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Mar 31, 2017

First confirmed Night Parrot sighting in 100 years

A Night Parrot sighting has been confirmed in Western Australia for the first time in 100 years.   The species was presumed to be extinct until it was rediscovered in Queensland fours years ago, following a history of unverified sightings, disbelieved reports and futile ecological surveys.   Now it has been photographed by a group of four birders who spent seven years listening and looking for the elusive creature.   Earlier this month, the four birders were looking for other birds when they heard an unrecognizable call.   The next morning, a Night Parrot burst out in front of one of the group of birding friends.   They were able to re-sight it and took photographs (see above).   "We were elated...we were clearly very, very excited", said group member Bruce Greatwich.   The sighting has been officially credited to Goerge Swann, Bruce Greatwich, Adrian Boyle and Nigel Jackett.
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Mar 30, 2017

First Turkey Vulture of the year

Photos by Barry Wallace
Turkey Vulture flies over King on March 29
I saw my first Turkey Vulture of 2017 yesterday, on March 29, near Nobleton.   I was quite surprised.   I have never seen one in March before.   I probably shouldn't have been surprised, because this large scavenger, which is almost as big as an eagle, has been migrating further north each spring for several years.   They stay later in the fall also, before heading south.   Global warming seems to be affecting this bird's instincts about food (carrion) being thawed and edible, earlier in late winter/early spring than previously.   Below are two of my favourite photographs of Turkey Vultures, that I have taken in the past, and am pleased to show again in this space.   I hope you find them of interest.

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Mar 29, 2017

Park in China has 12 or world's 15 egret species

Photos: Peng Zhaozhi / Xinhua / Barcroft Media
"Paradise of Migratory Birds"
Xiangshan Forest Park is situated on the banks of Boyang Lake, north of Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, in south-eastern China.   300,000 to 400,000 egrets, of many kinds, fly to Xiangshan Park's 40,000+ acres to breed and nest between March and October each year.

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Mar 28, 2017

Long-tailed Tit

Photo: Andi Edwards / Alamy
A Long-tailed Tit ( Aegithalos caudatus ) adds the finishing touches to its newly constructed and impressive nest in Hertsfordshire, in south-east England. This bird is common throughout Europe and Asia and is also named Long-tailed Titmouse, Long-tailed Bushtit and Bottle Tit.   Its tail is longer than its body...but who knows why. 

Photo: Dave Croker
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Mar 27, 2017

Balaton Sound ~ the "Hungarian Sea"

Photo: Gyorgy Vanga / EPA
Wild ducks take off from the waters 
of Lake Balaton, at Keszthely, Hungary
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Mar 26, 2017

Broken wing slows down world's fastest bird

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images
Veterinarian Irene Lopez holds a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinis) being treated for a broken wing at Grefa Hospital in Majadahonda, 16 kms., north of Madrid, Spain.   Peregrine Falcons are the world's fastest animals, reaching speeds up to 240 mph., in steep dives.
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Mar 25, 2017

Kingfishers given special treatment

Photo by Susanna Lascelles
Hampstead Heath ~ London, England
Three Kingfishers are seen in in Hampstead Heath, London's ancient park.   Kingfishers usually nest in sandy riverbanks - an ecology which doesn't naturally exist on Hampstead Heath.   However, about 20 years ago an artificial bank was created out of a sand and cement mixture to encourage breeding and has proved a successful habitat for Kingfishers and other birds in the city.
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Mar 24, 2017

Pekin and Muscovy Ducks welcome spring in King

 Photos by BarrytheBirder

The three Pekin and three Muscovy Ducks at Pine Farms Orchard, on the 16th Sideroad, between Keele and Jane Streets, finally were let out of their pens to greet spring this week.   It was bright and chilly but the ducks seemed content to just find their favourite spots and soak up some of the sunny rays.   Wikipedia footnote: The American Pekin Duck, also known as the Peking, White Pekin, Pekin, and Long Island Duck, is the most popular breed of domestic duck in North America.   It originated from the Mallard in China,and is now distributed in many countries, and in all the continents except Antarctica.
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Mar 23, 2017

Adelie Penguins in East Antarctica

Photo: Peter Layt - Australia Antarctica Division / AFP / Getty
Adelie Penguins, pictured above, dive from rocks in East Antarctica.   Scientists say almost six million Adelie Penguins are living in the region - more than double the number previously recently as 2014.
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Mar 22, 2017

Eagles on Sturgeon Lake in the Kawartha Lakes Region of Ontario

Photo Fred Thornhill / AP
A pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) conduct a spring ritual of preparing a nest in a large pine tree on Sturgeon Lake, Ontario, Canada.   Sturgeon Lake is approximately 100 kilometres north-east of the city of Toronto, the capital of the province of Ontario, and Canada's largest city.
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Mar 21, 2017

Once more to the brink for Bald Eagles?

 Bald Eagle & BarrytheBirder
Photo by Judy Craig
Scientists decry overturn of ban by Trump's
new Interior Secretary that would save American symbol.
A story this week by Alan Yuhas of the The Guardian, says the American national bird is threatened by toxic bullets that end up in the animals it eats, but the Trump administration overturned a rule stopping it.   Last week, nearly 30 doctors and scientists wrote a letter to the Department of the Interior  to "strongly Support" a rule that Donald Trump's new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, revoked on his first day in the office.   
The rule, which the Obama administration enacted on its last day, would have banned lead ammunitions across 150 million acres of national wildlife refuges.   Non-lead ammunition is the solution according to a both scientists and hunters.   Chris Parish, with a 'nonprofit' tracking raptors in Arizona and Utah, has said that politics have paralyzed state agencies, scientists as well as hunters.   He feels the three groups should ban together and support programs promoting steel and copper ammunition, while avoiding government and political activists.
Eagles eat creatures that have been shot with lead ammunition.   Over time the birds are poisoned by the accumulation of lead in their bodies and suffer paralysis, suppressed hunger, blindness, brain damage and organ failure.
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Mar 20, 2017

Debunking a myth

Photos by Dave Kemp
The Canadian Wildlife Federation's March Wildlife Update has reported that touching a baby bird will not cause the parents to abandon their young.   CWF declares the idea to be a myth.   Some say this is because birds have a poor sense of smell. However, research is starting to show otherwise.   We now know that Turkey Vultures and seabirds have excellent smelling senses.   Zebra Finch research show these songbirds can recognize relatives by smell.   Is this true of other species?   More research is needed on the olfactory capability of all birds.   Meanwhile, some birds, such as Turkey Vultures, have incredible senses of smell.
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Mar 19, 2017

Owens Lake #3 ~ Owens Valley ~ Louisiana ~ 2016

Photo: James Porschen / Syngenta Photography Award
Visual signs are seen of the restorative actions at Owens Lake, Louisiana, taken by the Department of Water and Power to mitigate dust and pollen, and to protect birds' migratory patterns.   The issue was caused by draining Owens Lake and subsequent environmental degradation.
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Mar 18, 2017

Splitting the Catch ~ by Auden Rikardsen

Photo: Auden Rickardsen / 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Sometimes it's the fishing boats that look for the Killer Whales and Humpbacks, hoping to locate the shoals of herring that migrate to these Arctic Norwegian waters. But in recent winters, the whales have also started to follow the boats.   Pictured above, a large male Killer Whale feeds on herring that have been squeezed out of the boat's closing fishing net.   It has learned the sound that this boat makes when it hauls in gear and homed in on it.   The partnership would seem to be a win-win one, but not always.   Meanwhile above the waves, hundreds of gulls join in the banquet.
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Mar 17, 2017

Eagles among the egrets and herons

Photo: Imago / Barcroft Images
A White-tailed Sea Eagle is seen in shallow water with wading birds in Kiskunsag National Park, a Unesco biosphere reserve in Szabadszallas, Hungary.   The diet of White-tailed Sea Eagles is varied, opportunistic and seasonal.   They often prey on fish, birds and mammals but live largely as scavengers, regularly stealing food from otters and other birds including cormorants, gulls, ospreys and other raptors. Carrion is often a primary food source during winter months, with fish and various ungulates preferred, but anything from cetaceans to livestock to even dead humans.   Almost all fish found near the surface of water is a potential food source for White-tail Sea Eagles.   Commercial fisheries, sport fishing ponds and carp ponds are readily exploited when available.   Although they occasionally harass and kill some land birds, White-tails prefer targeting water-based birds as prey.   Other prey include terns, skuas, cormorants, fulmars, loons, grebes, ducks, coots, auks, gulls, geese, and even swans.   Adults, nestlings and eggs of other birds are regularly consumed. Live animals consumed have ranged in size from voles to lambs and deer calves.   White-tailed Sea Eagles seem to consider almost any creature moving or dead as a possible meal.
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Mar 16, 2017

An ugly bird with a beautiful emerald eye...

Photo by Florence McGinn / Alamy Stock Photo
Neotropic Cormorant
Phalacrocorax brasilianus
An adult cormorant with beautiful green eyes is seen in Reid Park in Tucson, Arizona. The Neotropic Cormorant's normal range is the Gulf of Mexico to Argentina.   In the U.S.A., it usually reaches New Mexico in the west and Texas and sw. Louisiana in the east.   'Neotropics' are found on both fresh and ocean waters.
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Mar 15, 2017

Eastern Screech Owl wintering in Florida

Photo by Bill Gozansky / Alamy Stock Photo
An Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio) looks out from a palm tree cavity in Green Cay Wetlands at Boynton Beach, Florida, U.S.A.   Common in eastern North America from Mexico to Canada, and some will over-winter in Ontario.   They are small: 6 to 10".
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Mar 14, 2017

Spot the seagull if you can...

Photo: Frank Rumpenhorst / AFP / Getty Images
A seagull swims across the reflection of a bridge on the rippled surface of the River Main, Frankfurt am Main, in central Germany.
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Mar 13, 2017

Japanese White-eye is early sign of spring in Taiwan

Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP /Getty
Japanese White-eye sits in Kanzakura Tree in Taipei
Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus)
There are approximately 100 to 125 species of White-eyes, depending on whose list you're reading, in the Old World tropics (including the South Pacific and Hawaiian Islands).   White-eyes are small passerines up to 6" in length, with white eye rings, that usually form large flocks looking for insects, fruit and nectar. Taiwan, which has a bird species list numbering 645, is located 120 kms. off the the south-east coast of mainland China, halfway between the East and South China Seas.   Its capital is a special municipality of mainland China known as Taipei.  Being an island, fully 1/3 of Taiwan's 645 birds species can be categorized as seabirds, shorebirds, marshland birds, and fish or crustacean-eating birds, etc.  White-eyes are the city bird of Kurayoshi City in Japan.
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Mar 12, 2017

Half of all species could be extinct by end of century

Photo: snowmanradio/Wikipedia
The Kirtland's Warbler, a rare 'Near Threatened' bird of the Michigan, U.S.A., Jack Pine forests, is dependent on fire to provide the small trees and open areas that meet its rigid requirements for nesting.

One in five species on Earth face extinction
One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent is taken now.   This prediction came from the Biological Extinction conference, held at the Vatican recently.   "Rich western countries are now siphoning up the world's resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate", said biologist Paul Ehrlich, of Stanford University in California.   "We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones.   We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.   We have triggered a major extinction event".   
"If you value people, you want to have the maximum number you can support sustainedly.   You do not want almost 12 billion living unsustainedly on Earth by the end of the century - with the result that civilization will collapse and there are only a few hundred survivors".   
UN statistics suggest the global human population will grow from the current 7.4 billion to 11.2 billion by 2100.   As Sir Partha Dasgupta, of Cambridge University put it; most of the extra billions will appear in Africa, where the fertility rate is still twice that of the rest of the world.   "Africa's population is likely to go from one billion to 4 billion", said Dasgupta.   "Can you imagine what tensions there are going to be there, especially with climate change coming and hitting the continent more than anywhere else?   What do you think is going to happen when the arid regions spread, and a hundred million Africans try to swim across the Mediterranean?   It's terrifying."
Ehrlich agreed: "If you look at the figures, it is clear that to support today's world population sustainedly - and I emphasize the word sustainedly - you would require another half a planet to provide us with those resources.   However, if everyone consumed resources at the U.S.A. level - which is what the world aspires to - you need another four or five Earths.   We are wrecking our planet's life support systems."   
I found this to be extremely sobering speculation.
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Mar 11, 2017

Capture in the backyard...

Photo by Barry Wallace
Sharp-shinned Hawk mantling over its prey
A bird's back, scapulars and wing coverts, especially if of a distinctive colour (in this case, grayish-blue) is called a mantle.   Spreading of the wings and tail over its catch, by a bird of prey, is known as mantling, which amounts to hiding the prey from view until the bird believes it is safe to begin devouring its dinner, on the spot, otherwise it will fly off to what it feels is a safer, more secure place.
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Mar 10, 2017

Snowy Owl near Ottawa, Ontario

Photo: Guoqiang Xue / Alamy Stock Photo
SNOWY OWL (Nyctea scandiaca)
The wide-winged Snowy Owl, seen above, was recently spotted in a rural area of Canada's national capital, Ottawa.   Snowy Owls have cyclic winter irruptions into southern Ontario. but I have not seen any this winter, especially in the nearby frozen, broad and flat, Holland Marsh, which is a favourite destination for this occasionally irruptive species from northern Canada.
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Mar 9, 2017

Not uncommon scene in sub-Saharan Africa

Photo: Tony Karumba /AFP / Getty Images
"Excuse me, is this spot taken?"
A Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) rests on the head of a female buffalo, at a waterhole at the Tsvao West National Park, near Voi in Nairobi, capital of Kenya.   There is also a Yellow-billed Oxpecker is the same part of Africa, and the two species make up the family Buphagiae   Recent studies have grouped the oxpeckers together with starlings, mockingbirds and thrashers.
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Mar 8, 2017

Black Swans originated in Australia

Photo by Marcin Bielecki / EPA
A Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) was seen recently on one of the beaches of Kolobrzeg, in northern Poland, on the coast of the Baltic Sea.   Black Swans are large birds with mostly black plumage and red bills.   They are very rarely seen in Poland and this part of Europe.   These dramatic-looking waterbirds originated in Australia, were moved to New Zealand and then many other countries of the world, where many feral populations exist today.
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Mar 7, 2017


Photo by Georges Gobot /AFP / Getty Images
A Golden Eagle catches a drone during a military exercise at the Mont-de-Marsan airbase, in southwestern France.   As malicious or poorly controlled drones become more of a security threat, the French army is exploring all options for defence.   They train eagles for six months at the airbase to chase drones.
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Mar 6, 2017

66-year-old alabatross gives birth once again

Photo: Naomi Blinick / AP
Wisdom and her new chick are seen in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge at the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.   This famous Laysan Albatross is about 66 years old and is the world's oldest recorded breeding bird in the wild.
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Mar 5, 2017

Women's group in India takes the Greater Adjutant under its wing

 Photos by Anupam Nath / AP
An endangered Greater Adjutant stork (above) with a baby in its nest is seen in Dadara Village, west of Gauhati, India.   For decades the big and awkward-looking scavenger-bird was reviled in its home territory of north-east India, until a group of women raised awareness of its plight.   They call themselves the Hargila Army, for the bird's name in the local Assamese language.
Above, Wildlife biologist Purnima Devi Barman, second from left, who works with a local conservation group called Aranyak, shows stork photos to a group of women from the 'Hargila Army', during an awareness meeting to save the bird, in Dadara Village.   Women pray, sing hymns, weave scarves and other items with motifs of the stork, to creare awareness about protecting the species.
Birdlife International states that the species was previously widespread across much of south and continental south-east Asia, but declined dramatically during the first half of the 20th century.   IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has declared the bird's official status as 'Endangered' since the late 1990s.
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Mar 4, 2017

World Wildlife Day 2017 young photographers competition

Pictured here are two of the top-10 photo finalists in the World Wildlife Day 2017 young photographers contest.   Final winners were announced yesterday, Friday. March 3.   The photo above, 'Kingfisher', was taken by Gabor Li, from Hungary.   The photo below shows a Wire-tailed Swallow and a youngster having an exchange in Pakistan, where Ali Java took the photo.  

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Mar 3, 2017

Colombia ~ greatest diversity of bird species in the world

 Photo by Luis Robayo / AFP / Getty Images
Columbia has the greatest diversity of birds in the world.   Pictured above is one of them: a Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii), photographed by Luis Robayo in a rural area of Cali, Columbia.   Columbia is home to 1,889 bird species, or 20% of all bird species on earth.   Pictured below is an Andean Condor, the national bird of Columbia.

Photo: Pedro Szekely
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Mar 2, 2017

Over 1 million penguins gather...

Photos: Aquarium of the Pacific

Over a million penguins packed onto a beach at Punta Tombo Peninsula in Argentina's Patagonia, on Friday, February 17 of this year.   They were drawn here by an abundance of sardines and anchovies, prior to breeding in large colonies in southern Argentina and Chile and then migrating north as far as south-western Brazil between March and September.   The 2017 million-plus bird migration appears to be a record number according to local officials.   Drawn in by the unusually abundant haul of small fish, the world's largest colony of Magellanic Penguins offered up an even larger than normal spectacle.
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Mar 1, 2017

Spotted Towhee and Eastern Towhee

Photo by Dave Kemp

EASTERN TOWHEE ~ King City, Ont.
Photo by BarrytheBirder

My lucky friend Dave Kemp, from Richmond, B.C., gets to photograph Spotted Towhees year-around where he lives in the southern mainland of British Columbia.   I get to photograph Eastern Towhees in the summer where I live in King City, several kilometres north of Toronto and Lake Ontario.   Both species like to scratch about in dead leaves under dense brush, which often makes them difficult to see.
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