Category Archives: Birding

Great and Double-crested Cormorants

Along the Delaware River in Philadelphia we can find two species of cormorants – Great and Double-crested. While Double-crested is common and widely distributed throughout the US, Great is found along the northeastern and mid-Atlantic coast and the lower reaches of major rivers, such as the Delaware, leading to the Atlantic.

With winter nearing an end, most Great Cormorants will be heading further north to the Canadian Maritimes to breed. The photo illustrates the difference between these two species, with the largest of North America’s cormorant, the Great, on either side of a Double-crested.

There is clearly a size difference between the two species, with the Great being at least 10% larger (and almost twice as heavy) with a blocky head, thick neck and more robust bill.  By mid-winter adult Greats begin to get their diagnostic white flank patch which is very obvious when it stands and in flight. Another difference can be seen on the face. Double-crested have an orange gular (bare skin on the throat) that has a rounded border, whereas Greats have a smaller duller orange gular with a pointed at the back, outlined with a broad white border. Even at a distance this is most noticeable.

As the birds near peak breeding plumage, thin white feathers can be seen on the side at the top of the neck on Great Cormorants, and a shaggy nape also appears. Though from the distance that this photo was taken, it is hard to see, but the Double-crested is just beginning to get its crests! These are feathers, or tufts, growing out on either side of the top of the head, and from where it gets its name.

photo © adrian binns

Minnesota Feb 2018 : Winter Specialties

Minnesota provides a wonderfully-rewarding experience to birders who venture into frigid, snow-covered landscapes during the winter. This February, Tom Reed guided Wildside Nature Tours’ 4-day tour into the north country of the state, highlighted quality over quantity, as species are sparse this time of year. Owls are a big attraction especially during irruptive years, andContinue Reading

BOOK REVIEW: “Birding Without Borders”

  On January 1, 2015, Noah Strycker began an epic quest to find more than 5,000 bird species in one year. The number would shatter previous “Big Year” records; the pace would exhaust the hardiest travelers. In his book “Birding Without Borders,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017, Noah describes the experience with riveting proseContinue Reading

Uganda: Leucistic Malachite Kingfisher

While on our wonderful boat ride along the Kazinga Channel that separates Lake Edward and Lake George in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, we came across a leucistic Malachite Kingfisher. The bright orange bill and legs contrasting with all white plumage made this bird unique! Leucism is genetic mutation that occurs when melanin and otherContinue Reading

Uganda: Gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable NP

  This was an exciting day, it is not often that one gets a chance to see Mountain Gorillas! After breakfast we drove the half mile to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park headquarters at Buhoma for our pre-trek briefing. Following our orientation, we were assigned the Rushegera group and the charasmatic Omac as our guide. 16Continue Reading

Species Spotlight: Eastern Screech-Owl

  If you’ve ever heard an odd, eerie trill while walking along a woodland path or even a wooded urban trail have no fear! Contrary to its it’s name, the Eastern Screech-Owl rarely screeches. Chances are that you’ve heard this wonderfully melodic and calming call without realizing it!     This small owl is oneContinue Reading

Uganda: Mabamba Wetlands

It was an eventfully start to our first full day, with thunderstorms and heavy rain at day break, and Johnnie, our guide, having to change a flat tire he got in the hotel car park! The hours drive to the Mabamba Wetlands, was punctuated with short stops along the dirt road for Green-throated Sunbird, Green Crombec,Continue Reading

Uganda: Entebbe Botanical Gardens

I was invited by Laura Kammermeier of Nature Travel Network and the Uganda Tourist Board to a FAM tour of Uganda’s major birding and primate destinations. Since I thoroughly enjoy East Africa it was an easy decision to make! Making the most of our mid-afternoon arrival, Ethan Kistler, Nate Swick and I spent a couple ofContinue Reading

New Field Guide to Northern Central America

  A new Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Northern Central America has arrived! Available this month, the new field-carry-sized guide covers the birds of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. At first glance, the design is what we expect for today’s guides… maps and vital info on the page opposite the illustrations. JustContinue Reading

Species Spotlight: Sandhill Crane

  Being the most common crane in the world does not make the Sandhill Crane any less a wonder to see. A large and gray with a brilliant crimson crown, the Sandhill Crane is a spectacular bird–growing to just under four feet tall!     Migrating in large numbers, Sandhills often congregate en masse inContinue Reading