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Blog Birding #308

Monday, February 20, 2017 7:08
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The question of baiting owls seems to be a perennial one in the north. Christian Hagenlocher of The Birding Project has a complete roundup of the issue and potential solutions.

Many people have good intentions putting mice out for owls, thinking that they are starving, but that is seldom the case. Research shows that during irruption years, Snowy Owls move further south as a result of a productive breeding season, creating a “bumper crop” of young owls. These owls, when caught to be fitted with transmitters are often plump and healthy overall. Providing food for these owls can pass along diseases from captive rodents to birds that may already be vulnerable to disease, as well as habituate them to being fed by people. More importantly, baiting owls is frequently done near roads, increasing the already high chance of vehicle collision resulting in the death of the owl.

One of the more incredible effects of the rise of bird photography has been the ability to carefully study difficult identifications and plumages well after the fact and learn so much. At the British Ornithologist’s Union Blog, Bianca Vieira considers methods and future applications.

When I was a kid in the 1990s, a professional camera was the kind of equipment only photographers would have. At that time, my parents had an amateur analog single lens reflex (SLR) camera. They would always advise me to save the expensive photographic films only for important occasions. Important occasions meant to me finding animals in nature. But trying to photograph birds with those cameras was a waste, because birds would never stay still long enough for a good photograph. During the 2000s, cameras and their accessories became cheaper, more user friendly and much more efficient in capturing fast movements (Hirsch 2008). So nowadays many nature researchers, including myself, have the opportunity to explore the uses of auto-focus digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras to study birds.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a Pied-billed Grebe flying, and every time I experience a moment of utter confusion. At On the Wing Photography, Mia McPherson shares some photos of this unusual experience, so that perhaps you won’t be befuddled next time.

Pied-billed Grebes only migrate during the night which is why until yesterday I have never photographed them in flight. I’ve even written a post here on On The Wing Photography bemoaning the fact that I would never photograph them in flight. I was wrong, delightfully wrong.

Yesterday afternoon I was at my local pond where I photographed not one but two Pied-billed Grebes in flight. This is rarely seen and rarely photographed. I might never get the chance again.

The internet is a big place. The birding internet is much smaller, but still potentially overwhelming. At Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds, Steve Tucker provides the public service of sharing some of the birding internet’s most useful destinations.

I will pick you up and carry you on my back, like a birding horse. Even with so many tools these days, we must still be honest with ourselves…birders need so much help. Many birders just don’t know what is out there, don’t know that they can answer a great many of their questions themselves if they are willing to spare a few minutes of their time. They need to be uplifted, and that is why I am here today. In that spirit, here is a list of some of my fav websites that can help you learn more about birds, and help you see more of them.

At The Garden Journal, a consideration of the nature of declining Mourning Doves over the course of a winter.

Along with the deep and fluffy snow – perhaps the best this winter has produced – has come an increase in the number of Mourning Doves (commonly known to birders as “Dopes”) in and around the garden. During the day they hang around feeding and then as twilight arrives they congregate, as they do most winters, around the rim of a heated birdbath on the deck and exchange observations of the day just ending. Only three or four years ago we would get a dozen or more at the evening assembly while in the early years here we would expect 15-20 or more … the peak was 23 cooing to each other in December 2008.  We initially put the declining numbers down to the successful breeding and hunting of local Cooper’s Hawks and indeed that may have been contributory, but now we feel there are probably other factors at play for the usual number of “Dopes” to go from (say) 15 to just 2-3 in only a decade.

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