American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #294

The Ammodramus sparrows, a group of relatively colorful (for sparrows) and often secretive open-country birds that are well worth making an effort to see, as Ed Gaillard at Warblers and Rumors of Warblers finds out.

Nelson’s Sparrow is a member of the genus Ammodramus, a scarce and secretive group of grassland and mash sparrows that usually have some orange on their face and/or breast. Nelson’s is a sparrow of salt marshes–it used to be considered the same species as the endangered Saltmarsh Sparrow (the combined species was called “Sharp-Tailed Sparrow”, and some older books call this bird “Nelson’s Sharp-Tailed Sparrow”).

For many on the east coast (and often many in the far west as well) Blackpoll Warbler is an expected migrant in the fall, but on their way south they look very different from their oreo-hued spring plumage. Don Freiday, of Freiday Bird Blog, shares some tips on what to look for.

Today, Friday October 14, 2016, it was a blackpoll morning in Cape May, a tad late in the season for thousands of these amazing long-distance migrants to still be passing through, but there they were. Yellow-rumped Warblers out-numbered Blackpolls, but certainly won’t outdistance these long-distance migrants, some of which fly from Alaska to the Canadian Maritimes, then over the ocean to South America in a flight that takes as long as 88 hours non-stop!

Of the handful of North American species that have been driven to extinction, the Bachman’s Warbler is one that doesn’t often get as much attention. Carrie Laben, writing at Remembrance Day for Lost Species, attempts to remedy that.

Sometimes it seems as though the Bachman’s warbler was under a fairy-tale curse from the start. To become invisible, to disappear. John James Audubon never saw one alive, even though he described it for western science; his description and painting of the species were based on specimens shot and sent to him by his friend the Reverend John Bachman. So the bird was lumbered with the name of its killer. But this was not uncommon in those days.

Lynn Barber, who took a hiatus from her contributions to this blog to tackle her Alaska Big Year, has reached a pretty impressive milestone, hitting 302 with a seriously impressive addition. She writes about it at her Alaska Big Year blog.

Just a brief report tonight. I’ll try to tell more about Sitka tomorrow. Suffice it to say that Matt Goff picked us (Louann Feldmann and I) up this morning after she and I had found the Wood Duck that has been in Sitka since last winter. We spent the morning looking for but not seeing the Tropical Kingbird that had been in Sitka at least 6 days. After lunch Matt returned to the area while Louann and I looked unsuccessfully for the Swamp Sparrow that we thought we might have seen earlier. Then Matt called us to say he’d refound the kingbird. So Louann and I drove over there and we all saw the TROPICAL KINGBIRD. I never thought I’d see a named tropical bird in Alaska but apparently there are previous records. I also never thought I’d get to be interviewed for a radio show by Matt a second time (along with Louann) about birding.

Many birders are photographers, too. And Lisa Murdock shares some insights on post-editing as opposed to just sharing the photo straight out of the camera.

I agree it is a worthy goal to “get it right in the camera” and good technique with proper settings is critical to making a good image. But it is always puzzling to me since today’s digital cameras do a lot of processing as the image is being made. Especially if you are using any of the automated settings or even shooting jpegs instead of RAW. It is a huge debate in the photographer world and I am not here to discuss the merits of the argument. Go ahead and send your shots via WiFi from the camera straight to Facebook or Instagram. I really don’t care; everyone is entitled to make images the way they want.