Birding Community E-Bulletin, April 2016

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The Birding Community E-bulletin is distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics:

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):


Regular readers may remember the Eurasian thrush, the Redwing, that we mentioned in January as an example of the CBC bonus factor. It was a bird found in Victoria, British Columbia:—January-2016.html?soid=1106822336233&aid=SwJyc9OTPlQ

The Redwing is a real rarity anywhere in North America, and one that is occasionally  discovered on “either side” of the continent. In the West, there are records from Alaska, Washington, in addition to British Columbia. In the East, there are about two dozen records mainly from the Maritime Provinces, but even south to New York and Pennsylvania. These birds in the East may have come from Iceland or Greenland where the species is regular and has also been known to breed.

Still, it was a real surprise when, on the morning of 13 March, a Redwing was observed and photographed by Chris McPherson on the baseball field at Hollis High School in Brookline, New Hampshire. Continue reading

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My doppelgangers

Do you have a doppelgänger, i.e., someone with whom you share a strong resemblance but relatively little DNA?

I do, and they pop up in all sorts of unexpected places.

Among famous people, I’ve been told I look like Bob Denver (kinda), Anthony Perkins (okay I see that one), Lorenzo Lamas (of course!), and Stephen Colbert (don’t see it).  I also really look like that guy from that thing.

My real doppelgängers, however, are these guys.  In some cases they look so much like me that I struggle to remember having these photos taken.

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The cool/creepy part is that each one of these guys is doing something I do which serves to heighten the resemblance. Okay, sure – I don’t routinely play with blowguns like the top right version of me, but I have done that in the past, and I’m not that bad . . .

Top left?  That’s Ivan Elias, the late bassist of the band Scandal. When I watch the video for Goodbye to You I get an eerie feeling that I’m actually watching myself on bass.  (I have played in a couple of bands, but I’m lead vocal and rhythm guitar.)

The bottom photos are a bit surreal, too.  I am a teacher who wears white shirts and ties and always has his sleeves rolled up when lecturing.  I also have been a long time bicycle commuter, again in shirt and tie.  The vintage photo on bottom right shows another version of me – again turned out in dapper shirt and tie – enjoying birds with some well-heeled ladies.

I suppose this means that I’ve got some kind of a genetic make-up that’s conducive to making music, birding, being really earnest in a classroom, and forcefully blowing air from my lungs with decent accuracy.  At the very least, it’s fun to see these other me-s enjoying the same things I do!

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Solar arrays in the desert: Killing more birds than you imagine

Please don’t supersize me when it comes to solar!

Memories of the People

In the past three years there has been a stunning and seemingly reckless increase in solar farms in California.  Before 2013, solar farms covered four square miles of land.  They now cover nearly 60 square miles and more are planned.  (Here is a Google Maps file that shows the solar arrays in California; zoom in to see their actual footprints –or switch to satellite view.)  They represent some of the largest solar arrays in the world.  There are other smaller farms as well, and a few larger operations in Nevada, Arizona, and elsewhere.  The majority, however, are in California.

solar4Ivanpah1 The Ivanpah solar array with its “power towers” kills birds thru collisions and outright scorching them in mid-flight.  This array is 4 1/2 miles from end to end. 

solar10table*CSP = Concentrated Solar Power (essentially using mirrors to create a heat source)

solar7CalifValley California Valley Solar Farm, as seen from a…

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HBW Alive Newsletter #21 – March 2016

The latest newsletter of the Handbook of the Birds of the World has been released and it, as usual, is chock full of fascinating discoveries*, insightful synthesis, and stunning multi-media features.

*For example, I just learned that a flightless owl used to terrify the smaller animals on Cuba during the Pleistocene.  This owl stood at least 1m tall! I also learned that this species exists, and I am better for it:


Rainbow-bearded Thornbill (Chalcostigma herrani): In addition to nectar feeding,  “Takes prey in bill tip and tosses it into the air, then either flies at it with bill open or tilts head backwards with bill open to get prey into the rear of the gape.”

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Included among the updates:

Currently Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 6.44.04 PMmore than 355 of the “new species” (resulting from splits) have multimedia links incorporated in their species accounts. See what we mean, for example, in the accounts of Australian Painted-snipe (Rostratula australis), Somali Courser (Cursorius somalensis), Arctic Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus) or Australian Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon macrotarsa).

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These forewords essays are outstanding and at times even emotionally charged. For example, I just found this in the essay on extinct birds.


Great Auk Pinguinus impennis – A Last Stand. Great Auks in the mist by Errol Fuller.

You should also totally watch the video clip of the Golden Bowerbird decorating his love shack.

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Finally, David Winkler taught me almost everything I’ve ever known about the diversity of avian families, and now you can have your mind similarly blown by picking up your own copy of this spectacular new text:

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You can find an archive of past newsletters here.

Posted in animal behavior, bird evolution, birding, birds/nature, editorial, Endangered Species Act, environment, Epidexipteryx, evolution, Great Auk, HBW Alive, history, hummingbirds, IUCN, life, malee fowl, migrants, paleontology, pterosaur, skepticism and science, tinamou, vultures, wildlife | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Birding Community E-Bulletin: March 2016

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The Birding Community E-bulletin is distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics:

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):


On 21 February, at Long Key State Park in the Florida Keys, Alan Moss saw what he was convinced was a Zenaida Dove. He returned the next morning and spent two and a half hours searching for the bird and ultimately photographed it. He relocated the dove on the lower half of Golden Orb Trail where it was foraging in relatively open areas close to where the trail opened up into a circular area bordered by mangroves.

Eventually the dove was seen by many observers through the end of the month, even though sometimes the site sometimes became a little over-crowded and the bird stayed back. Soon, orange flagging-tapes, used as trail-markers, were placed in the area, to help birders locate this rarity.

The Zenaida Dove resembles a Morning Dove, but with a shorter and slightly rounded tail, not pointed, and with white trailing edges to the secondaries. That last mark shows as a small white rectangular patch on the inner secondaries on a perched or standing bird.

Zenaida Doves are largely residents of the West Indies and Yucatán Peninsula. During Audubon’s day, the species may have also been a resident in the Florida Keys, but nobody knows for sure. Today, the species is considered an accidental visitor, with only a few previous records for s. Florida (and one, possibly, for Georgia), mostly between fall and spring. Because the species is  a strong flyer, this individual could have originated in either the Bahamas or Cuba.

You can see the eBird report and photo by Alan Moss here:


Since we’re on the subject of rare birds in Florida, it’s appropriate to mention one puzzling appearance. A Great White Pelican, a bird that is a resident of parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, was discovered at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on the morning of Sunday 28 February. By ‘leap day,’ the 29th, curious crowds started forming.

Great White Pelican breeds from southeastern Europe through Asia and in Africa at shallow lakes and coastal swamps. Wintering locations for these pelicans originating in Europe are not exactly known, but wintering birds may occur in northeastern Africa through Iraq to north India.

It’s hard to believe that this Ding Darling NWR bird was not an escape, but as of this writing no zoo has claimed the bird. It had no band. This pelican was associating with its similar-looking cousins, American White Pelicans. Great White Pelican is a long-lived bird, so if one escaped years ago, it may have just associated with American White Pelicans without being noticed until now.

Photos and more details can be found from the Santiva Chronicle:


What can be cuter than baby birds?  Or, on the other hand, what can be more strange or reptilian?  Regardless of your opinion, the latest book by Julie Zickefoose, Baby Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) may be worthy of consideration.
Continue reading

Posted in animal behavior, Bird Education Network, BIRDATHON, birding, birding community e-bulletin, birds/nature, editorial, Endangered Species Act, environment, IUCN, life, migrants, National Audubon Society, Partners in Flight, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

eBird News – March 2016

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Team eBird has announced a Global Big Day on May 14th, 2016.  I can hardly wait – I love stuff like this!

Program description and additional information are available at eBird News.


Posted in BIRDATHON, birding, birds/nature, environment, life, migrants, National Audubon Society, nature deficit disorder, Partners in Flight, Payne County Audubon Society, population estimates, population monitoring, wildlife | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment