Birding and the Border Patrol – a Rio Grande encounter

Eight years ago, I had this illuminating encounter with a Border Patrol Agent in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Waterthrush Blog

While birding the Lower Rio Grande Valley a few weeks ago, we visited a number of out-of-the way places where illegal aliens routinely cross the border from Mexico into the United States.  It’s one thing to imagine how difficult that journey must be, but to go there and see the cactus and thorn scrub woodlands through which these people sprint in the dark on the hope of a better life somehow makes their desperation that much more palpable.  At the same time, you are struck by all the nefarious activities happening in the same place – the smuggling of drugs, guns, people.  We saw some houses in the area that looked to be completely surrounded by 8-10′ chain link fencing – folks just get sick and tired of desperate Mexicans running across their lawns in the middle of the night.

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Why Keystone XL should be approved

Two years later and yes, of course, the Standing Rock protesters have my sympathies. My support of their right to protest and my objection to the harsh treatment they have received, however, is separate from the objective analysis on this issue I attempted in 2015. There have been some more pipeline leaks since then, but I haven’t seen anything new to convince me that the pipeline is not, ultimately, the best option among bad choices.

The Waterthrush Blog

I’m very much in the minority among my environmentally conscious brothers and sisters in that I am convinced that the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved without further delay.  The controversial pipeline resolution was passed today by the US Senate but President Obama has promised to veto its final approval.  It would be a mistake for him to do so.

Among the many groups encouraging the President’s veto, the Natural Resource Defense Council lists 5 big reasons why the pipeline should not be completed:  1) transporting “tar sands” bitumen via pipeline is unsafe, 2) burning tar sands oil will contribute greatly to global climate change, 3) tar sands sludge is toxic to human and environmental health, 4) transporting tar sands oil via pipeline will cost American jobs, and 5) approving the Keystone XL pipeline sends the wrong message for the future, which should be less reliance on fossil…

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What’s in the yard: 2 January 2017

Stillwater, Payne, Oklahoma, US
Jan 2, 2017 8:50 AM – 2:50 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.25 mile(s)
27 species

Northern Bobwhite  3
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  3
Barred Owl  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  3
American Crow  5
Carolina Chickadee  6
Tufted Titmouse  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Eastern Bluebird  3
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Dark-eyed Junco  22
Harris’s Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  12
House Finch  2

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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2017 AOS/SCO meeting announcement

Two venerable ornithological societies, the American Ornithologists’ Union and Cooper Ornithological Society, merged in 2016 following protracted discussions on the topic over the last several years. Next summer will be the first meeting of the newly merged society, the American Ornithological Society or AOS (though it’s listed as the 135th stated meeting to preserve the long history of the AOU and COS).  As the AOU and COS have done for quite some time, the meeting will be held jointly with our Canadian colleagues, the Society of Canadian Ornithologists.

The meeting will take place 31 July–5 August 2017 on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, USA. The call for symposia proposals is now open with a deadline of Feb. 1.  Hope to see you there!

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What’s in the yard, 1 January 2017

Most birders get excited to start fresh with every new year and keep track of all species seen over the next 12 months.  I don’t year-list anymore, but I do make a point to start off the year right with a few checklists.  Here’s one from this afternoon:

Stillwater, Payne, Oklahoma, US
Jan 1, 2017 4:45 PM – 5:15 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.25 mile(s)
19 species

Northern Bobwhite  6
Mourning Dove  5
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Carolina Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
American Robin  10
Northern Mockingbird  1
Cedar Waxwing  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Dark-eyed Junco  5
Harris’s Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  10
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  2

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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2016 Christmas Bird Count – Stillwater, Oklahoma

The brainchild of ornithologist Frank Chapman at the American Museum of Natural History in 1900, the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count was among the first true citizen science endeavors. Today, with more than a century of data under our collective belt, the CBC provides some of the best data on long-term population trends for wintering birds in the US and Canada. For species that breed well north of the reach of the Breeding Bird Survey, the CBC provides our only systematic sample of populations.

Our Stillwater CBC was founded in 1947 by husband-and-wife ornithologists Fred and Marguerite Baumgartner. Their efforts, combined with the dedicated leadership and service of all the members and friends of the Payne County Audubon Society, have helped build a remarkable database that tracks bird populations and, by extension, habitat changes in our region.


For just one example, check out this comparison of Loggerhead Shrike vs. Eurasian Collared Dove on our count over the last 30 years or so. (The abundance estimate on the vertical axis is birds/party-hour, which is a way to correct for the varying number of people participating year to year):


The grassland-dependent Loggerhead Shrike has declined dramatically, Continue reading

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December 31 – The LAST DAY — Lynn Barber’s Alaska Big Year – and Beyond

My Alaska big year is over! I love planning and taking trips, and it will be hard to cut back and be more “sensible” about chasing birds in the new year. But, now that I have again begun to accumulate more miles on Alaska Airlines, I do hope to add a few more birds to my […]

via December 31 – The LAST DAY — Lynn Barber’s Alaska Big Year – and Beyond

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