A studio for bird study

Tag: travel

American Ornithological Society Conference 2019 Logo

by Bryce W. Robinson

AOS2019-Logo-draft I-01

I am privileged to share the logo that I created for the American Ornithological Society’s 2019 conference. The logo features three Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri), a flagship bird for Alaska and a focal species for some of Alaska’s most influential ornithologists.

I worked closely with the conference planning chair, Colleen Handel of the USGS Alaska Science Center. We created a logo that ties in closely with the theme of the meeting – Birds on the Edge: Dynamic Boundaries. Colleen is part of a team of researchers headed by her husband, Robert E. Gill (also of USGS), that are responsible for discovering the incredible, sometimes 9 day non-stop flight of Alaska’s Bar-tailed Godwits as they return to Alaska from their wintering grounds in southeast Australia and New Zealand (see Gill et al. 2008). As such, one can see why the species is a great choice to celebrate the AOS meeting being held in Anchorage.

To register for the meeting or learn more, visit the AOS 2019 Conference website. Also, be sure to check out the merchandise that features this logo.


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.

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.


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.


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

Beatnik Birding: Arizona Endings

by Bryce W. Robinson

Elegant Trogon- Trogon elegans

Elegant Trogon- Trogon elegans

Success is super sweet. I left Patagonia feeling disappointment from missing my target, the Trogon. My heading was the Huachuca Mountains, where I was unsure if the Trogon was a realistic expectation. I arrived in the valley east of Huachuca’s at the house of my new friend, Christie Van Cleve. I met Christie while watching the Black Hawk migration the prior week in Tubac. She insisted I come see her house, and the nearby canyons.

Her insistence proved fruitful for my birding. When I arrived, I sat in her dining room, watching the birds in her yard. She has created the most incredible feeder set up that I have ever seen. She boasts an impressive yard list, somewhere in the 180’s. It was easy to see how such a number could be possible.

After minutes of watching, I saw one of the most incredible birds I was to see in Arizona. The Magnificent Hummingbird came to the feeders time and again, to flash its brilliant green gorget. I was in awe, and excited. For the next few hours, I watched the birds about their business, and enjoyed Christie’s company.

Later that afternoon, Christie took me to Huachuca Canyon. The canyon is only accessible by entering a military base. This may seem a deterrent, and perhaps is the reason I was unaware of the canyon, but entering and traveling about the base was easy. We went up the canyon, where Christie showed me two spots where Elegant Trogon’s had nested in years past. She told me stories about her times in the canyon, watching these birds. What a treat it would be to see these birds raising their young, hunting for insects, and conducting themselves in accordance with their habits. As we did not see the birds in either location, I resolved to return the next morning and try one last time for the Elegant Trogon.

I ventured back through the base in early morning, and travelled up the canyon towards the two nest sights. Birds were about this morning, and I listened to many species both new and familiar. Still, both nest sights were without the Trogon, and my spirit fell. But, as I am a birder, and love other experiences besides the chase, or hunt, I venture farther up the canyon to find others.

With my senses keen, and tuned to any peculiar movement, or sound, I was sure to pick up the Trogon if it made itself known in any way. And I did!

The moment the trogon barked, I knew what I had hear. I did a silent jump for joy and listened for a second call. Soon enough, multiple calls came and I narrowed in on the Trogon. Within a minute, I had found the brilliant male Trogon, sitting in the branches, calling. It was wary of my presence, and retreated when I came to close.

The bird continued to call, but as I observed its behaviors, I picked up the presence of a second bird. Hearing a second call pulled my attention to another fleeing male Trogon. Blessed by the sight of two males, in all their glory, I took in my fill of the birds, and left them to their business of establishing territories and continuing their business of procreation.

Elegant Trogon- Trogon elegans

Before I left, I spent some more time talking with Christie. On the morning before I hit the road, she informed me of a pair of Mexican Spotted Owls in the canyon near her house. I decided that the Spotted Owl would be a great bird to see before my journey continued elsewhere. It was not difficult to find the birds in the canyon. Directed to a reliable roost, I located two owls deep in sleep. I was careful not to disturb their slumber, and give them added stress. I watched the pair for minutes, taking a few photos before returning back to the road, and onward to Texas. On a high from the Trogons, I decided it was time to make my Arizona exit. I had missed some birds that I wanted to see, but I had other priorities, and felt that I needed to put my wheels back on the road, and move eastward with my eyes on the Texas coast.

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