Murmurations

Murmurations

Have You Ever Heard of 
The Word Murmuration? 

It’s a super cool word that means slightly different things to different folks.

In the bird world, murmuration references a magical occurrence that a few among us have been lucky to witness.

In my video below, I’ll share the historical meaning of the word… along with a few personal experiences with murmurations, as well as links to some spectacular visual displays…

And not just starlings either.

Click the video below to check it out.

Link to Dunlins Murmuring

Link to Starlings Murmuring

Enjoy the majesty of these spectacles.

Could You Figure Out Who This Feather Belongs To? 

What if you found a feather in a place you’d never been to before… How would you ID it?

Last week I was walking along a beach in South Carolina, a place I’d never been before, and found the feather above.

I used a few clues to help me figure out who it belonged to.

What tools might you employ or questions might you ask yourself to figure this one out?

Think about it for a minute… then read on to learn what my process looked like.

Here are some of the questions I asked:

1. What size is the feather?

2. What color is the feather?

3. Who is likely in this region?

4. What part of the bird’s body do I think it came from? or What shape is it?

5. Is there anything unique about this feather?

If these questions give you enough to go on and you want to try on your own from here.. go for it 💕.

Otherwise, let’s explore these one at a time below.

1. What size is the feather?

Pretty darn big, I’d say!

It’s helpful to use something you have on “hand” to take a simple measurement. That way, when you get back home you can make an educated estimate. 

If you happen to carry a small tape measure (tracking nerds love to do this), even better.

Knowing the size helped me narrow my options down pretty quickly.

I started thinking about all of the large birds in the area.

2. What color is the feather?

I noticed a deep rich brown on the feather vane and dark brown, amber and cream on the shaft.

This would rule out the Great Blue Heron or Great Egret along with a few other large birds.

3. Who is likely in this region?

I was on the coast of South Carolina. 

What large birds do you think might be likely in the fall here? I’ll let you peruse your field guide to see what you come up with.

4. What part of the bird’s body do I think it came from? or What shape is it?

These are simple questions… but with BIG answers.

There are a handful of things to know about a bird’s wing that will help you figure this out. I won’t get into all of that today, but there are a few you’ll likely notice right away.

First, it has a lovely curve on the right side of the shaft and another swish of a curve on the left.

These curves (technically known as emargination – on the left – and a slight notch on the right) indicate that this bird is one who soars (like birds of prey, ravens, cranes, sea birds, herons, storks, etc)

Second, these curves also tell you where this feather comes from.

If you guessed wing, and more specifically, the primaries … you are right!

5. Is there anything unique about this feather?

Yes! A few elements stood out to me.

When I flipped the feather over to inspect the underside, I noticed that the area of the vane closest to the shaft looked thicker, even waxy.

If this is what I think it is, it’s called the tegmen and is a quality found in many waterfowl feathers.

Also, when I held the feather horizontal, I noticed a very deep curve or arc. You often see this kind of an arch with birds who need to make a quick takeoff… think grouse or certain ducks.

OK.. So… who do you think it belongs to?
Enjoy trying to figure it out.

I’ll share the answer in a few days.

Also.. be sure to check out my favorite resource for bird feather ID… BIRD FEATHERS by Casey McFarland and Dave Scott

A Magic Encounter With A Shorebird

I’m on a mission to learn shorebirds this year!

To do so, I’ve taken myself to warmer waters and devote a few hours each day
(or most every day) getting to know them.

The other day, I had a most magic and sweet encounter with one particular species
(see if you can figure out who it is),
because I was willing to do something that is not always easy to do.

Let me know if you’ve ever tried this approach to birding.

Enjoy…
Kristi

BIRD MYSTERIES ARE FUN!!

I love a good bird mystery!

When nature provides a glimpse into the secret life of a bird, it’s just so dang fun to try and figure out what’s going on or who it is.

Maybe I was a detective in a past life or distantly related to Sherlock Holmes or the main character from the beloved book series, The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. 😉

Sometimes all we get is a feather, a track, a song, or the fleeting glimpse of the side of a bird. What ever it is…A good mystery if fun.

So, this week I thought I share one of my favorite mysteries with you.

I came across it last year when I was out on a run.
While I was trying to figure it out, I created 2 videos to share with folks.

If you’d like to give it a go for yourself…
Click the images above. Start with the first one.

They’ll take you to my Instagram page. Click the sound icon 🔊 on the bottom right when you get there, to turn sound on.

If you enjoy the mystery, be sure to subscribe to the page for more. I love new followers! 💕

See you next time
~Kristi

 

WHO ELSE COULD IT BE?

Happy Blue Moon 🌙!

September is the month when many birds are trading in their bright sexy breeding feather coats for their more subtle non-breeding ones. 

This can result in A LOT of variations in bird plumage.

These variations result in September (and much of August) being the month for extreme birding. 😉

Meaning… Novice beware!

Even the best amongst us can easily get stumped.  However, that doesn’t mean don’t try!

It just means, be EXTRA attentive to details by becoming your most discerning self.

To give you a little boost during this demanding season…I’m going to share a VERY helpful question to keep in your back pocket…

___________________
It’s the question of:
Who else can it be?
__________________

Let’s run through an example together, using an encounter that happened to me a few weeks ago.

I was at a nearby lake early one foggy morning watching the day and the birds wake up. A flock of geese were the first to head off the lake shortly after sunrise. They were followed by a few Double-breasted Cormorants and Ring-billed Gulls coming in. 

After a little while, I noticed the gliding swooping flight of numerous swallows about 200 yards off shore.

I did my best to stick with them and make a positive ID as they dashed back and forth, banking quickly in one direction and then the next.

The most likely candidates were the Barn Swallow and the Tree Swallow.

So, you can bet I was more than stoked when I spotted, what appeared to be, a Bank Swallow. 

I noticed a bird with a dark brown back, clean white underbelly and a necklace-of-sorts around its neck and breast area.  

OMG!!! 😁☀️How cool.

I lingered with them for as long as my brain and balance could navigate their pendulous movement.

Any time I see a bird that’s not super common in my area, I always double check with my field guide… 

Just to be sure I’m recalling the field marks correctly.

When I looked the Bank Swallow up… I was spot on.
Those were the filed marks for the Bank Swallow for sure.

BUT!! WAIT!!

It was August.
So, I took the extra minute to ask myself The Question…

Who else could it be?

If you haven’t done so already… pull out your field guide and do that now, before I reveal what I discovered.

I scanned each swallow in my guide…
The Barn, Cliff, Cave, Tree…

WAIT! WHAT’S THAT?


No way!

The juvenile Tree Swallow shows a necklace similar to that of the Bank Swallow!!

Dang!

OK… So, how are they actually different?

I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

 

But, I will tell you that there is one great feature that you can use to distinguish the two species this time of year.

Fun!! Right!
I agree. 

That’s why I’ll be diving into 6 more of these similarities with my students in the Advanced Skills for Beginning Birders Masters Course during our next live Zoom session.

Every 2 weeks I meet with an inspiring crew of students from all across the country (and one in Japan 😁) to cover topics like…

  • The difference between a Merlin and Peregrine Falcon
  • Bird Nest Identification
  • How to Look at Warblers
  • Telling Ducks Apart
  • Female Bird Identification 
  • Warbler Habitat for Better ID
  • And many more….

In addition to our bi-monthly meetings, students get to explore activities and delve into topics about bird life, habitat, behavior, shape, size, posture and song at their own pace as they progress in the course. 

They get to choose when and where they do the activities and if they want to follow along in the books or the online course. It’s totally up to them and easily fits into their unique schedule.

Being a masters student means you also receive free access to the For The Love of Birds Rendezvous Speaker Series, you get entry into our private online group, and best of all…feedback on their assignments from talented mentors.  

Sometimes, like tonight… 

I bring on guest speakers, like Dan Gardoqui from Lead with Nature who will be discussing shore birds and migration 

OR…

 Maryse La Renarde from Canada who will be taking us on a journey of birds in archeology. 

If you’d like to deepen your connection to birds and nature and join this passionate crew of bird loving folks… 

Click this link to schedule an interview with me to learn if the course is a good fit for you.

Until next time!

~Kristi

6 STEPS TO CREATING

A BACKYARD BIRD HAVEN

The folks at Redfin reached out to me recently and asked if I’d share my top tips on how to create a bird sanctuary in your backyard.

I loved this idea… and came up with my top 6 tips tips, a few not quite so mainstream that I thought they might enjoy.

In the end, they used one of my sentences.😉

I guess that how it goes when 21 stellar birding organizations from all across the country offer their best tips as well.

I was honored to be included in their article no matter what.

To read my tips...You will find them below.

If you’d like to check out the Redfin article, just click this link…Feathering The Nest: Expert Tips For Creating a Backyard Bird Sanctuary.

Backyard Bird Sanctuary with sun rising through the mist

I like to think outside the box when it comes to creating a thriving bird haven for your backyard. A lovely way to begin, is to visit your local Audubon center or nature preserve that supports birds.

Observe what is working, what inspires you, and what would be most suitable for your unique backyard.

After you’ve allowed your observations to sink in…

You can follow these 6 STEPS TO CREATING YOUR BACKYARD BIRD HAVEN:

  1. If You Plant It, They Will Come – This means more than simply options for food, nesting, and shelter, though these are essential. It also includes roosting, bathing – both dust and water – and singing perch options.
  2. Native Plants Are Key– Seek out a native plant nursery in your area for a diverse range of local native plants. Aim for a nice mix of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers with staggered blooming times. Select plants that produce berries, seeds, nectar, or will be home to insects throughout the year, as these are all important food sources for birds. Berries being an easy favorite for both people and birds.
  3. Water Features Rule – Bird baths and fountains are an excellent alternative or addition to bird feeders. Especially in parts of the country where bears and rodents can be a concern. Pro tip: Ensure the water is fresh, shallow, moving or bubbling and is placed on or very close to the ground.
  4. There’s No Place Like Home: Install a birdhouse or nesting box designed for specific bird species like blue birds, Purple Martins, Barn Owls or Wood Ducks.
  5. Mimic Mama Nature: Allow plants to go to seed and dry stalks to stand until the following spring. This may be hard for some folks, but the birds will love it.  For Bonus Points – Join the “No Mow May” movement.
  6. Think Long-term: Enjoy the journey. It may take time for birds to discover your thriving new bird haven, but soon enough, word will spread and you’ll be the coolest house on the block.