New book from Cal Vornberger

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Birds of NYC revMany marvelous species of bird call New York’s boroughs home, though it takes a keen eye to spot them. Birds of New York City is the culmination of years of work from photographer Cal Vornberger. The product of a master photographer’s patience and ardor, Vornberger’s spectacular images, taken across all five boroughs in all four seasons, reveal an urban environment teeming with wildlife only steps away from speeding cabs and rushing pedestrians. Accompanying these expertly captured images are Vornberger’s engaging anecdotes about his experiences birding in the city, along with helpful photography tips for professionals, hobbyists, or even interested novices, including a detailed list of his trusted equipment. More than two hundred species pass through New York each year, about one-third of the species found in the entire country. With hundreds of dazzling pictures taken year-round and city-wide, Birds of New York City brings these elusive creatures to light for readers everywhere to experience.

Group Warns of Saltmarsh Sparrow's Possible Extinction

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Nov 27, 2016, 11:08 AM ET

Many birds in Connecticut are suffering slow, steady population declines because of a loss of nesting areas, and scientists say the saltmarsh sparrow could be extinct in 50 years, becoming the first avian extinction in the continental U.S. since 1931, the Connecticut Audubon Society reports.

The group released a sharply worded report recently, warning of the threat of the loss of coastal habitat from rising sea levels and urging state officials to take action to protect endangered bird species, including setting aside funds needed to address the rising waters.

The organization reported that many birds are suffering population declines with the loss of large grasslands, shrubby areas, beaches, and tidal wetlands. The saltmarsh sparrow, which weighs about a half-ounce, is particularly at risk.

"It would be the first avian extinction in the continental U.S. since the Heath Hen in 1931," Milan Bull, the Connecticut Audubon Society's senior director of science and conservation, wrote in the annual Connecticut State of Birds Report. "There's no way to characterize that as anything but a disaster."

Saltmarsh sparrows, which live in coastal areas from Maine to Virginia during the breeding season and migrate farther south in the winter, are disappearing on the East Coast. University of Maine professor Brian Olsen, one of the researchers studying the bird, said the population has dropped about 9 percent annually since 1998. Besides sea-level rise, he blames structures such as roads and railways, which restrict the flow of tides to salt marshes and interfere with the sparrows' habitat.

In Connecticut, the Audubon Society is recommending the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection receive enough funding to plan for sufficient landscapes to allow the migration of tidal marshes inland as sea levels rise. The group also is calling on land-use officials, private landowners, and conservation groups to find opportunities to maintain or expand shrub-scrub habitat within existing forests or newly created or restored habitats.

The report also recommends the Connecticut Audubon Society work with the department, the separate organization Audubon Connecticut, the Connecticut Ornithological Association and academic ornithologists on planning and funding a statewide survey of where birds breed. It notes how New York completed its first breeding bird atlas project three decades ago.

"Connecticut still lacks this basic and indispensable inventory and data source," the report notes.

Other recommendations include increasing land acquisition to meet the goal of protecting 21 percent of the state's land by 2023 and 10 percent for state parks, forests and wildlife management areas, as well as finding new ways to fund those purchases.

The report found several examples of bird species in Connecticut doing surprisingly well. The authors of six articles which make up the Connecticut Audubon Society report note how a region-wide effort to create and expand habitat for the New England cottontail rabbit has improved chances for birds that nest in the same area. However, it notes that Piping Plovers remain highly vulnerable.

"Despite some improvements, most of the trends aren't good," Bull said.

The Ethical Flap Over Birdsong Apps

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birding apps

I have been fooled many times by birders/photographers playing birdsongs on their smartphones in Central Park. I imagine, for those who bird by ear, this can be frustrating. National Geographic's Mel White explores both sides of the subject in this article on the National Geographic Web site.

Mel White

for National Geographic

Last April I was leading a group of beginning birders along a trail beside the Arkansas River, helping them learn to spot and identify some of the dozens of species present on this beautiful spring morning. At one point I heard a distinctive song coming from a thicket: the wichity-wichity-wichity of a male common yellowthroat.

Now, common yellowthroats are indeed common where I live, not to say abundant—but that doesn't mean they're easy to see. These little wood-warblers prefer to stay hidden in dense vegetation, and if they perch within view it's usually for only a couple of seconds before disappearing again.

I pulled out my mobile phone, told the group to gather around, and played a recording of the common yellowthroat song from a bird-watching application I'd downloaded. The male almost immediately hopped up to the limb of a shrub and posed for us, to the accompaniment of oohs and aahs from viewers admiring its bright-yellow breast and black "bandit" mask. Most of the people in the group had never seen a common yellowthroat before, and in fact didn't even know the species existed.

Read the rest of the article.