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ANWR protected; Re: Bird Watching vs. Birding; other notes
Trying to ignore events in other countries, and look for silver linings...
After certain senatorial slimeballs from Alaska snuck oil drilling in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into a mammoth budget bill, the US Senate
voted to block the plan! So the nesting grounds of many of our shorebirds
and sea ducks are saved again, at least until the next vote... One story
In the name of nonpartisanship, it should be noted that *seven* Republican
senators (though none from our part of the country) voted AGAINST the
drilling; and five Democrats voted for, including Zell Miller from the
Carolinas-bordering state of Georgia.
More locally, Multiple folks here have corresponded with me about the
tract of land near the corner of Eubanks Road and Old NC 86 in Orange
County. Those who have not can read about the contreversy surrounding it
Anyway, I visited the tract again on Monday afternoon, along with a few
members of the committee making plans for its future. We observed a pair
of Red-shouldered Hawks flying by and calling; I'm not sure if we saw a
courting pair, or two rivals sparring over territorial boundaries. Saw two
Field Sparrows in the powerline cut, and heard one of them sing, first
such song I've heard this year. Spring Beauty and Spicebush were
flowering, though Heartleaf Ginger (Hexastylis arifolia) was not yet;
Elderberry was leafing out, Commas (or maybe Question Marks) were flying
around, and an Eastern Fence Lizard skittered around a tree and under some
bark. And we found a small pond full of Spotted Salamander eggs,
alarmingly close to the planned construction zone...
Also saw a different pool full of mosquito larvae, and one of my
companions said he'd removed ticks from one of his children already.
Spring is here, time to dig the bug repellent out of storage!
Tidbits from the net: Jack Siler posted an article discussing Christmas
Bird Counts, a topic of frequent discussion here:
On Tue, 18 Mar 2003, Gamble, Tim wrote:
> My two cents worth on the "Bird Watching" vs. "Birding" debate: These
> terms describe two very different hobbies with only superficial
> similarities. Birding tends to be more about science and bird watching
> tends to be more about art.
Really interesting. Tim's take on the dichotomy is almost the exact
opposite of the usual definitions. Normally what comes out of such
discussions is that "Birding" is about lists, rarities, and chasing, and
so is much more of a sport (an extreme sport, we often say!) than a
science. And usually "Birdwatching" focuses instead on behavior, and
ecology, and variation among individuals of a species, all more
scientific. Under this definition, much of professional ornithology can be
considered birdwatching, whereas trying to make birding into a science,
beyond the science of identification, involves endeavors like the CBCs and
GBBC that run into statistical challenges from folks like Nathan...
Of course, the thing about all dichotomies (even when we all agree which
name goes on which end) is that they break down in the middle, and most of
us run both ways. The birder in me is still wired about *finally* getting
my lifer Dovekie last week, and is looking forward to the spring bird
counts, and to finishing my Ph.D. so I can do some more big days. The
birdwatcher noticed this afternoon that the mockingbird pecking dried
fruit out of the woodpecker feeder was doing the jerky opening and closing
of wings that I've previously only seen done by mockingbirds on the
ground; I had seen theories that this behavior helped scare insects out of
the grass, but seeing the bird doing it while perched on a feeder seems to
argue in favor of something else, maybe a display of territoriality.
My main worry about Tim's definitions, other than being different from
what I usually hear, is that they place values on the terms, with birders
being superior to birdwatchers. I like to think of them as the two ends of
Speaking of chasing and such, I have to share something else. For most of
the winter there has been a Blue Mockingbird coming to a yard in the LRGV
of Texas. The owner of this yard has been charging a fee for birders to
enter and see the bird, something like $10 a head; and I've heard he has
set up a photo blind and charges even more, like $35, to use it. More
recently, a Slate-throated Redstart has shown up in the same yard. Both
species are not only extremely rare - I think there are less than 5 US
records of the mocker, and less than 10 of the redstart - but are non-
migratory mountain residents, much more likely in the mountains of West
Texas or SE Arizona than the arid LRGV lowlands. And both are brightly
colored, attractive birds; the mockingbird is reportedly common as a cage
bird in markets in Mexico, and the redstart would not be a complete shock
there either. And birders from all over the US are converging in this
person's yard, and ticking one or both species off on their ABA lists, and
he's making money hand over fist.
Just a few observations.
Anybody know where I can find a pet shop that sells Green Violetears? Or
maybe Barrow's Goldeneyes?
Joshua S. Rose
Department of Biology (Zoology, R.I.P.)