Sunday, June 30, 2013

National Geographic Magazine: Last Song for Migrating Birds

Cyprus - A whitethroat, en route to winter grounds in Africa, is caught on a lime stick. - David Guttenfelder/National Geographic
The latest issue of National Geographic Magazine has an article by writer/birder Jonathan Franzen. It is a
hard hitting exposé on the indiscriminate killing of migratory birds in the Mediterranean region. This is a critical issue that demands our attention. I invite you to read the article online or to purchase the magazine.

Speaking of which, I've been a NatGeo member on and off for most of my life...when I could afford it. I recently acquired an iPad for work and just started enjoying the National Geographic Magazine app. What a glorious experience reading the interactive magazine on the iPad! I highly recommend it.

Below is a video clip of photographer David Guttenfelder describing some of his experiences.

Friday, June 28, 2013

4th of July Birding Challenge!

Original post by Steve Brenner on

Do you love America? Are you a warm-blooded patriot looking for a way to enjoy your freedoms? Do you love birds? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions, then you qualify for the -
"Thermal Birding 4th of July Birding Challenge: 'Merica Addition!"
American Avocet - Photo by Steve Brenner
One week from today, people all across the country will be having cookouts, launching fireworks, and birdwatching! The rules of the challenge are simple: when you are out birding on the 4th of July, every species you see that begins with the word "American" counts. Also, any species that begins with the name of a U.S. state (e.g.. California Towhee) also counts. You can also collect bonus birds for each of the following winged-countrymen you spot: Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, and the official birds of each U.S. state. So, for example, let's say I go out on Independence Day and see an American Robin, 5 American Crows, 3 American Redstarts, a Louisiana Waterthrush, a Bald Eagle, and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, then I would have a grand total of 6 countable species. So it's fairly straight-forward and similar to other 'big day' type competitions. Feeling patriotic yet?
As with all birding competitions, this is solely meant for the purposes of fun, and as long as you have a good time birding, that's what really matters. Also, mid-summer can be a very slow time for bird watching, so this provides an excellent opportunity for birders to get out there and check out some breeding birds in your area or scour those neglected local hotspots. Please post replies on how you faired with the challenge, and try to nab as many of these species as you can. Remember, Thomas Jefferson may have spent all day inside on July 4th, 1776, but that doesn't mean you should! So get out there and bird, people . . . USA, USA, USA!
Here is the list of the 56 eligible '4th of July birds' for counting in the ABA area, including the official birds of each state. (Note: 'state game birds' have been omitted, as has Hawaiian Goose, Blue Hen Chicken, and Rhode Island Red Chicken).

  1. American Avocet
  2. American Bittern
  3. American Black Duck
  4. American Coot
  5. American Crow
  6. American Dipper
  7. American Flamingo
  8. American Golden-Plover
  9. American Goldfinch (also state bird for IA, NJ, and WA)
  10. American Kestrel 
    American Kestrel - Photo by Steve Brenner
  11. American Oystercatcher
  12. American Pipit
  13. American Redstart
  14. American Robin (also state bird for CT, MI, and WI)
  15. American Three-toed Woodpecker
  16. American Tree Sparrow
  17. American White Pelican
  18. American Wigeon
  19. American Woodcock
  20. Arizona Woodpecker
  21. California Condor
  22. California Gnatcatcher
  23. California Quail (also state bird for CA)
  24. California Thrasher
  25. California Towhee
  26. California Gull (also state bird for UT)
  27. Carolina Chickadee
  28. Carolina Wren (also state bird for SC) 
    Carolina Wren - Photo by Steve Brenner
  29. Connecticut Warbler
  30. Kentucky Warbler
  31. Louisiana Waterthrush
  32. Mississippi Kite
  33. Tennessee Warbler
  34. Virginia Rail
  35. Bald Eagle
  36. Wild Turkey
  37. Northern Flicker (AL)
  38. Willow Ptarmigan (AK)
  39. Cactus Wren (AZ)
  40. Northern Mockingbird (AR, FL, MS, TN, and TX)
  41. Lark Bunting (CO)
  42. Brown Thrasher (GA) 
    Brown Thrasher - Photo by Steve Brenner
  43. Mountain Bluebird (ID, NV)
  44. Northern Cardinal (IL, IN, KY, NC, OH, VI, and WV)
  45. Western Meadowlark (KS, MT, NE, ND, OR, and WY)
  46. Brown Pelican (LA)
  47. Black-capped Chickadee (ME, MA)
  48. Baltimore Oriole (MD)
  49. Common Loon (MN)
  50. Eastern Bluebird (MO, NY)
  51. Purple Finch (NH)
  52. Greater Roadrunner (NM)
  53. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (OK)
  54. Ruffed Grouse (PA)
  55. Ring-necked Pheasant (SD)
  56. Hermit Thrush (VT)

Birding the Wekiva River Basin

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Brown-headed Nuthatch
Wekiwa Springs State Park
The Wekiva River Basin is becoming one of my favorite areas for birding in Florida. There are several places I like to visit near the Wekiva River in both Orange and Seminole Counties, all of which are north and west of Orlando. Each of these parks are about a half-hour away from my home, and they're also about an hour away from Disney, so they are wonderful places to visit when you want to get away from the Mouse.  Each have similar environments, but they also have their own distinctive personalities, so I try to visit them as often as I can. The Wekiva River is one of the two “National Wild & Scenic Rivers” in Florida.  When I visit these parks, I feel like I'm seeing Central Florida as it once was, and that keeps me coming back for more.

Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs State Park is a fun place to visit for swimming, kayaking, and other recreational activities. It's a full service park with a concession stand, restrooms, and even canoe and kayak rentals. I first visited the park shortly after moving  here so our family could go swimming at the springs.  I didn't realize until later the great birding opportunities right here in the park.  There are over 13 miles of trails, and the western portion has some great trails for birding.

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Yellow-throated Vireo
Wekiwa Springs State Park
The trails on the western side of the park are some my favorite places to look for Bachman's Sparrows, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Summer Tanagers, Eastern Towhees, Carolina Chickadees, Eastern Bluebirds, and Brown-headed Nuthatches. Swallow-tailed Kites and even an occasional Short-tailed Hawk may be seen here as well

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Red-headed Woodpecker
Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Bachman's Sparrow
Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Summer Tanager
Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Eastern Towhee
Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Prairie Warbler
Wekiwa Springs State Park
And of course, you're likely to find other fun wildlife along the trails, including many White-tailed Deer, Gopher Tortoises and butterflies.

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Zebra Swallowtail
Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs State Park (Markham Tract)
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Markham Tract, Wekiwa Springs State Park
There's a little-known part of the Wekiwa Springs State Park called the Markham Tract.  I found out about this area just recently, and I've only visited the area twice.  This area contains some of the same kinds of habitat as the main area of the state park, but there are fewer amenities, so the park is never crowded. So far (since May of this year), I've enjoyed finding Summer Tanagers, Carolina Chickadees, White-eyed Vireos, Eastern Bluebirds, Pine Warblers, Northern Bobwhites and Wild Turkeys.  But even more exciting was seeing my first Florida Black Bear (I only saw it after it began to run away from me, so I don't have any photos).

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Carolina Chickadee
Markham Tract, Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Brown-headed Nuthatch
Markham Tract, Wekiwa Springs State Park
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Wild Turkey
Markham Tract, Wekiwa Springs State Park
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White-tailed Deer
Markham Tract, Wekiwa Springs State Park
Lower Wekiva River Preserve
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Lower Wekiva River Preserve
The Lower Wekiva River Preserve is located just east of the Wekiva River, and there are over 18 miles of trails through some wonderful pine forests. Like the Markham Tract, I discovered this place only recently, and I've only visited it twice since May.  It's the only place in Seminole County where I've been able to find breeding Bachman's Sparrows, though, and for that reason alone, this is one of my favorite places to visit. I've found breeding Great Crested Flycatchers, Common Yellowthroat, and even a possible breeding Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I don't know my bats very wellat all, but one morning I found a solitary bat climbing a tree. Pretty fun.

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Great Crested Flycatcher
Lower Wekiva River Preserve
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Bachman's Sparrow
Lower Wekiva River Preserve
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Lower Wekiva River Preserve
I don't think I've seen anything truly extraordinary or rare in any of these locations, but they each are beautiful in their own way.  After all, birding doesn't have to be about finding rarities.  It can also be about simply enjoying the birds and other wildlife that happen to be right near your home. And if you come to Orlando to see the Mouse, it may be worth it to come out to the Wekiva River Basin to see the birds too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Backs, Baths and Baby Birds

Well, I can't say June was an uninteresting month.

Late in May I somehow managed to twist, strain, jamb or otherwise cause a problem in my lower back. The result was that if I sat down for more than three or four minutes, the pain when standing was excruciating. Birding trips, needless to say, were out of the question.

I found I could be reasonably productive by putting the laptop on the kitchen counter, and typing while standing up. The downside to this, of course, was the kitchen window that looks out on the bird feeders and the back yard. Productivity wavered.

Immediately I noticed there were still large numbers of Red Crossbills out there. Last winter was the first time these birds had appeared at my feeders, and they should have been away north to the boreal forest weeks before.  We are right on the eastern edge of their Alberta range, but some breeding was noted in the city this spring.
Then I noticed an unusual number of Cedar Waxwings. They were in all the trees, on the ground and at the birdbaths. Oddly enough I never saw them actually in the water. I watched many of them walk all the way around the bird bath, dipping a foot or wing tip in the water, but no bath. Normally I get a couple of them stopping in for a quick visit, but this month they were here for weeks, chattering up the yard.
I also discovered why my peanuts were disappearing so quickly. I had been blaming greedy squirrels, not clever Black-billed Magpies.
Day after day after day of incessant rain provided some interesting views of one of my Mourning Doves, Bruiser.
Early June also provided a yard full of tufty House Finch young 'uns.
The real productivity-killers though, were the American Robins. I've no idea how many hours I spent watching their antics.

After a very soggy, flood-filled month the weather is finally turning into summer. My back is on the mend, and it won't be too long before we're out and about to see what's birdy in other areas.

For sheer appeal though, it will be hard to top this photo of a wee House Sparrow chancing the odds of a meal.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Audouin's Gull - Gaviota de Audouin


La gaviota de Audouin es un ave perteneciente al orden Charadriiforme de la familia Laridae, su tamaño es de unos 45 a 52 cm, con un peso aproximado de unos 300 a 700 gramos.

Audouin's gull is a bird belonging to the order Charadriiforme, family Laridae. Size: about 45-52 cm, with a weight of about 300-700 grams.


Los ejemplares adultos con plumaje de verano tiene la cabeza,cuello,partes inferiores y la cola blancos, el resto de un gris claro muy pálido, el pico del color de los corales rojos termina en la parte inferior de la punta con una franja negra y la punta amarilla, el color de las patas varia del gris al gris verdoso, las plumas primarias externas negras con puntas blancas, los ojos predominantemente oscuros, en los inmaduros el cuerpo es prácticamente oscuro y las patas negruzcas, en la cabeza de los inmaduros hay unas pequeñas líneas grisáceas muy suaves. Considerada una de las gaviotas más raras del mundo que en pocos años ve aumentando su población en todo el litoral peninsular Mediterráneo. Su nombre le recibe de un naturalista francés en homenaje a su estudio sobre las aves, Jean Victoire Audouin, Ornitologo, Entomologo y Paleontólogo.

The adult in summer plumage has a white head, neck, and tail underparts. The rest is very pale gray. The beak is coral red with a black band and yellow tip. The leg color varies from gray to gray-green. Black outer primary feathers tipped with white. Predominantly dark eyes. An immature's body is mostly dark with blackish legs. The head of the immature has few very soft gray lines. Considered one of the world's rarest gulls which in a few years we see increasing in population around the Mediterranean peninsular coast. Its name was received as a tribute to a French for his study of birds, Jean Victoire Audouin, ornithologist, entomologist and paleontologist.


Se le puede encontrar en las zonas costeras rocosas, playas y puertos pesqueros, muy rara vez en el interior.

It can be found in rocky coastal areas, beaches and fishing ports, rarely inland.


Podríamos decir que es una gaviota autóctona del litoral Mediterráneo, ocupando las Islas Baleares, islas hasta el limite Europeo con Asia y La zona Norte Africana Atlántica. En la zona costera de Murcia se encuentra una de las colonias más grandes a nivel mundial.

This truly is a gull native to the Mediterranean coast, occupying the Balearic Islands to the European boundary with Asia and North African Atlantic area. In the coastal area of ​​Murcia is one of the largest colonies worldwide.


Los sonidos que emiten son muy poco intensos, nasales y roncos. 

The sounds they make are very intense, nasal and hoarse.


Suele anidar en islas y litorales rocosos o en zonas arenosas alejadas de la presencia humana, nido con ramas, algas, hierbas, plumón.

Usually nest on islands and rocky shores or sandy areas away from human presence. Nest consists of twigs, seaweed, plants, and down.


Su principal dieta son los peces, maestra en picado y captura a nivel de superficie a veces también se sumerge en caídas potentes, no es habitual verla alimentarse de deshechos o carroña.

Their diet principally consists of fish. It is a diving master and captures prey at surface level, but sometimes completely submerges in powerful drops. It is unusual to see her feed on waste or carrion.