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Bird Watcher's Digest Magazine

Our January/February 2014 Cover Species: Aplomado Falcon
By Kyle Carlsen | BWD Assistant Editor

In my office hangs the cover painting from the January/February 1988 Bird Watcher's Digest, a pair of evening grosbeaks as depicted by artist Robert Barrett. The birds are perched on the bough of a white pine that is heavy-laden with snow. In fact, the grosbeaks are the only thing in the scene uncovered by snow.

The painting is like a window that peeks into a wintry world year around, evoking thoughts of snow, of holidays from years past, anticipation of the future. The year that particular issue was published, 1988, is personally significant, as that is the year I was born. The magazine was born more than a decade before that, and as I write for BWD now in 2013, it is interesting to think about how some things have changed over the years, while other things have not changed at all.

But I digress. The topic at hand is evening grosbeaks. My first exposure to these black-and-gold birds happened nearly two decades ago. I must have been 6 years old. My sole bird book was an early copy of Peterson's How to Know the Birds, a volume my dad had picked up at an old, used bookstore down the road from our house. I read that little paperback from cover to cover, though it was missing its front cover, along with its first few pages. I didn't mind. It was my bible. Funny how one old book can make such an impact.

Great Content for Bird Watchers! | table of contents »
Bird Watcher's Digest January/February 2014: Travel Scope Review

Thinking about purchasing a smaller scope that will fit in your suitcase and still leave room for your field guide, binoculars, and, oh yeah, clothes? Diane and Michael Porter and a team of birders from Iowa review travel scopes in three price categories, comparing them against a big, expensive, top-of-the-line model. Their findings might surprise you! BWD/eBWD subscribers, read online »

Bird Watcher's Digest January/February 2014: Escaping Winter: Big Bend Style

Big Bend National Park, Texas, just north of the border, is a magnet for birds and birders, especially during winter months. Howard Youth and a novice birder friend set out to find as many bird species as possible there, and tallied unexpected tales of bears and snakes as well. BWD/eBWD subscribers, read online »

By Alvaro Jaramillo
Perhaps this article should have been written to coincide with the 4th of July, given that the bald eagle is the national bird of the United States. However, more eagles likely live in Canada, so a more neutral time seems appropriate. Eagles are widespread over the continent. In many places, they can be seen year-round, but winter is when we have the highest probability of seeing eagles in the South. Winter is when some of the great concentrations of eagles happen on the continent, and there are some spectacular ones out there! So winter it is: eagle time.

What is an eagle? This is at once an easy and a difficult question. You usually know an eagle if you see it, because they are large, impressive, and, despite the cliché, majestic. These are the raptors that can call other raptors "shrimp" and get away with it. But, essentially all that unites eagle species is their size.

Many types of eagles exist in the world; North America has the bald and golden, but elsewhere there are harpy eagles, hawk-eagles, fish-eagles, snake eagles, buzzard-eagles—on the whole quite a variety of eagles. The issue is that birds called eagles are often not related to each other; they just happen to be big, impressive, and majestic.
Bountiful Birches
By Julie Zickefoose
I've always loved them. It started one late-summer day as our family drove north into New England for the first time, going to visit my eldest sister, who'd moved to Massachusetts. Somewhere north of New York City, a green sign emblazoned "New England" hung over I-95. I looked up from the backseat and saw birches growing on a sheer rock face and was swept away by a wave of feeling for these things I'd never known: rinsed blue skies, huge rocks, and white-trunked trees. One of my first watercolors was of birches—a badger coming out of a burrow under birches. Those grassland creatures wouldn't do that, but I didn't know that when I was 13. I just knew I loved painting birches. I dug up inch-high seedlings from beneath the Mediterranean birches in a neighbor's yard and nurtured them until we had a clump of three white-trunked beauties growing in our own front yard in Richmond, Virginia, where I grew up and where birches really shouldn't be asked to grow. And I brought this penchant for birches to Ohio in 1992, yearning again for white-trunked trees where none naturally occur. I didn't know then how integral the trees would become to our bird-centric yard; I just knew I loved birches.
Birding the Tropical Rainforest on the 'Enchanted Island'
By Kathleen Siebert
In complete darkness, my husband and I inched our way up the mountain, listening intently with the car windows down. The sounds and smells of the rainforest were a feast for the senses—fresh rain and wild orchids perfumed our car, and the moonlit sky was filled with the eerie, otherworldly calls of the nighttime creatures that inhabited the "Enchanted Island."

We were immersed in the thrill of the hunt, stalking the beast that graced the cover of our field guide, the brute proudly clutching a lizard in its bill. The road became steeper as we climbed and the hairpin curves more numerous. Soon, the first light of day revealed a tapestry of green—gorgeous orange-flowered flamboyant trees and lush giant ferns at every turn.

Then we heard it. A loud kaka-ka-ka! that would send any hapless lizard running for its life. The prehistoric-looking bird flew right in front of our windshield, its long black and white striped tail trailing behind like a tail on a kite. The lizard-cuckoo landed with a thud on a horizontal limb of a bamboo tree, his devilish, red-ringed eyes spying his prey. We watched him stealthily hop from branch to branch, head cocked, poised to pounce on his favorite food. But the lucky lizard would escape to live another day. And, having missed his quarry, the cuckoo disappeared in a flash into an impenetrable tangle high in the canopy.