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Blog Birding #270

Many of us have been working for years on the issue of encouraging people of diverse backgrounds to get involved in birding and outdoor hobbies. It’s a tough nut to crack for a lot of reasons, particularly since these are communities that can be enriched by those experiences and can enrich those of us who participate. Glenn Nelson has more at High Country News.

I must admit, I often struggle with a sense of belonging in nature, the weight of that cultural baggage tugging on my shoulder straps along with lunch and the ten essentials. I’d watched with envy the Colombians pursue their avian gratification with near abandon, like people in nature and not brown people in a white world. It was their norm, one shared by black and brown people all over the globe, and closer to what I found on the water, the world enveloping yet distant, the people just dots of humanity waving from passing boats or pointing at the pair of circling bald eagles overhead. They could have been anybody; we could have been anybody. And that’s probably the point.

The FWS has been attempting to count the true number of birders in North America for decades, and it feels like they’re no closer than they’ve ever been, even as the hobby continues to grow. Jason Crotty, writing at 10,000 Birds, offers a well-reasoned take on this eternal question.

Some birders might exclude from the flock those who do not at least have a pair of binoculars and a field guide, the ability to identify common local birds, or those who have not traveled to go birding. Others might require a life list or the ability to identify a specific number of species, or some other criteria. And birders would expect other birders to understand the specialized language of birding and share other characteristics of the community. This is not to suggest that one must bounce about the Pacific Ocean on a pelagic tour with Debi Shearwater to qualify as a birder. But driving a mile to walk at the local park and seeing ducks on the pond does not a birder make.

Big Year birder Olaf Danielson is setting a blistering pace in the first third of the year as he attempts to crack Neil Hayward’s 2013. You can follow along at his blog, Bad Weather Big Year. Last week, he was in Indiana to pick up a handsome Euro shorebird.

I landed at 4:15 pm, got into my rental car, drove 30 miles, found the flooded field with the ruff reports, no one had reported today. Scanned it, sorted out a plethora of pectoral sandpipers and yes, tallied a lone female ruff by body size. It looked 100% to be a ruff through the scope, orange legs, color pattern and head and bill shape. It was tough to digiscope and then my old phone ran out of power, I snapped the above photo with my camera and you know, I think it isn’t too bad, for what is a dot on the original. This is my second ruff…yea…lifer 700 for me was a ruff in Minnesota and a that generated a much worse photo and view.

And speaking of Big Years, Christian Hagenlocher is on a quest to become the youngest birder to reach 700 in the ABA Area in a year. But his year is as much about meeting people as it as about finding birds. You can read his interviews at The Birding Project, including a recent chat in Red-cockaded Woodpecker country.

Family has always been really important to me. They have supported me unconditionally through everything I have done. Some interests, like Pokémon I have shared with my brother. Other things, like my interest in birds has been my own calling, which I have followed passionately. My enthusiasm has permeated into the lives of my immediate family, affecting each person in its own way- some more than others. My mother incorporates birds and shed antlers into our home decor. My dad has always been on the lookout for cool bird things at antique shops- surprising me at Christmas with a unique taxidermy piece, or a vintage bird book with cool illustrations.

The spectacle of spring migration is truly right around the corner now. And there’s nothing that can get you in the mood better than some unbelievable photos of warbler fallouts on Machias Seal Island, as curated by lighthouse keeper Ralph Eldridge at Naturalist’s Notebook.

I asked Ralph Eldridge if he would share some of the migrating-songbird photos he has taken as a lighthouse keeper. He tends the Canadian lighthouse on tiny, treeless Machias Seal Island, which sits on the Atlantic Flyway migration route about 12 miles from the nearest points of land in Maine and Canada (Grand Manan Island). I was especially interested in a May 24, 2011, nighttime fallout of migrating birds at the lighthouse. Pamelia and I had seen a few shots Ralph took that night and were slack-jaw amazed by the sight of so many types of songbirds—especially the variety of warblers—together. The birds were exhausted and in desperate need of rest after flying for untold hours and miles on their journey from wintering grounds as far south as the Caribbean and South America.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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  • Andy Kratter

    In the Machias Seal Island photos, the ninth bird photo, the one with the prominent Swamp Sparrow, has a waterthrush a few birds to the right. Looks like a pure white throat – Louisiana? Or are those streaks too dense and distinct?

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Recent Comments

  • Nate, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { That's fair about the weather timing. I recall the observers saying something about Hurricane Nate being involved, but how much is not clear. As to... }
  • Gary Bloomfield, in Birding with a Tricorder... { Great essay, Ted! Feel sorry for the guy in the photo who's wearing a red shirt, though. }
  • Steve Shultz, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { I believe the NC swift was seen on Saturday, October 7 (unless the date indicated by the observer on the photo was incorrect). Nate did... }
  • Rick Wright, in #ABArare - Yellow-breasted Bunting - Newfoundland & Labrador... { What a great bird! Sadly topical: http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/yellow-breasted-bunting-next-passenger-pigeon?utm_source=BirdLife+International+News+Notifications&utm_campaign=3435eeef02-Top_news_notification&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4122f13b8a-3435eeef02-133889729&goal=0_4122f13b8a-3435eeef02-133889729&mc_cid=3435eeef02&mc_eid=8db37ed8c1 }
  • Nate, in Rare Bird Alert: October 13, 2017... { Whoops. You're right. Those I names turned me around. I'll fix when I get a chance. Sent from my phone }
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