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Showing posts from September, 2010

A Southward Migration

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Millions of birds are, at this very moment, engaged in the world's most astounding mass movement.  Powered only by their own brawn, love-handles (or fat, which in the bird world is of life-and-death caliber of importance), and self-will, these birds are driving southward, come what may.  Imagine the entire northern hemisphere alive with fluttering wings, slowly drifting southward across mountain tops, across wide valleys and deserts, across lakes and vast stretches of ocean.  More than anyone can count, and more than anyone can imagine.  Many will stop in Mexico, central Africa, India, but many will continue further, to central and south America, to southern Africa, to Australia and New Zealand.  There is one bird, however, that outdoes all others...the Arctic tern.  Traveling about 49,700 miles every year, the Arctic tern (which only weighs 100 grams or about 1/4 lb) wings from the Arctic all the way to Antarctica, truly bipolar organisms.  This is a phenomenal feat. 
It is this b…

A Bander's Lament

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All who missed my Yellowstone elk and wolves presentation to the Idaho Master Naturalists will be given another chance (it may be your last!).  I will be presenting for the Snake River Audubon Society at the Idaho Falls Public Library this Thursday (Sept. 16) at 7:30pm in the basement conference rooms.  Here's what its all about, as I stated in the Audubon newsletter:

"Last winter, I had the opportunity to spend five months in Yellowstone National Park researching predator-prey dynamics between two of the Park's most famous and controversial large mammals--the wolves and the elk.  While tracking the wolves and elk with radio telemetry and performing necropsies on kills, I attempted to photograph all that I observed during the winter (often with frozen fingers).  This presentation will feature some of my most interesting observations (which goes beyond just the elk and wolves), as well as provide a summary of the past 20 years of …

Songbirds are cool, but...

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"Sharpie coming in...don't move...." Hidden from within the hawk blind cube, Jay yanks a green string, his hawk-like eyes peering out the small slit in the blind, intensely focused on the sharp-shinned hawk that had appeared from nowhere.  With the pull of the string, a white pigeon (with the unfortunate job title of "lure bird") is flung into the air.  The fluttering of its wings immediately catch the eye of the hawk.  
But a sharpie (as birders call them) will only rarely go after a bird as large as the pigeon; and Jay, knowing this (having pulled the pigeon just to initially get the sharpie's attention), pulls a smaller string, sending a small English sparrow into the air flapping.  The focus of the sharpie instantly shifts; in less than a second it descended on the sparrow.   
The fear of the sparrow must be terrific at this moment, but lucky for him, we are not out for entertainment.  Surrounding the little sparrow is an array of mist-nets (similar to th…