Ornithologi

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Just Published in Marine Ornithology: Unusual Foraging Observations Associated with Seabird Die-offs in Alaska

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

Above is a short video that I produced to supplement a paper I, along with colleagues at US Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS, just published in the journal Marine Ornithology. The video shows behaviors that we describe in the paper, and will hopefully help the reader visualize what we experienced ourselves.

The Bering Sea region is changing in many ways, but among the most sobering are the mass die-off events that are impacting the regions birdlife. These die-offs continue into this year. Since we put together this publication of the observations that I and colleagues made in 2016 and 2017, the trend has continued and is likely to continue into the future. Furthermore, on my most recent trip to the region I documented further evidence of the ongoing change that is occurring across the bering sea ecosystem. There is and will continue to be more to report.

Some of the change, such as the evidence of starving and ill affected storm-petrels that are the subject of our publication, is sobering and concerning. It hits hard on the hearts of those of us who so passionately pay attention to bird life across the globe. We care deeply about the well being of these creatures that fascinate us so much.

Some of the change, such as some of my most recent observations in the region, are exciting and stoke curiosity, as the birdlife of the region responds to the impacts of ecosystem disruption.

Ultimately, there will be winners and losers as life navigates anthropogenic driven change throughout the world. Mass die-off events will become the norm for some species, until their populations can no longer sustain such losses and they are eventually lost to our world. Others will adapt in ways we cannot yet imagine. Such adaptations will undoubtedly open our minds to processes and function in ecosystems that we are yet to understand.

Yes, climate change is a problem. It is a problem that still is not unanimously recognized. It will change our world, our way of life, and probably not for the better. But, as we experience the change, we can document what is happening for the future inhabitants of our perturbed ecosystems. We can make record of the oddities, the aberrations, so that we leave a paper trail of first observations that will help us understand when things started, and how they developed. Hopefully, as these records build the evidence of change will become insurmountable to the point that the overwhelming majority of our society cannot and will not deny that the world is impacted by our daily choices and we ourselves need to change. And when we do, hopefully it will not be too late.

This is why I want to publish notes such as this, to make a record that will add to the evidence of an increasingly disrupted world. More to come…

You can find the paper detailing our observations of odd foraging behaviors here:

http://www.marineornithology.org/PDF/46_2/46_2_149-153.pdf

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Orange-breasted Falcon Plucking Prey

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

For the Orange-breasted Falcon whose diet consists primarily of avian prey, to eat requires a great deal of work. First, the birds must capture a food item. They specialize in above canopy surprise and pursuit capture, a technique that blends a bit of skill and luck. When the two align and the bird finally captures a meal, they then must prepare it. Falcons prefer to ingest little amounts of feather from their prey items, and thus need to efficiently remove the extraneous feathers to access the muscle. To remove these feathers, they pluck their prey nearly clean. Plucking can be beautiful, as I found with the Orange-breasted Falcon in the video above as it prepared a Great-tailed Grackle. Perched on a limb high overlooking a deep river valley, the bird plucks. The observer can easily recognize the bird’s technique of rip and flick, as it efficiently carries out its daily ritual and feathers calmly drift away in the hot Central American air.

Barred Owl (Strix varia) Hunting at Mid-day

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

While out for a day of birding Maryland natural areas, Caitlin and I saw a Barred Owl perched on a power line along a two lane highway. I was shocked to see the bird on the line in the open, but more shocked at its alert behavior. The bird was hunting the road edge and it was mid-day.

I’m relatively uneducated about the Barred Owl. I thought these birds were strictly nocturnal and rarely active during the day. After doing some research, I’ve learned they occasionally hunt in daylight, however mostly in the first hour following sunset (Mazur and James 2000) . Despite some tendency towards daytime activity, it stills seems shocking this bird would actively hunt a road edge in the daylight. Either way, I thought I’d share.

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Referenced literature:

Mazur, Kurt M. and Paul C. James. (2000). Barred Owl (Strix varia), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/brdowl

2nd ABA Record of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) in Oregon

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

I had a great weekend. A few friends and I made the short road trip from Boise to the Oregon coast to see the ABA areas second record of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra). The Common Scoter breeds across Europe and Asia, and most closely resembles the Black Scoter (Melanitta americana). The first record for this species was surprisingly only last year in Northern California.

We had no trouble finding the bird when we arrived, because there were already many birders on location. We were lucky though, it was high tide and the bird had come up river to preen and feed. I stood on a bridge with the bird nearly directly below me and took photos and video.

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Male Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra). Second ABA record, Lincoln City, Oregon. November 2016.

We birded the area after getting our fill, including sea watching which never disappoints folks from inland. We also bagged another lost bird, a Tropical Kingbird a few miles down the road from the scoter stake-out. Overall it was an excellent trip with good friends.

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Digiscoped photo of a Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) in Lincoln City, Oregon.