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Apr 30, 2017

Gannets 'down under'

                                                                                                     Photo by Daniel Koehler
On the cliffs of at Muriwai, near Auckland in New Zealand, there is a colony of thousands of gannets that nest between August and March.   The birds swoop in and out of the updrafts throughout the day.   One wonders how the birds got those nest patterns into place.   They are just centimetres apart.
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Apr 29, 2017

Additional comments on cormorants...

Photo:Marvin Recinos / AFP / Getty Images

Pictured above are hundreds of cormorants on Lake Suchitoto, in El Salvador.   There are 40 species of cormorants around the world.   The Neotropic Cormorant picture (at right),
by Florence McGinn, was featured in this blog space about five weeks ago.   In many places around the world, cormorants are vilified for voracious eating of freshwater fish and for befouling and killing off the trees in which they roost.   In numerous jurisdictions, culls are made of these birds but the many species continue to thrive globally.   Cormorants migrate in long V-shaped flocks, low over the water, and are noted for their aerodynamic form. That same form also assists their underwater chasing of fish. The cormorant name is derived from the Latin name corvus marinus, meaning sea crow.
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Apr 28, 2017

World heritage nature sites threatened...

Photo: Jorge Sierra / WWF / PA
Greater Flamingos wade in the Donana National Park in Andalusia, Spain.   Donana National Park is a Spanish World Heritage Site.   It sits on the right bank of the Guadalquivir River at its estuary on the Atlantic Ocean.   It is notable for the great diversity of its biotopes, especially lagoons, marshlands, fixed and mobile dunes, scrub woodland and maquis.   It is home to five threatened species of birds.   Donana is one of the largest heronries in the Mediterranean region and is the wintering site for more than 1/2 million waterfowl each year.   Almost half of World Heritage Sites designated for their importance to nature are threatened by the illegal wildlife trade, a report has warned.
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Apr 27, 2017

Delicate-looking bird is spreading around the world

Photo by Xinhua / Barcroft Images
Black-winged Stilts
(Himantopus himantopus)
A pair of Black-winged stilts are seen at Dongshi Township of Jinjiang City, in southeast China's Fujian Province.   Birdlife International states this species has an extremely large and increasing, worldwide range (302,000,000 sq. kms.), and the species has been evaluated as 'Least Concern' by Birdlife International.   Birdlife International is the world's largest nature conservation partnership with partners in 120 countries and territories.   It aims to conserve birds, their habitats and global diversity.
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Apr 26, 2017

Native to Eastern Asia

Photo: Yonhap / EPA
Ixos amaurotis
In Gangneung, in north-eastern South Korea, on the coast of the Sea of Japan, a Brown-eared Bulbul sucks nectar from spring cherry blossoms.   In the Koreas, the Brown-eared Bulbul is called jikbakguri.
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Apr 25, 2017

A most distinctive looking bird...

Photo: Cynthia Hansen / Audubon Photography Awards

Ajaia ajaja
I happened across the photo above quite unintentionally, but it quickly caught my eye because I had never seen young spoonbills before.   I have encountered adult spoonbills on Caribbean islands on a few occasions.   The attractiveness of that spatulate bill is highly questionable, but the pink, orange and white feathers do make a spectacular presentation, especially with wings open or in flight.   But young Roseate Spoonbills have no distinctive colouring to mitigate the appearance of their bills.   The youngsters are definitely not pretty, but they do get some sympathy for their platypus-like plight.   Worldwide, there are six spoonbill species.
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Apr 24, 2017

Far eastern Russia...on the shores of the Sea of Japan

Photo - Yuri Smityuk / Tass
Mandarin Duck
Aix galericulata
A male Mandarin Duck displays his spectacular colours on the shores of the Bogataya River, 20 kilometres north of Vladistock, Russia.   The Mandarin Duck is a native of eastern Asia.
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Apr 23, 2017

Fine photos while fishing...

Photo: Corey Arnold
Corey Arnold is a fine art photographer and commercial fisherman, working the stormy waters of the Bering Sea by the Aleutians.   His current works, entitled 'Aleutian Dreams', are on display, until the end of May, at the Charles A. Hartman Fine Art Gallery in Portland, Oregon.

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Apr 22, 2017

Unfriendly encounter

Photo:Tony Margiocchi / Barcroft Images
A young Mallard Duck, centre, eventually escaped after a large drake duck, of another species, tried to drown him at Milton Keyes, between Oxford and Cambridge, in England.
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Apr 21, 2017

Early Eastern Bluebird sighting in Queensville

 Photo by Steve Kinsley
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Steve Kinsley posted this photo on the Richmond Hill Naturalists Bird Sightings website, which he took in Queensville, in upper York Region, north of Toronto.   David Love of King Township reports that Bluebirds were spotted in Vaughan, just north of Toronto, about four weeks ago.   I've not seen or heard of any bluebird sightings yet in King Township, but any day now...
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Apr 20, 2017

The fight is on...

Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Two Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra) in Regent's Park, London, U.K., fight near a nest with eggs.   Coots are members of the rail and crake family and close relatives to Moorhens.   There are 10 species of coots around the world and they have extremely large populations and ranges.
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Barry theBirder

Apr 19, 2017

Church roof plays host to a large nest...

Photo: Sergei Gapon / AFP / Getty Images
Ciconia ciconia
The roof of a church in the village of Zembin, 60 kms. south of Minsk, in Belarus, is this White Stork's nesting choice.   There are two storks native to Belarus: the White Stork and the closely related, but much more uncommon, Black Stork.   The White Stork is the National Bird of Belarus.
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Apr 18, 2017

Went looking for bluebirds and warblers...

Photo by BarrytheBirder
...settled for a Hermit Thrush
I visited Cold Creek Conservation Area on Easter Monday, looking for  early bluebirds and warblers, but did not find any. I did however find a pair of Hermit Thrushes, one of which is pictured above.   I was quite pleased because I had not seen a 'Hermit' for a few years.   They're not always easy to find, but this one posed long enough for me to take a photo.   Because it was facing away from me, my picture does not show its spotted breast.   Many Hermit Thrushes winter in the northern United States, which means they can arrive quite early during the spring in southern Ontario.
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Apr 17, 2017

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

 Photos by BarrytheBirder
Plump seems like an understatement
Pictured here is one of the many Chipping Sparrows that were at our feeders all winter.   It's spring now, of course, and the same Chipping Sparrows are still at the same feeders.   The one pictured here, after consuming its fill, decided to just roost for a while, until its tummy settled.   My Stokes Field Guide to Birds says the Chipping Sparrow is a: "Small deep-bellied sparrow with high rounded crown, short bill...".   The one pictured here certainly seems to have the 'deep-bellied' part down pat.   'Chippings' are one of my favourite sparrows. They're just so attractive.

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Apr 16, 2017

1/4 of UK birds face steep decline or extinction

 Photo - The Guardian
Aquatic Warbler
Acrocephalus paludicola
Kate Lyons, in Britain's The Guardian newspaper, reports that more than a quarter of UK birds, including the puffin, nightingale and curlew, require urgent conservation efforts to ensure their survival, according to a new report.   Since the last review in 2009, another 15 bird species have been put on the "red list", a category that indicates a species is in danger of extinction or has experienced significant population or habitat decline.   Total number of species on the red list is now 67 out of a total of 247.   Moreover, eight species are considered at risk of global extinction, including: the Aquatic Warbler, Common Pochard, Long-Tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter, Slovonian Grebe, Puffin and Turtle Dove.   David Noble, principal ecologist for monitoring at the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) said factors leading to classification of an increased number of species in danger include land use change, such as afforestation and drainage of fields into farmland, and increased number of predators, such as foxes.   He also pointed out the global impacts of climate change, which affect migratory birds.

Photo - Thomas Hanahoe / Alamy
Numenius arquata
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Apr 15, 2017

Uncommon sighting: Parexocoetus brachypterus

Photo: Anthony Pierce / Barcroft Images
Bird-like creature is a flying fish
An amazing photo of an amazing creature shows a Sailfin Flying Fish cruising over the Atlantic waters, off the coast of Mauritania, North Africa.   To give some better perspective to this photo, Sailfins are 11-13 cm. at maturity, but can grow as long as 20 cm.
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Apr 14, 2017

Will we prevail over habitat loss and climate change?

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
A Bald Eagle (pictured above) is perched atop a redwood tree in Milpitas, California.   The birds, once endangered, have made a comeback in the San Francisco Bay area.   The local and national flourishing of eagles in America is the pay-off for decades of environmental investment.   
However, illegal shooting of this magnificent bird is the biggest threat to their survival.   Other threats include lead poisoning from ducks that have consumed lead shot, power line electrocution and habitat loss.
Meanwhile, a report by the National Audubon Society, released last fall, stated 126 bird species could lose half of their range by 2050, with 188 more species in danger of losing their homes by 2080.   The big question marks for the future of all avian species are the effects of global warming and gross environmental change, plus our ability to deal with it.
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Apr 13, 2017

Ahhhhh, spring...

Photo: Tony Margiocchi/Barcroft Images
Great Crested Grebe
Podiceps cristatus
Two wild Great Crested Grebes go through their ritual courtship dance where the female is offered weeds from the lake in Furzton, England.   A modest offering, it seems.
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Apr 12, 2017

Yellow Wagtails flocking back into Britain

Photo: Frebeck
Motacilla flava
Derwent May, writing in The Times, in Britain, this week, say that Yellow Wagtails are the latest spring migrants flocking back into Britain.   They are slim, lively birds and are bright yellow underneath, all the way from their throats to beneath their tails.   Their tails are a little shorter than other wagtails, but they wag it up and down in the same way.   They run about in the fields around the legs of cows, sheep, and this month, the last lambs, picking up insects they have disturbed.   The French call them
'bergeronnettes' - little shepherdesses.   They will nest  in meadows and bean fields.
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Apr 11, 2017

Mute Swan

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Up close and personal
A Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) poses very patiently for me to take a close-up portrait at a pond in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
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Apr 10, 2017

Pileated Woodpecker in Bracebridge, Ontario

Photo by Glenn McKinnon
Dryocopus pileatus
Roger Tory Peterson's Bird's of Eastern and Central North America, begins its description of the Pileated Woodpecker this way: "A spectacular crow-sized black woodpecker with a flaming red crest", and that short and succinct description sums it up perfectly.   The Pileated Woodpecker pictured above has positioned itself on the opposite side of a tree trunk, from a painted wooden Pileated Woodpecker.   The scene occurred in Bracebridge, Ontario, at the home of my old friend Glenn McKinnon, who got this great photo.
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Apr 9, 2017

Juncos tell us when winter is truly over...

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Juncos still here on April 9
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Apr 8, 2017

They look fast...and they are fast

Photo: Du Huaju / Barcroft Images

(Mergus squamatus)
Endangered Chinese Mergansers, also known as Scaly-sided Mergansers, are seen above flying northwards after wintering in Weishui Reservoir at Songzi, in central China's Hubei Province.   Calling mergansers 'Sawbills' is now common.   Chinese Mergansers are rapidly declining and are described as both vulnerable by some, and endangered by others.   The Chinese Merganser's cousin, the Red-breasted Merganser is fast also.   It holds the avian record for fastest, level-flight at 100 mph. or 161 km/h.
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Apr 7, 2017

Half a world away...

Photo: Wang Jiangwei / Barcroft Images

...but on the same latitude
Herons rest on the remaining ice of Xinglai Lake, a border lake between China and Russia, in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.   Xinglai Lake is on the same latitiude as my home in King Township, Ontario, where Great Blue Herons are also appearing here on lakes that still have some ice on them.
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Apr 6, 2017

Baby birds are bottomless pits

Photo - Riau Images / Barcroft
Streaked Fantail Warbler (Zitting cisticola)
A Zitting Cisticola (above) feeds its demanding young in West Sumatra, Indonesia.The Zitting Cistacola or Streaked Fantail Warbler is an Old World warbler widely distributed in southern Europe, Africa and southern Asia, down to Northern Australia.   Breeding males have a zig-zagging flight pattern and a "zitting" call that sounds like the snipping sound of scissors.
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Apr 5, 2017

The vagaries of mutualistic relationships

Photos by Ingo Gerlach / Getty Images
Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus)
Red-billed Oxpeckers crowd the face of an African Buffalo as it shakes its head gently to dislodge them in Masai Mara, Kenya.   While many might assume the birds pictured below, are a constant nuisance to the buffalo who carry them around the Kenyan plains, they would only be half correct.   Red-billed Oxpeckers or other bird species often sit on the backs of buffaloes, pecking insects in open wounds and blood, picking vermin from the host's fur, and even looking deep into their ears and noses for food - a seemingly win-win compromise for both birds and buffaloes.   The photo below, by Ingo Gerlach, surprised me in that I had never seen so many birds on a buffalo's back before.   Amazing! 

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Barry the Birder

Apr 4, 2017

2016 was the hottest year ever recorded

Image: bwrabbitgirl via flickr
Tim Radford, of the Climate News Network and who has covered climate change for almost 30 years, has recently written that spring is arriving earlier in the northern hemisphere.   One sedge species in Greenland is now springing to growth 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago.   And in the wintery United States, spring has arrived 22 days early this year in Washington, D.C.   Researchers say the evidence from the plant world is consistent with the instrumental record.   2016 was the hottest year ever recorded and it was the third record-breaking year in a row.   16 of the hottest years ever recorded have happened in the 21st century.   Do we know what that means for migrating birds in Canada?   No.   Researchers are working on it, but events seem to be far ahead of our knowledge.   Once again, birds may be the proverbial 'canaries in the coal mines'.
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Apr 3, 2017

Toronto Wildlife Centre says thank you...

Touching picture accompanies thank you

My wife and I made a small donation recently to the Toronto Wildlife Centre.   We received a thank you note from the folks there, with a meaningful description of just how our gift and those of others would be put to use.   The email sent to us also showed a picture of an injured Boreal Owl that was being rehabilitated at the centre.   We were both very touched at the sight of this creature on the mend.   We promised ourselves to make another donation later in the year.

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Apr 2, 2017

Steller's Jay by Don Flucker ~ Canada's west coast

Photos by Don Flucker

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)
These two photos were taken by Don Flucker who is a longtime seaside resident of British Columbia.   Don and his family were neighbours and friends of mine back in the 1960s and '70s, before Don moved out west to B.C.   He occasionally sends me photos from his beautiful waterside paradise, although the two photos above, from 2015, I came across while looking at many of his posted online photos.   Great shots, Don.
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Apr 1, 2017

Swarms of Starlings soaring

Photo by Mark Bretherton / Alamy
Black swarms of Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) swirl and swoop in ever-changing formations in the sky.   The birds, in great numbers, can do damage when they eat or foul grain seed.   Meanwhile they are a minor miracle for the eyes.
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