Review: Birdseye Hotspots

BirdseyeHotspotsIn August, my mother bought an iPad for me to use on my trip to Long Point. Before I left for Long Point, I filled the iPad with a bunch of birding apps, including the Birdseye Hotspots, which I received from Drew at Nemesis Bird as a review copy.

The Birdseye Hotspot app was created by Birdseye Birding and Nemesis Code and quickly finds eBird hotspots wherever you are, around the world, as long as you are connected to WiFi.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of hotspots in my area at home (in fact, there are only two).  But in Long Point, where we had WiFi (not at the Tip) there were many more, and I can see how useful the app could be for finding hotspots. I haven’t used the app very much because of the lack of hotspots in my area. However, if I get to visit a new area for birding, or if I ever get to do a Big Year, this app would come in very handy!

The two hotspots in my area

The two hotspots in my area

The app’s interface is very easy to use and intuitive. For every hotspot the app gives you, weather conditions, GPS coordinates and connects to Birdseye so you can see what species have been reported for that hotspot.

The app is compatible with iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches. The price is just right, for $4.99 you can’t go wrong!

Birding News #40

:: Africanized bees have killed several birds, two ravens and a turkey vulture, at at the Alameda Zoo in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

:: A fierce wind storm at New Jersey’s Raptor Trust sanctuary has destroyed large cages that are home to several birds, and caused more than $60,000 in damages.

:: On Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to list the rare Ashy Storm-Petrel under the Endangered Species Act

:: Earlier this week the Ventana Wildlife Society started a live streaming cam for California Condors, located in the condors’ main feeding area.

:: The U.S. Geological Survey is using the carcasses of Common Loons and Lesser Scaups in experiments on drift to help locate toxic sources in the Great Lakes region; one is type E botulism, a neurotoxin that causes paralysis and death in birds when ingested. The USGS estimates that more than 80,000 birds have died from botulism intoxication in the area since 1999.

:: Temple University’s campus newspaper reports that the Audubon Pennsylvania Society and the university’s grounds department estimate that more than 1,000 birds have died on the main campus this year, most of them after flying into buildings; a 2008 study found that the university was one of the central locations for bird deaths in Philadelphia.

:: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the Greater Sage Grouse in Nevada and California as a threatened species.

:: The California island harbor town of Avalon had beaches polluted by pigeons and a waterfront where aggressive gulls harassed visitors until it hired a master falconer and his enforcers, a Harris Hawk, a Eurasian Eagle Owl, and a hybrid hawk which drove off the pest birds.

:: The late Starr Saphir was honored at NYC Audubon’s fall fundraiser with video tribute 

Great posts in birding blogs this week: 

:: From Birdgirl at Exploring Nature: Bald Eagles

:: From Kathie at Kathie’s Birds: Birds, Beasts, and Alum Creek

:: From Mia at On the Wing PhotographyCalliope Hummingbird and Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

:: From Jochen at 10,000 Birds: The Chukar Situation

:: From Maureen at Hipster BirdersGood Times at Jamaica Bay

:: From Laurence at Butler’s BirdsA Chase to Louisiana, with Grasslands in Between

:: From Scott at Learn Outdoor PhotographyGrasshopper Sparrows Have Returned

:: From Kenneth at Rosyfinch RamblingsEarthworms versus Ovenbirds

:: From Sharon at Birdchick: the latest Birdchick podcast

A Month at the Long Point Bird Observatory, Part 2

(Part 1 of my internship account is here)

September 1st: It was a little windy today, so some of the nets were closed, but we caught a hatch-year female Sharp-shinned Hawk which was very neat! An after-hatch year male and female Canada Warblers were caught in the same net. It was a good opportunity see the differences in plumage in the hand, and side by side. There weren’t very many songbirds around, but I did find a Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, and a Wilson’s Warbler flitting about in some bushes near one of the nets.

A female Sharp-shinned Hawk,

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The after-hatch year male and female Canada Warblers,

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We saw a few Ospreys at the Tip, and this one was very obliging for a photograph,

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September 4th:  Today was the only day we banded over 100 birds while I was at the Tip. It was a lot of fun to see so many birds but it was also very tiring for the banders. Most of the birds caught were Catharus thrushes, Blackpoll Warblers, a Wood Thrush, and other species, and a Connecticut Warbler was also banded later in the morning. There were hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds flying over with a few Bobolinks in the mix, and there were 25 Sanderling feeding along the beach.

A Connecticut Warbler,

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A Viceroy Butterfly,

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LPBO staffer Janice with a male Indigo Bunting (and matching shirt and fingernails!),

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September 5th: Today wasn’t as busy as yesterday for banding, but the number of warblers moving through the area was astounding! Some of the warbler species were Wilson’s Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Canada Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, Northern Parulas, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Cape May Warblers were all seen around the Tip. In the afternoon Ana, Antje, Daniel, and I did a supplementary census and the highlights were a large mixed flock of 16 warbler species, a Brown Thrasher, a Baird’s Sandpiper feeding in a group with three Least Sandpipers, a Cooper’s Hawk, and a very co-operative Philadelphia Vireo. My two lifers for the day were the Philadelphia Vireo and Northern Parula.

A Bay-breasted Warbler,

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Northern Parula,

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September 8th: It was much too windy to open any of the nets today, so in the early morning Dayna, Ana, and I went out to the Tip to look for any unusual gulls and Jaegers that would have been brought in by the strong winds; unfortunately we didn’t see any. We did see over 4,000 Double-crested Cormorants flying past the Tip which was quite the spectacle. There were three Great Black-backed Gulls at the Tip and large flocks of Sanderlings were flying around with a Baird’s Sandpiper and two Semipalmated Plovers mixed in.

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A beautiful Pandora’s Sphinx Moth,

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A Monarch Butterfly chrysalis I found in the sand at the Tip,

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September 9th: Bird activity is still very slow and since it wasn’t too windy we were able to open some of the nets. Double-crested Cormorants were flying past the Tip in large numbers, and a Great Blue Heron was hunting along the shore of the Tip. On one of my net rounds, I saw a banded Rock Pigeon sitting on the Heligoland Trap. Some of my favorites banded today were a Tennessee Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Magnolia Warblers, and Blackpoll Warblers.

Tennessee Warbler ruffled from the wind,

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A male Chestnut-sided Warbler,

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Sunrise at the Tip,

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LPBO staffer Dayna with a Black-throated Blue Warbler,

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One of my favorite warbler species — a male Black-throated Blue Warbler,

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A very ratty looking moulting Eastern Towhee,

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Eastern Whip-poor-Will,

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September 11th: Swainson’s Thrushes, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Veerys, Wilson’s Warblers, American Redstarts, Red-eyed Vireos, and American Robins were some of the species caught this morning. The best bird of the day was an immature male Eastern Towhee. Stu and Ed were on census, but about half an hour into the census Ed came running back to tell the rest of us at the banding station that they had found an Upland Sandpiper in a tree. It was really interesting to see the sandpiper just standing on a branch high up in a tree.

An Upland Sandpiper,

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September 14th: Banding was steady this morning with LPBO’s first Orange-crowned Warbler of the Fall season and lots of Swainson’s Thrushes. I was able to band a Wood Thrush, many Black-throated Blue Warblers, and American Redstarts. There were lots of American Redstarts in the woodlot around Old Cut and many of them were adult males instead of the usual females and immature males. In the late morning, someone who was birding around Old Cut found an Eastern Whip-poor Will roosting in a spruce tree, it was a great way to end my stay at Long Point!

Late in the afternoon of the 14th I left Long Point and got on a plane in Hamilton to fly back home to Alberta.

During my month stay at Long Point, I read the first 40 pages of Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part II which is essential to bird banding; there are copies of both volumes in all the LPBO banding labs and library. From my banding work and the book, I learned a lot this summer about skull ossification and molt patterns. I also learned just how much work is put in by volunteers, from entering data, and bleaching the walls of the house at the Tip to keep molt and spider droppings from wrecking the paint, to sweeping all the sand out of the house daily and installing a new refrigerator. Without all the hard work done by volunteers, the Long Point Bird Observatory wouldn’t run as smoothly as it does.

I had so much fun at Long Point again and learned so much. I hope to go back sometime soon!

The species I was able to add to my Life List at Long Point, August-September 2013:

Eastern Whip-poor Will, Upland Sandpiper, Philadelphia Vireo, Northern Parula, Wood Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Bay-breasted Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Palm Warbler, Peregrine Falcon, Wilson’s Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, Virginia Rail, and Magnolia Warbler.

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

A flock of Greater White-fronted Geese (or Speckle Bellies as some people call them); digiscoped,

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More Feathers on Friday Posts: 

:: From Ethan at Bird Boy: Feathers on Friday

Birding News #39

:: With 275 species, 16-year-old Aaron Gyllenhaal has broken the record for most species seen in Cook County, Indiana this year. And the year isn’t over yet!

:: The large population of moose in the Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, is changing the species of birds able to live in the park because of all the vegetation the moose are eating.

:: A dead California Condor was found floating in a dip tank used by firefighting helicopters near the Tehachapi Mountains

:: The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 competition, sponsored by the Natural History Museum in London and BBC Worldwide, has announced the winners of the 49th annual contest, which includes 18 different categories, from birds and malls to “Creative Visions” and “Nature in Black and White”. You can see the winners, selected from tens of thousands of entries from dozens of countries around the world, here at the Museum’s special online gallery.

:: Playback of bird songs may harm birds by causing them to expend more energy than necessary

:: The Peterson Birds App (Field Guide to Birds of North America) is currently available for $2.99, which is 80 percent off the original price of $14.99 (I didn’t see an end date for the sale).

:: A rare Bonelli’s Eagle with a transmitter was shot and wounded by a Lebanese hunter, and an Israeli ornithologist fears that the capture and killing of “spy” birds is harming wildlife preservation in the Middle East

Great posts in birding blogs this week: 

:: From Chris at Birding is Fun: Osprey – A Unique Bird of Prey

:: From Dan at Bird CanadaMemories of Summer in Southern Alberta

:: From Nick at Saskatchewan Birds and Nature: Fall Birds

:: From Alex at Nemesis BirdLincoln’s Sparrow vs. Song Sparrow – PSU Fall Banding

:: From Tim at Bird Canada: Fall photography – making the most of autumnal colours

:: From Gordan at Birding AdventuresPima Canyon Wash – 13 Oct 2013

:: From Lillian at the Stoke Birding BlogSparrow ID Help Is on the Way! Here’s How to ID Them at Your Feeders

:: From Sharon at Birdchick: the latest Birdchick podcast

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

One morning last week, I woke up to the sound of a Blue Jay outside. I thought I was dreaming because we don’t have the right habitat for Blue Jays around our house, but when I looked out the window there was indeed a Blue Jay! Their colors are so beautiful,

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More Feathers on Friday Posts: 

:: From babsje at Great Blue Herons: The Red Tailed Hawk’s Guide to Hitchhikers

Book Review: The Stokes Field Guide to Birds (Western and Eastern Regions)

StokesfieldguidetobirdsEarlier this year I was very excited to win two autographed copies of the new Stokes Field Guide to Birds, Western Region and Eastern Region editions, from Donald and Lillian Stokes. I’ve read through them, they’re terrifc, and this review is long overdue!

The guides are revised and updated from the previous editions published in 2010. They’re also smaller and more portable than the previous editions and especially the one-volume edition, though they still won’t fit in a smaller pocket and they do have some serious weight (about two pounds each). But as the only photographic field guides for both eastern and western North America, what you lose a bit in portability you make up in comprehensiveness.

The Stokes guides are identical in format, with an average of one page for each species, with four or so color photographs for each species. However, the Western guide has more photos (2,400) compared to the Eastern guide (2,200 photos). The guides each measure 8.5″ by 5.5″, and are each about an inch thick, not too big for carrying around in a backpack. But together they weigh a good deal — the Eastern guide is 1.7 lbs. and the Western guide weighs 2 lbs. A good part of that weight are all the color plates, and the quality of the photos is very good. Each entry has a average of about four photos, showing differences in summer and winter plumages, age, sex, and location; each photograph is also identified by location (state, or province or country) and month. Difficult birds get more photos — the Red-tailed Hawk in the Eastern guide gets a full dozen shots, and in the Western guide, 23 photographs over four pages. The Wilson’s Snipe and Long-billed Dowitcher get two pages and seven photographs each in the Eastern Region volume. That’s lots of scope for showing the variations in appearance in a species.

The text supports all the photography very well. The text is detailed for each species, concentrating mainly on identification but including common name, scientific name, important subspecies, ABA Codes, common hybrids, habitat, voice, and range maps which show year-round, breeding, wintering grounds; and migration routes. Throughout the guides, the Stokeses have added boxes with “identification tips”  that further explain how to distinguish between difficult, or similar-looking, species, such as Swainson’s Thrush and Gray-cheeked Thrush, Western Grebe and Clark’s Grebe.

The new guides include the American Ornithological Union’s most recent changes to common and scientific bird names, new splits or lumps to a species, and updated taxonomical order.

One feature I find very useful is the Quick Alphabetical Index just inside the front cover. The back of the book includes a full index, and also a complete list of photo credits.

I understand from other birders and other reviewers that the previous one-volume edition included a bonus CD/MP3 with 150 tracks of bird songs. This is no longer part of these field guides, but I would imagine that was a decision made to keeping the new volumes the books more portable and affordable.

If you’re an amateur or a serious birder, just watching birds in your yard or planning a special trip, these guides definitely deserves a place on your bookshelf or in your backpack. I highly recommend these field guides, and thanks again to the Stokeses for the contest and the autographed copies.

You can buy it from your favourite bookseller or Amazon.com.

(I won copies of each guide, but my opinions in this review are entirely my own.)