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How to Know the Birds: No. 4, Sagebrush Sparrows and the Subjective Experience of Rarity

 

The time is 9:43 a.m., the temperature in the upper 20s. But “it’s a dry cold.” The sky is completely clear, the sun surprisingly warm. I’m at one of my favorite places on Earth, the entrance to The Nature Conservancy’s Medano-Zapata Ranch:

Photo by © Ted Floyd

 

There are bison in [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 3, Watching Dippers in the Age of #SciComm

I went birding a short while ago with Nick Minor, co-compiler with Paul Hess of Birding magazine’s popular “Frontiers in Ornithology” (formerly “News & Notes”) column. Time was limited, as Nick had to catch a morning flight out of Denver. But we had to get a dipper, officially known as the American dipper, Cinclus mexicanus. [read more…]

Birding Photo Quiz: February 2019

It’s usually the case with the “Featured Photo” in Birding that we on the editorial and authorial side of things know, or think we know, what we’re dealing with, ID-wise. That’s not the case, though, with Feb. 2019 Featured Photos—yes, plural. Here we present photos of two birds that have been well documented yet stubbornly [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 2, Here’s Looking At You, Crow

I’d arrived a bit early for the Saturday morning bird walk. What to do? Explore the parking lot of course. For one thing, parking lots are underrepresented in the eBird database. And there was something else: There were crows in the parking lot, and I wanted to get a photo of one. Specifically, [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 1, On Hearing the First Cardinal in Spring

 

Several days ago I went birding with the express purpose of procuring audio of a Northern Cardinal. My objective was to obtain an ordinary recording of a normal cardinal. Exhibit A, this guy, an adult male of the species:

In the cut above, our cardinal sings two cheer! notes, then nine birdy! notes, [read more…]

Birding Photo Quiz: December 2018

“BVD,” we birders like to say, when confronted with views such as these. No, we’re not talking about the brand of men’s underwear. “BVD,” to the birder, stands for “better view desired.”

Is that an aesthetic judgment? We’d rather see a bird’s face than butt? Let’s not go there. Or is it a pragmatic assessment?—an [read more…]

Birding Photo Quiz: August 2018

Wait. What? The August Photo Quiz? But haven’t we already done October? Correct, we’ve already done October. Long story short: We simply forgot to post the August Photo Quiz. Sorry about that! And without further ado . . .

This bird is rather obviously an adult male Northern Harrier. That white rump, a field mark [read more…]

Birding Photo Quiz: October 2018

Call it the “Fundamental Question of Birding”: What’s This Bird? Go on any bird walk or birding tour, and the question inevitably arises. Open up to any issue of Birding magazine, and you’ll see some variant on the question—typically more than once. Go online and you’re sure to discover the ABA’s popular “What’s This Bird?” [read more…]

Happening NOW: Snowy Golden Plovers

It’s one of the immutable truths of birding: Bad weather brings good birds. So, when I woke up on a snowy Sunday morning, Oct. 14, 2018, it was patently obvious to me that I would visit my local patch, Greenlee Wildlife Preserve, at the end of my street in the Denver suburbs. Almost immediately I [read more…]

The Tie That Binds

I love the experiencing of arriving by plane in a foreign country—especially one I’ve never been to. I love the novelty, and, strange though it may sound, I love the feeling of vulnerability. Something as seemingly simple as navigating the airport men’s room is an uncertain and sometimes adventurous undertaking. And the birds! I love [read more…]