American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #32

ABA Blog contributor Don Freiday has been in Alaska for the past few days, and he offers photos and stories from the Land of the Midnight Sun (literally as sunset is after midnight there these days), at The Freiday Bird Blog.

Did a bit of pre-tour scouting today – okay, lets call it wandering and recreating –  mostly near the Alaska Bird Observatory and Creamery Field near downtown Fairbanks. Many birds we see in migration in the lower 48 are here now, like the Swainson’s Thrush, or the “Myrtle” Yellow-rumped Warblers.  I’m not sure which individual Swainson’s Thrushes migrate where in fall, for example whether an Alaskan Swainson’s ever winds up on the east coast. However, the Myrtle Warblers in Alaska clearly do what Blackpolls do, heading east, then south, though travelling not nearly as far south as the Blackpolls. The Northern Waterthrushes breeding up here do this, too. Thus it’s easily possible some of the Myrtles I saw today, and the waterthrushes I heard, will pass through Cape May this fall.

Bird bander, biologist, and author at The Marvelous in Nature, Seabrooke Leckie writes a layman’s guide to aging birds in the hand by looking at molt limits:

The theory of ageing birds is based on molt patterns. Many birders are familiar with the concept of graduated plumage from gulls and eagles, but passerines (songbirds) can and do show a type of graduated plumage, too. For most species of birds, the end-of-summer molt undertaken by a young-of-the-year bird will be different than that for an adult, an individual that was a parent that summer. Young birds grew a full set of feathers while in the nest, of course. Feathers are very energetically costly to grow, so if the bird can avoid having to grow a whole nother set of feathers so soon after the first set, it will.

Neil Gilbert of OC Birding has a summer job, but he still birds when he can where he can more or less successfully:

Thorton Park is one of those unassuming urban parks with some weary-looking grass, a few small trees, and a murky, concrete-lined pond. Oh, and it is terrible for birding. But, it was with a bold spring to my step that I exited the car while simultaneously stuffing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my mouth, positive that I would make great discoveries in this humble place.

Greg Neise of North American Birding Blog considers the difference between a bird report he’ll chase and one he won’t with Extraordinary:

Last week, for example, came the report of a Hermit Warbler in northern Illinois. This would have been the fourth time this species was ever recorded in Illinois—an extraordinary record, to be sure. The observer noted  that the bird had, “distinctive black throat, very clear and bright yellow eye/ear area, possible black cap, white bars on wings…”

…then looked in a field guide and determined that it was a Hermit Warbler, saying that they had “looked at all other warblers and this is the only one that is close.”

I did some birding with Corey Finger of 10,000 Birds in New York’s Central Park this weekend.  We found an ambitious Black-crowned Night Heron and Corey documented what came next

You see, as Nate and I explored the friendly environs of the Ramble, that hallowed ground for birders, we came upon a Black-crowned Night-Heron that had just caught a sunfish of some kind (likely a Pumpkinseed Sunfish Lepomis gibbosus).  And while we wanted to do some more birding, and had to hustle to meet Danielle, Nate’s patient and lovely wife, in a timely way, we really needed to see what the outcome of the heron-fish encounter was going to be.  You see, this was no ordinary sunfish and we had serious doubts about the likelihood of Nycticorax nycticorax swallowing the Moby Dick of pumpkinseeds.  How could we do anything but wait to see what happened?