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Why We Travel


What did you do this past weekend? If you’re in the USA, you probably observed Memorial Day. And it’s not unlikely that your Memorial Day weekend activities included travel.

According to the American Automobile Association, 36.1 million people traveled at least 50 miles in the USA this past weekend. That’s more than 10% of the U.S. population. For the subset of U.S. residents who are birders, I bet the number was closer to 25%.

I have two questions:

1. Did you travel at least 50 miles for birding this past weekend?

2. What kind of birding did you do this past weekend?

If you’re wondering where I’m coming from with these questions, here’s a link to my essay “Why We Travel,” which appeared earlier this spring in the ABA’s new magazine, Birder’s Guide. The basic message I tried to get across in my essay is this: There is no One True Way for birders to travel. Your cup of tea may not float my boat.


PageI traveled more than 50 miles for birding this past weekend. I did it my way. But let’s hear from you. How did you do it? Where did you go, how did you get there, who were your companions, and what did you see?

And I have one final, freighted question: What were the ethical dimensions, if any, of your birding travel this past weekend?

No need to limit this to birders in the USA. ABA members and other birders in Canada, Mexico, Britain, and anywhere else are heartily encouraged to contribute to this discussion.

Looking forward to hearing from you!



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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
Ted Floyd

Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

  • Carlos Ross

    I didn’t actually go on a birding-specific trip this weekend, as we were hosting family (my in-laws) visiting from New York. Sunday, we went to see the Alamo and the Riverwalk in San Antonio, where I still got to show everyone an up-close (and super tame) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron hunting for crawfish in the manmade canals and side channels (oddly – this was a county tick for me).

    Monday, we visited the Texas State Capitol in Austin, where I pointed out Chimney Swifts twittering overhead. Since I normally bird solo, it felt nice to share aspects of the hobby with family while still catering to their interests and bucket list items — they sure missed me on Tuesday when they went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and saw interesting birds while I was stuck in my cubicle!

    It was a nice reminder that it’s quite often the fact I don’t always go birding — but I always *am* birding, and it feels great to be able to share that.

  • Terry Bronson

    My non-birding wife and I went to Athens in southeastern Ohio and the nearby Hocking Hills–a wonderfully scenic area of forests, cliffs, and canyons. It was about 150 miles away and a planned holiday weekend getaway, so the money was spent and gas consumed anyway. Birding was incidental–in fact almost invisible since the heavily forested area was completely leafed out. About 90% of the birds were heard-only, but I did see a Pine Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, Swainson’s Thrush, and Louisiana Waterthrush.

  • Gail

    Traveled to a private ranch more than 50 miles away for nesting Golden-cheeked warbler and Black-capped Vireo. It was perfect weather and the birds were cooperative. Why? Because birding rejuvenates me spiritually, physically and emotionally.

  • Mel Goff

    We drove to Denver (barely over 50 miles) to see the beautiful Blue-winged Warbler that was being reported there. We met some great Colorado birders, slogged through a little mud, and in general had a great time. Oh, and we saw, heard, and watched the warbler. On Memorial Day we joined 14 other birders to visit a local ranch and spent six hours seeing what may well be the beginning of the end of migration. The White-rumped Sandpiper was cool and my wife and I got a state record Glossy Ibis.

  • Nate Dias

    I organized a pelagic trip where we traveled by boat to a starting point 75 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. Our trip list is below – not the greatest due to the lack of winds to help tubenoses fly and to carry the scent of our chum slick.

    Black-capped Petrel – 62
    Audubon’s Shearwater – 2
    Cory’s Shearwater – 3
    Wilson’s Storm-Petrel – 57
    Leach’s Storm-Petrel – 1
    Band-rumped Storm-Petrel – 5
    Sooty Shearwater – 2
    Arctic Tern – 1

    A few photos are here:

    We entered the birds in eBird using the pelagic protocol.

  • Mike Hamberg

    I traveled about 200 miles over to Magee Marsh. I picked up a ton of new life birds including mourning warbler, blackpoll warbler, and a blue grosbeak!

  • Pingback: Birder’s Guide to Travel: March 2014 « ABA Publications()

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