To October

Should we celebrate or something? This is blog #20. A milestone. I’ve been advised not to use too many exclamation points, so I won’t add one there. The conductor is ready to strike up the band.

Canada Goose

Why Do You Bird?

I referenced my “Why Do You Bird” survey at the end of the last blog. Here’s the survey:

Hi fellow birders. I’ve become interested in this topic of late and have begun to write about it–and want to explore it further. But I need your help. You’re the subject experts!

Why do you bird? What is it about birding that seizes your interest and claims your time? Is it the aesthetics of birding? Is it the thrill of the chase? Is it the opportunity to be one with nature (if for only a brief moment)? Is it the challenge, the intellectual exercise of it all, the opportunity to learn and to broaden your horizons?

Is it the confidence you feel when you can ID everything–or almost everything–by sight, and maybe by sound? Is it the recognition you receive as the local birding expert? Is it the numbers aspect–the lists and counts, the surveys and censuses. And related to that, is it the opportunity, and perhaps your ability, to gently one-up the competition?

What is it for you? I’d love to know. We’re all pursuing this wonderful hobby: the world’s greatest, by our accounts. But I want to know why. And I hope that with what I learn from you, I’ll be able to provide some answers in a feature story I’ll be writing for BirdWatching magazine. If I do hear back from you (and I hope I do), your answers, your story could become part of that story.

I’ve sent this out to birders in several states. If you’d like to take the survey as well, feel free to respond below. I’d love to hear from you! Here is one response I received from Russ Ruffing in MD. I include it here because it’s about bird migration. And right now we’re near the peak of passerine migration. I include it, too, because it reflects some of my own feelings.

One Response to the Survey

I bird for so many reasons! Probably the main reason is that I am absolutely intrigued with the movement of birds around our planet. Migration is the most fascinating phenomenon I can think of and birds are the most visible examples of that phenomenon. Yes I love the listing aspect of birding but I really try to see birds as individuals not as just a tick. When I see a migrating warbler, thrush, or what have you, I try to imagine where it came from and where might it be going. Have I seen this particular individual before? Have I been to its particular home territory in the tropics? Perhaps it passed through my yard the same week as it did last year? These thoughts really keep it interesting to me.

Russ goes on to say: “The way that birds are tied to the ebb and flow of the seasons has literally grounded me to this planet for as long as I can remember.” Powerful words. And speaking of that ebb and flow, here’s a recent report (thanks to Gabriel Mapel) from Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Waynesboro, VA. Visitors that day (9/26) tallied over 10,000 migrating Broad-winged Hawks. And they were treated to scenes like the one below almost nonstop. The photograph is courtesy of Dr. Victor E. Laubach.

What a Day!

Broad-winged Hawk “kettle”

Here’s the Rockfish Gap report:

We are at the tail end of what is generally our 10-day “peak” migration
season for Broad-winged Hawks.  Due to Hurricane Florence and other
rainstorms, we have had relatively low numbers this year.  Up until today,
we had tallied just over 8,000 Broad-wings total this season, a far cry
from our 20,000+ season average.  Well, A LOT changed today as we more than
doubled our 2018 season total and landed the third highest single day count
of Broad-wings in the history of our hawk watch!  In fact, today was the
biggest BW day since 1986!  Except for a brief midday lull between 12-1pm,
the Broad-wings were coming through NONSTOP all day long!  They were flying
all over the sky with nice kettles and many long “rivers” of hawks.  At
times, three counters were counting three different large groups
simultaneously!  Although some were distant “specks” seen in scopes, a fair
share of them came right overhead for amazing views!

Just imagine being at Rockfish Gap that day. We’ll end this the way we ended the last blog, with larger versions of smaller photos posted earlier.

Green Heron in flight
Green Heron
Laughing Gull in flight
Laughing Gull
Spotted Sandpiper in flight
Spotted Sandpiper

Each bird pictured above is a migrant just like the Broad-winged Hawk.

And This Just In

The Friends of the Indian River is an important organization whose mission is to improve the environmental quality–and thus the quality of life–in the Indian River neighborhood of Chesapeake. They often work hand in hand with the Elizabeth River Project. When you visit their site, you’ll learn that Rogard Ross, the Friends’ founder, is the Virginia finalist in the 2018 Cox Conserves Heroes program. Should he become the national winner (he needs your votes!), the Friends will be awarded up to $50,000, money that will be used to further the vital mission above.

Quip, Question, Quote

This quote bears repeating. “I bird because I have to.” Tom and Sheri Roberts



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