Mention Panama to a bunch of birders and typically only one place comes to mind - beautiful Canopy Tower. A former radar station and military installation west of Panama Cit, Canopy Tower has, over the last couple decades, transformed into one of the most well-regarded ecolodges in the Americas. And when you talk about Canopy Tower you cannot help but talk about Carlos Betancourt, whose work as a guide and mentor has helped to put Canopy Tower on the map and help establish a community of guides throughout Latin America. He joins us to talk about his own journey into birding, and his favorite things about showing Panama to eager birders.
Want to see it for yourself? Join Nate and the ABA in Panama this fall!
Also, bird flu hit Northern Gannet colonies on both sides of the Atlantic.
In early summer eager birders turn to bird taxonomy, and we at the podcast turn once again to our friend Nick Block, professor of Biology at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts to read the tea leaves for American Ornithological Society’s North America Classification Committee and explain the latest in bird taxonomy. He joins Nate Swick to talk about new meadowlarks, Mew Gulls, and the House Wren MEGASPLIT.
Also, some thoughts from Nate about using Merlin on Breeding Bird Surveys.
As part of its celebration of the third Black Birders Week, please enjoy highlights from the ABA’s two-part panel “Black Birders: Embracing the Beauty Within.” The panel session co-hosts are Sheridan Alford and Chelsea Connor. They are joined in the first session by Alex Troutman, Sharon Scott, and Scott Edwards, and in the second session by Alex Troutman and Danielle Belleny. Panelists explores such topics as childhood experiences with birds, how to pass on generational knowledge of birds, and whether things have changed since the first Black Birders Week.
For the panels in their entirety as well as links and bios for all of the participants, please visit the ABA website. Thanks to the panelists and to Black AF in STEM for putting on yet another great edition of Black Birders Week.
Finding birds in places where you shouldn’t expect to find them if certainly one of the more exciting aspects of birding. In fact, it might well be the reason for the American Birding Association’s very existence. The unpredictability, the excitement, the community that builds around these sorts of birds are certainly appealing even the mechanisms that bring them to these places are not always known. Alex Lees is a senior researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University and, along with James Gilroy, the author of Vagrancy in Birds, which attempts to answer some of those questions of how and why vagrancy is so prevalent in birds. He joins me to talk about this ever-fascinating topic
Also, a sad end to Monty and Rose, and a happy beginning for their offspring.
It is the end of the month, and with it, comes the This Month in Birding panel. Because May is arguably the best month of the year for birding in the US and Canada we have a panel this month that attempts to meet those expectations. Mollee Brown of the Life List Podcast, Gabriel Foley of the Maryland/DC Bird Atlas, and Purbita Saha of Popular Science.
Also, wanna travel to Panama with Nate?
Topics discussed in this episode include:
Julie Zickefoose scarcely needs an introduction. A prolific artist and an award-winning writer, much of her work is inspired by her home in southeast Ohio. It's the topic of a piece she has written for the May special issue of Birding magazine, Wildlife Gardening in Appalachian Ohio. She joins us talk about the satisfactions and frustrations that come from building a wildlife sanctuary and a little bit about the return of BWD.
Also, we've got a new Executive Director! And some thoughts on the Biggest Week American Birding has seen in 3 years.
Maybe more than anyone in North America in the last 20 years, Brian Sullivan has been deeply involved in things that birders do. He was one of the original developers of eBird, which hardly needs an introduction to listeners, and is now project lead of Cornell’s Birds of the World. In the last couple years Birds of the World has absolutely become an essential collection of bird knowledge which is all the more amazing considering the scope of the project.
Also, Merlin's Sound ID is better than you think.
Friend of the ABA Nick Lund has had a busy spring! He not only published his first book, but his first two books. The ABA Guide to Birds of Maine is the newest installment in the well-regarded ABA guide series from Scott & Nix, and The Ultimate Biography of Earth seeks to reach science fans of all ages with its fun text and colorful illustrations. Nick joins Nate Swick to talk about them both and whatever else they get to.
Also, turns out Nate had Covid, and he does not recommend getting it during spring migration.
It’s the last Thursday of the month and that means it is time for the American Birding Podcast This Month in Birding panel where we talk some bird news, share some sightings, and generally have a good time. We welcome to the panel this month Portland Audubon's Brodie Cass Talbott, the American Bird Conservancy's Jordan Rutter, and Birds Canada, Jody Allair.
Topic's discussed on this month's episode:
The incredible variety of bird song in a morning chorus on a spring or summer day is a phenomenon that a lot of birders are familiar with. But even after centuries of study there is still a lot we don’t know about bird vocalizations, especially the world of female birdsong. The vocalizations of female birds are frequently as complex and important to the lives of birds as the songs we associate with male birds, and it’s only relatively recently that we’ve begin to really look into that. Dr. Lauryn Benedict, from the University of Northern Colorado, has been on the cutting edge of this science and she joins host Nate Swick to talk about bird vocalizations and other aspects of female bird biology.
Also, American Ornithological Society taxonomy proposals are out, and Nate hits some of the highlights.
As interest in birding has grown in the last couple years, birders have turned up in some really interesting places, including the streaming platform Twitch. Dr WD40, Liz Clayton Fuller, and Ian Davies are birders who have figured out this live streaming thing and are using it to build a community of bird and nature fans in a seemingly unconventional place, and they join host Nate Swick to talk all about it.
Plus, if you want prairie-chickens, you've got to get to Kansas.
Birding editor Ted Floyd is back and ready to remember some birds! He joins host Nate Swick to put their fates in the hands of chance and a random number generator to find some birds to talk about woodpeckers, wrens, and warblers.
It's time again for This Month in Birding! While March is arguably the slowest month of the year for birding in the ABA Area, we haven't given the short shrift with this excellent panel of returnees. From Sonoran Join Venture, Jennie Duberstein, from Birds Canada and The Warblers podcast, it's Andrés Jimenez, and from Birdmodo and a thousand other fun sciency things, it's Ryan Mandelbaum. They join host Nate Swick to talk indigenous science, hardcore eBirders, crafty magpies and Daylight Savings Time.
Links to topics discussed:
Forrest Rowland advocates for ecotourism around the world as a tour leader for Rockjumper and for ecotourism close to home with Landtrust, an effort to connect landowners in the west and outdoor recreationists in some pretty interesting ways. Birders get access to private ranches full of amazing birds and wildlife and landowners get to put their properties to work in an environmentally sustainable way. It's a win-win-win for birders, landowners, and the birds they are working to protect. He joins Nate Swick to talk about how it works and why people need more places to enjoy outdoor recreation in an increasingly crowded west.
Plus, it's March Madness and bird teams are succeeding on the court, if not in their logos.
In many many parts of the country, and the world, the most accessible greenspaces are cemeteries. And while they have a morbid reputation, they can offer lots of great nature opportunities for those willing to explore. Danielle Belleny is a wildlife biologist in San Antonio, Texas, a co-founder of Black Birders Week, and the author of the essay Lawn of the Dead: Finding Solace, Ecological Integrity, and Good Birding in America’s Cemeteries, which will run in the next issue of Birding magazine. Her new book This is a Book for People who Love Birds is also due out next month. Also, some good new for a lovely birding site in South Texas.
Also, you can find lots of ABA folks at festivals this spring, including Nate at the Kansas Lek Treks prairie-chicken festival in April!
The birding world was shocked and more than a little saddened late last year when the venerable magazine Bird Watcher’s Digest announced that it was ceasing operations. Famously founded by Elsa Thompson and Bill Thompson Jr in 1978 it was a real tent pole of the birding community in North America. But the exciting news is that the magazine will be back in 2022, rechristened as BWD and with many of the same people involved. Jessica Vaughn will be the editor and Mike Sacopulos the publisher. They join us to talk about the magazine relaunch and continuing the legacy of Bill Thompson III.
Plus, what being at 99 birds does to you.
If a bird calls in a forest, or a swamp, or a grassland, and no birder is there to hear it, did that vocalization really happen? The birds sounds we miss contain so much information about bird behavior and populations, wouldn’t it be useful if we could hear those sounds surreptitiously. That’s the work of Tessa Rhinehart, a researcher, birder, and mathematician at the University of Pittsburgh who trains computers to identify birds for science and conservation.
Also, birders in Nova Scotia get a car company to overhaul their commercial.
It’s the last week of the month and that means it’s time for This Month in Birding. And while February is the shortest month, we do not give you the short shrift with our panel this month. We're joined by Sam D'Jarnett from Always Be Birdin', Orietta Estrada from Amplify the Future, and podcast regular Frank Izaguirre of Birding magazine to talk about murmuration dangers, Rare Bird Alerts pros and cons, and a Black Birders Week temperature check among other things.
Links to topics discussed:
There is no question that climate change is having an impact on bird populations, but dig a little deeper and you find a tangled web of changing weather patterns, land use, habitat loss, and the different needs of individual species and groups of species that make coming up with management practices a real challenge. But birds, more than most other taxa, have the benefit of decades of data from both professional and community scientists perhaps best exemplified by the Christmas Bird Count. Dr. Sarah Saunders and Geoff LeBaron are authors of a paper published last month in the journal Global Change Biology, on the effects of climate change on bird populations using nearly a century of Christmas Bird Count data collected by birders like you.
Also, birding makes the Super Bowl. Sort of.
We have seen, in recent years, an increased awareness of the need to make birding welcoming, inclusive, and accessible. There are many many avenues to making a reality. Birdability is an organization that seeks to do so for people with a wide range of disabilities, from mobility challenges to chronic illness to neurodivergence. My guests are Virginia Rose, the president and founder of Birdability and Freya McGregor, Birdability’s coordinator.
We might be well into 2022, but it’s not too late to look back at the previous year in bird and birding phenomena. While the year started slowly, it built into an exceptional one for rare birds, with amazing individuals and stories that captivated birders across the ABA Area. To talk about it we're joined by Amy Davis, associate editor of the ABA's North American Birds journal and Tom Johnson of the ABA Checklist Committee.
It’s the last week of the first month of 2022, and time again for This Month of Birding. One of our panelists Brooke Bateman was scheduled to be with us but unfortunately came down with COVID, and we hope that she is on the mend soon. In her place steps the ABA's Greg Neise, who joins a panel of scientists Mikko Jimenez and Joanna Wu to chat about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, bird migration science, and how we intend to celebrate Gullentine's Day.
Links to articles discussed in this episode:
Texas birder Tiffany Kersten did not start 2021 with an ambitious year of birding in mind. But out of a job because of Covid closures, and with other hobbies unaccessible, the opportunity opened up to do something special. At the end of the year, she had traveled across the Lower 48 US states, raised awareness on the issue of women’s safety in the outdoors, set a new Lower 48 Big Year record of 726 species, and launched her own bird tourism business. She joins us to talk about her Big Year and her bigger purpose.
Also, more on the fundraiser based on the DC Snowy Owl.
Editor of the ABA's Birding magazine and frequent podcast guest Ted Floyd just returned a few weeks ago from a trip to Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, for the African Bird Expo. It just so happens to be a place that host Nate Swick has been as well, on an earlier incarnation of that same trip. So with that in mind, they thought it would be fun to apply the random number generator to their lists and remember some birds in Random Birds.
Last month the ABA officially announced the 2022 ABA Bird of the Year, which is Burrowing Owl! The excitement over the owl is, no doubt, helped along by the exceptional artwork of our Bird of the Year artist, Christina Baal, whose colorful and personable style seems to fit this species like an owl nestled in a subterranean PVC pipe. She’s with host Nate Swick to talk about Burrowing Owls, inspiration, and art.
Plus, send us your Burrowing Owl stories, like the one Nate shares this week.
This episode is brought to you by Buteo Books.