Monday, March 28, 2005

A Library Of Song

Source: Audubon Magazine

Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, and the Macaulay Library, boast the recordings of more than 6,000 bird songs of the world's 9,000 or so bird species arranged taxonomically from ostrich to raven.

Don Stap writes in Audubon Magazine “on one shelf were the babbling-brook arias of mockingbirds; on another, the flutelike ee-oo-lays of wood thrushes; and on others, the wistful melodies of white-throated sparrows, the caroling of robins, and the songs of birds I had never seen nor heard: the superb lyrebird, the laughing kookaburra, the black-and-gold cotinga, the snowy-headed robin chat, and more. The room was brimming with sound. But of course I heard nothing. The silence was profound.

“Several recordings hold the voices of birds now extinct (the Guam flycatcher and Bachman's warbler) or most likely extinct (the ivory-billed woodpecker). Many are the only known aural records of rare and elusive species.”

*Bird sounds to download from the Library.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Changing The Guard At Godwit Palace

Source: BBC

The BBC reports that special bird eggs are getting their very own 24-hour guard.

One of the UK's rarest breeding birds is to be watched around the clock to stop its eggs from being stolen.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) wants volunteers to help keep an eye on the black-tailed godwit nests at Newton Marsh, Lancashire.

The bird watch is supported by Lancashire police and the Fylde Bird Club.

Carol Coupe, RSPB project officer, said: "In the past these birds have been the target of cruel thieves, who steal the eggs of rare birds and kill the growing chick inside, then conceal the empty shell, only bringing it out to show off to other egg thieves.

It Is Not All Chinese To Them

When China imported a U.S.-made scream machine to scare away the birds at Beijing airport --the calls were lost in translation.

The bird-dispersing equipment had recorded the screams of American birds or the sounds of the birds' natural enemies and "local birds did not understand the foreign language," reported the Beijing Evening News.

Chinese experts are now "translating" American caws into those of their Chinese counterparts.

More from Reuters.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Crane Cam Captures Nebraska Homecoming

Source: National Geographic

The Platte River Valley comes alive with the songs of the sandhill crane every spring. From late February to early April half a million cranes pass through the Platte on their northern migration to breeding grounds in Siberia, Canada, and Alaska. Coming in overlapping shifts, they stay for about three weeks at a time—creating the largest gathering of cranes in the world. National Geographic has set up a live Crane Cam on the Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary so you can eavesdrop in on their fun.

*Audubon Magazine story on the Platte River Party

*Highlights from 2004 migration

Whooping Crane Killed By Bobcat

(AP) An experimental flock of whooping cranes has lost one of its youngest members to a Florida bobcat but could be on the verge of producing chicks in the wild for the first time.

Six older cranes in the five-year effort to establish a migratory flock of the endangered birds between Wisconsin and Florida have formed into pairs and are being monitored closely for signs of nesting and breeding behavior, according to Operation Migration, the nonprofit group that has helped coordinate the project.

A Web update on the flock posted by Heather Ray, the group's director of operations, said a bobcat killed one of the cranes that were raised in Wisconsin last year -- just as some of the other cranes have been beginning their flight north.

Remains of the male crane were found not far from a winter pen at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge near Tampa, Florida, she said.

Researchers expect the surviving 12 young cranes to soon begin their flight north, reversing the 1,200-mile route they followed when led by ultralight aircraft from central Wisconsin to Florida in the fall.

*AP story can be read on
*60 Minutes Weekday's Charlie Rose profiled the effort in early March

Thursday, March 17, 2005

NE DC Historical Society Event: Kenilworth Talk And Walk

The DC Audubon Society will participate in the NE DC Historical Society meeting on Sunday, April 3, 2005.

The meeting will feature presentations on "The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: The Past, The Present, and the Future" by D. Rowley, Gardener Supervisor/ActingHorticulturalist of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens; "Of Urban Plantations and Rural Amish: Ms. Kimi Gray and Mr. Elmer Lapp in Kenilworth" by J. Lapp, writer/historian; "Green Space Heritage in Far Northeast's Watts Branch Stream Valley" by S. Coleman, Director of Washington Parks and People; and "Birds of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens...Past and Present" by a TBD Board Member of the DC Audubon Society.

The event will be held at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens from 1:30-3:30 pm

Following the presentations, J. Lapp will lead a discovery walk through the woods of Kenilworth.

For further information contact:

District Counts 59 Species in "Backyard Bird Count"

In this year's Great Backyard Bird Count over 50,000 checklists were submitted nationally, where more than 6 million individual birds were counted and with over 600 species accounted for in all. In the District of Columbia a total of 59 species were reported out of 5,162 total birds spotted.

District of Columbia Results.

Up Close In 3-D

Source: Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam
Reed Warbler collected in 1872

The bird collection of the Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam counts over 60,000 examples. When the (Royal) Zoological Society 'Natura Artis Magistra' was founded in 1838 its main aim was to exhibit live animals, however since most birds did not survive long, they ended up mounted on display in the museum's halls. About 2000 birds, mostly large specimens, from this early period survive. Over 150 examples are available to view in 3-D online.

Source: Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam
Magnificent x King Bird of Paradise hybrid

Senate Votes To Open ANWR To Drilling

The Washington Post reports that a closely divided Senate yesterday voted in favor of opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, bringing a long-sought goal of the Bush administration within striking distance of being realized.

The action marks the first time the Senate has signaled its support for drilling in the ecologically sensitive area since President Bush took office. And while hurdles remain, drilling advocates said they are close to achieving their decades-long drive to tap billions of barrels of oil beneath the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain.

Drilling proponents said tapping the refuge would lessen dependence on foreign oil, help bring down energy prices, provide jobs and ease the country's growing trade imbalance. They also argued that modern technology would limit the area needed to drill in the arctic. But opponents disagreed, saying that drilling would do little to reduce dependence on foreign oil and that there would be virtually no impact on prices, which are set as a result of activity on the world market. Using posters showing panoramic views of pristine wilderness, opponents also said that pipelines and drilling platforms would harm calving caribou, polar bears and millions of migratory birds in the Alaskan refuge.

Audubon Prints To Hibernate

The New York Times reports that after April 3, the New-York Historical Society will be packing up the 40 fragile Audubon watercolors that it has been displaying in its exhibition "Audubon's Aviary," lay them in flat cases on archival shelves and protect them from the depredations of daily life and light, by forcing them into hibernation for 10 years.

Source: New-York Historical Society
"Northern Bobwhite and the
Red-Shouldered Hawk," an
1825 watercolor, from
"Audubon's Aviary" at the
New-York Historical Society.

But an Audubonian migration is still going to become an annual ritual because the society's Audubon collection is the largest in the world. Every year another selection of the 435 life-size watercolors prepared for the naturalist's masterwork, "The Birds of America," will emerge briefly from their protective housing and be exposed to public view. Eventually, over the next 11 years the entire flock will have an opportunity to display their early-19th-century wings in early-21st-century air.

The Flight Of the Albatross And Other Frigatebird Tales

Source: Natural History Magazine

Albatrosses and frigatebirds spend most of their long lives soaring over the sea. Now miniature electronic trackers and sensors are telling the tales of their adventures. Natural History Magazine ran the story last October.

Frigatebirds live for decades, but albatrosses hold the record for seabirds, reaching ages of sixty to seventy years and continuing to reproduce into their fifties. The studies of the wandering albatross have repeatedly brought the writer to two of the most remote islands in the Southern Ocean, Crozet and Kerguelen, where the birds breed and nest.

The trackers found that during a single foraging trip, which typically lasted between ten and fifteen days, the birds flew more than 1,800 miles from their nests and covered as much as 9,300 miles. They traced huge irregular loops, and made smaller-scale zigzagging movements within the loops that added substantially to the total length of the trip. To save energy, they soared on tailwinds or side winds. When the winds died, they alighted and drifted on the sea until the winds picked up again.

Heart-rate monitors showed that albatrosses' heart rates during flight are only 10 to 20 percent higher than they are when the birds are at rest. In contrast, the heart rates of other birds in typical flapping flight can rise to as much as 200 percent higher than the baseline level.

The patchy distribution of prey requires long-distance foraging. Long-distance foraging means the chicks are fed at long intervals, and so they develop independence slowly. The nine months between hatching and fledging forces the adults to skip a year between breeding attempts. All in all, the bird's slow-paced life probably contributes to its lengthy life span. And perhaps the decade it takes an albatross to reach reproductive maturity is time spent learning how to find the right winds and ride them while keeping a weather eye out for prey.

Source: Natural History Magazine

For more on the mythical Albatross revisit Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill"

IT WAS an article about parrots that drew filmmaker Judy Irving to San Francisco, where the author, Mark Bittner, resided.

Bittner, a bearded, ponytailed, formerly homeless ex-musician, was taking care of a flock of wild conures (the correct term for parrots) on the Greenwich Steps of tony Telegraph Hill. They weren't his birds, per se, but he fed them regularly. And they kept coming back. People called him the Saint Francis of Telegraph Hill.

The filming of "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill", took 4 1/2 years, Irving says, because she was trying to capture the perfect footage of Bittner's birds

The movie, showing at Landmark's E Street Cinema (11th and E streets NW; 202-452-7672) and the Avalon Theatre (5612 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-966-6000), captures that bird's first flight, as well as other unfolding events. And it outlines the personal life journey that brought Bittner into this almost mythical relationship with his various species of conures.

It is also a book:

Birdbrain, The Bigger The Better

Source: New York Times

Another study aims to upset birdbrain myth.

Bigger brains are better when it comes to dealing with a new environment.

Bigger-brained birds adapted much better to new surroundings, establishing populations more quickly, than smaller-brained species, the international team of experts found.

They gathered data on brain mass for 1,967 species.

In more than 600 introductions of nearly 200 bird species into new habitat they found that species with brains large relative to their body size tended to survive better in new environments than smaller-brained birds.

Reuters has more.

Celebrity Hawks On Baby Watch

New York's celebrity hawks Pale Male and Lola are expecting at least two new arrivals at their Fifth Ave. love nest next month.

Lola laid eggs - possibly as many as three - last Wednesday, said video engineer Lincoln Karim, who has been keeping track of Pale Male and his mates for years "out of pure love for them."
If all goes well, he said, the eggs will hatch on or about April 15.

Since 2001 they've produced seven baby birds, four of which survived.

*More from The New York Daily News
*Pale Male Website
*Audubon Magazine Story on Pale Male Plight

Monday, March 14, 2005

Hughes Hollow Field Trip

DCAS Field Trip to Hughes Hollow, Sunday, March 20, 7:30 a.m.

Impatient for Spring? Then please join DC Audubon on Sunday, March 20th, for a trip to Hughes Hollow. This portion of the McKee Beshers WMA, at the western end of River Road in Montgomery County, Maryland, is an interesting mix of wetlands, ponds, and woods. Hopefully, the unseasonably cold weather will have left us by then and the Tree Swallows will have returned, along with Wood Ducks and other waterfowl, and a good variety of land birds. We have seen Barred Owl and Red-headed Woodpecker here in the past. This trip will start from the parking area at 7:30 a.m. and, after a circuit hike of about 1.5 miles, wind up back at the same spot between noon and 1 p.m. Bring water, a lunch or snacks, and wear waterproof footwear, since it can be very muddy.

If you plan to participate, please RSVP the leader, Paul DeAnna, via our website. In your reply, please include a phone number where you can be reached in the evenings should a last-minute postponement be necessary. IMPORTANT: if you reply via e-mail please do so by 2 p.m., Friday, March 18, as I will be away from my e-mail after that time. If you are willing to offer a ride to a non-driver nearby, please let me know & include a note on where you'll be coming from. I'll do my best to put those needing rides in touch with those willing to offer them.

DIRECTIONS (Please consult a map since odometer readings may vary): From the Capital Beltway (495) take exit 39 for River Rd. (MD 190) 3.3 miles north to the 2nd traffic light in Potomac (intersection with Falls Rd.). Continue on River Rd. 7.9 miles to the T-junction with Rt. 112 (Seneca Rd.). Follow River Rd. to the left at this stop sign for another 4.4 miles to the intersection with Hughes Rd. (road sign on right hand side only), turn LEFT (this becomes Hunting Quarter Rd.), and drive about 200 yards to the first parking area on the right, where a gated road divides the large impoundments.

There is a notice of this trip, and others, on our web site: where you can also read about past trips.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Land Of 1st In Flight Launches 1st “Wings” Fest

"Snow Geese Taking Flight" by Kaye White

Make history, be a part of the first annual "Spring Wings" festival in the Outer Banks where nearly Nearly 400 bird species have been spotted.

The festival takes place over the weekend of May 12-15, the schedule of events includes observation of migratory and breeding birds, courtship behavior, listening and identifying bird song.

Beyond birds, excursions are offered to explore swamps in search of blooming orchids and to comb marshes in pursuit of butterflies.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Garden That Extends An Invitation To Perch

Photo Source:

In his weekly Washington Post "Green Scene" column local Landscape designer Joel M. Lerner advises on how to design a garden appealing to visitors.

A pond or other water feature will draw all kinds of living things. If the water is clean, moving in some fashion or contains fish, it will not be a habitat for mosquitoes, but it will bring birds, dragonflies, butterflies and frogs. An in-ground pond can also attract small mammals, such as raccoons and rats. It might also appeal to an occasional exotic visitor. A friend's pond was just cleaned of fish by a passing heron; they might need to install a net to protect the fish. An elevated fountain or birdbath will appeal mostly to airborne visitors, such as birds and butterflies.

When it comes to food, birds vary widely in what they prefer. Some birds, including robins and flickers, eat crawling insects and thrive where there are lots of worms to be had, such as in beds and lawns that contain lots of leaf mold or other composted organic material.

Robins, mockingbirds, catbirds, finches and sparrows like berries. Some of the best plant to provide this treat are serviceberries, hollies, hawthorns, bayberries, dogwoods and viburnums. Birds go for seeds. Colorful goldfinches, mourning doves, house finches and native sparrows are partial to seeds from perennial and annual flowers, such as zinnia, chicory, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, thistle and gaillardia. Some species feed in flocks -- robins, wrens, finches and cardinals among them -- so if you provide a lot of food, you might actually create a bird haven and get more visitors than you ever imagined.

Hummingbirds are a special case. They are nectar feeders and love tubular flowers such as honeysuckle, trumpet vine and bee-balm (Monarda). They're also very fond of red. They will also come to hummingbird feeders containing a nectar-like liquid. If they get used to feeding around you, they can be absolutely fearless and will even come to a flower in your hand.

The North American Birdfeeder Guide, a new book co-authored by Steve Kress and Robert Burton, explains how to attract, feed, and identify birds you see in your gardens.

A Nobleman's Birds' Life

"The Life of Birds" took three years to make at a cost of $15 million. Sir David Attenborough traveled 256,000 miles during filming - 10 times round the Earth.

They used ultra-slow motion filming, night vision cameras and tiny cameras that film inside nests, allied to plain old-fashioned field craft, to bring in footage of some of the world's rarest birds and examples of remarkable avian behavior never filmed before.

You may have to hunt around to catch the series, but the website is a wealth of information.

Best Bets For March Birding

Hughes Hollow
Visitors to Hughes Hollow should be advised that hunting is permitted there & they should probably restrict visits to Sunday.

Seneca (Riley's Lock) on the C&O Canal
Almost any place along the Canal is productive.

Huntley Meadows (good for beginners)
Huntley is not as strong a contender since the beaver dam broke; the main pond is no longer deep enough to attract many waterfowl, but you could round it off by visiting Dyke Marsh nearby.

United States National Arboretum
Photo courtesy of the DC SHPO

Within DC
Kenilworth, the Arboretum, and Hains Point are good choices.

If you are a special fan of waterfowl, try Jug Bay in Maryland, or Mason Neck and Belmont Bay in Virginia.

The DC Audubon Website has more local hot spots.

Claudia Wild's book 'Finding Birds in the National Capital Area,' 2nd ed. If you are more experienced, the 'Yellow Book' from MOS is useful as is keeping an eye on the MDOsprey listserv.

Links to other Maryland and D.C. birding links can be found here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Birder Ban Breeds Contempt

The Washington Post reports that security concerns at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel have prompted officials to propose a ban on bird-watching from most of the 20-mile span between the Eastern Shore and Virginia Beach, and distraught birders are waging a phone and fax campaign against it.

Photo Credit: Steve Earley -- The Virginian-pilot
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is popular for its large mix of birds and four manmade "islands" for viewing.

The area that some birders call the "Serengeti of the East," because of the large and unusual mix of birds drawn to the 40-year-old bridge-tunnel, is flanked by the Chesapeake Bay on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Birders have had unusual access to ocean birds because they can park on four manmade "islands," one at each end of the two, mile-long tunnels where the span dips beneath the bay.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Sibley Signing

David Allen Sibley, author and artist of the newest series of birding field guides, is the featured artist at the 16th Annual Patuxent Wildlife Art Show and Sale scheduled April 1 – 3 at the Patuxent Research Refuge’s National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, MD.

Sibley will be available for book signings at both the Friday evening reception and during the first day of the Art Show, Saturday, April 2nd.

For more information, visit or call (301) 497-5789. The National Wildlife Visitor Center is located off Powder Mill Rd, between the Baltimore/Washington Parkway and MD Rt. 197.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

An early Common Nighthawk


Recently, a Common Nighthawk was seen very clearly in town. Would anyone have an idea why this nighthawk may be migrating so early?