Birds occupy a central part of our lives, but it’s never really just birds, is it?

There is always an “and” when it comes to birds, whether they’re introducing us to other fields of natural history, facilitating friendships, helping us learn geography—the list is endless.

This column will be about exploring the endless ways birds blend with everything else, the many “ands” of birding. As we engage those “ands,” I hope to keep learning not just about how we know the birds, but about how birds and birding connect us to so many other things.

No. 24: Birds and Directions

May 17th, 2022|

Birders are pretty good at giving directions. Except when we’re not. But mostly we are! Just think of all the times we give exacting, ultraprecise instructions on which branch the Cerulean Warbler is singing from. Or which rock next to 100 other rocks is actually not a rock and is...

No. 25: Birds and Nests

June 1st, 2022|

It’s all over. Migration. It came and went. Why does it always happen so fast? Why didn’t I go birding more during that precious window? How long until shorebirds start passing through again? No, no, no. Not only is it true that migration may not even be over in your...

No. 23: Birds and Spring Migration Icons

May 3rd, 2022|

Throughout much of the ABA Area, spring migration is reaching its peak, and, for many birders, the most exciting time of the year is now upon us. Some will travel far to be at the best migration traps in North America, and some will savor the fact that even just...

No. 22: Birds and Life Moments

April 20th, 2022|

One of the most wonderful things about birding is that once you become a birder, your whole life is filled with the wonder of birds. Every moment we spend outside, we’re aware of what birds are around us, even if we’re not actively seeking for them. And birds are almost...

No. 21: Birds and Early Migrants

April 5th, 2022|

The pinnacle of spring is when the first of year birds come hard and fast: when you’re getting 3¬¬¬¬¬-5+ birds you haven’t seen in months per day, sometimes even per hour or minute. The euphoric two-week period when this is possible, which varies across the US and Canada, is considered...

No. 20: Birds and Winter Departures

March 22nd, 2022|

Our collective birder brains are zeroing in on one thing: spring. It’s coming. We can feel it. Just yesterday, when I took a walk in the park with my daughter, I did not find any definitely migrating species—although the juncos and robins may very well have been migrants—but...

No. 19: Birds and the S&D Surprise

March 8th, 2022|

Researching the birding trip: for many birders, almost as much fun as the trip itself. How many Word documents of half-planned itineraries do you have on your hard drive right now? You don’t have to fess up (I might have just as many). One of the great joys of planning...

No. 18: Birds and the Buzzer Beater Twitch

February 25th, 2022|

We like the slam dunk twitch, as discussed in the previous iteration of Birds and…: when you try to find a new bird and are met with almost immediate success. As always, I loved hearing everyone’s stories about their best ever slam dunk twitches. But on the other end of...

No. 17: Birds and the Slam Dunk Twitch

February 9th, 2022|

It’s thrill of the chase, the agony of uncertainty, the ecstasy of finally getting the bird after so much heartache and physical exertion… that’s what makes chasing rarities so addictive, right? Sure, but… it’s nice when the bird’s just right there too. Here’s an entry for the slam dunk twitches...

No. 16: Birds and Hosting

January 25th, 2022|

After the rarity is confirmed to be reliably visiting a private residence, there is the tense moment… are they allowing visitors? With COVID, that has become an even weightier question, but back in February 2017, when the world was simpler, Adrienne and I, along with many other ABAers, were

No. 15: Birds and Cold

December 28th, 2021|

Species: Pine Grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator Question: What’s your coldest ever lifer? What comes after CBC season? For many ABA Area birders, it’s the beginning of a months-long wait—a hibernation, almost—until read more >>

No. 14: Birds and CBC Rarities

December 14th, 2021|

We do it for the data. Kinda. Sorta? Legions of birders will soon participate in their local Christmas Bird Counts, and perhaps in some cases, CBCs far from home. But how many of us will pore over the data once it’s all in? Some of us will—I like to...

No. 13: Birds and Size

November 30th, 2021|

We hear it a lot: don’t use size for ID. It’s deceptive, it’s too hard to evaluate in the field, even photos can be misleading, yadda yadda. True, at least often enough to be worth noting. But we also use size as an ID aid all the time. When we...

No. 12: Birds and the Magic of Overwintering Rarities

November 16th, 2021|

Some years ago, it dawned on me that winter was actually the best season for rarity chasing in the ABA Area. Since more birds are moving around in spring and fall, the migratory seasons have more actual rarities popping up, but the birds are on the move, so they don’t...

No. 11: Birds and Sign

November 2nd, 2021|

Species: Spruce Grouse, Falcipennis canadensis Question: What are your favorite experiences with bird sign? Birding boreal forests and bogs in summer is an essential ABA Area experience: every bird is read more >>

No. 8: Birds and Fall/Winter Plumage

September 21st, 2021|

Birders love fall migration, and they love it for lots of different reasons: there are more birds because it’s after breeding season, migration lasts longer than in spring, and the birds themselves move more slowly, often lingering for longer in desirable habitat and sometimes affording twitchers a little extra time...

No. 7: Birds and Vismig

September 7th, 2021|

Birders know that one of the great things about birding—something that distinguishes birding from most and possibly all other forms of natural history study—is that we can make birding just about as demanding or relaxing as we want it to be. We can travel to the ends of...

No. 6: Birds and Flight Displays

August 24th, 2021|

The American woodcock has to be one of the coolest birds in the ABA Area. A shorebird. That lives in the woods. And has perfect camouflage. And a squiggly bill. And shakes its butt hilariously when it walks. Not to forget the multitude of amazing colloquial names the woodcock has, several...

No. 5: Birds and Vehicles

August 10th, 2021|

Birders have a knack for making friends far their homes, and then meeting up with those friends again…far from their homes. It seems only natural to make friends with a couple at Magee and then see them again two years later at Aransas, or to start a friendly rivalry...

No. 4: Birds and Mishap!

July 27th, 2021|

I learned about Snake Bight after reading about it, like so many dangerous things, on the internet: it was a recommended spot for the mangrove cuckoo. Snake Bight can have spectacular views of hundreds and sometimes thousands of wading birds and shorebirds feeding on the mudflats.

No. 3: Birds and Resistance to Corporate Aesthetics

July 13th, 2021|

The biggest thing was the way the swallows made that place theirs, disrupting the sameness—however soothing—of corporate aesthetics with…mud. And homes. And baby birds. I wouldn’t have expected to find a cliff swallow colony on the side of a hotel. Seeing that brought me real joy.

No. 2: Birds and the Surprise of the Uncommon

June 29th, 2021|

Some birds are like that, I think. You’ll live your life, and while you’re living, the bird will intersect with your own lifepath, shocking and delighting. A ballast during both the good and bad. Not a common bird, but not a once-in-a-lifetime find either. Just a bird that always surprises.

No. 1: Birds and the Surprise of the Common

June 15th, 2021|

A few weeks ago, my wife, Adrienne, quizzed me. “There’s a new study on what the four most common bird species in the world are…want to guess? One is pretty hard I think.” These four birds are the only wild bird species estimated to have populations above one billion.