Category Archives: General

There were two Ivory Gulls!

The craziest thing happened within the past 24 hours. I’m sure most of you were aware of the Ivory Gull at Canal Park in Duluth, MN, but a shocking discovery was made last night. Another Ivory Gull was found predated nearby in Wisconsin! There is still one Ivory Gull continuing at Canal Park in Duluth. Have crazier things happened?

Photos of the predated gull can be seen over at Laura’s Birding Blog.

You can stay up-to-date with ABA rarities by using NARBA, the “Fast, Accurate RBA.”

Bird Wallpapers from Rockjumper!

The folks at Rockjumper Birding Tours have a nice collection of high resolution wallpapers on their website. They post a new one each month. Check them out here!

This Long-wattled Umbrellabird is the November bird of the month!

Long-wattled Umbrellabird. Photo credit: Rockjumper Birding Tours.

Long-wattled Umbrellabird. Photo credit: Rockjumper Birding Tours.

Merry Christmas!

Thermal Birding, and the contributing authors, would love to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May the new year come with good beer and great birds. Cheers!

Cedar Waxwing near Delaware City, Delaware on 15 December 2012. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.


If you’re out chasing or looking for rare and uncommon birds and are using Twitter, make sure to trend #sandybirds so we can keep tabs on all of the rare birds throughout the region! Also, check out the Tropical Storm Sandy Rare Bird Live Blog over at the Nemesis Bird!

credit: NOAA

Bird Books make great gifts!

The holiday season is just around the corner and you know everyone is itching to get more natural history books in their library collection. In true spirit, here are a few suggestions from Princeton University Press for gifts to the naturalist, birder, or outdoor enthusiast in your family.

The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw

  • This landmark in popular bird books bridges art, science, and history in sumptuous large format. A must for anyone who appreciates birds or bird art.

Wildflower Wonders – The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World by Bob Gibbons

  • Wildflower Wondersshowcases the most spectacular displays of wild blooms on the planet, from infrequent flowerings in the Mojave and other deserts to regular but no less stunning alpine wildflower “events” in Italy, South Africa, and Australia.

Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast – A Natural History by Carol Gracie

  • A book unlike any other,Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast combines the latest scientific research with an accessible, entertaining style, making it the ideal volume for all readers.

How to be a Better Birder by Derek Lovitch

  • The ideal resource for intermediate and advanced birders. Whether you want to build a bigger list or simply learn more about birds, How to Be a Better Birder will take your birding skills to the next level.
  • “Do you want to be a better birder, a strategic birder? I think there is something in this book that will help birders at every level.”—Donna Schulman, 10,000 Birds blog

The Crossley ID Guide – Eastern Birds by Richard Crossley

  • This stunningly illustrated book from acclaimed birder and photographer Richard Crossley revolutionizes field guide design by providing the first real-life approach to identification.
  • 2012 Bronze Medal Co-Winner, Independent Publisher Book Awards, Environment/Ecology/Nature Category
  • Winner of the 2011 PROSE Award for Excellence in Reference Works, Association of American Publishers

Cotingas and Manakins by Guy M. Kirwan & Graeme Green

  • “An identification tour de force.”—British Trust for Ornithology
  • “A must have for those with an interest in Neotropical birds or collectors of family monographs!”—Ian Paulsen, Birdbooker Report
  • One of The Birdbooker Report’s Best Bird Books of 2011

The Jewel Hunter by Chris Gooddie

  • A tale of one man’s obsession with rainforest jewels, this is the story of an impossible dream: a quest to see every one of the world’s most elusive avian gems—a group of birds known as pittas—in a single year.
  • “[A] highly entertaining read.”—Jeremy Brock, Scottish Birds

For more Bird and Natural History books, check out the Princeton University Press website and on Facebook!

Pishing in Public

If you’re a birder, you’ve been there. It’s a gorgeous morning in the park, you’re not really there to bird-watch, but you just caught a quick glimpse of an awesome bird. You know exactly where it is, concealing itself inside a dense thicket. Maybe it’s that Fox Sparrow you need for the county this year. Maybe it’s a breeding plumage Canada Warbler. Heaven help you if it’s a lifer. You know what you must do. You’ve got it cornered. There is just one problem: you’re in a public place, surrounded by non-birders.

We all know that most people don’t really get birding. That’s okay. Sometimes I think it is a little strange myself. But in most public bird-watching scenarios, if John Q. Normal sees a group of adults with binoculars and scopes looking up at a tree, he can put 2 and 2 together. Things start to get a little tricky when the gibberish noises start coming out of birders’ mouths. If there are a couple of birders with someone pishing at a bush with binoculars raised, the average citizen will probably think that these strange people are talking in code and will just move along. When we start imitating bird sounds as a group, perhaps the public assumes we are just untalented thespians practicing for some terrible community theater production of “Rent” or “Starlight Express”. But the real issues start when you are birding by yourself in a public place, surrounded by dog walkers, joggers, businessmen, or any non-birder and you start pishing in earnest.

Gulls under the bridge to Canada – August 2012

You can’t just pish right in someone’s face. They could misconstrue you making noises to coax out a bird as some violent advance, or even think you are an escaped mental patient (note: being a birder and being insane are not mutually exclusive). I find that a buffer zone of at least 5 feet suffices for some good public pishing, and if they turn around to look at you, just give them the old half smile with one raised eyebrow. If they come over to ask you what the hell you are doing, that’s even better, because you could inspire another bird enthusiast right then and there! In reality, people do all sorts of strange things in public places. Birding/pishing is nothing to be ashamed of, and I think the birding community at large knows how to handle itself in public.

Yet even the most cautious and courteous birder can get into trouble. I’ve gotten more than my fair share of strange looks from people while at the beach scanning through gulls and shorebirds (Binoculars and a telephoto lens on a beach? How is that an issue?). Maybe some friends and myself have aroused police interest while checking out a Rusty Blackbird that was perched inside an apparent ‘danger zone’. I’ve even had a little chat with border security (the mean United States agents, not the friendly Canadian border patrol) while on the Niagara River looking for a Black-legged Kittiwake. They just couldn’t understand why someone would want to stand out in 10-degree weather to find a bird. Regardless of public perception or police retaliation, no birder should be afraid to be a birder. Below is a handy chart about what to do when you come across cool birds in public.  Pish away, my friends.



Public Action

Song Sparrow

Probably don’t need to pish

Northern Cardinal

Pish if you really want to

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Go ahead and pish

Kirtland’s Warbler

You better be pishing

Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Freak out and burn things

Habitat Preference of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Coccyzus americanus, prefers desert riparian woodlands consisting of Gooding’s Willow and Fremont Cottonwood. They appear to inhabit open woodlands with a low understory. Here in Kern County, California, cuckoos hold high preference for tracts of land greater than 15 ha with a canopy height of 5 – 30 m and an understory height of 1 – 6 m. During migration, cuckoos desire coastal scrub, second growth forests, hedgerows, edge, lowland forests, and numerous other habitats. On the wintering grounds, cuckoos opt for woody vegetation bordering fresh water, open woodlands, thickets, partial scrub, and edge. Here are some photos of good habitat in the Kern River Valley where we are studying Yellow-billed Cuckoos. There are many individuals in the area where I took these photos, so we suspect to find a few nests.




Reference: Hughes, J.M. 1999. Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 418 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.