Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bird species' acronyms

This column about acronyms for birds' common names includes this graf:

Years rolled by, and acronyms for bird names were as rare as ivory-billed woodpeckers. Then they seem to explode on the scene among young, computer-oriented birders. Sometimes, multiple bird sighting reports can be a challenge to decipher.

I'm familiar with the protocol that bird banders typically use to create four-letter acronyms (and have used since the 1960s): first two letters of each word. In the case of a one-word common name, use the first four letters; Osprey is OSPR. In the case of a hyphenated adjective or name, use the first letter of each word; a Red-winged Blackbird is a RWBL, and an American Golden-Plover is a AMGP.

Given that system, is it difficult to decipher reports that you encounter online or otherwise? I like the Bird Banding Laboratory's sytem for its ease and expediency. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bird humor...


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How not to curry an editor's favor

If you're interested in contributing photographs to a publication, you're probably not going to receive a response if you send an e-mail like this:

Dear Editor,

I possible, could I be sent a photo submissions list for this years magazines?

[name withheld]

1. If you want to establish a working relationship with an editor, include that individual's name in the e-mail.
2. If you want to make a good first impression, use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation in the e-mail.
3. If you want to submit photographs to a publication, provide proof that your work is worthy of and appropriate for consideration by providing a URL, a list of publications that used your images and/or a list of training and awards.

Then again, how would you react to such an e-mail if you worked as a magazine editor? I'm curious.


Monday, January 28, 2008

WildBird's 20th annual photo contest

The March/April issue -- which subscribers should be receiving right about now -- includes the rules and entry form for the 20th annual photo contest. The postmark deadline for entries is April 25.

The rules appear below, but the entry form will not be posted online. Participants can find it only in the March/April and May/June issues.

The contest offers prizes for a grand-prize photo as well as first, second and third place in five categories: amateur, backyard, digiscoping, flight and waterbirds. The grand-prize photo is a Canon EOS 40D!

Grand-prize winner in the 2007 contest: Great Horned Owls by James F. Cowell
More images appear

Official rules
* All entries must be postmarked by April 25, 2008.

* This photo contest is open to everyone except employees of WildBird and BowTie Inc.

* Each contestant may enter up to two photographs per category.

* Each participant confirms that each entry has not been published in a commercial publication for payment or offered online for sale. Similar in-camera duplicate photos are not eligible.

* Each contestant agrees to allow WildBird to post one entry on the magazine's website, without compensation, to promote the contest.

* One grand-prize photo will be selected from all the contest entries.

* Color 35mm slides, 2 1/4-inch transparencies, prints no larger than 8x10 inches and digital files will be accepted. Do not send duplicate or glass-mounted slides.

* Digital files must arrive on compact discs, one image per CD.

* To be suitable for publication in the September/October issue, a digital file must be 300 dpi; TIFF, EPS or SHQ JPG format; RGB mode; and 8 bit, and it must have an 8x10-inch print size. A high-quality print, measuring 8x10 inches, must accompany each CD.

* Due to the constraints imposed by early digital cameras used in digiscoping, only entries in the digiscoping category may possess a print size of 5x7 inches and arrive with a 5x7-inch high-quality print.

* Only images of native species photographed in the United States and Canada are eligible for the amateur, digiscoping, flight, water birds and backyard categories.

* To write the captions, we need the story behind the photo. Please provide a 200-word-maximum description of how you attracted the bird to your yard or how you observed the bird in the field.

* The amateur category is open to individuals who have not won a prize in a previous WildBird photo contest and have not received payment from WildBird for the publication of an image.

* All backyard photographs must be taken in a yard; show a feeder, birdbath or nestbox; and include species regularly seen at those features. Photos taken at wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries and commercial lodges are not eligible.

* All digiscoping entries must cite the spotting scope and eyepiece used to create the image.

* All flight photos must convey the essence of avian flight. Motion and focus will be primary considerations.

* Entries for the water birds category should feature only shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl and seabirds.

* Each entry must arrive in a separate envelope.

* All birds photographed for this contest must be alive and living in the wild. Controlled studio portraits, photos of captive birds and "posed" birds -- especially nestlings -- will not be accepted.

* Please write the entry's category on the front, lower-left area of the envelope. Failure to do so will disqualify the entry.

* Every image must arrive with a separate, completed entry form. Photocopies of the form are acceptable.

* Do not use staples or paper clips; they can scratch your photos. WildBird is not responsible for lost or damaged slides.

* Due to the volume of submissions, the staff will not make exceptions to these rules. Please follow them carefully to avoid disqualification.

* Winners will be selected by a panel of judges and the WildBird staff.

* If you want your slides and transparencies returned, each entry must arrive with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Provide ample postage in addition to a return address on each envelope. Prints and CDs will not be returned.

* Winners will be notified by mail. Please do not call or send an e-mail.

* Winning images will be published in the September/October 2008 issue and may be used in advertising and marketing of WildBird without compensation.

* All slides and transparencies will be returned in October. No prints or CDs will be returned.

Good luck!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

I and the Bird #67

Ready for a global holiday? Join Trevor from Trevor's Birding for the current edition of I and the Bird, the biweekly birding carnival.

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Blog-erview with Pete Dunne

Pete Dunne and I met in September 2004 during WildBird's Birder of the Year trip to Cape May, N.J. If memory serves me right, we'd only talked on the phone before then, so I really enjoyed the chance to chat with Pete in person while Dick Lutz, the 2003 Birder of the Year, and I birded in Cape May.

Perhaps you know Pete through his books, talks or field trips. He currently serves as vice president of natural history information for New Jersey Audubon Society and editor of "New Jersey Audubon Magazine." He played a pivotal role in the first World Series of Birding, a 24-hour competition in Jersey to raise funds for conservation, with Roger Tory Peterson in 1984. Pete also participates on WildBird's Advisory Board and humored my request for a duck photo when we met in 2004 as well as answers to the following questions.

Did a specific event/species encourage you to start birding?
Yes. A neighborhood chum named Donna showed up at our house with binoculars and a field guide -- birthday gifts from her grandparents (I believe). Said Donna: "Let's go on a bird hike." So we did. O'dark thirty the next morning. Been doing it ever since.

What's the secret to remaining functional during the 24-hour World Series of Birding?
It's easy. Just keep finding lots of birds. They keep you awake.

Do you have a nemesis bird, and if so, which species?
Hmmm. Nemesis bird. No. I think I'm on pretty good terms with all the birds I've met.

What do you consider the most pressing issue for birders to address?
Oh, it's got to be headgear! Birders will wear the most tasteless and outlandish hats. Where are the Indiana Joneses of birding, the Crocodile Dundees?

Describe your dream birding trip: who, where, when, why, how long, which species.
Me. Everywhere. Both sides of now. Why? You're kidding, right? From the diaper to the shroud. All of 'em.

How do you feel about rubber ducks?
Can't get enough of them. Love 'em on corn flakes. Great fire starters if your wood is wet.

Are you working on a book now?
When am I not working on a book? There are actually four in the hopper now: one in production, two in the final stages of writing, one in the hopper, one being negotiated. I guess that makes five. Good think I'm a writer and not an accountant.

How do you encourage the next generation of birders?
By encouraging parents and guardians to give kids the latitude to just go birding and have a great time! But I'm also a big supporter of the Take a Kid Birding initiative (which pretty much encourages parents to do just that).

Do Ivory-billed Woodpeckers still exist?
I don't know. They did a couple of years ago. Haven't heard anything lately; have you?

How would you describe Roger Tory Peterson to someone who's not familiar with his work?
Frankly I think I'd have a tougher time finding someone not familiar with Roger's work. But if I did come upon such a person, I'd take them to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary on the 17th of September or Crane Creek on the second weekend in May or the finish line at the World Series of Birding and tell them to look all of the faces flushed with excitement. Then I'd explain: "Roger did that."

Describe your worst birding experience.
Refer to the next question.

Will you ever get your face painted during Autumn Weekend?
Refer to the previous question.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Last Child in the Woods" author to receive Audubon Medal

The author of "Last Child in the Woods," Richard Louv, will receive the Audubon Medal -- recognizing "individual achievement in the field of conservation and environmental protection" -- on Saturday, Jan. 26, from National Audubon Society. At the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Tiburon, Calif., Louv will be honored for highlighting what he calls "nature-deficit disorder" -- the phenomenon created by a lack of interaction between today's youth and the natural world -- in his 2005 bestseller.

Click here for the 5-minute NPR interview with Louv on May 25, 2005.

Have you read "Last Child in the Woods"? If so, what did you think of it? If not, are you tempted to, and why?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Washed-off world

The rain fell last night while I was snug in flannel sheets. It felt delightful to wake up to a washed-off world.

Clouds still decorated the sky as it became lighter. Soft bird calls reached me as I stood in the open patio door. An excellent morning for a dorkwalk.

With a warm, purple, fleece pullover, a ballcap and knit gloves, I set out at a brisk pace through the neighborhood. Around the first corner, my feet came to an abrupt halt as my ears registered a hummingbird overhead. Despite a systematic search of the tree's bare branches, I couldn't spy the little bird. Good work, Houdini.

The pink fluffy clouds behind and before me looked gorgeous. The 40-something-degree air temperature kept me moving briskly. I slowed only when a friendly dog named Bear decided to keep pace with me rather than her owner.

Gulls flew north, Cassin's Kingbirds called "chewboo" from the trees, and more hummingbirds sawed and chittered between and above the houses along my route. A Black Phoebe flew from fence post to mailbox to fence post as Bear "swept" the bird forward.

Ah yes, a delicious way to start the day.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Help for seabirds

Protective measures that go in effect this year should reduce the number of seabirds accidentally killed by longline fishing fleets, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Fleets operating on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans will adopt techniques meant to keep many albatross and seabird species from becoming snared when the birds dive after the bait on the fishing lines.

“Some of the most vulnerable seabird populations travel entire oceans in search of food. Seabird conservation will require nations with longline fishing fleets to work together to adapt their fishing practices to avoid seabirds wherever they fish,” said Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., NOAA administrator and under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

In November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas adopted a requirement that the European Commission and 44 other nations use special gear and techniques to reduce the unintended catch of seabirds. The techniques include fishing at night when few birds are active, weighting fishing lines so the baited hooks sink out of reach of birds, and using devices to scare birds away from the fishing lines. These measures will govern fishing for tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean.

Streamers hanging from the fishing lines are meant to keep seabirds away from baited hooks.

In December, the European Commission and 24 fishing nations that make up the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission set technical specifications for the use of bird-scaring lines and other techniques that help fishermen avoid hooking seabirds by accident. Bird-scaring lines, also called tori lines, are streamers that hang from a line attached at the stern of a fishing vessel. They help prevent birds from reaching the bait when fishing lines are set in the ocean.
Similar measures adopted in international waters around Antarctic have been effective. Since their adoption by the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Living Marine Resources in 1991, they reduced accidental seabird deaths by 90 percent.

On a related note: If you eat fish, do you consider how it's caught and the potential danger to birds?

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Florida festival features 3 WB contributors

When the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival begins on Wednesday, it will offer field trips, workshops, displays, wildlife shows and more to birders from around the country. In fact, last year's festival attracted attendees from 35 states and seven other nations. Check out this map to see why the festival's attendance records show more than 3,000 participants.

Among the activities on the agenda are nightly keynote addresses. Of the five presenters, three contribute to WildBird: Jeff Bouton (Adventures With Austin), Kevin Karlson (Birder's I.D. and photographs) and Jeff Gordon (author). I'll unfortunately miss their talks, so I hope that bloggers attending the festival might provide some highlights or details.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Commemorative Bald Eagle Coins

This week, the United States Mint released three commemorative coins featuring the Bald Eagle. The limited-edition coins mark the 35th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

the $5 gold coin, proof version

the silver dollar, proof version

the half-dollar, proof version

Portions from the coins' sales will go to American Eagle Foundation to fund its work. You can buy them individually as proof coins or circulated coins. Sets also are available.

Orders can be made via phone from 8 a.m. to midnight (ET), seven days a week, at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468). The mail-order option involves downloading the order form and mailing it to

United States Mint
PO Box 71188
Philadelphia PA 19176-6188

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Weidensaul shares with Scouts

Earlier this week, author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul spoke to Boy Scouts on Marco Island, Fla., about birding and banding, the practice of placing metal bands on birds' legs to collect data and track the birds' movements. He's currently in the Sunshine State for the 4th annual Southwest Florida Birding & Wildlife Festival.

You can read about Weidensaul's experiences as a birder and bander on his blog, Of a Feather. At his website, you can see if he'll visit an event near you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just peeking in

Simultaneous deadlines and a weekend business trip make for fun times. (Yes, that was vaguely sarcastic.)

Catching up with e-mail revealed a newspaper article with this second graf:
I like to think of myself more as a virile, sexy birder, the kind of birder who works out and has to beat off bird-loving chicks with a stick. A scotch-swilling, bare-knuckle kind of birder. Sort of a cross between Ernest Hemingway and John James Audobon. In any event, I do find these little creatures endlessly fascinating.
How could I not continue reading? And where can I find birders like that?


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I and The Bird deadline: today!

Go. Read. Do.

I'll say no more. (Wink wink, nudge nudge.)

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Save a bird by buying recycled paper?

The Daily Green's One Easy Thing ecotip says

If you can't take Sheryl Crow's jesting suggestion to use a single square of toilet paper, why not use a couple but make sure they come from a recycled roll?

And if that rubs you wrong, at least choose recycled napkins, paper towels, office paper and other paper products. It's been calculated that Americans toss so much office paper that a year's worth would stretch from Los Angeles to New York and stand 12 feet tall.

Considering that logging of the boreal forest in Canada and Siberia is happening at a lightning-quick pace that is proving too speedy for many songbirds that live there, the feathered friend at the feeder can serve as an everyday reminder of the importance of the simple choice: recycled paper, please.
How many recycled-paper items do you use at home and at work? Does your employer recycle office paper?

Black-throated Blue Warber courtesy of Kevin T. Karlson/


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Superbowl of Birding in Massachusetts

Grab three to six other birders, and play in the fifth annual Superbowl of Birding on Jan. 26. Massachusetts Audubon's Joppa Flats Education Center has organized another chance to win prizes by birding indoors or outdoors!

Prizes include
The Joppa Cup: Grand prize for the team with the greatest number of points
Director's Award: Greatest number of species
Essex County Excels Award: Most points in Essex County
Rockingham County Rocks Award: Most points in Rockingham County
Parker River NWR Award: Most points on the refuge
Sitting Duck Award: Award for the greatest number of species tallied from a fixed point
Seekers Award: Award for the first team to complete the special Seekers checklist
NewBies Award: Award for the greatest number of points tallied by any team with 2 or more members 18 years of age or younger
Lifer Award: Participant who sees the most new life birds during the competition

Teams gain points for species seen and heard by a majority of the team members, and each species must appear on the official checklist. Teams need to pre-register, and the current registration fee is $25 per participant, with a lower fee for birders age 12 and under.

For all the nitty-gritty details, click the link above. You'll find the contest rules, registration form, prize list and official checklist.