Ivory billed sceptics

As I mentioned in my previous posts there is a lot of controversy and scepticism about the 'discovery' of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Tom Nelson's blog gives a good view from the perspective of a sceptic. Do yourself a favor and read all the comments- it's very interesting.
I think I'm gonna to make the Ivory billed the topic of next month's poll. I'll be very interested to see whether people believe that it is still out there..somewhere.
Have a wonderful weekend and stay safe.


Finch mystery solved: Avian conjunctivitis

Here is Susan gets native's response to my one eyed finch mystery:
This is pretty straightforward. Not Pirate Disease...It's called avian conjunctivitis. It has been ripping through the house finch population in recent years. Pine siskins, goldfinches and cardinals are also being affected, but on a smaller scale.
Here's what to do: Take down all your feeders and clean them with 1 part bleach and 4 parts water. It might even be helpful to take them down and keep them down for a week or so. But if it's really really cold, I would just keep them up. Also, rake under your feeders really well. (this is to rid the area of as much of the bacteria as possible.)
Next, sign up for the House Finch eye Disease Study at Cornell Lab of Ornithology:Cornell House Finch Eye Disease StudyYou sign up, get a user name, etc. Then you report both SICK and HEALTHY house finches at your feeders. They want to know what percentage of finches are getting this. I wouldn't try to capture any of the sick birds, though it's kind of easy, since you can sneak up on their bad side. Most rehabbers are in agreement that treatment, while it may be successful, might also cause resistant strains of this bacteria.
Thanks for the great info. If you're having similar issues with your finches I'd love to hear from you!

Travel logs: Ivory billed woodpecker

Cornell's site has the travel logs for their Ivory Billed search team up on their site at:

No entries for this month yet.

In search of the birding Holy Grail

The discovery of the 'extinct' Ivory Billed Woodpecker (a.k.a the Holy Grail of birding) in 2004 in the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas; a 550,000-acre corridor of swamps and floodplain forests; was an earth shattering event in the birding world. Unfortunately no other birds have been seen since that time and the sighting has been scrutinized by members of the scientific community, with several scientists claiming that the discovery was actually a case of misidentification.
However, the US Fish and Game remain optimistic and a lot of research is being done in the area. The latest research involves the use of NASA lasers to map ideals habitat for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. In addition, computer technology and remote camera and audio recording (see Project ACONE) is also being conducted with some promising results.
For an update on the results for 2006 and 2007 click here.
BTW, people often ask you what you would do if you won the lottery. If I won, I would want to be involved in this exciting project. Based on the latest research I'm optimistic that the Ivory Billed will be found and it would be amazing to be a part of that. I guess in order to win the lottery you need to buy tickets ;-)

Dog walking and tax payers

I came across this interesting perspective on the debate about dogs in wildlife areas from Donald the Birder.

Also check out a study that Donald mentions.


You can't keep a good Bald Eage down!

Check out the geat news and awesome story by Dave at TLC:
Bald Eagle Rehabilitation in Alaska: Day 9 & 10

Dave and his folks took in 30 Bald Eagle from the recent mishap at Ocean Beauty Seafood in Kodiak. This unexpected flood of eagles has increased their expenses drastically. Your help is appreciated by donating salmon or cash.

Please bring your salmon or cash donation to:
Bird Treatment and Learning Center
6132 Nielson Way
Anchorage, Alaska 99518

To make a credit card donation call 907-562-4852

Finch eye mystery: Pirate syndrome maybe...


I've noticed for the past couple of years that many of the House Finches at my feeder appear to have injuries to their eyes. I assumed this was from the incessant fighting that takes place at the feeders. This winter I've noticed that several of the finches have the same injuries although it appears to generally only affect one eye. Are these guys going for the pirate look? Is this from fighting or could it be some sort of disease that affects finches? I haven't seen much fighting around the feeder and I'm wondering whether it is still from the spring/summer. Any answers would be appreciated.

I tried to take some pics over the weekend, but unfortunately they are pretty poor quality and I couldn't capture the true pirates (the ones I captured are a few stages away from true blindness in the one eye). Anyway, the pics are purely illustrative and I'm sure someone will have an answer for me as I've seen this at my outlaws' house too.

Any one got an explanation for the pirate finches?

Red Bellied Woodpecker


When do Screech owls move in?

I've done some more research, looking at when Screech Owls actually select their nesting site. Basically I am trying to find information to back my theory that I am still in the race for attracting Screech owls ;-) This is obviously a fact as it seems to be pretty common for owls to select a nesting site that they haven't used for roosting during the rest of the year.

I found this VERY interesting nugget on the New York Wild webcam site:

BreedingPairs of screech owls mate for life after a somewhat elaborate courtship that involves the male swiveling his head, bobbing his body up and down and winking his eyes. If the female appreciates his efforts she moves close, they touch bills, and mutual preening ensues. A Screech Owl will find a new mate if one of the pair dies. It has been reported that male Screech Owls will on occasion form pair bonds with a second female in good habitat with abundant prey.
Nesting occurs in natural tree cavities primarily in deciduous trees. Screech Owls will also use tree cavities made by large woodpeckers such as the flicker and pileated woodpecker. As with most owls, no attempt is made to bring in nest materials. Screech Owls will readily accept suitable nest boxes such as those designed for kestrels.

Owlman: Here comes the real interesting stuff now...
With our nest box, visits by the owls started about a month before the owls moved in permanently. Typically, we would see an owl enter the box and stay for about one to five minutes. Visits occurred just after dusk, in the middle of the night, and just before dawn. There was a flurry of activity about 3 weeks prior to the owls moving in, but then they disappeared and did not show up again until just a few days before moving in. Then the male would get in the box and make a long trilling call and the female would then enter the box. Both owls would then be in the box together with the possibility of some mating behavior observed. The female made a number of attempts to scuff the nest material that we had placed to attract a squirrel into a nest shape. She would shuffle her feet as she turned in the nest to flatten and shape the timothy hay in the nest. Note that this is not the ideal substrate for an owl, but the box was set up for squirrels. Wood chips or sawdust would be more suitable. The female did not stay in the box during the day until just a day before laying the first egg.

It will be interesting to see when/if my Screech owls return and whether their behavior mimics that the site above noticed. Actually seeing a live object in the box today was exciting and the amount of detail from the camera was truly amazing. The main reason why the squirrel was evicted to quickly was because he was climbing up to get a better view of the spycam. We all know that squirrels LOVE to chew stuff and there was no way I'm buying a new cam on account of flying rat. BTW, I couldn't get the video to play on the New York Wild webcam site. Does it work for you?

Poll update: Dogs in wildlife areas?

As you may be aware I have a poll up on my blog asking whether dogs should be allowed in wildlife areas. To check out the background/inspiration for this poll click here.

So far the voting has been higher than the previous poll (birding with your spouse) and unlike the previous poll it has been VERY one sided. We've had 16 votes with the vast majority (11) voting 'No', while 2 voted 'Yes' and 3 were 'Undecided'. Being an information lover, I would love to cross reference these results with whether people have dogs and whether this influences the results. If you have any feedback or want to provide more info please leave a comment here.

I'm enjoying the poll feature and I hope you cast your vote. If you have any ideas for the next poll please drop me a note. 19 days left in the current poll so cast your vote and spread the news.

The stick treatment: Squirrels beware

I checked the owl box this morning and it was empty. I flipped the camera on about a half an hour ago and I saw a squirrel - OUCH! I haven't seen a squirrel in the box since I installed the flashing. Apparently the flashing doesn't make the box inaccessible to squirrels, although I'm not sure how the damn squirrel is getting in. Maybe he/she is jumping onto the peaked roof and making access that way? Honestly though, NOTHING in this world will ever be squirrel proof because they are amazing climbers, jumpers etc. In included a YouTube video that illustrates they unbelievable intelligence and athletic ability.
Anyway, the squirrel was poked on prodded with a stick until it made a not so gentle exit out of the front door - making a flying leap to the ground 10 feet below. Will I have more issues with squirrels? No doubt. The nice thing is that I now have the upper hand by having a camera on them 24x7!


Pack train slams on the breaks

I'm sad today. I invested a whole lot of time and energy into an NFL season that blew up yesterday. Worst off all I watched it blow up surrounded by cheering Giants fans. Yip, I walked into the lion den hoping to be the last man standing-damn it hurts! So close yet soooooo far. Favre had an awesome season and then caps it off with an overtime interception leading to a 47 yard winning field goal for the Giants. Oh how cruel the sporting world is!
I'm now left in a situation where I'm a football fan without a team for the Superbowl. My back-up team (The Steelers) are not in the Superbowl and I am left with the Giants or the Pats. Maybe by the time the Superbowl rolls around I'll be able to stomach supporting Big Blue. Until then, I sulk in pain!