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Blog Birding #400

Birders in the northern part of North America are starting to see the arrival of spring in the form of Red-winged Blackbirds. Kent MacFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies Blog celebrates their raucous return and what it means about the changing climate.

Getting her start in 1960, Kathleen Anderson recorded spring phenology on her 100-acre property just south of Boston for over 50 years. Everyday she recorded bird arrivals, plants flowering, butterflies emerging and frogs singing. She wasn’t systematic in her efforts, but year after year she paid attention on her walks or while sitting on the back porch and noted each observation in her diary.

Increasingly wet springs, themselves a result of climate change, cause problems for cavity nesting birds like Tree Swallows, as recently summarized at 

Established in 1975 by Raleigh Robertson at the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) north of Kingston, a box-nesting population of tree swallows has provided long-term data sets that a number of Queen’s researchers have used. In her most recent study, Dr. Bonier and Cox have determined rainy springs are linked to poor nestling growth in this species.

As birding becomes more popular, we are increasingly aware that that growth isn’t occurring across every demographic. But as Glenn Nelson reports at Yes Magazine, a number of black birders are hoping to change that.

“Not too many people saw the value of birding in the projects,” Adams says. “But when they’re migrating, birds don’t say, ‘Oh no, those are the projects, I’m going to go to Central Park. I got to eat, I got to rest, and I got to find a mate. So whatever habitat is suitable to doing those things, I got to find it.’ Ecosystems don’t stop according to neighborhoods.”

More spring updates (the bird blogosphere is full of them this week) from Minnesota birder Laura Erickson at For the Birds. Things are beginning to happen up in the north country.

I was hoping to see owls and the last winter birds. No owls for me yesterday—Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, and Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks were the order of the day. Unbroken sun and temperatures reaching 50 degrees provided ideal conditions for them to circle on thermals. Once hawks clear Lake Superior, they scatter, so I didn’t see anything like the numbers Frank Nicoletti, John Richardson, and others have been counting in Duluth on West Skyline Road since March 1. (You can keep up with their counts at On March 21, they counted 1,076 Bald Eagles—a record for a single day—as well as 38 Golden Eagles. As of the 23rd, they’ve counted a total of 3,847 raptors this month, over 3,500 of them Bald Eagles.

And in California as well, as Steve Tucker reports at Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds. 

Shorebirds are extremely hard in my 5MR, but at least I have gulls! A great many gulls. Shitloads of gulls on good days, about 98% of which are California, Herring, Glaucous-winged, Herring X Glaucous-winged and Iceland. Like last winter, I’ve spent a lot of time combing through flocks in the hopes of finding a proper rarity. Photographed at Almaden Lake…again…which is turning out to be more interesting than I thought it was.

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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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