Ornithologi

A studio for bird study

Tag: migration

High Numbers of Swamp Sparrow documented at Ted Trueblood WMA, Southwest Idaho

by Bryce W. Robinson

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My friends Jay Carlisle, Heidi Ware Carlisle, and I had a Melospiza morning at Ted Trueblood WMA, helping Boise State grad student Kate Owens and her fiance Ben trap Song Sparrows for Kate’s Master’s work. The highlight was catching 27 Melospiza sparrows at once, including 10 Swamp Sparrows (M. georgiana), 5 Lincoln’s Sparrows (M. Lincolnii), and 12 Song Sparrows (M. melodia). The incredible number of Swamp Sparrows left us reeling, since we had visited the area twice already this fall for Southwestern Idaho Birder’s Association and Golden Eagle Audubon Society field trips. Our first visit yielded no Swamp Sparrows, and a week ago we detected only 4 individuals (a high count for the site at the time). While processing our 10 Swamps, two remained in the reeds nearby calling, providing us a total of 12 Swamp Sparrow’s for the site! All Swamp Sparrows were young of the year, likely indicative of a productive breeding season for the species. Also notable, all birds had good fat and muscle scores which is indicative of good health, and upon release flew away with vigor.

Ted Trueblood WMA has been very generous to us in the past, hosting two of the three Idaho state records for Le Conte’s Sparrow. It continues to be a state sparrow mecca with this incredible high number for Swamp Sparrow, and who knows what will turn up in the future.

I’ve included here some photos of our morning, including a photo of four Swamp Sparrows at once, and a photo of all three members of Melospiza aside a painting I illustrated of the genus (by the way these prints are available in the shop). You can also see our numbers for the site and other species we documented, including a conservative estimate of American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) on our eBird list:

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Photo: Heidi Ware Carlisle

 

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Help Fund Golden-crowned Sparrow Research

by Bryce W. Robinson

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I had the pleasure of painting one of my favorite sparrows, the Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) for someones birthday. Even more, the person to receive this painting studies Golden-crowned Sparrow migration, so it is quite appropriate. Autumn Iverson is working towards a Ph.D. at UC Davis, focused on movement ecology of these sparrows. She plans to outfit sparrows with GPS tags to track seasonal movements and better understand their yearly cycle.

Today, 21 September, is Autumns birthday. Happy Birthday Autumn!

Autumn needs your help to fund her research. She is currently running a fundraising campaign to raise money for the GPS units she will use on the sparrows. Please, consider helping out this research with as little or large of a donation as you see fit. You can find a detailed explanation of her plans, her research, and how to donate at her experiment.com funding page. 

An Illustration of Some Members of the Genus Buteo

by Bryce W. Robinson

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18×24″ Gouache on watercolor paper. From top left: Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), and Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis). Purchase limited edition prints here.

I’ve been illustrating raptors in flight for some years now, which really took off when I met Jerry Liguori. Jerry took me under his wing, so to speak, and filled my head with everything he himself has learned over his many years studying the identification of raptors, particularly in flight. His tutelage accelerated my skills and knowledge in raptor identification, and I can confidently say that without his selfless teaching, my illustrations wouldn’t be the same.

I’m currently focused on tuning in my raptors in flight. I am about to start some large illustration projects focused on these taxa, so I am working to develop my technique and process as well perfecting relative shape and sizes. It’s a challenge, because illustrating each correctly involves so much more than the obvious differences in plumage. What makes each unique are shape, proportion, and posture. I’ve found posture to be the most challenging aspect to capture, since this seemingly simple factor has so much power over whether the bird looks real or not. Furthermore, in flight postures and shapes are influenced by the direction and motion of a bird in that moment in time. For instance, a bird soaring has a unique shape but because of the position of the viewer, that shape may be different for each wing because of the birds posture and how wind or resistance bends the outer primaries. To understand and master this effect is going to take repeated sketching and exploration.

Purchase an 18×24″ limited edition archival print (30 available) of this illustration in the shop. Your support helps me continue to refine my illustration, so thank you ahead of time! Also, be sure to add Jerry Liguori’s unique guidebooks to your library. Jerry has taken raptor identification to the next level, and his guidebooks are a wealth of information for mastering in-flight identification. You can find his books here: Jerry Liguori’s Hawk’s From Every Angle and Hawks at a Distance

First Idaho Record of Red-flanked Bluetail – December 2016

by Bryce W. Robinson

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On 31 December 2016 I made the five hour trip from Boise to Lewiston to see Idaho’s first record of Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus). On arrival, the bird already had a crowd watching it forage along the Russian Olives that bordered the river.

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It was a sunny and relatively warm morning, and the bird was actively foraging. It would appear on the tree edge and making foraging sallies to the ground. It looked like the bird was eating the Russian Olive fruits, but one of my photos show it with an arthropod in its bill as well.

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It made its way foraging between four trees along the river, heading south to the last tree and then returning north. Occasionally it would disappear low in the trees along the rivers edge, and return to foraging within a few minutes.

My favorite aspects of this bird were its subtle hues in the plumage, particularly the blue throughout and the white throat patch. I also enjoyed its behaviors, such as the constant tail dabbing. The bird was extremely cooperative, providing all watching with excellent views. At times when it would come to the ground to forage, it would do so only feet from the birders. I’d say it was behaving about the best anyone could hope for concerning a high profile vagrant.

I spent some time attempting to capture video of the bird perched on a limb, tail dabbing. I mostly was unsuccessful, but did manage the following clip that is poor quality. It’s worth sharing just to show the birds behavior.

 

The Red-flanked Bluetail was a great end to 2016, which was a bummer of a year for so many reasons, but was incredible and profitable regarding birds. Hopefully 2017 will match or exceed. Happy New Year.