Extended Seasons

A personal awareness of one’s natural surroundings can provide daily discoveries, wonder, and even stir the soul. It also makes one keenly aware of the natural seasons. Even though the official “first day of spring” on the calendar is listed as March 20th, “spring” from a birding perspective is defined differently as it relates to a specific set of behaviors shown by the animals that surround us. Since these birds  may migrate from distant points even birds within the same area may show entirely different cycles at the same time of year.

The Tyrrhenian Flycatcher

Birders, and most people in general, often think that to find and enjoy a nice bird species or an interesting animal, we need to move far from our cities, or even far from our home countries.

Living Unicorn

Birds have wings and many migrate great distances, so there is always a chance that a “rare bird” could show up far away from where it normally occurs, just like the Curlew Sandpipers that the US-based Leica Birding Team ran into at multiple birding events this spring (Biggest Week in American Birding, Ohio & Cape May Bird Observatory Spring Weekend). Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) is a small shorebird / wader species that winters primarily in Africa and breeds on the arctic tundra of Siberia. With their incredibly long wings, they are strong flyers and occur as vagrants in North America…

Are You Watching TV?

The TV, or Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) as it is more formally known, is a common and widespread New World species that birders largely take for granted. In terms of identification, beginners enjoy learning the differences between TV and BV (or Black Vulture), and later on the TV is a potential confusion species when looking for a Golden Eagle or Zone-tailed Hawk.

Birding in Morocco

March 2016.  Late evening, the light is changing into a deep orange-red. I am driving up the mountains in the High Atlas, Middle Morocco. By Andrea Corso.

Assumptions versus the dark-morph Pink-footed Shearwater

Whether Pink-footed Shearwater has a (very rare) dark morph, or whether occasional individuals are melanistic, are interesting semantic questions. But the bottom line for field observers is that apparently dark-plumaged Pink-footed Shearwaters are out there, and they could be confused with Flesh-footed Shearwater. Although some have questioned this assumption (e.g., see pages 56-58 of the January 2012 issue of Birding magazine), their alternatives of an undescribed new species of large shearwater, or of hybrid Pink-footed x Flesh-footed Shearwaters, seem to overlook the principle of parsimony: the most likely = parsimonious explanation is that some Pink-footed Shearwaters are dark-bodied. There’s even…

First At-sea Images of Ainley’s Storm-Petrel – but who cares?

Leica team member Steve Howell is back recently from a ten-day pelagic trip off northwest Mexico, where he saw plenty of ‘Leach’s Storm-Petrels’ – including the enigmatic Ainley’s Storm-Petrel, endemic as a breeder to Mexico’s Guadalupe Island (about 170 miles west of the Baja California Peninsula), described as new to science as recently as 1980, and never before photographed at sea! Here’s the story…   Ainley’s Storm-Petrel? Huh, what’s that? OK, here’s a synopsis of taxonomy to put the story in context. (Don’t worry, it’s short!) In 1980, marine scientist David Ainley described the winter-breeding ‘Leach’s Storm-Petrels’ on Mexico’s Guadalupe…

Closer look at the American Woodcock

The American Woodcock is a secretive nocturnal bird that acts as unique as it looks! This warm, earthy shorebird makes its living in moist grassy margins near wooded lots. A common breeder along the shores of the Great Lakes these are always a highlight at The Biggest Week in American Birding with specialized night walks (affectionately referred to as “Timberdoodle Schnoodles”) scheduled to see this amazing bird in action. The call is a familiar “Peent” which went semi-viral on YouTube, Tumbler, Facebook, etc. when set to a Collective Soul classic track here – perhaps the only time American Woodcocks may go “mainstream”. The “peent”…

Spring Has Sprung

The thought of spring may seem like a fairy tale for those in the Northern US buried under record amounts of February and March snowfalls, but here in sunny Florida, spring has definitely sprung and believe it or not, it’s coming your way! The first migrants to return to Florida each “spring” are the Purple Martins which actually return from the Amazon basin as early as January each year. These birds are so far ahead of everything else, though, that you may have to wait a good month before really seeing any other migrants. Somewhere near the third week in March, you will have a…

Colorful or Cryptic?

From California to Mexico, Leica team member Steve Howell has recently been contemplating the beauty and plumage patterns of some ‘colorful’ birds… We all know about nightjars and bitterns having cryptic plumage, even green parrots in green trees. But some other species, when seen in a field guide, don’t seem like they’d be cryptic. There’s a reason the Western Sibley Guide has Varied Thrush on the cover – it’s a strikingly marked species that everyone wants to see. How could you overlook such a bird? And how about a male Elegant Trogon? That’s one of the most colorful and sought-after…