Frankly, my dear, Blue Jays are quite something

None other than the blue jay can be described as bold, brash and beautiful — a feathered Rhett Butler in blue and white. (Who knows that name anymore?) This is a northern bird and often seen here on MDI year-round. It is one that easily rivals in looks any bird found in the tropics. Most of us forget about that. A birding friend visiting me from England brought that to my attention when she first caught sight of a blue jay and said, “Ruth, what was THAT beautiful bird?” I answered, “Oh, that’s just a blue jay.”

By Ruth Grierson

Mother birds do not always choose a good spot for their nest at first try. At my temporary vacation spot, I recently found a wren’s nest that had baby birds in it and I think their chances are slim. It must have been the female’s first try. The babies will be lucky to fly off safely.

My favorite wren on Mount Desert Island is the winter wren. It is the wren we get to see if we’re out and about from mid-April through January. There are five different wrens you might see throughout the year on the island: the winter wren, house wren, Carolina wren, sedge wren and marsh wren.

The winter wren is one of the easier ones to see for its short, cocked–up, stubby tail and barred belly are very eye catching. The bird acts like a feathered ping pong ball constantly in motion. Look for it in brush piles, ravines, woods, tangles and in the roots along the banks of streams. A feathered ping pong ball REALLY does describe it.

None other than the blue jay can be described as bold, brash and beautiful — a feathered Rhett Butler in blue and white. (Who knows that name anymore?) This is a northern bird and often seen here on MDI year-round. It is one that easily rivals in looks any bird found in the tropics. Most of us forget about that. A birding friend visiting me from England brought that to my attention when she first caught sight of a blue jay and said, “Ruth, what was THAT beautiful bird?“ I answered, “Oh, that’s just a blue jay.”

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Long-Lost Babbler Bird Documented in Borneo for the First Time in Over 170 Years

The animal was last recorded between 1843 and 1848, when a scientist collected the first and only museum specimen

By Theresa Machemer

When Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan trekked into the South Kalimantan rainforest in Borneo, they sometimes spotted a black and brown bird darting between the trees. They couldn’t identify it, so they captured one of the birds and sent photos of it to a local birdwatching group, BW Galeatus.

One member of the group, Joko Said Trisiyanto, matched the bird’s markings to the black-browed babbler, which was listed in his guidebook as possibly extinct. He sent the photos to ornithologist Panji Gusti Akbar, who passed the photos along to several other experts, Rachel Nuwer reports for the New York Times. After the initial shock faded, experts agreed: it was indeed a black-browed babbler, the longest-lost species in Asia that hadn’t been recorded in over 170 years. The rediscovery is detailed in the journal BirdingASIA. Continue reading

Black bird watching group provides a safe space for people of colour in nature

Flock Together aims to tackle the historic exclusion of people of colour from spaces of nature.

For many Black people and other ethnic minority groups, nature spaces can still feel incredibly hostile. Going to the park alone, traveling in small groups, or bird-watching can cause people to stare at you questioningly, call the police or just outright make you feel ‘out of place’. As a nature-loving person of colour, it can feel as though there is a different set of rules you need to abide by. We see this hostility and discriminatory exclusion happen again and again in spaces of nature and communities dedicated to the natural world. For example, the cropping of Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate out of a group photo with Greta Thunberg and three other white female activists. Or, when Christian Cooper, a Black science writer and long-term bird-watcher (he had been President of the Harvard Orthological Club in the 1980s) had the police called on him by Amy Cooper, a white woman.

Flock Together group

Though the charges against Amy Cooper have since been dropped, the incident led to the creation of #blackbirdersweek, an initiative to showcase Black birders around the world, and to promote diversity within the sector. The long-term benefits humans get from being outside are well documented, but the reality is that people from ethnic minority groups may miss out on the joys of nature because of discrimination, racism and exclusion  [ . . . ]

Flock Together group

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Rare half-male and half-female northern nardinal bird spotted in Pennsylvania

‘It was one of the experiences of a lifetime’

A bird-watcher in Pennsylvania snapped a photo of a “one-in-a-million” encounter with a northern cardinal that was half male and half female.

Jamie Hill, 69, who has been bird-watching for nearly 50 years, spotted the unusual sight of the half red, half white bird, in a tree in Warren County, outside of the city of Erie, last week.

“It was one of the experiences of a lifetime,” Mr Hill told USA Today.

That’s because male northern cardinals have bright red feathers, and females have tan feathers.

This bird was both.

The extremely rare phenomenon is known as “a bilateral gynandromorph”. They differ from hermaphrodites who share both or partial male and female sexual reproductive organs, in that their whole body is divided down the middle biologically and it could, therefore, theoretically mate with either a male or female, and produce young. Continue reading

Starling murmurations: the science behind one of nature’s greatest displays



by A. Jamie Wood And Colin Beale

Watching starling murmurations as the birds swoop, dive and wheel through the sky is one of the great pleasures of a dusky winter’s evening. From Naples to Newcastle these flocks of agile birds are all doing the same incredible acrobatic display, moving in perfect synchrony. But how do they do it? Why don’t they crash? And what is the point?

Back in the 1930s one leading scientist suggested that birds must have psychic powers to operate together in a flock. Fortunately,  is starting to find some better answers.

To understand what the starlings are doing, we begin back in 1987 when the pioneering computer scientist Craig Reynolds created a simulation of a flock of birds. These “boids”, as Reynolds called his computer-generated creatures, followed only three simple rules to create their different patterns of movement: nearby birds would move further apart, birds would align their direction and speed, and more distant birds would move closer.

Some of these patterns were then used to create realistic looking  in films, starting with Batman Returns in 1992 and its swarms of bats and “army” of penguins. Crucially this model did not require any long-range guidance, or supernatural powers – only local interactions. Reynolds’s model proved a complex flock was indeed possible through individuals following basic rules, and the resulting groups certainly “looked” like those in nature. Continue reading