Hmmmmmm, I'm not sure I will be leaving tomorrow morning with the predicted record snowfall that's supposed to start in earnest around 9pm tonight. Traffic was more than a little slow at the booth today. I think many people left early to try and get home before the big storm hits tonight. This morning there was a layer of ice and about two to three inches of snow. The main highway was not plowed, so instead of going the posted 75 mph, I went 30! The gravel road to Rowe Sanctuary wasn't plowed at all and I was beginning to wish that I had rented that SUB instead of the lower riding Stratus, but I made it there and back in one piece. I'm half heartedly packing, think that there isn't much chance that I will be able to drive to Minnesota tomorrow. On the bright side, the cranes look beautiful in the snowy landscape (but there is no way I can photograph them in the ice that pelts you and stings like a sand storm when you are outside). Today while demonstrating some digiscoping, I noticed two long billed male red-winged blackbirds feeding on the ground at Rowe Sanctuary. Early readers of this blog may remember the long billed peregrine we got in at the banding station in Duluth, MN. Not long after I posted that entry, I got in contact with Bud Anderson who has been tracking what he calls the long billed hawk syndrome. This is also prevalent in passerines as well and I found that Julie Craves at Rouge River Bird Observatory is compiling deformities as is Colleen Handel.
There is so much we're learning but so little we don't know. Part of me was excited when I saw the birds, realizing that this is part of a great mystery, but then I felt sad that this a problem that we don't know the answer to and these birds are going to have a rough go of it as their bills continue to grow. A friend had given me a copy of Bud's PowerPoint Presentation on the long-billed hawk syndrome so I showed some of the examples of birds to the staff at Rowe Sanctuary, there was even a photo of a male red-winged black bird looking just like the blackbirds in my photos.
If you see a long-billed bird, please report it to Bud at firstname.lastname@example.org.