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by Anders Gyllenhaal

Great Egrets: Putting on a bird ballet

Our trip along the storied Montezuma wildlife drive in upstate New York had been all but devoid of birds the first hour. Then we turned the corner at the halfway mark and came upon a scene that instantly made up for the quiet start. Two dozen Great Egrets stood clustered ...
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Nature’s jewels: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the move

The statistics for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are almost as stunning as a close-up look at their iridescent plumage. Zeroing in on the male hummingbird Their wings can flap up to 80 times a second. They weigh about 3 grams – a wisp of a bird at a tenth of an ounce ...
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Birds in training: A couple of young Sapsuckers learning the ropes

The Sapsucker mom trying to teach her fledglings We were just finishing our morning coffee, dawdling at our campsite in update New York, when we looked up to see something precious: A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feasting on the fluid of a birch tree not 15 feet away. As we sat still ...
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What will it take to mobilize the country’s birders?

Our long-planned visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., this week began just as the White House announced plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act. The move seemed to strike at the heart of the lab’s work to protect birds in a time of accelerating declines. We ...
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Recruiting new birders at the Airstream Rally: Have I lost my mind?

With only a few days to go until our “Beginner’s Guide to Birding” seminar at the 62nd International Airstream Rally, I still couldn’t figure out what to say. When Anders and I volunteered to do the talk months before, the mission seemed simple: Persuade our fellow campers to try their ...
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Birders love exotic species, but it’s everyday birds that get people talking

When we post photos on Facebook, as we try to do every couple of days, we learn all kinds of things from the thousands of readers following our Flying Lessons page. Some tell birding stories. Others share photos. Together, they let us know which species they like best. Raptors are ...
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One magical night: A chance encounter with three baby owls

Trying out an owlish stare. They were just weeks from leaving the nest for the last time, still learning to fly, but the trio of fledgling Eastern Screech Owls seemed ready to conquer the woods. Every night at dusk, they’d materialize around our campsite in the hills of Virginia and ...
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What’s this bird? How a drab little guy stumped the experts

When you upload a bird photo to the terrific Facebook group called “What’s This Bird?” you tend to get an identification back in a matter of seconds. A few nights ago, however, something was wrong. I like to count how long it takes for my mystery bird to be pegged, ...
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Audubon honors magnificent bird photography worthy of a museum

The grand prize winner was taken by Kathrin Swoboda of Vienna, Va. See the gallery below for photo details. The grand prize winner of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards captures a Red-winged Blackbird in a scene that would be at home on the wall of an art museum. The most ...
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A ray of sunshine, the Goldfinch takes center stage

The American Goldfinch is a symbol of summer. Impossibly yellow in May, June and July, they stand out like flashes of sunlight flitting across meadows, farmlands and treetops. Then as the summer ends, the intriguing cycle of nature begins. Like a debutante with a closet full of clothes, the Goldfinch ...
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The hidden miracle of summer: Here comes a new feathered generation

Early one morning on a bird walk in Cape May, N.J., our guide was excited to show us something exquisite: A tiny and all but hidden nest of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting on a nest woven into a tree branch We walked in utter silence, single file, through ...
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How a Waxwing woos a mate: A story with a surprise ending

Two Cedar Waxwings materialized above the wildlife park in Northern Virginia and pirouetted into an aerial ballet. They rose and fell, circled high above the lake, then swooped down close to the ground. They pulled all this off in precise formation like two tiny jets on military maneuvers. And then ...
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The day I learned birding etiquette: Or how to mind your manners on the trail

In our early days on the trail, it took a while to realize that birding has its own, largely un-communicated set of dos and don’ts. I’ll never forget the morning we pulled into a nature preserve parking lot alongside a group of folks wearing khaki vests and putting away cannon-sized ...
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Magnificent photography fuels a campaign to save the Earth’s rarest eagle

Toward the end of the full-length documentary “Bird of Prey” about the quest to save the Great Philippine Eagle, a chick followed from birth to adulthood takes off for its first flight and slowly soars high above the jungle. A Philippine Eagle soars over the jungle. Photo by Neil Rettig ...
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Spoonbills flee South Florida’s troubles. But what about the others?

One of the biggest questions hanging over the birding world is what will the rapid changes in the environment mean for various species. In a piece in The Miami Herald running this weekend, we return to a topic from a few months ago and try to go much deeper into ...
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One of nature’s great performers: An Osprey puts on a show

It’s one of nature’s greatest shows: The Osprey dives from hundreds of feet in the air, slowly brings it talons forward, splashes into the water, grabs a fish and then hoists itself back into the air and flies away. It’s such a compelling performance that a small crowd stood on ...
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Listen up: This Bird of the Week is the Life of the Party

A birder walks into a clearing, and there’s a Song Sparrow singing its heart out. In chimes a Robin, followed by a Grosbeak and a Tanager, a Wood Thrush and a Warbler, all chirping at the same time. Sounds like a bunch of songbirds out having a party. But it’s ...
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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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