Friday, April 18, 2014

Two Articles

Two fascinating bird stories trending across social media these daysthought I'd post both... The first story initially reported by BBC, describes a 13-year-old girl in Mongolia who hunts with a Golden Eagle. The Kazakh eagle hunters of the Altai mountain range, are allegedly the only people in the world hunt by training Golden Eagles to kill and gather species of fox and other small mammals. Kazakhs go out to hunt in the rugged steppes when temperatures reach a low of -40C. Eagle hunting is a Kazakh tradition that dates back thousands of years. Currently only 350 hunters keep the practice alive.

The second interesting article I noticed trending on Facebook; it confirms Crows' ability to solve puzzles/problems with tools. Researcher, biologist, and conservationist James Gorman, basis his research on an ancient Greek or Ethiopian (Nubian Kummaji) fabulist: Aesop. Gorman set out to see if Crows could really drop stones into a water container in order to raise the water level to an accessible height. Recent research in fact confirms that Aesop's fable holds some truth to it. New Caledonian Crows  studied could in fact use stones to raise the water level in several tubes to grab a piece of floating food. Furthermore, the Crows tested utilized sinking (over floating) objects to raise the water level; they could also distinguish between hollow and entirely solid objects. The hypothesis: that the Crows need to visualize the cause and effect of dropping these objects into hollow tubes of water held, since they couldn't apply buoyancy principle to non-transparent tubular containers of water.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Final La Pampa Listing

'Digi-scoped' Wattled Jacana 
Before I shift focus onto the (slow) beginnings of spring migration here in NYC, I thought I'd finish off the final species count I submitted when in La Pampa & Otamendi. Same drill for now -- species continued (in taxonomical order) from where I last left off, with particularly captivating species hyperlinked... I am also submitting a scanned copy of the checklist I used, to get a hold of it feel free to reach out via contact me.

  1. Small-billed Elaenia (Elaenia parvirostris)
  2. Sooty Tyrannulet - in the tyrant family, common in subtropical 'shrub-lands'
  3. White-crested Tyrannulet 
  4. Vermilion Flycatcher (classic - the image provided shows a bird still transitioning in plumage)
  5. Spectacled Tyrant (see link for female, blow is a grainy picture I took of a male, not yellowish eye-ring)

  6. White Monjita (stunning both male and female colorations -- surprisingly common on wires/cables)
  7. Black-backed Water-Tyrant
  8. Cattle Tyrant (See 11.)
  9. Great Kiskadee
  10. Crowned Slaty Flycatcher
  11. Tropical Kingbird (looks very similar to the Cattle Tyrant, easiest way to tell difference is that Cattle Tyrants tend to preen/rest on the ground."
  12. Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  13. White-tipped Plantcutter
  14. Red-eyed Vireo
  15. Brown-chested Martin
  16. White-rumped Swallow
  17. Barn Swallow
  18. House Wren
  19. Masked Gnatcatcher
  20. Rufous-bellied Thrush (common city-park bird in Buenos Aires//similar in appearance to the American Robin)
  21. Austral Negrito (Lessonia rufa)
  22. White-wing Pecard
  23. Chalk-browed Mockingbird
  24. European Starling
  25. Masked Yellowthroat
  26. Red-crested Cardinal
  27. Yellow-billed Cardinal (no crest, see 26.)
  28. Sayaca Tanager
  29. Black-and-rufous Warbling Finch
  30. Black-capped Warbling Finch
  31. Saffron Finch
  32. Grassland Yellow-Finch
  33. Great Pampa-Finch
  34. Grayish Saltator (check beak for easy ID)
  35. Rufous-collared Sparrow
  36. Yellow-winged Blackbird
  37. Chestnut-capped Blackbird
  38. Brown-and-yellow Marshbird
  39. Bay-winged Cowbird/Baywing
  40. Screaming Cowbird
  41. Shiny Cowbird
  42. Hooded Siskin
  43. House Sparrow

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Birding Las Pampas (Species Listing Part 2.)

Mudflats of Bahía de Samborombón
Before the running list continues, I'm happy to announce that the final species count hit 128--record breaking stuff. Special thanks to my local companion, Diego Gallegos, for showing me good spots around La Pampa. (Add the species in 'bulletpoints' to the previous taxonomical post.)

  • Yellow-billed Tern
  • Black Crowned Night Heron
  • Coscoroba Swan
  • Cinereous Harrier
  • White-rumped Sandpiper
  • **Spotted Tinamou/Nothura** - seen with two fledglings. Was lucky enough to catch two youths crossing a crass road; when approached, fledglings have the instinct to entirely lie down (even if they're in the middle of a road). Enjoy the shady iPhone camera picture below.

So, continuing the list:
  1. Pectoral Sandpiper
  2. South American Snipe
  3. Brown-headed Gull
  4. Rock Pigeon
  5. Picazuro Pigeon
  6. Spot-winged Pigeon
  7. Eared Dove
  8. Picui Ground-Dove
  9. Guira Cuckoo
  10. Burrowing Owl (in a group of three spotted on fence)
  11. Vaguely visible on top of fence
  12. Glittering-bellied Emerald
  13. Rufous-sided Crake (hard to get a good look at: excellent views at 
  14. (Out of Taxonomical order, but insert with Rails): Gray-necked Wood Rail
  15. (Also out of order, but add on to list): Semi-palmated Plover
  16. Ringed Kingfisher
  17. Green Kingfisher
  18. Amazon Kingfisher
  19. White Woodpecker (not too common in La Pampa and hard to see out in the open)
  20. White-fronted Woodpecker
  21. Green-barred Woodpecker (very common)
  22. Campo Flicker (contrast with N. Flicker)
  23. Southern Caracara
  24. Chimango Caracara (much smaller than Southern)
  25. American Kestrel
  26. Monk Parakeet
  27. 'Nanday' Parakeet
  28. Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper (fantastic sighting, this species is often hard to spot)
  29. Narrow-billed Woodcreeper
  30. Rufous Hornero (national bird of Argentina)
  31. Wren-like Rushbird
  32. Tufted Tit-Spinetail
  33. Freckle-breasted Thornbird
  34. Firewood-gatherer (LBJ - one of many)
  35. Lark-like Brushrunner (this took a long time to ID: tends to stay on the ground)
  36. Short-billed Canastero
  37. Brown Cacholote (large species in the huge Ovenbird family)
  38. Chotoy Spinetail
  39. Yellow-chinned Spinetail
  40. Scooty-fronted Spinetail
  41. Aplomado Falcon (added out of order)
Take these in for now, and be sure to check out the hyperlinks. I'll finish the list (with Flycatchers, Finches, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Sparrows, etc.) as soon as I check Vincente Lopez one more time for the Bran-colored Flycatcher.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Birding Las Pampas (Taxonomy through Shorebirds & Waders)

Recently, I've been spending significant time on the field around Buenos Aires, Arg. I will be posting my own pictures from experiences as soon as wifi comes online, however, given what I have at my disposal currently, I thought I'd share what I've been sending to Ebird. First I'll post and hyperlink taxonomical findings up through Snipes, Gulls, and Pigeons. Below is my tentative list in (approximate) taxological order. I've hyperlinked certain species I found particularly interesting; it's worth noting that the majority of these species are lifers. The list envelops sightings from Palermo Park (Golf Lake area), Reserva ecológica de Vincente López, the park de Ciudad Universitaria Buenos Aires, and my recent trip to the city's outskirts: areas in Las Pampas (Otamendi Reserve & Ceibas).
  1. Southern Screamer
  2. Ringed Teal (<4 flocks="" li="">
  3. Brazilian Teal
  4. Silver Teal
  5. Yellow-billed Teal
  6. Rosy-billed Pochard (around 1-4 sighted)
  7. Maguari Stork (Really fascinating South American species here; usually sighted along Central and East Latin America)
  8. Wood Stork
  9. Neotropic Cormorant (chiefly black)
  10. Cocoi Heron
  11. Great Egret
  12. Snowy Egret
  13. Cattle Egret
  14. Striated Heron (also known as the Mangrove Heron; visibly similar to Green Heron)
  15. Whistling Heron (colorful facial features and nape; photo hyperlinked taken in Punta del Este)
  16. White-Faced Ibis
  17. Bare-faced Ibis (fantastic find, only saw three or four individuals in the past two days)
  18. Roseate Spoonbill
  19. Snail Kite
  20. Long-winged Harrier
  21. Savanna Hawk
  22. Roadside Hawk
  23. Harris's Hawk
  24. Giant Wood-Rail (four individuals spotted in marshy Pampas terrain; fun fact, species often dubbed 'forest chicken' in Costa Rica)
  25. Common Gallinule
  26. Spot-flanked Gallinule (abundence in Ceibas, stark coloration, chicks almost entirely black)
  27. Red-gartered Coot
  28. White-winged Coot
  29. Limpkin
  30. Southern Lapwing
  31. Black-necked Stilt
  32. Wattled Jacana (brilliant finding, ample counts across Ceibas)
  33. Lesser Yellowlegs
  34. Solitary Sandpiper
That's all I have time to submit so far, the final list averaged at over 80 species. As soon as I get reliable internet, I will put up personal pictures and finalize this list. Tomorrow, headed to Samborombon Bay to check for more shorebirds and waterfowl.

Best wishes over break,


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Contemporary Bird Artwork

Hey all,

Wanted to relay some recent artwork by 'Red' Hong Yi, a Malaysian artist-architect. Recently she expanded her portfolio, an attempt to "use mundane, ordinary and often overlooked objects to make beautiful art and through her art and the internet, connect people throughout the world," with a new bird-related collection. Here is the link to the portfolio aptly titled Birds Made of Flowers. Enjoy.

Birds Made of Flowers


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Push for Project Safe Flight | Looking into Bird/Window Impacts

After reading several pieces from NYC Audubon about bird flight collisions with buildings, I thought it would be worthwhile to assess current problems with New York's civic-construction grid, and how skyscrapers have affected migrant species.

For starters, two main factors are known to affected the visibility and cognecence of migrants traveling along the "Atlantic Flightway:"

These two imminence threats are: light pollution and glass distortion. In general, human expansion has been responsible for extreme habitat loss and flight way fragmentation. The first primary problem that comes to mind with increased urbanization in cities like New York is light pollution. While some studies show the larger-bird migrants are distracted lights, the vast majority of literature on the subjects points to statistics which indicate that migrants are generally attracted to the glow of illuminated edifices at night. Artificial light sources escaping from buildings' interiors, or exterior fixtures have been known to attract and confuse species when cloud coverage is low and/or when fog resides over a flight way. Increases in light pollution directly correlate to increased birdxbuilding, birdxbird, or even birdxground collisions. Let's look at two sets of data:
Image Credit: David Lorens (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Our first light map of Manhattan, in the center reveals the region's relative levels of light pollution, using the Bortle Scale. Now, compare relative spikes in bird collisions in Manhattan, alone:

Both of these studies conducted from:1997–July 2008. Taxonomy fol- lows the American Ornithologists’ Union 7th edition checklist (AOU 2005), point to the correlation between light pollution and increased birdxbuilding collisions. 

An alternative to also take into consideration is how the type of glass used in skyscrapers impacts a migrating species. Unlike humans, whose brains are cognitively adapted to looking at glass, the vast majority of species migrating through New York will be newcomers to glass. Some problems with glass' properties include:
    • Transparency - birds fly into transparent windows, when attempting to nest or explore territories. Therefore birds end up colliding with glass they see as an unobstructed path
    • Reflection - the vast majority of architectural glasses reflect their environment. Reflection distracts migrants particularly when near/adjacent to foliage.
    • "Passage Effect" - in darker lighting situations, glasses temp bird species because they appear to be cavernous cavities or "passages."

 Approximations for counts on the annual amount of birds killed because of direct glass collisions range from 80-110 million. Recent projects, like NYC Audubon's Lights Out New York campaign have urged citizens and businesses to turn off their lights at night during both migration seasons. For more information on the types of glasses created to adjust for migratory birds, check out this article:


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Birding Antelope Island, UT

Now that I am back in the city and have done multiple walks in both the Ramble and the North Woods, I thought I would switch gears and post an updated draft of Antelope Island's CDC "Christmas Bird Count" which I helped put together in January. I'd like to thank the fantastic birder, John Bellmon for forwarding me the Count Summary Report.

Here is the report:

Note the total count: 12543 in all three sectors observed

The only road leading to the uninhabited Antelope Island
The CDC Team
Green-Winged Teal

One of the Island's Bison
Good birding,