Watching a flock of swifts power and zoom all over the sky in Cornwall, I realized that the feeling of being trapped by the coronavirus is not just about wanting to be somewhere else—it is about wanting to escape this time entirely. Photograph from Alamy
Costa Rican Swift. Chaetura fumosa. Smallest swift in most of range. All dark gray with contrasting pale rump and paler throat, both of which can be difficult to see in many viewing conditions. A good look at the rump is necessary for a firm visual identification, otherwise Vaux’s Swift can look very similar. However, in some parts of its range (the Osa Peninsula, for example) this is the only small Chaetura swift. Makes twittering calls similar to many other swifts. Usually found in flocks over forests and more open areas.
I am not even the second birdiest member of our family. I enjoy birding events and join the fun from time to time. Apart from such events I do not travel specifically for birds, even the one to the right. We see it on occasion and it is a particular pleasure. Not as thrillingly colorful as a scarlet macaw, nor as resplendent as a quetzal, but it is part of a famed family of birds. The essay below explains why. In Costa Rica the airports will be opening up again on August 1. Until then, and still for the foreseeable future, tourism is primarily locals going on weekend outings. Birding is usually thought of as a motivator for foreigners visiting Costa Rica–especially those from the UK–but now is an activity appreciated by more locals than usual. Sam Knight‘s perspective from the UK, where tourism is also primarily local currently, can be especially well appreciated from our vantage point in Costa Rica:
On July 17th, I drove out of London for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The last time I had seen a field or sensed a broad horizon was four months earlier, when we escaped the city in the early days of the coronavirus, feeling faintly ridiculous, to celebrate my daughter’s third birthday with an Easter-egg hunt on a quiet country lane. Last week, I was taking my daughters to stay with their grandparents for a few days, in the town of Helston, in Cornwall. It’s about three hundred miles from London—no great shakes by U.S. standards but about as far as you can drive in England without crossing into Scotland or falling into the sea. We left at 5:30 a.m., heading west, and arrived in Helston in the early afternoon. It’s hard to describe the effect of movement after being confined in a dense urban neighborhood for so long. The monotonous walks to the shitty park. I felt like I was being unpeeled. As we stood in my mother-in-law’s garden, in the bright July sun, a party of swifts, tipping from right to left, their long wings like blades, came over our heads and spiralled higher and higher into the sky, screaming. Continue reading
Photo credit: Beto Guido
On the morning of May 9 during Global Big Day 2020 an unfamiliar whistle resounded in the grasslands and bushes along the edge of the huge garden of Macaw Lodge. I would never have imagined that it was a Uniform Crake, but thanks to the keen hearing of guides Beto Guido and Marco Umaña, we were able to register this species for the first time in the Macaw Lodge Private Forest Reserve. The record was made only by the bird song, and despite the team’s effort to try to spot it, we could only hear it.
This elusive and shy crake (Amaurolimnas concolor) has rarely been sighted in the Costa Rican Central Pacific, so this record was of great importance to the region. Because it prefers to inhabit dense undergrowth thickets, it is usually identified by its sound rather than by actual sightings. Continue reading
Thanks to Audubon Magazine:
BY BRENDAN BORRELL | ILLUSTRATIONS BY JASON HOLLEY | SUMMER 2020
For Stephen Durand, March 16, 2018, began like most other days—with an inordinate amount of squawking. Durand lives on the Caribbean island of Dominica and oversaw the federal aviary that houses rescued parrots, including casualties of Hurricane Maria. Six months earlier, the storm had leveled large numbers of the island’s trees and stripped many more of their fruit and foliage, threatening two endemic parrot species.
Illustration: Jason Holley
The festive green Red-necked Parrot, or Jaco, and the monkish, mountain-dwelling Imperial Parrot are a source of pride for Dominicans. When their populations were at an all-time low in the 1980s, Durand helped launch an amnesty program to reclaim pet parrots for research and education. After the hurricane, he hosted International Fund for Animal Welfare veterinarians who performed surgeries under generator-powered lights. “Goal is to RELEASE back home to their wild habitat!” they wrote on Twitter that February. Four Jacos were set free and aviary staff tended to those still recuperating. Continue reading
An Anna’s hummingbird, Amateur Honorable Mention, photographed on the Ardenwood Historic Farm in California #
Bibek Ghosh / 2020 Audubon Photography Awards
Alan Taylor has been a go-to visual explainer on our platform for years. He also led us to this contest in 2016. By the time of the 2019 contest we were linking directly from the source but here we give him credit for reminding us it is that time of the year again:
The winners of the the 11th annual Audubon Photography Awards competition were recently announced. Photographers entered images in four categories: professional, amateur, youth, and plants for birds. More than 6,000 images depicting birdlife from all 50 states and seven Canadian provinces and territories were judged. The National Audubon Society was again kind enough to share some of this year’s winners and runners-up with us below. You can also see all of the top 100 entries on the Audubon website.
This year’s top shots delight with dazzling colors and fresh perspectives.
Every spring, the judges of the Audubon Photography Awards gather at Audubon’s headquarters in Manhattan to review their favorite images and select the finalists. But as with much of life in 2020, this year’s awards had to be handled differently due to pandemic-related travel, work, and social-distancing restrictions. Continue reading
Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Thanks to the folks at Short Wave for this brief tutorial on backyard birding, featuring a scientist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For those fortunate enough to be able to use some of their time in recent months for this purpose, the tutorial may resonate. A total novice like me finds it useful so I recommend it to others.
I especially appreciated the advice of paying attention to the coffee that you purchase, because it can have significant impact on migratory birds. The new series of Organikos labels are almost ready for print-testing. One of the final decisions made in the last month was to let the label on the bag focus on the coffee and keep the bird-habitat mission messaging on the website and in places like this. A key part of that message is that the particular coffee offered matters most. We believe that if we start with the highest quality green beans, apply the perfect level of heat, and deliver them at the fairest price we will get what we need to plant more trees. So, the Tarrazu single estate is the second label I will share here. Along with the Hacienda la Amistad single estate organic, this is some of the most spectacular coffee grown in Costa Rica. And for every bag sold, the difference between what we pay to get this to you, and what you pay to Organikos, goes to bird habitat regeneration.
Onon returned after a 26,000km round trip that took in 27 border crossings and 16 countries. Photograph: Mongolia Cuckoo Project/Birding Beijing
Thanks to ornithologists like Dr Hewson, and to scientific instruments like the tracking device on Onon, we can see that Onon the cuckoo has made one of the longest migrations recorded by any land bird:
Guardian graphic. Source: The Mongolia Cuckoo Project
Birders, in general, tend to be an enthusiastic bunch – and the constraints of the current circumstances actually added extra incentive to find creative problem solving solutions, in finding new birding locations or ways to be safely be in familiar ones.
The BirdsCaribbean Global Big Day video compilation provides proof positive. Enjoy!
Happy to see the results and first post from Birds Caribbean about the various teams’ contributions to the 2020 Global Big Day. Looking forward to reading the highlights of all the teams.
The biggest birding day of the year — Global Big Day —took place on Saturday May 9, 2020. More than 50,000 people from around the world joined in to record their sightings. Close to 300 participants from throughout the West Indies recorded 345 different species of birds! Cuba had the most species by country (135) followed closely by the Bahamas (126) and Puerto Rico (125). Regionally, 1,051 checklists were submitted, 205 more than last year. That’s an incredible achievement — way to go birders!
Birders from Cuba looking great with their BirdsCaribbean buffs in Zapata Swamp on Global Big Day. We will share more about the birding experiences on the different teams in a second blog post
This year was quite a different experience as much of the world remains under stay at home orders or is following social distancing guidelines. Certainly many of the great open spaces that are go-to spots for birders were not open to the public for safety reasons. Nevertheless, eBird recorded a 32% participation increase from Global Big Day 2019 and more than 120,000 eBird checklists were submitted. Continue reading
Marco Umaña, Santiago Adaniz, Hugo Santa Cruz and Beto Guido (from left to right) / Birding Guides in Costa Rica
My name is Hugo Santa Cruz and I’m excited to write about the Macaw Lodge Global Big Day outcomes. As I’m new to the La Paz Group site, let me introduce myself. I’m a birdwatching and neotropical ecology guide in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica and Bolivia. I’m also a nature photographer and consultant for ecotourism projects and management of protected areas.
The Global Big Day is an initiative of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that has been held since 2015, to raise awareness about the conservation of birds and their habitats. Birdwatchers and photographers from around the world contribute to the census of birds through the eBird platform; an increasingly popular citizen science management tool among birders.
Birders across the globe persisted with the Global Big Day despite the crisis caused by COVID-19, surveying birds either in literal “backyard birding“, or carefully enjoying the fresh air of parks and natural areas within access. This year’s event had record-breaking participation with more than 48,500 registrars and more than 15,000 submitted lists.
In this edition of the Global Big Day, Costa Rica registered 676 species, obtaining the seventh place worldwide among 172 participating countries. The Macaw Lodge Private Forest Reserve stood out among the best hotspots in the country, achieving the eighth place with 137 species of birds registered in a single day, inside our Ecological Sanctuary.
Our team of expert guides and birdwatchers began our Big Day census at 00:00 hrs., starting the first records with species of nocturnal birds. We then continued the count at dawn, moving through the different micro-ecosystems of Macaw Lodge. Continue reading
‘Hearing birdsong with such clarity has become for many a small joy and a valuable mental health boost during lockdown.’ Photograph: Alamy
Although not an experienced birder, I would call myself a proponent of ornitherapy; it makes me happy and relaxed to see and hear birds around me. I also have the good fortune to live in a country with not only a great number of birds (both species and individuals), but also an area that’s remote enough to have fairly little noise pollution. So bottom line, I hear birds all the time. In fact, at the times when they’re quiet for some reason, it feels eerily strange.
So, despite the unprecedented challenges people are currently facing around the world, I hope that occasionally there’s a moment to at least open the window and listen for the birds.
Macaw Lodge dining room observation deck, January 29, 2020
Three years ago today, a few countries north of where I type this, Team Sapsucker had excellent results on Global Big Day 2017. Today I am reporting on the efforts of one part of the Spoonbills Dream Team.
This team’s dream is spread across multiple geographies and results will be shared later. I will share what I know from Costa Rica. A few months ago, in a world that now seems far, far away Amie and I visited the farm where the cacao is grown for the farm-to-bar chocolate we offer in our shops. The farm has a lodge (or vice versa depending on your perspective), and before our visit to the cacao plantation and chocolate-making facilities we started, at dawn, on the deck of the lodge. That is what you see in the photo above. The lodge is closed at present but the deck that you see in that photo normally has birders from all over the world because of the forest conservation surrounding the cacao and the neighboring Carara National Park.
More on the cacao-growing and the chocolate-making later. Plus, this is where I first saw a melipona bee hotel and I have photos and video from the recent harvest, so more on that later also. For now, birds. Seth, in New Haven, CT USA joined this team, then asked Amie to join the team, and she asked some birding guides who work at the lodge in the cacao plantation to join the team. I am the scribe for that Costa Rica part of the team. I do not even know who else is on the team in other countries, so will leave that for Seth or Amie to report later.
For now, some photos from the location where the bird experts have spent much of their time in recent years. Continue reading
To our friends in Mumbai, we hope you are keeping well and that the flamingos flocking will brighten your day:
In a bit over a week, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s yearly push for a massive, coordinated citizen science effort in birdwatching will take place. On May 9th, I’ll be trying to see as many bird species as I can within my neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, just like I did last year, when I photographed the Black-and-white Warbler pictured below (recently featured as a Bird of the Day, if it looks familiar). But this time around, I’ll be part of the Spoonbills Dream Team, raising money for the BirdsCaribbean campaign to support the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world…here is where we are.
Amie and I are following local rules in place over the Semana Santa holiday week, which ends today. Starting tomorrow there will be more freedom of movement. Most of our friends in Costa Rica feel confident in their country’s leadership during this time, and we have respected the rules and appreciated the clarity of their communication.
We are at home, and I took the photo at the top yesterday with a book we keep next to the binoculars. We have been seeing two different species of bird coming to that window, and I did my best to capture the more colorful pair. I was hoping to get the male and female at the same time on the rail, with their entry in the book clearly in view in the lower right of the frame. I took what I could get. The entry for this pair is on a page with the header Plate 47: Larger Red or Yellow Tanagers which then specifies:
Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata), p433. Streaked back and wing-bars. (a) [male] orange-red. (b) [female]: yellowish-olive.
Positive id. During the setup for that shot, looking out our family room window Amie noticed that one of our coffee trees still has blossoms on it. The white flowers to the right, slightly droopy, signal the beginning of the fruit production cycle that will culminate in December with the ripe red cherries we have been harvesting for 20 years now. Just a few days ago the beans from the most recent harvest were ready, and I placed them in a sack after they had been sundried and the husks removed. We call them beans but they are really seeds, and unlike the previous 20 years when this coffee has been roasted and consumed, this year I will germinate them to fulfill the commitment made one year ago. There is plenty to be concerned about today versus 363 days ago, but there is also, still, inspiration .
While the actual events of the Environmental Film Festival had been canceled, the wonder and value of each entry remains intact. In fact, the DCEFF is offering hundreds of the films for streaming on line.
So many of these amazing projects strike home, but the one featured above has even more so, as Claver Ntoyinkima was Seth’s field assistant during his work doing bird surveys in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park.
Claver Ntoyinkima, a native park ranger, shares the secrets of Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda as he guides us through the forest. With almost 300 bird species, over 1,000 plant species, and dozens of large and small mammals, Nyungwe is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Twenty-five years after the devastation of the Rwandan Civil War, the park is now one of the best-conserved montane rainforests in Central Africa. As Claver walks through the forest we uncover the origins of his conservation values and the history of an ecosystem that survived one of Rwanda’s darkest periods.
Find this and more films here.
Credit…Miguel David De Leon/Robert S. Kennedy Bird Conservancy
My first love of birds took shape in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica in the late 1990s. Toucans first, on the Drakes Bay side of the peninsula in 1997 when we had a family getaway at a lodge run by a bird-loving eco-couple. Then starting in 1999 when our company started managing lodges, on the other side of the Osa I had extended exposure to scarlet macaws, almost invariably in pairs. The love was real, and meaningful but not yet as serious as it would become. It was not until moving to India in 2010 that I seriously understood the power of birds to shape our appreciation of nature.
I can pinpoint the day, because it was at the intersection of when Milo took this photo of an owl, and when we started the bird of the day feature, which has been a daily contribution of this platform ever since. That is about the same time that my appreciation of nature, which I had thought to be quite strong already, became as strong as it is today. And this article below reminds me of that day, not least because of the number of medical doctors who are contributors to our daily feature. My profound thanks to Cara Giaimo (again) and especially to the doctor of whose story she shares:
A juvenile kingfisher, with its distinctive black bill.Credit…Miguel David De Leon/Robert S. Kennedy Bird Conservancy
The elusive South Philippine dwarf kingfisher is difficult to photograph, and there were no known photographs of its fledglings.
On March 11, Dr. Miguel David De Leon — a vitreoretinal surgeon in Mindanao, the southern island of the Philippines — worked a full morning at the medical center.When he got home, “I was exhausted,” he said.But he pulled it together, lugged his camera an hour uphill and clambered into his bird hide. Continue reading
Continuing the theme, our thanks to our friends at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and especially its director, for this message. It came in an email, but click the image above to go to the Lab’s website where the message continues with the resources you will also find below:
A Message from Our Director
March is normally the month when my wife Molly and I head to central Florida where, every year since 1972, I have studied Florida Scrub-Jays. Things are quite different this year, with the entire world hunkering down for an extended fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Even though I’m sticking close to home for now, I am comforted to know the scrub-jays are there, pairing up under the bright Florida sun, lining new nests with palmetto fibers, unperturbed by the tremendous human ordeal around them.
I often talk about the power of birds, but this year they take on an even more powerful meaning. They enliven our days, brighten the trees, serenade in our backyards and city parks, and bestow us with so much joy and hope, all bundled together in feathers and lively personalities.
Like everyone around the world, we at the Cornell Lab are adjusting to new routines. We’ve also spent recent days scouring our brains and our servers for ways to help—in some small way—people who find their daily lives upended.
If you’re a teacher prepping for a new kind of remote class, we’ll send you ideas. A parent or grandparent whose kids are on an unexpected “spring vacation”? They can play our games and learn. Are you a bird watcher with extra time on your hands—or an inveterate traveler now homebound? We can bring birds and bird song into your home—or let you explore the farthest reaches of the world in sounds and images.
A core part of our mission is to help people celebrate the wonder of birds. We do it because you (and we) love birds, are amazed by their powers, and even gain solace from them and a deep, clean breath of hope.
Together we’ll all get through this. In the meantime, whenever you may need a moment of respite, we invite you to explore, enjoy, wonder, replenish, and spark hope with the resources we have to share.
With my best wishes
John W. Fitzpatrick, Director
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Continue reading
A black kite, a carnivorous scavenger, flying over the Ghazipur area of New Delhi. Black kites are a common sight in the city, but are often fatally injured by the flying of paper kites.
We will take heroics wherever we can find them:
Two brothers have given everything to treat raptors injured by a popular pastime.
By Photographs by
Kite-flying became a symbol of national pride after India gained independence from Britain in 1947.
NEW DELHI — Sitting in his basement, below the crowded dirt roads of Wazirabad village, Mohammad Saud leaned over the body of an injured black kite.
The room was cramped, its walls chipping blue paint, the noise from the streets above drowned out by the whir of a fan. Mr. Saud stared at the bird in front of him for a couple of seconds, then gently folded its wing over with a gloved hand. At least two bones, four tendons and two muscles had been snapped. The bird’s head tilted back limply, eyes cloudy. Mr. Saud adjusted his glasses with the crook of his elbow, then stated the obvious: “This is a gone case. Nothing can be done.”
Mr. Saud placed the kite back into a thin cardboard box. As he did so, Salik Rehman, a young employee of Mr. Saud, reached into a different cardboard box and pulled out another black kite. This bird’s right wing was wrapped in a gauze bandage stained with dried blood and pus. Mr. Saud examined it briefly. Another gone case, he concluded; it would have to be euthanized. Continue reading
A Jock Scott salmon fly, tied according to the original T.E. Pryce-Tannatt recipe.Timo Kontio
Having friends who fish using this technique, this is a tricky post to write. I knew little about the history of the lures used in fly fishing until yesterday. I learned a little something about this history that is as disturbing as the lures are admittedly beautiful. I have tried fly fishing and found it more difficult than any other outdoor activity I ever tried. I respect anyone with the talent required to catch fish this way. But now I wonder about the lures. Above is an extra feature from the episode of a podcast which, if you are a regular viewer of our daily bird feature, you will want to listen to. Click the image to go to that photo gallery for more, either before or after you listen to the podcast:
Victorian salmon flies are tied according to recipes that are up to 150 years old and call for some of the rarest feathers in the world. Our show this week is the story of what may be the greatest feather robbery of all time, a million dollars in rare birds, stolen from a British museum.
The community of people devoted to tying these kinds of flies doesn’t fish with them—they’re just for show. Many try to use feathers from the same species listed in the classic manuals. But because so many birds have been killed for so many reasons over the years, a lot of the most coveted species are now endangered or protected.
Below are some photos of salmon flies—the Durham Ranger, the Jock Scott, and the Sherbrook—and some of the birds referenced in the recipes used to make them.
The episode those photos support offers as well told a story as This American Life is known for, but for bird nerds it is especially rich. And for those who are yet to become bird nerds, it may be just the stimulus you need. To tie the most prized fishing fly, the most prized birds lose the ability to fly. :
An “analytical diagram” illustrating the various parts of a Jock Scott salmon fly.
George M. Kelson’s The Salmon Fly: How to Dress It and How to Use It (1895)
A flute player breaks into a British museum and makes off with a million dollars worth of dead birds.
By Sean Cole
After hearing about the heist, Kirk Wallace Johnson gets sucked into the feather underground. He ends up discovering things that the people in charge of the theft investigation didn’t. Kirk’s book about the heist is called “The Feather Thief.” (7 minutes)
Albatrosses tracking fishing vessels found that 28 percent of ships had turned off their equipment, possibly fishing without a license or transferring illegal catches onto cargo vessels. Alexandre Corbeau
Thanks to Katherine Kornei, who we are linking to for the first time, for some great science writing:
Researchers outfitted 169 seabirds with radar detectors to pinpoint vessels that had turned off their transponders.
Researchers tagged an adult wandering albatross. Julien Collet
There’s a lot of ocean out there, and boats engaging in illegal fishing or human trafficking have good reason to hide.
But even the stealthiest vessels — the ones that turn off their transponders — aren’t completely invisible: Albatrosses, outfitted with radar detectors, can spot them, new research has shown. And a lot of ships may be trying to disappear. Roughly a third of vessels in the Southern Indian Ocean were not broadcasting their whereabouts, the bird patrol revealed. Continue reading