March 2009

Too much HASH!

All this talk about hashtags got Tim Ryan interested. I had posted on my Facebook the following:

Updated “Twitter for birder – rare bird alerts with hashtags and RSS. UK already have a system up!

Timothy Ryan at 3:40pm March 12
I don’t understand – you live in the land of coca leaves and yet your are always waxing poetic about hash. Do you chew it too? I am a novice at all these things but I really want to try ayahuasca. Will you ever be posting about Ayahuasca or are you loyal to hash?
I like birding with hash tags. It is a lot of fun. But how can you focus the binoculars?
Gunnar Engblom at 7:13pm March 12
Hahaha! Wanna come on a: Come-to-Peru-and-get-high-tour?
There are plenty of those around. We give you Jungle Gringo Shaman Johnny -an expat junkie gone wild – as your special local guide. Johnny has learnt all the ancestral secrets of a top native Shaman during the last 4 years and now has unique knowledge to prepare the “trip” of your life time.

You shall recieve the following high-lights.

  • Your first high is a bonus at no extra charge as you start from Plaza de Armas in Cusco at 3400m (+10000 ft) walking up the steep stairs to your hotel in the idyllic San Blas district 100m above overlooking the square. It is not the thin air that makes you dizzy, it is being close to Heaven.
  • In the evening, three strong Pisco Sours at the Cross Keys pub will get your head spinning .
  • If drinking Coca tea or chewing the leaves does not do it for you, Johnny will take you to Cusco’s back streets where there is no problem obtaining some in powdered form. Peru is proudly one of the worlds largest provider of the stuff. But the Peruvians themselves prefer the meek coca-tea or chewing the leaves. Tradition they say. They don’t get it.
  • Down in the Amazon, you shall strip naked and participate in a mind blowing Ayahuaska ritual getting you hallucinating encounters with your God or your Demons…or maybe both, and we promise you that if this stuff does not make you insane for the rest of your life you will get your money back.
  • Back in Lima you shall be prepared for a San Pedro Cactus ritual. Incredibly, this drug just grows there in the wild. And it is powerful, man! The Nazcans used it when they cracked their skulls to let out the evil spirits. If you get truly wasted, you may try some brain-cracking with Johnny.

Sign up today. Special price for you my friend!

Timothy Ryan at 7:59pm March 12
Fantastic – sign me up!
UPDATE: Some readers did not understand that this was a joke, so I better state a few serious opinions. In fact, I have taken a stand against selling Peru as a country where ethnic drugs are put totally out of context as a tourist attraction. Please see the post on Amarakaeri communal reserve and the project we have commenced to turn four community lodges to prime birdwatching lodges to see what I mean.
What I think that those Peruvians selling the Ayahuaska ritual don’t realize is that there is liability involved, that makes it very risky involving tourists as active participants in the rituals. Ironically, there are loads of “Jungle Gringo Johnnies” in Peru, selling themselves as the real thing! Do you think you could get away with organizing such a ritual in the US where the participants take hallucinogenic drugs? Would it be legal? Why should this be OK in Peru and when it is not OK in the US? Here is a National Geographic article that describes the strong effects and potential dangers of Ayawaska – read between the lines to understand what sort of liability a tour operator that set this up is in for.
Furthermore, Peru is a modern country in most aspects and drugs are generally not accepted. Cocaine is not a problem in Peru. The problem is the consumers elsewhere and that its production in Peru is related to terrorist organizations as the Shining Path and the Mexican drug cartels. Therefore  there is a constant war against cocaine production and its trade. There are severe punishment against those involved in drug trade.
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  • If anyone happened to miss it: The big launch of Twitter, Hashtags and RSS – for Birders. Rare bird Alert system for free. https://bit.l#
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  • #ravevine is an already existing hashtag feed for rare birds in Britain. Updated “Twitter, Hashtags and RSS for Birders”. #
  • Correction! #rarevine is an existing hashtag feed for rare birds in UK. Updated “Twitter, Hashtags and RSS for Birders”. #
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  • Set up a blog account on mainly to make summeries of my regular blog. #
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  • Ah, yes…our web-site is back online & has now been tweeked with more acurate folder names for the tours . SEO U know! #
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    #Masbrd – Massachussets bird news
    #Masrba – Massachussets rare bird alert #
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  • Thanks for your patience. There are now hashtags for CA, FL, IL, FL, MT, TX, KS and the UK and Sweden. Twitter for birders part 2 soon! #
  • The listservers or the birdclubs will make sure users get to know which the unique hashtags are. #
  • The Turkey Vultures are back in Topeka!The Long-Tailed Duck was still present at sunset at the Wilson City sewer lagoons on 3/8/09. #KSrba #
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  • I looked for but did not see the male Barrow’s Goldeneye at Montrose ths morning.March 9. Robert D. Hughes #ILrba #
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Twitter, hashtags and RSS feeds.

Last post in the Twitter for birders crash course was about the traditional uses of Twitter. It may still be a bit difficult for birders to really understand the potential here, but make sure you read the previous article first and sign up for a twitter account prior to trying to understand what this post is all about.
In the present post, I will concentrate on the functions that shall become a revolutionary tool for birders. Hashtags and RSS feeds. These terms will be explained later in the text below.
First of all I must mention that I am having a few problems in different platforms. What worked best for me is using Mozilla Firefox web-browser and with Power Twitter plug-in. Therefore, do consider to download Mozilla Firefox. While, you may read through this manual and test for hashtags without a Twitter account, it is highly recommended that you do sign up for a Twitter account before doing any testing and also download the Mozilla Firefox Power Twitter plugin for Twitter. This is a great plug-in, making the interface more user-friendly and adding a series of features such as short url and the ability to demask the links sent in a tweet so you see what they contain. I also noted that it is the fastest of the available hashtag readers. More on that later.

Twitter on your cell phone

As I mentioned in my earlier post you can twitter from your phone. To do so you have best to upload a  Twitter client. There are different apps for different phones, such as Twitterberry (for Blackberry Phones) or Twitterific or similar for Iphones. For other phones check for applications on the twitter app page for mobile phones. With such an application you will be able to use your phone to tweet out a message when you are actually in the field birding at the same instance you are doing the observation, providing you have coverage where you are.

Hashtags for birders.

I think by now you are slowly grasping the idea that real time birding information like this can be very useful. But what if you are 2000 birders in your state or 10s of thousand birders in a country that are tweeting out real-time birding observations? If you would be following all these people, apart from the bird observations you would also get some 5-10 times more general messages that relates to things like “I am having cofffee“, “I am going to the dentist” and “I just ran 5K and feel totally exhausted“…

So how to just recieve the messages you are interested in? Can you select what you want to get information about? Yes, you can! With hashtags – words that are marked with # – can be searched for by automatic RSS feeders. (I don’t know what RSS is either, but it works! RSS means Real Simple Syndicate – which is just as difficult to understand, so let us content with that RSS catch web-page updates and have them transfered to another location such as a blog or an RSS reader)

With hashtags you can get messages from all people on Twitter that use the same hashtag. You don’t need to follow any of them, but can still get all their messages that are related to the thing you are interested in.
Test this:
1. Enter
2. In the search box type #birding and press enter.

How about that…? Pretty powerful, huh?

So say that all the people in birdclub or the list server joins Twitter and promise to put a specific #hashtagword that is identified with for specific purpose.

I intend to send a link to this blog to some chosen list-servers to test the functionability of this idea. To make it easier for you to see how it can work for you, I have already created some hashtags for birders that you can use.

Testing Hashtags for birders.

First of all, some credit is due. Dan Thalmann, sent a message to KSBird-L – Kansas birding listserver – mentioning how Twitter can become useful to birders and that hashtags should be used to mark specific regions. He suggests #ksbrd for birding in Kansas.
Maybe we should seperate between actual birding news in general and rare bird alerts in Kansas. Therefore let’s create two codes.
#ksbrd – for general birding, as well as activities that are birding related such as lectures or announcements for field trips.
#ksrba – for Kansas Rare Bird Alerts. If one particular bird at a location generate a lot of tweets, one may just drop the #ksrba tag, by simply replace it with #RossGull or any #ringing-code.

Here is my list of other test areas.

#ILbrd – for Illinois Birders
#ILrba – for Illinois rare bird alert
#CALbrd – california bird news
#CALrba- California rare bird alert
#TEXbrd – Texas birding news
#TEXrba – Texas rare bird alert
#Masbrd – Massachussets bird news
#Masrba  – Massachussets rare bird alert
#FLbrd – Florida bird news
#FLrba – Florida rare bird alert
#CARrba – N & S Carolina rba – for some areas it may be useful to join two states into one rare bird alert hashtag.
#ABArba – ABA birding area rare bird alert
#Rarevine – uncommon birds sighted in the UK – similar to what is reported by Birdguides
#UKrba – United Kingdom rare bird alert – the hashtag is reserved for Mega-birds
#C300x – Sweden rare bird alert

UPDATE: I have added #rarevine to the list above …..which existed before the preperation of this article without my knowing it…

I follow all these lists, so I will make sure that a few tweets are being sent out with the corresponding #tags. Meanwhile, I hope as many as possible will follow the below instructions below to make sure the messages reach your cell phones or set up more hashtag bird alerts for other areas (let me know if you need assistance). After a week of testing, I will make a summery for your list and  give the result of the excersize. Then it is up to you to keep it up. I shall set up these systems for Peru if it looks as if it works elsewhere (too few birders in Peru, to start it here….and even fewer who have smart-phones!)

How much does the Twitter based Rare Bird Alert cost?

Rare bird alert systems in the UK can cost as much as over 400 US$/year including the rent of the pager. “This system sounds as it may be expensive! So what does all this cost?”
IT COSTS NOTHING!!! Well, that is apart from your regular cell phone service. There may be older phone-models that will not work. I believe you need a smart-phone, iphone or Blackberry to make it work. Let me know if you are able to set it up for older phones. It is preferable to have free data transfer to your cell phone account, so that is not a limiting factor. You may still join with phones where you pay for data services per byte, but note that in spite that the tweets don’t cost much at all (due to their small size), it is the other stuff that is available to you through your mobile RSS reader and the links that people send through Twitter that makes reading web-pages on your phone very costly if you don’t have a plan with unlimited data.  The only thing that I ask of you is that you follow me on as a gesture. You shall be getting updates and lots of interesting birding links in my tweets – and get to know me a little bit…..only to find that I am very ordinary…. (sorry to disappoint you if you had any grander thoughts…). Why I ask you to follow me? It makes me look more popular than I really am! I am sure you understand this is just pure vanity!

Step by Step: How to create a Rare Bird Alert system for cell phones through Twitter, hashtags and RSS

1. Create a hashtags for your birding area. I have created a few for you already ready to use.  I created these by just sending a tweet containing the word.  Previously, you had to follow in order for your hashtag to register, but I believe this is not necessary now. Anyway, I sent my hash-tags through Tweetdeck. Make sure the hashtag is both short and descriptive at the same time – and it has to be unique. There is no limit, you may set up a hashtag for any particular area you think needs singling out, the key issue is that all user use the same hashtag for the same purpose. Therefore, it is likely that list administrators or bird-club boards decide which hashtag to use.

2. I presume you already have a smart-phone, Blackberry or an iPhone. You need a phone that can recieve and transfer data.

3. Install a Twitter client on your phone so you can tweet and recieve tweets from your phone. There are Twitter clients also available for more basic phones. I use Twitterberry for my Blackberry (see above).

4. Install an RSS reader on your phone. While you could use the mobile version of for instance Google reader, for which you have to make sure you have data connection every time you want to look at the hashtag feed, it is much more useful to have an RSS reader that download the feed to your phone, so you can read the message containing the hashtag at any time even on a plane or in the subway where you have no connection. I have found a great such application for smart phones and Blackberry called FreeRange Reader. Download it to your phone by directing the phone’s web-browser to and set up an account (it is free!).
If you use iPhone, you may try Net Use Wire for iPhones from Newsgator. Please comment below how it works.

5. Create the RSS feed for your hash-tag. This is best done in Mozilla Firefox browser and Power Twitter (see above). For some reason in Internet Explorer with it does not work.  You create the feed by searching for your hash-tag like in the example above for #birding. In the right column at the bottom, there is an orange button – saying “RSS feed for this query“. Click right and chose “copy link route“. Login to your RSS Feeder account, you created in the previous step. In FreeRange reader open “manage feeds” and paste this route where you are creating a new feed. You have to put your newly created feeds into a folder. You may want to create a folder specifically for your birding feeds if you subscribe to many. You may even set the RSS feeder so it checks for updates every so often and makes a little beep if there is a new feed. If you only use the RSS feeder as a bird alert gadget – it will be just as any bird alert device. Congratulations! You have just joined a rare bird alert system that will not cost you a penny. The members of the network through the listservers or forums they use, would together set up the guidelines what shall be included in the tweets.

To make the rare bird alert even more efficient, you could include a map and directions from Google maps.
This long Google map link indicates where a Glaucous Gull was seen in California the other day,+CA&daddr=38.253542,-122.629116&hl=en&geocode=CV07wYblTw7IFdiVRwIdbdWw-A%3B&mra=mi&mrsp=1&sz=18&sll=38.253608,-122.629459&sspn=0.001643,0.003181&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=18

and it becomes when using Tweetdeck to shorten the url. This short url fits with the message. This shows that the 140 character limit can be expanded this way to include links, fotos and other useful information.  Very useful!

Last, but not least. It is likely that you will find, just as I have found, that the FreeRange Feeder is such a fantastic RSS reader that you will want to load it with interesting magazines and news you want to follow.  Now is when you need that plan that includes unlimited data!!
Check this FreeRange Feeder page for two tutorials that explain how the possibilities of this mobile RSS reader. It doesn’t mention the bird alert system of course!

Follow me on twitter and let me know how this is working for you.

Twitter button by Mark Panell – Creative Commons license

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  • #ksbrd is hash tag for birding and birds in general in Kansas #
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Birdwatching in Peru – videos.

Keith Blomerley just posted some videos he put together from the trip he did with Kolibri Expeditions in 2004 together with Simon Wotton, Richard Winspear and Guy Shorrock. The birdwatching included the area around Lima, pelagic and some birding around Pisco and Ayacucho. The majority however is filmed along Manu Road and down the Madre de Dios river to Manu Amazon Lodge (formerly know as Manu Camping Lodge). The final parts contain Machu Picchu and Ticlio/Marcopomacocha.

The film is split into 13 parts, each around 6 or 7 minutes long. Clicking the “more info” link at the top right of the page gives more details and a mention of all the species filmed. The clips are best watched in high quality by hitting the HQ button at the bottom of the video screen. I shall present the videos in 3 posts with the first four presented here.

Birding Pucusana and Puerto Viejo

In Pucusana the main birds were Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, Inca Tern and Humboldt Penguin. The birdwatching at Puerto Viejo included Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Wren-like Rushbird, Peruvian Meadowlark, Pied-billed Grebe and Great Grebe.

Or click this page to come to the You Tube page Birdwatching Pucusana and Puerto Viejo, Peru

Birdwatching at Paracas and Ayacucho

First minutes covers the desert near Pucusana. The birding here gives Coastal Miner, Vermilion Flycatcher, Peruvian Thick-knee, Mountain Parakeet with a Hooded Siskin, and Croaking Ground-Dove. At Cañete valley there were Black-necked Woodpecker and Tropical Kingbird.
At Paracas National Reserve the filmed Turkey Vulture, Peruvian Booby, Humboldt penguin, South American Fur Seal, Sanderling and Western Sandpiper.

Finally, the areas around Ayacucho covers Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant, female White-winged Black-Tyrant, Pale-tailed Canastero (huancavelicae ssp of creamy-breasted), Bar-winged Cinclodes, Taczanowski’s Ground-Tyrant, Bearded Mountaineer, Andean flicker, Shining Sunbeam, Black-tailed Trainbearer and White-tailed canastero (usheri ssp of Creamy-breasted Canastero). There is also two skippers included. If anyone knows the names of these let me know.

Here is the link directly to the You Tube page for part two. Birdwatching at Paracas and Ayacucho

Birdwatching at Lomas de Lachay, Paraiso and a Lima birding Pelagic

The birding at Lomas de Lachay gave Burrowing Owl, Least Seedsnipe, Croaking Ground-Dove, Mountain Parakeet, Oasis Hummingbird, Raimondi’s Yellow-Finch and Tawny-throated Dotterel.
Paraiso lagoon some 30km to the North commence with an Elegant Tern and Guy’s rescue of an immature Guanay Cormorant caught in fishing net, Chilean Flamingo and Snowy Plover.
Finally, the pelagic, one of the trip highlights, of the trip brings footage of Franklin’s gull, Grey Gull, White-chinned petrel, South American Tern, Sabine’s gull, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, White-vented Storm-Petrel, Black Storm-Petrel, Markham’s Storm-Petrel and White-vented Storm-Petrel. Finally as we reach waters near shore on the way back Peruvian Pelican, Dusky Dolphins with a mix of Peruvian Boobies and Sooty Shearwaters.

For the direct You Tube link click Birding Lomas de Lachay, Paraiso and Lima Pelagic

Birding Palomino islands near Callao and Huacarpay lake in Cusco

The last part of this post contains the final stretch of the Pelagic trip, Huacarpay Lake and first bit of Manu road.
There is a large colony of Peruvian boobies South American Sea Lions at Palomino islands. Chucking the last bit of chum on the way back to port brings a Red-legged Cormorant and a mix of Peruvian Pelicans Kelp Gulls and Inca Terns.
At Huacarpay Lake there are Andean Coot and Common Gallinule, and a Greenish Yellow-Finch. Starting at the dry areas on the Manu road around Paucartambo with Creamy-crested Spinetail, Golden-billed Saltator, Chiguanco Thrush and White-winged Black-Tyrant. Once in the more humid temperate forest there are Great sapphirewing, Calling Diademed Tapaculo and Hooded Mountain-Tanager. In the elfin forest around Pillahuata, there are Broad-winged Hawk and Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Plush-capped Finch and Barred Fruiteater. Finally a very brief Red-and-White antpitta, Blackburnian Warbler and Masked Trogon.

The direct link to You Tube and this video by clicking Birdwatching Islas Palomino and Huarcapay, Cusco

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Ivory-billed Woodpecker hunt in Arkansas in feature film.

I had no idea this film had been made. Anyway, Here is an interview of filmmaker Director Alex Karpovsky, regarding his partly narratively fictious and partly documentary film .

Alex Karpovsky chats with FilmCatcher at the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival about the interesting subculture portrayed in his new film. Alex discusses the existential turmoil brewing within his main character, the challenge to inject a fictitious story and characters into a real situation, and the notions of faith and hope he explores.

I hadn’t see this before. Had you?
Anyone seen the film? The interview was recorded in April 2008. Why did I miss the buzz? How come only 500 people checked out the interview on You Tube?

Anyway, hope it is a good topic for the blog……

and here is the official site for the film

I still don’t get how this could escape me! Maybe, there was just to much talk about Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and that channel switched off in my brain.

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  • Dinner with Elita and Luciana. Champignons on the grill. Luciana fascinated over a gold fish pond. #
  • Buying luncheon bag for Luciana, who is starting Kinder Garden on Wednesday #
  • Dipped twitch for Wh-crested Elaenia en La Molina for my Lima City list, got Band-tailed Seedeater instead. Starbucks doppio now #birdiing #
  • Just in case you did not see this posted at 3 AM this morning. “How to learn Peruvian bird songs with Monty Python” #

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Bird song mnemonics with Monty Python and Ben Coffey.

I got the idea for this blog reading an on-going thread about mnemonics on Vermont Birds. When I came to the Peruvian Amazon for the first time in the early 90s I hardly knew any birdsongs.  I soon realized however, if I were to be able to sort out all those Antbirds and Furnarids, I had to learn the songs. Luckily, already back then there were two excellent cassettes available. They were Ted Parker’s didactic Voices of the Peruvian Rainforest from 1985 with 39 species on it and of course the classic Birds of SE Peru by Ben Coffey Jr with 79 species. I must have played the last tape over and over hundreds of times until I learnt it by heart. In fact even the southern accent of late Ben Coffey was memorized. The introduction goes something like this.

Gunnar impersonating Ben Coffey

First song on side two of the cassette was Bamboo Antshrike – a localized species that could readily be seen with playback at Amazonia Lodge in a small patch of bamboo within the forest on the main trail to the river. The same bird was exposed to Ben Coffey’s introduction and the following Crescentchest-like and quite high-pitched evenly spaced chup chup chup chup chup chup…….. (Recording Roger by practically every birding group that came to Amazonia Lodge. In the end it seemed like the bird would come out without even playing its song. One had just to try to imitate Ben Coffey’s pronunciations of the introductory announcement of Bamboo Antshrike (again my impersonation).

I soon found that learning the calls of the rain-forest wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. The antbirds and furnarids had quite distinctive songs, many that were possible to imitate with a whistle. If you can learn to whistle the call of a bird it is much easier to remember.

But I also made up my own mnemonics. Here is Plain-winged Antshrike

Plain-winged Antshrike – Sebastian Herzog on

It seems to query…

“Why-did-you-do-that-thing-to me?”

Another great mnemonic was that of Grayish Mourner.

Grayish Mourner – Weber Girão on

If you seen the Holy grail by Monthy Python, you have no problem picturing that the Grayish Mourner is saying as fast as he can – and with a stressed last word:

We are the knights that say:….. Ni!

Finally, a bird that has become a nemesis bird for me. The Greater Scythebill. I shouldn’t feel too bad because it is a really rare bird. The song was only recorded for the first time less than 10 years ago. I have learnt the song by heart now and will easily pick it up if I ever hear it.

Listen to this:

Greater Scythebill – Charlie Vogt on

Doesn’t it sound like a puppy complaining that it does not like to be beaten? Picture that and it will be hard to forget what it sounds like. Poor dog!

Today, there are apart from a number of relatively new CD:s published by Cornell and edited by Tom Schulenberg with birdsongs from Southern Peru. The 5 CD:s cover both the Andes and the lowlands and all in all close to 500 species. To learn all, you have to play them over and over, and if necessary turn to mnemonics and Monthy Python or other absurd situations to help you remember.

Brain photo by Gaeran Lee. Common creative license on Flickr and all recordings on

Update: I should perhaps, stress that Ben Coffey was a pioneer in putting together together recordings from the Neotropics. I did not have the pleasure of knowing him , but friends that did know him refer to him as a very generous man. I am surprised I could not find a wiki page dedicated to Ben Coffey Jr, but at least there is a In Memorian to download from The Auk.
Also, I must highlight what a fantastic resourse xeno-canto is. It deserves a special recognition. I recently published a list on my blog of my top10 birding web-sites. Unfortunately, xeno-canto slipped my mind….and did not even get a mention. But, to tell you the truth, the site should top the chart and is probably the most useful of all sites on the internet for the Neotropical birder. I have not contributed as much as I would like, but promise I shall try to be more active doing so in the future.

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