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Friday, September 18, 2009

Nikon Digiscoping!

The theme of the month at Nikon's Birding Optics page is digiscoping- check out the digiscoped bird pics slide show that plays when you open the page! There's also a link to a nice little digiscoping video on the bottom of the page. And some guy you may have heard of is the featured ProStaffer of the month, too!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Washed-out Wilson's Warbler

I took a nice little birding trip to the Chico Basin Ranch after work on Friday, spending the night and then birding a cool Saturday at this well-known Colorado hot spot. Besides birding, I enjoyed catching up with friend and fellow Nikon Birding ProStaff member Brian Gibbons, who is running the banding station there for the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory this fall.

It was a busy day at the nets, with nearly 100 birds banded. Wilson's Warblers led the tall, and among them was a very unusual one that was mostly lacking melanin pigmentation. In birding circles, individuals like this are usually known as leucistic, although the condition may also be called dilute plumage. On a normal Wilson's Warbler melanin pigments darken the cap, wingtips, tail, bill, and legs. Yellow coloration is from caroteniod pigmentation, derived from plants instead of synthesized by the bird. The olive-greenish back of a normal Wilson's Warbler is from a mix of melanin and caroteniod pigments.
So when most of the melanin isn't present, you get a bright yellow bird like this one, with very pale wingtips and tail, a yellow back and cap, a pink bill, and pink legs. When compared to normal Wilson's Warblers (hatch-year female, left, & male, right), you can see the effects of having normal melanin vs. greatly reduced melanin. Below are a few more comparisons vs. a normal hatch-year female.