American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #212

There are no shortage of tips for those who attend bird walks, but fewer for those who seek to lead them, which requires walking that fine line between finding lots of birds and making sure everyone gets good looks at the ones you see. At The Eyre, Aidan Place offers some pointers, particularly aimed at younger birders tasked with leading groups of individuals often significantly older then themselves.

Leading a walk as a teenager can be a stressful experience. It can be hard to decide where exactly go, what pace is good for the entire group, and when to end the walk. On top of these logistical challenges, people ask questions and expect you to know the answers! This can be quite hard sometimes. In spite of these stresses, leading a bird walk is extremely rewarding. I recommend every young birder experience it.

Too often it’s easy to overlook female ducks and just focus on the flashy, and distinctive, males, but we improve as birders when we pay attention to the harder stuff. Victoria Campbell at Cornell’s All About Birds Blog makes the case for challenging ourselves and offers tips to do so.

Ducks are fun to watch because they’re large, they sit out in the open, and the males are beautifully colorful. In fact breeding males are so distinctive that they draw many a birder’s attention away from the less colorful members of the flock. But taking a closer look at brown ducks can open a whole new level of appreciation, and can even add a few species to your day’s checklist.

Sometimes it’s helpful to go overseas for clues on some of the more difficult identifications in North America. The white-cheeked goose complex is an unappreciated ID conundrum, particularly as the line between Canada and Cackling is not cut and dried in the least. The Irish Rare Birds Committee website published a review of white-cheeked goose records for that country, which contains a number of relevant tips for North American birders as well.

As a result of this established feral population, Canada Goose is on the Irish list as a Category C1 species; that being ‘species that, although originally introduced by man, have established feral breeding populations in Ireland which apparently maintain themselves without necessary recourse to further introduction’. In addition, it is also on the Irish list as a Category A species; that being ‘species that have been recorded in an apparently natural state in Ireland at least once since 1st January 1950’. These have involved birds belonging to one of the smaller subspecies and/or occurring in winter (generally at sites not normally frequented by feral birds) and/or associating with flocks of suitable carrier species (e.g. Greenland White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons flavirostris and Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis).

The localized population of Red Crossbill in Idaho’s South Hills is considered by some authorities to be a good, if cryptic, species in its own right. If that split ever comes, birders will likely want information on finding these birds, which Ryan O’Donnell provides at Birding is Fun.

We started by driving up Rock Creek Road into the South Hills.  From I-84 take Exit 182 and head south.  Just after you cross the river gorge, turn left onto 3800E.  This becomes Rock Creek Road and takes you right into the hills and up to the crossbills!  Watch the landscape change as you ascend, first valley agriculture, then sagebrush, then junipers, and finally Lodgepole Pines.  These pines are the preferred habitat of the South Hills Crossbill.

For such a put-upon family of birds, gulls get a lot of love in the bird blogosphere. Perhaps that’s because there’s always something noteworthy to say about them. Steve Tucker at Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds welcomes the return of gull season.

I hate gulls, but I just can’t help myself. I must look at them. They demand my attention. I want the glory, the fame, and the sex of finding the state’s second Great Black-backed Gull, or another precious Black-tailed Gull. I want to be able to competently discuss such obscure identification features that if I try to describe them to another birder, their eyes will just glaze over in utter horror and confusion…and you know what? I’m well on my way there, but unfortunately many birders are still able to understand what I am talking about, gulls are still frustrating to identify, and birding is still hard…and that is why I fail.