American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #190

Dorian Anderson, he of Biking for Birds fame, is heading into the mountains for the summer having cleaned up in southeast Arizona over the last month. He talks a bit about the lesser known aspects of biking Big Year here.

As you can imagine, I am very limited in what I can find to eat along the road this year. Of the fast food options, my preference is Subway where I can get a decent sized sandwich with actual vegetables for 6 bucks. I will cop to eating at Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Carl’s Junior, Dairy Queen, and Pizza Hut with frightening regularity. There are 3 reasons I eat so much fast food: convenience, price, speed. I can find at least one of these chains in most of the towns through which I pass, so they are convenient. They are also convenient since I can watch my bike out the window. I always get a table next to the window against which I have propped my bike.

John James Audubon is perhaps the most towering figure in North American ornithology, bet he was not averse to some less than savory interests, as Rick Wright at Birding New Jersey and Beyond discusses.

We owe it all to dead things. Natural history hobbies today would not exist if long generations of our forebears hadn’t taken to the field with guns and nets and traps, stuffing and pickling everything unlucky enough to come across their path.

Wholesale collecting of birds was relatively easy, at least once the recipe for arsenical soap had been leaked: a huge number of skins could fit into a barrel or a box. Mammals have always been more challenging. Not only do the commonest and most frequently encountered species take up a lot of room even as skins, but for many species, skeletal material  is indispensable.

Looking for a devilishly difficult bird ID quiz? Tiffany Kersten, writing at the Traveling Trinovid blog offers a real doozy.

Ultraviolet light reception, a third “eyelid”– the nictitating membrane– irises that span nearly all the colors of the rainbow, immobile eyeballs and more! Bird’s eyes are pretty rad.

A few enjoyable experiences with the local birds as of late– close encounters with cooperative birds, combined with my 65 mm Leica Televid scope– has provided the opportunity for jaw-dropping investigation of avian ojos. I’ve gained an appreciation for the beauty and unique variety of bird eyes. And just imagine all the incredible sights that all of these eyes have cumulatively witnessed throughout their years!

Sparrows get a bad rap too often, but many of that diverse family as subtle and beautiful, as Laurence Butler at Butler’s Birds & Things hopes to make clear.

In the mean time and for no particular reason (the best kind of reason), this send off post is going to be all about American Sparrows. Loved by many, hated by a few, and feared by some, these plainly-colored, intricate birds hold something for everyone: challenging but not-impossible IDs, frequent vocalizations (thanks for nothing, empids), pulchritudinous patterns, and no predilections for the tops of canopies. Their main draw back lies in the general blandness/straightforwardness of their names. There are plenty of gorgeous and better-named eastern Sparrows I have not yet seen, and even a couple of western, but here for thought and criticism is an alphabetical run down and rating of a bevy of emberizids that can be found in Arizona throughout the year.

Mia McPherson’s photographs are often stunning, and her insights into the lives of her subjects often fascinating. At On the Wing Photography, she explores the domestic lives of a pair of House Wrens.

For a few days now I said I was going to do a post about the House Wrens I photographed at the same nesting tree as the Williamson’s Sapsuckers, here it is. The House Wrens are lifers for me too although I have seen them before for me they are lifers only when I photograph them.

The House Wrens and their chattering are what clued me in on the nesting tree that the Williamson’s Sapsuckers also showed up at. If you compare this image to the nesting cavity that the Williamson’s Sapsuckers used in this post you will notice that the wrens were trying to nest in the active sapsucker nesting cavity.