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July 23, 2018

Return of Bird of the Week: Greater Rhea

Greater Rhea, Pantanal, Brzil

And now for something completely different. The Greater Rhea, the signature bird species of Brazil’s Cerrado and Pantanal. The Greater Rhea is the western world’s largest bird, flightless and a cousin to the Ostriches of Africa and the Emus of Australia. They are all Ratites, a super group of large, long-legged, flightless birds. The Greater Rhea is smaller than Ostriches and Emus, but at 63 inches in height, still a very impressive bird. Ornithologists can match the speciation of Ratites to Gondwana’s plate tectonic breakup. Geology confirmed by biology; you have to like it. Among Rheas, the males raise the…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Common Potoo

Common Potoo, Pantanal, Brazil

We’re headed to Brazil for this week’s bird, to the Pantanal, the immense swamp in southern Brazil. And the bird is the Common Potoo, a master of camouflage. You have to look closely to see the bird. Potoos are nocturnal insectivores, and during the daytime hold these vertical poses, perched motionless on the branches their coloration so strongly resembles. WC was guided to this bird by local tribe people. WC would have walked by it a dozen times without seeing it. Here’s another view. This view gives you an idea of the size of the bird’s mouth. Like their cousins,…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Kelp Gull

Kelp Gull, Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

WC doesn’t intend to neglect the Southern Hemisphere’s birds. Here is one of the most widely distributed birds of the bottom half of the planet, the Kelp Gull. It’s found throughout the Southern Ocean, from Australia to South America to Africa, and from coastal Antarctica to Ecuador. It’s probably the most widely distributed gull on the planet. An omnivore, tolerant of mankind’s activities and highly adaptable, you have to admire it even if you don’t like it dining menu, which includes penguin chicks and carrion. Kelp Gulls are three year gulls; that is, they take three years to reach maturity….

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Return of Bird of the Week: Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark, Farm to Market Road, McCall, Idaho

There are compensations for leaving Alaska. Surely one of them is the Western Meadowlark. It’s one of our most abundant and widely distributed grassland birds, found in open country from natural and planted grasslands of the Northern Great Plains to the Sagebrush Sea of the Intermountain West to the tidal flats along the Pacific Ocean. Its common occurrence, colorful plumage, and superb song make it one of North America’s most popular birds. Six states have named it their state bird. Despite the name and beautiful song, it’s not a lark. It’s an Icterid, a cousin to the Red-winged and Rusty…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Rufous-winged Sparrow

Rufous-winged Sparrow, SE Arizona

The Rufous-winged Sparrow is just barely a North American bird, if you are a birder who keeps lists. This sparrow just barely occurs in southern Arizona; most of its range is in Medico which, for North American birders, isn’t part of North America. Geography doesn’t enter into it. The Rufous-winged has the distinction of being one of the last bird species in the United States to be discovered and described. It’s an uncommon resident of local distribution in the Sonoran Desert region from south-central Arizona to northern Sinaloa, Mexico. The species prefers the scrub and grasses along washes and streams….

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Transparency? You can’t HANDLE transparency.

Let’s talk about why some Republican Senators actually said right out loud that the public should be kept in the dark about ethical issues surrounding legislators who may be voting despite a declared conflict of interest. Let’s just say for a minute that you work for a candy manufacturer. Pick your favorite. Mine is Butterfinger, so we’ll use that here. So, there’s a big Butterfinger factory somewhere in Alaska, and you work there. And let’s also say you’re a member of the Alaska legislature – a senator. Butterfinger is happy to let you work 7 or 8 months of the…

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Russian Cheating Should Have Consequences Here Too.

It’s not very often that I miss having a television. I haven’t had one for many years, but there is something about the Winter Olympics that really makes me want to watch them. For 20 years, that something has been Kikkan Randall. She’s remarkable and I was sure she already had a stack of gold medals. Alaska is so proud of her. Moms are feeling encouraged by her accomplishments. Kids are talking about when they’ve met her. We’re going to need a parade. There’s a new doping scandal at the Olympics. Initially I thought it was a punchline. Doping of…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Great Blue Heron

More than any other North American bird species, the Great Blue Heron reminds you that birds evolved from dinosaurs. If anything brings the images of a flying dinosaur to mind, it is a Great Blue Heron slowly lumbering across the sky. WC is used to seeing these big herons doing strange things, but last weekend they showed him something new. A dozen or so birds were perched along the top of the cliff. the canyon rim along the middle Snake River, near Hagerman, Idaho. There’s no food up there; just old lava rock and some discouraged sagebrush. And a dozen…

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Voters Duped by Pot Initiative Says GOP Senator

Monday, the Alaska House of Representatives voted to legalize the farming of industrial hemp (the kind that doesn’t get you high). The Senate passed the vote unanimously but only after Sen. Johnny Ellis, the Democrat at the helm retired and gave the bill to a Republican to carry. Because anyone knows that good ideas can NEVER EVER come from Democrats. And by gum, we’d rather stop entrepreneurs from launching new businesses, and stonewall local farmers, let great legislation wither and die in committee, and fold our arms in the corner than give credit where credit is due. Things I learned in…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Cinnamon Flycatcher

Cinnamon Flycatcher, Menu Road, Peru

Without exaggeration, there are hundreds of New World flycatcher species. For this week’s Bird of the Week, we’ll head to the tropics, for one of the prettiest,  the Cinnamon Flycatcher. The cinnamon and brown-green coloration is lovely. It’s fairly common bird on both the east and west slopes of the Andes, from Venezuela down to Bolivia. It’s often seen in mixed flocks and seems to hang around after the rest of the birds have moved along. The species also lets WC show off the difference in image quality in low light between his Canon 1D-X and the old Olympus E-5…

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