Montezuma Oropendola, Dominant Male, Arenal, Costa Rica

Birding in the Tropics


Back in 1998, WC made his first birding trip to the tropics, specifically to Costa Rica. The first night outside of San Jose, the capital, was at a jungle lodge on the Caribbean slope. WC and Mrs. WC were awakened before dawn by an incredible chorus of Montezuma Oropendolas. Oropoendolas are colonial nesters, weaving long,…

Too Exhausting, Need a Nap

An Ancient Owl


Yoda is a Boreal Owl. He’s been in captivity for some 14 years, making him at least 15 years old. An injury damaged his foot; he cannot grip prey and so cannot hunt. He’s retired from a long – very long – career as an educational bird. For scale, this little guy is about ten…

Arctic Warbler, Denali Highway

Birds with the Heavy Metal Blues


Minimata Disease, named after the Japanese village where the symptoms were first reported, isn’t a disease at all. It was methylmercury poisoning inflicted on the Minimata villagers by Chisso Corporation, whose chemical processes dumped the mercury into Minimata Bay. The highly toxic methylmercury bioaccumulated, and poisoned the fish caught and eaten by the villagers. The…

Trumpeter Swan, late August, 2014

Swan Song


Among the last of the migratory birds to leave Alaska in the Fall are the swans. It takes a while for the hatch year birds – the cygnets, to use the precise term – to mature and develop the stamina to carry all that weight all the way to the interior west, where they will…

Sandhill Crane Pair, Wander Lake, Fairbanks

Autumn Cranes


The surest sign of autumn is when the Sandhill Cranes arrive at Creamer’s Refuge, staging for their fall migration to the Southwest U.S. Sure, the leaves are just starting to turn. We haven’t had a really hard frost yet. But the Cranes are staging, and very soon, some morning when the wind is out of…