Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birding appears in the L.A. Times

I'm a couple days late, but here's a nice article about birding along Ballona Creek. A photo gallery appears in the upper left of the page, and a video clip of the article's author, Jane Engle, provides friendly advice. Good to see birding receive coverage in a mainstream publication!

Puget Sound Bird Observatory banding scholarship

From a post to the Young Birder Yahoo!group:

Puget Sound Bird Observatory Banding Scholarship

- Are you under 26 (or thereabouts)?
- Are you interested in working with wildlife as a career?
- Are you looking for a way to develop valuable skills without breaking the bank?

Puget Sound Bird Observatory is offering a $350 scholarship for our Cascades Banding Camp (that covers 50% of the cost). Learn how to band birds Aug. 16-23 in Washington's Cascade Mountains with expert banders and trainers. This seven-day camping trip will feature riparian and mountain birding and banding at several locations with opportunities to see and possibly handle great Northwest birds like Williamson's Sapsucker, Hammond's Flycatcher, and MacGillivray's Warbler.


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Class fee for scholarship recipient: $350 (includes PSBO membership and book fee).

Go to the Puget Sound Bird Observatory website for more info about the camp and to download a scholarship application. E-mail Emily AT pugetsoundbirds DOT org if you have questions.

This scholarship is made possible by a generous grant from the Point
Defiance chapter of American Association of Zoo Keepers.

Emily Sprong
Puget Sound Bird Observatory
Sound Science - Scientific Information - Informed Public
Puget Sound Bird Observatory studies birds and their habitats in the
Pacific Northwest to better understand changes in bird populations, to
inform decision-makers, and to engage the public with birds and their
needs.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rain in the rainforest

Would you like to escape briefly to Costa Rica? You won't see or hear birds in this video clip, but you'll receive a glimpse into the weather that occurred during WildBird's Birder of the Year trip with Cindy and Jim Beckman to the southwest corner of Costa Rica. I made the clip at Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge on the Osa Peninula.

video

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Monday, July 21, 2008

WildBird's Birder of the Year prize trip: Costa Rica

In each issue of WildBird, we pose a question in the Lister's Forum and Birder's Back Yard departments. Readers who provide timely responses might see their replies in a future issue, and they might be named Forum Birder or Backyard Birder. Those birders receive certificates and prizes from sponsors, such as Swarovski Optik and Houghton Mifflin.

In the November/December issue, the six Forum Birders and six Backyard Birders become eligible for the Birder of the Year title and more prizes. WildBird readers vote to award the title and prizes.

This year's Forum Birders and Backyard Birders became eligible for Lang Elliott's "The Songs of Wild Birds," donated by Houghton Mifflin, as well as a Swarovski squall jacket. The 2007 Birder of the Year -- Cindy Beckman of Spring Valley, Ohio -- also received a Swarovski 8x32 EL and a guided trip to Costa Rica, courtesy of Swarovski Optik North America. She appeared in the March/April 2008 issue on page 6.

Cindy and her husband are in Costa Rica now, and I'll join them and Swarovski rep Clay Taylor on Wednesday morning in San Jose. We'll explore birding spots until Sunday.

If you'd like the chance to win optics and a five-day guided birding trip, then answer the questions in Lister's Forum and Birder's Back Yard in every issue. As little as 250 words could earn you the trip of a lifetime!


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Friday, July 18, 2008

"Birdhouse in Your Soul"

This morning, my favorite radio station played They Might Be Giants' 1990 tune "Birdhouse in Your Soul." It's proven to be quite an earworm, and I can't get the cheerful sound out of my brain.

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
Who watches over you
Make a little birdhouse in your soul
Not to put too fine a point on it
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Make a little birdhouse in your soul

See what I mean?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Birds' vocal cords are fastest known muscles

From National Geographic News:

Experts have long wondered whether bird song is caused by passive interactions as air moves between the vocal muscles or direct neuromuscular control.

"I had been looking at the muscles in a pigeon species and was amazed by how fast they were moving," said lead study author Coen Elemans at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

"[Pigeons] have really boring, slow songs, and it made me wonder what the muscles in songbirds were like, so I decided to find out."

What Elemans and colleagues discovered is that zebra finches and European starlings can change their tunes at frequencies as high as 250 hertz via direct muscle control.

This means that they are moving their muscles a hundred times faster than a blink of the human eye.
The research appeared on PLoS One on July 9, "Superfast Vocal Muscles Control Song Production in Songbirds," and the abstract begins:

Birdsong is a widely used model for vocal learning and human speech, which exhibits high temporal and acoustic diversity. Rapid acoustic modulations are thought to arise from the vocal organ, the syrinx, by passive interactions between the two independent sound generators or intrinsic nonlinear dynamics of sound generating structures. Additionally, direct neuromuscular control could produce such rapid and precisely timed acoustic features if syringeal muscles exhibit rare superfast muscle contractile kinetics. However, no direct evidence exists that avian vocal muscles can produce modulations at such high rates. Here, we show...
Click on the PLoS link for the interesting details.

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New Birdwatch Radio podcast

Familiar with Mike O'Connor, author of "Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches" and a contributor to "Good Birders Don't Wear White"? He recently spoke with Steve Moore of Birdwatch Radio, and their conversation appears here.

My first exposure to O'Connor's wit occurred last year when WildBird ran his GBDWW essay, "Relinquish Control for Stress-free Bird Feeding," in the May/June 2007 issue. With this podcast, I enjoyed hearing his voice and humor.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Have you listened to Tim Gallagher?

Have you heard Gallagher -- the birder/falconer/writer/editor/Ivory-billed Woodpecker searcher -- speak at a festival or other event? I've attended a few of his presentations and enjoyed his company in Guatemala last month.

Here, you can listen to Gallagher talk about his latest book, Falcon Fever. He sent word of the interview last week, and now that my head isn't spinning from three overlapping deadlines, I'm happy to share news from another raptor aficionado.

Bluebirds thrive in SoCal

From today's "Los Angeles Times":
Dick Purvis knew that if he was going to bring bluebirds to Orange County, the county would need more holes.

Bluebirds, he explained, require them for nesting, and there aren't many trees with holes in the county's developed recreational areas. If you find one, he said, "the ranger will come and cut it down."

So Purvis, 80, a bird lover since his boyhood in North Georgia, set out to bolster the area's bluebird population by placing nest boxes in parks and golf courses. And what started as one man's hobby in 1984 has grown into the 200-member Southern California Bluebird Club, whose efforts last year added more than 5,000 members of the species to the skies of Orange County, making it the state's most prolific bluebird haven.

At Peters Canyon Regional Park in eastern Orange, Senior Park Ranger Raul Herrera attests to the success of the efforts by the former McDonnell Douglas engineer. The park's bluebird population, said Herrera, "was just about zero when he started here. He's brought it back to life."
A six-image photo gallery appears here.


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Thursday, July 03, 2008

American Birding Association: wildflowers

Would you be so kind as to identify these wildflowers? I found the Wasatch Bloomers page but would appreciate some confirmations.











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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

American Birding Association: Saturday

During the American Birding Association's convention in Utah, the Mirror Lake field trip on Saturday began with a stop at the Bald Mountain trailhead at 10,759 feet. The target bird for this snowy destination: Black Rosy-Finch. With intense scrutiny of this landscape...


the group eventually spied the small black specks against the white or blue backgrounds. The rosy-finches appeared along the top of the snow, mostly to the left side of the above photo. At one point, I saw four finches fluttering about at the same time.

Other finds at this stop included Townsend's Solitaire, a singing White-crowned Sparrow, Mountain Chickadees, Cassin's Finch, American Robins, gray-headed Dark-eyed Junco and mountain goats. Yes, mountain goats!

The goats' appearance along the top of the snowy ridge elicited gasps and squeals of delight. Seven goats eventually ambled across the snow, with the two kids scampering about and providing quite a show.

Moving to a lower altitude, we stopped at Trial Lake campground and received greetings from a singing Ruby-crowned Kinglet. What a vivid crown! A small group hung back and saw Pine Grosbeaks and Gray Jay before rejoining the crew that set up camp below the American Three-toed Woodpecker nest.


While waiting for the woodpeckers' appearance, I reclined on the road and soaked up sunshine and views of a Tree Swallow perched on a snag in the lake. I eventually saw peeks of a woodpecker's head and felt satisfied with that.

Our lunch spot -- Soapstone Basin, next to Provo River -- yielded looks at MacGillivray's Warbler, Red-naped Sapsuckers, Mountain Chickadee, Red-tailed Hawk and Dusky Flycatcher. All the aspen trees enthralled me.


At the last stop, Taylor Fork, I got to see a Warbling Vireo on its nest, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Northern Flickers, Cedar Waxwings and Red-naped Sapsuckers. On the drive home, I spied Black-billed Magpies -- reminders of a previous visit to Park City with high-school friends.

One of the field trip's highlights for me was the chance to capture a real snowbunny. You never know what you'll see while birding.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

National Park and Recreation Month

National Recreation and Park Association encourages everyone to celebrate National Park and Recreation Month in July. You'll find a poster with an idea for each day of the month here. I particularly like the suggestions for July 5, 14 and 24.

Could you create a birding suggestion for each day of July? For July 1, I'd write "Walk next to the waves at Huntington State Beach, smell the salt air, and watch the Heermann's Gulls preen and the Willets probe the wet sand."

American Birding Association: Friday

At the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird, a seed feeder lured Cassin's Finches and Pine Siskins as well as the birders who wanted to pull up a chair on the patio and settle in for the show. I admit to being one of those birders, preferring to watch the siskins and finches -- the male finches looked like their heads were dipped in raspberry preserves -- rather than editing articles for the September/October issue.


(Yes, that's snow in the upper right part of the photo. Snow! In late June!)Eventually, the deadline breathing down my neck convinced me to move away from the feeder and to a more secluded spot.

Father Tom Pincelli spotted a shady alcove and provided a chair, too. Did I feel special! With a warm chai beside my chair, I got to work... but even this view distracted me from the articles, as did the American Robins and a little flycatcher that visited the greenery.


After a while, I admitted defeat and succumbed to a little quackery. The tree branches, however, didn't want to remain straight, and the ducks preferred to land on the ground rather than remain on the branches.

A few people looked at me with some concern while I scrounged in the tangled foliage for the errant ducks. Ah well.

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