Monday, October 31, 2011

Windfarm Warbler Deaths

Nothing stirs up angst like mass deaths of birds, whatever the cause.  The recent news that 484 Blackpolls had died at a the new windfarm on Laurel Mountain in Kentucky had my state listserve, MassBird, all in a knot.  Comments rapidly turned to the fraught Cape Wind project, and solar, and general angst.

Now some facts are emerging that complicate the issue, namely that the deaths were not due to turbine collisions but due to lights left on at the adjoining power substation.  Birds, attracted to the lights on a foggy night, collided with the building.  The difference between this event and routine deaths at skyscrapers in, say, Boston, is that Laurel Mountain in on migratory flyway. (Critics rightly point out that Cape Wind will be on the flyway of wintering ducks such as scoters, which migrate in huge numbers.)

There is a good round-up of the issue and associated reading by Dave Irons at Birdfellow.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tips: Chipping or Clay-Colored?

I confess that I remain stymied by most sparrows. So, I'm doing some serious time at my local community gardens simply looking at sparrows. Especially Chipping Sparrows, not only because they are charming but because large flocks of them often hold a Clay-Colored.  So I read with interest a recent exchange of ID tips on Clay-Colored sparrows on the MassBird list-serve.  One authority weighing in was David Sibley, and he has kindly summarized his remarks (including some not in his guide) at his blog.  Another commentator, Phil Brown, has updated his blog with some side-by-side diagnostic shots to illustrate Sibley's tips.

Now that Sibley mentions it, I noticed a fine partial eye-ring on a cooperative Chipping. I'd never seen that before.  Time to get back out and look again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nearly 250

Lifers, that is! I started counting (using eBird) in Nov. 16 of 2009 and 250 is looming.  I bird primarily in Massachusetts (221 are state birds), and primarily in Middlesex County (196 are county birds), so it is a pretty local number.  Count down with me:

245 Lincoln's Sparro (9/29/11)
246 Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (10/17/11)
247 Sora (10/21/11)
248 Pectoral Sandpiper (10/22/11)
249 ?
250 ?

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"The Big Year": Behind the Scenes

Very nice radio special by Tom Ashbrook on WBUR Boston interviewing Mark Obmascik, Greg Miller, and Lynn Barber.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"The Big Year" Review Round-up

In anticipation of actually seeing it myself, The Big Year movie has been getting a lot of attention, mostly positive.  Here is a sampling of reviews:

Jeff Gordon, pres of the ABA, gives the film a thumbs up and argues that it is a reason for celebration, and that the birding community should embrace it "as our own" and dance with our Swaros on.

Dave Irons reviews it on BirdFellow.

Kim Kaufman sees that it promotes a generally positive image of birders.

BirdChick thought it was a "pleasant surprise."

Robert Mortenson on Birding is Fun really enjoyed it.

Corey at 10,000 Birds found it lacking.

And of course, A.O. Scott reviewed it in the Times.

I'll try and see it soon, if it lasts in the theaters!