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Blog Birding #359

Meet newly minted ABA Young Birder of the Year Adam Dhalla, interviewed at The Eyrie.

Yes, I started birding around five years ago when I was seven. The bird that really got me started, or my ‘spark bird’ was definitely the majestic Snowy Owl. It was December 2012, and after hearing about the huge Snowy Owl irruption in Vancouver, especially around Boundary Bay, my mom, dad, and I headed out on a cold morning to look for one. Armed with a tiny point-and-shoot camera and a pair of binoculars in need of replacement, not only did I find one Snowy, I found at least six. With all the birders around and all the excitement in the air, that was the day I got my first taste of real birding.

Sharon Stiteler, known far and wide as Birdchick, shares some thoughts about the delicate art of publicizing owl roosts.

There was an interesting article about the politics of posting owl locations recently. Each winter I find myself more irritated when large numbers of owls show up and people go bonkers on the Internet arguing about whether or not the locations should be posted, if people are getting too close and whether or not they should be baited. When it comes to snowy owls, I figure this is a bird that nests on the ground and can live where there are polar bears, foxes and wolves. It’s learned to live with bigger threats than a photographer. Also I shake my fist and wish all the snowy owls would just go back home.

The mechanics of migration remains one of the great ornithological mysteries, but researchers at Lund University have published a study that sheds a little light, summarized at

The researchers chose to study these particular proteins because they are made of a type of molecule that sometimes has an odd number of electrons, leaving some unpaired, and thus sensitive to a magnetic field. They also found that Cry4 tends to exist in clusters in a part of the bird retina that tends to get a lot of light and which is sensitive to blue light—this is important because prior studies have shown that birds are only able to navigate when blue light is available. Taken together, the evidence suggests that the protein plays a strong role in navigation.
Spring means migrating passerines for most of us, but Nick Bonomo at Shorebirder points out that there are some interesting things going on with gulls right now, should birders want to pull themselves away from warblers and grosbeaks to see them.
Today between errands I stopped by the Oyster River mouth in Milford/West Haven, CT as I do often this time of year. The gulling at this location this season has been inconsistent, so I was pleased to find about 600 birds roosting on the flats at low tide today. It turned out to be a really fun flock to sort through. Nothing super rare, but a bit of variety and some really fascinating individuals.

Ducks are displaying in numbers right now, and there are few as dramatic and interesting as Common Eiders, as Bruce Mactavish shares at The Newfoundland Birding Blog

The 18 March 2018 I had an opportunity to take many photos of a flock of 1500 Common Eiders feeding at Cape Spear, Newfoundland. Borealis is the common wintering subspecies of Common Eider wintering in Newfoundland. It was only in recent years that I realized borealis was on the rare side in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the New England States. The more southern subspecies dresseri makes up the eider populations in these parts. The segregation of these two populations over time has resulted in two recognizable forms. Dresseri nests in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine. Borealis is the Common Eider nesting in the eastern Arctic. Common Eiders breeding along the coast of Labrador need more careful study.

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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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