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Blog Birding #180

Owls seem to enjoy a special status among birders, and Burrowing Owl is one of the most beloved. Josh at The Boy Who Cried Heron enjoys a fun and family filled day among them in Arizona.

As we drove along and didn’t find anything, I suggested that we just head back to the neighborhood to look for the one they had already found.  Dad replied that we could do that in the morning real easily.  Yes, but…

We kept driving along seeing neither a Burrower nor any other lifers.  It was excruciating to watch the sun slip down, knowing that the big goal would not be achieved today.  But just as my heart was sinking with the sun, I was jolted back to life when Melissa hollered, “Wait! What’s that?!!”  It was the the Burrowing Owl!!!

The rare bird is the carrot at the end of the stick for many birders during their mid-March excursions. Tom Johnson at Leica’s Traveling Trinovid blog shares some insight into picking out the Little Gull from a flock of Bonaparte’s.

I usually first notice adult Little Gulls when I see a flash of a black under-wing while scanning through a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls. Then I can focus in on that bird to check its overall size, wing shape, head pattern, and upper-wing markings. Occasionally, especially in the Great Lakes region, surprising concentrations of Little Gulls will crop up in the vast flocks of Bonaparte’s Gulls, and you can sometimes even compare two or three age classes of Little Gull within a flock.

Want to know how 2013 was for one of North America’s most storied birding sites? Alan Wormington breaks down 2013 in Point Pelee birds.

It was an excellent year for birds at Point Pelee, with many significant sightings to report. A total of 293 species was found, which is well above the long -term annual average of 281.1 species dating back to 1980 inclusive (n = 34). Remarkably it was the second-highest annual total ever recorded at Point Pelee, exceeded only by the 301 species that were found during 2005, which was truly an exceptional year. In contrast the lowest annual totals were tallied in both 1989 and 1984, when only 271 species were found in each of those years.

Birds are not only migrating, but many resident species are busy setting up shop for another year of furthering the species. At Cornell’s All About Birds, Pat Leonard encourages birders to participate in Project Nestwatch so that we can learn more about them.

There’s something immensely uplifting and hopeful about seeing feathered families coming together in spring to build nests, raise their young, and then send them off into the big world. And there’s also a lot of useful data there. The Cornell Lab has an entire citizen-science project built around our fascination with bird lives—it’s called NestWatch. NestWatchers have been tracking trends in the nesting success of hundreds of species of birds across the country for nearly 50 years—and discovery can happen at any time.

Baseball season starts today! Nick Lund, The Birdist, gives a few of the teams a makeover in the interest of ornithological accuracy.

God I love baseball.  It’s the greatest American sport because it is a big fat apple pie baked with all the most American ingredients: quasi-athleticism, belts, anthems, expanses of green grass, bubble gum, sitting around, boozing, and fresh air.  It’s the only sport I know where players can eat food while they’re playing.   I’ve loved it forever.

Loved it longer than I’ve loved birding, in fact.  But that’s another great thing about Major League Baseball – it treats birds pretty well.  There are three MLB teams named after birds: The Baltimore Orioles, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the St. Louis Cardinals.  First, these are great choices because they’re specific.  No invented baloney “Thunder Falcons” or anything, not even generic “hawks” or “eagles.” These are classic, small, passerines.  These are real birds.

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