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Monadnock Ledger-Transcript – Backyard Naturalist:Β The act of enjoying wild birds

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For over 20 years, I have paid special attention to wildlife, both for work and for pleasure – including monitoring endangered Nighthawks, volunteering at ringing stations. owls and the search for loons – but until recently I had never considered myself a bird watcher. That is to say: I do not keep a list of life. I can identify some valuable warblers or sparrows by species. I have never traveled specifically to see birds. And, for the most part, the only way I can tell if a rare bird has turned up in town is if a friend of mine who is a β€œreal” bird watcher tells me about it.

In short, birding has always seemed like something akin to a competitive sport, and I’m strictly JV.

Next, I saw a presentation by Freya McGregor of Birdability, a new non-profit organization working to make birding safe and accessible to all, with a special focus on people with disabilities. While much of his talk centered on the inner workings of accessibility to the outdoors – trail surface and slope, bathrooms, benches, the importance of never parking in the striped driveway. next to a van-accessible parking space – Freya also gave advice on how to make the birding community more welcoming.

With that in mind, she proposed a new definition of birding as, simply, “the act of enjoying wild birds” – whether you are watching or listening, moving or standing still, whether or not you have binoculars. or whether you maintain bird lists or have an in-depth knowledge of species identification.

When I heard Freya’s definition, I thought, β€œIt’s me! I love wild birds. It might be you too.

Of course, identifying birds can be helpful in learning more about their lives. It is much easier, for example, to find information on “mourning doves” than on “those grayish-brown birds that look like owls but are definitely not owls”.

So, now that you know that you are a bird watcher, how can you find out more about the wild birds that you love? One useful tool is Merlin, a free bird identification application created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Once you’ve downloaded Merlin to your phone, you’re just a few clicks away from discovering the identity of a mysterious bird. Merlin asks five simple questions – where and when you saw the bird, its approximate size (with silhouettes of well-known species like robins and geese to guide you), its main colors, what it was doing (eating at the feeder, swimming or wading, hovering or flying) – then use your answers to generate a list of possible species, complete with photos, sounds and distribution maps for each.

It’s not foolproof, especially if you only get a fleeting glimpse of the bird in question, but more often than not it does the trick. There are also options for identifying a bird by uploading a photo or recording of its call, and for browsing an illustrated list of likely species based on your location and time of year.

Another amazing free resource is eBird, an app and website for recording and sharing bird sightings. eBird organizes information based on species checklists and provides a way not only to keep track of your own sightings, photos and sound recordings, but also to explore sightings submitted by other birders. With search options by location, date, species, or all three, you can find out which birds you’re likely to see in January at your favorite local park, or find out where you might have a better chance of spying on that long-awaited prize – like the Snowy Owl which was reported by several eBirders at Keene Airport on December 6 (and, unfortunately, not since.)

All data submitted to eBird is also available to scientists, who use it to inform research on everything from population trends to the impacts of climate change. With over 720,000 eBirders worldwide and 100 million sightings per year, it’s a powerful tool that can seem a little overwhelming at times – but remember you can always start small, with species and places. that look like you.

Many people find their way to birding by birding at bird feeders, and winter – when “bird feeders” are less likely to turn into “bear feeders” – is a great time to do it. ‘to try. The Harris Center maintains our feeding station stocked with seeds and tallow throughout the winter, and visitors are welcome to view from our front patio (at all times) or inside the building (during weekday business hours. ).

If you want to set up your own feeders but don’t know where to start, local conservation biologist Steven Lamonde will be giving a free Zoom talk with winter bird feeding tips on January 10 via the Harris Center; you can learn more and register at harriscenter.org. (While you’re at it, I also highly recommend that you watch the recording of Steven’s recent Monadnock area winter bird talk, and Freya McGregor’s exciting talk on Birdability, which can be found at Harris Center YouTube channel.)

For many long-time birders, spring and fall are the most exciting seasons as a diversity of species migrate through our local landscape, sometimes in large numbers. Birds can also be more colorful in the spring when they are sporting their best breeding season plumage.

However, winter has its own charms, especially for novice bird watchers. At this time of year there are a lot less species, so we can really know which ones are left. Put aside the mystifying tangle of warbler identification and embrace the simple beauty of chickadees, chickadees and juncos instead. Admire the diligence of woodpeckers and nuthatches, the bravado of jays, the brilliance of cardinals. Follow the grouse tracks in the snow. Listen to the owls. And above all, enjoy it.

Brett Amy Thelen is Scientific Director at the Harris Center for Conservation Education.

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