Total lunar eclipse in North America


This video from the USA is called NASA – Skywatchers’ Delight – Multiple Lunar Eclipses expected in April 2014.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Watch The Moon Disappear Before Your Eyes—Don’t Miss Tonight’s Total Lunar Eclipse!

Posted on Monday, April 14, 2014 by eNature

There’s a total lunar eclipse happening across all of North America LATE tonight and early tomorow morning (the 15th). A total lunar eclipse occurs when the full Moon passes through the dark inner core of the Earth’s shadow, which is called the umbra.

North America hasn’t experienced a total eclipse of the Moon since 2011. But that dearth ends in the early morning hours of April 15th (or late on April 14th for the West Coast), when the full Moon passes through the umbra and all but disappears. In fact, we’re due to see three more eclipses over the next two years, a bounty of lunar eclipses that won’t occur again until 2032.

While it may be happening a little late for folks on the East Coast, you’ll find that a total eclipse is worth staying up for.

The eclipse will start to be noticeable around 1:00 AM ET when the Moon’s leading edge enters Earth’s penumbra, the outer portion of its shadow.

Initially the affect is not especially noticeable — you won’t start to see a dusky fringe along the Moon’s leading edge (known to astronomers as its “celestial east”) until the the moon intrudes about halfway across the penumbra. As the Moon glides deeper into the penumbra and approaches the umbra, the shading effect of the Earth’s shadow on the appearance of the moon becomes much more obvious.

The total eclipse begins at 3:07 AM ET when the moon is completely within the Earth’s shadow. From the Moon’s perspective, the Sun remains completely hidden for 1 hour 18 minutes. From Earth’s perspective, the lunar disk isn’t completely blacked out but instead remains dimly lit by a deep orange or red glow— but it’s easy to think the moon’s completely missing if you don’t look closely.

You can do the math and see the timing is a little more friendly for folks on the west coast.

Regardless of how late the hour, you’ll not regret staying up to catch one of nature’s best shows!

Sky and Telescope magazine provided much of the info in this entry and has LOTS more great detail about the eclipse.

‘Blood Moon’ Eclipse: Best Pictures Of Amazing Sight Above America: here.

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New North American bird migration Internet site


This video from the USA says about itself:

For thousands of years and countless generations, migratory birds have flown the same long-distance paths between their breeding and feeding grounds. Understanding the routes these birds take, called flyways, helps conservation efforts and gives scientists better knowledge of global changes, both natural and man-made. QUEST heads out to the Pacific Flyway with California biologists to track the rhythm of migration.

From Wildlife Extra:

Ninety years of valuable migration data about North American birds is now available online

Over a million records telling the tale of nearly a century of North American bird migrations have been rescued from obscurity and are being transcribed by an international network of more than 2,000 volunteers, making the records available for the first time online for use by researchers and the public.

The records, which span the years from 1880 to 1970, provide information on what areas of the country birds were spotted, and when they arrived or departed in spring and autumn. The information is of use identifying how birds’ ranges and migration patterns have changed over time.

The one-millionth transcription was that of a house wren seen in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, on September 11, 1904 and it joined all the other records now part of the United States Geological Survey North American Bird Phenology Program database.

Phenology is the study of the seasonal timing of natural biological phenomena, such as leafing and flowering of plants, maturation of agricultural crops, emergence of insects, and migration of birds. Many of these events are sensitive to climatic variation and change, and are simple to observe and record.

“This 90-year span of archival data provides baseline information about the first arrivals and last departures of North American migratory birds,” according to Jessica Zelt, the USGS North American Bird Phenology Program Coordinator. “When combined with contemporary data, researchers have the unique opportunity to look at changes in seasonal timing in relation to climate and climate change over a 130-year period, unprecedented in its length of time for recorded migratory data.”

The records contain many stories, from the emergence of introduced European species such as the European starling and house sparrow, to the decimation of species such as the Carolina parakeet and passenger pigeon.

This citizen science programme has welcomed participants of all backgrounds from around the world to help transcribe the data. Volunteers have come from locations as varied as Gunma in Japan, Istanbul and Brussels, although the majority reside throughout North America.

“Just last month, a participant wrote me to say she had transcribed a card by Tracy Irwin Storer, a name she recognised because he had authored her college biology textbook,” said Zelt. “One of the aspects that is so exciting about this programme is that it provides participants with a link to ornithological history.”

Original records were created by many famous ornithologists, biologists, botanists and naturalists, such as Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, Roger Tory Peterson, who wrote A Field Guide to the Birds, and Clarence Birdseye, the creator of the famous frozen foods.

“We feel that the world is changing and these bird records are providing us with the measuring tape to document that change,” said Sam Droege, a USGS wildlife biologist. “This is something anyone can get involved in exploring since we are making all the records open to the public.”

Anyone interested in participating in this innovative project can volunteer by registering online to transcribe these records for the database.

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First North American bluebird twins discovered


This video is called Eastern Bluebird Singing.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

First Recorded Bluebird Twins Found by NestWatch Volunteer

Last year an Eastern Bluebird laid three normal eggs and one large egg in one of NestWatcher Gerald Clark’s nest boxes. A few weeks later he had five nestlings in the box, and his finding became a scientific paper on the first recorded instance of twins in bluebirds. (The Lab’s Dr. Caren Cooper tackled just how rare an event this is in a blog post for the journal PLOS.) The finding is a direct example of how citizen scientists contribute to scientific discovery each time they participate. Try NestWatch this season!

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Great Backyard Bird Count results


This video from the USA is called 17th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

From the Great Backyard Bird Count site in the USA:

Top 10 Lists

GBBC By the Numbers

March 2014

It’s time to put the exclamation point at the end of another exciting, record-breaking Great Backyard Bird Count with a look at how this GBBC stacked up by the numbers. As of March 4, here are the numbers recorded for the count, February 14-17, 2014:

Number of checklists: 144,109
Species observed: 4,296
Countries participating: 135
Estimated number of participants: 142,051
Photos entered in contest: 4,491
Photos posted to gallery: 1,242

As we note some of our Top 10 lists, bear in mind that although global participation is growing, most checklists still came in from North America, explaining why the top 10 birds are from this region.

Top 10 species appearing on the most checklists:

Rank Species # Checklists

1

Northern Cardinal

61,045

2

Dark-eyed Junco

58,077

3

Mourning Dove

50,596

4

Blue Jay

45,027

5

Downy Woodpecker

42,015

6

American Goldfinch

38,348

7

American Crow

37,121

8

House Finch

36,917

9

Tufted Titmouse

36,418

10

House Sparrow

34,910

Top 10 most numerous birds reported:

Rank Species # Counted

1

Red-winged Blackbird

1,609,037

2

Snow Goose

1,280,829

3

Canada Goose

1,163,527

4

European Starling

596,450

5

Mallard

542,516

6

Ring-billed Gull

466,536

7

Dark-eyed Junco

456,627

8

American Coot

454,169

9

American Crow

371,813

10

American Goldfinch

371,039

Worldwide, India reported the highest number of bird species at 819. Indian states make up 60% of our Top 10 list of the states/provinces reporting the most species.

Top 10 states/provinces with the most species reported:

Rank Location, Country # Species

1

California, United States

448

2

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

443

3

Texas, United States

412

4

Assam, India

404

5

West Bengal, India

398

6

Tamil Nadu, India

398

7

Karnataka, India

379

8

Queensland, Australia

373

9

Uttaranchal, India

367

10

Maharashtra, India

359

Top 10 countries by number of checklists:

Rank Country # Checklists

1

United States

124,310

2

Canada

13,458

3

India

3,358

4

Australia

908

5

Mexico

546

6

Chile

356

7

Costa Rica

256

8

Puerto Rico

196

9

United Kingdom

162

10

Portugal

149

Click here to see the entire list of 135 participating countries.

Top 10 states/provinces in the U.S. and Canada by checklist totals (all totals are all-time highs for the GBBC):

Rank State/Province # Checklists

1

California

9,452

2

New York

8,450

3

Pennsylvania

7,617

4

Ontario

6,851

5

Florida

6,273

6

Texas

6,141

7

Ohio

5,798

8

Virginia

5,481

9

North Carolina

5,453

10

Michigan

4,334

Click here to see all the states and provinces of the U.S. and Canada and number of checklists submitted.

In Canada, the Great Lakes states, and the Northeast down the Atlantic Coast, the big bird story for the past few months has been a massive influx of Snowy Owls. GBBC participants logged more than 1,600 Snowy Owl reports from 34 states and provinces, even as far south and west as Kansas. The province of Ontario had the highest number of reports with 366.

Snowy Owl Reports during the GBBC: 

Rank State/Province #Checklists #Snowy Owl Reports

1

Ontario

234

366

2

Minnesota

88

150

3

New York

111

141

4

Michigan

100

139

5

Wisconsin

95

117

6

Quebec

71

116

7

Massachusetts

60

92

8

Vermont

68

85

9

Illinois

37

67

10

North Dakota

15

38

Thank you to everyone who tallied the birds to help make this the most successful Great Backyard Bird count ever.

Click here to explore more results on your own.

View the GBBC photo gallery.

Please keep counting year-round with eBird and mark your calendars for the next Great Backyard Bird Count, February 13-16, 2015.

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Golden eagle migration, new research


This video is called Real bird’s eye view! Golden Eagle in flight – Animal Camera – BBC.

From the Charleston Gazette in the USA:

February 20, 2014

Golden eagles winter range larger than thought, WVU-led study finds

By Rick Steelhammer

CHARLESTON, W.Va.

A study led by a WVU professor on the over-wintering habits of eastern golden eagles shows that the solitude-loving raptors spend the cold months over a much wider range than previously thought, stretching as far south as Alabama and as far west as Indiana and Michigan.

The study uses both tracking data supplied by golden eagles outfitted with miniature GPS units and cell phones, and motion-activated cameras at 250 sites baited with road-kill deer. The tracking component of the study began eight years ago, while the camera-equipped bait sites began capturing images of golden eagles and other wildlife species three years ago.

All eastern golden eagles are believed to nest in Canada starting in late winter or early spring, and remain north of the border until fall. But until now, little has been known about how and where the birds of prey spend their winters.

In West Virginia, the relatively few golden eagles spotted in winter were initially believed to be migrants passing through the state, possibly to more temperate climes. That theory was quickly dispelled during the first year the study made use of camera-equipped bait sites.

Golden eagles were photographed in such abundance in the eastern highlands of West Virginia and the bordering counties of Virginia that it soon became evident the area was the birds’ primary over-wintering zone.

“That’s still the area where the densest populations of eastern golden eagles are found in winter,” said Todd Katzner, a research assistant professor at WVU and the coordinator of the study through Appalachian Eagles and the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group..

But as the number of bait sites grew and expanded over the following years, “We started to see that the winter distribution is a lot bigger than we had thought,” Katzner said. “It’s amazing! They’re on the bait from Maine to Alabama and most of the states in between. They’re in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. They’re everywhere!”

With wingspans that can exceed seven feet, golden eagles are North America’s largest bird of prey, yet not much is known about the species’ range and population in the east. The eastern population of golden eagles is thought to be about one-tenth that of golden eagles found the western U.S. and Canada, where 20,000 to 30,000 members of the species make their home.

“There are some birding records in the east where golden eagle sightings have been recorded, but this is the first systematic look at their distribution and population,” Katzner said. “They’re showing up in greater numbers, and over a much larger range than expected.”

The reason the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia seem to be a winter mecca for the birds is probably due to the area’s large population of whitetail deer, which has been in a growth pattern for the past 40 years, creating an abundance of road-killed and winter-killed deer. Deer that are no longer moving are much easier for the carrion-eating golden eagles to dine on.

This winter, 30 bait sites were established in West Virginia, from Morgan County in the Eastern Panhandle to Wayne County on the Kentucky border.

“Golden eagles were seen at a majority of our sites,” said Kieran O’Malley, a state Division of Natural Resources biologist stationed in Romney who is a participant in the study.

“I had one in my back yard,” said Katzner, who lives in a rural section of Marion County. “We photographed a golden eagle there this year.”

“We’re looking at wintering populations and population density,” O’Malley said. “We have really good numbers of golden eagles wintering in West Virginia. The highest density anywhere is in the highlands of West Virginia and western Virginia, since they prefer forested uplands away from a lot of human activity.

Golden eagles tend to live solitary lives, with pairs maintaining hunting territories that can be as large as 60 square miles. Golden eagle mates stay together for several years, and in some cases, for life.

“Unlike bald eagles, goldens don’t get together in big groups,” O’Malley said. “They prefer to live in areas that are more remote than the places bald eagles live.”

Katzner said preliminary results of genetic studies comparing DNA from eastern golden eagles to those in the west indicate there are few differences between the two populations.

“Other than the fact that one group lives in the east and the other lives in the west, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between them,” he said.

Because golden eagles spend the first four or five years of their lives “in a pre-breeding phase, traveling around and trying to figure out where to stay,” there’s likely to be some crossover breeding between the two populations, Katzner said.

Current estimates of the eastern golden eagle population range between 2,000 and 5,000 individuals.

“We’ll be doing some computer modeling, but right now, I’m starting to think the population is on the high side of those estimates,” Katzner said.

One side benefit of operating the remote camera sites is being able to get an idea about how other wildlife species fare during the winter.

Last winter, cameras at bait sites in West Virginia photographed 17 bird species and 15 mammal species, according to O’Malley.

Bird species photographed dining on the deer carcasses included owls, crows, ravens, blue jays and titmice, while mammals included coyotes, foxes, bobcats, fishers, skunks, raccoons and wood rats.

O’Malley is involved with a spin-off study that evolved from the remote photos. “We started seeing spotted skunks, which have become very uncommon in the state, turning up in the photographs,” he said. By taking note of the camera site locations that recorded spotted the seldom-seen skunks, “We’ve been able to add to their range,” O’Malley said. “They’re a lot more widespread than we thought, but still not very abundant.”

Mongolia: This 13-Year-Old Girl Hunts With Golden Eagles: here.

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American bird flocks in winter


This video says about itself:

12 July 2010

The Music of Nature proudly presents “Red-winged Blackbird,” a delicious video portrait of a male in full song. The Red-winged Blackbird is common across North America, breeding in marshes and meadows. Excited males puff out their red epaulets (shoulder pads) as they sing.

From eNature blog in the USA:

Why Does The Cold Make Blackbirds Gather In Large Flocks?

Posted on Tuesday, February 04, 2014 by eNature

The old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together,” is particularly true among blackbirds in winter.

Though many birds band together during winter, none are as notorious for their flocking behavior as blackbirds, including red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, common grackles and brown-headed cowbirds.

This group of a feather often flock together in the many thousands, sometimes the millions. One winter roost in the Great Dismal Swamp on the Virginia-North Carolina border held an estimated 15 million birds. Flocks in the thousands often roost in urban and suburban areas, where their numbers and their noise make them unpopular among the people living nearby.

Attempts by state and federal wildlife officials to discourage or destroy such flocks of wintering blackbirds have usually failed. One experiment, using a wetting agent sprayed on a huge flock of birds from an aircraft, left a much greater mess in the form of rotting carcasses.

Many wonder why birds in general and blackbirds in particular gather in flocks in winter. Though studies have been inconclusive, it’s generally believed that there is safety in numbers. With many more eyes and ears to search for food and watch for predators, the chance of an individual bird surviving winter is increased.

There are reports of hawks attacking flocks of flying birds time and again, but failing to capture even one when the prey closed ranks to form a mass that the hawk was unwilling or unable to penetrate without being injured.

Are you seeing flocks of blackbirds in your neck of the woods? We always enjoy hearing what our readers are seeing!

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Free North American birds app


This video from the USA says about itself:

Merlin Bird ID–Free app from the Cornell Lab

7 Jan 2014

What’s that bird? Merlin Bird ID is a free app designed to solve the mystery. Merlin asks a few simple questions, then reveals a list of birds that match your description and are expected in your area. It’s designed to make bird identification easier! Enjoy stunning photos and listen to bird songs.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Introducing Merlin Bird ID: A New Kind of Birding App

Information overload is the bane of the beginning bird watcher—as anyone knows who has ever flipped through 40 species of sparrows in a field guide. What if an app could quickly tell you which birds are most likely based on your location, date, and a brief description? Not just which birds theoretically could occur near you, but which birds are actually reported most often by other birders. That’s what Merlin Bird ID does. And it’s free—because we want to make bird watching easier for everyone.

Merlin Bird ID covers 285 of the most common birds of North America (with more on the way). In addition to help with ID, it contains expert tips, more than 1,400 gorgeous photos, and sounds for each species. It’s available now for iPhone and other iOS7 devices, and it’s coming soon for Android.

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New North American wasp species discoveries


This video is about jewel wasps.

Today, from the Entomological Society of America:

Seven new species of nearctic wasps described and illustrated

After studying specimens from the Nearctic deposited in the United States National Museum of Natural History and some specimens in the Canadian National Collection of Insects, researchers have found 16 new species of wasps from the Nearctic region, and they’ve described seven new species.

The are described and illustrated in an article called “First Records, New Species, and a Key of the Charipinae (Hymenoptera: Cynipoidea: Figitidae) From the Nearctic Region” that appears in the latest issue of Annals of the Entomological Society of America. A key to identify the Charipinae present in the Nearctic region is also given.

Members of the subfamily Charipinae (Hymenoptera: Cynipoidea: Figitidae) are widely distributed around the world. They are mainly characterized as being a very small wasp, with a smooth and shiny body.

Specimens were studied using stereomicroscopy and a field-emission gun environmental scanning electron microscope.

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Snowy owl in Zeebrugge, Belgium


This video from the USA is called NATURE “Magic of the Snowy Owl” | Preview | PBS.

In Zeebrugge in Belgium, a snowy owl was seen today on the North Sea beach of Zeebrugge.

See here; with photo.

Odd migration patterns of snowy owls, other species are troubling zoologists: here.