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Blog Birding #366

Want to know what it was like to be on a boat when a bird comes by that should by all accounts be in a completely different ocean? Brian Patteson at Seabirding takes you on the ride.

Around 1140 Peter Flood alerted us to a different petrel flying up the slick toward the boat from astern. He thought it might be a light morph Trindade Petrel, but as it came in close, we realized it was not. It was a bit too large and the underwings were dark. Our next thought was Atlantic Petrel, but it didn’t really look right for that. The bird in question was sailing around with straight wings and that did not look right for a Pterodroma. Several of us snapped some pics before the bird glided away. Looking at my camera, I started to think “Tahiti Petrel?” Kate Sutherland came to the wheelhouse with the same thought. It was a species we had not seen before in life, but we had a search image from pics and video. But it was in the WRONG OCEAN, so it was not on our radar initially.

There is so much we don’t know about the enigmatic Bicknell’s Thrush, but Karen Borque at Vermont Center for Ecostudies Blog explains what that organization is doing to increase our understanding of the sort of places this bird needs, both on their breeding range and their wintering range.

VCE’s work over the past quarter-century has led to the recognition of Bicknell’s Thrush as a globally rare and vulnerable species in need of serious conservation efforts. This enigmatic migratory songbird breeds only in high-elevation balsam fir-dominated forests of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, and is estimated to number fewer than 100,000 individuals. In addition to chronic threats to its summer breeding grounds, such as recreational development, telecommunication and wind turbine development, acidic precipitation, and the wide-ranging effects of climate change, the plight of this bird’s Caribbean wintering grounds is even more dire.

At Shorebirder, Nick Bonomo tells the story of a successful attempt to break the Connecticut Big Day record.

When we all met one hour before midnight, we still weren’t sure exactly where we would start. Somewhere along the CT River Valley was the answer, but we ended up deciding to start with a Pied-billed Grebe that had been reported “singing” at a pond in Portland. PBGR has become a mega-tough breeding bird in CT, and we had not recorded one on a Big Day before. The problem was that nobody had been able to scout this bird at night to hear if it was singing then, as they sometimes do. Well, nothing like starting a Big Day with a miss! The grebe was not talking for us. The defeating amphibian presence at this particular location was not helping either.

Stu Mackenzie of The Anous Birding Syndicate also had Big Days on his mind late last month. He tells the story of an attempt on Ontario’s record that came very close.

The basic formula to complete an Ontario Big Day has long been established: Touch the periphery of the boreal forest, visit remnants of the province’s remains grasslands, scope the vast waters of the Great Lakes, and ensure enough time and daylight to bird the Carolinian forests of the southwest. The optimal time window is the last week of May assuming it aligns with cooperative weather and migration. Against these odds, a team of four supporters of the Long Point Bird Observatory (Yousif Attia, John Brett, Stu Mackenzie, and Ron Ridout) set out in a northerly direction to complete a Big Day to raise funds for bird conservation through the Great Canadian Birdathon. It would also be an excuse to test our birding skills, physical and mental stamina, and discipline.

With a big budget Hollywood dinosaur movie around the corner, perhaps it’s time to talk about all the ways the movie industry has depicted dinosaurs incorrectly. Josh Cantor at The Young Birder Odyssey has more. 

Numerous speculative theories have been proposed on the purpose of feathers: The first one is that down and semiplume feathers (the feathers present in ratites) were used to regulate temperature (feathers are more efficient at trapping and shedding heat than hair is, according to a study on Red Kangaroos and Emus); which would most benefit dinosaurs living polar and alpine regions (see figure 2) or in deserts (Madagascar, Negmet). Wing and tail feathers were then likely used for courtship displays similar to ratites, pheasants, and birds of paradise, although most evidence of sexual dimorphism in non-avian dinosaurs is not conclusive (see the clip from Dinosaur Revolution featuring a pair of courting Gigantoraptor I attached as a speculative example).

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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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