Birding on TED?

Birding will save the Planet

I don’t even know if birding can be mainstream, but TED seems to be a good venue to try.  Today is the deadline for the public to submit a one-minute video for an live audition in New York on May 24.  The best will go to the TED event in 2012 in California and many shall be shown on the TED video channel on YouTube.

So I put this little piece together. Hope you like it.

It is only one minute long, so you have time to watch it. This is only the intro, I am sure you want to know HOW Birding will Save the Planet? My hope is that the TED people will want to know this as well.

The idea is that birding is a much greener way to do tourism than traditional tourism and it give local communities both a chance to get an income as well as a reason why to conserve their forests. I will in a longer talk show examples of where birding contributes directly to the economy and the conservation, and easy strategies how communities can be involved. I will also show a strategy how we can make vast amount of people into birdwatchers in the 21st century. Hope to get the chance, TED!

To get an idea what kind of great talks that previously have been given, have look at these ones.

Graham Hill (Founder of Why I am a weekday vegetarian.

Sarah Kay: Spoken Word Poetry.

Chris Jordan: Amazing art based statistics showing the excesses of our society?

Top illustration.  Earth Day 2011 by Alice PopKorn on Flickr
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….a lot of places …and I like you to come with me.

This past year immersing myself into social media, has been amazing getting to know so many birders on line. I would like to meet all of you.  Although my year is not completely staked out, I’d like to give  you an outline the birding trips and events I have lined up for myself. Maybe our paths shall cross somewhere. Or maybe you want to come along joining me on some of these adventures. I shall write more detailed blogposts presenting each of them. Let me know which you would like to hear more about in the comment section below and I will prioritize.

I have already knocked off a North Peru trip and two Tumbes itineraries with Pelagics in January.  In February I was in Colombia with the family and managed to see a couple of nice new birds. (Blog post is practically ready, but need some photos – maybe  someone can please lend me photos of Golden-ringed and Black and Gold Tanager?).  I am planning to get a Colombia tour together for Januay 2011 if anyone is interested.  Here is an old draft of a Colombia Tour, but I certainly will change some as there are now new exciting reserves that can be visited.

Marathon. May 2 and July 18

First on my agenda is Lima Marathon. One may ask what that has to do with birding, but it does. Last year I ran it for the first time and turned it into a fund-raiser for the community on Satipo road.  A marathon for conservation. This activity made Rain Forest Partnership interested in starting a small project here.  My training has not gone the way I wanted this year, but  I am still running the Marathon. I shall be happy if I make it all the way around. So here is a pledge – the same as last year. I will run the Lima Marathon 42.195km on May 2 after sporadic training the last 10 weeks (interrupted by 2 weeks sickness and an injured knee)  at 4h13min or less. 4 hours and 13 minutes makes an average speed of 6:00 min per kilometer, which is more or less the speed that I have managed on the long runs I have done  so far.

Sign-up in the comment section. And if you have not  made the donation from the pledge last year available yet to Rain Forest Partnership, let me know.

My personal goal is to qualify to Boston Marathon. It will not happen at this race, but I have already a new Marathon in my mind where I shall much better trained. Rio de Janeiro Marathon on July 18.  That is one week before I turn 50. I have to run in 3:35.  I have 14 more weeks to find my top form.


I guess it is the viking in me that always take me to the sea.  Contrary to our Peruvian guides, I never get seasick – so I guide practically all of Kolibri Expeditions’ pelagics.  Pelagics from Lima are very good  with up to 5-6 species of Storm-Petrels seen regularly including the localized Markham’s and Ringed (Hornby’s) Storm-Petrel. The Critically Endangered Waved Albatross is seen on practically every trip. So far the following pelagic tours have clients booked and will thus surely run:  May 6, July 19 and 26, Sep 9 and 25, Oct 2, Nov 13 and 26. There are a couple of more dates in the tour calendar but without bookings. Most of these dates have been put there because they are at the beginning or the end of a scheduled trip. Since all trips in Peru begin or end in Lima it is easy to add a pelagic tour – providing we get enough people to run it.

May 17-24 Young Birders Manu community Tour

This is an idea that struck to me recently. Why not offer some tours that needs more assessment to people who would not normally come on birding tours, but are highly motivated birders. When testing new things, there  may be things that will not work 100%. Therefore a pre-trip to the community lodges in the Manu area that are promoted this year with the help of bloggers ,will get a jumpstart by young birders on a promotrip.

The gain is on several levels.

  • Young birders get some guiding in the most difficult habitat to bird. The Amazon rainforest and at a reasonable price.
  • Our company keeps staff busy and paid, and while the revenue for the company is not great, there will be lots of important pieces of information of what works and what doesn’t on this pilot trip – to be implemented on the coming trips.
  • The communities get some revenue and the chance to set all right for more comfort demanding clients.

And it will be fun to bird with intense young birders up to 25 years old. I bet we shall make a monster list of birds seen – and that there will be very little sleep! There are 4 vacancies on the trip. Max age 25 years old.
If you don’t qualify age wise, check out all the fixed departures that supports the communities in the Manu area. Still very good value for money and a good cause.

Meet-up / Tweet-up in Lima May 29

@Burdr tweeted a few days ago that it would be wonderful to meet every birder that one has been connected with via Twitter, Facebook or the blog and I could not agree less. When I said so in my tweet-reply, @Burdr said: Let’s all meet in Peru. It clicked as an idea. Dawn Fine has arranged meeting with birders all over the US arranging meet-ups for birders that blog, tweet or chirp.  We could do something similar in Lima.

Both locals and visitors and even clients – can meet up for some birding one morning every month. I am considering Saturday mornings when my wife works. That means that my two daughters (and our maid) would be joining us.  Join Gunnar, Luciana and Anahi for the first birding meet-up on May 29. I hope to be able to do a meet up once every month or other month.

The training of a new Peruvian guide.

June 15-23 there is scheduled a trip to North Peru and the land of Marvelous Spatuletail. Santos Montenegro is a local campesino who has become interested in birds and in particular the Marvelous Spatuletail. He was the guy who found the displaying Spatultetail that was recently filmed by the BBC on land that was purchased by Santos with funds acquired by Kolibri Expeditions. I recently interview Santos to feature a blog about him and how he got interested in birds. Through help from our clients we have provided Santos with birdbook, binoculars and birdcalls so that he has learnt all the birds in the area so well that local conservation organization ECOAN employed him full time. In June he has holiday and time to join us on a full tour and in July he has to decide whether or not renew the contract with ECOAN or opt to become a bird guide.  June 15-23 will be crucial. If you want to be part of forming a new local guide now you know.

British Bird Fair

August 20-22 it is time for the British Birdwatching Fair. Kolibri Expeditions have participated here every year since 2002 together with PromPeru, so we are sad to learn that PromPeru will not be putting up the stand this year.  There may be stand for us anyway. I am waiting in anticipation for the decision by the organizers. In any case, I think I will go. It is a unique chance to meet up with clients and business partners. Especially after the Social Media boom, this event has the potential to become a giant meet-up, where you put person to a Facebook profile.  Are you going to be at the BirdFair? Shall we meet up?

The biggest day!

September 1-13 . When I write this it is spring in the northern hemisphere and teams are forming to do Birdathons and big days all over for grand causes of bird conservation.  Lots of fun, lots of coffee, adrenalin and speed birding.
How about transforming the idea to a business model in the bird richest area of the world? Is it at all possible?  The Biggest Day tour!
Ted Parker and Scott Robinson set the world record of 331 species from Manu in 1982 – without motorized vehicle. The idea is to try to beat it or at least get very close to it at Amigos research Center between Manu and Tambopata.  The trip will work as  birding workshop where the participants will learn to seperate the Amazonian birds by sight and especially call the first 8 days. Day 9 is dress rehearsal, we form teams with the leaders who include guides Antonio Coral, Alex Durand and myself. All the teams should get over 300 species . The results are collected and analyzed before the gran finale on day 12. An attempt on the world record. Now the guides form a team together with one  of the participants (a raffle will be made to select the person), while the rest form one or two teams to compete against the guides. Day 13  will be dedicated for the highlights once again and to see some of the elusive vocal species. Day 14 it is back to Puerto Maldonado and flight on to Lima or Cusco.  Sound like fun?

Birding in Manu with Rick Wright

Rick Wright former editor of Winging-It and director and guide for Wings, hosts the Community Manu program in September 17-24 – together with me.  Rick  blogs at Aimophila Adventure. This shall be  a fantastic trip with the possibility to add a pelagic in Lima on September 25 and Satipo road/Carpish Community on Sep 26-Oct 3 hosted by Chris West.

Photographic project with Hadoram Shirihai.

All through October to November Hadoram Shirihai and David Beadle will travel in Peru with us on a private photographic expedition. I shall be guiding the first part in Puno, while Alex Durand does all the Manu area. At the end of the period, I shall be guiding again in Central Peru (Carpish and Satipo road).

Scarlet-banded Barbet in Sira Mountains

I have a request for a Scarlet-banded Barbet expedtion from David Matson and Dave Sargeant around Oct 22.  There is a new Barbet from southern Sira mountains yet to be described – whether species or subspecies status remains to be seen. Our expedition goes from Puerto Inca further North, where there is access to the highest peaks and from where Kolibri Expeditions already has a good set-up with local contacts. Obviously we don’t know that there will be a Barbet here but since it is the same mountain range as the southern population and our site is right between that and the original site of Scarlet-banded Barbet, there is a very good chance.  We get a good gradient of habitats as we reach the highest peaks of over 2000m. Other species that can be seen on this trip include the endemic Sira Tanager, (Peruvian) Horned Curassow (good species based on voice and genetic isolation soon to be split), Sharpbill, Rufous-brown Solitaire, Rufous-webbed Briliant, Creamy-bellied Antwren, White-plumed Antbird, Blue-headed Macaw, Curl-crested Aracari, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Wing-banded Wren and many more.

15 Antpittas – and hopefully Banded Ground Cuckoo.

In December I have set up a program that runs from Tarapoto in Peru to Quito in Ecuador and is aiming to pick up 15 species  of Antpitta on the way (actually there are 17 species, of Antpittas possible I don’t want to press my luck). We already have three bookings on this trip, which include well known bird book author Klaus Malling Olsen. This will be an epic trip, with lots of endemics. It is especially suitable for those that birded Ecuador in the 90s and want to fill in the gaps as more and more sites for then elusive species have emerged. It is a completely different Ecuador for birding today. Many places  have Antpittas feeders – following the success of Angel Paz  and his by now world famous Giant Antpitta Maria. The tour runs Nov 28 to Dec 17, with the option to add an eastern Amazonian lowland program of 3-4 days.

That is it. Well not really… because I am also spending a week in May with the family at the beach in Piura as well as a likely holiday somewhere abroad with the family in July or August to be determined.

If you can’t join me, but still want to be birding in Peru during 2010, I suggest you take a look at our tour Calendar, where there are loads of different bird tours scheduled that you can choose from.

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Diademed Plover

Diademed Sandpiper Plover Phegornis mitchelliiDiademed Sandpiper Plover Phegornis mitchellii

No words needed for the star of all Shorebirds in Peru! Not even an endemic, but very high on every birder’s lists. This and many more can be seen on our Central Peru itineraries. Do you want to see it? Win a free trip. Click here! Our guide Alex Durand took this picture with his small Vortex telescope and a small Fuji point and shoot.

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Tony Pym reports from the Fiji Petrel Expedition.

With an attempt to put some content on my always too unfrequent blog, I have decided to share birding news that come my way. I have previously posted to posts on this fascinating expedition. The first was a summery of the planning and execution of the discovery of Fiji Petrel.  The second an interview with the expedition leaders Hadoram Shirihai and Tony Pym.

Here is a report from Tony Pym from the The Fiji Petrel Expedition published on the listserver Seabird-News on Sep 18 of significant sightings recorded between May 12-22, 2009 near Gau island.  Observers were Hadoram Shirihai, Tony Pym, Joerg Kretzschmar and Dick Watling.  The records clearly indicate why the observers consider this marine area a new and important hotspot for seabirds.

MURPHY’S PETREL: One photographed on 16 May. There are no known records from Fiji and the literature suggests this record is also the first for the Western Pacific. This is an extraordinary record of vagrancy for a species that breeds no closer than the western Tuamotu Archipelago (2,000 km. to the east of Fiji), with usual migration to the north and east of the breeding islands.

KERMADEC PETREL: Birds varied from very pale to all dark. We observed this species in 2005, 2008 and 2009 and believe it to be regular in Fiji waters, and that it may breed.

PHOENIX PETREL: One, on 21 May, is apparently the first confirmed record for Fiji waters.

MOTTLED PETREL: This long-distance migrant moves from breeding grounds in New Zealand to the North Pacific, but has seldom been recorded in Fiji waters. It was seen (and photographed) almost daily during the expedition in 2009.

WHITE-NECKED PETREL: One briefly inspected the chum on 18 July 2008. The bird might have been a Vanuatu Petrel P. occulta, although it was seen alongside several other species and considered too large. Both species can be expected in Fiji waters.

BLACK-WINGED PETREL: Two; one in heavy moult (14 May), the other fresh plumage (16 May). The species’ status is uncertain in Fiji waters, where it is little known, despite breeding as close as New Caledonia, Tonga and the Kermadec Islands.

GOULD’S PETREL: A few seen, almost daily during the expedition, amongst the many P. brevipes, with which it was considered conspecific in the past. All were P. l. caledonica. The paucity of records in Fiji waters may be attributable to a lack of knowledge in separating it from pale-phase P. brevipes. The possibility that P. leucoptera also breeds in Fiji cannot be excluded as apart from New Caledonia, Cabbage Tree Island (NSW, Australia), and possibly Vanuatu, the species has now been found breeding far to the east, in south-east (French) Polynesia (Bretagnolle et al. in prep.).

COLLARED PETREL: Numbers increased during the late afternoons, suggesting most were breeding birds returning to Gau. 10% were the dark-bellied morph.

TAHITI PETREL: The most frequent petrel. Most are believed to breed in northern Fiji e.g. on Taveuni.

PARKINSON’S (BLACK) PETREL: Our observation on 17 May, of this New Zealand endemic breeder, is the first for Fiji waters.

CHRISTMAS (KIRITIMATI) SHEARWATER: A bird seen en route to Gau, 12 May, is the second for Fiji waters.

WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER: Breeds on many islands in Fiji, but relatively few seen (c. 30), all were dark morph, and we are unaware of pale forms in the region.

BULLER’S SHEARWATER: Observed on two days during the 2009 expedition – only three previous records in Fiji waters.

SOOTY SHEARWATER: Few seen on most days during the expedition. Some showed quite dark underwings, had apparently short bills, and their feet projected beyond the tail in flight. We mistook some as Short-tailed Shearwaters, and these odd birds require future attention. Both shearwaters are regular in Fiji waters.

FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER: Surprisingly, our 21 May sighting is only the second in Fiji waters; the first was a bird captured off Gau, also this year (February 2009).

WILSON’S STORM PETREL: Observed on four days, always at the chum.

WHITE-FACED STORM PETREL: A single on 16 May had the pale, virtually whitish-grey, rump
usually associated with P. (m). albiclunis,  which breeds on the Kermadec Islands, New Zealand and possibly Norfolk Island, Australia.

WHITE-BELLIED STORM PETREL: We photographed the first for Fiji waters, in July 2008, off Taveuni Island.

BLACK-BELLIED STORM PETREL: One on 16 May at the chum, the second confirmed record in Fiji waters.

POLYNESIAN STORM PETREL: This attractive storm petrel was first recorded in Fiji from a bird taken on the nest in September 1876 on Kadavu Island. There were no further confirmed records until 19 July 2008 when we photographed a bird at chum, and then another was seen on 14 May 2009.

MATSUDAIRA’S STORM PETREL: The first record for Fiji waters of this Japanese breeder (and Indo-Pacific migrant) was on 13 May. The closest region from where the species is regular is the Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea.

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Chorillos fish market

Luciana at fish market Chorillos. IMG00163-20090920-1320

Went birding with Luciana today with no binoculars and no telescope. The only thing we carried…well Luciana carried ….was her elephant and bird-folder. I carried my Blackberry and these are the photos produced from the camera within the BB. We headed down to Chorrillos’s fishing port. I have been going there quite a few times with Luciana and Elita. It is a good place also to see Inca Tern and Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, although we did not see any today. Actually,it is a cool place to take kids as, one may buy some cut up fish for a Sol (35 cents) to hand out to the Peruvian Pelicans.

IMG00149-20090920-1303Be sure to bring the ID-kit!

IMG00156-20090920-1311Thumb on Peruvian Pelican.  Somewhat similar to elephant, right?

IMG00160-20090920-1313Hey, I want to show you something!

IMG00159-20090920-1312Don’t be shy!

IMG00161-20090920-1313Look. Here is my elephant!

IMG00166-20090920-1324All sorts of fresh fish can be bought at the Chorillos fish market

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Fiji Petrel Interview.

Fiji Petrel. First photograph. The Tubenose project. Hadoram Shirihai.

Fiji Petrel. First photograph. The Tubenose project. Hadoram Shirihai.

I am pleased to announce a short interview with the main players of the recent discovery at sea of Fiji Petrel that I reported last week.  Both Had0ram Shirihai and Tony Pym have kindly answered my questions. I meant to send this earlier, but had to leave for Cuzco for a few days.
If you have additional questions to ask Hadoram and Tony, please put them in the comment field and I will forward them.

Hadoram Shirihai (47)

In November 2007  Hadoram Shirihai re-discovered and photographed Beck’s Petrel in the Bismark Archipelago.  Again, he is the main executor of a new major seabird discovery as the news and photos of  Fiji Petrel circulated around the world  yesterday. He has an impressive track record of excellent, very thorough and well researched books already published, such as being author or co-author of major birding literature such as Birds of Israel , Sylvia Warblers and The Macmillan Birder’s Guide to European and Middle Eastern Birds.
In the mid 90’s he started getting more focused on seabirds his extensive travels in the southern seas culminated with the definite reference and guide book for Antarctica and the seabirds in the vicinity with the publication of The complete guide to Antartic wildlife in 2001 with a revised and extended second edition 2008. His travels over the seven seas also resulted in an authoritative guide for marine mammals: Whales, Dolphins, and Other Marine Mammals of the World (Princeton Field Guides)

Hadoram has several on-going book project such as Photographic Handbook for Western Palearctic Birds with Lars Svensson, Photographic Handbook of Birds of the World with Hans Jörnvall for which Hadoram himself has to provide around 5000 species  and the definite work on seabirds that all seabird fanatics are waiting for The Tubenose project. It is this latest project that drives Hadoram to make these far-flung expeditions to search for and photograph seabirds rarely or never previously photographed.

The natural question for seabird “locos” like myself. When is the book coming out, Hadoram?

It probably will be ready for publication in 3 to 4 years, depending when John Cox will end his great plates, but in the meantime Vincent Bretagnolle (my co-author) and I are working on the text, more photo/chumming expeditions and on publication of c. 10 scientific papers… Good books takes time to make, you have to wait if you want a good one… Tony will be happy to answer your other questions.  I am on my way to Brazil…

Hadoram native of Jerusalem, Israel, travels for around 5-6 months per year for his book projects and nowadays calls Zurich, Switzerland his home is coming to Peru next year to continue his photographic work for the Photographic Handbook of the Birds of the World. Kolibri Expeditions is getting the privilege to make all the logistical set-ups.

Tony Pym

Tony Pym is senior guide for Ornitholidays and guide many of their pelagic cruises. He is well renowned among pelagic birders and shares a lot of his sightings and news on the list servers  specialized on pelagics. He also has an excellent web-page on Seabirds and Cetaceans. Since Hadoram is travelling Tony kindly answered my remaining questions.
After the aborted expedition in 2008, how sure were you that you were to try again?

After the problems in 2008, if anything this made us more determined to get back to the area. In fact, there were many more problems than solely mechanical problems with the boat but these are for a future chat, not publication! It was very frustrating for us after much planning to be leaving the South Pacific last year, seeing such good birds in the few days and believing the Fiji Petrel was there, somewhere waiting to be seen. After much discussion between the team we decided on a different timing, the dates being co-ordinated between us with particular reference to the possible breeding season. The paper outlines much more about this and the reasons for working given sea areas.

Was it hard to get paying members to the two expeditions in 2008 and 2009?
There are few amateur seabird enthusiasts who wish to be at sea continuously searching for petrels, and have the money also for the travel and real costs. We needed this money up-front also, so that the boat could be charted and other accommodation/logistics put into place in advance of our arrival. The cost was equally shared, with hopes of some refunds from both company and private support, including that from the main conservation societies (listed in the scientific paper).

How did you manage to keep quiet since May and why?
The team agreed an embargo; to not release any photos or information from seeing the first bird to actual publication of the paper. Everyone had to keep to this for maximum impact on a given date (that day was 11 September). Any release of a photo could take away from both the paper and the announcement.

Was there any particular reason why the announcement comes with the publication?
The BOC agreed that the paper was of sufficient importance for its next issue, as we wanted. From May we had to write the paper – 20 pages has been published – with a deadline for publication in the next bulletin, September. We agreed with the editor that the bulletin, with its scoop, had to be mailed and on subscribers’ doorsteps before we released the press announcement. This was agreed with BirdLife also, and the embargo date agreed was yesterday. On the same day, any postings to Newsgroups, other media could take place. This would give maximum take on the plight of the bird, in the world’s press, resulting in many thousands seeing the photos and notes on the same day. This method meant the likes of BBC, USA-Today, Sky News, AOL and newspapers like the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and other big players in new wires would all have the info at once. Also, we had here the opportunity to advertise the BOC, BirdLife, NatureFiji and others in one big hit.

Who were the members on board in 2008 and 2009?
The team in 2008 were Hadoram, myself, Joerg Kretzscmar, Geoff Jones, Patrick Blomquist, Dick Newell and Dick Watling plus others, mostly Fijians on the ground backing us. In 2009 there was Hadoram, myself, Joerg, Dick Watling and again many backing us on the boat and ashore.

The dark small cockilaria like petrel that got away in 2008. Was it IT? Did Patrick, Geoff and Dick Newell see that one well enough to stay at home this time?
Yes, the small dark petrel could have been the bird, but it was seen only by Hadoram, Jörg and myself. The others did not pick up the bird as it came in at distance, disappeared behind a wave and shot out the other way. So, Geoff, Patric and Dick Newell have not seen Fiji Petrel…unfortunately for them, after their efforts in 2008.

Last question: So what is next? Any other lost species you are going to search for? How do I sign up?
As for future expeditions we are planning at least three more at present, but you’ll have to wait for their announcements within the seabirding community. Suffice to say, all involve very rare seabirds….and the world is a big place!

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First photograph of Fiji Petrel from off  Gau Island, Fiji

Fiji Petrel. The Tubenose project. Copyright: Hadoram Shirihai

Fiji Petrel. The Tubenose project. Copyright: Hadoram Shirihai

This is fantastic news. The Fiji Petrel has been seen and photographed off  Gau Island, in the Fiji archipelago. A press release a couple of hours ago from Birdlife International reveals many details, such as the species is known only from one specimen collected in1855. That is 154 years ago. Alright, the article admits that there been a few reports of birds landing on the roofs on houses on Gau island that possbly were this species. But without photos or specimens, it is hard to be sure.

The article also describes the very interesting chumming method used:

The main ingredients of chum? Fish offal cut into small pieces and mixed with very dense fish oil, to which water was added and then frozen in 10-kg blocks. The chum was prepared a few weeks ahead by volunteers from the BirdLife Affiliate in Fiji, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, the official BirdLife Species Guardian for Fiji Petrel.

Frozen chum blocks persist for up to one-and-a-half hours, creating a pungent and constant oil slick, which attracts petrels from some miles away. On the second day, the first Fiji Petrel appeared, approaching the chum slick from downwind, slowly zigzagging over the slick, and suddenly changing direction to drop onto a small floating morsel.

Expedition for Fiji Petrel in 2008

Hadoram Shirihai, the expedition leader and main author of the forth-coming Tubenose guide and Tony Pym a veteran seabird expert and bird guide are no newbies in the area. Already last year 2008 I received an email on the Seabirds Newsgroup on June 27 reading the following.


Now only one place left!

The chance to maybe see Fiji Petrel; never reliably recorded at sea to date. We have the right boat, tons of chum aboard (literally), and good/honest/reliable seabird companions to share with!! We need just one more pair of good eyes.

We sail from Suva, Fiji on the 16 July, returning 26 July. There’ll be other stuff too, like Collared and Tahiti Petrels to look out for (and who knows what else!)

If you’re interested get in touch now with Hadoram Shirihai for more info…

Look forward to seeing you on board
Tony Pym

Tempting! Very tempting!

But the trip did not end well. In another email on August 8, 2008 to the Seabirds News group Tony Pym writes:

The Fiji Petrel Expedition 2008

Gau Island in Fiji Archipelago

Gau Island in Fiji Archipelago

This year’s mission to try and observe the Fiji Petrel at sea unfortunately had to be aborted after three days due to mechanical problems with the boat. Two chumming sessions on the journey to Gau, the island where birds have been grounded in the past, produced four Kermadec Petrels (only the second record for Fiji waters), a White-necked Petrel (though possibly a Vanuatu Petrel), 20+ Tahiti Petrels, four Collared Petrels and one probable, though brief, Providence Petrel. Of special note was a small ‘Cookilaria-sized’ dark petrel seen by three of the team, which flew under the Kermadec’s giving a direct size comparison.

On the second day at sea we chummed some 16 miles southeast of Gau. Two Polynesian Storm-petrels (the first confirmed in the Fiji and Samoa biogeographical region for 132 years) were observed plus two more Kermadecs. Tahiti Petrels numbered about 16 over a three-hour period and two Collared Petrels were distant. Once more, a small dark petrel was seen momentarily, only to fly into the sun’s glare.

Following the boat’s technical problems the group decided to fly to Taveuni in the Fiji Islands and try for seabirds there (and the endemic landbirds in any spare time). We could charter only a high-speed sports boat and chummed the first day 18 miles offshore and the second day at the Vuna seamount. The highlight was a White-bellied Storm-petrel (a species never reliably confirmed from Fiji waters) on the first day and three Gould’s Petrels on the second. Day totals were 50+ Tahiti Petrels, one Collared Petrel on the first day and 30+ Tahiti Petrels on the second – on our return to the quay at dusk we had a gathering of an additional 50+ Tahiti Petrels, waiting to return to their breeding burrows ashore.

So the expedition for Fiji Petrel had to be aborted after the second day due to engine malfunction. The members of the team must have felt very heart-broken, especially those that had chipped in at the very end. Nevertheless, some good birds were seen. The small all dark “Cookilaria” sized dark petrel could have been the Fiji Petrel which is remarkably small. I wonder what the team-members think of this bird in hind-sight.

Fiji Petrel. The Tubenose project. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai

Fiji Petrel. The Tubenose project. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai

2009 and a new expedition in 2010.

The present successful expedition was carried out in May 2009 and the results are being published in Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club (The first observations of Fiji Petrel Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi at sea: off Gau Island, Fiji, in May 2009 Bull. Brit. Orn. Cl. 129:129-148). Only 8 birds were seen in 11 days, which indicates that the species is extremely rare and deserves its Critically Threatened status.  Since molt patterns and tentative age was observed, predictions can be made when to best search for the species at land. Finding the breeding areas is the most important step for its conservation.  A new expedition to find the breeding area is planned in 2010.

Interview with Tony Pym and Hadoram Shirihai

I have had the pleasure of meeting with both Tony Pym and Hadoram Shirihai. Although, I can’t say I know them well, still well enough to feel comfortable to send off some questions.  I hope to get answers by tomorrow to follow up on this teaser.  Stay tuned!. Read the interview here.

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Rio Orinoco Spinetail Synallaxis beverlyae

Rio Orinoco Spinetail <i>Synallaxis beverlyae <i/> - new species from Venezuela. Painting from The Auk July 2009, Vol. 126, No. 3, Pages 485–492. Painting by Robin Restall.

Rio Orinoco Spinetail Synallaxis beverlyae - new species from Venezuela. Painting by Robin Restall from The Auk July 2009, Vol. 126, No. 3, Pages 485–492.

Only a few days ago, it was announced of a new species of Babbler from Laos. Today, I got a Facebook note from Dan Zimberlin who said a new species of Spinetail was being described in The Auk from Venezuela. Here is abstract from the publication by Hilty and Ascanio:

We describe a new species of spinetail, Synallaxis beverlyae (Río Orinoco Spinetail), from river island scrub in the lower and middle sections of the main river channel of the Río Orinoco in Venezuela and adjacent Colombia. This taxon has been overlooked previously because river islands were not examined by earlier collecting expeditions. In plumage the species is closest to the widespread Pale-breasted Spinetail (S. albescens), but in vocalizations it is most similar to Dark-breasted Spinetail (S. albigularis), Cinereous-breasted Spinetail (S. hypospodia), and Spix’s Spinetail (S. spixi). The new species is, as far as we know, restricted to scrubby river island vegetation and adjacent river edges that are subject to seasonal inundation. It is presently known only from two well-separated areas but is likely to occur on appropriate intervening islands. The restricted range and narrow ecological requirements of S. beverlyae are a conservation concern.

More new species coming soon.

I started to search the net for pictures of the new bird. I found Chris Sloan’s great pictures from his Venezuela 2007 gallery on pbase showing a picture of the new species. But not only that, the river islands from the lower Orinoco reveal more new species that soon also will be described. But as for now a Softtail and a Wagtail Tyrant still wait to be formally named.  Chris Sloan has agreed to share a few of his pictures. Enjoy! Maybe start planning a trip to Venezuela. Let me know if you do!

Rio Orinoco Spinetail: Chris Sloan
Rio Orinoco Spinetail. Photo: Chris Sloan
Unnamed Wagtail-tyrant at Orinoco River island, Delta Amacuro

Unnamed Wagtail-tyrant at Orinoco River island, Delta Amacuro. Photo: Chris Sloan

The last picture is from Mike Todd from the same trip to Venezuela. Here are Mike’s Venezuela pictures on Pbase. Also a great album of bird shots. Thanks Mike, for letting me use this picture.

Delta Amacuro Softtail - Mike Todd. Yet another new species from the Orinoco river. This one is also soon to be described.

Delta Amacuro Softtail (new un-named species). Photo: Mike Todd. Yet another new species from the Orinoco river. This one is also soon to be described.

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What bird left this nest under the hood?

Bird nest under the hood. Photo: Onu Tareq

Bird nest under the hood. Photo: Onu Tareq

I just got an email from Onu Tareq – Bangla Deshian who lives in Finland.  Maybe someone can help Onu what to do with this nest.

Yesterday I took these photos from my friends car, actually in the car, just by the engine under the cover! And it is something that I have never seen before, a wonderful perfectly made bird nest with 6 eggs ! How can it be, that a pretty new car they are driving  everyday always with a closed cover gets a nest built inside? How can it be explained? Let us know if  you know the reason and what we can do to save the nest and eggs or the chics when they are hatched. What species is this? Eagerly waiting for your reply. Onu

Can you help Onu? Please leave your answers in the comments below.

Anyone knows what species put these eggs here and what to do with the nest?

Anyone knows what species put these eggs here and what to do with the nest?

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Brown-backed Solitaire – contestant to “1000 birds to see before you die”?

Brown-backed Solitarie. Photo copyright (reproduced w permission): Antonio Hidalgo.

Brown-backed Solitarie. Photo copyright (reproduced w permission): Antonio Hidalgo.

This is  potentially a new bird to the US list. It has been recorded before, but all other records have been rejected, since it is a common cagebird in Mexico, due to its pretty song. However, as Rick Wright puts it:

This individual, in a place and a habitat eminently suitable for a post-breeding wanderer, will be a first for the ABA Area if accepted.

Photos of the bird observed in at Miller Canyon, Arizona on July 16 that can be found here, indicate that the bird does not seem to have been handled (previous records have had some broken feathers) and therefore it may well be spontaneous.

I admit. I had never heard of the species before, but after finding Antonio Hidalgo’s  excellent photo on Flickr (thanks for the permission to use, Antonio. If anyone needs a high resolution of this pic, contact Antonio by clicking the link) and hearing it’s song from Xeno-canto, my impression was down to one word. WOW! This is a bird I need to see – and hear – one day.  Whether it will make the final list of 1000 birds worldwide I don’t know yet, but it sure tickled my nerve.

Yesterday, July 17  around 50 birders were out looking for it at Miller Canyon, but no luck. Today July 18, however, a fresh report from nearby (I presume) Ramsey Canyon Joe Woodley gives this report on the Arizona – New Mexico birding listserv:

Rick Romea just called to tell me that he had seen a (or presumably “the”) Brown-backed Solitaire in Ramsey Canyon at about 1:30PM today. It was between the wetlands and the staff cabin on the left hand (away from the creek) side as you walk up the trail. It was mid-level in the canopy and singing!! Rick had received a call from an individual who had heard the bird singing around 12:30PM today. Joe Woodley Hereford, AZ

Here is the info how to get to Ramsey Canyon and other useful info, kindly provided on the list by Mark Stevenson. Now go and get it, if you are close by.

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