Posts Tagged ‘audubon’

World Wildlife Day 2017

World Wildlife Day 2017

Great movements in human history often start because of the need to stand up to cruelty, unfairness, and governmental overreach. Have you noticed that good usually wins?

In the realm of nature, we have our movements, as well, that start for similar reasons: People with good hearts see others with not-so-good hearts mistreating birds, mammals, sea life, and habitats, and often using these creatures and exploited areas for their own selfish gain.

They didn’t stay silent, but got busy and started fights. Not violent fights, but good fights that have built momentum and are still going.

In 1896, for example, Harriet Hemenway and Mina Hall started the first Audubon Society chapter in Massachusetts because they were upset by the killing of birds for the millinery (hat making) industry. They held a series of teas in an effort to convince other women to stop buying hats decorated with the feathers of these birds. This movement gained momentum, and within two years, other Audubon chapters had sprung up. Harriet and Mina were good people who started a movement and spread the word that wildlife is not a commodity and should be protected. To this day, the Audubon Society still speaks on behalf of birds. (A recent example of Audubon’s activism is their recent fight against the cormorant slaughter on Oregon’s Sand Island.)

In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was signed into law to prevent the willy-nilly, free-for-all use of wild birds, their feathers, their nests, and their eggs. (Click on the link to see what this law covers in its entirety.) Good people did that, setting into motion legislation that has protected birds for almost 100 years.

On December 20, 2013, the United Nations proclaimed March 3 to be World Wildlife Day as a way to draw attention, raise awareness, and hopefully encourage people to take action against habitat change and destruction, and the over-exploitation or illicit trafficking of fauna (wildlife) and flora (plants and trees), which is threatening, and even causing, the extinction of many species.

World Wildlife Day’s theme for 2017 is “Listen to the Young Voices,” and there are plenty of these voices to listen to: Did you know that over ¼ of the current world population is between the ages of 10-24? Many of these young people are very environmentally-focused and can teach us a thing or two. Likewise, we also have the opportunity — right now — to encourage the young people we know personally to respect wildlife and become its voices and protectors, not just on World Wildlife Day, but all through their growing-up years.

Sounds like a great movement to me. Click here to learn more about this year’s World Wildlife Day.

Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

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American Bittern by John James Audubon

American Bittern by John James Audubon

If you’re a fan of John James Audubon (1785-1851), you may also be familiar with his work, Audubon’s Birds of America, which contains beautiful watercolor illustrations of 435 North American birds. Audubon discovered 25 species himself, naming quite a few of them for people he knew (Bewick’s Wren, Swainson’s Hawk, Wilson’s Warbler, and more).

Audubon’s illustrations are made from hand-engraved plates and are now available at Because the good folks at Audubon have made these available to us in their online library, we can now download a high-resolution version of each print for free. As a warning, these are huge files, which you might want to resize once you’ve downloaded them.

Having these illustrations at our fingertips is a really big deal. Personally, I feel like a kid who got locked in a toy store for the night and isn’t one bit upset about it. (Seriously. Don’t even call my parents, ’cause I’m staying!) The only negative about this is not knowing which ones to print first.

So, bird and nature lovers, do check out and enjoy these beautiful Audubon prints. You just might feel like you took a walk through the countryside with John J. himself.

You can also get Audubon’s Birds of America for your Kindle or Kindle app or by choosing one of these other hard cover or paperback editions.


Learn more about your backyard birds in the newly revised and updated Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

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Bewick's Wren. Photo credit: Unknown

Bewick's Wren. Photo credit: Unknown

Around 200 years ago, John James Audubon named a skittish, elusive, sparrow-sized North American wren for his good friend and fellow artist, Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), an English naturalist and engraver. Bewick is known for having rediscovered the art of wood engraving and became quite well known for his many illustrations, including his work done for an edition of Aesop’s Fables and his own nature books. The following illustration of a wren is taken from his book, A History of British Birds, Volume 1: Containing the History and Description of Land Birds, available here at

A wren engraved by British artist Thomas Bewick (1758-1823)

A wren engraved by British artist Thomas Bewick (1758-1823)

This kind dedication by Audubon on behalf of his friend gave a name to the little bird we know as “Bewick’s Wren.” I’m hoping Bewick’s Wren as a species stays as strong as the friendship between Audubon and Bewick. It’s a bit of a victim to a bully known as the House Wren, a competitor who has effectually pushed Bewick’s Wren…for the most part…out of the eastern United States. The House Wren is known to take over the nests of Bewick’s Wren, even going as far as knocking eggs to the ground during the coup.

That said, the female Bewick’s Wren has shown herself at times to be one fighter of a mother, often remaining on her eggs even in the presence of danger.

Read on to learn more about Bewick’s Wren:

Species: Thryomanes bewickii

Size and markings: Bewick’s Wren is approximately 5.25 inches long with a 7.5 inch wingspan. Upperparts are brown intermixed with gray, underside is a light gray. This little bird is easily identified by its prominent white eyebrow stripe and long tail, which is often held upright. Tail is brown above and gray underneath, with barring on both sides. This wren has a long bill with a slight downward curve. Sexes are similar.

Food: The main diet of Bewick’s Wren consists of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. It may also be found at suet feeders and will chow down on mealworms, if offered.

Habitat/nesting/behavior: Suburban yards, thickets, and along wooded areas – especially near fields and streams – are where you’re likely to find Bewick’s Wren. A cavity nester, the male will busy himself with building several “false” nests. The female inspects each of the nests before choosing her favorite, which she will then complete to her liking. Not only are these birds partners when it comes to nest building, but you will also see them searching for food together, usually under shrubs. Bewick’s Wren can be easily distinguished from other birds of similar color and size by noting the tail, which is usually held upright and flicks from side to side.

Number of broods per year: 1-3

Number of eggs per brood: 3-8

Migratory pattern: Year-round resident along coastal Oregon and southern British Columbia, and throughout all of Western Washington.

Months usually seen at backyard feeders: You may not see this one at your feeders at all, with the exception of suet feeders. If you look closely, however, you just might see them foraging for insects under the shrubbery in your yard…or even hopping around underneath your patio furniture!

Many of the above facts about Bewick’s Wren were taken from Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds.

Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

Are you feeling it in the air? Even the light looks different. I’m referring, of course, to the fast approaching end of summer as it hurls itself willy-nilly toward fall. But that’s alright: When it comes to birding, the autumn months are some of the best! There’s always something to do, whether it’s simply enjoying rarely-seen birds as they pass through on their migration routes or heralding the return of “the usuals” once the bug and fruit supplies of summer have dwindled. But if watching backyard birds while sipping your morning coffee leaves you longing for something a little more adventurous, you might want to hit up some fun bird-centered events in your area.

After a somewhat-extensive, caffeine-fueled search through the highways and byways of Google (and receiving some helpful suggestions on Twitter), I’ve found what I think is a pretty good cross-section of fun happenings to keep us all out of trouble…for a while, anyway. Some are family-friendly, which is a fabulous way to get your kids or grandkids bitten by the nature bug.

Take a look! (Click on the title of each event for more information.)

WFO / WOS Joint Conference
When: Thursday, August 22, 2013 through Sunday, August 25, 2013.
Where: Red Lion Hotel, Olympia, WA
Cost: Varies
This one starts tomorrow! The “38th Annual Conference of Western Field Ornithologists, A Joint Conference with Washington Ornithological Society,” is being held this week at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia. From the site: “Each year WFO holds a multi-day conference with scientific papers, field trips, workshops, panels, a keynote address, the annual membership meeting, and other events. The location varies each year as WFO attempts to span its region of coverage while also making its conferences accessible to the bulk of its members.” Field trips and workshops are filling up fast, so jump on this if it’s something you think you can attend. Go to this page and click on the registration link to see the cost of this event, which varies for members and non-members. Thanks to @TAudubon for the heads-up on this event!

Puget Sound Birdfest
When: Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8, 2013
Where: Edmonds, WA
Cost: FREE
From the site: “The Puget Sound Bird Fest in Edmonds, Washington is a yearly celebration of the birds and of nature found on the beautiful shores of Puget Sound. Our three-day events include speakers, guided walks, land and water-based field trips, exhibits, and educational activities for children and adults.” Thanks to a previously-planned engagement that I have with a California beach, I won’t be able to attend this one. On one hand, I’m bummed about it, but on the other hand…I’ll be on a beach. If you go, please report back and let us know what you thought! Leave a comment here or post about it on our Facebook page.

Vulture Awareness Day at Portland Audubon
When: Saturday, September 7, 2013 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Where: Portland Audubon, Portland, OR
Cost: FREE
Vultures get a bad rap, don’t they? Here’s an excellent chance to learn why vultures are actually pretty cool creatures. From the Portland Audubon site: “Around the world, vultures are facing hazards in the wild and their numbers are dwindling. As nature’s recyclers, they play an important role in a variety of ecosystems, and it’s up to us to help save them. Portland Audubon’s free celebration of International Vulture Awareness Day is filled with fun and educational activities:
Meet Ruby, Portland Audubon’s Turkey Vulture
Compare your ‘wingspan’ to that of an Andean Condor’s silhouette
Make a crafted vulture and mask
Learn fun vulture facts
Figure out the differences between Old and New World vultures
Discover why vultures are important
Make a pledge to help protect vultures
Go on a scavenger hunt.”
Click on the link above for more details and directions. Thank you, @PortlandAudubon for letting us know about this event.

Nature Night: Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest at Portland Audubon
When: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 (7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.)
Where: Portland Audubon, Portland, OR
Cost: FREE
You’ll enjoy this fun talk at Portland Audubon, which is part of their monthly Nature Night lecture series. My friends from Twitter, Sarah and Max of @MustSeeBirds, are presenting the talk based on their just-published book, Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest. From the Portland Audubon site: “Ever wondered where to find particular species of birds in Oregon? Or wanted to know more about those birds than you can find in a field guide? Sarah Swanson and Max Smith provide the answers and celebrate Oregon’s favorite birds with their newly published book, Must See Birds of the Pacific Northwest: 85 Unforgettable Species, Their Fascinating Lives, and How to Find Them. In their book, Sarah and Max group birds in a fresh, fun and thoughtful way by using categories based on interesting traits like big birds, colorful birds and killer birds.” I’ve read a little bit of the book so far, and if this talk was anywhere near me, I’d be there with bells on! I hope you will be, too. (And tell them I said hello!) Thanks to @MustSeeBirds for letting us know about this event.

Monterey Bay Birding Festival
When: Friday, September 12 through Sunday, September 15, 2013
Where: Monterey Bay area, CA
Cost: $10-$45
Not a Pacific Northwest event, but I’m listing it for our California birding friends. And it figures — this one happens after I leave California! From the site: “Designed for both seasoned and beginning birders, as well as outdoor lovers, the festival offers a unique opportunity to explore, learn and appreciate world class habitats such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Elkhorn Slough National Marine Estuary, and Pinnacles National Monument. Specially designed field trips will take partic-ipants to Big Sur to see California condors. Join a pelagic trip by Shearwater Journeys to one of the world’s most productive regions for albatrosses, shearwaters, storm-petrels and more. Jump into a kayak and get closer to nature or take a scenic ride at Elkhorn Slough Safari. All field trips are led by top quality, friendly leaders. Online sales is now under way for each birding event offered a la carte, so you’re able to mix and match outings according to your personal interests.”

Hummingbird Super Saturday
When: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Where: Seward Park in Seattle, WA
Cost: FREE
I may see you at this one! If you’re in the Seattle area, this will be held at the Seward Park Audubon Center just inside Seward Park. Kid-friendly and even wheelchair-friendly (but not dog-friendly). From the site: “Celebrate these tiny wonders that flit and zip through the air with amazing speed! Some hummingbirds, like the Rufous, take epic journeys from Alaska to Mexico while others, like our Anna’s, are year-round residents in Seattle. Discover how to help protect hummingbirds, provide them with sanctuaries in our parks and your back yards and explore why they are so adorable! Arts, crafts, games, and activities will entertain and educate hummingbird enthusiasts of all ages.” The link above will take you to the Brown Paper Tickets website, where you’ll be able to explore many other Seward Park Audubon events — too many to list here!

Rogue Valley Audubon Field Trip
When: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Where: Rogue Valley area, OR
Cost: FREE
For our Southern Oregon friends, here’s something for you: “Veteran birding expert Ron Ketchum will lead this trip to the mountain lakes of the nearby Cascades where possible destinations include Howard Prairie Lake, Hyatt Lake, Little Hyatt Lake and Lily Glen Campground. Late migrant warblers, early waterfowl, and such montane species as Mountain Quail and Mountain Bluebird are possible sightings. Meet at the dirt parking lot adjacent to Shop N Kart in Ashland at 7:30 AM. Bring hats, sunscreen, drinks and snacks and appropriate footwear. Carpooling is recommended. Any dogs must be kept in vehicles. Group will return by early afternoon.”

That’s it for today! I’ll post more fall birding events as I come across them. If you’d like to get the word out about your event, you may comment here, talk to me on Twitter (@PacificNWBirds), or message me via our Facebook page. As mentioned in one of the event descriptions, above, please let us know if you attend any of these events. We’d love to know what you thought!

Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

Alexander Wilson, ornithologist

Alexander Wilson, ornithologist

Will the real father of American ornithology please stand up?

Many people believe it was John James Audubon (1785-1851), but the distinction actually belongs to another.

Alexander Wilson was born in Scotland on July 6, 1766 to a poor distiller and his wife. His mother, sadly, died when he was only 10, and just a couple of years later, Alexander quit school to be apprenticed by his brother-in-law in the art of weaving.

He became aware, over time, of how unfairly weavers were treated by their employers. Inspired by Scottish poet Robert Burns, Alexander wrote a scathing poem intended to extort one of these employers, which probably wasn’t a good idea: Alexander was arrested and thrown into jail.

At the age of 24, he immigrated to America with his 16-year-old nephew. He continued in his learned profession of weaving and traveled the countryside to peddle his wares. It was on these travels that he began to fall in love with American nature and wildlife; birds in particular. Soon he met naturalist William Bartram, who learned of Alexander’s fondness of not only ornithology but of painting as well, and encouraged him to do something about it.

That was the starting point for Alexander, who eventually traveled 12,000 miles by foot, rowboat, train, and more to learn about and document the birds of America. The resulting work is his nine-volume magnum opus, American Ornithology. Tragically, the ninth volume was still in the works when he became sick, dying several days later on August 23, 1813. His friend, fellow ornithologist George Ord, who had also helped to write volume eight, took it upon himself to complete it. (Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a nephew of Napoleon, and William Jardine also contributed to various volumes in the set.)

Alexander’s love of birds, prose, and God are evident in an essay he wrote on ornithology, in which he said: “Men join with reverence in praises to the great Creator; and can they listen with contempt to the melodious strains, the hymns of praise, which these joyful little creatures [the birds] offer up every morning to the Fountain of life and light?…Are tenderness of heart, fidelity, and parental affection only lovely when they exist among men? O, no; it is impossible! These virtues, that are esteemed to the highest ornaments of our nature, seem to be emanations from the Divinity himself, and may be traced in many of the humblest and least regarded of his creatures.” (Champions of Christianity by Silas Farmer, 1897)

Alexander Wilson was only 47 years old when he died but made a large impact on American ornithology, inspiring those who would come after him…including Audubon. Several birds are named for him, including Wilson’s Warbler, a bird found in the Northwest during summer and migration; Wilson’s Snipe, a shore bird found here year-round; Wilson’s Plover (a shore bird not even close to being seen in the Pacific Northwest); and Wilson’s Storm-petrel, an ocean bird that usually feeds nocturnally to avoid being seen by predators.

Wilson's Warbler, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Plover, and Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Wilson's Warbler, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Plover, and Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Happy Birthday, Mr. Wilson!

Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

Also available at Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

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