Friday, May 19, 2006

Not Just Numbers...

I sort of enjoy keeping track of the numbers, but not just for sake of having high counts or beating previous year's totals – I'm more interested in what they might tell me about my birding habits and the habitats I choose to bird in, and of course, the birds themselves. A few days ago I posted my year-to-date 2006 species totals to the Wisconsin Birding Network, but I think the intent of my post might have been missed due to some interesting feedback I received.

Well, here's where I'm at:

Total Bird Species for 2006: 207
(# from Pheasant Branch Conservancy: 130)
(# from outside of Dane County: 17)

The 17 non-Dane County birds were tallied from a trip to Horicon Marsh (as a field trip leader), two trips to Spring Green Reserve, Devil's Lake and a couple of visits to the Goose Pond area. The other 60 bird species were all found in Dane County – places like Nine Springs, Lark Farm Park, Governor Nelson State Park and my backyard in Waunakee. The 29 warbler species I have for the year were all found at Pheasant Branch.

Perhaps it wasn't so obvious but part of the point of my post was to demonstrate (a) how great the birding is at Pheasant Branch Conservancy and (b) that you don't necessarily need to drive all over the state to see a few hundred bird species each year.

As an example, just on Wednesday evening I was birding with Sylvia, Dottie and Charles (his birthday) and we were treated to an unusual sighting for Pheasant Branch Conservancy...the first Peregrine Falcon we've ever seen there. What a nice birthday present for Charles and it happened to be the 200th bird species I've recorded on the conservancy lands.

We initially caught a brief glimpse of it as it flew overhead and wrote it off for a Cooper's Hawk, yet we noted something seemed a little different about it. It's an interesting lesson how one's expectations during a brief encounter can bias the identification process - I never would have expected a Peregrine to hunt along the dense canopy of the stream corridor.

The bird swooped around as it drew the attention of three American Crows. When it perched in a tree about 50 feet away, I quickly got on it with my binoculars and said, "That's not a Cooper's Hawk, it's a Peregrine Falcon!" The falcon let out a loud series of calls as the three crows continued to pester it. The falcon flew, took another semicircle around the area, called once more and finally left.

Jeff got it and posted the following to the Wisconsin Birding Network:

Author: Jeff Bahls
Date: 05-18-06 14:23

Here is a good example of "being there.” Being a "bird guy" and there are probably many on this list who qualify if not all of us, as a bird guy/gal, you know you're the one who your co-workers ask you about a bird coming to their feeders or your cousin calls you about putting up nest boxes, etc. Well I get questions about where can I go to see birds. I tell them "just look" they are, where the are. Seems kinda of a stupid answer but birds are everywhere, you just have to look for them. I think the best birders are looking for birds at all times.

I was speaking to Mike McDowell about this as we were watching the glossy ibis this weekend - why certain areas get notoriety as being "bird places" because people go there to watch birds and generate reports to tell others and bring more eyes to see more birds. In reality there are dozens of places to bird right next door.

Mike is a excellent example of covering an area on a regular basis to see the changes in bird populations on a day to day basis, the interactions between the species, there relationship with other plants and animals. When I converse with beginners I try to convey this message. Bottom line is you can't see birds if your not looking, there is no substitute for being in the field. no matter where that field is. when you get out to bird you get a connection to that place, you start to value that spot, to see why the place is important. no matter where it is. That's why I get a kick out of helping out with the Horicon Marsh Bird festival to open eyes of folks looking for birds.

Did I making ANY sense?!

Enough ramblings, time to get and bird!

Great job Mike.

Hey, thanks a bunch, Jeff!

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