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May 17, 2021

Return of Bird of the Week: Green-crowned Brilliant

Green-crowned Brilliant. Ecuador

There are eight species of Brilliants; WC has photos of four of them. If anything, this species iseven more territorial and belligerent than its Fawn-breasted cousin. This male is making a threat display against a rival or another hummingbird. WC has more than two dozen photos of this hummingbird reacting in this way. So, yeah, territorial. This is a largish hummingbird with a comparatively short, stout bill. The male is metallic green over all with an iridescent green head and a bluish-purple spot on the throat. There’s a strong white spot behind the eye, called a post-ocular spot. The species…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Fawn-breasted Brilliant

Fawn-breasted Brilliant, West slope of the Andes, Ecuador

Another clade of hummingbirds that aren’t called “hummingbirds” are the Brilliants, which you will likely agree is a terrific name for a kind of hummingbird. One of the nine or so species of Brilliants is the Fawn-breasted Brilliant. The Fawn-breasted Brilliant is a medium-large humming bird, averaging 11.2 centimeters (4.4 inches) in length, with a stout, slightly decurved bill. Both sexes have chests that are decorated with delicate green scalloping against a fawn-colored background. The female’s coloration is less vivid than the male’s. And the female lacks the male’s brilliant pink iridescence on his throat. This is a mountain bird,…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Buff-winged Starfrontlet

Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Ecuador

At about 5.5 inches long, this species’ name is nearly as big as the bird itself. A resident of the cloud forests of Columbia, Ecuador and northern Peru, you can see where the buff-winged part of the name comes from. When the bird turns, in the right light, you can see why it’s a starfrontlet. The thing to understand about photographing hummingbirds without flash in the cloud forest is that the light is very low. And hummingbirds rarely hold still. These photos were taken in 2009, with WC’s then state-of-the-art Olympus E-3 DSLR. Its performance in low light left a…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Sapphire-throated Hummingbird

This is a remarkably beautiful species that really, really doesn’t want WC to photograph it. This photo illustrates what WC means: You can get an idea how handsome this male is, but the bill and part of the tail are partially obscured by the leaves and, in a recurrence of WC’s long-standing bird photography curse, the bird is banded. This species prefers low elevations and spends most of its time in shrubs under the jungle canopy and on the edges of cleared areas. That’s the second challenge for this little hummingbird: it’s dark under there, and with an active hummingbird that…

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Book Banning Comes Back to Palin Country

Not since the old days when Mayor Sarah Palin of Wasilla tried to ban Howard Bess’  Pastor, I’m Gay from the Wasilla Public Library has the Mat-Su been embroiled in a book banning kerfuffle. Now, it’s the School Board. BANNING BOOKS Pandemic, science denial, the erosion of our democratic pillars of government, civil unrest, rising authoritarianism… seems like the perfect time to add book banning into the mix. We’re still a step away from outright burning, but the Mat-Su School Board just voted 5-2 to BAN from high school curricula the following five books, and The New York Times’ teacher…

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Return of the Bird of the Week: White-necked Jacobin

White-necked Jacobin

Here’s another hummingbird that isn’t called a “hummingbird.” It’s a Jacobin, instead. The White-necked Jacobin is a strikingly beautiful hummingbird. The male has a blue, green and black which a sharply defined white belly and a white band on the back of its neck. The female has a green back and head, but the throat and chest have green spots that flash blue-green in the right light. This species is found in a variety of habitats, from humid forest canopies to tall second growth forests,  and even in coffee and cacao plantations. It has a wide distribution, ranging from southern Mexico…

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Alaska Republicans Say the Darndest Things

TALL TALES from Juneau Eyes on the Dunleavy Disaster NEVER LET A GOOD DISASTER GO TO WASTE That’s the hallmark of Republican politics. Remember the Patriot Act that got shoved through during the immediate aftermath of 9/11 – chock-full of provisions to trample civil liberties and violate the Constitution? It was basically ready to go, and waiting for an opportunity. Well, don’t think that COVID-19 isn’t going to have its own set of nefarious legislation that gets implemented during these days of crisis when people are looking the other way. We’ve already seen public money dumped into funding the private…

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Return of the Bird of the Week: Black-tailed Trainbearer

Black-tailed Trainbearer, Ollyatantambo, Peru

Here’s a hummingbird species whose tail is even longer than its name. The tail of a Black-tailed Trainbearer – a pretty cool name for this species – is half again as long as its body. Perhaps to compensate, it has one of the shortest bills of the hummingbirds. The species favors open areas, gardens and parks. At higher altitudes, in the paramò, it can be fairly common. WC has seen the species in downtown Quito. Like many hummingbirds, it is surprisingly cryptic for all of the flash and color. The species is unusual in that it has three distinct, discontiguous…

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Don Young – King of CoronaDenial

TALL TALES from Juneau Eyes on the Dunleavy Disaster It’s Day 4,836 of the stay at home mandate. At least that’s what it feels like. We hope you are all staying well, taking good care of yourselves and each other, and following the stay-at-home direction from the state. We need you. Now, on to the usual shenanigans:   THE DC DELEGATION Congressman Don “I call it the beer virus” Young has stopped backpedaling, and is now OUTRIGHT DENYING  that he poo-pooed this pandemic, urging high-risk seniors to go about their daily lives as though nothing was happening, just a few…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Shining Sunbeam

Shining Sunbeam, Menu Road, Peru

Not all hummingbirds are called “hummingbirds.” Some have more poetic, sometimes charming names. Like the Shining Sunbeam. This is a large (for a hummingbird, anyway), dark-brown hummingbird with a lilac-gold iridescent lower back and rump. There are several Sunbeam species, and they have in common a proportionally short bill for a hummingbird. This is a high altitude species that inhabits semi-arid montane ridges and cloud forests. Most populations seem to be altitudinal migrants, descending during the tropical winter to lower elevations. WC has seen (but not successfully photographed) in Peru’s Abra Malagra Pass, at an altitude of 14,400 feet. It…

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