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Blog Birding #360

Spring means time to reflect on migratory birds but also time to reflect on how we, as birders, fit into things. At Avian Ecologist, Jessica Gorzo shares what she loves most about being a birding.

Once I invested the time, though, and learned more about the birds around me, it has brought some neat benefits to my everyday life. This is now more or less my typical day, full of attention to the local birds. So, these are some examples of why it’s worth putting in the time to learn about birds, and what you could gain from it!

The recent presence of a Red Warbler in southeast Arizona causes Rick Wright of Birding New Jersey and Beyond to reflect on the mystery of the bird’s possible presence in Texas.

Like so many Mexican birds, the red warbler was introduced to western science by the William Bullocks, father and son, as part of their London exhibitions of zoological and anthropological curiosities. Wildly successful for a while, the show eventually, inevitably, lost its appeal, and Bullock, Sr., sold the collection in a famous series of auctions.

Don’t like lists? No problem, says Matthew Miller at Cool Green Science. He suggests ways to enjoy birding without worrying about spreadsheets or listing apps.

I lack this level of organization, as anyone who has visited my office will attest. I view spreadsheets much as I do dental visits: tolerable and at times necessary but hardly something to build your free time around. I like identifying birds, but ticking off species after species after species day after day loses its appeal quickly. I’m too easily diverted by sightings of mammals or fish or historic sites.

Wagtails are highly localized breeders or infrequent visitors to North America, which is a shame, because they are a complete glorious mess from a taxonomic perspective, as explained at Avian Hybrids.

Ornithologists love to delineate subspecies. One differently colored feather can already trigger a response in the most extreme splitters. But are subspecific divisions always supported by genetic data? Rebecca Harris and her colleagues test this idea for a bird group that has its fair share of subspecies: the Wagtails (genus Motacilla). The paper was published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

At Cornell’s Yardmap, Jacob Johnston explores how citizen science in your own backyard can deepen your sense of place.

Engaging in citizen-science projects, like Habitat Network, can help you connect with your world as much as you help us connect with ours. While citizen science often aims to collect data at large geographic scales, it tends to engage individuals and communities in local-level data collection. This provides an opportunity to convey specific and local ecological information to interested participants. Most programs provide a specific protocol for collecting and submitting data while others may also take advantage of outreach and education opportunities to offer feedback to participants about their specific impact.

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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.
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