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May 31, 2015

Thirsty sparrow in South Korea

Photo by Yonhap / Reuters
...if I could just turn this tap
A sparrow tries to drink water from a tap at a park in Suwan, in the north-west corner of South Korea.   Suwon is the only remaining completely walled city in South Korea.
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May 30, 2015

Masters of camouflage 'down-under'

Photo by MalcolmC. / National Geographic Your Shot
(Podargus strigoides)
Two Tawny Frogmouths are seen in a recent photo (above) perched and camouflaged on a branch of a Golden Shower Tree in Queensland, Australia.   Frogmouths are native to Australia and Tasmania and are thought to look and act very much like owls, which they are not.   The photo immediately below was taken in Sydney by Keith Edkins, while the bottom photo was taken by Alan U. Kennington in Melbourne.  Wikipedia comments, in part, on frogmouth camouflage as follows: "Their silvery-grey plumage patterned with white, black and brown streaks and mottles allows them to freeze into the form of a broken tree branch and become practically invisible in broad daylight".
Photo by Keith Edkins
                                                                                             Photo by Alan U. Kennington
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May 29, 2015

Chickadee seeking building materials

I would have thought that Chickadees had their nests completed by late May, but this wee creature, along with a friend, were busy rooting around in our nasturtium hanging baskets on the back porch looking for nesting material.   The strands of dried grass stalks, lining the baskets, seemed to be satisfactory but the birds were very picky about the exact pieces.   These photos show the selection process, ending with a return to their nest...somewhere. 

Photos by BarrytheBirder
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May 28, 2015

Nuthatch with a sweet tooth?

Photo by Barry the Birder
I don't remember ever seeing a Red-breasted Nuthatch at the hummingbird feeders before, but there's always a first time, of course, and I guess this was it.   This little bird should be forgiven I suppose because there are eight hummingbird nectar feeders and one oriole nectar feeder hanging in the backyard at this time of year, and only one seed feeder for all the other yard birds.   That's the way it is in May around our garden.   This little nuthatch did find the seeds, by the way.
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May 27, 2015

Baltimore Oriole and the the Barons Baltimore

The Coat of Arms above is for the Barons of Baltimore in England.   The colours in the Coat of Arms are said to have been behind the naming of the attractive bird we know as the Baltimore Oriole, in Maryland in the USA, a few hundred years ago.   The art version above is modern but presumably is a bona fide likeness of the original.   The Coat of Arms pictured here is by Glasshouse using elements by Sodacan - Bolton's American Armory.   I have always thought Baltimore Orioles were orange and black plus a bit of white.   Some renderings (art or photos) show the orioles as yellow and black, plus white.   Some think the males are orange and the females are more the yellow ones.   Females and first year birds are described in most guides as being slightly paler orange in parts and dusky orange in other parts.   Before I confuse myself and perhaps you  also, dear reader, I'll just say that I am an ardent admirer of the species and love having them at the nectar feeders in the backyard.   They don't nest on our property because neighbouring yards have taller deciduous trees with great drooping boughs which the orioles prefer for nesting.   Below are three photos I took today of a female Baltimore Oriole at one of the feeders.

 Photos by BarrytheBirder

This female had her eye on me (top) as soon as she landed at the feeder.   In the second photo (middle) she decides the situation is safe and in the third photo she partakes of the nectar.   Shy, timid, timorous, wary, all describe quite well this easily alarmed charmer.
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May 26, 2015

Jatinegara Bird Market in Jakarta, Indonesia

Photo: Rita Krisadhi / Barcroft India
Long-tailed Macaques and Barn Owls are seen on sale at the Jatinegara Bird Market in Jakarta, Indonesia.   Primates, owls, otters, snakes and other endangered animals are sold openly in Jakarta.   The jatinegara Bird Market is well-known in Jakarta as a safe place for illegally trading endangered birds and animals, and operates under the protection of local thugs.   The market operates within 500 metres of the East Jakarta Police headquarters.
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May 25, 2015

Egrets in India

Photo: STR/EPA
Crowded perch
A Cattle Egret, in breeding plumage (left), and three Intermediate Egrets try to share a tree branch in Sonitpur, Assam, in far north-eastern India.   During the spring, hundreds of egrets build their nests for breeding in this large  administrative district of Assam.   The Brahmaputra River runs the length of this region of Assam and Sonitpur is one of the best birdwatching spots in India, particularly the Sonai Rupai Sanctuary.
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May 24, 2015

Only in England...

Photo by Bethany Clark / Getty Images
Duck lanes on barge towpaths
England's Guardian newspaper just published this photo by Bethany Clark which shows that duck lanes have been painted on busy towpaths in London, Birmingham and Manchester to draw attention to the narrowness of the space that many humans must share with wildlife.   The Canal & River Trust's new campaign, 'Share the Space, Drop your Pace', is encouraging everyone who uses the towpaths to be considerate of others by sharing the space and dropping their pace to keep the towpaths a special right of way for everyone.   Pictured below is the Montgomery Canal in Wales.
Photo by Mike Fascione / Wikipedia Commons
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May 23, 2015

Do-it-yourself birdbath from Audubon couldn't be simpler

A Pine Siskin is about to bathe in a birdbath which was removed from its pedestal and laid flat on the ground in a flower bed, in our garden.
Here's an incredibly simple way to create a birthbath from Monico Russo and Audubon.   Birds rely on water for drinking, grooming,and staying cool.   But during hot summers and extended droughts, water can be hard to find.   By adding a simple birdbath to your yard (you can make one from a cake pan!), you can help birds now and into the future as climate change makes summers in many areas hotter and longer.
1. One shallow pan, such as an old cake pan, not more than 2 inches  (5 cms) deep.   Or use a flower pot tray: the flat, shallow tray or pan that's used under a flower pot so it won't drip when watered.   This should also be less than 2 inches (5 cms) deep.
2. A few large pebbles or a flat rock.
1. Choose a good site to place the bath.   The ground should be level.   There should be some evergreens or other shrubs nearby.   Pick a site where you can easily watch the birds from a window.
2. Set the pan or tray down and fill it with water.   Be sure the water is only about an inch (2.5 cms) to an inch-and-a-half (3.8 cms) deep.
3. Toss in a few large pebbles or a flat stone.   These will give the birds confidence to enter the water because it will help them to judge how deep the water is.
That's it.   Pretty simple, right?
 Goldfinches are particularly fond of this elevated birdbath which is just 2 or 3 metres from their favourite feeding perches.
This birdbath is a little too deep for the smaller birds to bathe in but they do drink from it.The larger birds, such as robins, bathe in it regularly.
 Several species of birds use the same birdbaths in our garden and it is a common site to see mixed species at the same time, such as the Northern Cardinal and House Finch above. 
An American Robin gets its money's worth at this birdbath.   It's not unusual to have two or three robins waiting their turn to use this birdbath.
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May 22, 2015

How many fish can a puffin catch at one time?

Photo above by Megan Lorenz                                                              Photo below - Wavehunters Marine
Here's a question with an answer that surprised me.   The Canadian Wildlife Federation is currently asking online whether a puffin can catch 12, 34, or 61 fish in its extravagant bill at one time.   My guess was 12.   It seems all the pictures of
puffins with fish in their mouths that I recall show no more than 12 and often less than 12.   It's a bit of a trick question however.   April Overall writes in Discover Wildlife that the correct answer to this question is 61.   The record observed number of fish held, at one time, by a Puffin in Canada is 61.   The number is so high because of the size of the individual fish.   The smaller the fish, the more that can be captured. How can a puffin catch 61 capelin or sandlance fish at one time?   The answer is in the puffin's mouth where a series of backward-pointing spines project from the tongue and top of mouth.   The spines hold the food in place while the Puffin is busy catching more.   Are not nature's adaptations amazing?
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May 21, 2015

Great Horned Owl's horns are really feathers

Photo by Ken Blye
Great Horned Owl
Bubo virginianus
It comes as no surprise that the grand spikes on the Great Horned Owl's head are neither horns or ears.   They are feathers.   However I hadn't really appreciated the grandeur of those feather spikes until I spotted this particular photo, by Ken Blye, of a Great Horned Owl in Florida.   Ken's photo was an entry in 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest.   Great Horned Owls are the heaviest owls in the Americas and also go by the nicknames Tiger Owl and Hoot Owl.
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May 20, 2015

One in four Brits say dodos are not extinct!

Photo display by BazzaDaRambler / Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Raphus cucullatus
The WWF-UK (World wildlife Fund - United Kingdom) has asked Britons about the state of the world's wildlife.   One of the study's statistics published recently said that one in four Britons said dodos are alive and exist in far-off island forests.   The disturbing perception of threats to the earth's vanishing animals is to be found in a new poll commissioned by WWF-UK and released on May 15 (Endangered Species Day).   Wildlife populations around the world have shrunk by 52% over the last four decades.   Endangered Species Day has wide support from many conservation groups to inform the public about the need to protect threatened species.   While the knowledge of species status is surprising in some of the results, there is strong groundswell of support for species conservation.   A spokesperson for WWF-UK "...there is an appetite in Britain to learn more about the state of the planet and its incredible wildlife...yet the results also show that we need to do more to help people feel empowered to protect our precious species."   The last reported sighting of the flightless dodo was in 1662 on a small islet off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.   Also in the past few days, there have been press reports of strong scientific speculation on the possibility that dodos may be genetically recreated.
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May 19, 2015

Not all new bird species come from South America or Oceana

Photo by Arnoud B van den Berg
Strix omanensis
The Omani Owl, a new species of Strix owl, was discovered on March 24, 2013, in the rugged Al Hajar Mountains of Oman.   The new owl was first heard by Magnus Robb and was then photographed by Arnoud van den Berg.   The owl is medium-sized, has rather drab colouring, but has striking orange eyes, one of only two Strix owls with orange eyes.   The establishment of this new owl's status is wending its way through precise genetic identification and recognition, but is already widely accepted as a new species.
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May 18, 2015

What do baby chickadees look like?

My British Columbia friend Dave Kemp e-mailed me a photo he took of baby chickadees on the weekend, but although I could see the photo, I could not download it (I remain a luddite).   I realized  that not only had I never seen a baby chickadee before, I had not even seen a photo of one.   I Googled baby chickadee photos and found hundreds and thousands of baby chickadee photos, which made me think: Barry, why would you want to put baby chickadee photos in your blog when people everywhere can go online and see such photos for themselves?   I was about to reject the idea completely when I stumbled upon the photos you see here.   Not only did they show what chickadee nestlings looked like, but the photos were quite charming and there was a bit of a story attached.   These photos appeared in a recent blog called EN TEQUILA ES VERDAD which I believe, freely translated means IN TEQUILA IS TRUTH.   The blog is penned by Dana Hunter and the photos were supplied to her by a friend identified as RQ.   The blog originates from the USA Pacific Northwest.   Six baby chickadees had somehow fallen from their nest, after which two were run over on a driveway.   There seemed to be no way of finding their nest or returning the remaining four bird babies to it, so other measures to save them had to be found.   Word was sent out for help, but the blog doesn't have follow-up information yet.   Here's hoping it has a happy ending.   In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the photos that appeared in the EN TEQUILA ES VERDAD blogsite.

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May 17, 2015

Heron has no problem with water hazard

Photo by Erik. S. Lesser / EPA
Great Blue Heron catches a catfish during the recent final round of the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, just south of Jacksonville, in northeast Florida, USA.   Obviously, there is more than one kind of 'birdie' at Sawgrass.
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May 16, 2015

In the Strzelecki Desert of Australia...

Photo by Christian Spencer
Photographer Christian Spencer has captured a perfect photograph in the Strzelecki
Desert of Australia with his shot of a flock of galahs that has replenished itself with the small amount of water available at the base of a lonely tree.   The photo appeared last year on the National Geographic website and photographer Spencer was quoted saying ''It was a rare opportunity to get such a clear and symmetrical shot of these beautiful birds in flight in the middle of the desert".   The Galah (Eolophus roseicapillais found all over Australia and Tasmania (introduced).   It is also known as the Rose-breasted Cockatoo, Galah Cockatoo, Roseate Cockatoo and the Pink and Grey.

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Photo by J.J. Harrison

May 15, 2015

Funky Nests in Funky Places 2015 Contest

Photo: Juliette Carter, Genesco, Illinois
Got a bird nesting in a strange place?   Take its picture and enter it in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Funky Nests in Funky Places contest.   Entry deadline is June 15.   Entries are acceptable from anyone, any age and from anywhere in the world.   You don't have to be a bird expert or expert photographer.   Birds can nest in the craziest places and the nesting season is underway.   Entries are already being received.   Prizes for winning photos include: binoculars, bird feeders, bird guides, posters, a mini iPad plus more.   Enter the contest by going to
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May 14, 2015

Cyprus recruits Barn Owls to protect carob trees

Photo: Reuters/New Sunday Times
Photo by Yioannis Kourtoglou
Photo by Borneo Bulletin/Reuters
Photo by Reuters
Barn Owls and black snakes are being enlisted in Cyprus to protect ancient Carob Trees, once a flourishing export but now threatened by rats and urbanization.   Since April of this year, conservationists at centuries old groves have been laying barn-owl nests and planning reptile nests, primarily for the non-poisonous black snake.   The plan is to trade poison for natural predators to keep rat populations  in check and prevent tree damage.  Historically and culturally, the carob is significant in Cyprus, plus it is an important income source.  In the 1960s its crop, the locust pod, averaged 53,000 tonnes a year, now its down to 9,000 tonnes.   Pod seeds are used to make locust bean gum, a widely used thickening agent in food.   Cyprus's carob bean production has dwindled as the country's economy has moved from being agriculturally based to a financial services centre.   Meanwhile, rats continue to strip the carob trees of their bark, slowly killing the trees.   Poison creates more problems than it cures, so rat control will now be handled more naturally.   A pair of barn owls can kill up to 3,000 rats per year.   A similar solution has worked extremely well in other mid-eastern and south-east Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where rat poison costs are greatly reduced and the number of Barn Owls have soared by the thousands.
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May 13, 2015

Half of world's species seen in 24 hours

    American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) female                                                    Photo by BarrytheBirder
Global Big Day tallies 5,700 species
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced on Tuesday, May 12, that participants in more than 110 countries have just tallied more than 5,400 bird species in one 24-hour period (May 9).   The number is more than half the known bird species in the world. The numbers exceeded all expectations and numbers are still going up as lists will be received until end of day, today.   Cornell's 'Big Day' has raised funds for decades to advance bird conservation and research.   $300,000 of the $1/2 million goal has already been raised by donors.   Interested donors should visit
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May 12, 2015

Northern Orioles joins hummingbirds and warblers

   Photographs by BarrytheBirder
All three of the early backyard, feathered harbingers of Spring are now in place.   The first was a Red-throated Hummingbird on May 6, followed by a warbler (Indigo Bunting) on May 9, and a male and female Northern Oriole arrived on May 10.   May they enjoy a very pleasant Canadian summer.
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May 11, 2015

The Indigo Bunting - as blue as blue can be

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Indigo Bunting
Passerina cyanea
The first warbler of the spring arrived on Saturday just after lunch and it's always special because of this particular bird's beautiful colour.   The Indigo Bunting stands alone among the warblers because of its striking overall blue colour.   The only other warblers that come close are the Black-throated Blue Warbler and the Cerulean Warbler, which are partly blue and pretty, but not striking like the Indigo Bunting.   The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region) was the first all photographic field guide when it was published in 1977 and here's what it said, in part, about the Indigo Bunting.   "Indigo Buntings have no blue pigment: they are actually black, but the diffraction of light through the structure of the feathers makes them appear blue".   This bird is surely a handsome ambassador for spring.
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May 10, 2015

Disgraceful and disgusting

Photos above and below by Jefta Images
Photo below by Adrian Freeman

Police officials at Port of Tanjung Perak in Surabaya, Indonesia, rescued 24 Yellow-crested Cockatoos, which were inserted into empty plastic bottles, stashed in the luggage of a smuggler.   The birds are on the ICUN's list of highly endangered species.

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May 9, 2015

Terrific photographic capture

Photo by unknown
A non-birder friend emailed the above photo to me and I am reproducing it here because of the compelling action and the wonderful composition of this lucky photo. You just can't pose this kind of shot, of course.   You can only be thankful that you were in the right place at the right time.   I'm not quite sure what kind of bird this is, but it is a trained raptor because of the jesses (leather straps) attached to its legs.
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