Welcome to I and the Bird #75!
This is the first time this biweekly showcase celebrating blog writings about wild birds and bird watching comes to Sri Lanka. So I am truly delighted to host it! As usual we have some great contributions from all across the blogsphere. In keeping with the carnival atmosphere, I’ve put together a quiz to give away three lovely books. They are all courtesy of my writer-cousin living in Minnesota USA Nishantha Gunawardena
who has also quite generously promised to bear all postage!
The quiz covers one question per entry and is opened to all. Please send in your answers in the order they have been asked to amila AT birdwingnature DOT com before 29 May. The first person to send in all correct answers will win one of these books for sure and only that person will have the choice of choosing which one, when I announce this first result on 25 May. The winners for the next two books will be decided by a draw and they will be picked by my 3 ½-year old niece, Venara Phillips, and I will break this result on 28 May.
Thank you and enjoy this one!
And so it begins...
Birds are perfect natural indicators of the changes in the environment, and Owlman at Owl Box - It's an owl's life! in NJ., U.S notes that Tree Swallows—his official harbingers of spring—were only 5 days late by his unofficial time keeping this year! Living in the only aseasonal ever-wet region in the whole of South Asia, the wet zone of Sri Lanka, I am clueless about such huge seasonal changes, but I agree with him that "departures are tougher than arrivals"—whether it is to keep track of arrival and departures of birds or other things in life.
Unless of course you use your time before departures wisely like Tai Haku at Earth Wind and Water who on a stopover at New York seems to have made the right call to check the urban birding locale Central Park, where he made his first successful twitch in real quick time; bagging among other things the much talked about Western Tanager. He was lucky to bump into some helpful local birders and even luckier that John McClane, the quintessential American hero, wasn’t on a tight deadline!
It wasn’t so much a walk in the park for Kathie and Gus at Sycamore Canyon before they stumbled upon their first Western Tanager for the local patch under the scorching Arizonian sun, as they hiked to the big wash of the Canyon on the World Migratory Bird Day. It sure sounds like a productive trip seeing Gila Woodpecker, Lesser Nighthawk, Gambel’s Quail and a rattler among other things.
Keeping a mother and a farther Gambel Quails busy at Tucson in the South West U.S are 9 chicks as reported by Pam at Tortoise Trail. Pam is impressed by the strength of the chicks flying up to 7 feet up to land gracefully on top of the wall to join their mother, which is captured nicely in her photographs.
Ed making peer-reviewed research palatable to wider audiences in Not Exactly Rocket Science, describes a study of Cuckoos—nature's most familiar conmen—who shun their own parental responsibilities by deceiving other birds into caring for their chicks. According to this research, Cuckoos also use visual form of mimicry to disguise themselves as hawks to fool small birds. In Sri Lanka we have "hawk cuckoos" in our part of the world, of which the similarity to hawks is duly acknowledged in their common names.
Not all conmen in avian world are adept in fooling other birds to rear their young. Our next IATB host Sussanah at Wanderin’ Weeta from British Columbia, Canada reveals that in cowbirds, which "employ" foster parents, only 3 % of the eggs actually hatch. This is because, most cowbird eggs were recognized by the host species, dumped from the nest, broken or abandoned. And sometimes, the chosen foster parents just build another nest on top of the old one containing the cowbird egg.
Another bird and nature blogger from Canada, this time from Newfoundland—Old Crow at Wytchwood Ramblings—attracts lovely visitors at her feeders and she presents a short video captured of an animated Downy Woodpecker that came by.
Bruce at Bruce-sc-pix from South Carolina, U.S too often gets welcome visitors at her bird feeders. They come in all sorts of hues and these gorgeous groupies include Blue Grosbeak, Carolina Wren, stunningly beautiful Painted Buntings and of course those less celebrated cowbirds.
It is seriously springtime in Connecticut, U.S and if you don’t believe me you should just visit Lin’s fabulous blog Sandpiper as she takes us on awesome early morning walk at her local patch, seeing and photographing a few goodies including a lifer in the form of a pretty-little Chestnut-sided Warbler. Don’t they all seem to be rejoicing that the winter is finally over?
It is a different scene in Down Under where it is now getting into the winter, but that doesn’t appear to be much of a concern for the Superb Fairy-wrens males yet, which still retain their gaudy breeding colours as observed by Duncan at Bencruachan Blog. He also reports a welcome winter visitor in the form of a Scarlet Robin, a charming Fence Sitter, at his yard.
Mel at Teach me about bird watching from Peru reports some nice birds including a yet another flashy avian delight Vermillion Flycatcher from her local patch, and a hummer at her grandma’s when she blogs about birds and flowers.
Madhu at Reconciliation Ecology shares a story of some Cliff Swallows living on the edge at California State University, Fresno, and asks a pertinent question: why can't we let Cliff Swallows nest on campus buildings?
Nick at Biological Ramblings blogs about Migration and weather and reveals how migration is affected by weather with evidence that is hard to reject!
Sarala at blogaway reports White-crowned Sparrows migrating through her backyard as she celebrates them in song: little bird, little bird. Well, as little as it may be, this one has a proven track record to cause big twitching scenes in the UK where it turns up as a vagrant. The most recent one was reported in last January in Norfolk, which attracted twitchers in their thousands keen to bag this mega tick in the UK. Don’t believe me? Click here, here and with parental advice, here.
It’s vagrancy time in the U.S too and this time Drew at Nemesis Bird went chasing an errant Wood Sandpiper at Delaware. After a brief initial scare, he succeeded in his mission and also managed to photograph it well.
Lack of migrants notwithstanding, Patrick at The Hawk Owl’s Nest acting as the co-leader on the Sandy Hook Century Run at the 25th World Series of Birding successfully raked in over 100 bird species. His highlights included a Cape May Warbler, two Surf Scoters, a Least Bittern, and blurrrrp, tasting gluten-free beer for the first time!
Amy at WildBird on the Fly too was at the 25th World Series of Birding with a couple of friends, and she has posed a mini challenge to identify various birding spots visited during their time spent in the field.
Mike at 10,000 Birds, however, eschewed the above event and another one in search of familiar pleasures of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. He had good company, and birding too matched at the end with an unexpected Bobolink, and an errant Redneck in New York City coming in as bonuses. Although this "redneck" also visits Sri Lanka, we never get to see its red neck as it keeps a low profile in its uninspiring winter plumage over here.
Still staying closer to the shore, Troy and Martha—the Texas Travellers in Ramblings around Texas —hares the proud and haughty walk of the American Oystercatcher and a few other tid-bits of information of this delightful U.S coast guard. Did you know that their nest will typically be left uncovered during the day to allow the sun and warm sand to provide incubation?
More Oystercatchers, this time the Eurasian types, a white-morph Western Reef Egret, Great Thick-knees and a distant Terek Sandpiper were some of the specials recorded in a half a day Water Birds trip in Sri Lanka guided by yours truly at Gallicissa.
Terrell from Alone on a Limb shares some bird photos he managed to take on his recent trip to Yucatan in Mexico, which includes Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Social Flycatcher and the well-endowed Tourquoise-browed Motmot.
Rob The Birdchaser from Pennsylvania, U.S again gives some sagely advice when he blogs Top 10 ways to be a better birder. He starts off with no: 10: “Stop work to go birding, Unless your job is to find and identify birds, it isn't helping your birding as much as going outside to look for birds.”
Meanwhile Bennet at Pish had some words of encouragement from an anonymous commenter before he shared his photos from a trip to Florida confessing that A Promise is a promise.
We are almost nearing the end of this birding blog carnival. and the fabulous Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG) reveals a cracking set of pictures of an interesting foraging observation of Black-capped Kingfisher at the famous Mai Po marshes in Hong Kong. This good-looking Kingfisher also winters in Sri Lanka in small numbers and is a much sought-after specialty over here.
Guess who sent the last enry? It was none other than Snail at A Snail’s Eye View who just made the finish line, reporting a yet another foraging observation, this time of a pretty looking female Leaden Flycatcher from Australia tackling an odonate!
1. According to Not Exactly Rocket Science, which (plumage) feature Davies and Welbergen found in their study to be a critical element in Cuckoo’s disguise?
2. Name two Woodpecker species that Tai Haku observed at Central Park in New York
3. According to the BESG, what is the breeding range of the Black-capped Kingfisher?
4. What did the Texas Travellers do before photographing the American Oystercatcher?
5. What are the diagnostics observed of the Terek Sandpiper picked up at infinity at Gallicissa?
6. According to Pam, what plumage features are the Gambel’s Quail chicks starting to acquire?
7. What is the name of the Flycatcher reported by Mel? (This should be very easy if you know Mel!)
8. Why does Duncan think the male Superb Fairy-wren is still in nice colour?
9. How many Western Tanagers were seen by Kathie and Gus on their walk?
10. In the Downy Woodpecker video of Old Crow what sort of a sound can you mostly hear?
11. Who was the surprise night time visitor to Nancy’s bird feeders?
12. Apart from the obvious human-caused threats facing the nesting Cliff Swallows, name two other treats they may be worried about, according to Madhu?
13. Which bird peeked over the leaves, and seemed to be watching Lin during her walk?
14. How many species of birds did Patrick report at the 25th World Series of Birding?
15. What is the variation that Sarala observed in her White-crowned Sparrows?
16. According to records kept by Owlman so far, what is the average date of arrival of Tree Swallows?
17. How many fledglings were following the Carolina Wren according to Bruce?
18. What did Amy and her friends find when they arrived at the first of many destinations at the World Series Birding?
19. According to Sussanah how did the nasty trait of letting other birds raise their young start in Cowbirds?
20. Where exactly did Terrell find the Social Flycatcher in his trip to Yucatan?
21. According to Nick, what does the wind map on 12 May explain?
22. What is the Grebe species that Bennet tries to convince us that he saw?
23. How many bird species do you have to see to meet the minimum Bird RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) according to Rob?
24. What is the Redneck that Mike talks about?
25. According to Drew, the Wood Sandpiper seems to be a mix of which two birds?
26. Which location did Snail observe the Flycatcher at?
1. Traces of Eden - The last of the American Wilderness by Nishantha Gunawardena Hardcover: 160 pages. ISBN 0-9769972-0-7 Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches. Price US$ 34.95. Published by Traces of Eden Foundation (2005).
"The vastness of the United States seems endless and the variety of ecosystems incredible. Deserts, rain forests, grasslands, wetlands, coasts, glacier-clad mountains, and temperate woodlands each brim with its own distinctive character. The spirit of the land caresses and engulfs the one seeking solitude in it. It is possible to hear the essence of the terrain resounding and relating its story in tranquility."– Nishantha Gunawardena, 2005.
2. The Color of Serendipity – A Journey through Sri Lanka by Nishantha Gunawardena. Hardcover: 120 pages. ISBN-13: 978 -0-9769972-2-1. ISBN-10: 0-9769972-2-3. Dimensions: 11.5 x 8.5 x 0.5 inches. Price: US$27.95. Published by Traces of Eden Foundation (2007).
“The island of Sri Lanka is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery and climate as some countries a dozen times its size….If you are interested in people, history, nature and art—the things that really matter—you may find, as I have, that a lifetime is not enough.”– Sir Arthur C. Clarke In the Forward to The Colour of Serendipity, 2007.
3. The Lost Dynasty—Uncovering Sri Lanka’s Secret Past by Nishantha Gunawardena. Hardcover: 252 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-9769972-1-4 & ISBN-10: 0-9769972-1-5 Dimensions: 11.7 x 8.5 x 0.9 inches. Price: US$ 27.95. Published by Traces of Eden Foundation (2007).
“It is an unforgettable journey through the past of a fascinating island. Gunawardena brings the theatrics to the stage of history like a literary dramatist.”– Warren Bass, Washington Post, 2007.
The finishing speech
All this time I was a bit reluctant to come forward to host an IATB birding blog carnival due to work-related handicaps faced as a tour guide. Nature of my work is such that I could get busy at short notice, which at times results in my staying away from computers for several days. In April, the indefatigable Mike Bergin got in touch with me to ask whether I can host one in July. But then I carefully explained to him how May would be ideal for me due to various reasons. In no time, he freed up 15 May for me, evicting one Hawk Owl from its nest in the process. This IATB is the result of that. So a big thank you to Mike for his kind invitation to host this IATB and for his creative manoeuverability in squeezing me in! I hope the Hawk Owl will return once again!
I owe a big thank you to all the contributors, new and old, who sent their entries to lend colour and beauty to this blog carnival. I am especially thankful to bird and nature bloggers: Bruce, Kathie, Mel, Old Crow, and Sandpiper for readily accepting my invitations to join this blog carnival for the first time and for their lovely debut entries. I’d like to thank Ridger at The Greenbelt for sending in that very interesting post on the mimicry of Cuckoos on behalf of Ed—I really enjoyed that! Last but not least I’d like to thank my cousin, Nishantha, for coming forward to sponsor the giveaways including postage to make this carnival a truly rewarding experience for the readership!
The next I and the Bird (#76) is hosted by Susannah at Wanderin’ Weeta on 29 May. Please send your contributions to susannah AT dccnet DOT com before 27 May, 2008.