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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2019
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BACKYARD BIRDING
The Effects of Bird Feeding on Birds

Among the most popular reasons to feed wild birds is to assist birds by supplementing their food (and to attract them to our yards). To provide useful information about the effects of feeding birds, a team of researchers recently examined how feeding wild birds influenced the health of birds at forested study sites in central Illinois. Generally, the individual health of birds improved with supplemental feeding, including increased antioxidant levels, reduced stress, and more rapid feather growth. In some species, researchers also found improved body condition and innate immune defenses.


BIRDING LIFESTYLES
695 Migrating Bald Eagles!

Seeing one Bald Eagle is exciting; seeing more than one eagle is reason to celebrate. So imagine my excitement when I counted 387 Bald Eagles along a stretch of the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota as I drove south from the city of Red Wing to Wabasha, a distance of about 29 miles. The mighty Mississippi was mostly ice-free this special day of March, but there was still a monstrous ice cube covering a wide expanse of the river north of the city of Lake Pepin where I found 242 eagles on or near the ice.


BIRDING NEWS
The Eastern Population of Whooping Cranes Now Totals 100

The reintroduced Eastern Migratory Population of Whooping Cranes that nests in Wisconsin and winters in Florida has reached the milestone of 100, including 45 females, 52 males, and 3 cranes of undetermined sex. Since spring migration has progressed, many of the rare cranes have been sighted along the migration route, including 13 Whooping Cranes in Illinois, 36 in Indiana, 9 in Kentucky, 3 in Tennessee, 14 in Alabama, 3 in Georgia, and 5 were still in Florida.

Pelagic Birding Trips Highlight the San Diego Bird Festival

During the recent San Diego Bird Festival, birders found an exciting mix of seabirds during three pelagic birding trips. One of the highlights was a Tufted Puffin sighted during the first trip, but many exciting species were observed. Numbers of each species sighted during the three trips were Pink-footed Shearwaters 1, 3, 0; Black-vented Shearwaters 4550, 1250, 10,000 (estimates); Brown Boobys 10, 9, 3; Red Phalaropes 0, 0, 2; Pomarine Jaegers 3, 1, 6; Parasitic Jaegers 2, 3, 2; Scripps's Murrelets 20, 19, 35; Cassin's Auklets 0, 16, 2; Rhinoceros Auklets 46, 19, 37.

Texas Boaters & Anglers Cautioned to Avoid Coastal Nesting Colonies

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is cautioning Texas boaters and anglers to watch out for nesting birds, which are particularly sensitive to human disturbances. With spring approaching, iconic coastal birds like Brown Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Black Skimmers, and Reddish Egrets are starting to build nests, lay eggs, and raise nestling in colonies on small inshore islands along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The nesting islands may support thousands of birds that utilize much of the available island habitat.

Video Documents Trumpeter Swan Concentration in Idaho

More than 2,500 Trumpeter Swans have assembled along with thousands of ducks and other birds at Deer Parks Wildlife Mitigation Unit in southeast Idaho, not far west of Yellowstone National Park. Now, you can view an exciting video of the Trumpeter Swans and hear the inspiring sounds of this impressive concentration of waterfowl. During recent decades Trumpeter Swans wintering in southeast Idaho have shifted their feeding habits to include feeding in agricultural fields adjacent to rivers, which has resulted in significant growth in the Rocky Mountain population.


EDITOR AFIELD
Join the Editor for Weekly Birding Highlights

Building on the two Great Horned Owl nests I found last week, last Monday I photographed nest number two (the former Ferruginous Hawk nest) with the incubating Great Horned Owl amid a heavily frosted nest and tree. In fact, the owl had some frost formed on the southwest side of its face, including one “horn.” After my quick stop at the owl nest, I continued driving south, headed for my SoDak raptor area with the promise of a couple days of sunshine. It seems I’ve been chasing the sunlight too often lately; although a couple weeks ago it worked to my definite advantage.


GEAR & PRODUCTS
Ultra-Versatile Binoculars – the ATN BinoX-HD with Day & Night Vision, E-Zoom, Video & More

The ATN BinoX-HD Binoculars provide Day or Night Vision with 4x-to-16x E-zoom, image stabilization, and other advanced features including digital photography and video recording with high-definition 1080p resolution. The ATN BinoX (pronounced binocs) also feature GPS geotagging, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for streaming live or sharing images, an E-compass, altimeter, and velocity tracker – can you believe the versatility of these Smart Binoculars? Powered by a 1 GHz internal computer, the Obsidian Core, that controls a suite of sensors and processes large photo and video files in nearly real time.

Duncraft’s Jewel Hummingbird Feeders

With Ruby-throated Hummingbirds already showing up in Southeastern states, it’s time to turn our attention to nectar feeder upgrades like Duncraft’s Jewel Hummingbird Feeder. Birders in the Southwest have been enjoying Anna’s Hummingbirds and other species throughout the winter, but it’s time to think about upgrading your feeding station too – call it spring cleaning! In addition to the Jewel feeder, Duncraft offers the stylish Mirage Hummingbird Feeder, the decorative Red Bottle Hummingbird Feeder with a hummingbird image forged in the glass, and dozens of other feeders.

Merrell Casual Shoes and Waterproof Hiking Boots

Merrell offers an impressive variety of stylish shoes for birders while walking, hiking, and biking, along with a more rugged collection of hiking boots, including Gore-Tex, ventilated and waterproof styles. Check out the new arrivals at Merrell’s website, including the Women’s Range Laceless AC+, the Men’s Chameleon 7 Waterproof Hiker, the Men’s Moab Adventure Moc, and the Women’s Encore Mid Boot Q2 among an exciting collection of new Merrell footwear.

The Lotus Dripper Fountain & Ancient Graffiti Bird Bath

Bring an impressive bit of style to your feeding station or bird garden with the Ancient Graffiti Standing Bird Bath and Lotus Dripper Fountain package. The look and sound of moving water brings a relaxing atmosphere to your yard, and attracts birds that may never visit without the sound of water to coax them closer. The Ancient Graffiti Copper-plated Steel Bird Bath and Stand offers birds a 16-inch diameter drinking and bathing dish, and its flamed-copper color finish with a protective coating adds an elegant look. The Lotus Dripper Fountain fits perfectly inside the bird bath and its pump circulates the water for a dramatic look and pleasing sound.


OPTICS
ATN BinoX Smart Binoculars May Be Remarkable

Although there is a product description of the ATN BinoX-HD Binoculars in the Gear & Products section of this issue of The Birding Wire, we were so intrigued by these seemingly super-hero smart binoculars that we wanted to address their many options a little closer. These “binoculars” are computerized with so many options beyond magnifying subjects that you might say the ATN BinoXs (pronounced binocs) are to binoculars what a cellphone is to telephones. They look like binoculars, but beyond that the term Smart Binocular gets ultra-high tech.


RARE BIRDS
The ABA Rare Bird Alert’s Weekly Highlights

Rare birds located last week included two feeder birds – a male Allen’s Hummingbird in northeast Arkansas, which was a first for the state, and a Lazuli Bunting in Ottawa, Ontario. Two Eurasian species were found near the center of the United States, a Eurasian Wigeon was photographed in western Kansas, and a Ruff was photographed in southeast Missouri. Other exciting off-course birds included a Painted Redstart in San Diego, a Spotted Towhee in southern Florida, a Short-tailed Hawk in south-central Texas – and there’s more.


BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY
Super-fast Swifts Offer a Photo Challenge
A selection of varied images of White-throated Swifts in flight follows.

Swifts are speeding, twisting, acrobatic, tiny gliding dynamos and strong fliers with long stream-lined wings and a small compact body with almost no weight. We often think of Peregrine Falcons as the ultimate flying birds, but swifts are fitting challengers for such a trophy. But the real trophy may go to the photographers who can show the actions of these remarkable, often overlooked birds. Photographing swifts is not easy, and it’s rarely immediately fruitful – but it sure is fun trying!

Depending on your location, in season you are most likely to encounter Chimney Swifts, Vaux’s Swifts, or White-throated Swifts. My favorites are the White-throated Swifts that inhabit the vast region west of the Rocky Mountains that can be found throughout the year in western and southern California. Swifts are social and they roost and nest in colonies. The true beauty of swifts is in their flights, and it’s especially fun to watch their movements as they ply the wind.

As much time as I’ve spent in the range of White-throated Swifts, I’ve seen many in a variety of habitats – mountains, deserts, wetlands, and urban areas – but it’s tough to get into position to photograph them, especially at close quarters. In retrospect, the best photo opportunities I’ve had were when the swifts came to me. Two excellent photo opportunities stand out, and in each case I was birding, camera in hand. The first instance happened while I was walking through a wetland area along a river basin that led to the ocean, but surrounded by suburbia; the other photo interaction was in a wilderness area with an opening along a wooded mountain top.

In both locations, the situation was similar, the swifts suddenly overtook the low airspace above and around me, and I did what comes naturally: I tried to photograph their fast gliding twisting turning flights. Zip, zip, swish, zoom, they dived by in ones and twos and more! In the first couple moments it was obvious this was a real photo challenge. There was plenty of sunlight in the clear blue sky, so I set my shutter speed at about 1/2000 of a second to stop the action, and I was happy to see that gave me an f-stop of f8, which would provide a wide enough field of focus to keep the fast-moving swifts in focus – sometimes.

So with the sun at my back, I waited for individual swifts to cross in front of me, or stream past me head-on. The key to photographing swifts while they are feeding in acrobatic flights is to do your best to try to keep them in your camera frame, follow their flights as best you can, rely on your auto-focus (which you will find is constantly zooming in and out in search of a swift to focus on); and when you think it all gels, take a photo or two or three. You soon appreciate that swift photography is not a simple, or exacting effort. It’s not like you can focus on a swift’s eye as it zips by. You will quickly realize you need to take many photos, then rely on editing the resulting photos to pick out the best images. In the meantime, enjoy the excitement of the fast action, go with the flow, photograph fast and furiously, and have fun in the process.

As wildlife photographers, we like to think we can make each photo count, but you experience a whole different impression of that idea when photographing swifts. The same is true for photographing flying swallows and similar fast-flying small birds – but that’s an enjoyable part of bird photography – a challenge; and if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying; and if you enjoy some success, keep trying, ‘cuz it’s great fun and good practice.

I have tried one other photo option with White-throated Swifts, which was to visit a nesting colony under a tall bridge, but I didn’t have very good luck photographing under those circumstances. With concern about not getting too close to the nest cavities, or concerning the swifts as they flew to and from nest sites, I took many photos during a few visits but the swifts were never really near enough, or I missed them during their closer flights. Such are the whims of fast-paced swift photography, so when you do get some signature photographs, you can be proud of your images and the tenacity and patience required to get them. You will also appreciate the luck involved, and the remarkable flights of these impressive birds – The Swifts!

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

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



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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. 15 - May 15
Great Texas Birding Classic
Texas statewide
Apr. 15 - May 15
Tucson Bird Count
Tucson, Arizona
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
Apr. 29 - May 2
Birding the Hills with Texas A&M University
Fredericksburg, Texas
Apr. 29 - May 4
New River Birding & Nature Festival
Fayetteville, West Virginia
Apr. 29 - May 4
Little St. Simons Island Spring Birding Days
St. Simons Island, Georgia
May 1 - May 4
Southwest Wings Spring Fling
Sierra Vista, Arizona
May 1 - May 20
Festival of Birds at Point Pelee National Park
Leamington, Ontario
May 2 - May 5
Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival
Cordova, Alaska
May 3 - May 4
Wings and Wetlands Birding Festival
Great Bend, Kansas
May 3 - May 5
Grays Harbor Shorebird & Nature Festival
Hoquiam, Washington
May 3 - May 5
Bird of Prey Days at Braddock Bay
Rochester, New York
May 4
Wings Over Weston
Weston, Missouri
May 4 - May 7
Red Slough Birding Convention
Idabel, Oklahoma
May 5
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