June 2011

Chumming on Pelagics

Gary Allport of Birdlife International recently placed a question on Seabird-News about chumming techniques to attract seabirds while doing pelagic birding. He was overwhelmed with replies and decided to summarize what he had learned in an article, which Gary has allowed to be shared and spread.  Therefore, his summary appears here in my blog. Thanks for sharing Gary.

General reviews and techniques

It seems that there are precious few actual written pieces on chumming, indeed the only two sources cited were Tony Pym’s posting of a floating chum block recipe and the piece on storm-petrel techniques in Bob Flood & Bryan Thomas’ excellent paper Identification of ‘black-and-white’ storm-petrels in Annexe 2 “Chum and chumming” (paper can be downloaded via the Scilly Pelagics website). I was also pointed to a useful discussion thread on BIrdforum .

Based on the fulsome thoughts of many I have pulled them together into the following groups of techniques:

  • Making a trail – dripping oil from a bottle, trailing chum in a mesh bag etc
  • Feeding – dead fish, frozen blocks etc
  • Holding birds as attractant
  • Using Dimethyl Sulphide

Plus some words of caution and trivia.

Some terms that Flood & Thomas (F&T) use which are good to keep for consistency are ‘Soft’ Chum, such as ground fresh fish, fish guts and livers, and ‘Hard’ chum such as fish bones and heads. Also “Chum-and-drift” the practice of working an area of sea using the wind or very slow steaming downwind to create a slick upwind and a scent trail downwind.

Making a trail

The method of attracting many seabirds to the boat for viewing is to use a combination of scent, slick and food items to lay a trail that draws birds and channels them into the boat. This can be done whilst steaming from place to place, or as a Chum-and-drift setup. The techniques are:

Oil bottle – in its simplest form this is done by punching a small hole into the base of a plastic water bottle full of fish oil and then tying some string around the neck and dangling it off the railings of the boat. There are more sophisticated versions using a pipe fixed into the neck of the bottle and a pinch bolt to regulate the flow but there were no mentions of write ups of exactly how to do this.

The quantities used seem to vary from several litres down to one pint for a day trip. I think this also reflects the type of oil used.

Many people use Cod Liver Oil (CLO) but there are lots of warnings that the CLO available for medicinal purposes are treated to remove the scent and are ineffective. No-one mentioned a good source of raw CLO, although some referred to Fish Oil Concentrate but it’s not clear what that is or how to get hold of it. Other fish oils mentioned were Tuna Oil and Menhaden Oil (Brian Patteson amongst others, mentions using the latter). Others use vegetable oil as a carrier or slick former, mixed either with CLO (3 litres CLO with 20 litres veg oil was one recipe) or with oils from tinned and bottled fishes. Anchovies, sardines and pilchards were mentioned although the general feeling was that these blends were not as effective as CLO. (One birder deliberately went out on an Anchovy fishing boat owner simply because he knew that the whole boat would form its own slick…). There is also a feeling from some that veg oils should never be used as they are not naturally occurring in the marine environment and their properties once mixed with seawater and cast onto birds’ plumage are unknown and could be harmful.

Soft chum – mashed fresh fish and oils mixed are trailed from the vessel when steaming or are used on a chum-and-drift. When steaming, frozen blocks are often trailed and these have a very high density of soft chum i.e. very little water frozen in, and are placed in a mesh bag (onion sacks were mentioned as good for this purpose by several people). In NZ the ‘Berley Bomb’, a commercially available grind up of salmon scraps frozen into 5kg blocks for fishing uses, works very well for this. Chunks of unfrozen soft chum are also used but it needs to be treble-bagged whilst steaming else it will all wash away very quickly. When adopting a chum-and-drift tactic for stormies then it is recommended to use unfrozen chum in a single bag secured just below the surface to create the slick (F&T). Fish livers also get special mention as they float and are especially attractive in their own right. These can be put whole into a mesh box (as is done off Kaikoura) or chopped up into tiny pieces (F&T) as part of the mix. Note that old or rotting fish is apparently not as attractive as fresh fish.

Popcorn is also used in the un/frozen blocks of soft chum either ground up into tiny pieces and infused with eau de chum thereby (F&T), or whole popcorn, mixed in and left to infuse of its own accord. The ground up popcorn is thought to carry the oil further on the surface and is apparently taken by storm petrels; it also has the advantage of attracting fewer gulls in this form if that’s what’s needed (see below). The intact popcorn also carries oil but less of it, is not taken by stormies but does attract gulls and several folk also mentioned that the pale floating grains help show up where the oil trail is lying when routing the boat back along existing oil trails, and in both finding and pointing out birds feeding along the trail. Rice bubbles and cornflakes have also been used but both seem to float below the surface film and drift less quickly than oil, get separated from the slick and so scatter the birds. Note that there are some who feel that any of these floating additives are not great for seabirds to eat, especially processed popcorn.

F&T highly recommend using a grinder to make soft chum. The exact details of the grinder are not given but heavy duty manual or motorized machines are available from the USA where it seems that there is a whole chum-based micro-industry – see for instance https://www.chum-grinders.com/ or https://www.castnetworld.com/fishchumholders.html . I think that these are just big meat grinders in truth so anything that’s used to make minced meat would do the trick I suspect.

Hard chum – a whole battery of fairly sordid things have been trailed behind boats in the name of slicking. Dead fish, especially large oily fishes which have been filleted, or just the heads, have been used with success. But there were also mentions of punctured sausages, beef suet, a rotting cabbage (not so stupid – see below) and a dead fulmar (well they are very oily and stinky…). One person mentioned following the slick from a dead Cuvier’s Beaked Whale. The key point though is that hard chum generally work best when the boat is steaming so that small chunks of chum get washed off and sit in the wake; not so good when the boat is at rest.

There were also the comments that laying trails only work in fairly calm sea conditions with light breezes that will carry the scent but not so rough that the oil slick gets dispersed too quickly before the birds get close enough. Note also you might have to wait 15-30 minutes before the first birds come gliding up the driftline.

Feeding birds

Food is generally used to bring birds closer in to the boat for closer and longer viewing – the holding of birds as an attractant in themselves is treated below.

Feeding of seabirds has been done in many, many different ways but mostly as some form of soft chum either thrown over the side or in mesh bags, wire mesh boxes etc. There are also the opportunistic approaches of other food sources such as trawlers or bait balls which are not covered here.

The main recent advance in this regard has been the use of soft chum frozen into blocks. This idea is mostly credited to Hadoram Shirihai and the most recent recipes used in the Pacific, and with further recommendations, are helpfully posted on Tony Pym’s website. However, a couple of people told me that shark divers have been using these frozen blocks for a very long time and they know them as “Chumsicles” (I was also told that chum is known as rubby-dubby by some shark fishers). The advantage of feeding with frozen blocks is that they can be made up so that they float so the food stays on the surface (most fish meat will quickly sink out of sight in sea water) and that the food will be gently dispersed over a period of time as the block defrosts. Birds can also feed directly off the chumsicle too, holding them close to the boat yet longer.

The key point here seems to be to ensure that there is a very large amount of freshwater used in the recipe in order to guarantee that the block will actually float when flung over the side. Several people reported that their lovingly made beautiful chumsicle simply sank like a stone into the depths much to their dismay. If fish dust and oil are used in the recipe then the chumsicle is quite light in itself and 25-30% water is fine but if pieces of fish and meal are used then there needs to be 50% freshwater plus 50% meal/pieces and oil to guarantee a floater. It was also pointed out that freshwater is less dense than seawater so do use fresh. 10-12 kilo blocks are recommended. The other point to think about before making the blocks is exactly how they will be carried onto the boat. Shaping them to fit into you cooler box is recommended! Also bag up and separate blocks in the cool box else they might all freeze together and then require hacking up on deck.

One other advantage of these blocks is that they are simple to use, less messy and smelly, and this can be helpful with certain boat owners who are not used to birders and their chums. To mention here also that a tarpaulin draped over the working area helps, and do take a pair of long arm rubber gloves to keep hands clean and so quickly free to grab the binocs.

The feeding technique is to drop a frozen block over the side then steam uplight and heave to at about 80 metres and wait. Birds will mostly come from downwind following the scent trail so note both wind direction and light carefully. Additional floating food such as livers or oil soaked popcorn can be tossed in once birds are around the boat. When birds are engaged in feeding from the block itself then closer approaches can be made.

The other food which I had never heard of as chum before is beef suet. This seems to work well since it floats, is cheap and easy to get hold of, is relatively easy to handle and can be used as either big blocks which birds have to come in to and tear pieces off, or cut right down to milled fine scale pieces which stormies like (Black, Leach’s and Band-rumped all mentioned, though Least did not take it). It does not carry scent so it needs to be used in tandem with other more smelly attractants.

Holding birds as an attractant

The above mentioned techniques will draw in many pelagic species which in themselves may help to attract other perhaps even more desirable birds. The key thing here is that both higher flying birds, which show above the horizon further away, and birds exhibiting feeding behaviours – hovering, dip diving or circling – will draw in birds that will not necessarily come to chum. Species mentioned were Skuas/Jaegers, several Pterodromas (Black-capped rarely comes to chum, Tahiti too).

It is clear that in some areas ‘less interesting’ species such as gulls or in some places frigates can be actively fed and thus held behind the boat for longer, indeed in the case of some gulls they can be drawn well offshore and kept by the boat to act as attractants. Popcorn and bread thrown from the back of the boat, actively feeding such species (on some pelagic trips there is a designated person simply doing this) to keep them tagging along helps to maintain a clamour of birds around the boat. In most circumstances this is thought to work well but there are certain circumstances where there are mixed views on this. Some people said that gulls, in particular, deter certain storm petrels and also some of the smaller alcids like Cassin’s Auklet, Xantus Murrelet.

Dimethyl Sulphide

I was rather surprised by the strong and uniformly negative response to my enquiry on this. Having looked at the paper on Tony Pym’s website (Nevitt & Bonadonna. here https://www.seabirding.co.uk/documents/DimethylSulphide.doc ) I was assuming that someone would have sussed out how to use it productively, but everyone who responded said that it is tricky to get hold of and only comes in a highly concentrated form. The liquid itself is quite dangerous and can apparently damage human sense of smell and it is supposed that it may have negative effects on birds (F&L). The recommendation is to steer clear.

I guess many of these problem are to do with the concentration of the DMS supplied commercially and having looked at the paper on Tony’s site it seems it does not easily dilute. The authors used Ethylene Glycol (best known as car antifreeze) to dilute it but there was no talk of its properties in oil. One person pointed out that it is widely used in the perfume industry and is the source of the smell of cabbage, indeed apparently the smell of cooked and rotting cabbage is actually DMS and one person even tried cabbage at sea but with no results (rotted and trailed). It sounds mad but one wonders if boiled cabbage steeped in oil might work?!

Some words of caution

There were wise words of caution expressed in some of the emails. Several stressed that chum is an attractant to things other than seabirds especially sharks and in certain places sea lions. The latter can be overzealous and are a potential hazard when in a small boat.

The other point is to please bear in mind the sensitivity of the birds especially when near to colonies and especially chumming breeding birds etc. Carrying gulls behind a boat out to a breeding island of vulnerable breeding species was also a caution expressed.

Trivia – chumming for the land-based seawatcher

I was also reminded of a hair-brained scheme mentioned in one of Anthony McGeehan’s articles, in Dutch Birding I think. He described a conversation with an old Irish coastal seawatcher who concocted the notion of “The Chum Cannon”. The idea was to fire a packet of chum offshore into an onshore wind, in order to bring seabirds, especially stormies, closer inshore of the seawatching point as the slick drifted closer on the breeze. At the time of the article I don’t think frozen chum had been thought of so the problem posed was how to propel what would effectively be a liquid – but with modern day thinking the concept of the frozen chum projectile might be a reality…

So I hope that that is a useful pull together of ideas. I am conscious that there are still quite a few things not covered, like recipes for chum and more of the actual practicalities (where do you get raw CLO? Can anyone recommend a specific chum grinder? etc) but as I say I hope that this helps to be going on with. It has certainly given me plenty of food for thought before heading off from Maputo again.

Finally Check out  Lima pelagics.





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Eight ideas to make birding huge.

Most of the time I am busy either guiding Kolibri Expeditions tours, making arrangements for the tours (although Victor has been relieving me some lately) and conversations via email with clients. But sometimes, I get ideas – that totally consume me. And it is particularly one of those ideas that have kept me off my own blog lately.
The idea of BirdingBlogs.com.
And within Birdingblogs new ideas have formed.

I thought in this newsletter, that I’d present some of the ideas that have consumed me. It is not really sane to get this many ideas, but I hope that with considerable delegation at least some of these ideas can become something grand and live their own life and inspire others. Ideas do that!

You can’t own an idea.
The idea becomes everyone’s.

If you want to take part in any of this, check out the links of each item. Leave comments below or send me an email if you want contribute in any way.

1. Birdingblogs.com – the idea.

After having finally understood the idea of blogging, I came to the conclusion that to have a successful birding blog one needed to

  • Supply top content
  • supply hot birding news
  • publish daily
  • upload lots of pictures
  • be somewhat provocative, edgy, funny or witty – some of the time
  • share – everywhere
  • build a community of followers in the social media platforms

But to be on top of things – and run a business at the same time is simply too much. The solution was to gather several writers to one blog. Birdingblogs.com. Even if we’ve slacked a bit lately, we are getting a lot of traffic – and the future looks very bright as GrrlScientist Deborah Bennu has been added to the team. A bit over a month ago, Charlie Moores, previously at 10000birds also joined us.  The other birdingbloggers on this site are Kenn Kaufman, Tom McKinney, Dawn Fine, Dale Forbes, Rebecca Nason, Rich Hoyer, György Szimuly, Susan Myers and myself. It is a great team. It is a bit intimidating to be among these great writers and photographers.  At the end of this post I shall present some of the work of my partner bloggers.

Don’t forget to  “Like” us on  Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS feed or by email. We are committed to provide you with top birding content every day.

2. Avistar Peru. Birding Festival in Lima Peru.

Avistar Peru logoI always felt it was sort of my duty to “teach” Peruvians about birding. How pretentious!
Fact remains. Can you imagine that there is no national organization for birders in Peru. In spite of this, there are some good signs that something is happening. I know of several local bird and nature clubs in Puerto Maldonado, Chiclayo and Iquitos. The Spanish language site www.avesdelima.com is around position 28 on Fatbirder Top1000 website about birding and gets around 1200 unique page views daily. Surely, there is a latent interest among Peruvians to discover birding and nature in general.  Lima with 8 milion inhabitants is the place to start.

We are copying a concept already active in Sao Paolo, Brazil – Avistar Brasil. We shall bring Peruvian people who like nature together in the first Peruvian Birding Festival for the general public. During 3 days Nov 2-4 at PARQUE KENNEDY in Miraflores, there will be a trade fair with 22 stands, activities for kids, photo and art exhibitions and workshops covering topics such as the Wetlands of Pantanos de Villa, the water drainage of the Rimac valley and a call to start a Peruvian version of Audubon Society. During the weekend Nov 5-6 we shall do several excursions in the vicinity of Lima, including trips up the Santa Eulalia Valley to see the Condor and a pelagic. If you are around you don’t want to miss the opportunity. And if you have something to contribute to the workshops let us know. You find more information in this recent blogpost about Avistar Peru.
The Neotropical Ornithologicl Congress is held in Cusco Nov 8-14, why it is a good idea to combine the two events.

3. Birdingblogs top list

I am sure you have heard of Fatbirder Top 1000 and NatureBlogNetwork. Here you find an attempt to rank birding sites and natureblogs.  Having created the multi-author blog, I thought it would be great if we could share some of the lime-light with those birders who still blog on their own. They are quite heroic – and I admire them.  There are now over thirty birdingblogs signed up on the birdingblogs top list. If you have a blog about birding that you write yourself, please submit.  Read more about the idea and the rules for the toplist here.

4. World Birding Tour Network

This is a similar idea. Apart from getting overall and regional toplists for number of visitors to birdwatching tour operator sites, this idea when built out will become a bird tour operator directory. Useful, for clients – and useful for inter company relations.  There really should be more networking between birding companies.  Read more on the same blogpost as above and sign up to the toplist here.

5. Virtual BirdFair

Virtual BirdFair - Why not do the birdfair on line.

Virtual BirdFair – Why not do the birdfair on line?

Some of you may have seen this already last year.  I love the idea of the British Birdfair – where the birders can find everything they need at one place and at the same time there is loads of money collected for conservation. Participating does come at a price, though.  Not only does it become extremely expensive for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, but one carbon footprint we leave behind is huge.  What if there was an alternative way? Could you participate virtually?  How about an online virtual birdfair? Not a competition to the real thing, but as a compliment.  The idea is quite limitless. And again it would be used to raise money to a conservation project. Also, it does not need to cover only the British Birdfair, but all the major fairs and festivals around the world.  I’d like to get 10 people together that could develop this idea together. Check out more on the virtual birdfair in this blogpost. And do provide feedback, and let me know if you want to be on the team.

6. Satipo road Lodge

Show the community an example similar to their reality, which has become a booming eco-tourism project. Well, this is what Kolibri Expeditions did, when we brought 6 campesinos from Central Peru to Mindo in Ecuador.  Here are two older posts that gives you the right background to this idea.

Future birders on Satipo Road

Central Peru birding videos

The project is running well, and RainForest Partnership is doing important work in the area.  Right now there are 6 beds with linen in a temporary room, but the lodge will soon start to be built.  We  assist with booking for independent visitors.  It is essential that the visits are coordinated before arrival.

The area is in need of a new name. In Rainforest Partnership’s perspective Satipo road is not good to use when raising funds from non-birders. They have used the name Pampa Hermosa, which would have been logic as it is the name of the district covering all the communities. The problem is there is already two Pampa Hermosa in Peru known to the birders:  Pampa Hermosa near San Ramon, which has a lodge and a reserve with the same name nearby; and Pampa Hermosa in Ucayali, which is the last settlement to travel up the Cushabatay river to search for Scarlet-banded Barbet in mountains of Cordillera Azul. We don’t need yet another Pampa Hermosa.
On Kolibri Expeditions Facebook page you may now vote for a new alternative if you are on Facebook.  Vote here! I’ll be interested in seeing which of the 3 names proposed you prefer. Or maybe you will come up with a better suggestion.

7. Birding is changing.

This is an old post about “How to become a birder in the 21st Century“.  The notion that the birder of tomorrow (which is already here), is not so interested in only seeing. They want to photograph. Bring something home at the end of the day. An observation will only stick in memory – at best – and may be soon forgotten, but a photo sticks forever as it can be shared and it can be viewed over and over again.  We recently had a Thai group visiting us in Peru – and although they called themselves birders, they were more interested in photographing birds than getting a long list. My guess is that we shall see more of this. Our birding tours are now complemented with bird photography tours.

This means, if you allow me to return to the topic Avistar Peru above, that if we are to convert Peru’s masses to birders, we have to bird as much through cameras than binoculars.  When writing manuals for birding for beginners which we intend to do in Lima, the text should focus on what kind of cameras are good for birding. It is more likely the newbie invests first in a camera than a pair of binoculars.  If we old school birders don’t realize this, we will see birding getting less and less active users in the younger generations. But, if we adapt to the new reality, we could create armies of people that care about nature and are in need of birding services. Good for businesses (as mine), good for conservation and good for rural communities that have special birds.

8. Birding infrastructure, fidelity and innovation

I think, Peru will become the birding Mekka eventually. There are more birds here than anywhere else except for Colombia. The combination with archeology, fantastic food,  culture and great nature is simply unbeatable.  But it will not happen overnight and it is clear that the Peruvian State organ PromPeru won’t lead, although they have done some showy tradeshows the last decades. It is up to entrepreneurs with a broad vision to make it happen. We need more birders to come to Peru in order to make birding businesses profitable and allowing rural areas to opt for conservation and eco-tourism. But to get more visitors Peru needs more specific infrastructure for birders.

My idea is that we could do this together.  Peru is such a huge country that allows for many trips. If you consider using our services, you can save a lot of money when you sign up to Kolibri Expeditions’ VIP Club. This is a very novel idea and I’d like to get your feedback. Everone gains. You save money, Kolibri Expeditions secures future clients, infrastructure for birders is created and communities start caring about conserving nature as they provide services for visiting birders. I have prepared a VERY SPECIAL OFFER.  It is time limited, so you have best to act quickly.  Read more …………

The Birding Bloggers

Below follows the descriptions of the bloggers on birdingblogs.  The link on the name gives you the latest posts of that author. I also enclose one of my favorite posts for each blogger. Do check them out, because they are great posts.

Tom McKinneyTom McKinney has been birding for over 20 years and has birded on every continent, other than the continents he’s not yet been to. He is famed for having found Britain’s first Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler and then waking up and realising it had all been a beautiful, beautiful dream. When not birding he enjoys going to Ladbrokes and writing short biographical entries about himself in a 3rd person voice.
Here is a funny post about how to identify and mis-identify plugs.

Dale ForbesDale Forbes has always felt at home in nature.  He started birdwatching as a young kid. Then got in to ornithology. Then more conservation biology. He grew as a birder, loving it more with every day. He now works for Swarovski Optik making awesome toys for birders (product/marketing manager) and is an obsessed digiscoper.  Dale writes his regular post Birdingblogs.com every Sunday. All his posts contain mindblowing digiscoping images, however the feature post I want to highlight here is slightly comical: British birders – a separate subspecies.

Kenn KaufmanKenn Kaufman was captivated by birds at the age of six, Kenn Kaufman burst onto the North American birding scene as a teenager, hitch-hiking around the continent in pursuit of new species; those adventures were later chronicled in a book, Kingbird Highway, which has become a cult classic. Kenn went on to lead birding tours on all seven continents and to become a prolific writer. He’s now a field editor for Audubon magazine, on the editorial board for WildBird, and a columnist for Birder’s World and Bird Watcher’s Digest. His own Kaufman Field Guides series includes volumes on North American birds in English and Spanish, the recently acclaimed second edition of Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding, butterflies and mammals. Kenn lives in northern Ohio with his wife, Kimberly, who is currently executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. His most recent post on Birdingblogs about the new Warbler taxonomy hit the ceiling in numbers of hits. In spite of this, I’d like to highlight his environmental fight against windpower at the wrong place: Location matters.

Rebecca Nason is a passionate female bird photographer, birder & bird ringer currently based on the Suffolk coast, UK. She has been a freelance bird photographer, tour-leader & ecologist since 2005 after working on Fair Isle, Shetland as Assistant Warden & Seabird Officer for 2 years, a place she now regards as a second home! Rebecca enjoys world travel & promoting birds & conservation through imagery, tour-leading, ecology work & talks. Her photography is simply mind blowing. Jump into any of here posts and you will see. Here is a favorite of mine: The Puffins on Fair Isle.

Dawn Fine is a birder, a blogger, hiker, Nature lover, mushroom picker, Full-time RV-er since September 2001, Blogaholic and founder of “Birders who Blog, tweet and chirp”. Dawn is a master to connect with birders and nature lovers on Facebook and Twitter. She reads and comments on collossal amounts of blogs. She is our window to other bird bloggers, whom she shares with us once every month presenting awesome bloggers. It is quite hard to chose among such many brilliant presentations of other bloggers, but one that I like a lot is the recent one about Bathrobe Birder Robin Robinson of The Back Story – My controlled Chaos.

Rich Hoyer is first and foremost a birder whose subconscious registers and identifies every bird he hears, even when he isn’t birding. But he actually started keying out wildflowers , catching reptiles, and raising butterflies before he discovered birding at age 14, and has since branched out to enjoy photographing and identifying dragonflies, grasshoppers, spiders and almost anything else alive. For the past 13 years he has been leading birding and natural history tours for WINGS. Among his regular destinations are Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, the Galapagos, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Jamaica. Originally from Oregon, he currently lives in Tucson, Arizona. Rich has been blogging a lot about these places on Birdingblogs. They are all great posts. One recent post that was extremely useful to me was Digiscoping with an iPhone.

Charlie Moores has been blogging since 2004 and (he thinks) has not yet run out of things to talk about. He used to be on the prime birding site 10000birds, but now he is with us  and his own blog/podcast Talking Naturally as well.  We are very lucky to have him.  His conservation engagement is legendary. One of the most important posts this year is the one he wrote on Malta: How do we solve a problem like Maria Malta

is an evolutionary biologist, ornithologist and science writer. She write a science blog for the Guardian, another one for Nature, and a more personal blog at Scientopia. And now she writes at Birdingblogs.com. She has only been with us for three weeks, but we hope she shall provide some great articles about birds and science. The first one out was about the sex-life of White-throated Sparrows. It is not unusual that there are different reproduction strategies within a specific bird species, but here the strategy has been nailed down to a specific chromosome. Mind blowing article on science that everyone can understand.
György Szimuly aka Szimi from Hungary has provided marvelous photography from Hungary and elsewhere.  Szimi is fanatic about shorebirds and runs several blogs, webpages and Facebook groups on waders. He lives in Tata, which yearly is a spectacle with over 30000 over-wintering geese.  He covered exactly that topic in one of his initial posts: A city as a birding Hot Spot.
Susan Myers is a birdguide formerly for VENT and now for Tropical Birding and flung all over Asia as  guide on birding trips. She is the author of Birds of Borneo. On Birdingblogs she started off with some very popular posts on the best birds of Asia. Here is here first post in that series. The Fifty Best Birds of Asia.
Top photo: Junin and Silvery Grebe by Alejandro Tello.

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