Anglers know that steelhead aren’t quite like rainbow trout—they’re enormous, reaching up to 55 pounds! But in fact, these ocean-running, rod-debilitating, aquatic gorillas of the Northwest are indeed rainbows, Oncorhynchus mykiss. That some members of this species rove the sea for years and become giants before returning to their birth streams to spawn, while others live quieter, local lives in freshwater, is an enigma. Depending on environmental cues like water temperature and food availability (factors we don’t fully understand), it seems any combination of parents—two trout, two steelhead, or a steelhead and a trout—can produce either form.
Now researchers at Oregon State University have added further intrigue to this mystery by discovering that steelhead and their smaller counterparts mingle (wink, wink) quite a lot: On the Hood River, a tributary to the mighty Columbia, 40 percent of returning steelheads’ genes are derived from rainbow trout, not steelhead.!--/end tags-->
It’s day 21. I’ve made it to day 21.
I just have to let that sink in for a moment. Because I’m kind of surprised—I didn’t think I would last this long. When I started this Bird-A-Day Challenge on New Years Day (click here to learn more), I wasn’t even sure I would last two weeks. (I expected 14 species of birds would just about sum up how many I could see during my day-to-day life—especially in winter.) But, much to my amazement, I do see at least 14 species. (Here’s the list from my first 14 days). In fact, I see many others. What’s more, I even see some less ordinary birds, at least when I’m looking for them. Here's my strategy:
Along the Florida-Georgia border are 80 quail hunting plantations that make up 300,000 acres of accidental nature reserve. Each year scientists and land managers burn tens of thousands of acres and use various other means to mimic natural conditions, preserving a wealth of biodiversity, including the embattled bobwhite quail. Eddie Nickens and photographer Rob Howard Investigate.!--/end tags-->
Today I did something I have never done before. I went birding by myself. Just before dusk, I grabbed my binoculars and a bird guide, then bundled up the baby and loaded him and the dog into the car. We headed for Croton Point, a park close to where I live in New York’s Hudson Valley. There, I scanned the river for ducks, peered up under the pines in hopes of finding a Long-Eared Owl, and drove right past a “Do Not Enter” sign in an effort to get a little closer to the water. I thought some waterfowl might be hiding in the cove. Alas, nothing. Then I drove over toward the Croton train station, where a little inlet is a popular winter hangout for Bald Eagles...!--/end tags-->
I am not a “lister.” I just want to be upfront about that. Yet, here I am on Day 14 of a strange new quest that has me, yes, listing birds. Many serious and even casual birders keep lists of the birds they’ve seen: life lists, year lists, state lists, backyard lists, and on an on. But this is a different type of list. I’m listing a bird for every day of the year—just one bird a day. The goal is never to repeat a species, nor to go a day without seeing a new one...Find out more.
At once the sculptor and the sculpture, a beak can tell a
lot about a bird and its place in the world—as well as ours. In "Pecking Order" (Audubon Magazine, January-February 2011), writer Peter Friederici and photographer Joel Sartore probe the science behind bird beaks.
"Finches with their hefty seed-crackers; warblers with their forceps made slender for extracting small insects hidden among leaves and stems; raptors with their curved hooks for tearing; shorebirds with their probes, straight or curved, which help them extract foods buried on a beach or mudflat. Novice birders quickly learn that the wild diversity of bird beaks is among the most reliable means of quickly determining to what family, and often even what species, a bird belongs. When you’re faced with the bewildering array of avian life in a fall marsh or spring woodlot, that certitude is a comfort, something solid to rest on. But it’s a bit misleading, too. Birds’ beaks are, in fact, always changing..."!--/end tags-->
Acclaimed Historian Douglas Brinkley Offers a Riveting Look At the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge On Its 50th Anniversary
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Within its sprawling 19.2-million acres habitat is protected for more than 180 species of birds and 45 mammals, including polar bears, grizzly bears, muskox, and caribou. To mark this milestone in American conservation history, historian and writer Douglas Brinkley tells the inspiring story of Teddy Roosevelt and the many other pioneers whose vision and hard work led to its creation.