WingsBirds Updates Updates from WingsBirds Fri, 25 Sep 2020 22:47:00 -0700 en daily 1 <p>Susan Myers shares her love of reptiles and amphibians</p> 2020-09-25 11:50:10 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>If you&rsquo;ve travelled with me in the past, you are no doubt aware that after birds, my other passion is reptiles and amphibians. The art of searching for these amazing animals is known as herping and I&rsquo;ve spent much of the last few months flipping rocks, road cruising and spotlighting as I herp around the US. When I&rsquo;m leading in Asia, I&rsquo;ll often stay a few days before or after a tour in order to go herping, and sometimes when time allows, I&rsquo;ll take people out for some after-birding herping in some of the most reptile rich places on earth.</p> <p>Right before we were hit with this pesky pandemic, I managed to squeeze in a week of herping in Goa, India where myself and two Indian herpetologist friends found King Cobras, pit vipers, endemic geckoes, and unique frogs.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" /></p> <p>This stunning Malabar Pit Viper <em>Trimeresurus malabaricus</em> was definitely my favourite find.</p> <p>And last year, I spent quite a bit of time herping in Borneo, where reptiles such as Paradise Gliding Snake and frogs such as Hole-in-the-head Frog beckon.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" />&nbsp;</p> <p>The Hole-in-the-head Frog <em>Huia cavitympanum</em> is the only non-mammal vertebrate to use ultrasonic communication!</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" />&nbsp;</p> <p>But without doubt my favourite Asian herps are the arboreal pit vipers. Just look at this stunning little male Bornean Keeled Pit Viper <em>Tropidolaemus subannulatus</em>.</p> <p>Moving into the more recent past, I&rsquo;ve had a lot of fun right here in the US searching for snakes, lizards, frogs and salamanders in various places over the last few months. Here are some of my favourites&hellip;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Sonoran Lyre Snake <em>Trimorphodon lambda</em> is found through in Mexico, Arizona and just into Southern California, Nevada and Utah. They are nocturnal and mostly terrestrial, but also good climbers as you can see! The name comes from the lyre-shaped pattern on the top of the head.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" /></p> <p>Ground Snake <em>Sonora semiannulata</em></p> <p>This gorgeous little snake is highly variable, but my friends and I got lucky and found the most attractive of them, the orange and black banded form.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Shasta Black Salamander <em>Aneides jecanus</em><br /> We were told by local experts that we had no chance of finding this little fella, but I flipped a log and there they were! This very localised sally is one of the so-called lungless Plethodontid salamanders that do not breathe through lungs. They conduct respiration through their skin and the tissues lining their mouth. This requires them to live in damp environments on land and to move about on the ground only during times of high humidity.</p> <p>But to me, the rattlesnakes are the pinnacle of American reptiles! They are beautiful, unique and, despite what you may think due to centuries of bad press, gentle and shy. I love photographing them&hellip;</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" /></p> <p>Sidewinder <em>Crotalus cerastes</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="602" height="415" /></p> <p>Black-tailed Rattlesnake <em>Crotalus molussu</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" /></p> <p>Rock Rattlesnake <em>Crotalus Lepidus</em></p> <p>Susan Myers Sept 2020</p> <p>Steve Howell reports on under-appreciated fall plumages.</p> 2020-08-31 12:23:40 Wings Staff Field Reports <p>It&rsquo;s that time of year again...</p> <p>Was the season named Fall for all the leaves that fall, or perhaps for all the feathers that fall during this season? Just think, without millions and trillions of feather-degrading bacteria we might be walking around be ankle-deep or locally knee-deep in ticklish feathers at this time of year!</p> <p>A lot of our resident birds don&rsquo;t look so pretty right now, like this Song Sparrow (or Antpitta?!) but molt is a critical part of their life cycle.<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></p> <p>You don&rsquo;t see too many photos of American Crows at the best of times, but even fewer when they look like this!<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Even this fresh-looking Grasshopper Sparrow is molting&mdash;check out those bunched up growing secondaries, the last stage of its complete fall molt.<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Wing molt is a more distinct on this American Robin...<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Even more so on this immature male Red-winged Blackbird...<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>And this male Western Bluebird.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>But just starting (those contrasting blacker feathers) on the wings of this young Violet-green Swallow.<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Some birds, on the other hand, are not molting, such as this juvenile Baird&rsquo;s Sandpiper, ....<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Or this juvenile Olive-sided Flycatcher.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" />&nbsp;</p> <p>Or this stretching juvenile Purple Martin, who surely needs to exercise.<img src="" alt="" width="640" height="512" /></p> <p>Because... these last three species are all long-distance migrants that grow a strong juvenile plumage and migrate off to as far away as Tierra del Fuego to undergo a mid-winter (= mid-summer down there) molt before they return here next spring with a completely new coat of feathers. So take a look around at the common birds, see which are molting and which aren&rsquo;t, and take a moment to ponder their diverse and amazing lifestyles. And give thanks to countless unseen feather-degrading bacteria that we&rsquo;re not all sneezing in a blizzard of feathers!</p> <p>An update from Ethan Kistler in Ohio</p> 2020-08-18 15:06:22 Wings Staff Field Reports <p class="ydp575ac3fbmsonospacing">After all of my tours were cancelled this year due to COVID-19, I was in a position that I haven&rsquo;t been in for a long time &ndash; I was stuck home! Although I really missed being with everyone on my various tours domestically and abroad, it was a nice consolation prize to be home for spring migration and the breeding season. &nbsp;During the spring I birded the yard intensely, keeping track of the waves of migrants during the day and recording nocturnal flight calls at night. The latter added a good number of species to my property list that would otherwise be impossible due to a lack of wetland habitat (ie American Bittern, Virginia Rail, and Sora)! If I were guiding, I would have also missed the Black Vulture that flew over my house, which ended up being a first county record. Another bonus was being able to have a large vegetable garden and tend my native wildflower gardens, prairies, and grasslands. Much of the property has been converted away from lawn to native habitat, which in return brings more insects and birds to the property. With fall migration commencing, it will be interesting to see what will pass through in the coming months&hellip;</p> <p class="ydp575ac3fbmsonospacing"><img src="" alt="" width="577" height="433" /><br /> Drone photo of the property</p> <p class="ydp575ac3fbmsonospacing"><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" /><br /> Ruby-throated Hummingbird</p> <p class="ydp575ac3fbmsonospacing"><img src="" alt="" width="612" height="408" /><br /> Spiny Oak-slug Moth caterpillar on a Black Tupelo</p> India: The North 2020-04-06 16:39:40 Will Russell Recently updated tours India is a mystical and exotic country that for many people epitomizes foreign travel. It is an extraordinarily varied land, and long after you have returned home images will remain to enrich and liven your daily round: the cool marble splendor of the Taj Mahal; the snows of the Himalayas, flamingo-pink at dawn; and the lush green jungles. And above all the birds: the thrill of your first Siberian Rubythroat, a Red-flanked Bluetail or Altai Accentor beside a mountain stream a Sarus Crane striding majestically through the cornfields an Orange-headed Thrush lighting up the undergrowth or minivets streaming through the emerald canopy. With so many birds on the potential list, the examples can only be arbitrary, and the total for the tour should be between 380 and 400 species. Portugal in Spring 2020-04-02 15:41:14 Will Russell Recently updated tours Portugal possesses a fine diversity of habitats and birds in a relatively small area.&nbsp; Within 30 minutes drive from Lisbon city center and its International Airport we find the Tagus Estuary and the Sado Estuary Nature Reserves, two protected wetland areas with extensive bird lists including Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Squacco and Purple Herons, Black-shouldered Kite, Little Bustard, Iberian Grey Shrike and Spotless Starling, and an excellent selection of ducks, waders, gulls and terns. Zambia 2020-02-14 14:18:48 Will Russell Recently updated tours Zambia is a wonderfully scenic country in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa with numerous parks and safari areas.&nbsp; It is also unusually diverse biologically, and&mdash;although under birded&mdash;has one of the largest bird lists in Africa, surpassing 750 species.&nbsp; We&rsquo;ll visit a range of habitats, each with its own set of species, beginning in the extreme northwest corner on the border of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This remote area, rarely visited by tourists, offers a chance to see many Congo Basin species normally inaccessible to birders. From here we&rsquo;ll travel south towards Kafue National Park, one of the largest parks in Africa, with its extensive Miombo woodlands interspersed with grassy depressions called &ldquo;Dambos.&rdquo;&nbsp; Here we may see the highly localized Black-cheeked Lovebird and very likely some of Africa&rsquo;s iconic mammals. Continuing south we&rsquo;ll stop near Choma for the endemic Chaplin&rsquo;s Barbet, before spending the last couple nights in the Lower Zambezi Valley where we&rsquo;ll target the iconic African Pitta, one of Africa&rsquo;s most sought-after birds. Scotland 2020-02-06 10:39:20 Will Russell Recently updated tours The Scottish Highlands are one of the last truly wild places to be found in the United Kingdom. Ideally placed to explore the region, the imposing Grant Arms Hotel is home to The Birdwatching and Wildlife Club which provides its own Club room with a wildlife information centre, a bookshop and a natural history library. It also has a large lecture theatre which hosts evening talks from a range of guest speakers. Lesser Antilles 2019-12-18 19:03:39 Will Russell Recently updated tours These 10 stunningly beautiful Caribbean islands form the eastern border between the placid Caribbean Sea and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Each tropical island gem is separated by turquoise seas and boasts rich wetlands, vast open grasslands, dynamic coastlines and lush tropical rainforests. These diverse habitats are home to a lengthy list of highly threatened single-island endemics and near endemics along with a host of indigenous regional specialties. Recent Publication: The Birds of Gambell and St. Lawrence Island 2019-05-31 10:58:46 Matt Brooks Miscellany <p>Western Field Ornithologists has recently published Paul Lehman&rsquo;s book, <em>The Birds of Gambell and St. Lawrence Island</em>. This WFO Special Publication will be a valuable resource for many who visit this island on birding tours. All those with an interest in patterns of vagrancy, Alaskan birds, and eastern Palearctic migrants will want to get their hands on this book. You can purchase the book <a href="">here</a>. Available in paper or digital versions. </p>