Birder's Guide

MAR 2015

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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51 March 2015 | Birder's Guide to Travel Bloomfeld, New Jersey rwright@aba.org Rick Wright lmost 40 years later, we're still laughing at the metropolitan pro- vincialism so skillfully skewered by the artist, Saul Steinberg; but there's still a disturbing lot of truth to it. Never will I forget chatting with a genial shopkeeper in Boston (that other navel of the uni- verse): When I told her where I was from, she looked thoughtful for a moment, then brightened as she told me that she'd "been to North Carolina once." And study after would-be scandalous study tells us that children can't fnd this or that or the other on a map, an embarrassing failing most of them—most of us—never outgrow. Birders, of course, are different. (Some of us more different than others.) Almost all of us, from the stubbornest of patch birders to the most widely traveled of world listers, consider ourselves top-notch experts in ge- ography, at least in the old schoolroom sense of "geography" as the ability to stick a pin in the correct place on that dusty scroll of stiff canvas. Borneo? Of course. Attu? Don't make me laugh. We can even, most of us, point with some confdence and some accu- racy to the Platte River where it crosses cen- A tral Nebraska, thanks to our private or our vicarious memories of cool March morn- ings with the rattles of a hundred thousand Sandhill Cranes or the hoots and whistles of a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek echoing in our mind's ear. But even those of us birders who can put our fngers on Churchill and the Kamchatka Peninsula are likely to draw a blank, liter- ally and fguratively, if we're forced to think about the rest of Nebraska. It's a big state, with nine times the land area of my adoptive home, New Jersey, and a ffth of the human population, almost all of it concentrated in the densely settled southeastern corner. Despite the recent cultural and economic prominence enjoyed by the springtime pageant of cranes on the Platte, very few of Nebraska's 1.86 million human residents have taken the step into full-fedged bir- derdom, with the result that there are still vast areas of the state ornithologically little known even to "the locals". One of those underbirded and underap- preciated areas is the Nebraska Panhandle, 14,000 mi. 2 (36,260 km 2 ) and 11 counties bounded to the north by South Dakota, to Chadron State Park. Photo © Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

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