The WSOB according to Steve Carell

I just came across this old clip from the Daily Show about the World Series of Birding. The 2009 WSOB will be the 26th edition and will take place on May. Here’s the Daily Show’s take on an earlier WSOB, with correspondent Steve Carell.

Update March 2012: This video may no longer be embeddable. Click on the screen-shot below to view the video on the Daily Show website.

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Organizing our Life List

We’ve got a photo life list [now defunct – ed March 2012] that we’ve been keeping since 2006. We’ve kept it in blog format but I’ve been thinking of duplicating the information into a standardized online system. It seems like eBird and Birdstack [also now defunct – ed March 2012] are the two most popular sites being used by North American birders. I decided to try both, starting with the oldest bird on our Life List, a Common Black-headed Gull seen in the Netherlands in April 2006.

Once logged in at eBird, I selected Submit Observations. The first step at eBird is to tell where the bird was seen. Since Netherlands is not one of the countries in the very limited dropdown under the Find it on a Map option, I tried Use Latitude/Longitude. I found the coordinates for Starrevaart, the location where we saw the Black-headed Gull, by using, and entered them into the fields on eBird.

The next step on eBird is to enter the Date and Effort involved in the sighting. I think casual observation makes the most sense when entering old data into the system, so I chose that option.

I got stuck at Step 3, Observation Info (What). Despite asterisks on previous pages indicating required fields, this page has no asterisks but it seems at least the State Checklist is required. Again the Netherlands is not listed in the short dropdown so I could go no further to enter my sightings.

eBird country selection dropdown list
eBird country selection dropdown list

I understand that eBird is backed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and that it is aimed primarily at North American birders. However it sure is handy to keep all observations in one program and I can’t see how anyone can record anything outside of the Western Hemisphere in eBird. If I am missing something, please feel free to let me know in the comments!

After the experience with eBird I had low expectations for Birdstack. After logging in, it is not immediately apparent where to begin entering a new observation. I started with Create a new location since that’s where I got stuck with eBird. The country dropdown at Birdstack is much longer and I could pick Netherlands. Now we’re talking!

Adding observations here is much easier. I started typing common Black-hea… into the Species observed field, and the full name of the bird appeared.
I’ll keep working with Birdstack, but I’m so surprised that both Birdstack and eBird are so much more clunky than what we used in the Netherlands, a wonderful site called All sighting entry fields are on one page. To enter the Black-headed Gull, I click on Add > New sighting and then enter all pertinent info on one page, including the location. No need to set up ‘locations’ first.

Next on the Birding-in-America agenda: figuring out how you people twitch! I can’t get into using listservs. What else is there? In Holland, we didn’t just use to enter our own sightings. We also used it to find great places to go birding / twitching.

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Illinois Hearing Next Week on Species Protection

The Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board will have a public hearing in Springfield on January 23rd at 12:00pm. The purpose of the meeting is to take public comments on proposed changes to the Illinois List of Threatened and Endangered Species.

Several changes are proposed, including removing three bird species from threatened status: Bald Eagle; Henslow’s Sparrow and Sandhill Crane.

Participants must register if they would like to make a statement. More information, including registration instructions and a full list of proposed changes, can be found here.

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White Helmetshrike

Arthur just posted about where we were two years ago today on our personal blog: Abuko Nature Reserve in the Gambia. He ended the post with a photo of one of the strangest birds I’ve ever seen, the White Helmetshrike.

White Helmetshrikes, also called White-crested Helmet-shrikes, are between 7.4 and 9.8 inches long. Males and females are similar. They are common in parts of sub-Saharan Africa although I think this was the only one we spotted during our time in the Gambia. I couldn’t find too much information about these guys on the web besides here; unfortunately our Gambia bird guide is still in storage.

For more great bird photos, check out Bird Photography Weekly.

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Posted in Africa, Bird Photography Weekly, Gambia | 2 Comments

Searching for Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Illinois

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker Research Project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will focus this year’s search in southwestern Florida. The search starts in January and goes through March and covers areas of Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and others.

Other groups will lead searches in the Florida panhandle, as well as Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and southern Illinois. Read more about the project here.

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Cold in Netherlands hits birds hard

A bird shelter in Rotterdam was extra busy last week during record cold temperatures. Birds that forage or hunt in Dutch waters were suffering as the canals, ponds and other waterways froze over for the first time in several years. The shelter, Vogelklas Karel Schot, was busy taking care of several swans and herons who were starving with no access to their normal food sources.


Thousands of geese also fled the cold temperatures of Holland and other western European countries last week. Witnesses in Nijmegen last week reported seeing huge numbers of geese fleeing towards the west from the extreme cold in Germany and Poland this winter. The Dutch bird research group SOVON also reported a high number Kingfisher and Bittern deaths in the Netherlands this season.

Sources: Vogelopvang Rotterdam draait overuren and Ganzen op de vlucht voor de kou

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Temperatures fall, woodpeckers hit suet

It’s just cold all over, isn’t it? We were supposed to get a winter blizzard here in Lake County last night but I think we ended up with less than an inch of accumulation. Heavy snow predicted for the rest of the week has also been downgraded to dustings – so far. The low temperatures are here to stay, however, for the next week at least. We hit the low 20’s today, tomorrow’s predicted high is 14°F and Thursday we’ll only reach up to 3°F.

With the cold temps, our resident woodpeckers have been attacking our suet feeders. I set up the Wingscapes Birdcam to take some videos of one suet log and captured our three usual suspects.

Downy Woodpeckers were at the feeder all day. This video shows them going at it from the morning to the late afternoon.

We also get Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. On this video you can see all three: first a Hairy gets chased off by a Red-bellied. After the Red-bellied flies off, a Downy comes in. You can easily see the size difference of the Hairy and Downy in this short clip.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet showing crown

This is a really nice video of a male Ruby-crowned Kinglet showing his red crown while feeding. At first glance, it’s hard to tell why this bird is called ‘Ruby-crowned’ but you’ll understand about 7 seconds into the clip.

Find more videos like this on North Carolina Wildlife Federation

Ruby-crowned Kinglets summer across much of Canada and parts of the western United States. For the most part they winter in the southern half of the U.S. You can see the full range of this bird and more details at Cornell’s All About Birds: Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Looks like we have a chance to see them during the migration as they’ve been reported in our area in April-May and October.

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