Birder's Guide

MAY 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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48 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2014 ve always loved birds, but I didn't always know I could be a birder. Only recently did I learn that I could give what I loved to do a name and, more importantly, that there were others in the world I could share it with. Starting from a young age, I've always had a bird feeder up no matter where I was living, but my relationship to birds changed consider- ably when I bought a house in upstate New York, situated on a hundred-acre working farm. I learned that farming doesn't cre- ate the best habitat for birds. Yet there are some healthy corridors on my land, a pond fed by a spring, wetlands, and an area of woods, so I get about 50 species of birds, sometimes more. I saw these bright, blue birds on the land that led me to the North American Bluebird Society, which in turn resulted in my putting up bluebird boxes and monitoring them. I went onto the bluebird forums to fnd out what to do when I found blowfies on the nestlings, how to replace a wet nest, and how to cope with the ongoing war between blue- birds and Tree Swallows. The bluebirds led me to the Cornell Lab of Ornithol- ogy's Project FeederWatch. I started col- lecting data and learned how to create a better habitat for the birds. When I was back in the city, Passer domesticus wasn't doing it for me anymore. I did an internet search for "birds and New York", whereupon I found the ABA's website. It gave me information not only about New York but also about the 49 continental states and all of Canada! And I could be a member? You mean this could be an offcial thing? I joined. I found bird sight- ings, bird locations, bird walks, and forums. I found information about Central Park, printed out a detailed bird- ing map, and went exploring. Within the park, I saw regular civilians, and then, as I went farther in, I saw people like me: a woman fxated on a Northern Waterthrush hopping along the edge of a stream, a man smiling ear to ear while gaz- ing at a Wilson's Warbler, an older couple sitting on a bench looking through bin- oculars. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was not alone. I got to know Central Park quite well, but I live in Brooklyn and felt the need to connect with birds closer to home. I found the great website titled "Prospect Park Sightings" and shortly thereafter joined the Brooklyn Bird Club. I got an iPhone, and that took my birding to a whole other level. I had eBird at my fngertips, plus Twitter, Google Maps, the Sibley app, Wunderground, a wind app, a tide app, a record- ing app for bird song... I discovered that there were festivals for birders. I signed up for The Biggest Week in American Birding. I met fellow birders on the Magee Marsh boardwalk early in the morning, and by evening we were still birding. They invited me to a party, and when I found myself with my new friends, crawling commando style in the cold grass to get as close as possible to a male woodcock, I knew I had found my tribe. I started calling myself a birder. And the responses to that have been very surpris- ing. Usually I get, "You're a what?" It be- came clear to me that most people know nothing about birds. But conversely, the ensuing dialogue after the initial "huh?" was encouraging: Most everyone was open and curious to hear why I liked birds so much. The word needs to get out. When- ever I have the opportunity, I try to talk about birding. I carry my bins with me because that's always a con- versation starter. I take extra time watching birds on city sidewalks because it's almost guaranteed that I'm going to have at least two people ask me what I'm looking at. I visit my daughter's class and talk to the kids about birds. My friend Sharon Stiteler (a.k.a. BirdChick)— whom I frst met on that trip to the Magee Marsh boardwalk—suggest- ed I ask half the class to fy around as hawks and the other half as hum- mingbirds. And then we all became geese and few in a V formation in the hallway. The rest of the year, I had kids eagerly coming up to me about a "special" bird they had seen. They were now notic- ing the birds around them. Anyone who loves birds knows that they need our help. There is a lot that can be done, and each one of us must fnd how we can contribute. But by just be- coming aware of birds, we are moving a step closer to helping the planet. By learning about birds, we necessarily also learn about the air, water, trees, insects, fowers, weather, and more that they (and we) depend on to survive. Birds are great, birds are everywhere, and anyone can go birding. Let's get the word out. Lili Taylor Brooklyn, New York Let's Get the Word Out I ' 10-Let's Get the Word Out.indd 48 5/22/14 8:03 PM

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