Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Beauty and the Data

Wood warblers are often the most sought after birds during spring migration. When small woodlots or urbanized woodland settings become filled with these colorful, spritely little birds, the significance and importance of adequate stopover habitat becomes clearly evident. Certainly, beauty of bird and habitat are one of the primary reasons birders choose to spend so much time in the outdoors, but what can we do with our time and efforts that might also benefit the scientific field of ornithology?

Now that I've been participating in this avocation for over 15 years, it does seem like I'm seeing fewer warblers season to season. This is the third year I've been utilizing eBird as a way of recording my sightings at Pheasant Branch, so there really isn't enough data to fully support a downward trend for this unique location. Also, on the subject of birders documenting their sightings, I'm presently reading Birdscapes by Jeremy Mynott and enjoyed the point of the following paragraph:

“Moreover, this is the kind of progress in ornithology to which we can all, in principle, contribute; there are still many unanswered questions about bird behaviour, which intrigue amateurs at least as much as scientists and which amateurs can sometimes help answer, as they also do in the sciences of astronomy or archaeology (but scarcely at all in nuclear physics or neurology). After all, it is the observations and records of thousands of ordinary birdwatchers that provide so much of our knowledge about bird migration and distribution, for example the arrival and departure dates of migrants in different parts of the country. Scientists call it phenology when they do it, but the data are largely supplied by amateurs.”

Because I concentrate over 90% of my birdwatching at Pheasant Branch, the data I have accumulated over the past three years is starting to reveal a wonderful story regarding the bird species that migrate, nest, or are year-round residents. I think any birder would take a great deal of satisfaction learning so much about just one spot, one story, regarding an avifauna phenomenon that spans the course of a year, year after year. Since January of 2007, I've submitted over 220 checklists for Pheasant Branch Conservancy into eBird. It takes me only a few minutes to transfer my mental or paper checklist into the on-line form. I encourage my blog readers to utilize eBird and bird locally as often as possible.

Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 5/6/09
Number of species: 65

Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Blue-winged Warbler © 2009 Mike McDowell

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