The most recent edition of I and the Bird at 10,000 Birds concerns everyone's favorite lobed footed waterbirds, the grebes:
And now we enter into a family of birds more or less unknown to non-birders. Destined to be forever written off as ducks which which they share an affinity with water and little else, or maybe coots primarily among those who may reside near large numbers of those squabbling, aquatic rails, or more likely ignored as they slink back into the vegetation to do their business away from lookie-loos and carriers of bread bags. To know a grebe is to take your bird awareness to another level. To cast your eyes to the cattails on the edges of the pond or the raft of birds at the lake’s center and to know what you are likely to find. On those occasions when grebes deign to reveal themselves to non-birders they are met with confusion, because they don’t easily fit into the non-birder’s notion of an expected water bird.
There are few groups of birds as exciting and as confusing as jeagers. At The Nemesis Bird, Erik Bruhnke expands on the thrill of jaeger watching:
Originating from the German word for “hunter,” jaeger is a very appropriate name for these unique birds. Jaegers are kleptoparasites, which means that they steal other birds’ food for their own food. When breeding on-site in the arctic tundra, jaegers will readily go after shorebirds (to eat them). When jaegers are out over the expanses of water, they will readily pursue gulls in search of food. Using their sickle-like wings to accelerate and propel themselves into mind-blowing acrobatics, jaegers will harass the gulls until the gulls regurgitate food.
There are some species that have the uncanny ability to appear like a multitude of others, for Jeff Cooper of NeoVista Birding, that bird is Mountain Bluebird:
Setting gulls aside, I think I've been tricked by Mountain Bluebirds more than any other bird species when it comes to initial impressions for an identification. We have both Mountain and Western Bluebirds in Utah, but the Westerns are found more in the southern part of the state. A bluebird in northern Utah should be a Mountain Bluebird. The first time I saw a group of Mountain Bluebirds in Northern Utah I got excited and declared that one was a Western Bluebird because I saw a rufous coloring on its chest. My birding mentor kindly explained that female Mountain Bluebirds can have some rufous on their chests.
It's shorebird season, and Don Freiday of Freiday Bird Blog shares some tips on parsing out the young birds from the adults:
One of these days I'm going to write a post called "The Rules of Shorebirds," and list them all, but for now, here are two of the rules. First, shorebirds come in three plumages, plus transitions between them. The top dowitcher is a juvenile, and I'm technically required to point out that correctly we would say, and spell, the plumage it's in as juvenal. The bird is juvenile, the plumage is juvenal. The bottom dowitcher is an adult in "breeding" or alternate plumage, worn breeding to be more precise since it's been wearing this coat of feathers since northbound migration last spring and they're looking a little tired, not as bright and neat as they were last spring.
As a Camp Chiricahua alum (Class of 1994), I'm thrilled that the newest generation of birders gets to share in the excitement of birding the wonderland that is southeast Arizona with experienced leaders. Jennie Duberstein at The Eyrie shares some highlights:
VENT’s Camp Chiricahua, sponsored by the ABA, took place in early August in southeastern Arizona. Thirteen campers from across the U.S.and as far away as Panama arrived in Tucson on Tuesday, August 6 to join leaders Michael O’Brien, Louise Zemaitis, and me (Jennie Duberstein). After a welcome to Tucson cookout in Madera Canyon, we spent the first few days camping up on Mount Lemmon at Rose Canyon Lake, getting an introduction to the Sky Islands and seeing great birds like Zone-tailed Hawk, Olive Warbler, Greater Pewee, and more Red-faced Warblers than you can shake a stick at (seriously, we had 17 on one hike).