November has truly been “Novembird” for much of the ABA area, with a smattering of great birds spread across the region. The grip of winter is finally beginning to take its hold. Lucky for us, there were several nice posts written by young birders over the past month. Many of us are gearing up for Christmas Bird Count season, and Alexandra Forsythe at Indiana Young Birders summarizes some CBC history and explains why you should get involved.
Over a century later, the CBC has continued to be an important form of citizen science. The data collected helps researchers study bird populations and how those populations have changed. Armed with this information, additional studies and conservation measures can be taken to help the birds overcome the issues which affect them. For example, in the 1980’s it became apparent that wintering populations of the American Black Duck were in decline. Strict harvest regulations were put in place which has helped slow the decline.
eBird maps have changed the way we look at distribution. Using this tool, Neil Gilbert explores the somewhat unusual range of the Mew Gull on his blog, Not Just Birds.
Mew Gulls occur in the Eastern and Western hemispheres (though, there is disagreement about the status of the (sub)species–another one of those Green-winged/Common Teal conundrums). This map nicely illustrates their occurrence in Europe and North America–and it also illustrates the lack of coverage in Asia. It will be interesting to look at a map for this species in a decade or two once the eBird surge hits Asia.
With the cold comes identification challenges. Across the South, we once again have to touch up on the subtle differences between Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Chloe Walker, at Chloe’s Birding Blog, offers some helpful tips on identifying these tricky accipiters.
One of the most highlighted bird identification challenges is Cooper’s Hawk versus Sharp-shinned Hawk. The two are similar in both shape and plumage, and there’s even some size overlap. Separating these accipiters is much easier with birds sitting on a post or in a tree, but it’s almost a whole different case with flying birds. I am still not at the point where I can safely ID either species in flight, so this post will cover identifying them when perched. At the end, I have a short Cooper’s vs. Sharp-shin photo quiz for those who want to “put to practice” what they have learned.
The heat of sub-Saharan Africa may seem unimaginable as winter returns to North America. Jacob Cooper, at Zugunruhe, shares his incredible experiences with the natives of Cameroon while birding there.
This region, one of the most densely populated in Cameroon, is noticeably drier and cooler that the southern slopes. Farms dominated the landscape, and flocks of Red-cheeked Cordonbleu flushed from the road ahead of me. The drive chain flew off the motorcycle at one point, and I took the opportunity to watch the birds in this agrarian area. Yellow Bishop and Yellow-shouldered Widow distracted me from the fact that I was stranded on the side of the road with Moses, and after about an hour or so, the fixed moto taxis returned and we continued onward. We climbed high over the ridges of Wum and dropped down to a remote bush market for lunch where I ate fufu and bitter greens (the main staple in this part of the country). We continued up, and eventually we came to the crest of a large hill. Here, above the rest of the grassy hills lay the Fongum, the center of the Kingdom of Fongum. We parked in the courtyard of the palace and entered slowly.