Skip to content

Free email delivery

Please sign up for email delivery in the subscription area to the right.
No salesman will call, at least not from us. Maybe from someone else.

The 2021 National Audubon Photography Awards: Winners and Honorable Mentions

July 11, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

The 2021 Audubon Photography Awards: Winners and Honorable Mentions
Thousands of people entered photographs and—for the first time— videos in this year’s contest. The finest images showed birdlife at its most tranquil, clever, and powerful. The top thirteen award-winning photographs from amateurs and professionals.

[Special bonus: On the NAS webpage is a link to a free copy of Audubon bird guide app of 800 North American birds.]

Additional bonus link:

The 2020 Audubon Photography Awards: Top 100
Take a scroll through this year’s spectacular, artistic, and playful avian images, while reading the story behind each.

Additional additional bonus link:

12 Fascinating Bird Behaviors From the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards
Every year our competition attracts entries capturing rare and unusual moments in the avian world. Check out this year’s highlights.

Links to more photography articles are at the bottoms of the Audubon pages. These photos and their stories are addictive: free time is advisable.

Can birds taste sugar? | The Atlantic

July 9, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

…and what does it taste like?
The Atlantic | Ed Yong | 8 July 2021

Long ago, songbirds executed an evolutionary power move, rejiggering a sensor for savory tastes to react to sweetness.

White-cheeked Honeyeater

From the article:

Australia’s unique forests are the birthplace of birdsong. The plants there are drenched in sunlight and can readily mass-produce sugars through photosynthesis. But with few nutrients in the soil, they struggle to convert those sugars into leaves, seeds, and other tissues. They end up with excess, which they simply give away. Flowers overflow with nectar. Eucalyptus trees exude a sweet substance called manna from their bark. Even insects that suck plant sap are forced to excrete surplus sugars, in the form of liquids known as honeydew or lerp. As the biologist Tim Low once wrote, Australia has “forests that exude energy.”

This article contains links to other Atlantic articles on birds and nature, including:
The Birdsong That Took Over North America
Since 2000, a strange new type of song in white-throated sparrows has spread across the continent at stunning speed.
The Wild Experiment That Showed Evolution in Real Time
they showed that one mutation became more common over time because it creates a physical trait that makes its owners better suited to their environment. It’s the essence of evolution, measured comprehensively.
And those articles contain links to other interesting articles, and……..

The Floating Roost Trial: A novel solution to losses in migratory shorebird habitat | Permanent Link

July 8, 2021

If you missed our program about the floating roosts in the Yellow Sea, Birdlife Australia has a permanent video, also produced and presented by Chris Purnell. Time: 42 minutes.

Want to donate to this project? Contribute directly to Birdlife Australia. In the “Comments” section tell them it’s for the “Floating Roost Project.”

“Getbol, Korean Tidal Flats” inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List
EAAFlyway.net | 26 July 2021
Cool photos, short new report video

On 26th July, 2021, the 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee endorsed the inscription of the Republic of Korea’s tidal flats on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List, marking an enormous step forward to secure the critical habitats of the Yellow Sea for millions of migratory waterbirds that depend on this area as a vital stopover on their migratory journeys from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to breeding grounds in Arctic Russia and Alaska.

Chris Purnell created a shorter video on the project. Time: 14 minutes.

About above video:
Chris Purnell (BirdLife Australia) presents “Trialing Floating Artificial Shorebird habitat: a response to losses in the upper intertidal zone”as part of Session 4: Foraging and roosting held online on Nov. 3, 2020 at the 1st East Asian-Australasian Flyway Shorebird Science Meeting.

Articles in the news

Artificial roosts for migratory birds journeying from the Arctic prove popular in Korea, but not in Australia
ABC Newcastle | Ben Millington | 1 Jul 2020

Repurposed Oyster Farm Bags Offer New Real Estate for Migratory Birds
Scientific American | Priyanka Runwal | 4 Mar 2020

South Korea’s artificial floating roosts: a lifeline for migratory shorebirds
BirdLife International | Ding-Li Yong | 15 Oct 2019

Contact information for Chris Purnell

Floating Roost Trial – Contact Page
Geum Estuary Project – Information & Videos



The Floating Roost Trial: a novel solution to losses in migratory shorebird habitat.

Appropriate high tide roosts (resting areas) are necessary to help migratory shorebirds maintain a positive energy balance while making journeys of over 10,000 km to and from breeding grounds. However in many areas of the Yellow Sea coast these areas are the first to be affected by development and disturbance. Our surveys of one critical staging area identified that 6 of the 7 natural roosts were only available to birds on 44% of high tides. During these periods it is estimated that over ten thousand birds may be without appropriate local roosting opportunities.

In response to this issue the project promoted established responses to artificial roost construction, however due to the urgency of the requirement and recent changes to legislation forbidding construction on intertidal areas, we were forced to think outside the box. BirdLife looked to an unlikely partner, the oyster farmers of Australia. Floating oyster farm infrastructure is utilized by shorebirds in the east coast of Australia. We developed the Floating Roost Trial by optimizing commercially available materials as roost sites in highly modified coastlines. Two years later we have some positive results from phase 1 and are looking forward to phase 2.

With a background in field ecology, Chris Purnell now manages BirdLife Australia’s Wetland Birds Program, overseeing and implementing a portfolio of works focusing on conservation outcomes for the unique birds of Australia’s diverse wetland types – from coastal sites to arid ephemeral wetlands. Chris’ current project focus includes the effective use and delivery of environmental water, species recovery of Australian Painted-snipe and Australasian Bittern and shorebird conservation management in Indigenous Protected Areas and the Republic of Korea.

Platforms, adapted from oyster farming, staked out at low tide; come high tide they’ll be afloat.


The Floating Roost Trial: A novel solution to losses in migratory shorebird habitat, with Chris Purnell of Birdlife Australia. Zoom Evening Meeting reminder, Tuesday, 6 July, 7:30 p.m.

July 6, 2021

Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society
is putting on a ZOOM evening meeting.
You’re all invited.

On July 6, 2021 at 7:30 pm, Join the Zoom Presentation by CLICKING HERE

The Floating Roost Trial: a novel solution to losses in migratory shorebird habitat, with Chris Purnell of Birdlife Australia. Zoom Evening Meeting, Tuesday, 6 July, 7:30 p.m..

Appropriate high tide roosts (resting areas) are necessary to help migratory shorebirds maintain a positive energy balance while making journeys of over 10,000 km to and from breeding grounds. However in many areas of the Yellow Sea coast these areas are the first to be affected by development and disturbance. Our surveys of one critical staging area identified that 6 of the 7 natural roosts were only available to birds on 44% of high tides. During these periods it is estimated that over ten thousand birds may be without appropriate local roosting opportunities.

In response to this issue the project promoted established responses to artificial roost construction, however due to the urgency of the requirement and recent changes to legislation forbidding construction on intertidal areas, we were forced to think outside the box. BirdLife looked to an unlikely partner, the oyster farmers of Australia. Floating oyster farm infrastructure is utilized by shorebirds in the east coast of Australia. We developed the Floating Roost Trial by optimizing commercially available materials as roost sites in highly modified coastlines. Two years later we have some positive results from phase 1 and are looking forward to phase 2.

With a background in field ecology, Chris Purnell now manages BirdLife Australia’s Wetland Birds Program, overseeing and implementing a portfolio of works focusing on conservation outcomes for the unique birds of Australia’s diverse wetland types – from coastal sites to arid ephemeral wetlands. Chris’ current project focus includes the effective use and delivery of environmental water, species recovery of Australian Painted-snipe and Australasian Bittern and shorebird conservation management in Indigenous Protected Areas and the Republic of Korea.

Platforms, adapted from oyster farming, staked out at low tide; come high tide they’ll be afloat.

On July 6, 2021 at 7:30 pm, Join the Zoom Presentation by CLICKING HERE

(If this button isn’t working for you, see detailed zoom invitation below.)


Meeting ID:

829 2667 1375
Passcode: 096481

One tap mobile

+16699009128,,82926671375#,,,,*096481# US (San Jose) +13462487799,,82926671375#,,,,*096481# US (Houston)

Dial by your location
        +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

Meeting ID: 829 2667 1375
Passcode: 096481
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/ke3y7AzLw

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Remembering Don White

July 6, 2021
by

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

It was with surprise and sadness that we learned of birder Don White’s death.

I’m not certain that he was ever a member of Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society. He came to many of our evening meetings, sat in the back where his stature wouldn’t block anyone’s view, made wry comments and cracked jokes, smiling all the while. I was always amazed that he rode his bicycle over from Culver City, a risky venture in Los Angeles, especially in the dark.

He first joined us on field trips about a decade ago – it was one of our long December drives to Carrizo Plain. He arrived early in the north San Fernando Valley for our 7:15am departure, an astonishing feat considering the 20-mile bicycle ride from Culver City over the Santa Monica Mtns. through the Sepulveda pass. There were people driving cars who couldn’t get there on time. He rode with us throughout the 12-hour drive & bird trip and was a pleasure to be with. His bird-locating and identifying skills were excellent. Back home, well after dark, off he went on his bike back to Culver City, 20 miles to the south.

He was a welcome rider with us on numerous other long SMBAS birding trips over the years.


I’d occasionally hear from him. In August 2015, replying to a “bird quiz” I wrote in which all the mystery photos were of Great-tailed Grackle, he commented:

Lovely and elegant creatures! No wonder we’re all so addicted to birding.

I’d say both are immature Great-tailed Grackles. 2 different birds. The upper may be an adult female though if not a juvenile. The lower looks more certainly to be a juvenile.

If I guess right, I bequeath all the fame and fortune to you.
Thanks, Don White

Don thanked me for a glancing blog-reference I made to a member of the ornithological staff at Miskatonic University of eastern Massachusetts, an institution to which I supposed he may have some attachment. “I knew there was some reason I liked you,” he wrote.


To help celebrate the annual Bird LA Day in April, Don led the birdwalk in Griffith Park’s Fern Dell over a period of years.


In February, 2020, sparked by my blog on the origin of the name “Osprey,” he added:

Thanks for the post.
To add to your Osprey lore – where I hail from in SE Mass/RI is near the shores of Buzzards Bay. Most people assume the name has something to do with vultures. There are both Black and Turkey Vultures there, though neither in great numbers. But actually it’s because the English settlers in colonial times referred to the Ospreys, which were very common along the bay shores in the good old days, as buzzards.
So there’s your 25-cents story.  
All the best, 
Don White

I’d been around Buzzards Bay many times and was happy to learn this.


Covid-19 hit. Field trips and evening meetings snapped shut. Things were just beginning to reopen when we read on LACoBirds, this June 27 posting by Alex Coffey:

It is with heavy but full hearts that we share with the birding community the shocking and unexpected passing of Los Angeles birder Don White. Don was a beacon of joy and levity in our small pocket of LA. Always first to the front of the boat on pelagics, and first to respond with a wry quip and an eternal grin, he was unmistakable in a crowd due to both his jokes and his height. Though most had to look up at Don, he never looked down on anyone. Unpretentious, kind and genuine, his well-meaning nature was compounded by his unflappable BS detector and ability to never take himself too seriously. Don was a regular on many local field trips with LA and Pasadena Audubon Societies in his local stomping grounds along Ballona Creek, Kenneth Hahn SRA and beyond. He was not shy. You probably met and knew him, and likely shared a laugh.

An expert hiker/backpacker, last weekend Don was the victim of a tragic, heat-related accident in record temperature highs at Anza Borrego, helping prepare for the annual bighorn sheep count. Ever a committed citizen scientist and nature lover, Don participated in countless hawkwatches, nature surveys at Tejon Ranch and Bear Divide, as well as years of regional Christmas Bird Count efforts, with notable, perennial contributions to a staggering number of count circles: Los Angeles, Palos Verdes, Lancaster, Malibu, Santa Clarita, Grass Mountain, Tejon Ranch, Tehachapi, Bear Valley Springs, San Jacinto and surely others.

Loving husband and father, Don was an avid cyclist, reliably seen wandering the Greater LA area with bike companion and lifelong friend Doug Chamorro. He was a ravenous reader who spontaneously spouted Emily Dickinson poems. He loved food, coffee, and about 50% of Trader Joe’s snack offerings. He could always tell you where to find the best Ecuadorian breakfast, or the only place to get Ethiopian coffee at 2am. The world is quite a bit dimmer this week with his light now gone. He was a gifted storyteller with many yarns spun and adventures endured. One regret we have is that we didn’t get to hear them all. Ann Brooks and Bhaskar Krishnamachari are planning an online tribute forum to which Don’s family and all of us would have access – an opportunity for birders and friends to collect memories of Don and share all the stories we missed. We will follow-up in the near future with those details.

Don was outlandishly good company, truly one of a kind. Never being one for ceremony or service himself, if you wish to make a contribution in honor of Don, here are some organizations he supported: Friends of California Condors, Tejon Ranch Conservancy, LA Audubon, Pasadena Audubon, LABirders.org. Many birders loved him as a dear friend, present company included.

So long, Don (Ovibose), and thanks for all the birds.

Love,
All Your Friends


A memorial page created by Ann Brooks, Bhaskar Krishnamachari and Alex Coffey is now up and running at https://www.forevermissed.com/don-white/about
Additional memories and photos are welcome.


Don White died on June 16, 2021, while caching water for the upcoming Bighorn Sheep count, in which he had taken part for many years. He and a companion had hiked several miles up a boulder-strewn route in Borrego Palm Canyon, located in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The temperature was 116°.


The following is a partial, sequentially-dated list of articles and reports about Don and the circumstances surrounding his death. There are additional reports which either repeat word-for-word prior reports, or add no new information.

1 Hiker Dead, Another Critical from Heat on Palm Canyon Trail in Borrego Springs
Times of San Diego | 6/20/21

Donald White of Culver City ID’d As Man Overcome in Excessive Heat at Anza-Borrego Park
Times of San Diego | 6/24/21

Man who died counting bighorn sheep in Borrego heat ID’d
SD Union-Tribune | 6/24/21

Annual California Bighorn Sheep Count Canceled Canceled after Death
NBC-LA 7/4/21:

Volunteer, an experienced hiker, dies in heat at bighorn sheep count in Anza-Borrego
Los Angeles Times 7/4/21

%d bloggers like this: