Imagine the majestic grace of a Tree Swallow in flight or the aerial acrobatics of a Barn Swallow over a grassy meadow on a warm summer evening. Now imagine a world without these lovely birds. Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows, along with Violet-green Swallows, Purple Martins, and Eastern Phoebes, belong to a group of birds known as aerial insectivores. Their agile flight style enables them to effectively hunt their primary prey: flying insects. Over the past 30 years, populations of many aerial insectivores have declined, and the cause remains unknown. Scientists have theorized that it may be linked, in part, to declines of some insects on which these birds depend. You can help scientists study and understand the plight of aerial insectivores by monitoring their nests.
Please consider joining NestWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology or Project NestWatch at Bird Studies Canada. Anyone with a bird nesting in their yard or neighborhood can help monitor nesting success. Project participants monitor one or more nests or nest boxes every 3 to 4 days to observe when eggs are laid, when they hatch, and when chicks take their first flights. Observations are reported online. Participation is free, although a small donation is suggested to help support the program.
Participate in the U.S.
Signing up is easy via the NestWatch website. After signing up, you will first do a bit of online training to understand how best to observe nesting birds without disturbing them. For more information on how to find nests of aerial insectivores, as well as the nests of other birds, visit the NestWatch Focal Species webpage.
Congratulations to Toni Pulvermacher of Dane, WI , this week’s winner of the BirdSpotter Photo Contest sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill! The theme this week was “birds at the feeder.” It’s fantastic to see Toni’s son’s deep interest in the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds — now that’s FeederWatching!
Are you wondering why Toni’s son has a helmet on? Toni explians:
My parents live in Wyalusing, WI, which is on the Mississippi River. They have a lot of birds. The grandkids have always loved to watch and learn about the birds, especially hummingbirds. My son, Nick, knew that hummingbirds are attracted to red. He came up with the idea to attach a feeder to the red helmet so he could watch the hummingbirds up close. His idea was a huge success! The birds came right up to him, and eventually he put his fingers around the base of the feeder and they would perch right on him to drink. From there, he thought of picking cherries off the tree. The kids would hold the cherries in their mouth and the hummingbirds would buzz right in front of their face. It was a fun experience for all of us!
The BirdSpotter photo contest will be taking a break for a few weeks while the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Facebookl page hosts March Migration Madness! The next BirdSpotter contest will start on Wednesday, April 3rd and the theme will be “natural foods.” There will be four more weeks of themed contests followed by a runoff for the grand prize of a trip to Oregon to cook with Bob!
Congratulations to Robert Martinez of Denver, CO, week 15′s winner of the BirdSpotter Photo Contest sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill! The theme this week was “Birds in Flight” — Robert captured the aerial beauty of these American Avocets quite nicely!
Here’s a word from Robert about how he captured the shot:
I was walking around the Boulder Reservoir one early spring afternoon, looking for owls roosting and noticed that a flock of American Avocets were getting ready to take off after being spooked by a coyote roaming the shoreline, quickly moved to a spot where the Avocets would fly by me and found three that were flying close behind each other and fired off three shots before they saw me and changed directions. This photo was the best of the three.
The sixteenth week of our BirdSpotter Photo Contest will be open for submissions and voting this Wednesday, February 27th! This week’s theme is “birds at the feeder,” so keep a lens pointed at your feeders! Only one photo can be submitted per person but you can vote for as many photos as you like. This week’s contest starts Wednesday, February 27th and runs through Sunday, March 3rd.
A fourth grade science class at the Westdale Heights Academic Magnet in Baton Rouge, LA, has been participating in Project FeederWatch this season and loving it! Pamela Fry’s class, with the help of volunteer Dennis Demcheck, have been learning about birds through Project FeederWatch.
“Several science teachers… have come to me and remarked that the students’ intense interest in birds (feeders outside classroom windows) has sparked a wider interest in science,” says Dennis. The students started observing and counting feeder birds in November 2012 and have been drawing the birds that they see. “The students are still drawing birds and giving the drawings to me,” he says. “They can’t stop and neither can I. This is a presentation that will never be finished–only updated.” Dennis put together this fantastic slide show to share the students’ enthusiasm for birds and Project FeederWatch…check it out!
Gary Rasmussen of Anchorage, AK was the winner of the 13th week of our BirdSpotter Photo Contest sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill! The theme for the thirteenth week was “the unexpected” — this shot of a Costa’s Hummingbird taken in Patagonia, AZ in an aerial dance with a honeybee fits the bill!
I was on vacation photographing birds in Southeast Arizona when I shot this picture of the Costa’s Hummingbird and Honey Bee. Southeast Arizona has more species of Hummingbirds than anywhere else in the United States. The Costa’s is one of ten Hummingbirds species I have been able to photograph in Arizona. There are numerous feeding stations, throughout the area, open to the public for a modest donation, and B&Bs catering to bird watchers. Like many Alaskans, we like to escape the cold for a couple of weeks in the winter, and Arizona is a popular destination.
The fourteenth week of the contest was championed by Laurie Salzler of Ann Arbor, MI! The theme for the 14th week was “Black and White Birds OR Black and White Photos” — this shot of a Downy Woodpecker ticks off both requirements nicely!
Laurie’s photo may have been a black and white photo of a black and white bird, but she was tickled pink by the win:
I must say I’m tickled to death at winning this week’s contest. I have over a dozen feeders scattered in my front and back yards, which gives me countless opportunities to photograph the birds. There are two pair of Downy Woodpeckers that come to the feeders and they’re constantly driving one another away. I was fortunate to have this female sit still long enough for me to snap her photo.
The fifteenth week of our BirdSpotter Photo Contest will be open for submissions and voting this Wednesday, February 20th! This week’s theme is “birds in flight,” so capture those flitting feathers! Only one photo can be submitted per person but you can vote for as many photos as you like. This week’s contest starts today Wednesday, February 20th and runs through Sunday, February 24th.
Congratulations to Steve Shelasky, a FeederWatcher from Longmeadow, MA, our winner for the twelfth week of the BirdSpotter Photo Contest sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill! The theme for the week was “birds and water”– Steve was lucky enough to capture this male Yellow Warbler taking a bath.
Steve explains how he got the shot:
I was lucky enough to be standing opposite this puddle, at some distance, when this beautiful little Yellow Warbler flew in, checked out the amenities, and began his bath. I was able to get off several shots, this being the best one(thank you Canon 7D, 8fr/sec).
It’s such a wonderfully cheery photo – we hope it brightens your day as much as it brightened ours!
The thriteenth week of our BirdSpotter Photo Contest will be open for submissions and voting this Wednesday, February 6th! This week’s theme is “the unexpected,” so pull out your photos of anything weird or wacky or your surprise moments. Only one photo can be submitted per person but you can vote for as many photos as you like. This week’s contest starts today Wednesday, February 6th and runs through Sunday, February 10th.
Congratulations to Cissy Beasley of Beeville, TX, our winner for the eleventh week of the BirdSpotter Photo Contest sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill! The theme for the week was “natural foods”– Cissy caught this fantastic moment of a juvenile male Vermilion Flycatcher about to swallow a dragon fly.
Here’s Cissy’s story about this shot:
As a proponent of nature and its inhabitants first, and a photographer second, I approach my picture-taking as though I am a guest in a beautiful place. I am, after all, in their space, and I deeply respect that.
So it was on a weekend in December, 2012 that I visited a large stock tank on family ranch land in deep South Texas, scanning for photo opportunities. I noted dozens of dragonflies bouncing all across the water’s surface, as well as the vigorous pursuit of those winged fairies by the quick flycatchers and phoebes that also inhabit the area. I observed the behavior of one juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher in particular, who seemed to favor a snag at the water’s edge as his dining spot.
The next morning, I situated my portable blind in close proximity to the snag, and waited. It took awhile for the bird to decide that this strange new thing nearby wasn’t a threat; with that, he commenced his diving and catching and soon, to my delight, he arrived at his spot with a dragonfly that was almost as large as he, firmly grasped in his beak. I admired his ambition!
In all the hours of watching flycatchers, I’ve learned that they enjoy tossing their food around before eating it – so, I knew I was in for an animated show. This little fellow did not disappoint! I aimed the camera and started firing away as he maneuvered the dragonfly in all directions – up, down, in his beak, out of his beak, and finally – down the hatch.
I’ve visited that spot since then, and there is my little buddy, growing into his red suit and looking handsome. I don’t need the blind any longer. I can sit openly close by and my trusting little friend gives me a great show, every time. I’ve learned that when you’re a courteous and respectful guest, hosts appreciate it and you get invited back!
Cissy also sent us a photo of the same Vermilion Flycatcher swallowing the large meal – down the hatch it goes!
The twelfth week of our BirdSpotter Photo Contest will be open for submissions and voting this Wednesday, January30th! This week’s theme is “birds and water,” so show us your photos of birds splashing around in birdbaths, weathering the rain, or enjoying a natural body of water. Only one photo can be submitted per person but you can vote for as many photos as you like. This week’s contest starts today Wednesday, January 30th and runs through Sunday, February 3rd.