bremen, Maine. The camp is located on the northern tip of Hog Island. It consists of several houses used for sleeping, meetings, and dining. The camp also has an open grassy area with several bird feeders. The rest of the island is densely forested with white and red spruce, white pine, and birch trees. When I arrived in the late afternoon, I was greeted by camp director Scott Weidensaul, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and researcher. I also met our instructors: Joshua Potter, Corey Husic, and Holly Merker. I began wandering around the bird feeders, hearing and seeing a few birds such as Purple Finches and a stunning male Blackburnian Warbler, showing off its bright orange throat. That evening, I met the other fifteen young birders, who were mostly from the East Coast. I was the only one from the West Coast.

The intersection of Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers has prompted a lot of research on hybrid zones, with a different perspective depending on which side of the divide you come from. At Avian Hybrids Jente Ottenburghs, takes a look at the situation from both ends.

One example of such secondary contact is the story of Golden-winged (Vermivora chrysoptera) and Blue-winged Warblers (V. pinus). These two species were separated by large patches of forest. The conversion of this forest to agriculture enabled the Blue-Winged Warbler to spread north where it occasionally hybridized the Golden-winged Warbler. The combination of habitat loss and hybridization resulted in the decline of the latter species.

The 7th edition of the venerable National Geographic Field Guide is due later this year. At Birding New Jersey and Beyond, Rick Wright offers his thoughts on the newest version.

This seventh edition carries on that estimable tradition of constant improvement, treating more than 1000 species from North America north of Mexico. Several accidentals previously relegated to the back of the book have been moved into the main text, and a brief appendix lists additional species from Greenland and Bermuda, preserving Nat Geo’s claim to be the most complete field guide ever produced to the birds of our region. Hawaii’s small but highly distinctive land bird fauna is not included.

Birds offer us meaning, and an opportunity to see thing that might be hidden to others, says Pete Dunne at BirdWatching.

In the distance, Canada Geese begin their morning gabble. The stillness and my heightened awareness confer elevated meaning upon this everyday sound. I’ve always loved the sound of wild Canadas. In my youth, the birds were a rare autumn treat; now, 60 years on, they are at near-plague numbers. Their two-noted bark still unlocks the wanderlust in me, the never-quelled desire to see what lies just beyond the horizon.

Researchers are increasingly aware of the way bird vocalizations might lead us to cryptic species, and a recent recording experiment in the Amazon found more than 20 potential new species. The study is summarized at The AOU-COS Publications Blog.

Many pairs that failed to recognize each other are currently categorized as members of the same species, suggesting that current taxonomy does not reflect actual bird behavior when it comes to song. Freeman and Montgomery propose that 21 such pairs should be recognized as separate species based on song discrimination and that playback experiments should be the standard for assessing whether song divergence between populations is a barrier to interbreeding. “It is abundantly clear to anyone familiar with the amazing diversity of Neotropical birds that there are many cases where populations that sing very different songs are classified as the same species,” says Freeman.

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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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