American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #288

Ontario birder Alan Wormington died this past week, leaving a huge hole at Point Pelee and elsewhere around the country. He was a regular commenter on this blog, too, and an active part of the community here. He will be missed. Josh Vandermuelen on Ontario Birds and Herps offers a touching tribute.

Alan was an excellent photographer, documenting many of his rare finds in an age before digital photography. He was a founding member of the Ontario Bird Records Committee, serving more terms than anyone else, and doing more than anyone to ensure its success as a peer review for rare bird records for Ontario. Alan has written numerous articles about bird status and identification, compiled bird records in meticulous detail for the Point Pelee and Moosonee Birding Areas, and contributed with information for, and reviews of, countless manuscripts and articles. Alan always edited my articles that I wrote for the journal North American Birds. It was often a bit of a painful experience receiving his edits back as I knew that he would meticulously scour every detail of my report for every possible mistake. Alan’s attention to detail and desire for accuracy was exemplary.

The folks at Cape May are bust with migrating passerines these days, and Don Freiday of Freiday Bird Blog shares some things to look for as they stream by.

The bird above, frozen with wings open by the camera, is a gimme, or should be. A thing about trying to i.d. warblers in flight is that you must know the bird cold when it is perched – so do you know the redstart’s tail pattern, it’s exact wing pattern, its face, and its range of variability? Other than that, if it is a slim, long-tailed warbler with a dark-tipped tail that is kind of spoon shaped and it jinks around a lot in flight and often chases other birds, and says tsweet a lot, it’s a redstart.

Sometimes I read posts I really like and intend to share in this space, but for whatever reason they slip my mind when the time comes to put it together. Alison Vilag, at Peregrinations, wrote this wonderful little piece this summer about what it means to be “extralimital” that I had to include it when I recalled it this week, even if it’s been online for some time.

This spring, “endurance”, “optimism”, and “art of convincingly using time” have been tools in regular rotation. The fun tools–“pin a name on that Asian flycatcher” for example–have not. The winds haven’t been with us. We’ve been poised, ready–begging the winds for an opportunity to use our full repertoire. There’s so much that we could do. But there’s also only so much we can do, because we need luck.

The AOU-COS Publication Blog is a great place to check for the most recent ornithological publications. This week, scientific confirmation of what many of us have intuited for some time – that spring migration is an express train heading north while fall is a more leisurely ride south.

It turns out being the early bird really does have its advantages. A new study in The Auk: Ornithological Advances shows that migrating birds fly faster and put more effort into staying on course in spring than in fall, racing to arrive to their breeding grounds as soon as possible to get an edge in raising the next generation.

Crows are uniquely clever, and social and charsimatic, so what are they doing when they sunbathe? Kaeli Swift at the Crow Research Blog has the answers.

With its bill agape, I watch as the crow fans out awkwardly across the cedar shingles. Pressing the camera to my face I snap a couple photos, pleased to finally capture on film a moment I so often encounter in the field.  Unlike the crow, who’s keeping a watchful eye on the sky, I’m completely taken with my admittedly creepy behavior.  Until, of course, I hear the stiff “Excuse me, can I ask what you’re doing?” from the driver’s window as the homeowner’s minivan pulls up behind me.