Ornithologi

A studio for bird study

Tag: flock

North America’s Zonotrichia in Winter: A Plate of Basic and Immature Plumages

by Bryce W. Robinson

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North America’s Zonotrichia: Basic and Immature Plumages. 18×24″ Gouache on paper. From the top: White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii; Adult (L) and immature (R)), Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla; Adult (L) and immature (R)), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis; Adult (L) and immature (R)), and Harris’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula; Adult (L) and immature (R)).

I’m privileged to be teaching a better birding workshop at the end of the month focused on Idaho’s winter sparrow guild. The workshop is supported as a collaborative effort between Golden Eagle Audubon Society and Southwestern Idaho Birders Association (SIBA). I’ll be leading a 1.5 hour lecture that will present tips for increasing ones birding skills, as well as an in depth identification breakdown of Idaho’s winter sparrow guild (with Calcariidae added by request). We’ll also be taking these skills to the field for some applied learning. I’m excited, as it is the first birding centric workshop I’ve taught, so I’m sure to learn as much as I disseminate.

I have decided to attempt to illustrate all taxa that I will be discussing in the workshop. This is a bit daunting of a task to accomplish in only a few weeks, but I think I can do it! I just completed the Zonotrichia plate, which is shown above. I’ll share the rest as I complete them.

I learned a lot from this plate about the process of illustration. I’m feeling unsettled by the product, because I can’t seem to get past the messiness and untidy nature of my illustration. In the next few, I’ll focus on being more particular and using a lower water to paint ratio. I need to attempt to utilize the gouache not as watercolor but as a layering medium.

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Banded Golden-crowned Kinglet

by Bryce W. Robinson

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This past fall I helped the Intermountain Bird Observatory band birds on a number of occasions at a site along the Boise River. I’ve returned to the location on occasion throughout the winter to bird, and every time I find a small mixed flock with banded individuals throughout.

The other day I made attempts to photograph banded birds to capture band numbers and identify individuals. Easier said than done when the flocks are busy foraging. I came away with some good photos, but nothing that put together a full sequence or even the last few digits.

It can be said, however, that these birds are most likely the same birds that were banded here in October. The other most plausible explanation is that some were banded at IBO’s other site, only a few miles away on the top of Boise Peak. I’m unfamiliar with the literature on winter movements of the Golden-crowned Kinglet, so I don’t have an idea if holding a small range throughout winter is common for this species. Still, the birds I photograph seem to be staying put which surprises me in some way. Perhaps the inclination of the flock to stay within a small range speaks to the quality and perhaps importance of the habitat provided by this relatively wild portion of Boise’s section of the river.

Time to read, and think some more.

Murmuration of the European Starling

by Bryce W. Robinson

I took this video the other day in western Utah. This flock of European Starlings- Sturnus vulgaris, termed a murmuration, never quit moving as they travelled around the alfalfa field. As I passed the scene, I thought that I should document their movements. Of course many have seen the recent viral video of thousands of starlings moving through the sky in unison. My flock is less remarkable, but still extraordinary.

I am so fascinated with the flocking of birds such as these. Little is known of how these birds move as one organism, and what cues drive the direction and cohesiveness of the flock. I found an article that attempts to explain some facets of the phenomenon. You can read it here. It is rather interesting.

I plan to watch every murmuration I come upon for the rest of my life, and contemplate the questions raised from such a striking phenomenon.