|Magellanic woodpecker, female.|
|Scanning the Iberá Wetlands.|
Music and birds are the two largest rivers running through my life so I'm really happy to be able to include some Argentine music in this episode. The style of music is called Chamamé and it's a meeting or blending of the folk music of Europe (German accordion and Spanish guitar) and the Guaraní people of Argentina. We were entertained one evening by a duo playing Chamamé and singing while some local dancers showed us the typical moves associated with each song. And all this was occurring while we were being fed a traditional Argentine asada meal of grilled meats and vegetables. Plus the famed Argentine wine. A memorable night indeed.
|Duo playing Chamamé.|
After they'd played two sets of music the band even let me play a bit during their break. Another thrill and yet another country where I've had the good fortune to bond with fellow musicians. After the show we exchanged CDs and hearty handshakes.
As you'll hear in the podcast, we birded in just two regions of Argentina (which is a huge country): the northeast around the large Iberá Wetlands Preserve and in the central southwest in the Andean foothills of Patagonia. The birding was incredible in both regions. Special avian treats included Andean condor, many-colored rush-tyrant, Magellanic woodpecker, greater rhea, and horned screamer. We saw a total of about 230 species during our 10-day trip, though, as our wonderful guides noted repeatedly, we were not there at the height of the birding season.
If you are interested in learning more about birding in Argentina, please visit the travel page we've set up on the Bird Watcher's Digest website: www.birdwatchersdigest.com/travel/argentina. This page has links to Argentina's main tourism websites as well as links to the paces we visited, including lodging.
|Drinking maté with Starsky, Dominic, and Tim.|
My special thanks go out to Tim Appleton of the British Birdwatching Fair who invited me on the trip. And to Pablo Cagnoni from Inprotur, the organizer of the trip in Argentina, as well as to our wonderful guides, hosts, drivers, and planners.
|Birding on a large estáncia in Patagonia with our lead guides Scarlett (dark hat) and Eugenia (second from left).|
My fellow travelers on the Argentina adventure were Niklas Aronsson of Vår Fågelvärld (Our Birding World magazine in Sweden), Dominic Couzens (a popular and prolific nature writer in the UK), Matthew Merritt (editor of Bird Watching magazine (the original) in the UK). Click on their names to find out more about them.
|From left: BOTB, Niklas, Tim, Dominic, and Matt.|
Hey everybody! We have winners for Caption Contest #25! Yes that's winners?plural, with an s. Our judges were stymied at the prospect of choosing just one winner, so we divided the entries into two categories and we have two winners!
In the Dirty Minds category:
Optics for all your middle-aged guy needs!
Although the invite specifically said "bare-naked birding", Geoff didn't feel comfortable unless he brought along certain..."enhancements."
Looks like Geoff stores his Viagra in his optics case.
In the Funny and Clean category:
OK, scan north until you hit Michigan, look for third jack pine from the left, halfway up the tree, eight o'clock, sitting on skinny branch against the sky, yellow breast, black streaking, split white eye ring..........
Our new 'Pinocchio' binoculars will let your birding friends know when you are....exaggerating... about that ivory-billed in the backyard.
Congratulations to our two winners and all of our finalists! And thanks to all who played!
Leslie and Nilpad, please contact me via e-mail to give me your details and claim your prizes! bt3 AT birdwatchersdigest DOT com. Use the subject line BOTB Caption Contest.
It's been a while since we had a good old-fashioned caption contest here at Bill of the Birds. In fact it's been WAY TOO LONG! So here goes...
My latest book is out this week and I?m kind of excited about it. It?s The New Birder?s Guide published by my great friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston. This book?s core content?simple species profiles of 300 of the most-commonly encountered North American birds?is based upon The Young Birder?s Guide to Birds of North America which is aimed at young people between the ages of 8 and 12.
|The original Young Birder's Guide to eastern birds.|
|That's me guiding young birders in Massachusetts.|
|Phoebe has helped me at many book signings.|
Dear Birding Friends and Friends of Birds:
There are many, many worthy conservation causes vying for your attention these days. Birdathons, appeals to save habitat, funding for field work on endangered species, even bird club scholarships to send young birders to nature camp. All of these are wonderful causes, worthy of your financial support.
The event is called Champions of the Flyway and while stopping the slaughter of migrant birds is its focus in 2014, the long-term goal is to support bird and habitat conservation efforts all along the major flyway that connects Eurasia with Africa?funneling millions of birds right through Israel.
Bird Watcher's Digest with financial support from some conservation-minded folks, is fielding a team for the Champions of the Flyway event! We're called The Way-off Coursers and our team members are George Armistead, Michael O'Brien, Ben Lizdas, and yours truly. We're not only planning to have fun whilst birding in the Eilat region of southern Israel on April 1, we're hoping to raise $5,000 to contribute to the Champions cause.
The event is a bird race (similar to a birdathon). All the teams will be birding within a limited geographic area, around Eilat in southern Israel, all day on April 1. Various awards will be given to the winning teams the following day, but the real winners will be the birds that we help to save through this very special conservation initiative. And the people all along the flyway who will get to see, hear, and delight in these birds in future years.
Why is Bird Watcher's Digest involved in a bird race on the other side of the world? Because bird conservation is a global challenge. And birding is a universal language, right? There are teams from England, the Netherlands, Finland, the USA, the country of Georgia, and a joint Israeli/Palestinian team! Truly international!
Another reason I am committed to this project is thanks to the efforts of my dear friend Jonathan Meyrav, who is one of the event's creators and leaders. I met Jonathan in the Hula Valley of Israel a few years ago. We later spent time together when he came to visit my farm in Ohio. Jonathan is a world-class birder and a dedicated conservationist. When he asked me to put together a team for the Champions of the Flyway event when it was just an idea, I was determined to do so because his enthusiasm and dedication are contagious. And our friendship is something I cherish.
|BT3 (left) and Jonathan birding in Ohio.|
Won't you consider a contribution? Even a small donation counts toward our goal. As I write this, we're already at 32% of our fundraising goal! Wow!
|Little green bee-eater.|
You can follow the progress of The Way-off Coursers on the COTF website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. The event's Twitter feed is @flywayschampions. Our team hashtag is #cotfwayoff and we'll also be posting when we can on our personal social media accounts.
Thanks so much for your support! On behalf of the Bird Watcher's Digest Way-off Coursers, we'll see you (way) out there with the birds!
|The famous Amazon kingfisher!|
There's a neat new episode of my "This Birding Life" podcast available. This one is an interview with Jeff Bouton, the amazing birder who found the Amazon kingfisher during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival last November about an hour east of Harlingen, Texas.
|Crowds of birders immediately converged on the roadside wetlands where the kingfisher was found.|
Have a listen to this new episode "Jeff Bouton and the Amazon Kingfisher" which is free to download over at Podcast Central as well as in the iTunes podcast library. At either of these links you can also enjoy any of the previous 44 podcast episodes. All for free!
"This Birding Life" is brought to you through the generous sponsorship of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics.
It's that time of year again, birders. Our year lists all click back to zero and we start with a clean birding slate.
|I'm off looking for new birds! Image by Mary Ferracci.|
I'm making my 2014 Wish List of Birds. These are birds that I am hoping to see or planning on seeing in the new year. Most of them would be life birds, but a few are just birds that I totally dig for one reason or another. Here's what's on the 2014 Wish List thus far*:
|Spruce grouse ©Washington Dept of Fish & Game|
Spruce grouse: A bird I've sought repeatedly in Maine yet remains unseen by me. I've found feathers, though. It'd be a lifer. Best shot: Minnesota in February during the "Owls with Al" Reader Rendezvous event with Bird Watcher's Digest.
Northern hawk-owl: Hoping to find this one in the Sax-Zim bog. I saw one briefly and in silhouette in northeastern-most Pennsylvania in about 1989 and I've been in BVD-mode ever since (that's Better View Desired, by the way?get your mind out of the gutter). It'd be a make-good lifer.
Snowy owl: We're taking the Bird Watcher's Digest staff on a half-day trip here in Ohio to search for a snowy owl later this very week. Since this bird was my spark bird way back in the late 1960s, I feel a special affinity for it. Wish us luck! Not a lifer, but always impressive.
|Snowy owl ©Bill Thompson III|
California condor: I've wanted to see this bird in the wild since they captured the last free-flying individual years ago. Now that they are breeding in the wild again, I'm even more determined. This is a long-shot for 2014 however. I'll be in Arizona in January at the Wings Over Willcox festival, but not in the right part of the state. It'd be a lifer.
|California condor ©NPS|
Ivory gull: I missed the ones that were seen well south of their normal range in the winter of 2009. I had a hunch I'd regret not going after one. It'd be a lifer and it's a species that may go extinct in our lifetimes. And no, it's not because they were all captured and melted down to make Ivory soap.
Barnacle goose: This one is going to have to show up near me. Lifer. Best chance might be at the Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls, Oregon in February.
Black rail: Have heard them but have never seen one. I have no planned trips in 2014 that are ideal for finding this bird, but I'm still holding out hope that we will cross paths. Not a lifer, but a visual lifer.
Steller's or Spectacled eider: I'd settle for a sighting of eider one. Both would be lifers. Best chance, though still a long shot, is at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in May in Homer, Alaska.
Bicknell's thrush: I'll need to scale a high peak in the Adirondacks to get this species?something that's not currently on my schedule for 2014. It would be a lifer, though one of those AOU-taxonomic-split lifers that happens when the DNA of some individual birds within a particular species gets sufficient spinning in a centrifuge to turn one species into one or more new species.
Smith's longspur: I am planning to go after this species in western Ohio in late winter/early spring. There's a three-week window during which northbound Smith's longspurs stop over in the muddy agricultural fields of far-western Ohio. I plan to be there, scanning with my spotting scope.
|Smith's longspur ©Tom Johnson|
Eurasian tree sparrow: It's a long shot that I'd get to see this species in 2014. I'd have to go to St. Louis, Missouri to have the best chance to see one. I'm thinking a road trip to see my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates play their arch-nemesis St. Louis Cardinals might offer the perfect opportunity. Lifer. Besides, I am both a baseball and a birding lifer myself.
What are YOUR Target/Wish-List Birds for 2014?
* I reserve the right to change my mind arbitrarily as to the contents of this list.