Thursday, March 20, 2014

Racing to Save Birds!

Thursday, March 20, 2014
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.

To this chorus of causes I am adding another—and asking for your support. My friends at BirdLife International and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are hosting a new event on April 1, 2014 with the goal of raising money to help stop the shooting and trapping of birds in southern and eastern Europe

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!
Palestine sunbird

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!


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Amazon Kingfisher! New Podcast Episode.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014
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.

Jeff Bouton

 Many of you may know Jeff from his current role as a product specialist in the birder/naturalist markets for Leica Sport Optics. He's been to almost every birding festival in North America serving as a speaker, birding guide, and expert on digiscoping. Before that he was a field researcher doing bird surveys, a professional hawk watcher, and even a purveyor of the indoor sport known as karaoke. ALL of these experiences helped to mold Jeff into the top-notch field birder that he is today. His keen observation skills, honed over years in the field, were the reason he noticed something unusual about a kingfisher he saw perched on a tree as he drove past last November. Most of us might have passed it off as a poor look at a belted kingfisher. Not Jeff. He turned the car around to look again at the odd bird... and the rest is history.

Crowds of birders immediately converged on the roadside wetlands where the kingfisher was found.
Over the next few weeks, the Amazon kingfisher that Jeff found—only the second one ever recorded in the United States—was seen and enjoyed by thousands of people. The bird may have moved on, but Jeff's amazing find will be talked about for decades.

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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Well-named Roadrunner

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Some birds are poorly named. Many a birder has complained about this and I've blogged about this topic before

Every now and then it's good to be reminded why certain birds are named the way they are. 
Take the greater roadrunner for example. Recently I encountered one on Blue Sky Road outside of Willcox, Arizona. This bird was skulking along in the thick mesquite along the road and then seemed to realize that I was the editor of a major birding magazine—or perhaps he just wanted to help me come up with a fun blog post. Either way, he obliged me by actually running down the road.

Now that I think about it, maybe he thought I was a wily coyote, chasing him in a rental car.

Roadrunners are kismet birds. You can't simply say "I want to see a roadrunner," and then go find one. In fact, the harder you look for one, the more elusive they seem to be. They just pop up, unannounced, give you a quick look or two, and scamper off into the brush.

Or on down the road.