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Dec 15, 2017

Strange call from Babblers

Photo: Chris Tzaroz / Birdlife Australia
(Pomatostomus temporalis)
The noisy, chattering call of the Gray-crowned Babbler readily announces its presence, but the most well-known call is a distinct 'yahoo', given as a duet by pairs of birds.  Females give a harsh 'ya' and males reply with a high-pitched 'hoo', but given the perfect timing it sounds as though the combined call has been given by a solitary bird.  Tricky devils.

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Dec 13, 2017

Birds & Birders ~ Pax Vobiscum

                                                                                                                    Photo by BarrytheBirder
Purple Finch
(Carpodacus purpureus)

Christmas waves a magic wand
Over the world, and behold, 
Everything is softer 
And more beautiful.
                                                                - Norman Vincent Peale


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Dec 7, 2017

Loves to startle birders who get too close...

Photo by Robert Shantz / Alamy
(Crytonyx montezumae)
The Montezuma Quail is native to the south-west US and the northern mountains of Mexico.   It is also known as the Mearn's Quail, Harlequin Quail and the Fool Quail.   The Fool Quail name is because of its behaviour, which includes crouching motionless until being practically stepped upon before exploding straight up into noisily whirring flight.
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Dec 6, 2017

Halcyon smyrnensis

Photo: Alaa Badarneh / EPA
White-throated Kingfisher
The White-throated Kingfisher is one of over 80 species of Kingfishers in the world.   This particular species is native to southern Asia and Phillipines.   In the photo above, a White-Throated Kingfisher is seen eating a snake, near the West Bank city of Nablus, in occupied Palestine.
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Dec 5, 2017

Neonicotinoids make birds lose their way

 Photos by BarrytheBirder                     

An experimental research study is the first to directly show harm to songbirds, extending the known impacts of neonicotinoids beyond insects.   This has been reported by Damian Carrington, Environment Editor of The Guardian.   The world's most widely used insecticide may cause migrating songbirds to lose their sense of direction and suffer drastic weight loss, according to new research.   The work is significant because it is the first direct evidence that neonicotinoids can harm songbirds and their migration.   Farmland birds have declined drastically in North America in recent decades and pesticides have long been suspected of playing a role.   The first evidence came in 2014 when a study in Holland found bird populations fell most sharply in areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest.   Three neonicotinoids were banned from use on flowering crops in the European Union in 2013 due to unacceptable risks to bees and other pollinators and a total outdoor ban is being considered.   Now Canada is considering a similar ban.   The research analysed the effect of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on White-crowned Sparrows, as pictured here, that migrate from the southern US and Mexico to northern Canada in summer.   Birds were given doses equivalent to less than a single corn seed and within hours became weak, developed stomach problems and stopped eating.    They quickly lost 17-25% of their weight and were unable to identify the northward direction of their migration.   Professor Christy Morrissey, at the University of Saskachewan says seed sowing coincides with when birds are migrating north, exposing them to harm.  They (the pesticides) are applied in spring which overlaps exactly the time when they are moving north and are stopping   in agricultural fields to refuel along their way.

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Dec 4, 2017

Ibis (Ibises - plural)

Photo: Ofer Levi
Australian White Ibis 
( Threskiornis molluca )
Pictured above is an Australian White Ibis, one of 28 Ibis species in the world (plus there are two more extinct).   The Australian White Ibis is one the bird species running for Australian Bird of the Year 2017.

Photo: Goran Bogicevic
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Dec 3, 2017

Well-camouflaged woodpecker

Photo:George Reszeter / Alamy Stock Photo
 (Picus viridis sharpei)

A male Green Iberian Woodpecker (above) bathes in a 
woodland pond, watched by a pair
of Ring-necked 

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if you wish.

 Photo: Carlos N. Bocos

Dec 2, 2017

Feisty little bird...

Photo by Wild Birds/Alamy
The American Robin in Canada is a fairly easy-going bird, gives way to many same-sized birds and never gets into squabbles, except with other robins.   But the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) a.k.a. Robin Redbreast, or just plain Robin, is quite the opposite.   Stephen Moss, in his new book "The Robin: A Biography" says that tiny robins will get into "very violent territorial disputes" and that they will "occasionally fight to the death".   Not surprising, I suppose, Moss goes on to say that "robins rarely live longer than a year or two".   Pity.
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Dec 1, 2017

An apple a day, keeps the doctor away...

Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/AFP
A Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), a.k.a. Eurasian Blackbird, enjoys an apple in Kaufbeuren, south Germany.
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Nov 30, 2017

Birds have no face-masks

Photo: Harish Tyagi / Epa
An Indian Myna Bird is seen perched above an overpass, engulfed in smog, in New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world.   A 2013 study of non-smokers found that Indians have 30% lower lung function compared to Europeans.   Delhi has now passed a law banning the sale of fireworks to combat air pollution.   Even Myna Birds must be left speechless to hear of such a measure which seems so little so late.   Surely there are greater expectations than this to mitigate the breathing crisis for Delhi's millions of living creatures; human and otherwise.
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Nov 29, 2017

Gray Cranes in Israel

 Photo: Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty
Pictured above, a young Gray Crane (Grus grus), a.k.a. the Eurasian Crane, is seen at Agamon Hula Lake in the Hula Valley of northern Israel, where tens of thousands of the large birds are spending the winter instead of migrating south to Africa.   Pictured below, Gray Cranes are seen flocking over a tractor dispersing food at the Agamon Hula lake, in Decmber of 2016.

Photo: Jack Guez / AFP
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Nov 28, 2017

Close companions

Photo: Richard Heathcote / Getty Images
A Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) is seen cleaning the nostril of White Rhino in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa.   The Red-billed Oxpecker is native to south and east Africa.   Another oxpecker, the Yellow-billed Oxpecker is found more broadly in sub-Sahara Africa, stretching from Senegal, on the Atlantic Ocean to Sudan, on the Red Sea.   The two species do mingle in East Africa and when feeding together, the Red-billed always gives way to the Yellow-billed, even though it usually out-numbers the other.
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Nov 27, 2017

More of Dave Kemp's great west coast photos

Here are two more shots of by Dave Kemp, in British Columbia, of a Steller's Jay (above) and a Varied Thrush, below.   Once in a blue moon a Varied Thrush visits eastern Canada.   I have seen them and photographed them.   But Steller' Jays never seem to irrupt past the great plains of central North America.   If one were to draw a line from the eastern border of Manitoba down to the eastern border of Texas, that would be the eastern boundary for any irruptive Steller's Jay.   Pity, because I'd love to see one in my backyard.   Thanks for the photos, Dave.

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Nov 26, 2017

Bird smugglers thwarted

Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society / AFP / Getty
Electus Parrots
(Electus roratus)
The Electus Parrots, pictured above, were found in a raid in Labuha, Indonesia, after smugglers allegedly stuffed 125 exotic birds inside drainpipes.   The birds were released back into the wild.   Bird smuggling is endemic in Indonesia.
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Nov 25, 2017

A glamorous bird...

Photo: Liu Xianguo / Xinhua / Barcroft Images
(Chrysolophus pictus)
A Golden Pheasant and a squirrel are seen in Pingdingshan City, in central China's Henan Province.   The Golden Pheasant is native to central and southern China and has been introduced in other places in the world.
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Nov 24, 2017

Harriers common in Canada ~ almost extinct in England

Photo by Dave Kemp
Circus cyaneus

Photo: Gert-Jan IJzerman / Alamy
The Northern Harrier  is fairly common in Canada and the US.  But in England, where the bird is known as the Hen Harrier, there are just four breeding pairs left, which puts this bird on the brink of extinction.   Pairs in Scotland, a traditional stronghold,  fell from 505 to 460 between 2010 and 2016. while in Wales they declined from 57 to 35 breeding pairs.   In Northern Ireland, pairs fell from 59 in 2010 to 46 in 2016.  The photo at top shows a male harrier, taken by Dave Kemp on the lower British Columbia mainland in Canada.   The second photo, of a female, was taken by Gert-Jan Ijzerman, in Flevoland, The Netherlands.
Paul Rincon, writing for the BBC, says that harriers feed on grouse, which puts conservationists into conflict with managers of estates in grouse hunting.   The RSPB says  the killing of this bird of prey is a significant factor behind the diminishing numbers and a large barrier stopping their recovery.   Killing or injuring a wild bird in Britain could put a convicted person in jail.   Harriers were once widespread before driven to extinction in mainland Britain in the 1800s.  Despite a comeback, the breeding population today is under 1,000 pairs, a number that points once again to widespread extinction.
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Nov 23, 2017

A feeding phenomenum that happens over and over...

Photo: Yon Itap / EPA
An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) snatches a fish (above) at Nambae Stream in the city of Gangneung, in South Korea.  Osprey are also known as sea hawks, river hawks and fish hawks.  It is an amazing wonder of the natural world how this bird came to the decision that food in the water was preferable to food on land.   While the Osprey is highly specialized at catching and eating fish, it will, if need be, eat small mammals, birds or reptiles, which makes it fortuitously omnivorous.   Yes it is true that Ospreys almost always carry their catches head-forward.   Try holding a wet fish by its tail.
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Nov 22, 2017

A feathered air show...

Photo: Biju Boro/AFP/Getty Images
A plump of Pintail Ducks, forming an impromptu aerobatics flight demonstration team, is seen at the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in the Morigaon District of Assam,  northeast India.
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Nov 21, 2017

Volunteers naturalists take part in off-putting task

Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP
Pictured above is a citizen patrol surveying dead birds that have washed ashore on beaches along the US. west coast, at Ocean Shores, Washington.   The information gathered is used as an indication of the coastal environment's health.
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Nov 20, 2017

Another west coast feathered beauty...

 Photo: Dave Kemp
Just over a week ago, I showed the photo below of a Stellar's Jay, which was taken by my British Columbia acquaintance, Don Flucker.   Now I have just received the photo above, of a Varied Thrush, taken by another British Columbia acquaintance, Bob Kemp.  Bob Kemp says not only did he have the Varied Thrush in the backyard, but also three Stellar's Jays, at the same time.   Gentlemen, I am so envious of the birdwatching you have on Canada's west coast.   

Photo: Don Flucker
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Nov 19, 2017

Good news about Britain's loudest bird

Photo: Robin Chittenden / Alamy
Patrick Bartram writing in The Guardian Online says populations of the bittern, a wetland bird that was facing extinction in the late 1990s, in Britain, are at a record high, according to conservationists.   Resident numbers of "Britain's loudest bird" increased in 2017, and experts, using the foghorn-like booming call of the males to survey the species, have found at least 164 birds at 71 sites.   The RSPB attributes the population rise to intensive conservation efforts that have protected preferred habitat of dense, wet reedbeds.   The wildlife charity said the turnabout in the bittern's fortunes have been aided by legal protection of habitats and funding through two environmental projects under the EU scheme for creation of new reedbed areas.  Britain leaving the EU could compromise the advances made.
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Nov 18, 2017

A bird or a flower?

Photo by BarrytheBirder
I took the photo above almost 50 years ago at Deepdene Manor in Bermuda.  Back then I knew nothing about tropical plants or exotic birds.   I remember being highly impressed with the Bird of Paradise flower back then and still am to this day.   And I now know there are over 40 different birds of paradise of the feathered kind, most of them among the most spectacular birds in the world.   See the Red Bird of Paradise, below.
Photo: We Love Indonesia

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Nov 17, 2017

British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017

Photo: Ben Hall
The British Wildlife Photography Awards celebrate the work of amateurs and professionals.   Pictured above is the 'Habitat' category winning photo, taken by Ben Hall, in Cheshire.   Winning images are presented in London's Mall Galleries, before going on a national tour, as wellas being published into a book.
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Nov 16, 2017

Pelican wrangling...

Photo by Petr David Josek / AP
Zoo workers in kayaks, in Liberec in the Czech Republic, try to corral and catch a large pelican to move it to its winter enclosure.   I wonder how long this little adventure took to complete?
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Nov 15, 2017

Haiku for a dove...

                                                                                                                    Photo by BarrytheBirder
A few random sticks;
the nest of a Mourning Dove.
As fragile as peace. 
                                                                                                               -- Robert L. Hinshaw, 2013

Nov 14, 2017

The tiny bird with the vibrant name...

Photo: Kostya Pasyuk / Alamy
(Regulus regulus)
A Goldcrest poses inquisitively on an oak branch in the Czech Republic.  Goldcrests are very small passerine birds in the kinglet family.   The bird's colourful golden crest feathers indicate the possibility of it having been called the "King of the birds" in European folklore.
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Nov 13, 2017

Misty morn in Kent...

Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
An early morning, moody mist engulfs several geese flying near Sundridge, Kent, England.   Sundridge is located in the Sevenoaks District of western Kent, approximately 25 kilometres  southeast of London, near to Surrey.
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Nov 12, 2017

A beautiful jay ~ west of the Rockies

Photo by Don Flucker
Cyanocitta Stelleri
I visited the west coast of Canada many years ago, but did not see A Steller's Jay.   Subsequently, I have seen many photos over the years but did not really appreciate the beauty of this bird until I saw the photo above, taken by an old acquaintance named Don Flucker.   I knew Don when he lived in Ontario, but he now lives in British Columbia, which explains how he is able to take photos of Steller's Jays on Canada's west coast.   What a great picture with the jay in the centre, the garden background on the left and the complementary blue birdbath on the right.
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Nov 11, 2017

Intersecting flocks of flying cranes

Photo: Frank Rumpenhorst / AFP / Getty Images
Two 'Vs' become one 'W'
Two flocks of migrating cranes, flying in 'V' formations,  overlap in the sky to form a "W".   The photo was taken as the cranes swept across the sky over Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
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Nov 10, 2017

Storks at sunset in Lombardy, Italy

Photo: Antonio Calanni / AP
Two White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) are silhouetted on their nest by the setting sun, in Zerbolo, Italy.   Zerbolo is a small Italian commune, 30km south of Milan.  White storks are found in Europe, Africa and the Indian sub-continent.   The male and female both build a large nest (see above) which may be used for several years.
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Nov 9, 2017

Endangered parrot takes a beating

An extremely rare Red-necked Parrot (see photo above), found only is Dominica, is seen scavenging for food in a rainforest hit by Hurricane Maria.   Since Maria, sightings of the bird, which is displayed on the country's flag, have been few and far between.   Hurricane Maria's 280 kph. winds destroyed the ancient Dominican forest that cover the island.  Some foliage remains but the island's very identity is compromised.   A green island has become a brown island (see photo below).  Dominicans have survived the damages of Erika, as well as the ravages of Hurricane David in the 1970s and are presumably expecting the tree cover to return.   But what of the parrots?

    Photos above: Tomas Ayuso/IRIN

The Red-necked Parrot (Amazona arausiaca) or Red-necked Amazon, is also known as the Dominican Blue-faced Amazon, the Lesser Dominican Amazon and the Jaco Parrot.   It is endemic to Dominica.

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Nov 8, 2017

Blue Jays share a bite...

Photo by BarrytheBirder
"Do you come here often?"
" seeds on the street!"
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Nov 7, 2017

Ontario's top ten birds for the 2016/2017 season

  No. 1 - Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)   All photos by Barry Wallace

Project FeederWatch ~ Ontario Region
November 2016 to April 2017 marked the 41st year that Project FeederWatch (plus its predecessor, Ontario Bird Feeder Survey) has tracked bird species at winter bird feeders in Ontario, as well as the rest of Canada.   Following are the most recent, top ten species for Ontario:

1.   Black-capped Chickadee
2.   Downy Woodpecker
3.   Dark-eyed Junco
4.   American Goldfinch
5.   White-breasted Nuthatch
6.   Blue Jay
7.   Mourning Dove
8.   Northern Cardinal
9.   European Starling
10. Red-breasted Nuthatch

  No. 2 - Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

   No. 3 - Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

   No. 4 - American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

   No. 5 - White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

  No. 6 - Blue Jay - (Cyanocitta cristata)

  No. 7 - Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

   No. 8 Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

   No. 9 - European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

   No. 10 - Red-breasted Nuthatch ( Sitta canadensis)

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