Some prairie ramblings in central Oklahoma


Last week (19 May), Jonathan Harris and I drove a big loop north of Perry, OK east through the Otoe Plains, and then back south to Stillwater.  Our mission on this cool, windy, and cloudy day was to find some of our lesser-known grassland birds with potentially confusing songs, e.g., Orchard Oriole, Painted Bunting, and Bell’s Vireo. With difficulty we found all three of those.  There seemed to be very little singing other than the constant strains of Eastern Meadowlarks and Dickcissels that typify a morning in May on the prairie. We found some shrikes (always appreciated!) and some other neat things:

The wet May we've experienced - apparently the wettest ever - has left us with flooded fields dotting the landscape, and these seem to be appreciated by the Cattle Egrets.

The wet May we’ve experienced – apparently the wettest ever – has left us with flooded fields dotting the landscape, and these seem to be appreciated by the Cattle Egrets.

Somewhere in this Otoe Plains vignette there lurks an Upland Sandpiper.

Somewhere in this Otoe Plains vignette there lurks an Upland Sandpiper.

Jonathan's good deed for the day - turtle rescue.

Jonathan’s good deed for the day – turtle rescue.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

I love living someplace where it is sights like these that slow traffic.

I love living someplace where it is sights like these that slow traffic.

Some of a group of 18 Eastern Kingbirds staging along the fenceline. It's interesting to see them being both gregarious and quiet, but that must be how they conduct themselves during migration.

Some of a group of 18 Eastern Kingbirds staging along the fenceline. It’s interesting to see them being both gregarious and quiet, but that must be how they conduct themselves during migration.

Posted in life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

American Bird Conservancy – bird-safe buildings and wind power conflicts


Screen shot 2015-05-23 at 10.06.00 AM

AP: Wind Turbines Being Installed in Sensitive Bird Habitat on Massive Scale

New research supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) shows that more than 30,000 wind turbines have been installed in areas critical to the survival of federally-protected birds in the United States and that more than 50,000 additional turbines are planned for construction in similar areas. More than 27,000 of these turbines exist in or are planned for federally identified or designated areas, including 24,000 turbines in the migration corridor of the Whooping Crane, one of the nation’s rarest and most spectacular birds, and, almost 3,000 turbines in breeding strongholds for Greater Sage-Grouse, a rapidly declining species recently considered for Endangered Species Act protection.

“Attempts to manage the wind industry with voluntary as opposed to mandatory permitting guidelines are clearly not working,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “Wind developers are siting turbines in areas of vital importance to birds and other wildlife, and this new data shows that the current voluntary system needs to be replaced with a mandatory permitting system.”
Continue reading

Posted in life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HBW Alive – No. 11, May 2015


Screen shot 2015-05-17 at 11.22.19 AM

From the May 2015 newsletter of the Handbook of Birds of the World . . .

Species Plates
The Species Plates form one of HBW Alive’s most powerful tools, allowing you to explore the colour plates of all the bird species of the HBW series, meaning all of the birds of the world! With just a few clicks, you can filter the plates to be seen by Order, Family, Genus and Common Name. You can change the size of the figures, decide if you want to see them scaled and if you just want to see one figure per species or all the existing figures for each.

These options allow you to design your own plates with infinite possibilities. For example, you can see all the species figures for your favourite family or use the scaled option to compare the size of the species of a particular genus that interests you.

With the “Geographic filter” tool you can go a step further and choose to see the species only present in a particular country or combination of countries, which is an interesting possibility when preparing a trip. Imagine, with a few clicks, you can see the figures of all the woodpecker species present in Japan.

You can also search for the bird species of a particular genus or for curiosities like all the bird species that have “red-tailed” in their common name!

Read more about the Species Plates in this tutorial.
Arnau Bonan
Editor, HBW Alive
Screen shot 2015-05-17 at 11.31.32 AM
News on Birds
New Taxa
A new Locustella species has been described in China: the Sichuan Bush Warbler Locustella chengi (Bradypterus in HBW taxonomy). It breeds at mid-elevations in Sichuan, Shaanxi, Hubei, Hunan and Guizhou provinces.

Ornithological News
The Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) is a New World warbler that breeds in eastern North America and winters in Central America and northern South America. Five males carrying light-level geolocators abandoned their breeding territories 24 hours ahead of the passage of a severe tornadic storm system. It is suggested that the birds were able to detect storm-generated infrasound, which provided an early warning.
Other highlighted news:
The Critically Endangered Bali Myna (Leucopsar rothschildi) population is improving.
Juvenile Eurasian Wigeons (Mareca penelope) quickly learn to avoid hunters.

Continue reading

Posted in life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ProAves Aleteo #130 – ancient tradtions amended for bird conservation


Screen shot 2015-05-17 at 10.22.30 AMOur friends in Colombia have again broken new ground in the cause for avian conservation.  Recently, ProAves engaged in an educational campaign aimed at a change in the annual observance of Palm Sunday, in which devout Catholics would recreate the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem just days before his crucifixtion.  In the story, the people of Jerusalem came out in droves to hail Jesus as their king and messiah, and they both waved and spread on the ground before him palm leaves from the nearby trees.  To this day, Catholics all over the world hold palm leaves on the Sunday before Easter to commemorate the story.

Unlike my family in Upstate NY who celebrated Palm Sunday with bundles of imported palm, local people in Colombia have their own wax palms – the national tree of Colombia – to harvest for this purpose.  This use of wax palm, along with the tree’s use as a source of carnauba wax and for other purposes, has threatened wax palm with extinction.  As goes the wax palm, so goes the endangered Yellow-eared Parrot (featured in ProAves’ logo) which both nests in cavities in wax palm trunks and relies heavily on wax palm fruits for food. Pressure on wax palms for Palm Sunday observances is just one example of an ecological problem generated by this religious observance and some Christian groups have been working on more sustainable alternatives.

ProAves has done so in their colorful and inimitable fashion.  Working with local people and church officials, read how their Reconcile With Nature campaign is fostering new attitudes toward nature and the nature of how we pray.

Screen shot 2015-05-17 at 10.38.35 AM

Posted in life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birding Community E-Bulletin – May 2015


Screen shot 2015-05-17 at 10.12.47 AMThe 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:
http://sportsoptics.zeiss.com/nature/en_us/home.html

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):
http://refugeassociation.org/news/birding-bulletin/

RARITY FOCUS

On the morning of Friday, 3 April, Jeremy Ross was birding in the vicinity of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, in southwestern Indiana. While driving down a muddy and bumpy dirt road, he spotted a large shorebird land among other resting shorebirds and the bird just didn’t look right. “It was real pretty,” Ross commented. “But with the black and white and orange, I thought, ‘That’s just not normal. I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t normal.’ ”

He was right; it was a Black-tailed Godwit! This was verified when he took a digital photo using his cellphone through his spotting scope.

The Black-tailed Godwit is a Eurasian species, ranging from Iceland and east across Russia. It’s rare but regular in western Alaska, and with a healthy Icelandic population, Continue reading

Posted in life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Macfarlane, and words that should not be forgotten


“Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, and willow. The words introduced to the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player, and voice-mail.”

So wrote Robert MacFarlane in his recent essay Landspeak, published in Orion Magazine.

I can’t wait for my next chance to spy a windhover facing the pirr, searching crottles in a smeuse through the ammil . . .

It'll be a sad day indeed when neither parent nor dictionary can tell the wee ones what this is.

It’ll be a sad day indeed when neither parent nor dictionary can tell the wee ones what this is.

Posted in life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

May 2015 newsletter for the Arboretum at Penn State


The Arboretum was in its planning stages when we left. It’s great to see how it has developed in our absence.

Screen shot 2015-05-16 at 12.21.27 PM

Posted in life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment