HBW Alive Newsletter – September 2016

The latest news from the Handbook of the Birds of the World has been released, and it’s again a power-pack of ornithological information.


For just a taste . . .

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-8-26-12-amA new study using electroencephalogram recordings of Great Frigatebirds (Fregata minor) flying over the ocean demonstrated that these birds can sleep with either one hemisphere of the brain at a time or both hemispheres simultaneously. The birds in the study slept on the wing only 7.4% of the time spent sleeping on land, indicating that ecological demands for attention during flight usually exceed the attention afforded by sleeping with half of the brain at a time.

Several terns showing the characteristics of the Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans) have been reported in Europe since 1974. Genetic analyses have now confirmed that three of four European birds examined were pure-bred Elegant Terns; the fourth was a Lesser Crested Tern (T. bengalensis).

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-8-26-21-amThe race terborghi of the Allied Owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles affinis) has been known for 52 years just from the type specimen. In July 2016 a group led by Ashley Banwell succeeded in finding an individual of A. a. terborghi in the type locality, an old volcano at Karimui, and also to take some nice photographs and videos at close range!




Finally, yes you want to see that video, yes you want to listen to that recording, and yes you need that book!




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Protesting Anthem protests

There’s a great deal of chatter on social media these days about how people behave during playing of the National Anthem.  That’s understandable and it’s good for Americans to stop every once in a while and really examine who we are. On one level, Colin Kaepernick has achieved a major milestone of his protest – we’re talking about it.

You might be disgusted by Kaepernick’s and others’ show of disrespect by refusing to stand when the Anthem is played. Please understand this part, though: Those who are choosing to protest during the Anthem are not protesting the brave people who have fought, been maimed, and/or died in service to our country. The protestors are, in fact, making a statement that WE civilians are failing to live up to the ideals for which those veterans sacrificed.

If anything, the protestors seek to bring honor to our military heroes by illustrating that we’ve still got work to do to achieve what they were actually fighting for.

Being an American patriot is actually a tricky and thought-provoking job.  Heck, the guys who wrote our Declaration of Independence and Constitution justified our break from England on their desire to not be treated as figurative (and hyperbolic) slaves of the Crown, while they owned actual slaves themselves.  That’s just one of many contradictions that come with the territory as a citizen of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Personally, I embrace those messy contradictions, but if you act like they don’t exist then you’re not giving enough thought to what it actually means to be an American. We can love our country warts and all, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with putting some Compound W on a few of those warts.

So if your counter-protest for the protestors is to highlight the tremendous sacrifice of some military hero then, congratulations!  You have entirely missed the point of the protest.  It sailed right over your head while you were distracted thumping your chest and telling those ingrates to “get out” if they don’t like it here.  If your counter-protest of choice is someone in a position of authority demanding, coercing, or cajoling people under his authority to behave in a certain way when the Anthem plays (i.e., no $%&#@ protesting on MY watch), then congratulations!  You have both missed the point of the protests AND celebrated replacing the American freedoms of those under that thumb with a brand of fascist nationalism that is directly counter to the ideals for which our brave military personnel sacrifice every single day.

When the Anthem plays, I stand.  I remove my hat.  I place my hand over my heart.  And I SING.  I always have, and I will continue to do so.  But that’s my free choice to do that, and that freedom is a beautiful and precious thing. I can scarcely think of something less patriotic in America than forcing someone to stand (or do anything else) when our National Anthem plays.





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Who doesn’t love a watermelon?

I had hoped that by placing a juicy watermelon rind in front of a game camera I’d have some fun photos to enjoy.  I was right.

The neat part is that it’s an independent test of my ability to identify woodland creatures from the sign left behind at the site of their feeding. I was feeling pretty inadequate by my inability to make heads or tails of that sign, however. The photos provided me with some solace.  No wonder the sign is unintelligible when it results from at least four species!

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Conservation is many things to many people


635927434268884923-480894926_Odyssey5I’ve never really entered the so-called (i.e., contrived) ‘debate’ regarding New Conservation, because I’ve always felt in my gut that it was a false dichotomy (turns out, I’m not the only one to think this). For this reason principally, I haven’t really examined the associated to and fro with any great interest or depth.

I will say this though — I was horrified last year in August while attending the International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) in Montpellier during and after the now-infamous plenary debate between Kareiva and Spash on this ‘New Conservation’. Horrified. Yes.

Peter Kareiva, in his characteristic style, attempted to explain his position in what could be called a deliberately provocative and perhaps sensationalist manner. Clive Spash, on the other hand, took an almost quasi-religious idealogy and used it to smack Peter in the proverbial gob. It was a circus from the start, and unfortunately…

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eBird News – September 2016 newsletter

In this issue:

  • eBird Profile Pages are here!
  • 2016 eBird Taxonomy update
  • Your historic eBird sightings make a difference
  • Free trial of the newly updated Birds of North America
  • Get early access to new features in eBird as an eBird Partner
  • Team eBird 2016 event schedule
  • Zeiss eBirder of the Month Challenge: keep track of flyovers on your lists
  • MerlinVision: building next-generation birding tools

My eBird Profiles aren’t that exciting, I’m afraid.  Mostly they make me think that I’m not birding nearly enough – and I already knew that!

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Birding Community E-Bulletin, Sep. 2016

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A vagrant Jabiru, questions of how much someone should pay for poaching an endangered Whooping Crane, and a new National Monument in Maine dominate the headlines of this month’s Birding Community E-Bulletin:


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):

Birding Community E-Bulletin


Imagine a Wood Stork on steroids and a new nifty paint-job.  Then you’d have a Jabiru.

There are about a dozen Texas records for of this impressive Neotropical species. (There are also three records for Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana.) All of these storks have occurred almost exclusively in late summer or fall and all have been associated with post-breeding dispersal during a dry season.

Most of these Jabirus, possibly originating from southern Mexico or Belize, have been first-year birds with pale heads and some gray on the back, but several all-white adults have also occurred.

On Wednesday, 24 August, Dan Walker spotted a Jabiru in flight along U.S. 87 between Victoria and Port Lavaca, Texas. He followed it a short distance until it landed in a plowed field by FM1090. He was able to photograph the bird, a young individual, in the company of egrets, which were practically dwarfed by the Jabiru.
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