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Thursday, July 29, 2010


Well, I'm packed and ready to head to the airport early tomorrow morning, Alaska-bound for my PolarTREC expedition. Follow along via the tease links above this post as I update my journals or go right to my PolarTREC page:

Feeling mostly ready I decided to head out and do a little photography this morning. For a new twist I decided to try digiscoping some dragonflies at Walden Ponds in Boulder, CO. I've shot dragonflies with a telephoto and with a macro but this was my first serious attempt at digiscoping them. I'm using my Nikon EDG (65mm angled model) and a camera that is new to digiscoping for me- the Panasonic DMC-ZS7. I got the Panasonic for my trip to AK based on its all-around utility; 300mm equivalent zoom, HD video, and GPS-tagging capabilities. But I wasn't expecting it to be very good at digiscoping, as most cameras with more than 4X optical zoom don't work well. But it is pretty serviceable!

I felt mostly confident on these IDs except for the brown job which had me stymied. Luckily some of the state's best ode experts bailed me out.
Enjoy- Bill

Female Blue Dasher

Calico Pennant

Young male Autumn (or maybe Striped) Meadowhawk. Much thanks to Bill Prather & Dave Leatherman for the ID help on this one.

Halloween Pennant

Varigated Meadowhawk

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A' one, and a' two, and a' three... toes!

I led a Denver Audubon Master Birder class field trip yesterday up in the hills above Golden, Colorado to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We saw & heard a bunch of nice montane species, and I think the highlight for everyone was tracking down a previously reported American Three-toed Woodpecker nest. Looks like this fledgling should pop out any minute, so glad we made it prior to the fledging date. It was super loud- we could hear while we were still in the woods prior to entering the clearing where its nest aspen tree was. Both parents attended the nest while we were there- this clip catches part of one of dad's visits. We also saw and heard Red-naped Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker while we were observing the nest and had Hairy Woodpecker earlier in the trip, so great auditory and visual woodpecker studies were had by all! The ATTW was a lifer for about half the group, which is a very gratifying thing to be a part of as a field trip leader. This cadre is about done with their year-long program and will be presenting their research projects July 26 and August 2. Break a leg, and congrats on winding up this intensive program!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New Titles for the Bookshelf

I thought I'd share these 5 new bird books that came out this year. What's the connection? I've got photos in them all! Check 'em out:

National Geographic's Bird Coloration by Geoff Hill. Whitey the Steller's Jay rides again in this book!! From the publisher:
Why is a cardinal red or a bluebird blue? Why do some birds have plumage that is intensely colored—is it pigment, light, gender, robust health, or some combination of all four? What roles do disease, climate, and wear and tear play in this process? What does feather display signal about sexual attraction and social status? How has color camouflage evolved? These are just a few of the fascinating questions explored here in the first non-academic work on coloration and plumage, and their key role in avian life. More than 200 gorgeous photographs highlight the explanations of the essentials: what color is, ornithologically speaking; how it is produced and measured; how birds use color to attract mates and deter competitors; how birds perceive color; and how coloration varies across species by sex, season, and age. Geoff Hill guides his readers along an engaging but authoritative narrative illustrated with vivid photographs and fact-packed captions. A book conceived in the same spirit as National Geographic’s more traditional bird guides, it’s sure to appeal to serious ornithologists, recreational bird watchers, and natural history buffs alike.
2) Peterson Reference Guide to Molt in North American Birds by Steve N.G. Howell. I was very pleased to be a part of this groundbreaking book. To be a good/great birder you've got to address molt, and this book finally puts it all together in one place for N.A. birds. From the publisher:

To most observers,molt seems an overwhelming subject. But birders use many aspects of molt more than they realize--to distinguish juvenile birds from adults, to pick out an individual hummingbird from among dozens visiting a feeder, and much more. And for those whose interest goes beyond simply identifying birds, questions such as What triggers molt to start? How fast do feathers grow? and How long do they last? offer a fascinating window into the lives of birds. Put plainly, molt relates in some way to everything a bird does, including where it lives, what it eats, and how far it migrates. Here, for the first time, molt is presented for the nonscientist. Molt is very orderly and built on only four underlying strategies: simple basic, complex basic, simple alternate, and complex alternate. This book clearly lays out these strategies, relates them to aspects of life history, such as habitat and migration, and makes this important subject accessible.
3) Birdscaping for Garden Spaces: A Guide to Garden Birds and the Native Plants that Attract Them by George Adams. Birds and habitat are intricately connected and this book helps gardeners appreciate and enjoy our backyard feathered friends, and is full of ideas to make their gardens more bird-friendly. From the publisher:

Wake up to the sound of birdsong- turn your garden into a refuge for feathered friends by growing the native plants that attract them. Take a bird's eye view of your backyard with native plant and bird expert George Adams as he shows you how to create a sanctuary with year-round avian appeal. Featuring full-color photographs throughout and the author's superbly detailed illustrations. Birdscaping for Garden Spaces will help you identify resident and visiting birds and show you how and where to grow the native trees, shrubs, grasses, groundcovers, and the wildflowers that they love. Plus unique birdscaping calendars will show you how to select plants for a continuous supply of fruits, flowers and seeds to keep your bird guests happy. It's easy!
4) The Birds of Wyomong by Doug Faulkner. Finally a modern reference on the status and distribution of birds in our 10th-largest (though least populous) state. From the publisher:
Birds of Wyoming is the first comprehensive guide since 1939 to the status and distribution of Wyoming's avifauna. The book provides detailed information for over 400 bird species known to have occurred in Wyoming through 2008. Each full-page resident species account features a species photo and distribution map, while the non-resident section provides the reader insight on regular migrants and rarities. Introductory chapters authored by state experts give an indepth look at the state's ornithological history, vegetative landscapes, and avian conservation efforts. Habitat-focused sections by regional experts provide a broader view of management and conservation issues within Wyoming s dominant sagebrush, montane forest, and shortgrass prairie ecotones. Birds of Wyoming fills the niche for a state-based reference that will be useful to a wide range of professional disciplines and amateur birders. Governmental land managers as well as local and out-of-state birders alike will benefit from the easily accessible information (and literature references in most cases) in each species account.
5) The Raptors of New Mexico by Jean-Luc Cartron. A must for raptor and owl enthusiasts, particularly in the west. Even if you don't bird New Mexico the species accounts are full of good information that crosses state lines. From the publisher:

No book has ever before specifically focused on the birds of prey of New Mexico. Both Florence Bailey (1928) and J. Stokley Ligon (1961) published volumes on the birds of New Mexico, but their coverage of raptors was somewhat limited. In the ensuing years a great deal of new information has been collected on these mighty hunters' distribution, ecology, and conservation, including in New Mexico. The book begins with a history of the word 'raptor'. The order of Raptatores, or Raptores, was first used to classify birds of prey in the early nineteenth century, derived from the Latin word raptor, one who seizes by force. The text then includes the writings of thirty-seven contributing authors who relate their observations on these regal species. For example, Joe Truett recounts the following in the chapter on the Swainson's Hawk: 'From spring to fall each year at the Jornada Caves in the Jornada del Muerto, Swainson's hawks assemble daily to catch bats. The bats exit the caves - actually lava tubes - near sundown. The hawks swoop in, snatch bats from the air, and eat them on the wing'. Originally from France, Jean-Luc Cartron, has lived and worked on several continents, finding his passion in the wide-open spaces of New Mexico. He became fascinated by the birds of prey, and has studied their ecology and conservation for nearly twenty years. Raptors of New Mexico will provide readers with a comprehensive treatment of all hawks, eagles, kites, vultures, falcons, and owls breeding or wintering in New Mexico, or simply migrating through the state. This landmark study is also beautifully illustrated with more than six hundred photographs, including the work of more than one hundred photographers, and and nearly fifty species distribution maps.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Junk Birds

Well, actually really cool birds, hiding under a bunch of junk!

Last November, John Barr & I put up a Barn Owl box in a pole barn on property he has access to in Weld County, and about immediately the resident Barn Owl traded in its exposed post for the security of the box. This spring there was every sign that birds were nesting but we kept our distance to minimize disturbance. On 29 June John decided to poke his head (& camera) around the barn's side wall and was rewarded with three fledglings teed up shoulder to shoulder! I went back with him yesterday (1 July), and it seemed like we were skunked. I figured the magic window of opportunity was gone and the birds had moved out. But when I was looking at some bones in the massive pellet midden under the box, I saw a feather under a pile of junk in the corner of the barn. At first I thought it might have been molted, but when I let my eyes adjust to the darkness under an old steel barrel I started seeing more feather detail. My heart sank as I thought I was seeing part of the carcass of one of the owls. But then, by changing my angle a little I saw a facial disk with a black eye looking back at me! By peering in under the barrel, behind a culvert pipe, and under a manky cardboard box I could count all three hiding down under the junk, but only a little piece of owl at a time. I'll bet they were tired of the heat up in the barn rafters and were seeking a little cooler day roost.

Sorry for the shaky vid but you'll get the idea of what I'm talking about. For a better viewing experience open it up in YouTube and select HD.