For the Birds Radio Program
Christmas Bird Count 2006
(Dec. 18, 2006)
This year’s Christmas Bird Count conditions provide strong evidence for global warming.
- Bird of the Day: Black-capped Chickadee (Dec. 12, 2006)
In an extremely short-lived project proving the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Laura started a “Bird of the Day” series that pretty much started and ended with this program, in which George and Martha, her backyard chickadees, feature prominently.
- Rosy Finches! (Dec. 8, 2006)
High-altitude Western birds called Gray-crowned Rosy Finches turned up in Cloquet, and are sticking around for birders!
- Good News and Bad News about Cranes (Dec. 4, 2006)
Florida Sandhill Cranes have been victims of someone torturing them. In happier news, one of this year’s Whooping Crane chicks from Wisconsin is following its parents on migration. And one Whooping Crane who needed extra help last year as a young bird made the trip to Florida on his own. And in Aransas, a record-breaking 224 Whooping Cranes in and near Aransas NWR in Texas.
- Book Review: National Geographic Field Guide Fifth Edition and The Songs of Wild Birds (Nov. 27, 2006)
The fifth edition of this useful guide is much improved, but has a couple of minor flaws. This and the Kaufman guide (English or Spanish) are the guides Laura most recommends. Laura also loves Lang Elliott’s Songs of Wild Birds.
- Summer Tanager in Silver Bay (Nov. 24, 2006)
Belying their name, Summer Tanagers seem to show up in Minnesota in late fall or even winter. One is visiting right now—the first one Laura’s seen in the state since 1981.
- Al Hupila's Ruffed Grouse Story (Nov. 20, 2006)
A KAXE listener has a charming story about a man and his grouse. Like many sweet animal stories, though, it has a sad ending.
- Birding at Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Nov. 14, 2006)
Laura had to go to a meeting at MRVNWR, and got to do a little bird walk at this wonderful urban refuge. The most unusual sighting was a robin with a deformed bill.
- Protecting Our Hearing with Earplugs (Nov. 8, 2006)
Laura got exhausted and frazzled at Disney World and other noisy places, until she started putting in earplugs.
- Birding from a Deer Stand (Nov. 6, 2006)
Every year hunters tell Laura Erickson about the things they see from their deer stands. David Harrington, a KAXE listener, told her about his fun interactions with chickadees–including one really funny one.
- Kirtland's Warbler in Florida! (Nov. 3, 2006)
On Halloween, Laura dragged her family to Lake Kissimmee State Park to see one endangered species, and found another one as well.
- Mentoring (Nov. 1, 2006)
Laura has a mixed track record as a birding mentor, but she thinks the secret is providing opportunities and a receptive outlet, so the students can learn to trust their own judgment and blaze their own trail.
- Burdock (Oct. 27, 2006)
Burdock, an invasive exotic weed, can be lethal to birds.
- Skunked! (Oct. 26, 2006)
Laura and her little dog Photon had a close encounter of the smelly kind.
- Cowbird vs. Vireo (Oct. 25, 2006)
Why do Black-capped Vireos have so much of a problem with cowbirds?
- Cowbirds, Part I (Oct. 24, 2006)
What is nest parasitism all about?
- October 2006 Bird Update (Oct. 23, 2006)
Lots of cool birds are appearing in the Duluth area right now.
- Black-capped Vireo (Oct. 20, 2006)
Why is it that we say we “got” a particular bird when we add it to our life list, and why don’t we go back repeatedly to see those birds we “got”? And should birders lose birds on their list when the populations they saw disappear?
- River of Raptors (Oct. 16, 2006)
On September 15, 2003 saw over 104,000 raptors in just one day at Hawk Ridge—more than double the number of hawks ever seen in a single day from there. In Veracruz, many days have tens of thousands of hawks, and some days have had almost half a million! Laura didn’t see a big day there, but did see thousands at another spot.
- From Veracruz: Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Florida (Oct. 6, 2006)
Laura attended a presentation at the AOU meeting by Dr. Geoff Hill of Auburn University and Dan Mennill at the University of Windsor about their seeing, hearing, and recording sounds of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Florida Panhandle. The recordings are only of double-knocks, rather than of vocalizations, and there is no photographic evidence except of holes in trees.
- From Veracruz: AOU Meeting, Wind Farms (Oct. 4, 2006)
Laura is having a great time in Mexico, and also learning some sobering facts about wind farms.
- October Migration (Oct. 3, 2006)
Migration changes day by day, but there are a lot of wonderful birds to look for.
- Mexico! (Oct. 2, 2006)
Laura’s headed to Mexico for the North American Ornithological Societies meeting, flying the same route that Broad-winged Hawks do, though she’ll be using far less personal energy to accomplish this.
- Birds of Iraq (Sept. 29, 2006)
Soldiers have been sending Laura photos of birds in Iraq.
- Mona Rutgers: Animal Planet Hero (Sept. 28, 2006)
The wildlife rehabilitator who rescued Laura’s Eastern Screech-Owl Archimedes in 1999 has been nominated for Animal Planet’s Hero of the Year.
- Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in Florida? (Sept. 27, 2006)
Laura heard a rumor about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Florida Panhandle a few months ago. An account was reported on an Auburn University newsletter, and the professor who saw it will be reporting at the North American Ornithological Council next month.
- Software Review: Photoshop Elements (Sept. 26, 2006)
Laura is getting into photography and needed decent software for processing her photos. Adobe Photoshop seems to do everything she needs.
- September Sparrows (Sept. 25, 2006)
Sunflower seeds and white millet are transformed into sparrow tissue which sometimes is transformed into hawk tissue, which eventually is transformed into vulture tissue. So it goes.
- Autumn (Sept. 22, 2006)
Autumn is the one season spent in dread of the next season.
- Hawk Ridge, 2006 (Sept. 20, 2006)
After a rainy spell and easterly winds, migration has been hopping! And this coming weekend will have lots of opportunities to watch it at Hawk Ridge Weekend.
- New World Health Organization Recommendations about DDT (Sept. 18, 2006)
The World Health Organization has new recommendations about DDT. It works perfectly when applied in small amounts indoors, on upper walls and ceilings. It has never been effective when spread outdoors, and the WHO understands that so outdoor application is not part of the recommendation.
- Book Review: National Geographic's Complete Birds of North America and Handheld Birds (Sept. 14, 2006)
Laura thinks the National Geographic’s Complete Birds of North America isn’t very complete as far as behavior goes. She very much likes their Handheld Birds for her Palm Pilot.
- Book Review: The Shorebird Guide (Sept. 13, 2006)
The new photographic guide to shorebirds is beautiful and full of useful information, providing windows into the birds’ real lives. Laura wishes the photos were set closer to the text about each species, and doesn’t consider it a true field guide.
- Book Review: Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion (Sept. 12, 2006)
Laura thoroughly enjoys Pete Dunne’s new book, but doesn’t think it can work in the field, and the lack of pictures hurt.
- Kasey the Cat (Sept. 8, 2006)
When Laura enticed a feral cat into her car for an 800-mile journey, she wasn’t sure what she was in for, but as someone who always says to keep cats indoors, she had to put her money where her mouth is.
- Migration Update, 2006 (Sept. 7, 2006)
Migration is cruising along in Rhinelander. Laura talks about this year’s flight and some general principles of fall migration.
- Gary Duke (Aug. 29, 2006)
The founder of The Raptor Center and Laura’s advisor during her ill-fated Ph.D. quest passed away.
- Homeowners Insurance and Wildlife Damage (Aug. 23, 2006)
Wildlife damage is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies.
- Nighthawks 2006 (Aug. 22, 2006)
Laura had a lovely nighthawk experience this week that called to mind her treasured education nighthawk Fred.
- Classification of Planets and Species (Aug. 21, 2006)
Should Pluto lose its planetary status? The arguments are rather like those for lumping or splitting species. Regardless, the reality stays the same.
- Pathogens (Aug. 11, 2006)
Laura is concerned about how rising temperatures are allowing pathogens to flourish at the same time that lowered tax rates are keeping putrescent carcasses on highways and making it impossible to test most diseased wildlife to protect both animals and humans.
- Sora (Aug. 8, 2006)
Laura talks about a shy, inoffensive little bird that needs wetlands.
- Monarch Butterflies (Aug. 4, 2006)
No sooner than Laura learned to distinguish Monarchs from Viceroys, she found her first Monarch caterpillars and eggs. And she also learned how to raise them.
- Drought 2006 (Aug. 2, 2006)
The implications of this summer’s severe heat and drought on birds.
- Mercury Rising (July 28, 2006)
When Laura was a child, a teacher showed her how to play with mercury. Do we know better today?
- July Transforming to August (July 26, 2006)
Baby birds are hiding out and adults are tending to them and molting, so birding is a bit tricky. Laura went to Tettagouche State Park, and saw lots of lovely birds, but had to use her eyes more than her ears.
- Slaty-backed Gull (July 24, 2006)
Ken and Molly Hoffman discovered an extremely rare Slaty-backed Gull in Grand Marais; Laura and Sharon Stiteler went to see it. The species is increasing, but belongs in Japan, not Cook County, Minnesota.
- Dead Bunny (July 21, 2006)
When a cottontail rabbit got killed by a car on Peabody Street, the neighborhood crows had a feast.
- BWCA fire (July 19, 2006)
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is suffering a 15,000 acre fire, which is expected to grow. How is wildlife faring?
- Heat Wave (July 17, 2006)
Helping birds out during the dog days of summer is a Good Thing. Laura has some tips for helping our favorite backyard birds get through the heat.
- Orchard Oriole (July 14, 2006)
Laura saw Orchard Orioles at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge when she was there looking for Snowy Plovers. This isn’t a rare species, but she doesn’t get to spend much time with them.
- Snowy Plovers nesting at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge (July 12, 2006)
On July 11, Laura headed west with her friend Don Kienholz to see the first successful breeding pair of Snowy Plovers and their chicks ever in the state.
- Preventing Bird Diseases (July 10, 2006)
West Nile virus is hard to track when there isn’t enough money for the Minnesota Department of Health to test bird carcasses or even to keep records of the deaths. The panic about bird flu appears to be exaggerated. Laura explains some precautions for preventing birds from getting sick, and what to do if you do discover a dead bird.
- CD Review: Voices of North American Owls (July 5, 2006)
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology just released a wonderful CD set of owl calls that includes a booklet explaining the contexts for each call. Laura plays some samples.
- Baby Peregrine Fledge Week! (July 3, 2006)
Keeping track of four growing Peregrine Falcons is going to suddenly get complicated. One young male, Dudley, has fledged and is flying about. The other male and the two females haven’t jumped ship yet, but the male will be off and flying any time, and the females won’t be too far behind.
- Street Patrol (June 28, 2006)
On her drives to work, Laura sees a lot of birds. Which ones are patrolling our streets, and why?
- Common Yellowthroat (June 26, 2006)
Northern bogs are filled with lovely scents and sounds as well as sights. Laura talks about a bird that wisely stays out of sight.
- Western Kingbird (June 23, 2006)
One of Laura’s California readers sent her photos of a Western Kingbird family nesting on her kids’ basketball hoop, inspiring Laura to put into perspective how we look at and care about individual birds vs. whole populations.
- Breeding Bird Survey 2006 (June 21, 2006)
Laura and her friend Kathy went out at 3 am to survey birds, but had more luck with mammals this year.
- Banding the Baby Peregrines! (June 19, 2006)
Laura got to observe the entire banding process of the baby Peregrines in Duluth.
- Eastern Bluebird (June 14, 2006)
Laura found herself among a host of bluebirds in Sandstone, Minnesota.
- Downtown Peregrine Falcons (June 13, 2006)
Some of the history of the Peregrines downtown and why Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and the Fond du Luth Casino employees are so focused on this year’s family.
- Crow vs. Squirrel (June 9, 2006)
One of Laura’s listeners wrote her about neighborhood crows chasing squirrels into Superior Street when cars are coming for an easy meal.
- Chickadee vs. Wren (June 7, 2006)
One of my neighbors had chickadees nesting in her bird house until House Wrens moved in.
- Peregrine Falcon Nest, 2006 (June 5, 2006)
Laura talks about watching Duluth’s downtown Peregrine Falcons.
- Ovenbird (May 31, 2006)
Laura talks about some interesting elements of Ovenbird songs.
- Katie's Graduation (May 29, 2006)
Laura’s daughter was 2 years old when “For the Birds” started; now she’s graduating from college.
- Winter Wren (May 22, 2006)
Laura loves the silver-threaded song of the Winter Wren.
- Brown Thrashers (May 19, 2006)
What do Brown Thrashers have in common with Catch-22‘s soldier who sees everything twice.
- For the Birds at 20 Years! (May 12, 2006)
What has changed since Laura started producing For the Birds 20 years ago?
- Poem by Phil Fitzpatrick: Flicker Days (May 10, 2006)
Laura tells us about our woodpecker with the golden wing linings, and reads a poem, “Flicker Days,” by Phil Fitzpatrick.
- Monofilament (May 9, 2006)
Fishing line can be a horrible scourge for birds. What should fishermen do?
- Flicker vs. Monofilament (May 8, 2006)
Laura got an urgent message about a flicker entangled in monofilament.
- Killdeer (May 2, 2006)
A welcome sign of early spring, Killdeer are showing up on farms and marshes. Laura talks about one resourceful pair that figured out how to get their babies safely off a rooftop.
- Frat Party (April 27, 2006)
Entropy makes it hard to keep our homes, and the world’s environment, clean. After the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were passed, the nation breathed a sigh of relief and got ready to party like frat boys at a party, expecting some mythical house mother to come along and pick up after them.
- Mockingbird Story Illustrating the Danger of Windows (April 26, 2006)
WXPR listeners Bob and Lynn Falk sent Laura this sad but sweet story from Bob’s octogenarian mother in Arizona. (Some details were almost certainly misunderstood.)
- Great Blue Heron colony (April 25, 2006)
Great Blue Heron nesting colonies can look like a stand of Dr. Seuss truffela trees.
- Sunday Spring Walk (April 24, 2006)
Spring seems early this year, and birds are getting busy with nesting. Cardinals were singing away.
- Sharp-tailed Grouse (April 19, 2006)
Laura returned to the blind where she watched Sharp-tailed Grouse last year. Activity was slow—she’s hoping it was just the weather. But it was still wonderful.
- Easter Weekend in Port Wing (April 18, 2006)
Signs of spring are a most welcome reminder of past springs—comfortable and healing.
- Wood Frogs (April 14, 2006)
If you’re hearing quacking in a wet area but can’t find ducks, you may be hearing Wood Frogs. They can survive because their body cells can create their own antifreeze.
- Migration Update (April 13, 2006)
Spring migration unfolds like a wonderful novel.
- Yellow Warbler (April 10, 2006)
Laura is looking forward to one of our most abundant warbler, which hasn’t returned yet, and its sweet song.
- Yellow-rumped Warbler (April 7, 2006)
One of Laura’s favorite signs of spring is the delicate-looking but sturdy Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Wetland Losses (April 4, 2006)
Gail Norton claims that the US has recently gained an unprecedented number of wetlands, but she’s using Enron accounting methods. They are now counting farm impoundments, interstate cloverleaf collecting ponds, and other marginal, extremely polluted habitat.
- Rediscovery of the Dodo! (March 31, 2006)
Laura interviews some people associated with the recent rediscovery of the Dodo in the Duluth harbor. Any similarities to news of the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is strictly coincidental.
- Partial Albino or Leucistic Chickadee (March 30, 2006)
Laura’s friend Kathleen has an odd chickadee visiting.
- Tundra Swans (March 29, 2006)
As ice breaks up, Tundra Swans migrate through in family groups. Laura talks about their romantic habits and how and where to look for them.
- Bird Flu Update (March 28, 2006)
Laura talks about what we now understand about bird flu. Every person who has contracted to the disease got it from infected poultry, and the disease is spreading along our trade routes, not along migratory routes. She wants us to stop being so fearful and use our brains to find solutions.
- Spring Update (March 27, 2006)
How are singing robins like people talking about politics? Laura didn’t see a lot, but any sign of the coming spring was welcome.
- Mimicry (March 23, 2006)
Why do birds mimic other species? The British Museum Sound Archive created a CD, “Bird Mimicry” to show their abilities.
- Spring Advancing 2006 (March 22, 2006)
This weekend, Laura was watching spring advancing in Chicago, and even saw a worm break in half as a robin was pulling it out. Lots of other birds abounded.
- Through the Looking Glass (March 15, 2006)
We humans know what we look like thanks to mirrors. Do birds have a concept of what they look like? Laura talks about the Whooping Cranes raised by Sandhill Crane parents, assuming they were Sandhills, too. When birds look into mirrors, they don’t think they’re seeing themselves—they think the reflection is a competitor.
- Robins: Color, Sound, Movement (March 13, 2006)
The transitions between seasons are most noticeable and welcome between winter and spring, when we hunger for the color, sound, and movements that robins and other birds provide.
- Spring Update 2006 (March 9, 2006)
Saw-whet Owls and finches about right now, and Laura has tips for keeping backyard birds safe.
- Houston Owl Festival 2006 (March 6, 2006)
Laura talks about this world-class international event held in the tiny town of Houston, and about an upcoming owl event in Duluth. She also makes reference to this year’s Oscar-winning documentary, March of the Penguins, noting that only movies about flightless birds seem to win. After all, “Winged Migration and The Maltese Falcon* were both nominated but never won.
- Duluth's Pigeon-Feeding Ordinance (March 3, 2006)
Laura talks about the issues that led Duluth to create an ordinance prohibiting pigeon feeding.
- Rufous-collared Sparrow (March 1, 2006)
Laura talks about a pretty little sparrow she got to enjoy in Ecuador and in Costa Rica.
- Strange Blue Jay (Feb. 24, 2006)
KUMD listeners told Laura about an odd Blue Jay lacking feather pigments but with normal blue and normal-colored eyes, bill, and legs. Laura talks about this and some other birds with plumage anomalies.
- Birding Near and Far (Feb. 20, 2006)
Laura talks about her preparations for a birding tour to Ecuador, and how we can find out the best places to bird in places near and far away, using books and computers.
- Red-breasted Nuthatch (Feb. 14, 2006)
This little round beeper is one of Laura’s favorite birds. Laura gives tips for distinguishing our two nuthatches and talks about the littler one’s quirks.
- Blastomycosis (Feb. 13, 2006)
A reader wrote to Laura about sick sparrows in her yard, and now her dog has been diagnosed with blastomycosis. Did the dog get it from the birds? Laura consulted with a veterinarian who said that yes, it could very well be related. Laura gives some information about feeder maintenance to prevent the spread of this and other diseases, to protect us, our pets, and our birds.
- Birds in the Movies (Feb. 8, 2006)
Laura notices bird calls in the background in movies, from Mary Poppins and Finding Nemo to Die Another Day. They use them in the background in Toy Story. Laura was most seriously displeased with Hitchcock’s The Birds ornithologically, but thought it was compelling when she could suspend disbelief.
- Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Feb. 3, 2006)
When Laura was in Arkansas looking for Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, she didn’t see any, but did encounter a small clan of another endangered woodpecker.
- Predicting Warming (Feb. 2, 2006)
People use very odd things to predict the future, like hibernating groundhogs. Now that scientists have a consensus about climate change, people accept or pooh-pooh their warnings based on politics, not the evidence, but it’s time we started facing reality.
- Smith's Longspurs (Feb. 1, 2006)
Lifer! Laura and Paula finally got their bird, which turns out to be “polygynandrous,” with one of the highest rates of copulation of all birds.
- Red-shouldered Hawk (from Arkansas) (Jan. 27, 2006)
Laura has been spending time with Red-shouldered Hawks, which stir her soul.
- Carolina Wren (from Arkansas) (Jan. 26, 2006)
One of the biggest pleasures of being in Arkansas is being with Carolina Wrens. As lovely as they are, though, Laura doesn’t think their northern expansion with climate change balances the problems.
- Birding with Photon (from Arkansas) (Jan. 25, 2006)
Was it a good idea for Laura to bring her little dog along to Arkansas?
- Ivory-bill Skeptics (from Arkansas) (Jan. 24, 2006)
Laura responds to a commentary by Dr. Jerome Jackson in The Auk, supporting his scientific skepticism while decrying the unscientific certainty on both sides of the issue until we have more evidence.
- Homesickness (from Arkansas) (Jan. 23, 2006)
Laura’s having a great time in Arkansas, but is still homesick.
- Rhythms of Nature (from Arkansas) (Jan. 19, 2006)
Laura’s camping in Jack’s Bay in the White River NWR, falling into the same rhythms as the birds around her. After a fierce thunderstorm, she wondered what birds were thinking and chattering about.
- Photon and the Coyotes (from Arkansas) (Jan. 18, 2006)
The true story of a little dog and a woman inside a tent surrounded by a pack of coyotes.
- Sax-Zim Bog Issue (Jan. 17, 2006)
Mike Hendrickson found out that some specific habitat in the Sax-Zim Bog is under siege and wants help.
- Tufted Titmouse (from Arkansas) (Jan. 16, 2006)
Discovering Tufted Titmice in Michigan in the 70s was a delightful epiphany for Laura. Now she’s enjoying them a lot in Arkansas.
- Red-headed Woodpecker (from Arkansas) (Jan. 13, 2006)
Laura’s been spending time with a lot of Red-headed Woodpecker in Arkansas.
- Carolina Chickadees (from Arkansas) (Jan. 12, 2006)
St. Louis, in the “hybrid zone,” has both Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees, where chickadee songs can blend elements of both species. Down in Arkansas, where only Carolina Chickadees are found, their winter flocks are happenin’ places, as Laura discovered.
- National Wildlife Refuges (Jan. 11, 2006)
Laura talks about the history and importance of national wildlife refuges, but how nowadays even in remote areas, traffic noises permeate the refuges, and trash is everywhere.
- Live Interview with KUMD's Lisa Johnson from Arkansas (Jan. 10, 2006)
KUMD’s Lisa Johnson interviews Laura via telephone about what’s been happening in Arkansas. She’s discovering that the world is a pretty friendly place to be.
- Google Earth and GPS (from Arkansas) (Jan. 6, 2006)
Laura, who is geographically impaired, is discovering cool features with Google Earth and her GPS.
- Brinckley! (from Arkansas) (Jan. 5, 2006)
Laura, Paula, and Photon went out to the Dagmar Wildlife Area with David Luneau.
- Misadventures, Part II (Jan. 4, 2006)
Laura talks about some of her past close calls and misadventures involving wildlife.
- Misadventures, Part I (Jan. 3, 2006)
Laura recounts some misadventures she’s had while birding in the past.
- Starting Out on My Ivory-billed Woodpecker Adventure (Jan. 2, 2006)
Laura is packing up to set out tomorrow with her dog Photon and her friend Paula to check out potential Ivory-billed Woodpecker habitat and take in all the sights she can. “Worry is anticipation stripped of the joy.”
- Bird of the Day: Black-capped Chickadee (Dec. 12, 2006)