Saturday, April 28, 2007

We learned a lesson today/tomorrow will be a BETTER day!!!

We have been waiting to write about what we have been seeing around town over the past few days, but the birding has been SLOW. We spent most of the day downtown or on the lakefront and while there were a few different birds around, both overall numbers and species counts were extremely low. The reports we've gotten from elsewhere in the city have been pretty similar. The most exciting thing we saw today was a small group of homeless people in the alley behind the YMCA yelling and cheering. We stopped to take a look and were nearly blinded by two more homeless people having sex in the alley.

Memo to BINAC: Next time, don't look!!!

We had a Northern Waterthrush on the lawn at our building on Tuesday, and had crippling looks at a first-year male Hooded Warbler later that day on the softball fields nearby. The bird was incredibly tame, following us around, even begging us for food. Does that happen in other places? Very cool.

Tomorrow is the day we're pinning all of our hopes on, The weather is supposed to warm up to 80 degrees or more,the warm air flowing into Chicago on very strong SSW winds overnight. If that weather pattern holds, the NEXRAD radar should be light up tonight all over the Midwest, and conditions should be ripe for a very nice migration tomorrow morning. Still a bit early here for huge numbers of tanagers, grosbeaks, etc., but we will probably get the first massive sparrow movement tomorrow morning, along with a good number of warblers and a generally strong overall movement of birds.

During spring migration, we like to spend one day of each weekend in the 'burbs, and one day along the lakefront, but we're going to break that rule tomorrow and stick close to the lake. When the weekend is as nice as this, you have to get to places on the north lakefront (Montrose, Lincoln Park Bird Sanctuary, etc.) early and then work your way south before the northern areas get flooded with people, cars, boats, airplanes, whatever.

The anticipation is almost killing us, it will be hard to sleep tonight, let's keep our fingers crossed that tomorrow will be a great birding day.

Friday, April 27, 2007

National Media Calls Chicago Bird-Policies "Avian Abortion"

We didn't make up the term "avian abortion," the UPI did:

Chicago hopes to kill gulls before birth

CHICAGO, Ill., April 24 (UPI) -- Chicago is trying a form of avian abortion in its war against ring-billed gulls -- coating eggs with corn oil to keep them from hatching.

A pilot project involves only a few nests and is aimed at determining whether adult gulls behave differently when they do not have young to feed, The Chicago Tribune reported.

The gulls, aggressive feeders, hang out on the city's famed lakefront and foul the waters of Lake Michigan with their droppings. Some experts believe the birds are responsible for high levels of E. coli bacteria that have caused swimming to be banned at beaches.

The city has already covered trash cans on the lakefront and changed the roofs of some buildings to make them less hospitable to birds. Border collies have been used in an effort to drive the gulls away.

The corn oil has been determined not to harm gulls, people or the environment, but it cuts off air circulation through egg shells, killing the embryos. Experts warn that it is not a quick fix.

"People should not expect that one year of limiting hatchling numbers will immediately reduce conflicts with gulls," said Scott Beckerman, director of Illinois Wildlife Services. "Gulls live a long time, generally returning to the area where they hatched once they are old enough to breed."

Field Museum Ornothologist Speaks: Chicago's Corn-Oiling Experiment WILL NOT WORK!

Well, Doug Stotz at the Field Museum has now weighed on on the subject. From WBBM 780 Radio:


Scientist Sees Many Chicago Beach Closings As Unnecessary
John Cody Reporting
CHICAGO (WBBM) - A Field Museum scientist says many of the Chicago lakefront summer swim bans are unnecessary but will continue until the EPA agrees to modify its ruling on what constitutes water contamination.

WBBM’s John Cody has the story.

Dr. Douglas Stotz says when counts of E. Coli bacteria carried by seagulls get high, swimming is stopped. But he says there's been no direct link shown between the E. Coli in seagull droppings and any human illness.

He tells Newsradio 780 "I do think beaches are being closed unnecessarily'.
Dr. Stotz is a conservation ecologist who specializes in birds. Dr Stotz consults with the City of Chicago Department of Environment which is conducting a program to trim the number of seagulls flying along Chicago's shoreline and living large off Dumpsters, dropped hot dogs and funnel cakes.

He agrees seagulls in large numbers can be a nuisance and is working with the city on a study to see if the seagull population can be reduced along the lake front.

Agriculture Department wildlife biologists have been spraying corn oil on sea gull eggs near Navy Pier instead of removing or scrambling them lest frustrated gull parents just move inland and start new families elsewhere.

The oil would prevent air from moving through the shells and destroy the embryos.
Some nests will be left untouched to determine the behavioral differences in gulls with and without young.

Doctor Stotz says since there are 70,000 breeding pairs from Wisconsin round to Indiana, the chances of reducing the numbers by removing most of the offspring near Navy Pier is very remote.
So Doug is just saying what us birders know already: spraying corn oil on the relatively small colony of gulls that live near Navy Pier is not going to even make a dent in the number of gulls that frequent the Lake Michigan lakefront.
How much is this bird-brained experiment costing us taxpayers???

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Question: How many species (if any) are on the ABA-area list and have only been seen or heard by *one* birder?

So this Barred Antshrike record has gotten us thinking. Yes, dangerous, we know.

Assuming the record is accepted by the ABA, then Martin Hagne is the only birder (well, his wife heard it, too, but we'll assume she is not a birder) who will have this species on their list for the ABA area.

Are there any other species that have only occurred once in the ABA area, have been accepted by the relevant state records committee and eventually added to the list by the ABA, but have only been seen by one person, by the initial observer? Since "firsts" these days usually require hard documentation (ie photo, sound recording, or specimen), you'd have to see the bird, record it, and then no one else would ever see that individual bird (or any other bird of the same species) after the original sighting.

Any takers?

What about in the U.K.?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Here we go again: more anti-bird activites by the City of Chicago

We could not make this up. The City, apparently still steaming over their inability to addle any goose eggs, is now trying to coat gull eggs with corn oil. Gulls are now apparently, in the eyes of City Hall, "pests," just like rats and honest Water Department employees.

What the hell are these idiots thinking? And exactly who at the local Fish & Wildlife office is handing out permits to perform sociological experiments that involve coating federally protected gull eggs with corn oil? We hope those gulls crap all over the City's evil plan.

Here's the oily truth:


City tries oily move to limit seagulls
Officials target nests of the lakeside pests

By Tonya Maxwell
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 24, 2007

Perhaps only Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" rivals this epic battle, one that pits Chicago officials against the city's feathered foes.First, city officials covered trash cans at area beaches. Then they modified the roofs of some fieldhouses. They also deployed border collies. All in the name of keeping ring-billed seagulls, along with their yellow, webbed feet and bacteria-laced droppings, off the lakefront.

Beginning Tuesday, biologists plan a new prong of attack: coating the eggs in several nests with corn oil, which would prevent air from moving through the shells and destroy the embryos.The pilot project will determine what impact oiling the eggs has on gulls.Some nests will be left untouched to determine the behavioral differences in gulls with and without young.

The gulls and their droppings are suspected of boosting E. coli bacteria levels at city beaches, which in turn leads to summer swim bans. A University of Chicago study estimates swim bans cost the local economy about $2.4 million a year, according to the city's Department of Environment.

"People should not expect that one year of limiting hatchling numbers will immediately reduce conflicts with gulls," said Scott Beckerman, state director for Wildlife Services. "Gulls live a long time, generally returning to the area where they hatched once they are old enough to breed."This is why the research portion of the project is so important, as the gulls are watched to see if adults without young to feed spend less time trying to find food in public areas and if fewer juvenile gulls 'loaf' on beaches," he said.

The corn oil is not hazardous to gulls, wildlife or the environment, according to a statement released by Chicago's Department of Environment.City officials have received appropriate state and federal permits, said Larry Merritt, a spokesman for Chicago's Department of Environment.

The worst thing about this whole debacle is not what the City is doing, but that they're lying to the public about it. The corn oil "is not hazardous to gulls, wildlife, or the environment"? Then why are they putting the stuff onto gulls eggs? For kicks? This is not a grade school science project, this is the "bird-friendly" City of Chicago again acting with no respect whatsoever for birds, birders, or wildlife in general.
Galveston, you can breathe easily. You've now dropped to number two on the BINAC hit list.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How Did We Miss This--Barred Antshrike Now On Texas State List?

Apparently the Texas records committee has now added Barred Antshrike to the official state list, based on a bird that was recorded -- but not seen -- in a Harlingen backyard (Martin Hagne's backyard, actually) last September.

Does anyone know anything more about this record?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

BINAC Enters the Multimedia Age!!!

We've been playing around with embedding YouTube videos, with some pretty cool results.

When you click on any of the little video boxes, that video plays on the top of the site.


Unless they contain nudity, in which case we take full responsibility.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The City of Chicago Strikes Again--Birding Hotspot Olive Park Closed!!!

The powers that be here in Chicago are continuing in their efforts to flush away the good will that they have built up with local birders over the past few years.

We went for a nice spring birding stroll to local hotspot Olive Park today only to be quite surprised to see a "classy" homemade sign informing all that Olive Park would be closed until, get this, the END OF MAY. OP has sucked since it was "destored" a few years ago, but it was still a reliable spot for sparrows and thrushes. (Note to our less astute readers: "destored" is a word we have cleverly just created to describe the process by which a birding spot is destroyed by "restoration" efforts that take away food and cover migrants need to survive. Other places in the Chicago area that have been destored in the past few years include Wooded Isle, Cherry Hill, and Bergman Slough.)

We have no clue what they're doing at the OP, but we saw lots of trees or tree limbs that had been taken down, and some piping that looked like it was being installed. (Not sure why you would run pipe under trees in a park that has no facilities, but hey, you gotta feed those contractors, so just let them run some new pipe to the fountains, right?)

We are suggesting that our readers send the following letter of protest ("LOP") to the city--since the OP is not directly under the control of the Park District, the letter should be sent to the Water Department at the City of Chicago:

Dear Mr./Ms. Jackass:
If there are any employees left in your department who are not currently busy accepting bribes to perform illegal natural gas hookups or running a heroin ring from the Jardine Water Treatment Plant next to Olive Park, could you please try to find the time to tell us what the fuck you're doing at the OP?
(insert your name here)
A local dog walker

Spring has Sprung/Sage Thrasher at Montrose???

Ah, it is a beautiful time to be alive.

All across North America, our feathered little friends are on the move.

Birds that wintered in the tropics are now in Florida, and birds that wintered in Florida are now here in Chicago.

There has been a very nice migration of warblers, tanagers, etc in the Dry Tortugas, the Florida Keys, and the various migrant traps in mainland Florida.

Up here in the Midwest, migration had been "stalled" a bit; on Friday we were still seeing primarily early-spring migrants like Brown Creeper and Northern Flicker. But that changed with a nice push over the weekend, with great warm weather to boot, and today even more birds arrived. Sparrow migration is now fully underway, and we are getting our first trickle of warblers as well. This will only get better for about the next month.

There have been a few rarities, too. A Barn Owl today at Montrose, and a Sage Thrasher was reported on Saturday from Montrose. We know that the Thrasher was looked for by a few people (fewer then you would think), who used every possible effort to coax the bird out of hiding, but it could not be re-found. There was no photo taken, so who knows if it will ever be accepted by the records committee, but it is what it is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hey, whatever happened to...?

...that guy who killed the cats in Galveston? You know, Jim Stevenson?

Well, apparently he's been indicted for killing thos darn cats, even though no one owned the cat he did or didn't kill, and it's not against the law in Texas to shoot a cat that isn't a pet.

We sorta dropped Jim's case after he posted his "I saw an Ivory-billed" story, but we think he's done his penance, he shouldn't have to go to jail to repent for the error of his ways.

So we're back on the case.

Look out, Tejas, time for us to get all Deguello on Galveston's ass.

(That sounded better in our head than when we actually typed it.)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Oh yeah, the birds are gonna get screwed.

We made our way over to Daley Plaza to check out the city's little 2016 celebration. There were at least 17 tv cameras there (does Chicago have 17 tv stations?), Pat Ryan, former State Senator Barack Obama, Governor Elvis, the Counsel General of El Salvador, balloons, confetti, and even the guy who claims his wife is being raped by FBI Agent Chris Saviano (no, look it up yourself) was there.

Da Mare really worked himself into a frenzy, it was entertaining to watch. Hey, we appreciate his love for Chicago, and Illinois, and America, and diversity, but he was really laying it on thick. So that's it, the fix is in, the birds are gonna screwed. If Da Mare wants something to happen, it will, so bye-bye Northerly Island.

Our advice to you: If you're a construction contractor in the Chicago area, go get your daughter married to someone named Daley, Hynes, or Madigan in the next couple of years, and you'll be set for life.

Chicago 2016: Stir the Soul (and screw the birds???)

Well, it's official: Chicago is now the U.S. entry for the 2016 Summer Olympics:

We are generally in favor of bringing the Olympics to Chicago, as we are always generally in favor of events that will bring scantily-clad athletic young women who cannot speak English to our fair shores.

But what will the long-term plans for 2016 do to some of our best birding spots, especially along the South Lakefront?

Well, as you can see from the photo at the beginning of this post, the plan for Northerly Island includes some interesting "natural" areas:

Olympic Sports Complex at Northerly Island — Beach Volleyball, BMX, Track Cycling
The Olympic Sports Complex at Northerly Island will play host to three exciting and popular sports: Beach Volleyball, BMX Cycling, and Track Cycling. Northerly Island will provide a dramatic setting for what promises to be some of the most thrilling competition of the Chicago 2016 Games.
In the end, it doesn't really matter if we complain, because, like most things that happen in Chicago, the decision has already been made. Oh, there will be public comment, and our complaints will be heard, but if Da Mare wants BMX Cycling at Northerly Island, that's where it's gonna go.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Unsurprisingly, Egg Addling Ends Unsuccessfully

The Chicago Park District, continuing its efforts to make the city's lakefront parks more bird-friendly, has hired an outside consultant to try to get rid of the local Canada Geese. Can't have goose crap cluttering up your Olympic venues, y'know?

They've paid this consultant a lot of money, and the consultant decided that the best way to rid Grant Park of these pesky geese is to addle their eggs. In this article, they call it "egg depradation:",CST-NWS-geese25.articleprint

Now, normally this is the type of thing we would use to illustrate the hypocrisy of the Chicago Park District, but we've pretty much left it alone because these geese really do mess up the pretty lawns in certain parts of Grant Park. But here's the funny part: The consultant trains 20-30 volunteers (probably costing us taxpayers a couple of grand) to find goose eggs, and then they...well, they come up with a "goose egg" because they can't find any goose eggs:

See, if they would have actually asked anyone who knows anyone about birds, they would have known that Canadas don't nest in Grant Park. Du-oh!

Wonder what brilliant plan they will come up with next?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Smackdown--Geoff Hill Trashes Long-time Chicago Birder!!!

We have been on the road so much lately that we have a large backlog of potential topics. This has also given us a lot of free reading time that we normally wouldn't have, and we used our flight this morning as an opportunity to finish reading Geoff Hill's recent IBWO book.

It is sort of an odd book. Mildly entertaining and refreshingly honest/straightforward, but we had two overall problems with the book. First, it is already outdated, and pretty much was so by the date it was printed. The publisher really screwed up on this point. I don't know why the book stops just before the big announcement by the Auburn team was made; the stuff that came afterwards, including the reaction to Auburn's announcement, would have been the most interesting part of the book. But from the publisher's standpoint, if you're going to cut off the narrative at that point, then you have to get the book to the freakin' presses as soon as the announcement is made. Putting the book out months later is anticlimatic (or is it anitclimactic? well birders have never been real well at grammar), at best.

The second problem is that the book...well, we're not sure it really has a point. Part of this is due to point number one, but part of it is due to the fact that nothing really unknown or exciting happens in the book...we already know how the story has ended. The Gallagher book has three distinct parts of the story: a beginning (IBWO history and stuff), a middle (interviewing crazy people and searching for the bird), and an end (we found the bird--hooray!). But Hill's's all "middle." It's all about the search, which is, in and of itself, pretty boring. We heard some knocks, somebody saw a bird in flight, repeat and rinse. After that happens two or three times, it gets tedious.

Which gets us to the oddest part of the book, the epilogue, which is the reason for this post. You see, in the second to last paragraph of the entire book, Hill takes a major swipe at long-time Chicago area birder Jeff Sanders, who allegedly saw an IBWO in the 1960s near Eglin AFB in Florida. Hill basically says Sanders made it up. As soon as we read that, we thought, "Shit, we have to say something about that!" Then when we were drafting this post, we did our customary checking of Tom Nelson's site, only to find that this morning Tom had posted that precise passage from the book. (What are the odds of that? See But still, this particular paragraph deserves a bit more scrutiny.

First, frankly, it is very odd to use, as the almost final paragraph of a book about sketchy IBWO sightings, a paragraph attacking someone else's sketchy IBWO report. Second, we are pretty shocked that the publisher let this paragraph stay in without any specific or detailed reference to the journal issue that allegedly includes the retraction of certain of Jeff's sightings. Citing Ken Able is not really going to cut it, legally at least. Jeff Sanders is still alive and is still an active birder, and we're sure that he would have had a few choice words for Geoff Hill if Hill had bothered to just contact him. But what comes around goes around, right?

Anyway, we would be extremely interested if anyone has any further information on this string of allegedly sketchy sightings by "Sanders and Brown", or if anyone has an actual copy of the journal that contains the alleged retraction.

Local birding lore claims that the long-running feud between the Chicago Urban CBC and the Chicago Lakefront CBC arose out of some questionable sightings that were submitted on behalf of the Chicago Urban CBC by Jeff Sanders. The way we heard the story, that count used to have national high counts of numerous species, for example, they would always report something like "1,000,000 Rock Doves," and when somebody at the national level actually asked them how they could count exactly 1,000,000 Rock Doves, it was learned that they were counting birds per block, then multiplying that number by the number of blocks in the circle to get an "estimate" of the number of that species for the entire circle. We don't know if that's true, and we don't know if that's even what Ken Able is referring to in Hill's book, but we sure would like to find out. Not quite the Hastings Rarities Affair, but it's all we've got.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Experienced Searcher of Rare Species Spots Flock of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers!!!

We feel that it is our duty to inform the general public of a spectacular recent sighting of a flock of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Or possibly Blue Jays. Anyway, perhaps birders can flood the area to get a definitive photograph. Here is the link:

The expert who made this sighting, Rip Lyttle, has also started a new organization, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Research Organization:

While we welcome any additional help in confirming the existence of the IBWO, we fear that this new organization may prevent its founder from continuing with other, more critical animal research:

C'mon, we could *not* make this stuff up!

Let's Be Careful Out There!!!

Well, we have escaped from the Gulag, and hope to have a bit more on our European Adventure soon. We also have a bunch of IBWO posts lined up for the next few days.

In the meantime, we want to offer our best wishes to a long-time Chicago area birder who was recently injured pretty severely in a car crash while birding. He was on foot at a local birding spot and was swept up into a three-car accident. We had intended to honor this birder's privacy, but since some loudmouth gossip posted it to the Internet already, there's no harm in bringing this subject up.

Another well-known Illinois birder was killed several years ago under similar circumstances, so please keep safety in mind the next time you are doing any roadside birding.