broken walls and narratives

A not so revolutionary blog about feminism, socialism, activism, travel, nature, life, etc.

A Year of Birding

A Year of Birding

H. Bradford

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One of my many New Year’s resolutions last year was to try a few new hobbies.  One of the hobbies that I tested out this year was birding.  Birding, or the act of observing or listening for birds, is pretty interesting.  The average age of a birder is 53 years old.  According to a report from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (2013), 30% of birders are over the age of 55.  23% are between ages 45 and 54.  Thus, this is a hobby where I am actually on the young side!  About 50% of birders make over $50,000 a year, so it seems to be a hobby for people with more money than the average American, myself included.  About 56% of birders are women, though perhaps this is because there are more older women than men.  88% of birders are backyard observers of birds, whereas 38% are birders who travel at least a mile to view birds (there is overlap between these groups).  As a whole, the average birder is probably an older, white female, with above average income and education, who lives in the urban south.  This is a hobby that is not known for its appeal to people of color, youth, working class people, the LGBTQ community, etc.  Despite the lack of diversity, there are several reasons why I was attracted to birding.  1.) It is an easy going, outdoor hobby.  2.) I like to make lists.  3.) It is an example of citizen science, since birders can play a role in collecting scientific data about birds. 4.) Birds are basically feathered dinosaurs…so, birding is modern day dinosaur tracking.  Finally, despite the fact that it is a hobby for those with more income, I was able to do birding just my eyes and a guidebook.  I did most of my birding on trips that I was already taking (so I did not take the trips with the purpose of birding, but chose to look out for birds while travelling), with some birding done locally.  Next year, I would like to take advantage of more local birding opportunities.


My year of birding began with a birding hike at Jay Cooke State Park.  The hike did not yield many birds, though we did see many chickadees, crows, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.  The next boon for birding was when an ivory billed gull appeared in Duluth.  The bird was usually found in the Arctic, but found itself outside of its range.  When I heard that it had been spotted in Canal Park, I awoke early one morning to see if I could catch it.  Sure enough, I spotted it on the Lakewalk near Grandma’s Restaurant.  I visited it several more times over the next few days.  Getting up early to see the wayward gull made me feel like a “real” birder, since I was joined by people with binoculars and fancy cameras.  After seeking out the gull, my birding mostly consisted of trying to record the birds that I saw in my backyard.  I think that this is one of the most appealing things about birding.  For most of my life, I have been pretty indifferent to birds.  But, once I started paying attention, I noticed that the world was abundant with bird life.  There is a secret world of birds all around us.

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Bird watching enhanced my trip to Africa.  I kept my eyes peeled for birds, which I recorded in a journal throughout the trip.  I would sketch them out or photograph them so that I could compare them to the birds in my guide.  There were so many wonderful birds!  I remember seeing my first flocks of flamingos as well as the large flocks at Walvis Bay, Namibia.  It is strange to see wild birds that you would normally only get to see in zoos.  Other highlights included spotting African spoonbills and Marabou Storks.  Maribou Storks are bald headed storks which scavenge dead flesh.  There were colorful Malachite kingfishers and bright Lilac breasted roller birds.  I saw several species of hornbills, which was very iconically African.   There were herons, ibises, egrets, and a variety of other waterbirds.  In all, I spotted 63 species of birds in Africa.

While Africa was probably the best birding experience I will ever have, I had another fun experience while visiting my brother in Texas.  I went to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.  My family spent about two hours here, but it was not enough time for me, so I stayed for several hours longer while they enjoyed lunch and a waterpark.  During my trek along the boardwalk, I spotted Great Blue herons, Roseate spoonbills,  Brown Pelicans, osprey, Tricolor herons, Snowy egrets, etc.  It was amazing how similar the birdlife was to the birds that I spotted in Africa.  While the species were different, many of the birds in Texas either filled similar ecological niches or were local species of the same birds.  For instance, South Padre Island had Roseate spoonbills rather than African spoonbills.  I spotted Anhinga in Texas and African Darters in Namibia and Botswana.  Both are similar looking darters with long, snake like necks and jagged dark feathers that they dry in the sun.  Although unrelated, the caracara that I saw alongside the road reminded me of a Secretary bird in its coloration and eating habits.  Of course, I saw a variety of egrets in Texas as well.  The cattle egrets that I saw in Africa are the very same species that I saw in Texas.  The bird spread with the spread of humans and domesticated animals.  Though, the cattle egret is a relative newcomer to Texas, having only arrived in the 1960s.  The Great egret spotted at the park is almost identical to the Great egret spotted in Africa, though they are different subspecies.  The Caspian tern is also found in both Africa and Texas.

I am still at the very beginning stages of learning about birds.  However, perhaps by the time I am 53, the average age of a birder, I will be well-versed in the world of birds.  One appeal of birding is that it is basically an endless scavenger hunt.  Some birders compete to see how many birds they can identify in the world or in a country in a single year (this is called a Big Year).  I think that this year may be my own “Big Year” as I doubt I will see as many species in a year as I saw this year!  This year also helped to give me a start on my Life List, or the list of birds that a birder has seen in their lifetime.  In all, I probably saw over 130 species of birds this year.  To me this seems like a lot, but it is small compared to the 10,000 species of birds in the world!

With that said, here is the list of birds that I have seen this year.   I will eventually go back and organize the list using scientific names.  Otherwise, the count may go up, as I plan on participating in the Christmas bird count:

 

Texan Birds:

  1. Willet
  2. White Winged dove
  3. Mockingbird
  4. Forester’s tern
  5. Redhead duck
  6. Crested caracra
  7. Great tailed grackle
  8. Common grackle
  9. House sparrow
  10. Harris’ Hawk
  11. Sanderling
  12. Black-bellied Plover
  13. Brown Pelican
  14. American coot
  15. Great Blue heron
  16. Roseate spoonbill
  17. Little blue heron
  18. Northern pintail
  19. White ibis
  20. Great egret
  21. Laughing gull
  22. Common gallinule
  23. Blue wing teal
  24. Osprey
  25. Least tern
  26. Long billed curlew
  27. Black necked stilt
  28. Snowy egret
  29. Tricolor heron
  30. American wigeon
  31. Mottled duck
  32. Spotted sandpiper
  33. Clapper rail
  34. Turkey vulture
  35. Belted kingfisher
  36. Anhinga
  37. American white pelican
  38. Carolina Wren

African birds

  1. Blue waxbill
  2. Southern ground hornbill
  3. Black collared barbet
  4. Hammerkop
  5. Gray lorie (Goaway bird)
  6. Egyptian goose
  7. Secretary bird
  8. Red billed hornbill
  9. Black Winged lapwing
  10. Crimson breasted shrike
  11. Cardinal woodpecker
  12. Pied kingfisher
  13. Bank cormorant
  14. Spur winged goose
  15. Little bee eater
  16. Fish eagle
  17. African jacana
  18. Malachite kingfisher
  19. Red Collared widowbird
  20. Ostrich
  21. Greater flamingo
  22. Cape gannet
  23. Reed cormorant
  24. African darter
  25. Sacred ibis
  26. Helmeted guineafowl
  27. Cape sparrow
  28. Sociable weaver
  29. Cape white eye
  30. Karoo korhaan
  31. Great white pelican
  32. Great white egret
  33. Yellow billed hornbill
  34. African pied wagtail
  35. Red eyed bulbul
  36. Dark canting goshawk
  37. Cape glossy starling
  38. Pied crow
  39. Kori Bustard
  40. Green wood hoopoe
  41. Dark capped bulbul
  42. African Spoonbill
  43. Lilac Breasted roller
  44. Marabou stork
  45. Red billed oxpecker
  46. Squacco heron
  47. Gray heron
  48. Cattle egret
  49. Purple heron
  50. White faced duck
  51. Gray headed gull
  52. African Skimmer
  53. Yellow billed stork
  54. Caspian tern
  55. Laughing dove
  56. Magpie shrike
  57. African crowned eagle
  58. Trumpeter hornbill
  59. Black kite
  60. Hooded vulture
  61. Fork tailed drongo
  62. Black crake
  63. Red winged starling

Local Birds:

1.Black capped chickadee

2.White breasted Nuthatch

  1. American Crow
  2. Northern Flicker
  3. Blue Jay
  4. Dark eyed junco
  5. Downy Woodpecker
  6. Hairy Woodpecker
  7. Ivory Gull
  8. Common loon
  9. Canadian goose
  10. Snow goose
  11. Mallard Duck
  12. Killdeer
  13. Cedar Waxwing
  14. Pileated woodpecker
  15. Ruffed grouse
  16. Ruby throated hummingbird
  17. Red winged blackbird
  18. Ring billed gull
  19. Barred owl

22.American goldfinch

  1. Double crested cormorant

24.Mourning dove

  1. American robin
  2. Northern Cardinal

27.Scarlet Tanager

  1. Common redpoll

29.Tundra swan

  1. Wild turkey
  2. Common merganser

 

 

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3 thoughts on “A Year of Birding

  1. You should consider volunteering. I only wish I had known about wildlife rehabilitation sooner. https://wildwoodsrehab.org

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Leaving 2016 Behind… | broken walls and narratives

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