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Blog Birding #389

At On the Wing Photography, Mia McPherson sings the praises of birding and photography close to home.

Let me start off by saying that yesterday morning I left home before o’dark hundred (5:45 am) and sat on my butt for more than five hours to go up north and look for birds. Had it not been for one cooperative American Goldfinch I would have been completely and utterly skunked because not only were birds hard to find the ones I did find were either too far away or too skittish to take photos of.  It was such a long way to go for virtually nothing more than soaking up the scenery, over 230 miles round trip.

The Project SNOWStorm Snowy Owls are starting to come into cell range, and their transmitters are uploading an entire winter’s worth of data all at once. Scott Weidensaul looks at some of the first owls back.

This is the time of the year when we’re on heightened alert for the first signs of snowy owls, both new birds coming south from the Arctic, and the first returning tagged owls from previous winters. As we noted a week or two ago, this year there has been an unusually early surge of snowies, and we’d gotten a brief transmission back in late September from Pickford, one of our 2017-18 Michigan birds, up on James Bay.

In 30 years at Hawk Mountain Laurie Goodrich has seen a lot–from raptor populations recovering from DDT to now, where climate change is starting to have an impact on their movements. At the NRDC Blog, Keith Mulvihill tells her story.

Goodrich, a wildlife biologist, is the director of long-term monitoring for Hawk Mountain, and she’s been counting migrating raptors for 30 years. On this autumn day, in addition to her spotting scope and binoculars, she’s brought a counting gadget with eight multicolored buttons, each labeled for a different bird species. She calls it the super clicker: “You can quickly click the buttons for the number of birds you see, and you don’t have to take your eyes off the sky.”

At The Birdist, Nick Lund has been birding by Google Streetview for years. He’s recently encouraged others to join him and the results have been phenomenal.

I had the idea two weeks ago to make it a bit less personal, and open Street View Birding up to office-bound birders everywhere. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. A Facebook Group seemed like the right venue, and so I set one up and invited folks via the Birding Memes group to help search for birds with me and post their findings. I figured a few would join, but a whole bunch did.

At, a summary of a study that showed how vultures observe one another to find the best thermals to use.

Imagine you are hanging from a glider and racing to a finish line. You can see two other paragliders ahead of you, one looks like they are having a smooth ride and moving quickly, the other looks like they are in trouble and finding it difficult to control their glider. You would choose to follow the first one, right? By observing the other pilots around you and responding in accordance to what happens to them, you tap into information that helps you make a good decision and keep up with the race. Similarly, it makes sense that an animal may do the same to move through their environment – observing those around them that have the same objective.

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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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