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Happening NOW: There’s Something Happening Somewhere; Let’s Talk About That

Right now it’s snowing. That is the quick and easy summation of what is happening now in downtown Baltimore on this chilly, gusty Wednesday afternoon. I haven’t seen a bird yet today, despite spending an inordinate amount of time staring out my living room window into the trees in m

y apartment complex’s courtyard. As far as my eyes can tell me right now, the most interesting thing happening is that it is snowing. Of course, being birders we all know that regardless of what we are seeing or hearing at that moment, there is always more going on.

Photo by Greg Breese

I’ve decided to take this moment to reintroduce this series. Over the last few years, Happening NOWs have become a familiar part of the content readers see on the ABA Blog—at least so I hope. The goal of these posts was to draw attention to the fascinating world of bird status and distribution, a world that the publication I edit, North American Birds delves deep into. At any given time, somewhere on the continent, birds are irrupting, staging, migrating, or dispersing in interesting and, oftentimes, poorly known ways. Sometimes these are seasonal movements are elegant and predictable—Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, and Sanderlings, along with numbers of other shorebird species, will descend on the Delaware Bay starting in early May and ending in early June every year to take advantage of an abundant food supply in the form of horseshoe crab eggs. Where exactly on the Bay they go may vary, but birders can more-or-less count on the fact that this will happen every year. Occasionally though, these movements may be more enigmatic to us. What has been responsible for the regular dispersal of Brown Boobies up both coasts and, more interestingly, far inland in the summer and fall over the past several years? We can make educated and, potentially, quite accurate guesses. Warming seas and changes in food availability and ocean currents likely play a role. But the fact is that we have no definitive answers. And we don’t know how these movements might change in the future. Will Masked Boobies ever show a similar pattern? Will reports continue to increase or will they begin to plateau and level off?

Since the first Happening NOW in the summer of 2017, we have discussed everything from continent-wide occurrences to distribution and status events that may only be noted within one state—sometimes only within a part of one state! We are going to continue to do that, but in the true spirit of North American Birds, we want to spend this year making this a truly continent-wide series (and I really mean that; NAB covers all of North American, not just the ABA area). You will see Happening NOWs occur with increasing frequency and through them you will be introduced not only to aspects of birding and bird populations that you may not have known about before, but also to a host of authors and experts that will help to bring these new pieces of avian wisdom to you.

You see, I could sit down every two weeks and pick something to write about, but when we have, as we do at NAB, over seventy regional experts who contribute to every issue as compilers and regional editors and when our readers are as skilled and insightful as they are, that would be a disservice. So, as we move into this year, the year of the ABA’s 50th anniversary, the year when NAB will publish its 71 st volume, I hope reading the short essays in this space will become a regular part of your birding life. I hope that it prompts you to contribute more sightings to eBird, to take more photos of species that are becoming rarer (or more common!) in your area, and to spend more time learning about the phenomena that occur every year on this continent whose birdlife we interact with daily; I hope it becomes a way for you to engage with a new part of the birding community and new facets of the birding world. Even if it is just snowing where you live, somewhere groups of birds are doing something remarkable.

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Mike Hudson

Mike Hudson

Editor, North American Birds at American Birding Association
Mike Hudson is Editor of North American Birds. He grew up within sight of Baltimore, Maryland. Living in the city, he developed an interest in urban birds, and the differences in distribution he observed between rural and urban areas. He is also fascinated by the forces that drive changes in bird distribution, from climate and weather to competing species. Mike works at the Chester River Field Research Station where he assists with the seasonal bird banding operations there. He has also been an educator at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, where he taught about ecology and conservation and he has been staff at multiple ABA young birder camps and events.
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