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Gear Up for The Great Backyard Bird Count!

Are you ready to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count from February 15 to 18. It’s one of the premier birding events across the continent and around the world, and you are invited to attend! Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, and joined by Bird Studies Canada, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data about wild birds and display results in near real-time. Now, more than 160,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.

The eBird Year in Review – More Ways to Enjoy Birds and Birding

It’s been an inspiring year with some huge additions for eBird, and birders can’t wait to see what’s next in 2019. Sixteen years ago, eBird was initiated as a grand experiment: Using the internet to connect birders across the continent and around the world in a way that informs research and conservation. Now, more than 420,000 eBirders contribute sightings from the field, in your yard, and in your neighborhood. You have contributed more than 590 million bird observations, continuing to make eBird the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project.

Project SNOWstorm Updates Snowy Owl Telemetry Mapping

Things are in high gear this winter with the Snowy Owls being studied day to day by Project Snowstorm, a remarkable GPS-GSM telemetry research project that tracks a varied group of individual Snowy Owls. You will find it especially interesting to see the daily movements of Snowy Owls during the winter, the timing and direction of their migrations, where they spend the nesting season, and where they spend the following winter. Two examples of Snowy Owls tracked by Project Snowstorm during recent years provide very insightful information about Snowy Owls as individuals and as a species.

Recording Birdsongs with Your Smartphone

Recording bird sounds with your smartphone is actually pretty easy. The best and simplest way to record bird sounds is to download a free recording app, which is easy to use. The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides information about how to configure several recording apps for Android and iOSphones. Once you download an app onto your smartphone, just configure your settings once and you’re all set. The best of the recording apps have seamless sharing to transfer recordings you make from your smartphone to your computer.

Join the Editor for Weekly Birding Highlights

I can really hear Florida and Texas calling me for a birding escape, along with Colorado and Oregon. And regionally, any time there are a couple sunny days in a row up this way, I’m overdue for another regional trip to my SoDak raptor hotspot. Each day I think about my next birding trip, and this week I’ve been leaning toward another tour of Florida. I even reacted by writing about “Everglades Adventures” in this issue’s Birding Lifestyles article to get a sub-tropical release filled with interesting birds.

Sony Zoom Cameras for Video and Still Photography

In the Sony line of video and still photography cameras, where there are models for everyone, check out the Sony DSC-H400 Compact Camera with 63x optical zoom, providing affordable 20M quality and reduced shake with Optical SteadyShot and HD video options. For more serious bird photographers, see the Sony RX10 III with a 24-to-600mm zoom lens, featuring high-speed autofocus, professional-grade 4K video and up to 40x super slow motion, with wide-angle and telephoto zooming, plus 20M and large aperture quality for still photography and videos.

Perky-Pet Red Seed Ball Wild Bird Feeder

Have a ball watching birds visiting the Perky-Pet Red Seed Ball Wild Bird Feeder. The eye-catching red finish is attractive and the wire mesh design keeps seeds fresh longer. The all-metal feeder resists squirrel damage, is easy to hang and is capable of holding more than a pound of seeds. The wire mesh design welcomes clinging birds including finches, chickadees and woodpeckers, and keeps water from pooling in the seed container – perfect for withstanding the elements of rain and snow. The economical price welcomes you to add more than one to your yard or place of business.

New Year, New Adventures with the L.L. Bean Winter Sale

Get up to 50 percent off during the L.L. Bean Winter Sale, on-line and in stores. The stylish coats and boots are exciting enough, but be sure to check out the on-sale women’s, men’s, boy’s and girl’s fleece and down jackets, sweaters and flannel shirts, travel bags and backpacks, snowshoes, tents and more. And if you’re headed for warmer climes, there’s plenty of stylish weather-appropriate clothing and gear at L.L. Bean.

Duncraft Hexagon Heated Birdbath

Keep winter water from freezing with a stylish Hexagon Heated Post Birdbath from Duncraft. Improve your bird feeding station by adding a heated, ice-free birdbath with an efficient 60-watt heated dish mounted to a sturdy metal pole. The durable green recycled plastic birdbath features a heater that is safely installed between two layers of durable black plastic resin. Measuring 17x15 inches in diameter, the birdbath is attached to a sectional pole that stands 43 inches tall before it’s inserted into the ground. Easy to wipe clean and fill with fresh water, this heated birdbath will attract interesting birds year-round.

A Quick Guide for Selecting a Tripod

Whether you’re looking for an upgrade from your present tripod, or you’re shopping for your first tripod, there are a few simple dos and don’ts that you should keep in mind. The don’ts aren’t hard and fast, but they will alert you to what’s probably best for your interests – today and in the future. For some birders, tripods are a necessary evil; for others, they are a godsend. Either way, most birders buy one or more tripods during the course of your birding lives.

The ABA Rare Bird Alert’s Weekly Highlights

Last week’s rare bird sightings were dominated by exciting foreigners! From Asia came a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Tundra Bean Goose and a Kamchatka Mew Gull. Europe sent Barnacle Geese, and Latin America shared Blue Buntings and a White-throated Thrush! First records were recorded in Arizona, New Jersey, Colorado, the District of Columbia and Alberta. Plus, a few earlier rare birds remain after being found and reported during previous weeks. Check out all the Rare Birds news!

Everglades Adventures
In the vast Everglades, wading birds are most abundant, including White Ibis.

Are you ready for a warm-weather birding adventure this winter? Any trip into the Everglades is a true birding adventure! At the same time, the Everglades are fairly accessible, especially from the Miami side. A paved road leads you from the west side of Miami through the vibrant Everglades wilderness protected by Everglades National Park at the south end of Florida. Water conditions and the season will dictate the variety and abundance of birds, but any day in the Everglades is a great day for birding!

Many of the birds people expect to see are the usually abundant diversity of wading birds, including such exciting species as Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Reddish Egrets and three species of white egrets – Snowy, Great and Cattle Egrets.

Keep in mind, though, that Little Blue Herons and Reddish Egrets also have white-morph individuals. And be sure to take a second look at the Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons you see in South Florida, for there is an interesting white color morph of Great Blues that resemble Great Egrets, but these individuals can best be separated by their yellow legs and larger size. Another color-morph of Great Blues have an obvious white head and neck, and are often referred to as “Wurdemann’s” Great Blue Herons.

Roseate Spoonbills are among the most colorful birds in the Everglades, and among the most unusual.

Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants are more aquatic in their habitat preferences, but not all Everglades birds are associated with water. Many impressive birds inhabit the wooded islands and uplands in the region, including Barred Owls, Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawks, White-crowned Pigeons, Laughing Gulls, Fish Crows, Black Vultures and, in season, many colorful neotropical songbirds.

Many birds migrate in and out of the Everglades ecosystem, and my favorite Everglades migrants are Swallow-tailed Kites. If you visit the Everglades today, you have no chance of seeing one, but if you plan your visit for mid-March and thereafter during spring and summer, you should have fine opportunities to see these graceful birds in action. You may see them on a gliding hunt for tree frogs, catching dragonflies in mid-air, collecting nesting material, or simply flying in their gliding, kiting flights.

One of many neotropical migrants, Swallow-tailed Kites are among Florida's most graceful birds of prey.

My favorite time among birds in the Everglades was when I timed my trip to coincide with the arrival of migrating Swallow-tailed Kites in late March. The first couple days provided great observations of Swallow-tails in flight and hunting, and feeding on the wing. But after reviewing my photos, I felt I needed to return for another kite photo session. The next morning looked promising with ample sunlight and scattered kites, but about 10:00 I witnessed and photographed a continuous flight of Swallow-tailed Kites that appeared to be making landfall on the south side of the Everglades, probably making first American landfall after a morning migration flight.

During the next two hours, the kites glided above tree-lined streams into the morning wind, sometimes with as many as 10 Swallow-tails in sight at once. Mosquitos were a factor, but I certainly made the most of the opportunity as more than 200 Swallow-tailed Kites funneled through the area. I stationed myself to take advantage of the best light and kite flights – and what fun I had!

Another species of kites, the rare Snail Kites, which were once known as Everglades Kites, can be seen in the Everglades ecosystem, although they tend to be more likely to be found along Alligator Alley, also known as the Tamiami Trail or Highway 41, which bisects the Everglades east-west through the north side of the national park. Also, keep an eye peeled for a soaring Short-tailed Hawk, a hard to find raptor; and watch for an occasional Magnificent Frigatebird soaring overhead, especially along the south coast of the Everglades.

During late winter and early spring, the facial skin of many adult wading birds, such as this Tricolored Heron, becomes more colorful and they grow plumes used in courtship displays.

To get to the Everglades, it’s easy to fly into Miami and rent a car and be in the heart of the national park within a couple hours – maybe less. There are a variety of hotels a short distance from the Everglades entrance gate near the Miami suburb of Homestead. Take food and drinks, preferably in a cooler full of ice, with your favorite hat and plenty of sunscreen and insect repellant in addition to your regular birding equipment. As I write this, many national park services are not functioning due to a government shutdown, but we hope this disappointing situation is remedied quickly.

Wading birds and other species are most colorful during late winter and early spring when they are nesting in the region, so that’s a consideration when timing your trip. Migrating neotropical songbirds and flycatchers will arrive in waves throughout May, but as I noted before, any day in the Everglades is a great day for birding!

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

Share your birding experiences anytime at editors2tbw@gmail.com

How Do You Share Your Photos?
Among the many photos Paul shares on his website, he shares a few favorite photos here, including a spectacular Prairie Falcon in flight …

We bird photographers enjoy our searches for birds to photograph, and our attempts to get quality photographs of interesting birds. It eventually drives some of us. Formerly, and today, we enjoy printing our best or favorite photographs as standard prints and enlargements. We enlarge and frame the best of the best and share them in our home, office and, maybe, at a social gathering – at a bird club meeting, an Audubon event, or even a flea market or street fair.

During this century, the internet and social media has become a preferred option for sharing photographs. I’m noted for attaching a bird photo to most emails I send; it’s my way of making my communications more personal – and the photos are much appreciated I’m told. I have extended that practice to many of my text messages too, or I attach a photo to at least one text in a series with the same person. Sharing my photos in this way is fun and rewarding and it adds a personal touch.

… an iridescent White-faced Ibis in an unusual preening pose …

I also have a couple large groups of friends and associates who I periodically share photos with stories from the field. However, these days my communications of this kind tend to make their way directly to the pages of The Birding Wire, which extends my photo sharing to a much larger birding community of tens of thousands. During the 1990s, I shared my bird photography and travel experiences with about half a million readers each month in the largest birding magazine ever – now that’s mega-sharing.

Many bird photographers share their photos on Facebook, which is a good option for sharing your interests and images via social media. Some photographers have a separate Facebook account to share their images and show their stuff and, in some cases, promote selling images. That’s undoubtedly a fine way of sharing and marketing. Although I have not been a Facebook fan, that’s probably not been a good decision professionally.

… a brilliant Vermillion Flycatcher in action landing …

Flickr is another photo sharing and storage option that many photographers like, and to a lesser extent, you can share photos via Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and some other social media groups including podcasts. Some of these options seem to come and go, or vary in popularity over the years, but that’s true for many communications platforms and businesses.

Personally, I have preferred to operate my own website that offers many more design opportunities and options, which I find important as I share a small portion of my many favorite photographs. I initiated my website – www.WilldifeAdventures.biz– almost 20 years ago, so you can actually see my steady improvement as a wildlife photographer during that extended period. Today I emphasize action photographs over portraits and, if you visit the website, you will also see a more extended collection of wildlife photos that includes mostly birds, but many mammals, a few reptiles, and even a page of diverse people of the world.

… and a truly Superb Starling (in southern Kenya).

There’s an assortment of website hosting companies you can check out and learn more about starting your own website, including Yahoo, GoDaddy, HostGator, SiteBuilder, BlueHost, iPage, JustHost and many more. I can only speak first-hand about Yahoo’s small business website hosting services, and aside from paying $9 per month (ha-ha, that’s only 30 cents per day), that includes my email service and it’s been a pretty smooth partnership over the decades. I think a personal website is the best option for sharing photos with a large media audience, and it helps to give me a presence I can also refer professional contacts to review.

There is one more way you can share your bird photos with a larger birding community: You can send your best or favorite photos to the The Birding Wire. We would be interested in seeing your fine photos as your bird photography progresses, and when you have an interesting photo experience to share. Overall, be proud of your bird photography accomplishments, keep up the good work, and share your favorite photos in all the ways that bring you a little more joy through your birding experiences.

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

Share your bird photographs and birding photo experiences at editorstbw2@gmail.com

Jan. 17 - Jan. 19
Wings Over Willcox
Willcox, Arizona
Jan. 17 - Jan. 21
Everglades Birding Festival
Davie, Florida
Jan. 17 - Jan. 21
North Shore Birding Festival
Mount Dora, Florida
Jan. 18 - Jan. 21
Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival
Morro Bay, California
Jan. 18 - Jan. 21
Wings of Winter Birding Festival
Springville, Tennessee
Jan. 19
Rains County Eagle Fest
Emory, Texas
Jan. 19 - Jan. 21
Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival
Birchwood, Tennessee
Jan. 23 - Jan. 27
Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway
Chico, California
Jan. 23 - Jan. 28
Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival
Titusville, Florida
Jan. 25 - Jan. 27
Winter Wildlife Festival
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Jan. 25 - Jan. 27
Winter Delmarva Birding Weekend
Del Marva Peninsula, Maryland
Jan. 26
Monroe Lake Bald Eagle Driving Tour
Bloomington, Indiana
Feb. 2
Galt Winter Bird Festival
Galt, California
Feb. 6 - Feb. 9
Laredo Birding Festival
Laredo, Texas
Feb. 7 - Feb. 10
The High Plains Snow Goose & Heritage History Festival
Lamar, Colorado
Feb. 8 - Feb. 10
Birds of a Feather Fest
Palm Coast, Florida
Feb. 14 - Feb. 17
Winter Wings Festival
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Feb. 15 - Feb. 17
Matagorda Bay Birdfest
Palacios, Texas
Feb. 15 - Feb. 17
Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival
Meadowlands, Minnesota
Feb. 15 - Feb. 18
Great Backyard Bird Count
Your Yard!
Feb. 21 - Feb. 23
Eagle Expo and More
Morgan City, Louisiana
Feb. 21 - Feb. 24
Whooping Crane Festival
Port Aransas, Texas
Feb. 23
California Duck Days
Davis, California
Feb. 23
Burrowing Owl Festival
Cape Coral, Florida
Feb. 27 - Mar. 1
Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend
Gloucester, Massachusetts
Feb. 27 - Mar. 3
San Diego Bird Festival
San Diego, California
Mar. 1 - Mar. 2
Marsh Madness Sandhill Crane Festival
Lincoln, Indiana
Mar. 8 - Mar. 10
Monte Vista Crane Festival
Monte Vista, Colorado
Mar. 8 - Mar. 10
Vallarta Bird and Nature Festival
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Mar. 15 - Mar. 17
Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival
Blaine, Washington
Mar. 21 - Mar. 24
Audubon's Nebraska Crane Festival
Kearney, Nebraska
Mar. 22 - Mar. 24
Othello Sandhill Crane Festival
Othello, Washington
Apr. 1 - Apr. 3
Celebration of Swans
Whitehorse, Yukon
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