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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Red Crossbill Diversity

Last weekend I led a photo trip to Hutton Lakes NWR near Laramie, WY for the Colorado Field Ornithologists annual convention. Unfortunately, conditions there were less than ideal for bird photography:

On the plus side, however, our group ran into a family group of Red Crossbills at the rest area on Highway 287 just south of the Wyoming border. The timing was perfect, as we had learned about Red Crossbill types and the evolutionary battles between crossbills and conifers from Dr. Craig Benkman the night before in his keynote address. These are Type 2 Red Crossbills, the subspecies that prefers ponderosa pines. This is the first time I've photographed a juvenile crossbill. Besides the streaky markings note the short-looking bill and tail- both still growing, I'd surmise.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Hello from Fairbanks!

I'm up in Fairbanks, Alaska for a week of professional development and training for PolarTREC ( I applied for this amazing program last October, found out I was a finalist a few weeks ago, had a final interview by conference call last Tuesday, and found out that I had been selected on Tuesday night! 4 days later I was on a plane to Fairbanks and here I am. This week there are 12 teachers along with me learning the ins and out of the program. In the coming year each of us will team up with a research group in the Arctic or Antarctic for a research expedition. I will be aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Healy, a polar icebreaker, from 2 August through 6 September. The ship will depart Dutch Harbor and proceed north through the Bering Sea and Bering Straight into the Arctic Ocean. The mission will primarily involve detailed mapping of the extended continental shelf in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and Canada, accompanied by the Canadian Coast Guard cutter Louis S. St-Laurent. In addition to bathymetry studies all sorts of other oceanographic data will be retrieved. Lots more to follow, but set a bookmark now at my PolarTREC page:

Anyway, I'm mostly in meetings all day but I did have some birding time the first morning. I walked a few blocks through downtown Fairbanks and found a nice park on the Chena River. Common Redpolls were singing all over the place, seeming to especially like birch trees and alder thickets. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the gulls whipping around were mainly Mew Gulls with an occasional Herring Gull coming up or down the river. Intermittent warbler songs that were kind of familiar resolved into Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warblers, looking different than the Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warblers of home with their white throats. I don't have my big camera rig with me but I am making use of the 45-200mm lens (90-400mm effective) on my Panasonic DMC-G1 which is probably what I'll be taking with me on the icebreaker. I'm missing the reach and hyper performance of my Nikon DSLR rig but that Panasonic ain't too shabby. Anyway, another busy day is promised tomorrow so I'll sign off for now with some pics I enjoyed taking.