Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In Pursuit of Yellow-throated Warbler

Why would I keep going out of my way to gawk at a feeder on Strawberry Marsh Road every day since December 1st? Well, to see the Yellow-throated Warbler, of course. It seems kind of silly when I consider I saw one on August 28, November 13 and November 18. Well, there is reason to this madness.

It is the Winter Birding Season. There is something compelling about resetting my bird count to zero and starting all over again. It is a personal challenge to amass the sightings of as many species as possible from December 1 to February 28 each year. Who knows? In the process I might just unearth a rare bird along the way.
It is these kinds of seasonal challenges scattered throughout the year that keep the sport fresh. There are numerous events and calendar-based opportunities to motivate me to get out in the open air (hot or cold; wet or dry) to see what I can find.
There is, of course, January 1st. That is a day to find many birders pounding the streets  visiting sites where rare birds have been reported already in order to add them to the new Year List before they disappear. Overlapping that date is the on-going Winter List ending on February 28.  Also falling into this period of time is the Great Back Yard Bird Count. This three-day (Feb. 15-18) blitz contributes to science by generating a list of reported birds seen in a specific area for three consecutive days.
In addition to these events, there is the Christmas Bird Count where birders spread out and cover a designated zone to record all birds sighted from dawn to dusk on one day. There are several of these counts scheduled to take place across the province. There is also the great draw of spring and fall migration that drags birders out yet again in search of rare birds that come and go during this time. A "big day" of birding may happen in October when birders head to hotspots to record as many species as possible in a friendly competition to find the best bird.

It's kind of like "flying geocaching." It's possible to get coordinates of previously sighted birds, but there is no guarantee the bird will ever be seen again. Nevertheless, just going to search for a special bird opens up the opportunity to find something even better in the process. It is the element of surprise, the beauty of the bird, the challenge to best personal records, the fun of sharing, and the draw of "the wild" that all get into the psyche and tease me into participating in most every event. After three years of immersion, it never gets dull. 

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