Magic over the Islands

Each fall season for the past few years, hawk counters at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch have broken their own world record for the most Peregrine Falcons tallied at a single migration monitoring site in a season. Recent Peregrine Falcons totals @ FKH 2012 – 3,836 Peregrine Falcons tallied 2013 – 4,010 Peregrine Falcons tallied 2014 – 4,216 Peregrine Falcons tallied 2015 – ???? As of October 7th, 2015, however the FKH count had lagged FAR behind recent years’ totals with only 948 Peregrines tallied (nearly 2,000 behind previous years total by the same date 10/7). I spoke with Rafael Galvez, Director of FKH, artist/author/guide…

Pounding Hearts and Beating Wings: Cape May Migration Madness

Cool morning temperatures and crisp organic scents saturate the forest floor while lush blankets of red, yellow and gold adorn the treetops; autumn has fallen across North America. The chaos and excitement of breeding season is over. Young birds are learning the ins and outs of functioning on their own while their parents adjust to being empty nesters once again. The days grow shorter and the air crisper while migratory birds scramble to fill their fat reserves in preparation for their long journeys ahead. The first of many cold fronts to come passes over, creating favorable winds and triggering ancient…

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The binoculars and the bear

We all know that binoculars are one of the most important pieces of wildlife observation equipment. Manufacturers are always keen to tell you about long lists of amazing selling points – image quality, brightness, contrast, transmission, waterproofing and so on – but one they don’t often mention is how much protection they offer against dangerous animals. This is probably because it’s relatively easy to test and measure things like light transmission and waterproofing. Testing against bears tends to be a bit more onerous – both for the bear and the tester, bears being busy animals in general with better things…

World Record in Hand

The Date – September 16th, 2015, the place – the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala, India. You can see the rain drops clinging to the branches and leaves in the image above. Definitely not Noah’s most technically perfect image he’s shared, but likely the one that was shared the most! On a soggy, drizzly day, Noah lifted his trusty Leica 10×42 Ultravid HD-Plus binoculars as he has tens of thousands of times this year and saw these Sri Lanka Frogmouths. In a private email Noah shared the images above & below and wrote: “This afternoon, with a crowd of local birders…

Amazonian Yard Listing

There isn’t anything too much more indescribably exciting than nearing the end of a long journey to a foreign birding location. You’ve spent evenings gawking at Google images, worn the pages of a formerly new field guide, you’ve read dozens of trip reports in the weeks leading up to the journey, and now you’re on the cusp of being in the same exact physical location you’ve mused over for some time. After a total of nineteen hours spent on planes and in airports, a whirlwind of a trip to the famed Pantanal, a fourteen hour bus ride, followed by a…

Split or Get Off the Pot: Genetics and the AOU vs. Reality?

“Surely one of the core virtues of birding is its independent, even anarchic spirit” (Gordon, 2015). The North American Classification Committee (NACC) of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) comprises appointed members who pass judgment and make determinations on species limits, English names, and related issues for the birds of North America. To this end, the NACC proclaims the AOU Checklist as “the official source on the taxonomy of birds found in North and Middle America” (http://checklist.aou.org, accessed May 2015). The American Birding Association (ABA) Checklist follows the AOU, for the most part, but will that union endure?  I often hear…

Keeping up with Noah Strycker

  When we last touched base with Noah he was enjoying scenery, birds and wildlife with Jennie Duberstein one of our Leica Birding Crew at famed California Gulch, in southeast Arizona (May 24, 2015). By that days end, Noah had already tallied an amazing 2625 bird species, in countless locales in 2015 alone. He began his quest on January 1, 2015 aboard a vessel headed toward Antarctica, then wound northward through South America living out of his back pack. As you can see from the map above, Noah’s path is designed to be efficient and methodical and the color-coded key shows the plan by…

Migration Magic in the Land of Milk and Honey-buzzards

May 3, 2015. I stand at my station in the Eilat Mountains, overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba, at the north end of the Red Sea. Stretching away to southwest, the mountains of Israel seamlessly give way to the mountains of Egypt, the boundary only recognizable thanks to the hand of man: the large, re-enforced border fence, interlaced with jagged barbed wire, threatening any foolish soul who would approach from either side. To the east, across the Gulf, loom the red mountains of Jordan’s Edom Range. South of these, through the morning haze that often hangs over the sea, we can…

Leica Stories: An Interview with Jennie MacFarland

“I have a question for you about volunteering for the Arizona Important Bird Areas program.” I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up to me asking something like this. “I’m not the Jennie you are looking for,” I tell them. “You are Jennie, the bird biologist who works at the Historic YWCA building, aren’t you?” they ask. “Yes,” I reply. “I am. But you want the Jennie who works down the hall, not me.” She’s Jennie-Mac. I’m J-Dubes. (Or, as Camp Colorado 2015 participants decided to call me, J-Dub). We both work in bird conservation and have offices…

One Gal, Three Guys and Five-striped Sparrows: Chasing Birds with Noah Strycker

Have you ever seen a Five-striped Sparrow? It’s a Mexican species that just makes its way into the United States in a few spots in southeastern Arizona. The phrase “death march” often accompany a description of an attempt to find Five-striped Sparrow in Arizona. The roads require high clearance and sometimes four-wheel drive. Flat tires are not uncommon, nor are encounters with Border Patrol agents, as the spot is just north of the international boundary with Mexico. Let’s just say that looking for Five-striped Sparrow in Arizona can be a bit of an adventure. Back in 2006 Michael O’Brien, Louise…