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Blog Birding #251

Swainson’s Warbler is ghost for many, plain and skulky in the dense vegetation it calls home. It’s a real experience to see one well, as Stephen Hannington at The Accidental Birder did at the Rio Grande Festival last week. But, of course, there’s sometimes more to the story

Quite unlike the living jewels so typical of the Wood Warbler family such as the breath-taking Blackburnian Warble, which “burns” bright orange deep in the boreal forest of Canada or the striking Painted Redstart found fanning its gorgeous tail feathers in the “Sky Islands” of southern Arizona, the rare Swainson”s Warbler is a rather drab, brownish, unassuming bird.  A furtive skulker of thick undergrowth by nature the Swanson’s Warbler lurks in swampy regions of the south-eastern states of the U.S. in the summer and in Central America in winter.  For years I have searched in vain for this elusive bird on its breeding grounds in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee as well on its wintering grounds in Mexico and Belize.

Some technology advances far beyond our abilities to perceive whether it will impact birds. Drones seem to be in that category despite the fact that they seem to have some useful bird censusing applications. Liz Greene considers them at 10,000 Birds.

The rise in drone popularity over the past few years has been meteoric — and in our typical human arrogance, we’ve once again ignored the fact that for the past 150 million years, the sky has belonged to the birds.

While we know that bird strikes on airplanes are devastating to both parties, airplanes usually only encounter birds during takeoff and landing; high altitude meetings are rare. However, drones operate at an altitude of 500 feet or below — meaning they’re in the flight zone of most non-migrating birds.

Laura Erickson had a big birthday recently, and she took the opportunity to consider what that means for her birding experience.

I got my first pair of hearing aids last March. I was sure that would make me feel old, but when I first put them on outdoors, I was instantly transported back to my 20s, picking up high-pitched Golden-crowned Kinglet lisps and thrilling at my backyard robins now that I could hear the brilliant overtones of their songs once again. No, hearing aids didn’t make me feel old at all.

What does it mean to do field work in the Neotropics? How do your expectations square with the day to day reality? Cameron Rutt explores his own experiences at The Nemesis Bird.

Most of us probably have some preconceived notions about what fieldwork in the Amazon rainforest entails. I certainly did. Who knows where these ideas originate or even if they were once rooted in fact at all. Oftentimes, I don’t even think we’re aware of these assumptions until we see something first-hand (like when we catch our first glimpse of a radio personality, for instance). But reality is often blind (and apathetic) to these expectations of ours, quickly casting them aside, usually over the course of a few short hours or days.

Northern Fulmar can be found in both oceans on either side of North America, and the populations in each differ subtly, but enough that it’s long been considered a potential split. But how would we tell apart in the range of the other? Nick Hajdukovich considers it at Birding Frontiers.

I observed this Fulmar on 16 September 2015, northwest of Point Barrow (72 34.526, -161 12.527), Alaska, while conducting bird surveys for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This bird stuck out to me because a) it was the only fulmar that I had seen that day while conducting surveys in the area, b) it was a much darker color morph than any that I’d seen in recent days while in the Chukchi, c) the color of the bird was much more olive/blue-gray than the browner-gray dark morph birds I had seen in the northern Bering and southern Chukchi, and d) after reviewing photos I noticed that it had a relatively concolorous rump and tail, which from my limited knowledge, might suggest a non-Pacific subspecies of northern fulmar, such as F. g. glacialis.

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