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Posts by Tina Mitchell

A Bird For All Seasons – The Western Meadowlark

While scouting the Great Falls Portage along the Missouri River in 1805, Merriweather Lewis heard an unexpected vocal fanfare from an otherwise familiar bird from the East—a bird then called the “oldfield lark” and now known as the Eastern Meadowlark.  Studying it closely, though, Lewis noted a differently shaped tail; a longer, more curved beak;…

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The Song Sparrow – San Diego’s Reliable Crooner

Outdoors on late summer mornings, I strain to catch any hint of bird song.  For those who relish the avian breeding season symphony, the end of summer represents a bit of an auditory desert.  As breeding season wraps up, with no need to attract mates or defend territories, the birds quit singing. Some even head…

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Learning from the Past, Fighting for the Future

In the early 1800s, the Passenger Pigeon held the distinction of the most abundant land bird in North America—perhaps in the world—with an estimated population of 3-5 billion individuals. (That’s billion. With a “b.”)  Compare this figure to the present-day North American abundance champion, the Mourning Dove, with estimates ranging from 100-450 million. (With an…

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A Win for the Home Team!

In the birding world, the look-alike Empidonax flycatchers—affectionately or dejectedly referred to as “empids”—create two non-overlapping groups: those who eagerly rise to the ID challenge (not me) and those who despairingly mutter “empid” and move on (me).  But one empid occupies a rarefied spot in San Diego County:  the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.   The Willow…

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Hooded Orioles – Coming Home to Roost

Commotion at a hummingbird feeder drew my eye.  A Bullock’s Oriole—all 9” of him—was trying to maneuver around the various ports to get a drink.  No luck.  The fellow reminded me of a 6th grader trying to ride a tricycle—nothing fit and nothing worked.  Later that day, a Hooded Oriole (a bit smaller at 8”)…

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Hawk Watch: Spring Brings More Than Flowers to Anza-Borrego

My first (and, so far, only) hawkwatch—a play in one act   [curtain rises: a ridge in Morrison, Colorado]   Hawk Enumerator 1:  I’ve got a bird—over the microwave tower, moving north. Me:  *searches for the microwave tower, wonders which way is north* HE2:  Got ‘im!  Looks like an American Kestrel, male. Me:  *might have…

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Overdue Credit to a Frequent Flyer

North American folklore has touted the American Robin as the harbinger of spring.  Me—not so much.  For me, that honor goes to the Mourning Dove and its soft song drifting through the air beginning early in the new year. A Mourning Dove is a medium-sized, streamlined bird with an almost ridiculously small head; a long,…

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Working the Night Shift

Who’s awake?  Me too!  Who’s awake?  Me too!  In the fall and winter, this series of five rhythmic, muffled, slightly eerie hoots—all on one pitch—increasingly wafts through the darkness.  The sentinel taking attendance is the Great Horned Owl.  Measuring nearly two feet from head to tail, the Great Horned is the largest and most widely…

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Season Tweetings – Nature’s Winter Serenade

Fee odi-odi zeeee-zaaaa-zoooo.  Nope.  Seee zreee chidli-chidli chi-chi-chi.  Not that either.  See sitli-sitli ti-ti-ti-ti-zrrrr.  Good grief, not even close.  Let’s face it.  Humans really can’t recreate this avian song on paper—a sorry statement about our language limitations rather than a reflection of this lilting song.   Generally in early to mid-November, this familiar song—a long,…

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Uncommonly Intelligent – Ravens at the Top of the Class

Call a despicable person “pond scum” and I take offense on behalf of pond scum everywhere.  Scoop up a handful of pond scum and you might actually be looking at diminutive, individual aquatic plants or even blue-green algae such as spirulina, which some health food fans herald.  Think someone is, um, “bat-guano crazy?”  Bats the…

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