Thursday, May 24, 2007

SE US Nightjar Survey

A bit of old news, but still an important study:


The Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary would like to invite Florida birders and conservationists to participate in the Southeastern Nightjar Survey Network. The network is a group of conservation minded citizens working together to improve our understanding on the population trends of Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will's Widows by conducting standardized population surveys.

The Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will's Widow are two of the most enigmatic birds in North America. Very little is known on basic aspects of their biology, habitat use, and population status due to their cryptically nocturnal lifestyle.

In recent years, conservationists and the general public have come to share a general sense that populations of these two Nightjars are declining dramatically. However, prior to this program, there was no widespread or long-term monitoring strategy to gather vital population information. Gaining an understanding on the precise magnitude and scale of population changes are critical if we are to plot a course for conservation.

The Southeastern Nightjar Survey is a new monitoring strategy designed to collect and analyze data annually on the population distribution and trends of Nightjars throughout the southeastern United States. Nightjar survey routes are distributed across ten states including; Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Nightjar Surveys are standardized counts conducted along census routes at night. Observers count all Nightjars seen or heard for a six-minute period at each of 10 stops along the route. The entire survey will not take much more than one hour to complete. We have designed a series of routes in each state based on the existing BBS but also have provided methods for interested participants to create their own route.

The success of this program relies entirely on volunteer participation. Please consider adopting a Nightjar Survey Route in your area. See the Southeastern Nightjar Survey Network webpages at for more details on how to participate.

If the 2007 survey window is approaching too quickly for you to commit this year, consider adopting a route for 2008 now.

Michael Wilson
Research Biologist
Center for Conservation Biology

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Dear Neighboring Cheeseheads;

We, the humble birders of of the superior State of Illinois, have completed our viewing of the REDDISH EGRET, and in the spirit of giving, we are now sending that REDDISH EGRET to you. It has now left the Botanic Gardens is now on its way north, having already made one stop along the northern Illinois lakefront.

In return, we simply ask that you reciprocate the favor, by sending us one of your Great Gray Owls this winter.

Please signal your acceptance of the terms of this proposal by sighting said REDDISH EGRET within the next 72 hours.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


The Benevolent People of the State of Illinois

P.S. Since we do not totally trust you Cheeseheads to keep up your end of the bargain, we are keeping our Botanic Gardens REDDISH EGRET, and instead are sending you our spare REDDISH EGRET that we only use in case of emergencies. Or maybe we'll send you the Botanic Gardens bird. We really haven't decided yet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rarities: Reddish Egret, plus ???

Quick post: Some great rarities have shown up over the past few days, including a Reddish Egret at the Botanic Gardens in the Chicago suburbs. Hopefully we will be able to see that bird later this week.

In the meantime, we are soliciting opinions on the flycatcher that was seen at Lincoln Park's South Pond earlier today. Photos are on Surfbirds N.A. Stop Press:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Migration-related Weather Report

Great day (12+ hours) of birding today. Up again early tomorrow. The weather/wind prediction for tonight is very interesting, as posted below (can't really be bothered with getting the formatting perfect right now). Continued W/SW winds changing to N/NW winds right about 3 am. Picture the Chicago lakefront as a line running roughly from north to south. Strong SW winds push migrants up against the lakefront. Those birds will be slowed or put down by the N/NW winds overnight. That's a pretty good recipe for a fallout tomorrow morning, probably depending on how strong the SW winds are, when the winds shift, and how hard the winds blow out of the N/NW. The tricky thing is the fallout could be right along the lakefront, or it could be pretty far inland, depending on when the winds change. Might be a nice night to go up on the rooftops or keep an eye on the NEXRAD radar.

Or, of course, it could be nothing.

That's why birders get up so early in the morning!!!

11:57 pm--we just got back down from our roof deck (about 45 stories high, it has been closed for renovations the last couple of weeks) and it is pretty slow up there. Only a bird or two per minutes, the winds seem to have already shifted, and the clouds and rain are almost here already. The birds that took flight early tonight might have some problems, but it doesn't sound like a big flight. Again, who knows what will be here in the morning, that's why we're going to bed soon.

Partly Cloudy65°F
From SW 11 mph

Partly Cloudy63°F
From SW 11 mph

Mostly Cloudy61°F
From WSW 10 mph

Mostly Cloudy60°F
From WSW 10 mph

Mostly Cloudy58°F
From W 9 mph

Isolated T-Storms56°F
From WNW 8 mph

Isolated T-Storms55°F
From NW 7 mph

Isolated T-Storms54°F

Sunrise 5:26 am

Isolated T-Storms54°F
From N 9 mph

Isolated T-Storms55°F
From N 10 mph

Isolated T-Storms56°F
From NNE 11 mph

Friday, May 18, 2007

BINAC Under Siege!!! !!! !!!

We will not be silenced!!!

Stay tuned for the fireworks. If we don't pass out during our back-to-back Big Days this weekend, of course.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sure Got Cold After the Rain Fell.

Well, the nice weather that had been hanging around Chicago was replaced by a fairly nasty cold front. We went from 90 degrees in some places to overnight lows in the 40s. We ended up with a very wet Ovenbird in our front yard, and the birding has been decent right in the neighborhood. We're up to 37 species for our yard list. We even added a new "garage bird" -- a Northern Waterthrush that was running around in our parking garage at about 5:00 on Sunday morning.

Things have stabilized a bit and there have still been a decent number of birds around this week, especially in light of the north winds. We tend to think that these have been lingering birds that were forced lower to the ground because of the weather, as opposed to new migrants that experienced a bit of a fallout, but there's really no way to be sure.

Anyway, this weekend could be gangbusters. Almost all of the warblers we have been seeing are still adult males. Flycatchers aren't really in yet, and we're not seeing to many of the later-arriving warblers yet, either. That means we probably have at least two really good weeks of migration left, and with a relatively early Memorial Day this year, that could be a really great three-day weekend. The weather is going to warm up and it looks like either Saturday or Monday will be the top day of the year.

Overall, most of the people we talk to seem to think that this has been a pretty nice spring migration so far, although it has been really variable depending on how far you are from the lakefront. The key point is that there are still a lot of birds left to be seen. There were still some nice numbers of migrants in Florida this week, so the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Narcs, "Outlaw Birds," and "Lawyer Birding"

We know that birding competitions like the World Series of Birding and the Great Texas Birding Classic (or whatever they call it) need to have some rules to ensure a level playing field, but this is just ridiculous:

Not only do they needlessly prohibit teams from calling bird in using tapes, take a look at Part 7. When you're in the field, you're supposed to invoke a waiver of Rule 7.a for "outlaw birds." Hey, that's lawyer-birding!

And look at Parts 12 and 13. A call of fowl? Written protests? Banning violators for one year? Oh man, it says "thank you" to NJ Audubon, so these must be the rules they use for the World Series of Birding or something.

Look, we're all for honesty and fair play, but this is birding, not the federal court system. If you see someone cheating, you're supposed to talk about them behind their backs, mock all of their undocumented sightings, and say "I bet *that* won't be refound" every time they report a rarity, not narc them out by filing a written protest.

A little birdie told us to not worry about those tagged gulls.

There is nothing birders like more than knowing where a bird they are looking at came from, and knowing where that bird will go after it leaves their area. That's why birders are so interested in banding, ringing, tagging, etc.

Right now a lot of banded and tagged gulls are turning up in the Chicago area, and of course, local birders are seeing these gulls and wondering who they should report them to.

Well, not everyone working on this anti-gull project is happy about the City's plan to reduce the gull population, and one of these unhappy folks -- we'll call him/her our "little birdie" -- knows the real scoop, and they're singing like a canary.

Let's just say that the City doesn't care who sees tagged gulls, or where those gulls are headed. You see, our little birdie sings, the City is tagging these gulls for two reasons, and neither of them have to do with where these gulls are dispersing to.

First, the City is using the tagged birds to determine the effect of their gull depradation efforts in the city. While they spend our hard-earned taxpayers dollars coating gull eggs with corn oil, they want to know if those gulls are laying a second clutch.

The second reason these gulls are being tagged is a bit more insidious: the tagging of the gulls in and of itself is an effort by the City to reduce the breeding population of gulls. Color-tagged gulls, according to some data, are less likely to breed than untagged gulls. So, in a way, the colored tags are not just being used to track the effects of the City's gull control efforts -- they *are* a part of the City's gull control efforts. Bet they didn't mention that at the fancy "migratory bird" press conference at Montrose on Saturday.

Sing, little birdie, sing, and warble us another song!!!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Birds being killed by wildfire smoke?

You may have read this story already, but it smells a bit funny to us. First, there are clearly some mistakes in the story, as there is no way smoke from fires up in the Panhandle or near Georgia is affecting birds in Miami-Dade. If those birds are being affected by smoke, it's likely smoke from nearer fires in Collier County or elsewhere in Central/South Florida.

Second, we'd like to see support for the claim that this smoke is toxic to birds. What is described in the article sounds a lot like your standard window-kill event; perhaps the smoke is affecting the birds' ability to migrate (by, for example, blocking out the stars at night), but to say that the smoke is affecting their lungs...that sound a bit more far-fetched. The video here appears to have a still of birds grounded near some mirrored glass, but there doesn't appear to be any video of birds actually hitting glass: Anyway, here is the story, you can draw your own conclusions:

*UPDATE*: Here is a link to a video that makes a bit more sense, and doesn't mention "toxic smoke." Check out the chiropractor who has donated his services to the birds!!!

And here is the original "birds inhaling toxic smoke" story:

Birds Dropping From Sky, Flying Into Buildings After Exposure To Smoke
Vets: Toxins In Smoke Are Poisonous To Birds
POSTED: 7:40 am EDT May 14, 2007
UPDATED: 7:51 am EDT May 14, 2007
Hundreds of birds from as far south as Miami are falling from the sky or flying head-first into buildings and dying after being exposed to smoke from wildfires blanketing parts of Florida, according to a report.

Veterinarians said the birds have very sensitive lungs and the toxins in the smoke are poison to them, Local 6 reported Monday.

Video showed birds slamming head-first into buildings and glass in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

"I hear them (hitting glass) all day long," a business owner said. "It is horrible."
Residents in the counties have called wildlife centers to report the dead birds, the report said.
"Something is draining the life out of (an injured bird)," a man said after finding a bird that fell from the sky. "And it seems to be a slow process, which is pretty brutal."
Officials said smoke from the wildfires in Florida disorients the birds and causes them to fly into windows, according to a WSVN report. The birds are dying from either the impact of the crash or suffering from head and neck injuries.

Wildfires started about a month ago in southeast Georgia and have spread into Florida. More than 300,000 acres have burned in both states. The wildfire that raced through the Okefenokee Swamp in southeast Georgia and into Florida was started by lightning more than a week ago.

By Sunday night, it had burned 102,500 acres in Florida and was 30 percent contained. Georgia reported 41 wildfires in the state covering 267,136 acres.

Officials were also fighting a series of other, smaller fires throughout the state.
The fire burning in southeast Georgia and Florida started May 5 in the middle of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It took just six days to grow larger than another wildfire that has burned nearly 121,000 acres of Georgia forest and swampland over more than three weeks. The smaller fire was started by a tree falling on a power line.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and Georgia's Steven C. Foster State Park inside it remained closed. Haze from the fires has traveled as far south as the Miami area, about 340 miles away.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Do *Not* Read This Blog!!!

OK, sometimes when we disappear for a while, we come back with some lame excuse like we were working really hard, or travelling too much, or had to watch too much television. This time we don't have a lame excuse, we have a great one -- we've been out birding!!!

So here is some advice that you will probably never see on those other birding blogs: Stop reading this blog and get outside and go birding! If you live just about anywhere in North America, the only reason you should be reading or commenting on this blog during daylight hours right now is if you have a broken leg or you're at work. If you don't, you should be out birding! We don't care if it's slow right now, slow birding is better than no birding. (Hey, a new slogan!)

If you want to stop by at night, or before sunrise, that's fine, but we will be very disappointed if you're reading during the day!!! Unless, as we mentioned, you're a sap who is stuck working this week like we are. A lot of Chicago-area birders take a week or two off from work right about this time every year to bird people still do that in other places, too?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Please tell us that we are not the only ones who are annoyed (again!)...

Just got back from our little trip, perfectly timed to miss goodies back in the Chicago area such as Townsend's Warbler, Mississippi Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite, and who knows what else.

So we were catching up on our e-mail, checking the latest messages from our local listserve, when we found a couple more difficult identification problems posed by some newbie birders. Not this again. In the last week, different birders have posted photos of the following "mystery birds" that they could not identify: male Bobolink; male Common Yellowthroat; female House Sparrow; and, yes, wait for it, male Mallard. Seriously.

We love new birders, and we try to help them all we can, but c'mon, you are a complete and total moron if you can't identify a male Bobolink perched in the middle of a meadow. There's nothing *even close to that* that isn't a Bobolink in your bird book, not even in that cheapie field guide to North American birds we saw a few years that was produced in China. Just taking pictures of random birds and then asking other people to identify them while sitting in front of the computer is *not* birding. It's not even birdwatching. It's a waste of time, and it is extremely annoying. If you've got your Sibley's or Peterson's in front of you, or even an old Golden Guide, and you can't identify a male Mallard, there's no hope. Just give up and donate your equipment to Birder's Exchange.

The problem (besides the fact that you don't learn anything when other people identify your birds for you) is that these kind of pointless questions are driving a lot of experienced birders away from reading and posting to their local or state listserves. There are probably eight bird clubs in the Chicago area, and probably every single one of them has a field trip somewhere this weekend.

So if you're a new birder, turn off the computer, leave your camera at home, and GET OFF YOUR ASS and start identifying birds WHILE YOU ARE IN THE FIELD instead of while you're in front of the computer.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sunday was slow...

...slower than, well, something that is really really slow.

The worst part of the day was the almost complete lack of access anywhere along the lakefront. More on that in our next rant.

In the meantime, we have decided to try another spot this weekend where migration might be a bit more advanced than it is in Chicago right now.

Stay tuned!