Some Processing I’ve Done in GDAL

This is an example of re-sampling a raster to larger pixels (in this case 0.45 degree resolution) by taking the mean of the pixels encompassed in the coarser output.

gdalwarp -tr 0.45 0.45 -r average -ot Float32 file.tif fileout.tif

I have used GDAL to set no data values (in this case, 0).

gdal_translate -of GTiff -a_nodata 0 PPR/2000/Playas_2000.tif region_img/Playas.tif

Here’s an example of stitching 2 tiff’s together into a larger area, and setting the output no data value to be where the 0’s were in the original input files. -o region_img/Canada.tif -a_nodata 0 PPR/2000/Alberta_PPR_2000.tif PPR/2000/SAK_MAN_PPR_2000.tif

If you want to stitch shape files together into a new file, you have to initialize the new shape file first with one of your input files and then add to it.

ogr2ogr regions/Canada.shp shapefiles/Alberta_PPR_2001.shp
ogr2ogr -update -append regions/Canada.shp shapefiles/SAK_MAN_PPR_2001.shp -nln Canada

If you’re going to, say, turn your raster into polygons, you can get rid of clumps below a certain threshold before doing so (in this case, I’m getting rid of single pixels in my unary raster when using an 8-neighbor clumping rule). -st 2 -8 file.tif

Then, I can make my polygon layer, simplified. In the 2nd line, I project the shapefile to Albers Equal Area. -8 file.tif -f "ESRI Shapefile" shapefile/file.shp 
ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" -progress outfile.shp shapefile/file.shp -t_srs "EPSG:5070"


First Meeting for MOU Young Birders’ Committee!

Today we had our 1st meeting, though with my continued west coast cold (there must be germs I’m not immune to out there) I just “typed in” while listening/watching all my other fellow committee members share thoughts, etc.! There were some pretty exciting things in the works, and diversity is a topic of great importance for all involved. We’re going to be jointly addressing the needs of the young (20-40) and youth (13-17) birders in the state. Our age group is a growing demographic in birding, and will eventually be torch-bearers for leadership (not to mention, plenty are already) within the birding community. I think there’s a lot of potential to reach out to young adults, and it starts with education, resource availability and “spark experiences” to get people curious. Also, engaging young adults in the type of events they’re already interested in (e.g. social gatherings, perhaps in conjunction with other compatible interests) seems to be working as a way to get people in the door.

I’m also excited to be a liaison and mentor for youth birders to engage with the wider birding community of MN. It will be great to think about challenges, barriers to inclusion, and this how we can help this age group get connected and supported. Hopefully too, they’ll want to engage with young adults in the “next age bracket up” to do some fun birding activities. I hope too they’ll help fill me in on the latest cool stuff going on with the kids these days, because at the ripe old age of 30 I already feel pretty out of the loop on the hip new things. 🙂

Waterfowl & Wetlands Literature Review

Studying waterfowl with large extant datasets is intimidating because I often have the sneaking suspicion “someone has done this before.” I’m in the process of figuring out which of my suspicions are correct.

  • Are there more ducks where there are more wetlands in the surrounding landscape? If so, what scale is relevant to predict waterfowl abundance (e.g. are there more waterfowl when the 10km surrounding them have more wetlands)?
    • No…
      • duck abundance on a given pond is lower when there are more wetlands in the surrounding landscape (Bartzen et al. 2017)
        • The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey (WBPHS) 1993-2002
        • Canadian PPR
        • generalized least-squares regression models
        • compound symmetry covariance structure to account for repeated annual counts on ponds
        • AIC model selection

Literature Cited

Bartzen, B., Dufour, K. W., Bidwell, M. T., Watmough, M. D. and Clark, R. G. (2017), Relationships between abundances of breeding ducks and attributes of Canadian prairie wetlands. Wildl. Soc. Bull., 41: 416–423. doi:10.1002/wsb.794

Learning to Identify Birds by their Vocalizations

I can’t say birding by ear was one of my natural talents: it took hard study because I wanted to learn it. Yet, with many hours, it paid off! I can’t recommend my favorite by ear guide enough:

Birding by Ear: Eastern/Central (Peterson Field Guides)

It taught me how to listen to bird song. I used to have it on an old iPod, which is lost somewhere in a pile of antique technology. So, I just ordered myself the CD copy, so I can have it to lend out and also remember why I liked it so much (UPDATE 9/18: it arrived, and I’m re-listening to it when I’m in the car).

As perhaps my latest posts have suggested, I’ve been interested lately in how we learn to identify birds, and best learning strategies. “By ear” is perhaps a great new place to explore, because most people aren’t auditory learners. So, it seems maybe there is more devoted “learning” here, that requires taking in information through what many consider to be a somewhat secondary sense.

Training my ear first required being able to classify song types as per the audio guide. Solidifying auditory memory included such experiences as watching a bird singing, and going out and testing my knowledge in the field (i.e. guessing a species by its song, and then visually confirming the bird’s identification). Then of course, there’s no substitute for time spent in field study. You hear variations, and continually gain familiarity with songs and calls.

A good place to go, if not obvious, is to keep tabs on what you don’t know. Once you listen to birds a lot, you can pick out subtle differences in chip notes. One of the first chip notes I learned (beyond the obvious and quite distinctive, e.g. cardinal) was perhaps unsurprisingly the species I focused on in my M.S. thesis: painted bunting. From following this species around all day and looking for nests, I started to learn the subtle difference in its chip note from everything else around. From there, of course the species from which I learned chip notes were those with a.) distinctive sounds and b.) those I encountered most commonly.

A current by-ear frontier for me is warbler chip notes, and nocturnal flight calls. There are of course some more distinctive and common than others (e.g. yellow-rumped warbler) that lend to learning through repeated exposure. Nocturnal flight calls are valuable to learn, because then you can listen to migrants passing overhead. I know the most basic and easiest of these, but still have plenty of study to do, which brings this full circle: birding is constant learning, which keeps it challenging and fun!

My Favorite Places I’ve Been Birding

Phew — just typing that title sounds daunting; there are so many! I don’t know how I’m going to break this list up but I figured I’d at least start it and chip away as I go. Please comment regionally with your favorite places too! My current home city is Duluth, MN so my favorite places in the state…


  • Canal Park
  • Minnesota Point
  • North Shore Scenic Drive: as the name implies, this goes along the north shore of Lake Superior, with lots of pull-offs
  • Agate Bay
  • Sax-Zim Bog
  • Pine Island State Forest (Toumey-Williams Rd.)
  • McGregor Marsh State Natural Area (SNA)
  • Cook Co.: the water treatment ponds can have surprising things, and there’s lots of nice bog here, far enough north to get some real boreal specialties in roadside habitats
  • Carver Co.: back closer to “in town”, a rural area adequately birded by Twin Cities birders in search of farm fields


  • Wisconsin Point
  • Crex Meadows Wildlife Area
  • Buena Vista Grasslands
  • Lake Maria
  • Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)
  • Wyalusing State Park
  • Schurch-Thomson Prairie
  • Rose Lake SNA
  • Door Co.
  • Trempeleau Co.: including the NWR, it’s a fun area to explore
  • Sauk Co.: this was a frequent birding destination for us because of all the unique natural areas in the county, including…
    • Spring Green Preserve SNA
  • Dane Co.: this is where I lived for 4.5 years during my Ph.D., so I spent a lot of time on campus. I used to do the Big Green Birding Year (BIGBY) which meant finding as many species as I could on foot/by bike, so I walked and biked much of Madison, WI.
    • Pheasant Branch Conservancy
    • 9 Springs
    • Lerner Conservation Park


  • Chicago: there are lots of small city parks, and lots of birders, so it’s likely something interesting will be found
  • Sugar Grove Nature Center

South Dakota

  • Roughlock Falls
  • Haakon Co.: farm fields for days!


  • campus: there was an AOU meeting here in 2015!
  • Wichita Mountains NWR
  • Great Salt Plains State Park


  • Hampton Creek Cove


  • Western Regional Park
  • Centennial Lake
  • Patapsco Valley State Park
  • Ocean City inlet
  • Assateague State Park
  • Truitt’s Landing


  • Assawoman Wildlife Area


  • Great Dismal Swamp NWR
  • Huckleberry Trail
  • Heritage Community Park & Natural Area
  • Pandapas Pond
  • Cascades
  • the Blue Ridge: broadly…
    • Appalachian Trail
    • Blue Ridge Parkway
    • New River
  • Mountain Lake
  • Claytor Lake State Park

North Carolina

  • Outer Banks: this area likely needs no introduction as a tourist destination
  • Pickens Nose
  • Jackson Park
  • Dupont State Forest

South Carolina

  • Clemson Experimental Forest
  • South Carolina Botanical Garden
  • Lake Conestee
  • Huntington Beach State Park
  • Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center
  • Pitt St. Causeway
  • Bear Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
  • Edisto Beach
  • Savannah NWR
  • Anderson Co.: home of Townville, the bird mecca of the upstate.
  • Beaufort Co.: this is where I did my M.S. field work on golf courses, so I went on a number of private properties as well as natural areas in the county.


  • Georgia Botanical Garden


  • Storm Water Treatment Area 5/6
  • Everglades National Park
  • Lee Co.
  • Collier Co.: my parents used to have a beach house there, so I birded a lot of places (mostly wherever I could walk)
    • Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary


  • Alki beach
  • Discovery park
  • Luther Burbank park


We took the clipper from Seattle to Victoria and saw some great birds along the way! Highly recommended!

  • Holland Point Park
  • Gonzales Bay
  • Trafalgar Park
  • Kitty Islet
  • Queen’s Park
  • East Sooke Park
  • George C. Reifel Park
  • Queen Elizabeth Park

Lifer Tally So Far (Including “Maybes”)

  • Glaucous-winged gull
  • Heermann’s gull
  • Swallow-tailed gull
  • Chestnut-backed chickadee
  • Steller’s jay
  • Bushtit
  • Pomarine jaeger
  • Common murre
  • Northwestern crow
  • Black oystercatcher
  • Black turnstone
  • Rhinoceros auklet
  • Marbled murrelet
  • Pigeon guillemot
  • Mew gull
  • Surfbird
  • Vaux’s swift
  • Pacific wren
  • Hutton’s vireo
  • black-throated gray warbler
  • Pacific-slope flycatcher

Possible lifers: swift spp., northern Pygmy-owl?

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

We’re headed here tomorrow! Here’s the checklist with seasonal probabilities for the month of September; font sizes reflect relative probability of seeing the species.

Pacific loon

yellow-billed loon

Clark’s grebe
Pacific golden-plover
Wandering tattler
Bar-tailed godwit

rock sandpiper

ancient murrelet

western screech-owl
northern pygmy-owl

black swift

red-naped sapsucker

red-breasted sapsucker

Hammond’s flycatcher

ash-throated flycatcher
Cassin’s vireo
black-headed grosbeak
Bullock’s oriole

East Sooke park

At the end of the day, we saw a Pacific wren along the Pike Rd. trail. At the same time, we heard what we identified as Vaux’s swifts by call overhead. Further down the trail, we saw a Pacific hairy woodpecker. On the way back, we may have heard a northern Pygmy-owl. It sounded exactly like a northern saw-whet owl except the toots were slow, which met the pace description in The Sibley app.

Birding Victoria: Spots & Bird Lists


  • wandering tattler
  • rock sandpiper

If we want to find a skylark…

  • island view nursery
  • spots along Hwy 17: central Saanich bulb fields
  • Victoria international airport

Rocky Point Bird Observatory

  • black-headed grosbeak
  • Cassin’s vireo
  • Hammond’s flycatcher

Race Rocks

  • tattler
  • western gull
  • black-legged kittiwake
  • ancient murrelet
  • rock sandpiper
  • Pacific loon
  • Laysan albatross
  • sooty shearwater

Other birds of Victoria…

  • California quail
  • sooty grouse
  • pink-footed shearwater
  • short-tailed shearwater
  • fork-tailed storm-petrel
  • Pacific golden-plover
  • long-billed curlew
  • bar-tailed godwit
  • little stint
  • pomarine jaeger
  • Cassin’s auklet
  • crested auklet
  • tufted puffin
  • elegant tern
  • spotted owl
  • western screech-owl
  • northern pygmy-owl
  • black swift
  • Vaux’s swift
  • red-breasted sapsucker
  • chestnut-backed chickadee
  • bushtit
  • western bluebird
  • eastern yellow wagtail
  • red-throated pipit
  • black-throated sparrow
  • hooded oriole