BirdsEye Nature Apps http://www.birdseyebirding.com Passionately supporting citizen science projects Mon, 19 Nov 2018 20:18:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Alex Vargas: October Birder of the Month http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/10/22/alex-vargas-october-birder-of-the-month/ Mon, 22 Oct 2018 19:06:02 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=16665 The post Alex Vargas: October Birder of the Month appeared first on BirdsEye Nature Apps.

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Species, listed from left to right in gallery:

Whiskered pitta (Erythropitta kochi), Sulawesi dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx fallax), Scarlet-bellied mountain tanager (Anisognathus igniventris), Royal flycatcher (Onychorchnchus coronatus) – female, Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) – male, Red-headed barbet (Eubucco bourcierii), Red-capped parrot (Purpureicephalus spurius), Red-bearded bee-eater (Nyctyornis amictus), Long-tailed sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii), King vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Fiery-throated hummingbird (Panterpe insignis), Chestnut-crowned antpitta (Grallaria ruficapilla), Banded kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella) – male


Users of eBird, the citizen biodiversity project, run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, have collectively spotted 10,364 species, roughly the entire canon of bird life on the planet. And Alex Vargas? He’s personally tallied 5,138 species on his life list—and counting! For his prolificness and sensational avian photography, Alex is the BirdsEye Birder of the Month for October 2018.

Alex Vargas offers bird photography tours in locales around the world.

Alex is a native Costa Rican who has been birding for over 30 years, first as a childhood hobby and later as a birdwatching tour guide during his teenage years. Since 2009, he has led dedicated bird photography expeditions around the world. Alex inherited his love of birds from his father and grew up studying birds on his family’s farm in Costa Rica’s Caribbean Lowlands, where he created his first bird feeder at age 12. He nabbed his first naturalist gig shortly after that when the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) recruited him to work at the La Selva Biological Station in Sarapiquí. At 16, he was certified as a “Naturalist Guide” by WWF and OTS.

Alex started photographing birds when the industry entered the digital era. He carried his scope everywhere as he led birdwatching tours, and he got hooked on photography for good when a friend gave him a small point-and-shoot camera. When he moved to Asia, he found more time to shoot birds and pursued photography more seriously. He was later granted the title of “Pro Photographer” from a private school in Japan.

Alex leads bird photography tours around the world for Bird Photo World, his own agency. He regularly visits Costa Rica, Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, and the U.S. He previously worked in research and conservation, as well as a Tourism Business Administrator at various times, but has focused on tours and photography since 2009. He currently lives in Indonesia with his family but plans to relocate to the Americas to work on growing his business. In the coming, Alex hopes to expand to Ecuador and Brazil in 2019 and Guyana and Africa in 2020.

Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno)

When pressed, Alex admits that the Resplendent Quetzal is his favorite bird: “They are marvelous, enigmatic birds, and I have spent a long time with them; it is even the bird in my company’s logo” he says. He admits, however, that he has too many favorite birds and expressed a fondness for kingfishers, pittas, hummingbirds, Australian parrots, and the various red-billed, multi-colored species found in Asia.

For novice birders, Alex recommends “practice, practice, practice! But have fun while you’re at it”, he says, “especially when you’re young and can travel without roots pinning you down.” He suggests that if you encounter a challenge identifying certain birds, learn to embrace it and keep moving forward. “Think it’s hard to tell flycatchers apart? Gulls are even harder!” he jokes.

As a final point, he emphasizes that birders should seek out the fun in birding and not make it a competition, which can take away the beauty of the activity.

Congratulations to Alex Vargas for being named the BirdsEye Birder of the Month for October 2018. Keep up the great work, Alex!

All images courtesy of Alex Vargas.

BirdsEye is always looking for ways to highlight the people doing exceptional work in the birding community. Do you know a deserving birder worthy of being featured? If so, please email us at info@birdsinthehand.com with your nominations.

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Use BirdsEye.Photo To Up Your Photography Game http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/10/22/use-birdseye-photo-to-up-your-photography-game/ Mon, 22 Oct 2018 17:31:42 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=16642 BirdsEye’s free photography website is a comprehensive library of photos submitted by a nature-enthusiast collective from across the globe. Thanks to users like you, we have amassed one of the most complete and high-quality photo collections of birds, odes, butterflies, and more! If you aren’t already using BirdsEye.photo, here are some of the benefits of […]

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BirdsEye’s free photography website is a comprehensive library of photos submitted by a nature-enthusiast collective from across the globe. Thanks to users like you, we have amassed one of the most complete and high-quality photo collections of birds, odes, butterflies, and more!

If you aren’t already using BirdsEye.photo, here are some of the benefits of becoming a contributor:

  1. Get a free membership! For every 20 photo submissions, we will provide users with a free, one-year, BirdsEye membership of their choice. Want a second year? Great! Simply submit another 20 photos! Or, if you’d prefer, use those 20 additional photo submissions to get a different regional membership!  You could choose from any of our BirdsEye memberships.
  2. Keep track of your photo life list. BirdsEye.photo is a great way to keep track of the birds, odes, and butterflies you’ve seen and photographed. Plus, you’ll be able to easily sort through these photos taxonomically, alphabetically, or by submission date. 
  3. Share your photos and get credit. If you’re anything like us, your photos amass, unseen by the public, on your computer. Here’s a way dust off those digital photo folders and share them with one of the largest birding and nature communities on the planet! The photo site allows other users to browse, rate, and help identify the birds in your photos. Plus, your photos will be eligible for use in our newsletters, on our website, and in our Apps! (With due credit given, of course.)
  4. Educate the masses. While your photos are out there earning you credited recognition, they are also helping to educate other nature enthusiasts as they explore the world around them. The BirdsEye Finding Guide app, Dragonfly ID app, and Bumble Bee Watch app all use user-submitted photos to help nature enthusiasts identify species in the field. Meanwhile, our Daily Bird app displays user-submitted photos every day, helping birders to refine their bird identification skills.
  5. Help us make some of the highest quality apps.  Users can rate photos based on how well the bird is displayed in the photo. We want photos of animals as they appear in the field to help users identify what they’re seeing in the field. For that reason, we need to make sure our apps’ photos do just that! Can you see the bird clearly? Are important field marks present? User ratings help us determine the best photos to include in our nature apps. And, if you think a photo has been misidentified, let us know! We strongly rely on our users to help us ensure the accuracy of our apps’ photo collections.

    Dragonfly ID, BirdsEye Finding Guide, and Daily Bird all feature photos submitted by users on the BirdsEye.Photo website

Sign up for a free BirdsEye.Photo account today and begin contributing to the collection. To get started, visit Birdseye.photo and follow these easy steps: 

  1. Create a free account;
  2. Add your name and website to your profile so people can find more of your work;
  3. Submit your first photo!

By now you can tell how much we want you to contribute to Birdseye.photobut not just to help us complete our collection! While your photograph submissions will help refine the quality of our apps, they’ll also help motivate you to lengthen your own photograph life list and educate the nature-enthusiast community.

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Biomimicry: Emulating Birds & Nature http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/09/25/biomimicry-birds-emulate-nature/ Tue, 25 Sep 2018 10:00:01 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=16328 By Avery T Phillips Many companies are turning to nature for inspiration for tackling the world’s challenges. By mimicking natural designs millions of years in the making, we are learning how to reduce energy consumption and resource depletion, implement self-regulating cleaning methods, and advance technology in new and creative ways. Innovation based on the designs […]

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Image: Pixabay

By Avery T Phillips

Many companies are turning to nature for inspiration for tackling the world’s challenges. By mimicking natural designs millions of years in the making, we are learning how to reduce energy consumption and resource depletion, implement self-regulating cleaning methods, and advance technology in new and creative ways.

Innovation based on the designs found in nature is referred to as biomimicry. Biomimicry is a relatively new field of study that is enticing engineers, biologists, and conservationists to work towards a common goal of overcoming technological challenges and maintaining global sustainability.

When attempting to solve a problem, such as the booming sound caused when a Japanese bullet train blasted away from the station, researchers sought solutions in the animal kingdom. In the case of the bullet train, engineers reshaped the nose of the train to emulate a kingfisher, which allowed it to enter the station soundlessly, like a kingfisher diving into the water after its prey. This modification to the structure of the train also reduced the energy use of the train by 30 percent.

A Shinkansen 500 series train pulls into Japan’s Tokyo Station. The shape of the train’s nose was inspired, in part, by a kingfisher’s bill. Credits: A belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), courtesy of Michael Liskay via birdseye.photo. A Shinkansen 500 series train, via Wikimedia Commons.

Another example of how birds can offer insight into reducing energy use is happening in the world of aeronautics. Scientists have discovered that birds flying in a V-shape reduces the amount of energy that is being exerted by each individual bird. When a bird towards the front of the V flaps its wings, it creates an updraft, lifting the bird behind it. The birds within the group rotate so that each has the opportunity to work harder for the group by being in the front while also having a chance to rest in the back of the formation.

A group of researchers at Stanford University are planning a study that will follow commercial airliners on transcontinental flights while they fly in a V-formation with other airplanes. Their hypothesis is that the jets will use 15 percent less fuel when they simulate the pattern of birds, as opposed to flying alone.

Biomimicry can also be built into our architectural designs by nurturing mutually beneficial relationships found in nature. Birds have symbiotic relationships with many different animals, including horses. Birds feed on the insects that plague horses, while horses offer a safe resting spot and nest building materials for birds. Sustainable barns that offer numerous natural entrances can benefit both domesticated animals as well as the wild ones with whom they interact.

By implementing changes such as the Japanese bullet train and jetliner examples, humans are creating change that reduces fossil fuel consumption and improves industrial design. However, there are always problems with innovation. Humans are bound to make errors in our attempts to mimic nature. Wind turbines, a valuable renewable energy resource, imitate the shape of an owl’s wing to improve energy efficiency, but the reduced noise and ease with which they slice through the air have made them more lethal to bird populations. As we move forward in our innovation and face technological challenges, we must look further into the future and the impact that biomimicry may have. We must support innovation that benefits from nature, but more importantly, we must support innovators that benefit nature.

The ways in which we can learn from birds could be endless and found in the depths of remote places like the tropical rainforests of Asia and South America. During your next birding session be sure to look for other ways we could be using knowledge about birds to solve technological challenges.

Read more by Avery Phillips on Medium and follow her on Twitter.

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Dan Tallman: September Birder of the Month http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/09/24/dan-tallman-september-birder-of-the-month/ Mon, 24 Sep 2018 21:42:29 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=16340 The post Dan Tallman: September Birder of the Month appeared first on BirdsEye Nature Apps.

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Among the birds flitting around the Carpish pass in central Peru, one species carries a unique distinction: it is named after our September 2018 Birder of the Month, Dan Tallman. Dan and his wife, Erika, discovered the new subspecies of fruiteater (Pipreola riefferii tallmanorum) during one of their graduate research expeditions to Peru. Dan also studied habitat partitioning by antbirds in Ecuador while Erika researched intercontinental migration on the parasites of Solitary and Pectoral sandpipers. During their time in South America, the couple also discovered a second new species, Nephelornis oneilli. The research contributed to their dissertations, and each received doctorate degrees from Louisiana State University.

Dan fell for birding after his 7th-grade teacher, John Trott, introduced him to the past time. A year later, his father gave him a Pentax camera with a 300-mm lens and he combined his passion for birds with his interest in photography. He has photographed birds ever since. Dan has contributed over 3,000 bird photographs to BirdsEye as well as nearly 800 dragonfly photographs. His interest in dragonflies started when he and Erika retired to Northfield, Minnesota, after 30 years of teaching biology at Northern State University. A Great Spreadwing visited their garden, and the rest, Dan says, was history.

In addition to photographing birds, Dan and Erika band birds. Dan received a federal banding permit in 1966 and bands between 2,000 to 3,000 birds each year. The couple does most of their birding in Northfield but takes occasional winter trips to warmer climates, including a 2017 dragonfly tour of Costa Rica with Dennis Paulson. Check out their blog for more of their terrific photos.

For novice birders, Dan suggests finding other people with whom to bird. Dan and his brothers used to use Audubon bird cards to quiz each other, and they would later compete to see who could identify the most birds. Having additional people to bird with helps one make the activity communal and can also help improve one’s identification skills.

Congratulations to Dan Tallman, the BirdsEye Birder of the Month for September 2018. Thank you for your contributions, Dan!

All images are courtesy of Dan and Erika Tallman.

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Birding With Children in the Amazon http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/08/27/birding-with-children-in-the-amazon/ Mon, 27 Aug 2018 19:40:13 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=16106 (Part of our mission at BirdsEye is to support grass-roots, conservation efforts like the Amazon Binocular Project) by Phil Kahler, Tualatin Valley Academy Five Many-banded Aracari (a type of toucan) are feeding in some trees and have attracted the attention of two Maijuna children.  Walking across the field the children sit down in the grass […]

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(Part of our mission at BirdsEye is to support grass-roots, conservation efforts like the Amazon Binocular Project)

by Phil Kahler, Tualatin Valley Academy

Kris Pflaging with Maijuna children.

Five Many-banded Aracari (a type of toucan) are feeding in some trees and have attracted the attention of two Maijuna children.  Walking across the field the children sit down in the grass near the edge of their village to get a closer look.  They are using binoculars and are quick to fully immerse themselves into the joys of bird watching.  I and the other educators in our group look at each other and smile.  The Amazon Binocular Project is working; children in small village schools dotted along the Amazon and Napo Rivers in Northeastern Peru are falling in love with birds.

Percy Reyna and Cesar Sevillano with the new curriculum.

We asked children at the village school in Saint Martha if they had any favorite animals.  To our amazement nearly half of the children responded with specific bird names!  Their teacher had recently attended a workshop where she and one hundred other local instructors received environmental science training.  While at the workshop the student’s teacher obtained a copy of Celebra las Aves en La Amazonia Peruana, a new environmental education curriculum designed specifically to teach them about their local birds.  The teaching guide was designed by Karen Purcell and her Celebrate Urban Birds team at Cornell Lab of Ornithology along with the help of Peruvian teachers and Percy Reyna and Cesar Sevillano, the two bird guides who have been leading our efforts in Amazon schools.

Brian Landever, director of CONAPAC, a local NGO, organized this professional development event for the teachers, and together with Pam Bucur, general manager of Explorama Lodges, created a check-out system for schools to use our binoculars.  Both Pam and Brian have noted a huge increase in birds featured in student artwork at remote schools CONAPAC serves.

Cesar helping student focus on a bird.

Teacher participants of the Educator Academy in the Amazon Rainforest, an annual teacher workshop attended by U.S. educators,assisted Percy and Cesar as they introduced proper binocular use to the students of Saint Martha.  This was the first time the students had used binoculars and they were thrilled to practice focusing on distant objects.  Percy and Cesar’s patient mentoring soon resulted in students spotting birds in a nearby tree.  As our time at the school ended, it was obvious the children were hungry for more time with the binoculars.

Sierra High School students from Colorado visited the small school at Canal Pinto for a community service day with CONAPAC officials.  They worked with community members to paint the school and plant a garden.  Several of the high school students worked side by side with local students to paint a Great Kiskadee and a Ringed Kingfisher on the wall outside the kindergarten classroom.  Sierra High School students also brought some binoculars to Peru for the Amazon Binocular Project and took the opportunity to introduce the young Canal Pinto students to their first lesson on how to use binoculars.

Canal Pinto students paint “Victor Diaz”, a Great Kiskadee on school.

The Amazon Binocular Project was officially launched in November 2016 when Christa Dillabaugh, director of Amazon Workshops set up the webpage and coordinated with the EcoTeach Foundation to receive donations.  In two years’ time my students at Tualatin Valley Academy have inspected and cleaned over forty pairs of used binoculars for bird conservation education.  Last winter our friends at Eagle Optics provided a deep discount during their “going out of business sale” resulting in donations of fifty pairs of new binoculars.  Additional binoculars have been dropped off at the CONAPAC office in Iquitos by educators and visitors to the rainforest.  We now have nearly one hundred pairs of binoculars in classroom sets of five being checked out by teachers each month.

Teacher and student demand for binoculars in the Amazon has never been greater.  To reach all the CONAPAC schools requesting binoculars we have set our goal at four hundred pairs.  These additional binoculars would make it possible to distribute sets of ten to each of the area CONAPAC schools for loan periods of three months instead of our current one-month rotation per school.  This summer we were excited to receive a $1000 donation that will help us buy twenty new binoculars from Vortex, who has kindly offered to continue the donor discount originally offered to us by Eagle Optics.  News about our success with the Amazon Binocular Project is spreading!

Five years ago, I had a pivotal conversation with an extraordinary local guide, Lucio Pando, about his dream of teaching children in the Peruvian Amazon about birds.  Lucio knew the key to fostering children’s appreciation for birds was in helping them to see the intricacies of their plumage and behavior.  Lucio’s students needed binoculars!  While Lucio, our beloved bird guide, is sorely missed, I’m sure he would be very proud of his friends working to make bird conservation education in the Amazon a reality.  Please visit our webpage or contact us to learn how to donate funds and/or binoculars to the Amazon Binocular Project.

Lucio Pando teaching a group of students.

Learn more on the Amazon Binocular Project website:

http://amazonworkshops.com/amazonbinocular-project/

Or contact them through their email:

binocularproject@amazonworkshops.com

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Adventuring While Birding: Safety Tips for Backcountry Travels http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/08/26/safety-tips-for-adventurous-birders/ Mon, 27 Aug 2018 03:43:00 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=16089 Photo by Michelle Walcott on Unsplash By Avery Phillips Sometimes a birding adventure takes you off the beaten path and beyond cell service, away from the neverending stresses and notifications of home and work. While rugged ventures on the edge of civilization can be refreshing and rewarding, they also leave you isolated and far from […]

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Photo by Michelle Walcott on Unsplash

By Avery Phillips

Sometimes a birding adventure takes you off the beaten path and beyond cell service, away from the neverending stresses and notifications of home and work. While rugged ventures on the edge of civilization can be refreshing and rewarding, they also leave you isolated and far from help should trouble arise. But fear not! We have a few tips to ensure a safe and fun birding adventure.

Adventure Safely

While birdwatching is generally a safe activity, there are still a few precautions to keep in mind—especially if you’re going off the grid. First, try to bring a friend whenever you head out on a birding adventure. Not only does a friend provide companionship and an extra pair of bird-watching eyes, but they’ll also watch your back and keep you from getting lost if you’re a wanderer.

If you insist on traveling alone, be sure to let somebody know your planned route and tell them where you’ll be and when you’ll be home. Likewise, it’s not a bad idea to pack a whistle with you, just in case.

Second, beware of trespassing on private land; look out for signs near trailhead entrances. It’s easy to get consumed by the hunt for exotic wildlife, but people can be protective of their property if you wander from public to private lands.

Finally, be watchful of other types of wildlife. Protect yourself against ticks and mosquitos with long clothes, nets, and bug spray. Also be aware of larger predators like bears, mountain lions, wolves, and moose—any one of these animals will attack if humans approach them. Depending on the animals residing in the area you plan to explore, you might need to bring bear spray or learn other ways of protecting yourself in the wild. If you do encounter a large mammal, slowly back away and try to refrain from running or making any sudden moves.

Bring Food and Water

No matter how long you plan to trek into the wilderness, packing some food and water (or a water filtration system) is essential. You will need some nourishment to fuel you through the day, but prepare for the worst (i.e., if you get lost and need to sustain yourself for a little longer than expected). When you’re out hiking and birding, bring some low-glycemic foods along with you. Foods with a low glycemic index are best because they’ll keep your blood sugar from spiking right after you eat the food and then drastically dropping, causing fatigue and hunger. Try a few of these options on your next hike:

  • Berries
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bar (protein bar, energy bar, etc.)
  • Jerky
  • Trail mix

With these snacks in tow, you’ll never have to leave a choice birding spot just because you’re hungry.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Taking breaks from technology is great for your health because it gives you the mental space to relax without constant notifications and incoming messages. Birding is a great way to get into the woods and away from technology, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use some helpful tools to your advantage! However, when you’re traveling off-grid, and you don’t have any cell service or Internet connection, how do you take advantage of the birding apps and tools you love to use? Apps like the eBird mobile app can offer offline checklists, and BirdsEye’s new offline capabilities will help you discover the birds you are likely to find around you. You’ll want to make sure and track your GPS location manually when you’re out of cell service range.

When heading out for the day, make sure to fully charge your device, even if you don’t intend to use them. Just in case you need to make an emergency call, you’ll need a fully charged phone handy.

* * *

If birding is your hobby, then you probably spend plenty of time in the wilderness without a cell tower in sight. Birding is a great way to spend your free time, but make sure you take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and fun trip!

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Birding with BirdsEye Offline http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/08/26/birding-with-birdseye-offline/ Mon, 27 Aug 2018 02:13:39 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=16094 Birding in remote areas has its challenges. Though some of the most unique and diverse avifauna can be found in these areas, it is tough to lug in the field guides or camera equipment to ID them. On top of it all, little to no internet or cellular connectivity can hinder your ability to use […]

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Birding in remote areas has its challenges. Though some of the most unique and diverse avifauna can be found in these areas, it is tough to lug in the field guides or camera equipment to ID them. On top of it all, little to no internet or cellular connectivity can hinder your ability to use the world wide web to identify your bird.

Hindrances no more! BirdsEye has just improved its offline capabilities! Now, all of the BirdsEye data (for every species!) can be accessed at your fingertips even when you are as far away from a cell tower or router as possible. Though it is easier than ever to access all of this data, there are a few tricks you can use to improve your experience:

  • Downloading all the BirdsEye-compiled text, photos, and sounds for the world’s’ bird species is no quick jaunt in the park. When downloading data for offline usage, ensure you have a secure and strong WiFi connection and attach your device to a charger. Through your device’s “Settings” tab, set your screen ‘auto-lock’ to ‘never’. The best download is an uninterrupted download!
  • If you do happen to find service near your remote birding location— whether this be a nearby coffee shop, hotel, or the flickering one bar of cell service atop a mountain— refresh your ‘Nearby’ and ‘Smart Search’ list. These lists will be cached into your phone and will remain accessible when that one bar disappears and you are again offline. By doing this, you can see birds that have been seen recently within your vicinity.  If you’d like a more specific list of birds, you can further narrow down your ‘Nearby’ list by interacting with the Smart Search criteria.
  • If there is a Hotspot or CBC Circle on the ‘Browse by Location’ map near your birding destination, save it to your ‘Favorite Locations’ list. This data will also cache to your device and will allow the listed birds to be accessible offline.

BirdsEye now makes it easier than ever to interact with birds and birders anywhere on the planet. We hope you enjoy the new capabilities of the app. As always, we love to hear your feedback.

Happy Birding!
The BirdsEye Team

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A Life of Art, Travel, and Birds http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/07/24/catherine-hamilton-bird-nature-art/ Tue, 24 Jul 2018 17:12:17 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=15756 The post A Life of Art, Travel, and Birds appeared first on BirdsEye Nature Apps.

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By Aaron Sidder

In 2003, Catherine Hamilton was working as a full-time artist, with a focus on oil paintings. With two art degrees and a teaching stint at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design to her name, Hamilton had found success exhibiting her work and teaching in New York City. Then, unexpectedly, she developed a severe allergy to the solvents in the oil paint she used, and her doctors insisted that she take a hiatus from both painting and teaching. After years of hard work and training, she was no longer physically able to do her job. To recover from the crushing loss of her career, Hamilton dug a pair of used binoculars out of her closet, an old gift from her father, and started birding. So began her metamorphosis into a world-renowned bird and nature artist.




Hamilton started sketching birds while birding in nature refuges and parks. Now, her work is featured in magazines, documentaries, and even the scientific journal, Nature. (Hover over the images to scroll through them.)



Hamilton had not birded much since her childhood, but with some time on her hands, she started walking around nature refuges and hunting down species along the east coast. The natural environment and peaceful concentration of birding turned out to be a healthy activity in a not-so-healthy period of her life. She found that chasing birds helped turn her attention outward and away from the self-centered perspective she had relied on to create her art. She was hooked. A few years later, she put most of her belongings in storage and started traveling to find and draw birds, a technique that didn’t rely on the damaging oils she was allergic to. Years later and Hamilton is still sketching.

Today, Hamilton lives the life of an itinerant nature artist, giving talks at birding festivals, leading field sketching workshops, and traveling to exotic locales for far-flung birding adventures. Much of her work is funded through corporate sponsorships; she currently serves as an Ambassador for Birding for ZEISS Sports Optics, for example. She recently returned from Morocco where she was painting some of the last wild colonies of the northern bald ibis, one of the rarest birds in the world. BirdLife International commissioned a short film on the project, “A Reason For Hope,” which is set to debut at this year’s British Birdwatching Fair.

“I’m completely absorbed with the northern bald ibis because they are so bizarre,” she says. “They act goofy because of how they look, and it’s difficult not to anthropomorphize them. It makes them really interesting to draw because they are both hideously ugly and interesting.”




Hamilton recently traveled to Morocco to sketch the rare and critically endangered northern bald ibis. These sketches are a sample from that work, which was sponsored by ZEISS Sports Optics.



Another of Hamilton’s adventures was recently featured in the Summer 2018 issue of Living Bird magazine. The feature recounts her journey to northeastern India’s Nagaland state to witness the Amur falcon migration. During her trip, she became the first western woman to visit the Pangti Village in Nagaland.

Hamilton’s life is not what she pictured eight years ago when she had to stop painting, but she concedes that her life is pretty awesome. Hamilton is still able to exhibit her work regularly, both the illustrations that she’s known for and other fine art that she creates.

You can find her illustrations in the Princeton University Press Warbler Guide and follow her work through her Facebook page and website.




In 2017, Hamilton traveled to Nagaland state, India, with Living Bird magazine observe the annual Amur falcon migration and draw the fleet birds.


All images courtesy of Catherine Hamilton.

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Birding in Papua New Guinea http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/06/26/birding-papua-new-guinea/ Tue, 26 Jun 2018 15:37:10 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=15511 By Avery Phillips Papua New Guinea is known for its diversity, in terms of landscape, culture, and species of birds. With rugged mountains, tropical rainforests, large wetlands that almost 800 different species of birds — 76 of them endemic — call home, this island country is an ideal place for birding. Because of its mountainous […]

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By Avery Phillips

Victoria Crowned-Pigeon (Goura victoria)

Papua New Guinea is known for its diversity, in terms of landscape, culture, and species of birds. With rugged mountains, tropical rainforests, large wetlands that almost 800 different species of birds — 76 of them endemic — call home, this island country is an ideal place for birding.

Because of its mountainous interior, Papua New Guinea does not have much in the way of infrastructure. Some locations can only be accessed by helicopter or on foot, so get your gear ready. A sturdy backpack for camping, a good pair of binoculars, and a solid pair of hiking boots will do the trick.

You may also want to brush up on your photography skills and bring your camera along to document the scenery and avifauna on your adventure. You want to be ready to photograph one of the many species of pigeons, kingfishers, or birds of paradise.

Keep your camera out; in addition to the plethora of unique birds, Papua New Guinea has gorgeous scenery and landscapes you’ll want to capture on film as you work your way through the mountains, forests, and rivers. And who knows — maybe a flock will take to the sky as you’re positioning your camera for a shot! With some planning, a lot of exploring, and a dash of luck, you may be able to catch a glimpse of one of these unique birds that live in Papua New Guinea:

1. Victoria Crowned Pigeon

The Victoria crowned pigeon is one of about 40 species of pigeon found in Papua New Guinea. It is a ground-dwelling bird recognizable by its blue and white crests, maroon breast, and red irises. They are typically found at sea-level in lowlands or swamp forests and fly from the trees to the sea daily.

Victoria crowned pigeons search for food on the forest floor, often in small groups or pairs. Fallen fruit is the staple of their diet, though they will occasionally eat seeds or small insects too. Though they are widely kept in captivity, they are the rarest species of crowned pigeon found in the wild — and definitely worth seeing while birding in Papua New Guinea.

2. Shovel-billed Kookaburra

The shovel-billed kookaburra, also called the shovel-billed kingfisher, can only be found in Papua New Guinea. Their bills are short and broad, and they have dark heads, a white throat, brown irises, with rufous coloring behind their eyes, on their neck, and underparts. They also have a bright blue rump, and males have a dark blue tail while females’ are rufous.

Shovel-billed kookaburras primarily live in hill forests, though they have been sighted at sea level and elevations up to 2400 meters. Though they are not endangered or vulnerable, they are thought to be crepuscular or partially nocturnal, making them difficult (but not impossible!) to spot.

3. Black Honey Buzzard

A bird of prey endemic to the island of New Britain in Papua New Guinea, the black honey buzzard inhabits subtropical or tropical lowland forests and tropical mountain forests. They are known for their almost entirely black plumage with distinct white bands on their flight and tail feathers.

Not much is known about the black honey buzzard, but they are classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss. Though rare, they are easiest to spot while in flight because of their white bands.

4. Pesquet’s Parrot

Pesquet’s parrot can be found in hill and mountain rainforests in Papua New Guinea. They are large birds, with black plumage, grey scalloped feathers to the chest, and a red belly and wing-panels. They are sometimes referred to as the vulturine parrot, because of their long, hooked bill.

These parrots feed almost exclusively on different species of figs, and their bare head prevents the sticky fruit from matting their feathers. Though they are considered vulnerable due to overhunting and habitat loss, they are typically spotted in pairs or up to groups of twenty birds, making them more conspicuous than other elusive birds in Papua New Guinea.

5. Raggiana Bird of Paradise 

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the famous birds of paradise that populate Papua New Guinea. The Raggiana bird of paradise is the national bird of Papua New Guinea and is included on the national flag. They are widely distributed in the south and northeast, typically in tropical forests.

Raggiana birds of paradise are maroon to brown, with a pale blue bill, and light brown feet. The males are more majestic than the females, with a yellow crown and collar, dark green throat, and long tail feathers, which range in color from red to orange. They are known for spectacular courtship displays — hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to stumble upon a lek!

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These are only a few of the hundreds of amazing birds that inhabit Papua New Guinea. To learn more, check out the Asia Membership, which provides in-depth information and images for most of the 1700+ species in Asia, including those of Papua New Guinea. However, there’s no better way to experience the avifauna of this nation than to go birding there yourself.

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In the Eye of the Storm:  How Birds Survive Hurricanes http://www.birdseyebirding.com/2018/06/22/eye-storm-birds-survive-hurricanes/ Sat, 23 Jun 2018 03:58:56 +0000 http://www.birdseyebirding.com/?p=15475 By Juliana Smith Hurricane season strikes the Eastern seaboard of the United States every summer and, guess what? We’re in it right now! The season begins in June and runs through November, but as we here on the East Coast know, storms can arrive as early as April. While hurricanes often conjure images of wind-torn […]

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By Juliana Smith

Hurricane season strikes the Eastern seaboard of the United States every summer and, guess what? We’re in it right now! The season begins in June and runs through November, but as we here on the East Coast know, storms can arrive as early as April. While hurricanes often conjure images of wind-torn towns and flooded highways, their impacts on wildlife are less impressed upon human minds. However, wildlife also experience the forces we humans contend with, and birds are no strangers to hurricane season.

Being a lightweight, feathered animal has its perks (ahem, the ability to fly), but can also be incredibly debilitating when faced with extreme winds. Unfortunately, hurricane season coincides with Fall migration, so many birds are forced to face these powerful storms head-on. Yet, despite the odds, bird populations largely succeed at weathering the season. Of course, not every avian individual or community survives hurricanes, but in general, it appears birds have developed four tactics to help ease them through the stormy spells.

When a storm is on the rise and headed our way, we have weather forecasters and doppler radars to warn us of impending natural disaster. Birds, while not equipped with our high-tech gadgets, can sense that trouble is nigh when they pick up on the drops in air pressure that precede storms. Some birds take their cue and surf the headwinds of the hurricane, using them to get them out of dodge as quickly as possible. If conditions are right, migrating birds can even use the storm’s headwinds to get a wing up on their migratory journey.

Other birds, though, might use the eye of the storm as a refuge during a hurricane. This tactic seems to be especially popular with seafaring birds, though there’s no way to confirm their intent. Birds caught up in the storm might chance upon or follow winds to the eye where things are calm. Once there, they are effectively trapped, or “entrenched”, at the center of the hurricane and will follow it until the outer spiraling winds weaken, much to the delight of birders. Entrenched birds often wind up hundreds of miles from their home habitat, creating a fallout of rare sightings in inland habitats. Groups like Team Birdcast hope to utilize these events paired with eBird reports to better understand the relationship between hurricanes and birds.

Hurricane Hermine (2016) doppler radar imaging. The red blotching in the right image is a flock.

It’s important to understand that displaced birds shouldn’t be disturbed. While it is definitely better to be within the eye of the hurricane than be in the spiral, eye riding, as it’s sometimes called, isn’t exactly relaxing. It not only forces birds hundreds of miles from their home habitat, but can deprive them of food and rest for many days at a time. Those that survive until the storm dissipates then have to make a long return journey home. Even with the risks, though, it certainly seems safer to seek refuge in the eye than fight the storm.

And yet, some birds have done just that, flying directly through storms. We’ve only recently stumbled upon this behavior thanks to satellite transmitters and some spunky whimbrel . In 2011, researchers were astonished to find that one of their tracked subjects, a tagged whimbrel, had actually forced her way through Hurricane Irene. Since then, other members of the same species have been recorded using a similar tactic to survive hurricanes. Interestingly, researchers believe that migration is one of the factors allowing these whimbrels, and unknown others, to push through. Before migrating, birds will beef-up and pack on as many fat stores as possible to help supply them much-needed energy through their long migration routes. Researches believe it’s these fat stores that give some birds the power to fly straight through nature’s most wicked storms.

While some birds are skirting, riding, or cutting through hurricanes, others are hunkering down at home. Equipped with a clamping back toe, passerines are capable of weathering hurricanes by clinging to tree branches or seeking refuge in tree cavities. This author has even witnessed a small flock of house finches huddled under stowed kayaks to hide from Tropical Storm Irma in 2017. Tree clamping through a hurricane has its obvious risks, especially if your chosen branch is knocked from the tree (or your kayaks get flooded), but it also preserves fat stores and reduces risk of getting blown hundreds of miles from home.

In the end, different birds take different measures to survive hurricanes, but all of the methods showcase avian tenacity and perseverance. They truly are remarkable animals capable of seemingly impossible feats.

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