Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Birds and the Bees: Aquatic Warbler

An Aquatic Warbler appears as a simple brown bird when seen in a glance through binoculars, resembling that of thousands of other simple brown bird species in the Old World. Only those who know more about the warbler’s odd mating habits would be inclined to take a longer look at this Old World  LBJ.

Next time you see one of these little cute suckers, don't be fooled by that adorable warbler-ly face. Aquatic Warblers are anything but innocent. It all begins with the species' extreme promiscuity, with some broods being fathered by up to five different male Aquatic Warblers. Add in the mega-sized warbler genitalia that would make any passerine jealous, factor in the marathon average mating time of 24-minutes, cube by the frequent inseminations during copulation, and you've got the nymphomaniacs of the bird world. 

It all starts with this curious warblers' sexual habits. With female Aquatic Warblers going rampant with males, males sticking with the females for a larger length of time have a greater chance of their genes making it into the next nest. Cue the huge warbler glomerula, record-breaking mating times, and a very unique bird that most birders are oblivious to. 


SCHULZE-HAGEN, K., LEISLER, B., BIRKHEAD, T. R. and DYRCZ, A. (1995), Prolonged copulation, sperm reserves and sperm competition in the Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola. Ibis, 137: 85–91. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.1995.tb03223.x

NEW BLOG! But posts will keep on coming here

The new blog is located at http://forthebirders.weebly.com/

Posts by me only will continue on this blog! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Something Unstoppable... introducing a new version of For the Birds

(but this blog will still be active)
The new website isn't quite launched yet but it will soon. 

Introducing a new version of For the Birds

"For the Birds" is "For the Birders" now, and it's a collab author blog planned to be written by multiple authors. Most of which will probably be under 25 because all the older people are off doing other sites like 10,000birds. I will still be posting on this own blog but every post I make here will also be going on FTBirders. FTbirders will have (1) more content due to more authors (2) way better graphics and organization (3) a way better layout and (4) just the feel of a real website in general!  

Monday, July 6, 2015

FTB Revamped

For those of you wondering why this blog hasn't had any posts recently...it's because it's getting revamped. With new features such as multiple authors and multiple blog topics! Coming soon to an Internet browser new you.......FTB Version 2.0! Sorry, that's all I have to say.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Become An Ornithologist 101

I'm no Fatbirder.com, but here are some bomb-de-ziggity birding resources to spice your birding career up. Not my usual type of post, but I'm on a roll of "not-usually-my-type" posts this week. 

Everyone knows good ol' eBird:  where excited beginner birders submit checklists purporting that they had X amount of Code-4-something-something and promptly become embarrassed by their local reviewers ( I totally don't know that from experience. Um. ). Other websites, like allaboutbirds.org, fatbirder.something, and the ABA blog are also excessively discussed by birders as a leaning point for cool bird sites. The websites down below? Not so much.

1. Xeno-canto: "Sharing bird sounds from all around the world."


I hate to sound blithely ignorant,  but I'm not quite sure what xeno-canto refers to either (NEITHER DO YOU, ADMIT IT). According to the best of my ability of Googling skills, Xeno-canto translates to "foreigner- one of the sections into which some long poems are divided." I'm sure there's some poetic backwater meaning or, which would have been the motive in my case, the founders just chose it because it sounds cool. Whatever its meaning, it will retain a place in my mind reserved for cryptic and puzzling mysteries: probably not what they intended, but overanalytical people like me suffer it as a side effect.

"Foreigner- one of the sections into which some long poems are divided" is a website worthy of my one pathetic recording of a Purple Finch, a bird which serves as an apt warning to not let colorblind people name birds after colors. 

2. Avibase: "The World Bird Database." http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/avibase.jsp?lang=EN

Whoever founded this site had a lot of time on their hands. In other words, definitely not a college student (watch him/her be a college student and angrily digress on this post). Anyhow, they have all their checklists narrowed down to country, province, whatever...maybe they could collaborate with the NSA to provide custom checklists for your backyard,  personal address, or internet searches, too, if the site wasn't based in Canada.

It's an accurate, refreshing site with its own highly liberal taxonomy system that I love and will maybe one day adopt as my world taxonomy system once anyone within a 100-mile radius of here accepts any of its glamour. Oh hey look! Cool: http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/compare.jsp

3. HBW Alive: "A revolution in ornithological reference works(Exclamation mark!!)"

"What the hell man," all the angry readers of this post exclaimed simultaneously. "You ain't supposed to be advertising on here." Well, I'm not advertising, but HBW Alive is TOTALLY WORTH THE PRICE AND IF YOU CALL 
GIVE-MEMY-$SCAM NOW I'LL GIVE YOU TWO COPIES OF THE WEBSITE AND A PIECE OF LAND ON MARS!  Just watch the video on the site for god's sake and tell me you're a birder and not convinced.

I was convinced but I don't have the money for that, so instead of finding some way to pirate a free version, I asked by parents. There's free functions, too, for the decidedly un-self-indulgent. 

4. The Birds of North America Online: "Welcome. Ladder-backed Woodpecker Photo by Rick and Nora."

Great...another damn thing you have to pay for?? You're birders. You're in the top 5% of the wealth histogram. Don't tell me a full-time worker at McDonalds with three kids can afford binoculars, scope, AND a camera. 

I'm not subscribed to this. I didn't even ask. The prices made me cringe a tiny bit on my future-college-student-insides. Even though I'm receiving $1700 worth in camera gear this week.  But it's a fantastic resource, more than you'll ever absorb in a year of $42, which is how they make money, probably: by being too fantastic to function.

 5. Chiccadee: For the Birds (and the birders): "Insert Creative Motto Here!"

Follow it if you know what's good for you.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Bolsa Chica Birdlife: An Article Sorta

in photos:
a chronicle of Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

(a "serious" article)
logo created by http://cooltext.com/Link

photos by chiccadee

Bolsa Chica  has a timeline that compares with no other ecological reserve in the state of California. Once a rich estuary drained and developed--first into farmland, then to a gun club ) , and increasingly today, to homes of rich callous folks and oil fields--only a rigorous restoration project has salvaged the area from being an Alabaman ranch, gun, farm and all. Today, the area, although limited in size, is host to a cornucopia of species. Also, you're not allowed to shoot them.

Bolsa Chica serves as an important breeding ground. Such a statement, it seems, is thrown around carelessly these days, but Bolsa Chica deserves it one hundred percent. 

Particularly important are breeding grounds for Snowy Plovers (breeding grounds shown below: note that the birds depicted are Western Sandpipers and Black-bellied Plovers, NOT Snowy Plovers), White-faced Ibis, California Least Terns, as well as massive Elegant and Forester's Tern colonies. 

White-tailed Kites' numbers have plummeted in Orange County ever since the brunt of the drought hit. Being white in a rich community did not help them this time, but it might have kept them from being shot back when the gun club was around. (Note: joking ). 

You can no longer see them in Southern Orange County, with N. OC preserves like Bolsa Chica and the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary being some of the last homes of these majestic kites. Now "fly a kite" has a very sad and real meaning here. I just thought of that. Wasn't it deep?

Belding's Savannah Sparrows scamper amid pickleweed and cordgrass in Bolsa Chica flats. Likely to become its own separate species soon, this endangered subspecies of Savannah Sparrow relies on the habitats of salty estuaries, marshes and...no savannahs (at all, in North America, as it happens, where SASPs are found). 

Rename Passerculus sandwichensis to Sandwich Sparrow already. 


American Bitterns are a rare treat at Bolsa Chica as plants adapted to the salty waters of the estuary lack the ability to grow tall. Suitable habitat for any skulky bittern or heron is therefore scarce. This guy quite frankly doesn't give two craps (It only gives one). 

Bolsa Chica is an Aradidae paradise. The rich waters teem with young fish, crustaceans, and other tidbits that offer herons and egrets a rich buffet of yummy tidbits. 

An estuary is often dubbed the "nursery of the sea," and for good reason-- in addition to the swarms of baby fish that provide nourishment for herons/egrets, young guitarfish and sharks are commonly spotted throughout the reserve. 

Great Blue Heron says: "Eek. Sharks," or "Eat sharks!" depending on how you interpret the expression in the photo below.

Snowy Egret says the same thing regarding its explicit feather dandruff.

Reddish Egret sightings remain rare in almost all of Southern California, with a few exceptions-Bolsa Chica is one such exception. After restoration of the estuary, it is not uncommon to see 4-5 individuals a day. 

Here is one below, doing a very impressive Big Bird imitation. Snowy Egret is not amused.


Gull-billed Terns have been recorded to be avid predator of bird chicks, Least Tern or other. Thankfully for many species of nesting birds in Bolsa, they are a rare spring or fall treat, and so their chicks are only rarely treats to GBTE.  

A steady onstream Forester's Terns (three photos shown below) and their various breeding colonies is only rarely broken up by migrating Common Terns in the spring and fall. Whoever named the Common Tern  did an awful job at it.




Abundant Elegant Terns, which replace the similar-looking Royal Terns also found at Bolsa for the summer, sport long carrot-orange bills and an  immaculate black hood. 

. They're the kids of the tern world   Appearance wise, they mimic  un-elegant teenagers when they sit down with their crest all shagged out. Like toddlers, they won't shut up, often drowning out the adjacent highway. They're also absolutely lovable. 

Add caption

*add photo of Least Tern here*

I had a good photo of one, but it got lost in my terrible photo organization.


The incredibly rich waters of Bolsa Chica support a plethora of waterfowl in the winter. 

Pied-billed Grebe. "Hello. I am a very distinguished Grebe. How about you?" it inquires with an air of dignified complacency.

It looks like this Western Grebe would have flipped me the bird if only it could move its digits.

Eared Grebe set afire by the sunset glow. 

 Horned Grebe would set afire by the extreme heat of our current drought if it left the water for a second.

Red-breasted Mergansers are normally only seen on Orange County oceans where they are barely visible as a tiny black speck out 200 miles on the open ocean and only identifiable by use of a 100m scope. Not at Bolsa Chica.

Surf Scoters enjoy placid waters at Bolsa Chica, and plenty of fish to go with it.

Newport Bay was the only remaining site for Ridgway Rail breeding until 2014, when two black chicks were spotted with a parent rail at you-know-where. The rails had rejected Bolsa as a nesting ground for almost half a century. Restoration project: Success! 

Additionally, because photographers seem to go insane whenever one of these popped around, the rails at Bolsa Chica don't  qualify as rails. Seriously. They'll walk alongside birders three feet from the trail, one or two, or sometimes even three. 

Yep, the video is by me. For once. Also, I have two Youtube subscribers. I feel so terribly accomplished.


Birds are not the only strange creature to be found in the waters of Bolsa--this strange and beautiful sea slug lay adjacent to the Pacific Coast Highway Bolsa Chica borders. This guy could belong in a nightclub with that neon outfit, if only they allowed sea slugs in. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Extinction Timetables

There have been countless expert teams gathered in search of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and an infinite stream of videos, photos, and movies on the topic of its desperate search for signs of its existence. Anyhow, it's never been rediscovered; yet everyone still seems to think it exists somewhere in the deep reaches of mysterious North America. People see Pileated Woodpeckers and they're Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. People go hunting for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker with a 1-pixel camera and come back every time with infallible evidence of it. Not that it's a bad thing; several nature preserves were established for the sole reason that with all the publicity the Ivory-billed Woodpecker had garnered, it just didn't seem fit to not try and protect it. 
In honor of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, here's a gallery of birds that were, in the words of the optimistic, unrediscovered but found again.

No one was searching for the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest that hadn't been seen for 69 years when they unexpectedly noticed it on an expedition to document the habitat in peril, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta during March 2015. Look, it's identifiable in this photo, too.

 (photo & source: http://www.proaves.org/spectacular-lost-hummingbird-rediscovered-after-69-years-amid-rampant-fires-across-the-sierra-nevada-de-santa-marta-in-colombia/?lang=en)

The Myanmar subspecies/species (The news articles are just as hung up about IOC vs. Clements as our kind are) of Jerdon's Babbler was unseen for 70 years and rediscovered in a grassland this year. Here is the extremely rare, thought-to-be-extinct bird nonchalantly being held.

Photo&Source: http://www.sci-news.com/biology/science-subspecies-jerdons-babbler-chrysomma-altirostre-myanmar-02570.html

In 2007, the Banggai Crow, which was "known to science only by two specimens described in 1900" was rediscovered in Indonesia. 

Holy crap. 

It took two years for the rediscovery to be confirmed due to its morphological similarity with the Slender-billed Crow. Here it is, in utter rage and disbelief that anyone would ever confuse it with that ugly Slender-billed Crow. 

Photo and source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091013104340.htm

Bermuda Petrel-1951
Three centuries. Almost three centuries of being thought extinct. Perhaps that has to do with how it got its name, Bermuda Petrel. You know, with this rediscovery, everyone can now hope that all the planes that have gone into the famous triangle and never seen land again will come out one of these days, into the Western Paleartic ocean where the Bermuda Petrel now resides. 

On the other hand, noone was really getting down and combing the ocean for this guy anyway, but don't tell the petrel that. 

 Source: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/factsheet/22698088 Photo: https://naturephotographersltd.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/bermuda-petrel-sightings/

In 2003, after 90 years, Fuerte's Parrots were rediscovered in Colombia. 14 are left. I would like to make a joke here, but as I continue writing this article I just feel somber...and more somber. 
Source and photo: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/030728.html

They didn't rediscover Forest Owlets for 113 years until 1997 in India. But when they did, they "forest"
it to pose so they could take bomb photos. HAHA get it

Source and photo: http://indiasendangered.com/forest-owlet/

Worcestor's Buttonquail: Eaten 
In 2009, thought-to-be-extinct Worcestor's Buttonquail was rediscovered at a Luzon poultry market before being eaten. This is the type of thing where you hear about it and for a couple minutes you're like, "It's not April 1st, get with the times." Any ornithologist would quail at the thought of this happening. 

Source and photo:http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/02/090218-extinct-bird-photo.html

Hope you enjoyed!