American Birding Podcast



Blog Birding #178

Now that birds are moving it’s time to get in a migration state of mind. We can start with a primer on hawkwatching etiquette from Luke Tiller at Under Clear Skies.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who stroll up to the hawkwatch platform on a quiet day and say nothing to the counter. Might I suggest you say hello, ask innocuously whether there is a guestbook that you can sign (there often is or at least the watcher might want your name for their hawkcount data) or even just inquire how the flight is going . There are a million and one ways to introduce yourself and a million questions to ask the hawkwatcher first. There is one however that you should never ask: ‘how do you know that you haven’t counted the same bird twice?’ This is a question I think I answer an average of 574 times in a season.

At BirdNote, J. Drew Lanham shares a brief history of the Duck Stamp, and offers encouragement for birders to pitch in and help the bird conservation efforts that the stamp funds and represents.

But the worst of times were on the horizon. As the US grew and the demand for land and food along with it, unsustainable agricultural practices and unbridled development wrought havoc. Sodbusters were stripping Midwestern prairies of their soil, and swamp-busters were ditching and draining every wetland they could get a steam shovel in to. As “progress” turned the soil and drained the swamps, populations of migratory waterfowl suffered mightily. With many species still recovering from the wanton history of market hunting and unregulated harvest, the destruction of habitat seemed a final straw that would spell the end for quickly disappearing rafts of “Cans” (Canvasbacks), wheeling flocks of “Sprigs” (Northern Pintails), and almost every other duck species.

Not all listing is the same, says Mike Hudson at One Hundred Birds. He pens a spirited defense of focusing on our smallest jurisdictions as a way to learn more about local birds.

In the world of birding, few things are as polarizing as county listing. Almost weekly, I read a comment about how county listers only see birds as “ticks” to be counted on their lists. In some non-listers eyes, their way of viewing birds for the pure pleasure is a more righteous endeavor. As a county lister myself, I despise these comments. Not only do county listers love watching birds as much as non-listers, but they have a sense of adventure, love of travel, and a curiosity that should be welcomed in the birding community.

We generally think of wildlife rehabbers as a common good, but Dave Irons at Birdfellow asks the tough question, do these acts come at a cost for wildlife beyond the individuals they help?

I believe that the evolving culture of ‘wildlife rehabilitation,’ a comparatively recent addition to the human experience, may be reinforcing one negative aspect in the way many humans view wildlife. We find baby birds and animals to be cute and endearing and we project onto them those qualities of helplessness and need for tender care that we see in our own offspring. Unfortunately, we are in no position to know or understand what is best for the offspring of other species. Rather than observing and attempting to better understand the natural interactions of wild animals, the first inclination for some is to believe that they have a role to play when these interactions result in peril to individuals. The knee-jerk response seems to be, “I need to do something” or, “I need to help.” In most instances, the best course of action may be to do nothing and to avoid trying to provide help or rescue.

Big Years are big news, there’s no getting around it. But are we selling ourselves short by hewing to the “most birds in a given area” model? Nick Lund of The Birdist offers a number of other potential Big Year challenges.

Place-named Species Big Year

OK, by my very brief count there are 45 or so birds found the ABA named after geographic locations in the ABA area.  Tennessee warbler, Savannah sparrow, California towhee, etc.  The challenge of this Big Year is to see as many of these species as you can in the place they are named for.  You get it?  You’ve got to see a Mississippi Kite in the state of Mississippi, then scoot down to Louisiana to see a Louisiana Waterthrush.