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Paul Hess
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You are forgiven if you can’t guess the purpose of the odd building in this photograph from 90 years ago. You are forgiven, as well, if the name of Althea R. Sherman does not ring an ornithological bell. She is the woman at the center of the picture, who conceived... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2013 at ABA Blog
Veering away from the fascinating topic of checklist moves... Thanks to Paul Lehman's expertise, I need to correct a misstatement in my report of the AOU split of Xantus’s Murrelet. For some reason (and I knew better), I wrote that Guadalupe Murrelet was “casual” off the California coast. Maybe I was thinking about Craveri’s Murrelet, or maybe I wasn’t thinking at all. Anyhow, here is Paul’s correction—an important one for a birder who wants to add the Guadalupe Murrelet to his/her ABA Area list: “I was reading in the ABA blog about the Xantus’s Murrelet split and the ABA Area status of Guadalupe Murrelet. First, it states that Guadalaupe is “casual” in the ABA Area. That isn't correct. It is regular in small numbers most years between about mid-July and October in waters WELL off southern California. (30+ miles, with most well out closer to the shelf edge) would be better—at least on the basis of what we currently know. And then with probably highly variable numbers even much farther north in late summer and early fall all the way as far as southern BC. “Then it is also written [in this intance, not in my post, thank goodness, but in a comment] that the species is a regular breeder on Santa Barbara and San Clemente Islands. If this is true, it is information not yet made public to the birding community. The ONLY possible breeding record I am aware of for the ABA Area is one (perhaps two) likely MIXED pairings at Santa Barbara Island that may have bred, but not absolute evidence of such. It was also somewhat unclear if one of the Guadalupes may have been a hybrid or some sort of “intermediate” bird. (Details published years ago in Western Birds.) “In addition to the typical July-Oct birds, we’ve recently had a couple Guadalupes in mid-May at the very, very southern edge of ABA Area shelf waters in that southward bulge in U.S. territorial water that actually are due west of about Ensenada! Heck, those birds could almost have been on foraging runs from Guadalupe Island itself (which the spring Laysans there probably are!). “Clearly the true status of Guadalupe Murrelet up and down the Pacific Coast is still being worked out, but its current known status is NOT quite what the ABA blog currently states.” The paper Paul mentioned about possible breeding at Santa Barbara Island is worth reading: Winnett, K. A., K. G. Murray, and J. C. Wingfield. 1979. Southern race of Xantus’ Murrelet breeding on Santa Barbara Island, California. (Western Birds 10:81–82).
Toggle Commented Jul 27, 2012 on New AOU Check-list Changes at ABA Blog
The 53rd Supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-list of North American Birds was published this week, with an extensive array of taxonomic changes including a split of the Xantus’s Murrelet and dramatic rearrangements of falcons and parrots to new positions on the list. Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2012 at ABA Blog
This series is valuable not especially for Ted's deliciously eclectic use of resource material and obscure analogies (Baudrillard? Ankrom? Good lord, I had to go to Google!) but, much more importantly, for its inspiration. Ted has certainly inspired this ol' fogey, anyway. After decades of neglect (although in my defense, I didn't want to lug my ancient manual Nikon F3 with 180 mm and 500mm mirror lenses during hours of birding), I have in recent years carried my wife's hundred-dollar digital point-and-shoot camera (please don't laugh, Bill Schmoker) to document a rarity at least fuzzily. But I haven't carried anything to record vocalizations. Well, Ted inspires me to add whatever-the-heck his gadget is. I'll still need the little camera for non-vocalizing birds, but now I realize that I ought to have the other thing for the reasons he explains so well. Such valuable power for only 50 bucks! I'm ashamed that all of this didn't occur to me before, but that's Ted's point. Now all I need is to find a vocal rarity for his little gadget to document.
Hess is chuckling indeed, and maybe Leonhard Euler would chuckle, too, to see "Euler's Identity" used in a bird identification article. Only Ted would think of that -- and I never expect to see it again, unless Ted sees it as an appropriate analogy sometime in the future. Meanwhile, a question for Rick or anyone: "Spatzie" in Nebraska is logical as the endearment of German Spatz for a sparrow or other small brown bird. Any idea why the German "ah" became "uh," for "sputzie" in western Pennsylvania?
Toggle Commented Jun 23, 2012 on THE TOP 10: Best Colloquial Bird Names at ABA Blog
House Sparrow in Pittsburgh = sputzie
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2012 on THE TOP 10: Best Colloquial Bird Names at ABA Blog
Nine years since we were surprised to see loons and grebes moved down past waterfowl, grouse, and quail on our checklists, we might soon see an even more dramatic revision. Falcons could be uprooted from their traditional place just after other “hawks” and moved far down the list almost to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2012 at ABA Blog
To some people, a Burmese python is repulsive. To others, it is a good example of adaptive evolution. To still others, it is a welcome pet—until it grows too large and an owner releases it into the wild. To Florida’s avifauna, it is a deadly scourge. More than two dozen... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2012 at ABA Blog
Interesting thoughts, Greg and Andy. I just checked to paper again. No, the authors did not include predation by Cooper's (or any other predator) in their analysis. I can say, though, that BBS data would not have helped. Samples are too small for analysis even on the continental level. See:
Toggle Commented Feb 20, 2012 on Where Are the ECDs? at ABA Blog
We don’t often see an exclamation point in an ornithological paper’s title, but the one in a scientific report this week is excitingly appropriate: “Bryan’s Shearwaters have survived in the Bonin Islands, Northwestern Pacific!” Bryan’s Shearwater was formally described as a new species just last year, based on an old... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2012 at ABA Blog
As we begin a new birding year, let’s look ahead to proposals that are awaiting action by the American Ornithologists’ Union “Check-list Committee.” Many of these involve ABA Area birds, most notably a split of the Gray Hawk into two species (only one of them found in the ABA Area).... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2012 at ABA Blog
Thanks for commenting, Rebecca. To be honest, before reading about the brain-protection structures, my amazement focused mainly on the tremendous muscular strength required for such powerful pecking.
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2011 on A Woodpecker's Safety Lesson at ABA Blog
In my July 2011 News and Notes column in Birding, I pointed to the encouraging prospect that “a woodpecker’s skull might save your life someday.” The topic was an engineering team’s analysis of how a woodpecker’s brain is protected from tremendous shock when the bill rams into hard wood. The... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2011 at ABA Blog
What fast service, Rick! Thank you. Incidentally, Nate, I didn't call you Nick to rhyme with Rick. I had just sent a note to a guy named Nick and wrote it again mindlessly. Sorry.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2011 on BOU splits with AOU relevance at ABA Blog
As Rick said, thanks so much for calling this to our attention, Nick. We should hope that someone formally proposes these to the AOU Check-list Committee for consideration. A housekeeping note: At this point the splits are recommendations by the Taxonomic Subcommittee of the BOU Records Committee. They won't take effect for The British List until the BOURC votes on them and then publishes its decisions in the BOU's journal Ibis. For me, it would be nice to welcome back Cabot's Tern, which sparks childhood memories for this ol' geezer. I don't think I've seen that name in a field guide since my 1940s edition of the eastern Peterson, which I started using at about age 8 (in the far West, where there were no Cabot's Terns!) and which is now held together with duct tape.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2011 on BOU splits with AOU relevance at ABA Blog
Most of us didn’t hear about it, but a female Burrowing Owl nested twice and successfully fledged seven young within the same breeding season—approximately 1,100 miles apart, first in Arizona and then in Saskatchewan. This remarkable occurrence was documented by Geoffrey Holroyd and Helen Trefry of Environment Canada and Courtney... Continue reading
Posted Sep 7, 2011 at ABA Blog
This is a record-setting year for Kirtland’s Warbler. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon announce officially that the 2011 census of singing males tallied 1,828 birds: 1,805 in Michigan, 21 in Wisconsin, and 2 in Ontario. This total edges past the previous record of 1,826 in 2009. “We’ve... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2011 at ABA Blog
 TypePad HTML Email Hi. Thanks so much for writing. I'm glad you found it interesting. Why do you say, "I never saw how it works"? Was it because the website that shows the flight films is no longer active? I have not looked at it recently. Paul
Toggle Commented Aug 17, 2011 on Robo-Hummer in the News at ABA Blog
Annual meetings of the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology fit the comfortable pattern Ted describes: a social opener, a set of short scientific programs, a banquet with a main speaker, presentation of awards for conservation and ornithology, and two mornings of outings. We’re held together primarily by the quarterly journal Pennsylvania Birds and a quarterly newsletter. One of our most important annual projects is a statewide Winter Raptor Survey whose conservation-oriented results were recently published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology. Check out the Pennsylvania Society at: Besides state societies, what interests me is the popularity of local bird clubs. For Pennsylvania, Ted mentioned the State College Bird Club, which is a first-rate example. A Three Rivers Birding Club based in Pittsburgh (Ted’s hometown) has a paid membership list of 235. Check out this club at: There are many other local groups in Pennsylvania, of course, including Audubon chapters, county-level, and city-level organizations. I’d like to hear about activities of local groups throughout the U.S. and Canada – especially what kinds of citizen-science projects your clubs are able to sponsor on a smaller than statewide scale.
Toggle Commented Jul 6, 2011 on “The Club,” Take 2 at ABA Blog
My question is answered: The Yellow-breasted Chat will remain classified by the AOU this year as a wood-warbler in the family Parulidae. An AOU "check-list committee" member gave me that information today. The annual check-list supplement to be published in July will merely point to recent mitochondrial DNA analyses indicating that the chat's genus Icteria represents an old lineage of uncertain affinities, probably related to the Parulidae, Icteridae, or Emberizidae. In retrospect, I suppose the status quo shouldn't be surprising. After all, the committee did not receive a formal proposal in the past year that explicitly recommended moving the chat out of the Parulidae. Coincidentally, last night members of the Three Rivers Birding Club in Pittsburgh saw a wonderfully researched and beautifully illustrated program on the history of wood-warbler taxonomy and nomenclature. Chuck Tague, a highly regarded western Pennsylvania naturalist, updated it to include information from Birding magazine's coverage of the new AOU rearrangement of parulid genera.
Toggle Commented Jun 2, 2011 on Bulletin: New Splits at ABA Blog
The American Ornithologists’ Union “Check-list Committee” has published an online preview of its decisions on dozens of taxonomic and nomenclatorial proposals that will take effect this year if there are no last-minute revisions. The report includes splits of four species involving ABA-area birds, but none of them adds a species... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2011 at ABA Blog
Speaking of tracking seabirds, how about the following exchange of posts yesterday on the Seabirds e-mail discussion list! Could one of the Zino's Petrel "surprises" involve ABA Area waters? As Tony Pym says, we'll have to wait and see. Robert Wallace Mar 28 01:55PM -0700 Hello all - This is a fascinating article, and it begs the question if other Atlantic Pterodromas (Black-capped, Feas, Trindade, Zino's), may follow a similar pattern of feeding movements. Particularly interesting is how they use fronts and storms to go out for food, and return home, and one wonders if they pick their feeding location based on weather, or wait for the weather to go. Is anyone aware if there a link that shows the tracks of these tagged birds? thanks in advance, R. D. Wallace New Smyrna Beach, FL Tony Pym Mar 28 04:42PM -0700 The results from data loggers fitted to both Zino's and Fea's Petrels are yet to be published but I can say these also will be very enlightening (with some surprises in store!!)....but everyone will have to await the paper being published. Birds use meteorological, and oceanographic, phenomena and many seabirds make use of the prevailing wind systems also: for example, given Pterodroma and Pseudobulweria species can be found by considering flight dynamics and the prevailing wind directions.
Toggle Commented Mar 29, 2011 on A Bird of Hope; a Mystery Solved at ABA Blog
Jeff, you ask good questions! I accidentally posted your query on the Frontiers of Field Identification listserve and quickly received eight replies. Just now, I sent the message to my originally intended list, the Bird Records Committee Forum. When it appears that I have all the replies that are coming, I'll compile them for the ABA blog. Everyone agrees that it's a fascinating topic. Paul
Toggle Commented Mar 28, 2011 on A Bird of Hope; a Mystery Solved at ABA Blog
Hi, Jeff. It has been almost ten years since I've been on a state records committee, so I'm not up to date on this. I'll see what I can find out. Meanwhile... If any current records committee members see this, how about letting us know your committee's policy. Paul
Toggle Commented Mar 28, 2011 on A Bird of Hope; a Mystery Solved at ABA Blog
The Bermuda Petrel is a bird of almost tragic fate, reduced to near extinction. It is a bird of hope, whose population is recovering thanks largely to the almost superhuman efforts of a man named David Wingate and of his successors in intensive recovery efforts. It is the Holy Grail... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2011 at ABA Blog