Friday, February 22, 2013

Checking in: Day #53 of my New England birding big year

I had read reports of Canvasback ducks in the area but discovered these two quite by accident while scanning the Charles River in Newton. For me, a big part of the fun of birding is finding unexpected species and exploring new places. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
As I continue my New England birding big year I plan to sit down occasionally and offer some thoughts on things I've noticed, and the ways in which my plans and approach shange as the year progresses. One of the biggest changes I've made so far in these first 53 days is to shift my birding big year focus from only Massachusetts to all of New England. I did this for a couple of reasons, including the fact that I plan to be out of state quite a bit, and with limited time when I'm not working I really wanted to be able to count some amazing birds I've seen in Rhode Island, including a Thick-billed Murre, Sandhill Crane and Northern Lapwing. I suppose it's bending the rues a bit, but then again, I made them for myself in the first place.

The second change I've made is that as of today I've decided to suspend my email subscription to the Massachusetts e-bird rarity alert notice. I still plan to check out e-bird and to look at the ABA Massachusetts birding lists online, but I was beginning to feel like instead of going out and searching for birds based on my knowledge of avian life, geography and ecology, that I had begun to "shop" for my birds, gleaning updates on a daily basis on the whereabouts of every unusual species someone spotted. I still think the emails from e-bird and the online resources are great and really valuable, I'm just going to try and use on them less.

In terms of things I've learned or noticed, I have been having great fun joining birding field trips run by Mass Audubon. I've gone on three this year and have already signed up for two more. One excursion was run by the center at Joppa Flats where I got to see my very first Bald Eagle, while two others were led by Strickland Wheelock out of Drumlin Farm and took me to Rhode Island for a whole host of rare birds and some amazing views of wintering ducks, grebes and loons. On these outings I've been continually impressed by the more advanced birders in the group, who display an impressive depth of knowledge and a marked willingness to share that knowledge with other less-experienced birders (including myself, of course !)  I've also enjoyed exploring new places and having a chance to sharpen some of my ID skills.

As I write this I am already thinking about my next outing, to look for owls. Hopefully in the next blog post I write I will be able to say that not only have I added a species or two to my list, but learned something new from my rambles in the natural world. That's really my main goal every time I go outdoors.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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