This week is Independence Day in the United States, a holiday for many Americans. It is unfortunate that this off-day comes during one of the slowest birding times of the year, but that doesn't stop Steve Brenner at Thermal Birding from throwing down the gauntlet with the 4th of July Birding Challenge:
One week from today, people all across the country will be having cookouts, launching fireworks, and birdwatching! The rules of the challenge are simple: when you are out birding on the 4th of July, every species you see that begins with the word “American” counts. Also, any species that begins with the name of a U.S. state (e.g.. California Towhee) also counts. You can also collect bonus birds for each of the following winged-countrymen you spot: Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, and the official birds of each U.S. state.
We don't often hear about the trials of the non-birding spouse, but Gabryelle Rowland, The Birder's Wife, lays it all on the table:
This hobby may sound boring to many of you, but I promise – it’s not. Watching a birder watch birds is essentially the same as watching a seven year old with ADD, a plastic gun strapped to his back, find his way through a black-lit laser tag course in which a kitten is hidden in every nook or cranny (also, the refills of Mountain Dew are endless and he’s snorting lines of blue Pixie Stix dust). Their eyes dart everywhere, their hands start shaking, their nostrils flare – the whole shebang. Portrait of a Birder. I think that will be the title of my first novel…
I usually focus on birding in the ABA Area here, but Jonathan Mayrev, writing at Nature Travel Network, shares a unique way of breaking down a difficult group of birds, in this case Israel's wheatears. It would be interesting to see this treatment applied to any of North America's difficult families:
Being birds of open landscapes, most Wheatears have striking tail patterns and strong and melodic songs, both used to communicate over vast areas and in courtship and display. Most Wheatears are rather distinct and beautiful birds, but some species pose interesting identification challenges, especially in non-adult male plumages. Most Wheatears have distinct tail patterns and these are important for identification of tougher birds.
I always enjoy hearing stories about how people got into birding. Ernie Allison, writing at Birding is Fun, shares one this week:
It wasn't until my oldest daughter asked me what birds we heard on a hiking trip that I got into birding specifically. I didn't want to disappoint her, so I started looking up the information. Identifying bird calls became a regular part of our outdoor activities. She wanted to see birds more often, so we started putting feeders in our lawn. Before I knew it, I had accumulated a nice amount of knowledge about birds just so that my daughter's questions would be satisfied. I created lists of birds native to our area for her to check off as she saw them. We put out bird feeders and planted flowers to attract as many species as possible. I planned our hikes around the birds commonly seen in certain areas.
There are some fascinating, if arcane, stories about the names with which our familiar birds end up, and Rick Wright at Birding New Jersey excels at telling them. Here, he spins the tale of a very familiar raptor:
Latham in 1781 does speak of “two narrow bars of dirty white” across the deep brown tail, but most of the linear markings he describes are on the underparts:
on the breast and belly, are interrupted bars of white and pale ferruginous mixed.
That he considered those the species’ salient character is evident from the name he gave his new hawk: the Barred-breasted Falcon.