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How to Know the Birds: No. 5, Why Do Shovelers Spin?

What: Northern Shoveler, Spatula clypeata When: Saturday, March 30, 2019 Where: Hecla Pond, Boulder County, Colorado

Birds do things. Northern cardinals embellish their songs with squirrel-like chatter; American crows patrol parking lots in their quest for whiskey; sagebrush sparrows flip their long tails expressively, as if they were tiny roadrunners; and American dippers do [read more…]

A Dozen Things You Can Do to Celebrate Bill Thompson III

 

These are my friend Bill Thompson III’s shoes. Actually, this is just the tip of his footwear iceberg—he owned and wore a lot of shoes. I photographed these as they sat by his front door the day after I, along with members of his family, watched him fly free of his cancer-ravaged body. [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 4, Sagebrush Sparrows and the Subjective Experience of Rarity

What: Sagebrush Sparrow, Artemisiospiza nevadensis When: Saturday, March 16, 2019 Where: Medano-Zapata Ranch, Alamosa County, Colorado

The time is 9:43 a.m., the temperature in the upper 20s. But “it’s a dry cold.” The sky is completely clear, the sun surprisingly warm. I’m at one of my favorite places on Earth, the entrance to The [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 3, Watching Dippers in the Age of #SciComm

What: American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus When: Saturday, February 23, 2019 Where: Boulder Creek, Boulder County, Colorado

I went birding a short while ago with Nick Minor, co-compiler with Paul Hess of Birding magazine’s popular “Frontiers in Ornithology” (formerly “News & Notes”) column. Time was limited, as Nick had to catch a morning flight out [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 1, On Hearing the First Cardinal in Spring

What: Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis When: Saturday, February 9, 2019 Where: Lamar Community College, Prowers County, Colorado

Several days ago I went birding with the express purpose of procuring audio of a northern cardinal. My objective was to obtain an ordinary recording of a normal cardinal. Exhibit A, this guy, an adult male of [read more…]

ICYMI: Location, location, location… what’s in a name?

The ABA Blog has been in existence for almost 7 years, and there’s a lot of good content back in the archives that deserves an audience now that it might not have received way back when. So, semi-regularly we will bring some of that stuff back. Here’s one by Jeff Bouton on a common name [read more…]

“Almost _______________”

In an article in the October 2017 Birding, Luke Maillefer tells the story of a trip that didn’t quite get to its intended destination. Luke and several high school classmates had been selected for the trip of a lifetime: Antarctica! But a medical emergency arose en route, and the students and mentors couldn’t make it [read more…]

Birding with a Tricorder

 

Here’s a photo from a bird walk this past Sunday afternoon:

It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here. Four birders are pointing their smartphone cameras at a flowering rabbitbrush, a plant favored by painted lady butterflies. Painted ladies, you may have heard, are staging a remarkable population outbreak all across North America. If [read more…]

Painted Ladies! (Or, The Phenomenon of Phenomena)

 

The butterfly lay on the parking lot pavement, its red–orange hues aglow in the rising sun. It was beautiful but not worth salvaging, I judged, and I hastened to my appointment. An hour later, the creature was still there, still lovely, still glistening like a jewel. Ordinarily, it would have been stepped on and [read more…]

On Being a Birder

It was a totally workaday morning for me. Breakfast had been a microwaved burrito. I’d gotten the kids off to school, and I was at my desk now, gazing at the laptop. Out the window, I could hear the sounds of suburbia: a delivery truck rumbling by, snippets of human conversation, and power tools going [read more…]