31 December, 2013

Curve-billed Thrasher

Scientific Name: Toxostoma curvirostre

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year round in open areas of Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of southwestern US and Mexico.

Field Notes: Large passerine with characteristic long body and tail of a thrasher. Accentuated, long down-curved bill. Brown overall plumage. Orange eye.

Personal Notes: Common site in Sonora Desert Museum outside Tucson AZ.

Mexican Jay

Scientific Name: Aphelocoma ultramarina

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in montane mixed oak forests in northern Mexico and up into Arizona and New Mexico.

Field Notes: Non-crested jay with blue head, wings and tail. Greyish back. Dingy white underparts.

Personal Notes: Patience was rewarded with this photo by Richard at the Cherry Lodge picnic site in the Apache-Sitgreaves NF in Arizona.

Gambel's Quail

Scientific Name: Callipepla gambelii

Range / Habitat: Year-round in the Sonoran, Mohave, and Chihuahuan deserts of the southwestern US and Mexico, below about 5,500 feet elevation.

Field Notes: Similar in appearance to the California Quail, though Gambel's has white breast with black belly and ranges do not overlap.

Personal Notes: A surprise find near the Clifton mines at the southern edge of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona.

Acorn Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year round in oak and mixed oak-conifer forests on slopes and mountains in the western US down into Mexico and Central America.

Field Notes: Unmistakable in range. As Cornell's All About Birds puts it: "Reminiscent of a troupe of wide-eyed clowns."

Personal Notes: Frequently seen in Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Hereford AZ. Later we found a large group at West Fork SP near Sedona. They were all calling softly to one another as they settled down in several large trees for the night.

Chihauhaun Raven

Scientific Name: Corvus cryptoleucus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in desert grasslands of southwestern US and northern Mexico.

Field Notes: Intermediate between Common Raven and American Crow. The size is approximately that of a crow, but the head is unmistakably raved-shaped as in the photo above. The call is the best differentiation, however.

Personal Notes: First heard, then seen, at Ramsey Canyon Preserve in Hereford, AZ. The photograph was taken later in town.

30 December, 2013

Greater Roadrunner

Scientific Name: Geococcyx californianus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in hot, shrubby expanses of the southwestern US and northern Mexico. They can also be found in open country with patches of shrubs or small trees almost as far east as the Mississippi River.

Field Notes: Unmistakable in range.

Personal Notes: Richard found it for me! The Roadrunner! Beep-beep!

Cactus Wren

Scientific Name: Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in desert southwest US and northern Mexico. Requires the presence of spiny cacti.

Field Notes: Large wren with light breast, spotted dark. Long white eye stripe. Brown, barred back and tail.

Personal Notes: A conspicuous resident at the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson AZ. Later we enjoyed these birds on our hotel grounds in San Jose del Cabo.

Gila Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Melanerpes uropygialis

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in southern Arizona, the Baja Peninsula, and western Mexico. Favors arid habitats with large cacti or scattered trees,

Field Notes: Medium-sized woodpecker, all brown head and chest, wings barred black and white. Male with red spot on forehead.

Personal Notes: Seen at Sonora Desert Museum outside Tucson AZ.

15 December, 2013

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Scientific Name: Accipiter striatus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in forested areas throughout much of the United States. Summers into Canada, winters into Mexico. In winter will often be found in treed urban areas.

Field Notes: Small, long-tailed hawks with relatively small heads. The tail tends to be square-tipped and may show a notch at the tip. Cooper's Hawk similar in range and coloration, but larger.

Personal Notes: Great find, and photo, by Richard in Burlington, Vermont on a cold December day.

12 December, 2013

Snowy Owl

Scientific Name: Nyctea scandiaca

Population Estimate: Unknown but Least Concern status. Not globally threatened, but uncommon to scarce.

Range / Habitat: Summers in open Arctic tundra from near tree-line to edge of polar seas. Winter irruptions to lower latitudes were found in marshes and dunes.

Field Notes: Large white owl with small yellow eyes, rudimentary ear-tufts normally invisible. Male entirely white, female and juveniles with brown barring above and below.

Personal Notes: A bird that eluded us for over four years. Finally on a winter walk in Acadia National Park (during a extensive East Coast irruption year, after we looked unsuccessfully the weekend before) I said "wouldn't it be funny if that log were a Snowy Owl….." Thankfully, Richard thought to actually look through the binoculars!

11 December, 2013

Tufted Titmouse

Scientific Name: Baeolophus bicolor

Range / Habitat: Year-round in lowland, mature deciduous and mixed woods of the eastern United States.

Field Notes: Large, short-crested and long-tailed tit. Grey upperparts, white underparts including check. Rufous flanks. Large, black, beady eye.

Personal Notes: A wonderful find on a wonderful day with friends in New Hampshire. We had a picture for years from Minnesota that we debated about being a Tufted Titmouse. This time we were sure! We then found this bird at the far western edge of his range, in Fontenelle Forest in Omaha, Nebraska.

08 October, 2013

Harris's Sparrow

Scientific Name: Zonotrichia querula

Population Estimate: Unknown, stable, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Found in woodlands and brushy habitats. Breeds in central Canada and winters in a relatively small area of the Great Plains. 

Field Notes: Large sparrow with white breast, black bib and throat, black crown, pink bill. 

Personal Notes: Seen in autumn in the Minnesota River NWR after a long hiatus. 

29 July, 2013

Indigo Bunting

Scientific Name: Passerina cyanea

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Winters in southern Mexico, Central America, and Carribbean. Summers in temperate forest in eastern North America.

Field Notes: Medium-sized perching bird. Male all blue with black wing ends, black eye and silver, conical beak. Female and non-breeding males drab brown, darker above than below.

Personal Notes: We saw these lovely birds at Fort Snelling without a camera. Years later found them again at the Minnesota Arboretum.

23 March, 2013

Common Wood Pigeon

Scientific Name: Columba palumbus

Population Estimate: 27M - 51M

Range / Habitat: Wooded areas in southern and western Europe, extending to eastern Europe and western Asia in summer.

Field Notes: Large pigeon, generally grey-purple, with conspicuous white neck spots, white eye-ring, and white shoulders in flight.

Personal Notes: A common sight around Alhambra in Granada, Spain and then again at Kew Gardens in London.

20 March, 2013

Montagu's Harrier

Scientific Name: Circus pygargus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Found throughout Europe, except Norway where it is not present. The breeding range extends as far east as the Urals. Breeding also occurs in northern Africa, mostly in Morocco.

Field Notes: Adult males are characterized by their overall pale grey plumage contrasting with black wingtips. Compared with other harriers this species has characteristic black bands along the secondaries, both above and below the wing and rusty streaks on belly and flanks. It has a particularly graceful flight, with powerful and elegant wingbeats which give an impression of buoyancy and ease.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain.

Crested Lark

Scientific Name: Galerida cristata

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Non-migratory bird that breeds in open areas across most of temperate Eurasia from Portugal to northeast China and eastern India, and in Africa south to Niger.

Field Notes: Smallish lark, slightly larger and plumper than Skylark. It has a long spiky erectile crest. It is greyer than Skylark, and lacks the white wing and tail edges of that species.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain

Black-winged Stilt

Scientific Name: Himantopus himantopus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status.

Range / Habitat: Western Europe and Mediterranean region to Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, South and Southeast Asia.

Field Notes: Wader with long pink leg and a long thin black bill. Blackish above and white below, with a white head and neck with a varying amount of black.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain. Per HBW, Black-neck Stilt subsumed under this species name. 

Northern Lapwing

Scientific Name: Vanellus vanellus

Population Estimate: 4.2M - 10M

Range / Habitat: Breeds through temperate Eurasia on cultivated land. It is highly migratory over most of its extensive range, wintering further south as far as north Africa, northern India, Pakistan, and parts of China. 

Field Notes: Unmistakable in range. Typical lapwing habitus, iridescent blue and grey above, white below, black head plume

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain. This is THE BEST PICTURE EVER!

Western Yellow Wagtail

Scientific Name: Motacilla flava

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status.

Range / Habitat: Breeds in much of temperate Europe and Asia. Resident in the milder parts of its range, such as western Europe, but northern and eastern populations migrate to Africa and south Asia.

Field Notes: Breeding adult male is olive above and yellow below, with facial markings that vary by subspecies. Characteristic long, constantly wagging tail.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain.

Red-crested Pochard

Scientific Name: Netta rufina

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds in lowland marshes and lakes in southern Europe and Central Asia, wintering in the Indian Subcontinent and Africa.

Field Notes: Adult male is unmistakeable: rounded orange head, red bill and black breast. Flanks are white, the back brown, and the tail black. The female is mainly a pale brown, with a darker back and crown and a whitish face.

Personal Notes: Seen first at Donana National Park, Spain and later in Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, London.

Red-legged Partridge

Scientific Name: Alectoris rufa

Population Estimate: 6M - 13.5M

Range / Habitat: Breeds on farmland and open stony areas in southwestern Europe, in France and Iberia. It has been introduced in parts of England and Wales.

Field Notes: Sandy-brown above, pinkish-buff on the belly, and pale grey on the breast, with a prominent gorget of black streaking, bold rufous and black flank-bars, a cream throat, pink legs, and a red bill and eye ring.

Personal Notes: Seen near Donana National Park, Spain.

Booted Eagle

Scientific Name: Hieraaetus pennatus

Population Estimate: Estimated in the tens of thousands, Least Concern status.

Range / Habitat: Bird of wooded countryside with some open areas. Breeds in southern Europe, North Africa and across Asia. Winters in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Field Notes: Medium-sized raptor with two relatively distinct plumage forms. Pale birds are mainly light grey with a darker head and flight feathers. The other form has mid-brown plumage with dark grey flight feathers. Distinctive white markings on the wings and shoulders. Feathers cover the legs.

Personal Notes: Nice digiscoping photo by Richard in Donana National Park, Spain. Along with the Little Eagle this bird is one of the closest living relatives of the extinct Haast's Eagle of New Zealand.

Corn Bunting

Scientific Name: Emberiza calandra

Population Estimate: 32M - 132M

Range / Habitat: Bird of open country that breeds across southern and central Europe, north Africa and Asia across to Kazahkstan. It is mainly resident, but some birds from colder regions of central Europe and Asia migrate southwards in winter.

Field Notes: Bulky bunting streaked grey-brown above, and streaked white breast, necklace with dark "pendant," and characteristic call.

Personal Notes: Seen around Donana National Park, Spain.

Subalpine Warbler

Scientific Name: Sylvia cantillans

Population Estimate: 4.5M - 12.8M

Range / Habitat: Migratory bird that breeds in the southernmost areas of Europe and northwest Africa. Winters along the southern edge of the Sahara.

Field Notes: Adult male with grey back and head, brick-red underparts, and white malar streaks. Female is mainly brown above, with a greyer head, and whitish below with a pink flush.

Personal Notes: Seen in Donana National Park, Spain

19 March, 2013

Kentish Plover

Scientific Name: Charadrius alexandrinus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeds on sandy coasts and brackish inland lakes, and is uncommon on fresh water. Breeds widely across southern Europe and Asia. Winters in Africa and southeast Asia.

Field Notes: Smaller, paler, longer-legged and thinner-billed than Ringed Plover or Semipalmated Plover. Its breast band is never complete, and usually just appears as dark lateral patches on the sides of the breast. Upperparts are greyish brown and the underparts white in all plumages. The breast markings are black in summer adults, otherwise brown. Breeding males of some races have a black forehead bar and a black mask through the eye. The legs are black.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain. Some sources consider this conspecific with Snowy Plover.

Little Ringed Plover

Scientific Name: Charadrius dubius

Population Estimate: 280K - 530K

Range / Habitat: Migratory birds who breed on open gravel areas near freshwater throughout Europe and western Asia. They winter in Africa and southeast Asia.

Field Notes: Small plover with grey-brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with one black neckband. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes with white above and a short dark bill. In contrast to the larger Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover has flesh-colored legs and a distinct yellow eye-ring.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain.

Sardinian Warbler

Scientific Name: Sylvia melanocephala

Population Estimate: 12.6M - 48.6M

Range / Habitat: Generally non-migratory Mediterranean warbler, extending through the southernmost areas of Europe and just into Asia in Turkey.

Field Notes: Adult male has a grey back, whitish underparts, black head, white throat and red eyes (top photo). Female is mainly brown above and buff below, with a grey head (bottom photo).

 Personal Notes: A nice spot toward the end of our birding trip in Donana National Park, Spain.

Curlew Sandpiper

Scientific Name: Calidris ferruginea

Population Estimate: 1.8M - 1.9M

Range / Habitat: Breeds in the tundra of Siberia. Migrates to Africa, Australasia or India.

Field Notes: Medium-sized waders, breeding adult has patterned dark grey upperparts and brick-red underparts. Winter bird bird is pale grey above and white below, and shows an obvious white supercilium. Legs brown-grey. Similar to Dunlin but with longer down-curved bill, longer neck and legs and a white rump.

Personal Notes: Seen at Donana National Park, Spain.

Slender-billed Gull

Scientific Name: Chroicocephalus genei

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breeding range around the Mediterranean and the north of the western Indian Ocean on islands and coastal lagoons. Wintering further south to north Africa and India.

Field Notes: Medium-sized non-hooded gull with light grey mantle. Neck and bill with slender, elegant appearance. Legs and bill are dark red, appearing black. summer, the breast has a pink colouration.

Personal Notes:

18 March, 2013

Black Redstart

Scientific Name: Phoenicurus ochruros

Population Estimate: 24.5M - 106M

Range / Habitat: Widespread in south and central Europe and Asia and northwest Africa, from Great Britain and Ireland south to Morocco, east to central China. Originally favored stoney ground, now can be found in similar urban habitats.

Field Notes: Adult male is overall dark grey to black on the upperparts and with a black breast. The lower rump and tail are orange-red. The belly and undertail are either blackish-grey or orange-red. There is a white wing panel. The female is grey to grey-brown overall except for the orange-red lower rump and tail, and white wing panel.

Personal Notes: Female restart shown above.

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Scientific Name: Calandrella rufescens

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Prefers dry, baren soils in Spain, north Africa, and Turkey eastwards across the semi-deserts of central Asia to Mongolia and China.

Field Notes: Small pale lark, smaller even than Greater Short-toed Lark. It is dark-streaked greyish-brown above, and white below. It has a pale supercilium, and a short stubby bill. This species also lacks the dark neck patches of Greater Short-toed Lark, and has fine streaking across the breast.

Personal Notes: Seen in Donana National Park, Spain.

Spotless Starling

Scientific Name: Sturnus unicolor

Population Estimate: 8.5M - 18.6M

Range / Habitat: Nonmigratory bird, found in most open habitats.  Confined to the Iberian Peninsula, northwest Africa, southernmost France, and on the islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.

Field Notes: Similar in appearance and behavior to Common Starling, but with oily-looking black plumage, entirely spotless in spring and summer. It also differs in having conspicuously longer throat feathers

Personal Notes: 

16 March, 2013

Black Kite

Scientific Name: Milvus migrans

Population Estimate: 6M

Range / Habitat: Widely found throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia

Field Notes: Dark plumage and forked tail in flight.

Personal Notes: Common sight above Donana National Park in Spain.

Common Chiffchaff

Scientific Name: Phylloscopus collybita

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Migratory bird which breeds in open woodlands throughout northern and temperate Europe and Asia. Winters in southern and western Europe, southern Asia and north Africa.

Field Notes: Small, nondescript warbler. Olive-grey above, buff below, faint eyestripe. Named for its chiff-chaff song.

Personal Notes: A common little bird, but tough to photograph.

14 March, 2013

Eurasian Blackcap

Scientific Name: Sylvia atricapilla

Population Estimate: 80M - 196M

Range / Habitat: Breeds throughout temperate Europe, western Asia and northwestern Africa. Winters from northwestern Europe south to tropical Africa

Field Notes: Distinct grey warbler with black cap in the male and brown cap in the female.

Personal Notes: An "artistic" photo.

European Robin

Scientific Name: Erithacus rubecula

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Partial migrant found throughout Europe and much of Asia.

Field Notes: Typical robin habitus with grey back, white underparts, and red chin and breast.

Personal Notes: Seen at Maria Lucia Park, Seville.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Scientific Name: Psittacula krameri

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Originally limited to equatorial Africa and India, this bird has feral populations scattered throughout the world.

Field Notes: All green parakeet, males with a rose-colored ring around its neck and slight blue hue to its head.

Personal Notes: A surprising sight in Maria Lucia Park, Seville.

Short-toed Treecreeper

Scientific Name: Certhia brachydactyla

Population Estimate: 2.7M - 11.7M

Range / Habitat: Low-lying deciduous forest in Western and Central Europe, extending into Northern Africa.

Field Notes: Common treecreeper habits and habitus. Only treecreeper in the Iberian Peninsula, but does overlap to the north with the Eurasian Treecreeper, which is found at higher altitudes and more coniferous forest.

Personal Notes: Seen at Maria Lucia Park, Seville

17 February, 2013

Blue Duck

Scientific Name: Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos

Population Estimate: 1200 birds

Range / Habitat: Year-round in rapid-flowing rivers and streams in relatively predator-free areas of both North and South Islands.

Field Notes: Unmistakable in range. Blue-grey dabbling duck on rapidly flowing waterways. Black head, flesh-colored bill with black tip, and rust-speckled breast.

Personal Notes: Maori name Whio. Part of an amazing weekend where we saw this rare bird and also the Okarito Kiwi (Rowi) in the wild.