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Blog Birding #197

Sharon Stiteler, known far and wide as Birdchick, is covering the important case of the Minnesota Vikings, whose brand new stadium looks to be something of a mess for migratory birds.

I’m not a big fan of petitions but this is a rare case where I think we need as many signatures as possible. Even I signed this one. The Minnesota Vikings have been made aware of how lethal their glass design will be to migrating birds by Minnesota Audubon. They’ve chosen to ignore that and it’s a big problem. This isn’t a bird watcher vs football thing. This is a common sense, “let’s be reasonable” sort of thing. Please sign it. Please share this blog entry. Please spread the word to your friends.

At the always fascinating Earbirding, Andrew Spencer looks at the acoustic signature of the Timberline Sparrow, a distinct subspecies of Brewer’s Sparrow and one of the least known bird taxa in North America.

In addition to having one of the best voices in the west, Brewer’s Sparrow also has an interesting taxonomic facet to its name.  The nominate breweri subspecies is familiar to most anyone who birds in the appropriate habitat.  Less well known is that there is another subspecies – taverneri – that was first described as a separate species from far to the north of most Brewer’s Sparrows (Swarth and Brooks 1925).  Unlike the nominate subspecies, it is restricted to stunted, willow-dominate thickets right below treeline – hence the common name of “Timberline” Sparrow.  It was later lumped with Brewer’s Sparrow, but recent morphometric and genetic studies have again raised interest in the form (see Klicka et al 1999).

Clare Kines has a perspective few birders have experienced. His world, in the Nunavut arctic, is an incredible one, and he shares it at 10,000 Birds.

Wildlife concentrates at the Floe Edge, and although we just missed Narwhal as pack ice moved in just after we arrived, the place was littered with Polar Bear. Tracks dotted the ice, and we saw several, although mostly they were at a distance. Still, with that many bear you have to stay vigilant. Indeed a scant two weeks earlier two young men from Arctic Bay were attacked as they slept in their tent, narrowly escaping with their lives. One described how he could see down the bears throat as its jaws closed round his head, the animal’s paw pushing him further into its maw. Luckily attacks are rare, but we made plans to stay in a refuge cabin at the point, and joined up with a group that had brought a dog, which acts as an early warning system.

Alec Wyatt is one of the ABA’s Young Birders of the Year for 2014. He writes about his birding story at The Eyrie.

My interest began with a little yellow field notebook. It was March 2009 when I completed my first notebook pages with crude illustrations of a White-breasted Nuthatch in my yard. The prospect of filling up that notebook with drawings and notes of the birds around me was exciting. In the following months, I worked to finish every page in the notebook. I was an eager ten-year-old who was far more concerned about filling my notebook than about the notebook’s implications for my future. I quickly made it to the final page and by May of that same year, the completed notebook started to gather dust on my shelf. I was not aware at the time, but three years from then the little book would set the stage for my biggest undertaking yet: the ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest.

Birds are confusing, in ways that are impossible to predict and foolish to deny. Steve Tucker of Bourbon, Bastards and Birds warns us all about the perils of poor lighting.

Birders have a lot of cliches. One you hear over and over again, in heated, sweaty-palmed and pained discussions on advanced bird ID (and occasionally, with regards to provenance) is “caution is warranted”. What birder popularized this phrase? We may never know. One thing that is not uncertain is that it is good advice, albeit phrased in such a melodramatic and painfully nerdy manner that I wince when I try to say it.

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