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Blog Birding #338

Ron Pittaway’s much-anticipated Winter Finch Report is out, with good news for fans of crossbills.

Cone crops in the Northeast are bumper in 2017. It is the best cone crop in a decade or more. This will be a banner winter to see boreal finches in central and northeastern Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, northern New York, and northern New England States. White-winged and Red Crossbills and Pine Siskins have moved east to areas of abundant seed crops. The Big Question is: will finches concentrate in areas of highest cone abundance (more likely) or be spread out across the Northeast? This is not an irruption year south of traditional wintering areas in the Northeast. Cone crops are generally low west of a line from Lake Superior to James Bay extending west across the Prairie Provinces, British Columbia and Alaska. See individual finch forecasts below for further details.

At The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, Joe Smith explores the evidence supporting the long, oversea route taken by southbound migrants, with evidence from Columbus all the way to the modern day.

It’s an unlikely proposition that a bird that is only the weight of two sheets of paper would opt to fly between one and two thousand miles in a straight shot across open water. It would seem that the better bet would be to take a leisurely route over land where a safety net of habitat awaits below.

Blackpoll warblers, Connecticut warblers, bobolinks and perhaps other species all make this paradoxical choice, setting off across a watery abyss as they make their way to winter destinations in South America.

Research into the genetalia of ducks produces some bizarre findings, such as the differences between Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Duck, as summarized at The AOS-COS Publications Blog.

Most birds lack genitalia, but male ducks are known for their long, spiraling penises, which have evolved through an ongoing cat-and-mouse game with females. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances looks at whether these impressive organs are affected by the social environment—that is, whether male ducks that face more competition grow bigger penises. While this appears to be true for some species, in others the relationship between social environment and penis growth is more complex.

At A Symphony of Feathers, Devin Griffiths shares a thoughtful essay on the influence of humans on birds and how it pertains to how we feel about the proposed Santa Ana border wall.

That we share this planet with countless species is a point worth remembering, particularly when making decisions that impact our world at large. For better or worse, we have the ability to alter our environment more so than any other species in history—even to the point of driving others into extinction. As such, we bear a heavy responsibility to make such decisions soberly, with full possession of the facts, and with an awareness of and appreciation for the potential consequences to all.

Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Houston is still being felt and likely will be for some time. At David’s Big Year, David Sarkozi shares the experience of birding the storm.

Thursday morning we could get out even though there was water in the street still, but now only as high as the rim of my tire. It was sunny and the cabin fever of being cooped up for 4 days with 4 adults, 2 teenagers, 3 dogs, and 3 cats was wearing on me. About 9:30 I saw a report of a Long-tailed Jaeger at Hornsby Bend in Austin. Then I saw a report of that one of the pair of Red-necked Phalaropes at Mitchell Lake was thought to be a Red Phalarope. Got to Go

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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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