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by Anders Gyllenhaal

Love is in the Air: As the migration slows, the woods are heating up

When I was in the fifth grade in my little hometown in Pennsylvania, the school put on dancing lessons. At the start of each session, the boys and girls would line up on either side of the auditorium and then race toward each other in a chaotic rush to find ...
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The feeding frenzy that powers the migration

Much about the spring and fall migrations are cloaked in mystery, from how birds know when to leave to what helps them determine exactly where they’re going. But there’s no question about one element of their twice-a-year extreme feats of travel: the moment the birds stop for breaks, they go ...
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It’s World Migratory Bird Day — and there’s a lot we can do

As photos of migrating birds popped up on a big screen last night, a couple dozen birders from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia sat in a conference room at the National Wildlife Federation headquarters taking careful notes. Saturday is World Migratory Bird Day, and these folks were getting their ...
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Early birders: Researchers often get hooked as kids

Andrew Farnsworth was just 5 years old when he first started birding. As he grew up, this pastime and the science behind it became so captivating he started thinking about how to find a career that would somehow involve birds. Today, Farnsworth, now 46, is one of the research associates ...
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A Little More Freedom: Letting go of your worries on the birding trail

Saturday is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Global Big Day,” a highlight of the spring migration when birders around the world count as many species they can find in 24 hours. My birding bag and I were both getting ready. This post started out as a way to tell you ...
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How he stole my heart: Cocky, reckless and drunk with love

Love can be dangerous. We know it. And yet, there are times when this most elemental of emotions pushes you beyond all reason. Why else would an otherwise elusive, tiny yellow bird end up walking down the middle of the road in broad daylight? It was a gorgeous spring day, ...
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Washington Post story explores the success of world’s leading citizen science project

Around the world, all sorts of efforts are in the works to protect the many bird species now in decline. This week, in an article for the Washington Post, we take a deep look at one of them: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project and its innovative way of ...
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Why now is the best time to jump on the birding bandwagon

The buzz was as loud as a flock of hungry seagulls when four birding groups gathered to celebrate a new guidebook by the Smithsonian’s Bruce Beehler last week in Washington, D.C. For many of them, after five months of winter, this was the first chance they’d had to talk about ...
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Here’s a nice surprise: While many species struggle with climate, the Roseate Spoonbill is thriving

Jerry Lorenz, Florida’s leading expert on the Roseate Spoonbill, kept hearing about a new nesting ground in Central Florida named for the nearby town of Stick Marsh. So he decided to see for himself what was happening on the string of small inland islands where dozens of the state’s most ...
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We used to snicker at Snowbirds — until we discovered this Airstream getaway

There’s one avian species I never thought we’d be observing at such close range: Snowbirds. That’s what Florida locals call retirees from “up north” who migrate to the Sunshine State every winter. Three decades ago — when Anders and I were newlyweds living in Miami Beach – we’d snicker at ...
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From its love life to its ancient origins, the Frigatebird is one magnificent species

The scene comes out of a primordial past: Five thousand Magnificent Frigatebirds — one of the most ancient and acrobatic species on Earth — circle in sync above a remote island off the coast of Mexico. Unlike most of the breeding grounds for the Frigatebird, the small island of Isla ...
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The first chicks have arrived: beautiful, gawky, hungry and often noisy

Wood Stork chick Great Egret chick Sandhill Crane Anhinga chick You can sometimes hear them before you see them: Sweet but incessant cries of early life, calling for food, warmth, attention. If you’re lucky — and in the right place — you get a look at the first chicks of ...
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Sandhill Crane Stories: Bold city birds vs. their shy cousins

Audubon’s annual Nebraska Crane Festival starts today, where 80 percent of the world’s cranes are converging on one 80-mile stretch of land. More than half a million Sandhill Cranes will touch down in central Nebraska this spring to fatten up before migrating north to their breeding grounds. Meanwhile, in central ...
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“Where’d he go?” A birds-eye view of life in the nest

She pokes her head from the hole and glances first right, then left, then right again, clearly looking for a mate who’s been gone too long. It’s feeding time at this tiny home on the edge of Florida’s Lake Kissimmee, judging from the relay race these Red-bellied Woodpeckers are running ...
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Birding from the Flying Cloud: Aboard an Airstream, you’re already there.

Our birding base is an Airstream Flying Cloud. It’s what makes it possible to pursue this passion on our own terms. Forget waking up and driving to the woods to catch the dawn’s birdsong. We’re already there. A campsite just outside Asheville, N.C. On move day, here’s the routine: Pour ...
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This beauty of a bird knows how to please a crowd

In the reeds where it likes to forage for food, the Purple Gallinule stands out like a beauty contestant. With shimmering purple and turquoise feathers, a distinctive red-and-yellow beak, a white patch on its face and bright yellow legs, this “Purple Gal” knows how to entertain a crowd. She struts ...
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Who delivers the Stork? Here’s a nursery like no other

There’s a rare birding phenomenon that happens every spring at Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. The 50-acre preserve turns into a full-fledged nursery, chock full of nests, eggs and chicks anxious for their next meal. Baby Wood Stork The unique thing about the Wakodahatchee Wetlands is access and diversity ...
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Will he ever take off? Learning patience the hawk way

I spotted the hawk from about 50 feet away, perched on a dead tree where he could watch over the Central Florida marsh as if he ruled the place. I stopped about 30 feet back, and stood as still as I could, hoping for a chance at a photo if ...
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Paying respects to an under-appreciated bird: Yellow-rumped Warbler is a survivor

Of the 55 species in North America, the Yellow-rumped is probably the most abundant Warbler. It shows up all over the country at some point during the year and winters much farther north than most other Warblers do. While the Yellow-rumped Warbler should be admired for its hardiness, adaptability and ...
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Birds For Beginners: They gotta stay still and be big enough to shoot

The Great Blue is the largest heron in North America. We loved this comment and question from Candy Krewer of Montana: “I am a beginner birder and love to try to photograph birds. The Great Blue Heron is a current favorite since it’s a large target, often standing still! I ...
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The White Ibis — graceful and awkward at once — is a sight to see

When the White Ibis is soaring, it’s a magnificent and graceful bird, from its black-tipped wings to its long, curved, signature beak. When an Ibis comes in for a landing, on the other hand, it turns into a gawky and awkward comic. It’s hard to tell its wings from its ...
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Can you still be Valentines living in an Airstream? Love is on the line

Reading and playing music are daily routines. Anders and I chased the birds for 15 weeks last summer in a 23-foot Airstream trailer. If you don’t count the bed and bathroom, that’s two adults negotiating roughly 50 square feet of living space for 105 days. Many of our friends think ...
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What’s red all over — and hard to find? Here’s a Valentine of a Bird

The Summer Tanager, the only completely red bird in North America, is our Bird of the Week in honor of Valentine’s Day. It’s easy to see the male’s deep red coloring on the cover of a Valentine’s Day card. But this goes further than feathers. Like true love, the Summer ...
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Chasing the Kingfisher — five years and one lucky day

Every birder has a favorite species or two. Mine has always been the Belted Kingfisher, partly because this elegant speed demon is so elusive. For five years I’ve been trying to get a photo in mid-flight, but it’s been like catching a shadow. The Belted Kingfisher is so skittish and ...
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Why we should skip Groundhog Day and look for Red-winged Blackbirds instead

Today is Groundhog Day, and though Punxsutawney Phil had good news early this morning, he’s usually wrong. It’s time to switch to a better predictor — and it turns out there’s one waiting in the wings: The Red-winged Blackbird. The blackbird, one of the first birds to return on its ...
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A dedicated birder makes a rare find and the nation’s capital is buzzing

When a Dickcissel turned up in the wrong place at the wrong time last week, Scott Stafford, one of Washington’s top birders, just happened to be in the right place at the right time to find it. D.C.’s Dickcissel rummaging in the brush. Less than an hour later, a small ...
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Anxious for the spring migration? Try Armchair Birding on Facebook

House Sparrows hop along the sidewalks of downtown Washington, even on a 20-degree day. There are starlings galore and the occasional mockingbird. But my warblers, buntings and finches flew south months ago. I find myself craving a forest silence shattered by birdsong and the endorphin rush of spotting a male ...
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These ducks were out to make fools of us — and boy did they ever

We hadn’t been birding in a while because of miserable weather, so we were anxious to get out last weekend and see the ducks and geese that take up residence on Maryland’s eastern shore every winter. The waterways were jammed with ducks, most of them Canadian Geese you could hear ...
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How birders are helping to unravel mysteries of the migrations

The new Cornell maps of bird migrations look for all the world like works of art: great swaths of color splash across digital canvasses that would be at home on the walls of a modern art museum. This map reflects the migration travels of the Pied-billed Grebe, with the different ...
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Talk like birding royalty: A squabble of Gulls and a bowl of Spoonbills

What could be more delightful than a herd of cowbirds, a flotilla of frigatebirds or a pandemonium of parrots? A bowl of spoonbills, perhaps. A Spoonbill about to join a bowl One of my favorite of Anders’ photos is of a gangly Roseate Spoonbill coming in for a landing to ...
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Bird of the Week: A perfect guy to brighten winter

The Northern Cardinal in its winter glory. The male Northern Cardinal is at its best this time of year. In the winter months when the landscape turns its most drab, the Cardinal’s red plumage actually becomes brighter. It’s as if the Cardinal was sent along to provide a flash of ...
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How a lake disappeared — and an unexpected gift took its place

Here’s a story to help transport us to the opposite end of the calendar as winter sets in: We traveled nearly 10,000 miles this past summer in search of birds and new places — and the unexpected was often waiting along the way. One of those stops in mid June ...
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Looking for the perfect New Year’s resolution? Try Birding.

If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution that will improve your health, increase your exercise, calm you down and raise your heartbeat at the same time, here’s the rare pastime that does all that in one fowl swoop, so to speak. Take up birding. A group of birders on ...
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Year of the Bird: Telling the story of the global campaign to save birds

Second of two parts When the Year of the Bird campaign on behalf of endangered species kicked off one year ago, National Geographic magazine turned to a unique voice for its cover story. One of the country’s leading novelists, Jonathan Franzen, took up the question of “Why Birds Matter.’’ The ...
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Bird of the (Holiday) Week: A Woodpecker Worthy of a Hallmark Card

To celebrate the holidays, we offer this memorable moment with a Pileated Woodpecker who looks like he’s posing for a Christmas card. With his twisted red crest and feathering that could double as a tuxedo, he’s a picture of the holiday season. The Pileated is the loudest and largest of ...
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Year of the Bird: Can this sweeping campaign curb rising threats to birds?

First of two parts The most ambitious effort to protect birds in a century comes to a close next week. Although its catalog of accomplishments ranges from enlisting thousands of new supporters to collecting reams of fresh data, the Year of the Bird faces a tough question: Was the 12-month ...
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A pilgrimage to the Wright Brothers Memorial puts the power of human potential on display

Today is the anniversary of the Wright brothers flight on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we visited the newly renovated memorial a month ago. What a Flying Lesson it was. We set off from our campground on a near-perfect fall morning toward Kitty Hawk where the Memorial has ...
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Bird of the Week: Can the Eagle’s revival be repeated

This elegant old Bald Eagle took up a perch near us at the Blackwater refuge and offered his impressive profile from every angle. A delightful encounter. This is a good week to celebrate the American Bald Eagle, which carries a lot of symbolism as it hovers overhead. This Eagle (to ...
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Perfect gift for a favorite birder is a click away.

What should you get for the birder in your life? What about a waterproof birding journal for those rainy days, a Universal Binocular Tripod Mount to stifle the shakes, or maybe a bluebird nest necklace? This is the Snapzoom Universal Binocular Tripod Mount, listed on the Audubon link below and ...
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How the birds are teaching us humility, persistence — and joy

These Roseate Spoonbills gather year after year on a small pond hidden deep inside Georgia’s Jekyll Island. It’s where they like it. Over the past few years, the birds have been leading me to a new lexicon of personal slogans. One of my favorites is, “They Like It Where They ...
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