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Schoolyard Birding – Classroom Birding

Especially appealing for elementary school children, but even college students, are a host of ways – big and small – to share birding as a part of science classes, science projects, and outdoor activities. Many classes take field trips to help students discover nature with guidance, but teachers and other instructors can bring nature to the classroom, or at least outside the classroom windows. While trying not to create a distracting element for young people at schools or universities, backyard birding features can simply and effectively illuminate classroom lessons and projects.

Birding – A Lifetime Experience Once a birder, always a birder!

There are millions of birders in the world, but I’ve never met a former birder. Birding is one of those activities that adds a new level of interest and a heightened level of awareness to our lives. It’s a very diverse activity that you can adapt to fit your personal interests and lifestyle in many different ways. Birding is an activity that seemingly has no bounds; one in which you continue to learn more about day after day, year after year. Experience counts, and birding is a lifetime experience!

World’s Oldest-known Bird is Nesting Again!

A female Laysan Albatross aged at least 68 years old has nested again on Midway Island, where she and her mate are nurturing their single nestling! Considered to be the oldest known wild bird, this albatross was originally banded by famous ornithologist Chandler Robbins in 1956 when she was believed to already be more than five years old. During her lifetime, the matriarch albatross and her mate have raised many nestlings to fledging on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the mid-Pacific, far west of Hawaii.

Zeiss Sponsors Young Birder’s Program

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, a leading manufacturer of high performance sports optics for birders and nature enthusiasts, is continuing its partnership with New Jersey Audubon to promote birding and conservation among young people. New Jersey Audubon promotes birding with children and teens through school-based programs, afterschool programs, summer camps, bird-specific youth events and the New Jersey Young Birder’s Club, which is open to children aged 11 to 17. In 2018, New Jersey Audubon taught 3,279 children about birds, birding and bird conservation with the continuing support of Zeiss!

New Transmitters Use Combined Technology for Snowy Owl Research

An exciting new generation of transmitters that allows researchers to track Snowy Owls and other large birds year-round, anywhere in the world, was implemented by Project SNOWstorm January 28. This new transmitter is brand new for wildlife telemetry studies as a whole – it’s the world’s first hybrid GSM-Argos satellite transmitter, produced by Cellular Tracking Technologies (CTT). The first Snowy Owl fitted with the new transmitter has a second channel for communication through the Argos satellite system in tandem with the GSM cellular network that utilizes cell towers similar to cellphones.

Woodpeckers & Hummingbirds – Worldwide Slideshows

Vivid photos of a variety of woodpeckers and hummingbirds are being showcased by one of the premier birding tour companies, Field Guides. These two impressive website-based slideshows feature photos taken by birding tour participants and tour guides during Field Guides’ worldwide birding tours. What fun to see the random assortment of woodpeckers – and the hummingbird slide show is just as impressive! Let these images fuel your interest to learn more about woodpeckers and hummingbirds in different regions, continents, and worldwide.

Join the Editor for Weekly Birding Highlights

Cold spells are tough on birds, and on birders; but some days a field trip provides welcome surprises. Friday I drove an hour with little avian action, but when I least expected it, a covey of 14 Gray Partridges caught my eye as they huddled out of the wind on a windswept snowdrift. I haven’t seen partridges for a few months, and don’t have any photos of them in the snow, so it was exciting to see them and have a chance to photograph them. By the time I returned to the scene, the partridges had spread out, but I was able to photograph some individuals as they walked on top of the drift and made pleasing contact calls to one another.

Kowa BD42 10x42 Binoculars

The Kowa BD42 10x42 Prominar XD Binoculars are made with Kowa's Prominar XD lenses for maximum contrast and almost no chromatic aberration. The high quality roof prisms are phase-coated and feature Kowa's proprietary C3 reflective coating. These Kowa 10x42 Binoculars boast a 324-foot field of view at 1000 yards, a 5-foot minimum close focus, and 18mm eye relief. Its lightweight but durable magnesium chassis keeps the weight of Kowa's BD42 XD Binocular a mere 23 ounces, plus it’s rubber armored, waterproof and fog-proof.

Keen All-Season Hiking Boots

Keen Footwear offers a variety of hiking boots and shoes for women and men – and many styles are on sale now. If you’re looking for a rugged boot, the Keen Targhee Vent Hiking Boots feature the fit, stability, and grip of Keen’s award-winning Targhee collection with mesh panels to keep air flowing while you explore warmer locations. If you’re looking for a light-weight option, the Howser II Hiking Shoes provide water-resistant quilted nylon uppers, non-marking natural rubber outsoles, microfleece lining, plus removable footbeds made of KEEN.CUSH and memory foam that forms to your foot while cushioning every step.

Manfrotto Advanced Photo Tri Backpack

The Manfrotto Advanced Tri Photo Backpack holds a full-sized digital camera with a grip, an attached zoom lens, four extra lenses, and a flash between rigid but movable interior dividers. It will also hold an 11-inch laptop or tablet behind a divider in the top compartment, and the Advanced Photo Tri Backpack features a front tripod attachment. There is also a spacious top compartment for extra accessories, and a variety of interior and exterior pockets. Interchangeable shoulder straps on the Tri Backpack allow it to be carried in four different ways; a right- or left-handed sling, a dual shoulder harness, or in an "X" position.

Wild Birds Unlimited’s Clear Top Squirrel Baffle

There are a number of ways to baffle squirrels, but Wild Birds Unlimited’s Clear Squirrel Baffle will eliminate squirrel problems while acting as a weather guard when positioned above a hanging feeder. The WBU Clear Squirrel Baffle measures 18 inches in diameter, 6 inches tall, and has a lifetime guarantee. This squirrel baffle comes with one long hook and one short hook to use when hanging it in combination with a feeder.

A Tablet Can Provide Improved Options for Birders

Optics is a broad term, and usually birding optics includes binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras and lenses, and accessories for all those products. This week let’s expand the description of birding optics to include computers and, specifically, tablets. Tablets provide a much-enlarged version of a cellphone’s viewing and computer capabilities, minus the phone. They provide a more manageable version of a computer that helps us better share our field notes and rare bird reports from the field; and they are undeniably easier to use to check ID and range information about different species. Tablets are clearly useful at home too, as well as at work or school, for birding activities and all the other computer options.

The ABA Rare Bird Alert’s Weekly Highlights

This week it’s important to note that an impressive number of really rare birds that have been previously reported here continue to be monitored by birders, including the first American record Dark-billed Cuckoo, which is still being seen in Florida, and the first American record Long-legged Buzzard on St. Paul Island, Alaska. The Dusky Thrush was re-found in British Columbia and the White-throated Thrush persists in southeast Arizona, along with the Red-flanked Bluetail in Los Angeles. In south Texas, the Yellow Grosbeak and a Crimson-collared Grosbeak are still being seen, plus at least two Golden-crowned Warblers. For new rare bird reports from last week, read on.

In Pursuit of Rails in pursuit of crabs
Stealth and intense but measured pursuit best describe a Ridgway’s Rail in pursuit of favored prey, a small crab.

Most rails are elusive, rarely encountered sleuths of tall vegetation in marshes, swamps and coastal estuaries. As a birder, they are hard to find; as a birding photographer, they are nearly impossible to find. So it went for a few decades, until one of my favorite photo locations in coastal California became something of a hotspot for finding and photographing rails. It was quite a thrill for me to see and photograph the first one in close quarters, and that excitement hasn’t subsided.

Suddenly, the endangered Light-footed Clapper Rails became pretty common photo prizes along the boardwalk at Bolsa Chica Wetlands on the north edge of Huntington Beach, California. In the meantime, ornithologists even changed the species’ name to Ridgway’s Rails, making them even more impressive in my mind – after all, they were elevated from a subspecies to a full species!

Grabbed, and on high alert, the predator's gaze and the crab's reaction are evident during a moment of face-off.

Photographing Ridgway’s Rails is interesting, and often exciting. At least at Bolsa Chica, the rails are not very shy or concerned by passing people; they appear to be singularly keen on searching for, catching, and eating small crabs. But that means the rails rarely, if ever, stopped for me to photograph them. I mostly needed to keep up with an individual’s movements in and out of vegetation, in and out of light, plying the water’s edge and wading through vegetated shallows, all while trying to keep low – closer to the rail’s level – while trying to get sharp photos as the stealthy rail continued searching for crabs.

It’s always fun to get to know a new species, and to photograph individuals at the same time. It’s not the first species I would normally be attracted to in a location loaded with ducks, egrets, herons, terns, skimmers, gulls, pelicans, sandpipers, plovers, some raptors and a few passerines – but they were new, and elusive, and interesting, so how could I resist.

Out of hunting mode, a Ridgway Rail ruffles its feathers.

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

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

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. 8 - Mar. 10
Waterfowl Weekend Festival
Brighton, Ontario
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
Apr. 5 - Apr. 7
Mackinaw Raptor Fest
Mackinaw City, Michigan
Apr. 5 - Apr. 8
Great Louisiana BirdFest
Mandeville, Louisiana
Apr. 10 - Apr. 17
Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival
Woodward, Oklahoma
Apr. 11 - Apr. 14
Galveston FeatherFest Birding Festival
Galveston Island, Texas
Apr. 11 - Apr. 14
Harney County Migratory Bird Festival
Burns, Oregon
Apr. 12 - Apr. 14
Olympic Bird Festival
Sequim, Washington
Apr. 12 - Apr. 14
Nebraska Prairie Chicken Festival
Burwell, Nebraska
Apr. 13 - Apr. 14
Atlanta Bird Fest
Atlanta, Georgia
Apr. 17 - Apr. 23
Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival
Arcata, California
Apr. 24 - Apr. 27
Spring Chirp
Weslaco, Texas
Apr. 24 - Apr. 28
Birdiest Festival in America
Corpus Christi, Texas
Apr. 25 - Apr. 27
Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival
Suffolk, Virginia
Apr. 25 - Apr. 28
Stikine River Birding Festival
Wrangell, Alaska
Apr. 25 - Apr. 28
Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival
Cottonwood, Arizona
Apr. 25 - Apr. 28
Balcones Songbird Festival
Marble Falls, Texas
Apr. 26 - Apr. 28
Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival
Point Reyes Station, California
Apr. 26 - Apr. 28
Hatchie BirdFest
Brownsville, Tennessee
Apr. 26 - Apr. 28
Birds of the Hill
South Bloomingville, Ohio
Apr. 26 - Apr. 29
Spring Delmarva Birding Weekend
Del Marva Peninsula, Maryland
Apr. 27
Thornapple Woodpecker Festival
Middleville, Michigan
Apr. 27 - Apr. 28
Migration Celebration
Brazoria, Texas
Apr. 27 - Apr. 28
Spring Fling at Whitefish Point
Paradise, Michigan
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