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Blog Birding #154

Great bird writing this week on breaking down bird vocalizations, the Young Birder Conference, identifying brown harriers, DDT and Condors, and the most recent edition of I and the Bird.

At 10,000 Birds, this month’s edition of I and the Bird is all about swallows, the amazing aerial insect inhalers:

If birders say they love birds ostensibly because they can fly and we cannot, then there must be no more beloved group of birds than the swallows. These aerial acrobats are among the most impressive flyers in the bird world, darting this way and that over open country in pursuit of flying insects. They’ve lived among us for millennia and we’ve appreciated their cheerful attitudes and unquenchable appetites for annoying pests, bestowing the friendliest among them with qualifiers like “Barn” and “House” and “Mosque”, even “Welcome”, in appreciation.  Many species build nests of sticks or mud or spit on human-made structures, or in houses we’ve constructed specifically for their use. They’ve long been a symbol of good luck in cultures on every continent save Antarctica, where flying bugs, and therefore flying swallows, are absent. Even non-birders are not immune to their influence, as the term swallowtails is universally known to refer to anything with a “V” shaped fork.

Nathan Pieplow at the amazing Earbirding returns, attempting to break down bird vocalizations into five easy pitches:

The “How to Read Spectrograms” section of this blog is in desperate need of an upgrade, so today I’m starting a series of posts to help people describe and visualize sounds as simply and clearly as possible.  Our first topic: pitch patterns.

To identify birds, you don’t need musical training.  You don’t have to name the notes that a bird is singing.  You only have to recognize whether the pitch of a sound is rising, falling, or staying the same.  Five simple patterns allow us to describe most sounds:

Despite the recent ban on lead ammunition California Condors are still on a razor’s edge, partly because of their old foe DDT. John Platt at Scientific America’s Extinction Countdown explains:

The Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS), which manages the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) reintroduction program in the coastal Big Sur region, first began to suspect in 2006 that DDT was affecting the big birds. Two captive-born condors successfully nested in the wild then for the first time in that region. The birds mated and laid eggs, but they soon cracked and the nest failed. An examination revealed that the shells were so thin that they didn’t even resemble normal condor eggs.

Young Birder of the Year Ioana Seritan recaps the recent Mid-Atlantic Young Birder Conference over at the revamped Eyrie, the ABA’s young birder blog:

On Saturday, September 14, 2013, the MAYBC brought together around 100 young birders for a jam-packed day of good times. The conference started early in the morning with a bird walk. The energy in the Ashland Nature Center was amazing! It’s a rare and special feeling to be with scores of excited birders. The attendees were bright-eyed and ready. Plus, they really knew their stuff – and that was great for me, because as a West Coast birder, I did not know what I was doing at all. Every young birder who I asked, “What is that call?” happily told me the identification. They were all so cool! If you attended the conference and you’re reading this right now, you’re so cool! I mean, I’m sure even those of you who weren’t at the conference are cool too, but if you had been at the conference, I would have known it for sure.

Jerry Liguori shares more about the difficulty of identifying brown harriers at his own blog:

One of the trickiest aspects of hawk identification is telling adult female from juvenile Northern Harriers at a distance. Most people are familiar with the rusty colored, essentially unmarked underbody of juveniles versus the paler buffy, streaked underbody of adult females. However, adult females can show rusty undersides (more commonly in the West) and appear very similar to juveniles, and the underside of juveniles fades to buffy by winter/spring and can appear similar to that of an adult female.

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