Certainty in sight records

In late August 1982 I walked into the weedy fields at the South Cape May Meadows in search of rare birds. Among many species that I had in mind as possible “prizes” that day was Loggerhead Shrike and, lo and behold, a scan of the bushes ahead revealed a small, white-breasted, dark-masked bird perched conspicuously …

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Ivory-billed Woodpecker – status review

In August 2007 the US Fish and Wildlife Service published the Draft Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Plan and invited public comments (the deadline was 22 Oct 2007). I’m posting a slightly edited version of my recently-submitted comments here. Although I’m critical of many aspects of the claimed rediscovery, and some may reject my views outright, I …

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Troubled times for Spoon-billed Sandpiper

The enigmatic and charismatic Spoon-billed Sandpiper may be headed for extinction according to a Bird Life International report. The population estimate, never more than a few thousand pairs, has recently plummeted to only 200 to 300 breeding pairs. The reasons for these losses are complex, involving changes to habitat during migration and loss of breeding …

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Wandering Flamingos

A fascinating story of two flamingos, one from the Yucatan that provides a very rare undisputed US record of a wild bird, and another from the Old World (via a Kansas zoo) that shows how widely an escaped bird can wander. Details and a great comparison photo are on the Louisiana Ornithological Society website

More Siberian vagrants

In my previous post about Siberian birds I made a tenuous connection between an above-average season for vagrants in the Bering Sea and a few vagrants farther south and east. Updates from Gambell by Paul Lehman show a continued surge of Siberian birds, highlighted by North America’s first Sedge Warbler, and even more of the …

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Havel on the environment

An Op-Ed in today’s New York Times by Vaclav Havel makes reference to the larger issues of consumption and the environment. He minimizes the debate over climate change, saying that whether it is primarily human-caused or not action is important, and there are other equally serious anthropogenic issues which are simply Nature’s response to the …

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sustainability

Here’s a neat tool from American Public Radio – an educational game that calculates your global ecological footprint. Overconsumption is at the core of virtually all environmental problems, and most of that consumption is stuff that we don’t even think about. Especially in the fast-paced world of the US middle class, we do things the …

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Fitting pegs in holes

I’ve thought more about the “square-peg-in-round-hole” analogy in my previous post, and made a few simple drawings to expand that analogy. In many ways, bird identification is like a matching game. The observed bird (here in black) must be identified by matching it to illustrations in a diagnostic key (the gray shapes here). This is …

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