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Jun 30, 2017

Seed-eaters at the feeders...

 Photos by BarrytheBirder

Late June is a busy time in the backyard garden as a dozen species of birds are feeding madly for themselves and their fledglings.   Pictured here is a male Cardinal, a female House Sparrow feeding one of her brood, a female American Goldfinch and a Grackle. 

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Jun 29, 2017

World's most bizarre bird?

Photo: The Guardian
(Opisthocomus hoazin)
Stephen Moss, writing in, last week, speculated during a trip to Peru, that the unusually named Hoatzin is clearly a frontrunner for 'The World's Most Bizarre Bird' title, if such a category actually exists anywhere.   Here are the writer's convincing points for consideration.

1. Its unusual name comes from the Nahuatl language of Mexico.
2.  The bird must have been designed by a committee, with a long tail, round wings, a blue face, staring crimson eyes and a Mohican hairdo that would not be out of place on a punk rocker.
3. They are hopeless flyers, but even worse at landing, hopelessly crashing into foliage.
4. Unique amongst birds, young Hoatzins have claws on their wings (a vestige of dinosaur-like beginnings?) to stop them from falling into caiman-infested waters.

My own observation is that front end of the bird seems to have no physiological connection, in appearance and size, to the rear end of the bird.   Stephen Moss observed the Hoatzins in Peru's Manu National Park, which he states is the best place in the world to go birding.   Why?   The park is home to more than 1,000 different kinds of birds!

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Jun 27, 2017

Striking harmony in black and white

Photo: Fernando Mateos-Gonzale / AFP / Getty Images

(Ficedula albicollis)
This male Collared Flycatcher was photographed at Halltrops hage Nature Reserve on Oland Island, in Kalmar County, at the south-east tip of Sweden, on the Baltic Sea.   It is a small passerine in the Old World flycatcher family, one of the four species of Western Palearctic black-and-white flycatchers.   It winters in sub-Sahara Africa.   When not catching flies, it also eats caterpillars and small fruit.   Its appearance is remarkably distinctive and quite noticeable.

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Jun 26, 2017

Evolutionary changes of birds in cities...

Photo:Juan Emilio/Wikipedia
As reported last Sunday, in The Guardian by Hannah Devlin, biologist Simon Watt says cities represent hotspots for evolution and behavioural adaption.   Speaking at the Cheltenham, UK. Science Festival, Watt said "The ice caps are melting, the rainforest is shrinking, the one environment that is growing is cities."   Watt cited a host of examples of how urban environment is provoking new genetic shifts and unexpected behaviours.   Some Black-capped Warblers (see photo above) which used to migrate to Morocco or southern Spain, have changed their route to Britain's urban heat islands and where garden bird feeders allow them to survive in more northerly latitudes.   Birds coming to Britain are starting to have shorter wings (better for manoeuvrability) and longer beaks for access to small openings in garden bird feeders.   Birds have also changed vocalizations, perhaps by acclimatisation rather than evolution.   Watt says: "They (birds) tend to sing at higher pitch...use fewer notes...and sing faster".   "They have their own urban music.   This happens across all the species, they sing at different times - at night because they've got street lights.   They are not quite sure when its bedtime.   It does mean some of these birds are stressed out".   It's adaptable omnivores, relatively intelligent and scavengers by nature, that seem to be thriving in urban settings.
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Jun 25, 2017

Blending into the background...

Photo: Nadeem Khan / Barcroft Images
(Otus bakkamoena)
Indian Scops Owls show how intuitive and resourceful they are about blending in with their background.   They were photographed in Ranthambhore National Park in India.   This species is native to southern Asia.
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Jun 24, 2017

Striking photo from Dresden Zoo in Germany

 Photo: Filip Singer / EPA
(Pelecanus onocrotalus)
A Great White Pelican cools itself off at Dresden Zoo in Germany.   Dresden Zoo opened in 1861, which makes it the 4th oldest zoo in Germany, at 156 years.   The 'Great White' is native to freshwater wetlands in Europe, Asia and Africa.
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Jun 23, 2017

A native of eastern South America...

Photo: Eraldo Peres / AP
(Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
The Hyacinth Macaw of eastern South America is almost too blue to be true.   The one seen above is flying over a ranch in Corumba, in the Pantanal wetlands of Mato Grosso do Sul State, in southwestern Brazil, on the border of Paraguay.   In the photo below, which once again exclaims the Hyacinth's incredible colours, one can also see the the blue-black beak in impressive detail.
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Jun 22, 2017

I millionth bird banded at Long Point...

Photo by Stu MacKenzie
Tennessee Warbler has the distinction
Monday, May 29, 2017, was the auspicious day that the Long Point Bird Observatory, on Lake Erie's north shore, in Ontario, reached an important milestone: the banding of the millionth bird.   Curiosity was rampant and it was a female Tennessee Warbler that claimed the honour.   She, no doubt, was on her way to Canada's northern boreal forest. Long Point Bird Observatory is the Western Hemisphere's oldest bird observatory, and its first to band one millions birds.   Long Point's inaugural banding was a Song Sparrow on April 2, 1960.   Now it's almost 60 years of research creating a vast base of knowledge as wild birds face huge changes in habitats and natural environments in the early 21st century.   Well done, Long Pointers.   Birds and birders are deeply in your debt.
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Jun 21, 2017

Richmond Hill Mill Pond photographs...part 2

Photos by Barry Wallace
Mute Swan

Iron in mill pond water stains swan's feathers orange

Six Mallard ducklings almost same size as mother (top)

More sleepy-head ducklings

Another park bench plaque

Mill pond outlet under Mill Road

Mill pond outflow south of Mill Street into Allen Bales Creek
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Jun 20, 2017

At the Richmond Hill Mill Pond...

All photos by BarrytheBirder
Resident Mute Swan

Sleepy young ducks

Mother Goose keeps eye on goslings

Canada Goose goslings

Park bench plaque

Wild Yellow Irises

More mill pond pictures on the morrow...
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Jun 19, 2017

Charming photo from Alberta

Photo: Tony LePrieur
(Contopus sordidulus)
My Nature Canada 2017 calendar features the photo above, by Tony LePrieur, to illustrate the month of June.   I'm sure these young birds have a dutiful father who is sharing the feeding duties, the day after Father's Day, along with a dutiful mother.   The photo was taken in Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Alberta.   The photographer watched the busy parents feed their young for 30 minutes while getting his charming photos.
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Jun 18, 2017

Cornell Lab of Ornithology...

 Photo: B.N.Singh/Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Photo by 'hawk person'/Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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Jun 17, 2017

Children give name to bird...

Photo: Sarah Lawrence / National Trust
There seems to be a new arrival for Ronald the shag, who nests right next to the main jetty on Staple Island, one of the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast of England, UK.   He was christened Ronald by school children visiting the island.   Shag chicks hatch without down and so they rely totally on their parents for warmth, often for a period of two months before they can fly.
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Jun 16, 2017

How close is too close?

Photo: Biju Boro /AFP/ Getty Images
A Cattle Egret appears to be extremely close to an elephant, energetically foraging for Water Hyacinths in a wetlands area on the outskirts of Guwahati, in India's far-eastern Assam State.   It would seem the egret is rather foolish or perhaps it is quite familiar with the elephant's eating habits and is expecting to adroitly pick up a tidbit of something for itself.
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Jun 15, 2017

Flamingos in Dubai

Photo: Kamran Jebreili / AP
Migrating Flamingos fly past taller and taller  buildings relentlessly under construction in Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.   Development is encroaching ever closer to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary where many Flamingos reside.   There is doubt in some quarters that this sanctuary can survive under the crush of surrounding urban development at the bottom of the Persian Gulf.   Only about 500 Flamingos are to be found at Ras Al Khor and although Flamingos can soar to great heights, notably to avoid eagle attacks, first they have to be able to take take off between Dubai's sky-scraping towers.
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Jun 14, 2017

Long-eared Owl chicks...

Photo: Sergei Gapon / AFP / Getty Images
(Asio Otus)
Two Long-eared Owl chicks are photographed while playing in long grass at a wildlife sanctuary, near the village of Vygono Shchi, Belarus.   Long-eared Owls are native to North America, Europe and Asia.
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Jun 13, 2017

Squabble above the Aral Sea...

Photo: Shamil Zhumatov
Fishing rights seem in dispute in Kazakhstan
A blacked-headed Pallas Gull (Icthyaetus icthyaetus), with a fish in its bill, is mobbed by smaller gulls outside the village of Karateren, Kazakhstan.   Did the Pallas Gull steal the fish from the smaller gulls or are the smaller gulls trying to rob the bigger gull of its catch?   The small village of Karateren was once dominated by fishermen until the waters receded due to the rivers that fed it being diverted for desert irrigation.   A dam project has now returned some of the water supply, and fishing, back to the village.
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Jun 12, 2017

Lorikeet name originated in the late 1700s

Photo: Flo Gabriel
(Trichoglossus muluccanus)

The Rainbow Lorikeets pictured at top were photographed in the Adelaide Parklands, Australia.   
It was submitted to the Guardian newspaper's 'Wildlife on your Doorstep' feature last month.
It's no surprise that this colourful, true parrot is the most commonly observed bird in Australia.

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Photo at left from Wikipedia.

Jun 11, 2017

Back from the brink...

                                                          Photo:Ben Hull / RSPB
(Sylvia undata)
This small, dark, long-tailed warbler is a resident of the south coast and parts of the east coast of the Uk, and has suffered in the past from severe winters.   Its population crashed to a few pairs in the 1960s in England, but has now recovered, increasing in both range and numbers.   Recent heathland restoration and climate change in the UK appear to have benefited this resident insectivore species.   However the Dartford Warbler is still regarded as an Amber List species by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Coloured drawing above: RSPB
The Dartford Warbler will sit on top of a gorse stem to sing, but is often seen as a small flying creature bobbing between bushes.

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Jun 10, 2017

Common Swift reaches Newfoundland.

Photo: British Birds                                                          Photo:  

I see on the latest National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website posting that a Common Tern (Apus apus) made a surprising visit to North America in the spring of this year and was spotted by Ian Jones and Jeannine Winkel on May 20 at Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John's, Newfoundland.  This was Newfoundland's second record of a Common Swift; the first individual having appeared in July, 2016.   The May sighting was only the seventh ever of the species in North America.   The Common Swift was last seen flying with swallows on May 26.
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Jun 9, 2017

Grey Herons taking over Amsterdam...

Photo: Wild Wonders of Europe/Damschen/
The international online edition of The Guardian has just issued a photo essay on the Grey Herons of Amsterdam.   Photos by Judy Hrudova are featured below.   Grey Herons are native to temperate Europe and Asia, including Holland.   In Holland however, many Grey Herons have forsaken their traditional marshy habitats and made the capital, Amsterdam, their stomping grounds.

Some regular patrons at a particular cafe compete to capture the most herons in one photo.   The current record is 29.   In the photo immediately above, there are at least eight Grey Herons in the shot.

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