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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

An increase in earth temperature will chase birds north

The daily carbon dioxide measurement taken at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii continues above  400 parts per million (ppm). The count for July 1, 2015, was 402.17 ppm. The count one year ago that date was 400.80 ppm. 

The monthly average for May 2015 was 403.70 ppm. 
The measurement for 2014 averaged 401.78.
The measurement for 2013 averaged 396.48.

The number slowly climbs. Scientists talk of a tipping point, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that would mean we have lost the chance to stop or mitigate the damage to come. How high can we go before we tip? No one knows.

You can learn more about this at

Scientists predict that as Minnesota’s climate warms many of our nesting birds, particularly those of our boreal forests, like this Cape May Warbler, will be driven north, out of the state, no longer nesting here. The list of bird species for which that will happen is more than two dozen long.

"Chasing Ice," the movie

It’s hard to visualize what’s going to happen if we continue to warm the earth. For some idea of that, go to YouTube and watch the film entitled “Chasing Ice.” Here you see what is happening in Greenland — long pieces of glacier 400 feet thick breaking off and crashing into the ocean. It looks like a snow avalanche until the ice rolls in the water and the marine blue of the chunk comes into view. There are glaciers there that dump 140 feet of themselves into the ocean every day. And all of that ice is going to melt.

Book reviews: Laura Erickson excellent on nests

Nesting is the most active, interesting, and important part of a bird’s life. It is the center of that life. 


“Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Life of Familiar Birds” by Duluth Author Laura Erickson and Marie Read is a definitive and beautiful examination and explanation of nesting. 


There are several things to like about this book. First, it focuses on our backyard birds, common birds, offering insight into behavior in front of us, but most often our of our reach. It answers every question I could think of. And the photographs illustrating all of this are phenomenal. I suffered a huge case of photographer envy as I read this book.


The book examines courtship, mating, nest construction, egg-laying, parenting on the nest, nestlings, feeding time, and the end of it all — flight of the fledglings. This will become your go-to book for backyard birding.


Laura is author of seven books about birds. She has been editor of “BirdScope” magazine, and a columnist and contributing editor for “BirdWatching” magazine. She is recipient of the Roger Tory Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the American Birding Association.


Marie Read, who lives in Freeville, New York, is author of three books. Her photos and articles have been featured in several birding magazines and “National Geographic.” 


The book is published by Storey Publishing in cooperation with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Soft cover, 203 pages, index, glossary, excellent range maps, and hundreds of photos. Price $16.95.





“Offshore Sea Life ID Guide, West Coast,” by Steve N. G. Howell and Brian Sullivan, Princeton University Press, soft cover, 56 pages, heavily illustrated, $14.95. 


I wish the authors had done this book years ago. I’ve been on several West Coast pelagic birding trips, my standard bird ID book helpful — for birds — but leaving me reliant on guides for shout-out names of other animals the boat encountered; sometimes you are simply in the wrong place to hear. What was I missing? Species names for whales, dolphins, sea lions, sharks, turtles, flying fish, and more. If you’re going to be out there, maybe only once, get your money’s worth.


Obviously, this isn’t a book for use here. But if you signup for a West Coast pelagic trip — and every serious birder should do that at least once — this book is a must.


Howell has been a guide on most of my trips; he is excellent. Sullivan is one of the most active and respected bird photographers in North America.





“Water Babies: The Hidden Lives of Baby Wetland Birds,” William Burt, available this October from Countryman Press, Hardcover, color photos throughout, 240 pages, $29.95.

What I’ve seen of this book is a teaser sent by the publisher. The photos shown are excellent, text minimal but complete on species basics. This book that looks like it could go on the shelf beside the Erickson/Read book on nesting.


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