Bird brained stories!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Of migration, social birding and life lists

There. I've used the "L" word right off the bat. I struggle with the "L" word as a birder concerned with not only seeing birds, but also as a person wanting to lessen her footprint on our planet. Yes, I have my little ABA 200 pin just waiting for me to add, as of this morning, 22 more species to the Life List. I can't wait to pin that cute little American Goldfinch onto my binoculars case!

I can't wait, but I will. I'll wait, because even more than seeing lots of different birds, I want to see them well. My usual approach to birding is to hike, or perhaps bike, cross country ski or even paddle a canoe, always looking and listening to see what's there. Except for the canoe scenario, this is almost always done alone. All day, or at least for a good portion of the day. I do make a few rare exceptions. Audubon Club field trips. The local birding festival field trips. That's about it. I know if I traveled to see birds, my list would grow sooner. But I don't. I want to conserve our resources in order to conserve habitat that gets destroyed by my use of them. Less habitat, less birding, as we daily discover when a favorite tangled bank is being flattened for yet another development.

I enjoy going back to a few favorite spots close to home year round. Goose Island. The LaCrosse River Marsh. Hixon Forest. Seven Bridges Road. In the winter months, I am truly alone most of the time, but as the temperatures have heated up, I'm finding lots of company alongside me. If that's the way it's going to be, might as well find company that understands the need to go slowly and quietly into the woods, and not pass me by, yelling and chasing a dog.

For that reason, I look forward to joining the spring bird walks led by Pat Wilson, a member of the Audubon Club to which I belong. I missed the first one the other day, but this morning, I knew I needed to be out there. My last couple weeks have been fraught with deadlines and commitments, and though I did manage a couple afternoons of after-work birding before heading home, it hasn't been enough.

Joining about eight others at 6:30am, we started the slow walk down the trails at Hixon Forest. This is the part of group birding for which I am so grateful. Though I'm officially 22 species short of wearing that 200 pin, I know I've seen and heard lots more birds. I just didn't know what they were. I've learned that no matter how many hours I spend listening to my birding by ear CDs, it seems that only when I come face to face--or syrinx to ear--in the field do I connect those calls with a breathing creature. That's where someone like Pat comes in. He knows them already, important as these little waves of migrating birds come through.

I've been pleading my job, busy always this time of year, as the cause of my lousy life list. I can't get out enough before they're off to the border! After this morning, I can add Blue-Winged, Golden-Winged, Nashville and Tennessee Warblers, along with Yellow-Throated Vireo and Grey-Cheeked Thrush to my list. It was worth it to drag myself out of bed and deal with bad hair the rest of the day at work!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Along with these new-to-me birds, many of the familiar favorites were present as well. An Eastern Phoebe could be heard singing as I headed into the trailhead, and one was seen later across the golf course at the edge of the trail. Had I been out on my own, I'd have been crawling in the brush, trying to get a good look at some of the ones we only heard, like the Yellow-Throated Vireo. But I know for sure how it sounds, and where I'm likely to hear it when I go back in a couple days.

Go back I will. As Pat said, "From all her posts, I think Gwyn birds Hixon more than anyone else around the area!"

That's the idea. Close to home. Nice long looks. Learn their patterns and yearly cycles.

And add them to The List when I find any that are new! I hope that though my List may not be large, I will know most of those birds on the list well.

While you're contemplating the nature of migration and listing, take a moment to check out the latest edition of "I and the Bird," hosted by Kristin of Homebird Notes. She has done a bit of research for us about the areas we bird. I learned mine is known for things like quality education, the Green Bay Packers and beer and bratwurst! Check it out and enjoy some wonderful bird-related essays.


  • What a wonderful post, Gwyn, expressing (better than I could) some of the reasons I do more homebirding than away birding. I share so many of your sentiments. And your day trip sounds great--it is helpful to get some expert input from time to time, even for those of us who generally do our searching and learning on our own.

    By Blogger Home Bird, at 8:03 PM  

  • What a fabulous photo!
    You are so good!

    By Blogger Jane Swanson, at 2:33 PM  

  • The picture smells of a lovely evening :) Lovely picture, it has character.

    By Blogger Anil P, at 9:48 AM  

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