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Bluebirds and Swallows React to Temperature and Rainfall Variations

Bluebirds and Tree Swallows among the most likely birds to utilize nest boxes in the United States and southern Canada. In fact, birders have been instrumental in providing needed artificial nesting cavities in the form of nest boxes, which have enabled these birds to increase their populations and expand their nesting range in many areas of the continent. In America’s heartland, many farmers enlist birds to help suppress agricultural pests by installing nest boxes around their farms.

Touring Time – Local & Global

Birding Tours are a great way to expand your horizons with a minimum of concern for planning and safety – tour companies take care of all that! You enjoy the fruits of the tour company’s labors, leaving you to concentrate on studying your field guide and keeping your life list up to date. You may prefer to tour an area cross country, or in a different country altogether – maybe even a different continent. A tour company will provide an experienced guide, a well-planned Itinerary, and take care of the transportation, hotels and lodges, fine meals, and a your personal safety.

Community Passion for Mountain Plovers in Colorado

Every April, the tiny community of Karval and the Karval Community Alliance, an organization composed of local landowners and community members, comes together for what has become an iconic eastern Colorado celebration – the Mountain Plover Festival. In cooperation with the Alliance, festival leadership, and other landowners, Ryan Parker, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies’ private lands wildlife biologist is working in nine southeast Colorado counties to ensure the long-range conservation of Mountain Plovers and other shortgrass prairie inhabitants.

New Movie is Focused on the Most Endangered Eagle

Philippine Eagles are one of the world’s largest eagles, and the rarest. Inhabiting the tropical forests of just a few islands in the Philippines, this spectacular but critically endangered eagle is the focus of a new movie, Bird of Prey. Filmed by world-renowned wildlife cinematographer Neil Rettig, in association with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird of Prey is an expertly woven story with stunning photography that takes you on a journey deep into the vanishing world of the Philippine Eagle.

Spectacular Seabirding Opportunities on the Atlantic and Pacific

Two notable pelagic birding companies – one on the Atlantic and one on the Pacific – provide remarkable opportunities for birders to get offshore to appreciate the seabirds that ply our oceans – including occasional rare bird sightings, such as the recent European Storm Petrel, Bermuda Petrel, and Fea’s Petrels sighted offshore from the port of Hatteras, North Carolina. Currently, seabirding trips are leaving regularly from Hatteras under the direction of Brian Patteson through September; and in August, Debi Shearwater will be starting her 44th and final season of pelagic trips through October, primarily offshore from Monterey, California.

Join the Editor for Weekly Birding Highlights

A quick trip to Minnesota always provides sightings of a variety of different birds from the eastern woodlands and lake habitats – different from the many birds I see in the Great Plains. I was especially excited to see a brood of 10 newly hatched ducklings encircling a female Wood Duck as they instinctively fed in the shallows, along with a Common Loon resting on calm water, a Peregrine Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk taking turns diving at one another, a Cooper’s Hawk with prey flying to its nest, colorful pairs of Northern Cardinals, periodic Ospreys in flight, and a seemingly huge Pileated Woodpecker flying overhead. No photo opportunities though; until the morning after my return to Dakota.

$100 Instant Savings on Tamron Camera Lenses

For birders, it’s hard to beat the Tamron 100-to-400mm Zoom Lens Model A035. This light-weight ultra-telephoto zoom lens has highly responsive auto-focus precision for taking in-the-moment action photos or bird portraits clearly and easily. Three Low Dispersion (LD) glass elements are used and effectively positioned to prevent aberrations, and Tamron?s proprietary eBAND (Extended Bandwidth & Angular-Dependency) Coating prevents reflections and produces clearer, more vivid photos.

Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 ED Binoculars

Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 Binoculars feature ED objective lenses that provide accurate color reproduction, increased resolution and contrast, with superior images virtually free of chromatic aberration. The fully multi-coated optics provide maximum light transmission through the optical path, while phase- and dielectric-coated BaK-4 prisms provide vivid true-to-life colors. Celestron TrailSeekers are constructed with lightweight and durable magnesium alloy, providing a tough, rigid frame that is rubber-coated. What’s more, the binocular is fully waterproof and filled with dry nitrogen gas to prevent internal fogging of lenses.

Try a Bird-Safe Predator Guard Nest Box

A standout among Duncraft’s variety of nest boxes, you can protect eggs and nestlings with the Bird-Safe Predator Guard House. The predator guard is located inside the entrance to keep your nestlings safe and out of reach of predators. Made of durable tan and green recycled plastic, this all-weather birdhouse has built-in side ventilation slots and drainage holes. With a 1½ inch diameter entrance hole this Bird-Safe nest box measures 6 x 5½ x 12 inches, and you can easily remove the base to clean the nest box after each nesting cycle.

The ABA Rare Bird Alert’s Weekly Highlights

Minnesota birders found three state records last week – a Third State Record Kirtland’s Warbler, a 14th State Record Sage Thrasher, and the18th State Record of a Laughing Gull. Other notable records were recorded when Cordova birders found Alaska’s First State Record Snowy Plover; Nova Scotia birders found a Second Provincial Record Lewis’s Woodpecker, Vermont birders recorded the Second State Record Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, and Idaho birders photographed a Third State Record Brown Pelican. Did we mention there were also sightings of rare birds from Europe, Asia, and Central America?

You Never Know What's Just Around the Corner

As I inched my way along a dirt track on a remote high hill, I watched for one of the newly fledged Red-tailed Hawks and Western Kingbirds I was monitoring in this rural area, although to the west I could see the distant skyscrapers and a bit of the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. Little did I imagine that as I eased my work pickup round the corner that a bright blue flash would reveal not one, but two species of birds rarely encountered, much less so close. I have long hoped for an opportunity to get photos of a couple azure-colored birds – a Blue Grosbeak and a Lazuli Bunting – but never would I have imagined individuals of both species eating grass seeds right outside the window of my vehicle at the same time!

The surprise flashes of blue and the close proximity of the male Blue Grosbeak permitted a detailed image of its face and large beak (Gros means large or big in German).

The birds mostly took turns feeding on the newly mature grass seeds with the larger grosbeak taking precedence over the bunting, which allowed me to more easily concentrate on one bird at a time. I marveled at these beautiful songbirds that add vivid shades of blue to our world. All other Lazuli Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks I have encountered have been impossibly wary, so to take photos of them that show the details of the birds’ eyes and individual feathers as they ate minute grass seeds was a real breakthrough – how lucky could I be?

The adrenaline-induced energy provided during such epic photo encounters is a product of experiencing nature in an intimate way, so I reveled in the ensuing minutes through the viewfinder of my camera, steadying my lens on the window frame and calculating every held breathe as I documented the two seed-eater’s activities – the best action I could hope for on a quiet Monday morning.

A Lazuli Bunting is a very small bird, about half the size of a Blue Grosbeak. Paul composed this portrait to show the bird in its element while positioning the bird to one side of the image.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time, when I quickly hit the brakes and turned off the ignition the sun just happened to be positioned behind me that would permit me to photograph the birds with optimum light, color, and shutter speed. This natural moment makes me smile whenever I think about how lucky I was, and how much fun I had.

The Blue Grosbeak provided opportunities for in-flight photos when it hovered a number of times to strip seeds from grass stalks.

The keys to this photo session already noted or implied were:

* I was in a mobile blind, slightly elevated

* I turned the ignition off to stop any vehicle vibrations

* I was aware of potential traffic, even on the isolated track

* There was fine lighting with the morning sun angled low from behind

* I was positioned far enough away from the birds so they continued to actively feed

* I was positioned close enough to get intimate photos of the birds feeding on grass seeds

* I braced the camera lens on the window frame to steady the camera

* I held my breath while taking individual photos

* The birds were trusting – two remarkable species of birds, rarely encountered at close quarters

* I watched for opportunities to take action photos

* I was able to use a fast shutter speed to take stop-action photos

* I enjoyed the opportunity, while considering the options and variables, and ensuring safe conditions

The opportunity to photograph the male Lazuli Bunting feeding with such detail as to see individual seeds in its mouth was unprecedented.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, you turn a corner and your tranquil morning instantly transforms into a unique and memorable birding episode that was unimaginable in advance, and unduplicated since: The combination of the two seed-eating species, both feathered in beautiful shades of blue.

Add a little nature to your week – and enjoy the first days of summer to the fullest!

The Blue Grosbeak also gleaned seeds from the ground, where its brown wing bars were evident.

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

Share your bird photographs and birding experiences at editorstbw2@gmail.com

June 24 - June 28
American Ornithology 2019 Meeting
Anchorage, Alaska
Aug. 7 - Aug. 11
Southeast Arizona Birding Festival
Tucson, Arizona
Aug. 10
Hummingbird Migration Celebration
Connersville, Indiana
Aug. 17
Henderson Hummingbird Hurrah
Henderson, Minnesota
Aug. 17
Hummingbird Festival & Nature Celebration
Beecher, Illinois
Aug. 21 - Aug. 25
Conference of Western Field Ornithologists
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Aug. 22 - Aug. 25
Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration
Fort Davis, Texas
Aug. 29 - Sept. 1
Yampa Valley Crane Festival
Steamboat Springs and Hayden, Colorado
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