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Blog Birding #355

Hawkwatching in the desert is, in itself, a strange sort of experience. Cassidy Grattan at Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds speaks to its oddness.

No hawks yet, as is normal for this hour.  A short walk to stretch the legs, achy from the time in the truck. An irregularity in the sand right below the next foot fall. On my knees and a fringe-toed lizard is blanketed under the sand, sister witness to the dawn, her eyes and mouth exposed periscope-like. This was another magic trick I saw the other day. A lizard darted across the sand and I gave chase. It crested a small dune, I did the same…and it suddenly wasn’t there. No bushes nearby to hide in. Bolts of sand rolled out in all directions. You simply saw it and then you didn’t. There are its tracks and there they are not. Scoop up the sand at the end of its trail and there it is. Rabbit in the hat.

At Backyard and Beyond, Matthew Wills suggests three books on the history of ornithology, from amateur to professional and every stop in between.

Ornithology has a solid history, but it was from its beginnings more about bird-killing than observing. Indeed, right into the beginning of the last century, the President of the American Ornithological Association refused to speak before the new Audubon Society with a huffed “I do not protect birds. I kill them.”

Mia McPherson at On the Wing Photography raises the alarm about an attempt by the current administration to wreck one of the best examples of private-public partnership for bird conservation in US history.

I applaud the efforts of the ranchers and the other private landowners to protect not just the birds but their habitat and support the actions of the Sage Grouse Initiative. They are shining examples of what can be done through partnerships and cooperation.

A ground-breaking bipartisan Greater Sage-Grouse conservation plan was reached and finalized in 2015 after nearly a decade of conversation, planning and actions which prevented the need to list the grouse Endangered Species Act plus it protected 67 million acres of habitat across 11 states for sage-grouse and 350 additional species.

Despite looking nearly identical, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are not that closely related. Gavin Leighton at the Project Feederwatch blog tries to figure out why that is.

Scientists have speculated that Downy Woodpeckers might benefit from looking like Hairy Woodpeckers. Why? Because if a Hairy Woodpecker misidentifies a Downy as a Hairy, maybe it would be less likely to chase the Downy away from food or other valuable resources (let’s call this the “Hairy Woodpecker Trickery” hypothesis).

At 10,000 Birds, Corey Finger tackles a record few would consider, seeing an impressive number of waterfowl in one day.

It was almost a month ago that I wondered how many species of ducks, geese, and swans could be found in my home borough of Queens in a single day this winter if I really put forth the effort. I decided that twenty-four would be the likely result, with twenty-seven possible and thirty if everything went amazingly well. I did a dry run with my friend Seth eight days ago, on 18 February, and in our half-day of birding we knocked off twenty-four species and that was with only one scoter species spotted. I had all day Tuesday of last week (20 February) to devote to my project so I went for broke. If I could just find all three scoters, an eider, and a couple good geese I could make it to twenty-nine species! Not only that, but the long-staying Tundra Swan that had been reported at Jamaica Bay for a couple of weeks but that had disappeared was refound on Monday, the day after Seth and I did our run and just in time for my solo effort. Thirty species was within the realm of the possible!

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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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