American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #302

We love hearing about your experiences with our 2017 Bird of the Year. Here’s one from Mia McPherson at On the Wing Photography. Keep them coming!

A few days ago the ABA announced the 2017 Bird of the Year as the Ruddy Turnstone and I couldn’t be any happier because shorebirds were my “spark” birds that propelled me into the world of bird photography. So to see a shorebird selected as the Bird of the Year excited me.

The instant a diving duck slips below the surface of the water is one in which dozens of little things are happening in the blink of an eye. At Feathered Photography, Ron Dudley takes the opportunity to take some photos of each stage and suggests the reasoning behind the movements.

Two minutes later I photographed the same male goldeneye in another dive (this time he has an audience of gulls). Once again, notice the heavy wall of water brought up by the tail – almost identical to the water curtain in the first dive. This seems to happen every time they dive and that made me wonder if it’s by design with this species. Consider the following:

The turning point of the year is the prompt for many last bird/first bird remembrances. Bill Thompson III of Bill of the Birds got lucky to have the same bird for both.

The species was northern cardinal. A male visited the bird feeders on December 31, right at dusk—as cardinals are wont to do. When all the other feeder visitors have gone to roost, the cardinals are still coming in, loading up on sunflower hearts to stoke their internal furnaces in preparation for another cold winter night. And they’re back first thing in the morning, too—just after the first bit of light washes across the yard and things start to become discernible, emerging from the darkness.

The Iceland/Kumlien’s/Thayer’s Gull complex has bewildered birders for decades, practically ever since Thayer’s Gull was split off from Herring Gull. Amar Ayyash of Anything Larus attempts to get to the bottom of this taxonomic puzzle.

After much consideration, I recently announced a drastic change in my position regarding the Thayer’s-Kumlien’s-Iceland gull complex. I have given this taxonomic conundrum countless hours of thought, both in the field and at my desk. The subject is not one that I take lightly as it has troubled me from almost the start of my interest in gulls. It wasn’t until early last year, however, when I was preparing an article to be published on separating Thayer’s and Kumlien’s Gulls, that I candidly began to question my own pedagogy on this topic. I effectively abandoned the manuscript as I could not faithfully reconcile the identification of these forms without more clarity on their taxonomy.

Winter, and the seasonal influx of birds visiting feeders, allows for the opportunity to observe some unusual individuals among the common species. David Sibley has a look at a melanistic Downy Woodpecker at Sibley Guide Notebook.

There is no hybrid combination that could explain these markings, and nothing else that looks wrong for Downy Woodpecker. And it’s interesting that this Eastern Downy Woodpecker, with excess black pigment, didn’t just turn out like a Western Downy Woodpecker, which shows broader black stripes and narrower white stripes on the head, less white in the wings, but still a clean whitish back and underparts.