If there’s a silver lining in the cloud of the coronavirus, it’s that so many people are noticing birds for the first time. Even in this era of social distancing, people are also noticing other birders and engaging the broader birding community. Some of them will find their way to the ABA. But even those who do not will, at least to some degree, find themselves within the ABA’s sphere of influence.
I miss the spring bird festivals and road trips to vagrant traps, but I’m also enjoying Q. T. with common birds as never before. It can be hard to stay sane and centered in these trying times, and I don’t mean to minimize that reality; but it is also gratifying that, even though we cannot go far away to see them right now, birds are more comforting and more wonderful than ever.
We had an ice storm earlier in the month, as good an excuse as any to go out for a bit of birding. Camera?–check. Sanitizer?–check. Mask?–check. I saw a birding friend out there, Vasu, and we struck up a conversation—from a distance of well over six feet. The new normal.
True to form, the backyard solitaire is, well, solitary. This is a species that had the social distancing thing perfected long before social distancing was a human thing. Prediction: The Merriam–Webster Word of the Year for 2020 is going to be "social distancing." Either that or "shelter in place." That’s another behavior our backyard solitaire has down.
This is a type 2 red crossbill because it sounds like one, looks like one, and acts like one. But check this out: We didn’t know any of that stuff when I started birding close to 40 years ago. Bird populations are changing, and so is our knowledge of bird populations.
I’ve encountered an awful lot of black-billed magpies in my life, and, truth be told, I rarely if ever encounter the “perfect” bird. That’s because magpies are far too busy being admirably, absorbingly, utterly fascinating. Spend an hour with a pair of magpies, as I did late last month, and you will come away from the experience amazed and humbled.
Birding together has always been about learning and discovery, and it always shall be. There is something wonderfully nerdy about birding, and I make no apologies for that. But birding in the decade ahead is destined to be embraced more fully as a force for good—good for our bodies, good for our minds, good for humanity.
You heard it here first: Before too long, places like San Blas will be on the birding circuit. And sightings of birds like El Cacique will in some sense be routine.
Why do you go to birding? Is it to “chase” a rarity? To find one on your own? Is it for exercise? For contemplation? Is it to spend time with friends? To get away from it all? For science? For conservation?
One of the greatest things about being a birder (and, to be fair, a butterflyer or a botanizer or an astronomer) is that things like yellow-rumped warblers are even out there at all. A warbler of all things! In the dead of winter! In frigid Denver!