Archive for May, 2013

A bird’s color and its color pattern have evolved over the centuries to help the bird hide from potential predators. Although male Cardinals and Goldfinch are obvious exceptions to this tendency. It is hard to imagine how, with their bright coloring, they could blend into any natural surroundings.

At the opposite extreme, the coloring and pattern of this owl perfectly match its surroundings. You could easily pass within a few feet of the owl and never see it.


Hidden Owl

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Passenger Pigeon became extinct a century ago when the last living bird, Martha, died in a Cincinnati zoo in 1914. Martha was the last of her kind. With her death Passenger Pigeons ceased to exist. They were officially extinct.

And extinction is forever. Or is it?

Last year, The Long Now Foundation, headed by Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame, sponsored discussion on how to revive the Passenger Pigeon. Ben Novak, a molecular biologist at U. of California, Santa Cruz is the driving force. He has already sequenced the genome of Passenger Pigeon specimens in museums. His concept is to identify how they differ from today’s Band-tailed Pigeon and then splice the differences into Band-tailed Pigeons.

It sounds like life imitating art. The project, called Revive & Restore, may be heading toward a modern day Jurassic Park.

I have a warm spot in my heart for Passenger Pigeons so I, for one, will be closely following their progress.

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New Snow Birds

Around 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, Orlando and Vicki Hidalgo will pack a few final things into the car, take one last look around and begin the drive to their new home in Naples, FL near birding hot spots such as Sanibel Island and Corkscrew Swamp. They will officially become “Snow Birds.”

Orlando will be remembered for his enthusiasm and energy. Vicki, the long suffering spouse, put up with his rising early in the morning to chase a rarity and often joined in birding treks near and far.

I first met them both about 14 years ago on a field trip I led to Cape May. Orlando was excited. Vicki took the group to a haunted house for dinner.

They will both be missed. I wish them good luck.

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May is for the birds. So during the first five days of May I participated in three Bird Walks. On the first I went to Tibbets Brook Park in Yonkers. Rockefeller State Park was the site of my regular monthly Bird Walk on Saturday the 4th. On Sunday the 5th I journeyed to Central Park with the local Audubon Society. That’s a lot of birding in five days.

Although the calendar says it is spring and the weather agrees, the spring migrants, especially the warblers, did not get the message. I only saw five species of warblers despite being at the right place at the right time. And it isn’t just me. All birders are where are the birds? Even the legendary Central Park was devoid of warblers.

Am I disappointed? Well, yes and no. All winter you look forward to spring so it is somewhat of a let-down when it does meet the high expectations you dream of. On the other hand, I did enjoy all my birding. The weather was beautiful and I saw a lot of other spring birds, just not as many warblers as hoped for.

Why so few warblers? There are two theories making the rounds. The first is the weather. (It is always easy to blame the weather.) Winter lingered this year. So warblers are running late because of cooler temperature affected trees, bugs and everything natural.

The second theory blames Super Storm Sandy. Because so many trees were blown down and so much habitat destroyed, the birds did not find the metro area as inviting as in the past. So they just did not stop but overflew NYC and moved farther north.

Your theory is probably as good as either of these. But human nature is such that we have to find something to blame when life doesn’t go the way we hoped.

I did hear from a friend who was birding at McGee Marsh in northwest Ohio. He spotted 22 species of warblers in one day. Maybe that is where all the warblers went.

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I have always told people that, compared to humans, bids have a tough life. When a human is hungry, he or she simply goes to the refrigerator, the pantry, or the corner store for fresh tasty food. A bird, on the other hand, must find all its own food. And if it is eats all the seeds in one area today, it must locate a new source of food for tomorrow. Daily foraging for your food can’t be fun not what I considered an easy life.

Until recently. Someone pointed out that the fresh food in the fridge doesn’t miraculously appear. You have to buy it. And you have to buy the fridge and house to hold it all. That all takes money which means having a job, with a daily commute, long hours, and high pressure.
Birds don’t have jobs. They are free to whatever they want. Spend the day as they please. No job pressure, unreasonable deadlines, angry bosses, obnoxious co-workers or 24/7 availability.

Maybe a bird’s life is not as bad as I had thought. Moreover, they can fly. That would be neat.

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Whenever I get a new calendar I highlight the entire month of May. It is the peak month for birding.

Birds sing at dawn celebrating the end of winter. Bulbs and spring wildflowers add a splash of color to the former winter landscape. Birds that migrated south in fall are returning. It is the peak time to see 20 colorful species of warblers in a single day as they pass thru on their way to spending the summer farther north. Trees are not fully leafed out so it is easy to see birds on the tall branches. May is birding time.

Today, the first of May, I met a few friends at Tibbets Brook Park in Yonkers to kick off the May birding month. Just as the calendar predicted the migrants are coming home. I added 8 species to my 2013 bird list including 4 of the early warblers – Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black and White, and N. Parula. Warbling Vireo and Killdeer sang. An Osprey patrolled the lake looking for a fish lunch.

For me, the best find of the day was a pair of Baltimore Orioles, the male in bright neon orange, the female more subdued in attractive yellow. Great close looks. At one point, the male and female were less than 6 inches apart, highlighted by brilliant sunlight. Their pose reminded me of an Audubon painting.

Great start to May

baltimore oriore


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