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Blog Birding #205

Fall is peak rarity season, so birders should brush up on their responses to finding rare birds. Fortunately, Lucas Bobay at The Birder’s Conundrum is ready to provide you with that important information.

It’s been far too long since I’ve met a good rarity.  I have found myself moping around campus, dragging my feet with the angst of a depressed 13-year old who just realized Fall Out Boy is not the greatest band on Earth. I need a rarity – something awesome. When I finally satisfy my thirst for rare birds, I will likely perform one of the following celebratory displays of raritiness. Such displays rival the lekking Andean Cock-of-the-Rock in terms of sheer beauty and elegance, and are used by many birders across the country. The following can be considered “acceptable” in some circles, and are used by the Birder’s Conundrum team on many occasions:

Is the unofficial requirement for photos of rare birds getting in the way of good old-fashioned rare bird reporting skills? At Birding Dude, Andrew Baksh considers the question.

After some reflection on my actions, I concluded that I did not truly enjoy the moment I had with that bird. If you have read this far, you are possibly thinking, why did I reach for the camera. Well, just a few weeks ago, I tripped the eBird filters for a Mourning Warbler and my description sans photo apparently was not enough. If you are an eBird user, you might empathize with me. It is becoming the norm where photos of uncommon or rare birds, are becoming a “must” in order to have one’s checklist approved.

Winter is on its way, and with it flocks of waxwings across the continent. But their vocalizations are more complicated that those high-pitched wheezes would suggest. Andrew Spencer at Earbirding has more.

It took far longer for me to come to grips with their larger cousins, Bohemian Waxwing.  By then I knew enough to pay attention to how birds sounded, and I can still remember the high-pitched, tinkling trill they let out, so different from Cedars.  And then that was all I ever heard from them, every time I saw one.  It’s a gorgeous sound from a gorgeous bird, but would it hurt for them to throw a little variation in?  It turns out that waxwings have some of the simplest repertoires of all passerines, with no true “song”, or at least none that has been documented.  And even their calls are typically variations on the same trill.

At Birdworthy, Kathleen Farley shares some stories about her time birding in the Mid-Atlantic.

Well here in New Jersey, we’re quite fortunate when it comes to shore birds!  We have our endangered Piping Plovers nesting on our beaches and the Ruddy Turnstones refueling on their migration, but oftentimes don’t realize the Ruddy Turnstone’s behaviors are more typical of their family (Scolopacidae). Many of the shorebirds migrate to the far northern reaches of this hemisphere. Not sure what marketing strategies they used, but it worked. “Experience Long Days in Short & Sweet Summers”?

Autumn is an excellent time for studying sparrows, and they’ll be making up an increasingly significant portion of the migrating bird mass in coming weeks. Mike McDowell at The Digiscoper has some portraits of some of the common species in his neighborhood.

Superficially similar at a distance, these close-up photographs of Swamp and Lincoln’s Sparrows reveal just how different they are in plumage color. As sparrows go, they’re both rather small and skulky. The Lincoln’s Sparrow was ruffling its feathers in the warming sunlight. Though we had a high temperature today of 82°, the morning began cooler with temps in the upper 40s. The best time to capture portraits is between an hour after sunrise and 9:30am as the birds forage and preen. By 10:00am sparrows are less active. Plus, I like the low sunlight angle for photography.
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