“Changes to the AOU Check-list of North American Birds”

(July 1, 2015, The Auk: Ornithological Advances) “Of particular interest to birders will also be the new species added to the Check-list—not species new to science, but rather birds already known from elsewhere that have only been recently confirmed to be found in North America. These include the Egyptian Goose, Waved Albatross, Zino’s Petrel, Whistling Heron, Dusky Pigeon, Bicolored Wren, and Common Redstart. Get out your binoculars and life lists, birders, and start looking! The 56th Supplement to the Check-list is available at http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-15-73.1

Auk & Condor Updates

(July 1, 2015, The Auk: Ornithological Advances)—The latest Supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-list of North American Birds was published this week in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, and includes several major updates to the organization of the continent’s bird species. More than just a list, the Check-list groups birds into genera, families, and orders based on their evolutionary relationships, and some of the most significant changes in this year’s Supplement involve the tanagers, family Thraupidae. “Recent genetic studies have overturned much of what we thought we knew about what constitutes a tanager,” explains Terry Chesser, Chairman of the AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature for North and Middle America. As a result, this Supplement sees 6 genera and 11 species, many of which are found only in the Caribbean, moved from the Thraupidae into a temporary category of their own as a result of genetic analysis…

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Guinea Fowl Roam Virginia!

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There are Guinea Fowl roaming free in Virginia. I first learned this when I visited the Blackthorne Inn in Upperville, VA. Apparently, one day a couple of guinea fowl showed up on the property and made themselves at home along with a homeless cat who also found a new home here.  An employee told me that the Guinea Fowl likely escaped from a farm.

The pair of Guinea Fowl roamed the property and often could be spotted on the back porch or front of the Inn. They ate food provided to them and spent time looking for bugs. I always looked for them when I visit. I was sad to learn this year that one of them  died. Now there is just one left.

I have never stayed at the Inn though it looks like a neat place to stay. On the first floor there is a fun Irish pub called Wolfe Tone’s. I recommend sitting outside during good weather as the have a patio facing their pond that is far from the road. One of the best outdoor spots around to have a drink. During winter, the inside of the pub is nice and cozy with a real fireplace.

Keep an eye out for the Guinea Fowl and black cat around the perimeter of the building!

I have also once spotted a flock of Guinea Fowl roaming near Braddock Road in Chantilly, VA. So they are out there!

 

Childhood Memories of Birds

As a child without binoculars my encounters with birds were casual and fleeting. My earliest memories are of seeing American Robins on neighbor’s lawns. Other than that bird sightings seemed rare unless I was near the Bay where the gulls hung out. We used to feed them roasted chicken during picnics!

My first favorite bird was the California Quail. I only got to see it a few times though and I think all sightings were up in Tilden Park, Berkeley, California. I thought they were so cute with the feather sticking up from their heads and the way they ran around on the ground.  

I remember going on field trips to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA. I think I saw my first California Condor (or was it just a Turkey Vulture) at the Lindsay. While it was an up close encounter I still await the day when I see one soaring through the sky. I have found memories of seeing birds up close at the Lindsay. I also got to hold a boa for the first time. What was really neat also was that the Lindsay had a program where you could take home an animal (rabbits, guinea pigs..) for a few days. This program gave families an opportunity to explore pat ownership before making a commitment to an animal.

So how did I begin birdwatching? Well, an unexpected gift came in the mail from my grandparents. They sent me a plastic bird feeder with suction cup mounts to attach to a window. I was really excited about seeing wild birds close up for the first time! I attached the feeder to my bedroom window and delighted in attracting song birds. 

This first step toward birdwatching ended soon after as a jay (I thought it was a Blue Jay. Years later, I learned it was a Western Scrub Jay) repeatedly knocked it down spilling all of the seeds on the ground.  After refilling the feeder a number of times I finally called it quits. I would not have another bird feeder for over twenty years. I went back to be a casual observer of birds for many years.