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Filter’d Out #08 — 13 [Hatchings]

August 28, 2011

Huh, looks like I inadvertently took off the the past couple of months from blogging. To be more accurate, I took off from summarizing other people’s blogging. So let’s jump right in with a summer clearance sale, the most enlightening* blog posts from summer 2011! First up, the June through July window.
* Including but not limited to: entertaining, challenging, informative, inspiring, alarming, and/or that simply spoke to me.

For the weeks covering 20 Jun through 31 July 2011 I’ve Filter’d Out:

American Robin
Chris Petrak, writing for Tails of Birding
I certainly succumb to the adrenal rush of seeing something new and unusual, but I also enjoy slowing down and appreciating, really appreciating, the common and the familiar. If you don’t have a kid or a camera (two devices that do that automatically), Chris does it for you, but not by cajoling, encouraging, or pleading with you to look around, but by simply and eloquently passing along what he sees.

The natural habitat for the American Robin is the great primeval forests. Those forests have almost completely disappeared. The robin remains, having accommodated itself to the changes we have made to the landscape. When trees were planted around homes on the great grassland prairies, the robins moved in. But if there are no trees, then a bush will do – or a stone wall, a building, a fence, or even the ground.

So That’s Why They’re Called Waxwings
Minnesota Birdnerd, writing for Minnesota Birdnerd
Mr. Birdnerd’s post about waxwings caught my eye for two reasons: I’ve also been seeing/hearing waxwings everytime I turn around, to the point I thought I might be suffering from some unknown medical condition. Good to know I’m not alone, though it now opens the Chatty Cathy questioning: are there more around? If so, why? If not, why does it seem like it? And so on. Second, the waxy bits on waxwings are really awesome, and seeing them in a Wayne’s World “Extreme Close-up!” fashion is exponentially awesome.

Lots of the Cedar Waxwings we handle don’t show their namesake waxy tips on the wing secondaries. This fellow however was in full display mode. I’ve personally been seeing and hearing more CEDWs lately than usual. There should be lots of young mixed in with any flocks that may be around.

Fantasy Birding?
Zugunruhe, writing for The Z Bird Birding Blog
This one caught my eye because I had a couple of thoughts of using eBird as a platform to create a couple of virtual birding “games.” The super-secret ulterior motive was to entice more eBirding (on the work-front I always held my prescribed mission as to increase submissions), but also to have fun with birding when you couldn’t be out birding. More on my thoughts later, but what do you think of Zugunruhe’s idea?

Anyway, I just had a thought that it might be possible to set up a fantasy birding league based on eBird submissions. (OK, yes, I know real birding is way better than fantasy birding. No need to bring that up.)

The State of the Web
The Oatmeal, writing for The Oatmeal
OK, this one has nothing to do with birds, nature, or anything really related to what I usually read. But without the Internet I wouldn’t be posting my favorite blog posts, so this is relevant. And frickin’ hysterical.

You’ve changed, Internet. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.

What am I doing with my life?
Paul Riss, writing for Punk Rock Big Year
I’m not the type to commit to a big year, but I am the type that will commit to reading about other people’s big years. Paul has taken us along on many birding trips, but here’s a trip into his soul. Those types of posts always make for good reading.

It seems crazy. It is crazy. There are so many times when I just think, “Stop it, stop being so weird and just be a normal person. Normal people don’t do this.” And believe me, when I’m standing ankle deep in ice-water in 70km/hr winds with watering eyes that pretty much instantly freeze up, 800km from my wife and kids, I can’t help but think I’m wasting my time here.

Denali National Park
Chris, writing for Slow Birding
Denali. That’s all I need to see and I’m hooked. Any post about Denali National Park, Alaska is golden. Especially when photos capture the majestic landscape.

When we arrived at the signs we only found a golden eagle taking sticks to a large nest site. Soon after we were fortunate to see a pair of gyrfalcons circling nearby but very high overhead. We walked a bit further down the road and found some more signs. As we walked up a male gyrfalcon flew down towards us, and then circled briefly before flying about 300 yards back up the mountain where it perched. We had lunch while we waited hoping it would fly down closer to another perch that was obvious because of the white bird poop splattered below it.

The Reputation Paradox
Nate, writing for The Drinking Bird
Not all birders admit it, but birds are not all they think about. They think about other birders. Like any other activity that attracts more than one person there’s that issue of perception: how do my peers perceive me, and what do I think of them? Of course there are the vain superficial judgments, but the one that matters is trust. Not many birders broach the subject, and I think Nate’s willingness to do so is noteworthy.

As birders, it’s well known that the only thing we have to our name in this community is our reputation, one painstakingly built over years of convincing sight records and personal interaction. It is devilishly hard to get to the point where people are going to trust you on matters as complex as, say, to use a particularly pertinent example, hybrid herons. It is sadly way, way too easy to lose all that good will with a simple post that turns out to be wrong, or, at least, it’s too easy to be worried that that could happen. This is, of course, nonsense.

Introducing the Birder Jargon Project
Nate, writing for The Drinking Bird
More from Nate on the sociology of birding: how we talk. In a laudable effort to be inclusive, Nate offers to decipher the lingo unique to the birding community.

Birders have a language, a dialect maybe, that’s really only immediately comprehensible to other birders. We’re all aware of it. We talk about it often amongst ourselves, in the self-deprecating manner of those who realize that their avocation is seen as quirky among the general public. We nurture it, adding regional nicknames for birds and bird behavior to the greater birder dictionary for those to use beyond our circle of friends and colleagues. And we all remember how difficult it was to get those bits of birder jargon into our heads when we first picked up binoculars.

Creating A “Social Field Guide”
Dave Irons, writing for BirdFellow
The Internet continues to change how we do almost everything, so why not change how we use a field guide? Why stop there, why not change how we create a field guide?

The time has come to tap into and harness our collective knowledge and create the field guide that no single author or small group of authors can produce. The term that describes this process is “crowdsourcing.” Using the online platform that BirdFellow has created, any member of the birding community can make meaningful contributions to our base of knowledge about birds. Perhaps it’s an ID tip, or an interesting behavior that you’ve observed. Maybe you have a photo of a bird in a strange transitional plumage that stumped you in the field. The BirdFellow Social Field Guide provides a forum and respository where these can be shared and used by other birders.

Courtship on the Tundra—Spoon-billed Sandpipers [Field Report]
Gerrit Vyn, writing for Round Robin
Earlier I Filter’d Out Gerrit’s post as he headed towards the Spoon-billed Sandpiper’s breeding ground. So, what’s he found since he’s arrived? One of the brilliant things about the Internet and blogging: sharing in near real time, no waiting for the post-season wrap-up.

So far, filming Spoon-billed Sandpipers has been difficult. Skittish, sparsely distributed birds, challenging weather, and poor light have contributed to far more filming failures than successes. But this evening was one of those that makes up for all of the long hours, frustrations and hardships you endure on a trip like this. With calm winds, gentle evening light, and a confiding pair, the conditions were ideal.

#59 Field Tip: Birds at 2, 5 and 10 o’clock!
Adrian Binns, writing for Birding with BiNns
Getting your own binoculars onto a bird is one thing, but guiding your buddies to the same bird? “Herding cats” comes to mind. Here’s another handy tip from Adrian about how to accomplish this seemingly-simple-in-theory but seemingly-impossible-in-practice feat.

“Check out the Oriole at 2 o’clock!” Does this mean to go home for lunch and come back in a few hours? Of course not! Clock directions provide handy points of reference to share the location of a bird in a tree.

A Mystery Sound
David Sibley, writing for Sibley Guides
For the past six or so years I’ve been listening to birds as part of my everyday job. Therefore, anything to do with bird sounds rouses my interest, especially when an acknowledged expert on North American birds — same guy who wrote the field guide that is sitting not too far from you right now – confesses he doesn’t recognize a bird call from his backyard. Plus, I love a good mystery.

Sitting at my desk today I was roused by a bird call that I did not immediately recognize. This is a very rare occurrence for me, especially at my house where I spend many hours every day, and I know the birds that are here very well. As the seconds went by I focused more of my attention on the sound, got up to open the window wider, thought over the possibilities, and still I came up with nothing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2011 10:16

    Hi Mike,

    I was tipped off to your post by John Puschock at Zugunruhe, whose post I’d been tipped off to by David La Puma over at, whose post mentioning “fantasy birding” I’d spotted last week…ah, the echo chamber of the Internet. Anyway, I’ve been thinking quite seriously about the fantasy-birding concept for some time now — seriously enough to have already done a good bit of Web design & development to that end, after touching base with Marshall Iliff and others to clear my conscience about using eBird data. I would love to have someone else to bounce ideas off, and maybe to pull in on a pilot run. If you’re at all interested, please drop me a line at mcsmitfl at yahoo dot com and we’ll talk. This seems like an idea whose time has come.

    Matt Smith

  2. August 31, 2011 16:20

    Hi Matt – Thanks for dropping me a note, I’m glad to hear you’ve been discussing and working along these ideas already. I’d love to see what you’ve come up with and hear your thoughts on possible directions, I’ll drop you an email shortly.


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