Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Birding Has Taught Me

When: May 14 2011
Where: Magee Marsh, Oak Harbor, Ohio

International Migratory Bird Day was perhaps one of the best days I've ever had. Why? Well, here's a short list:
  • I met and talked with Kenn and Kimberley Kaufman; both such wonderful and passionate people. What a pleasure to meet them! (along with Greg Miller and Ken Keffer. More awesome bird people!)
  • Saw my first Swainson's Thrush, my second Veery, my first spring-plumaged Blackpoll and Magniolia Warblers, my first Blue-headed Vireo, and my first Canada Warbler
  • Got some great close-up looks of a Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Black Throated Green Warbler, American Redstart, and Baltimore Oriole
  • Saw a banding demonstration, in which a Blackburnian Warbler was banded along with three NOPAs
  • Held and released a Grey Catbird after it was banded
  • Saw bird fat!
Ok, the last one isn't that great, but it was still interesting! As I show you photos from the day, I'll elaborate on each point.

Here's that Swainson's Thrush!

First, the banding demonstration. Ken Keffer was the speaker and he did an excellent job. The presentation was fun and informative. Many different species of passerines were banded; including...

There were LOTS of Warbling Vireos banded that day!

Bird fat! (of a Red-eyed Vireo)

This Baltimore Oriole isn't being too nice to Kim...

Kim shows me how to hold the Catbird...

Me with the Catbird! When I released this beautiful little bird, it was incredible to feel the energy as it launched into the air. What power, grace, and determination is packed into their tiny bodies! And such detailed topography and mysterious eyes. Birds are AMAZING CREATURES and really DESERVE to be loved, conserved, and WATCHED with passion!! I'm so very glad to be a birder, to be part of an everyday effort to conserve and learn about these complex animals.

A stunning male Maggie!

The first NOPA of three...can you believe that this tiny bird flew across the GULF OF MEXICO withOUT stopping? Minimal food, no drinking, and NO rest. And, because she has adult plumage, it means she's done it at least three times! So have any other birds in definitive basic plumage. Isn't that the most incredible thing? Just imagine! Being four inches long and skimming along the waves of the Gulf, knowing it's fly or die?? THIS is why I love birds!

A close-up of another Catbird banded that day. Look at the orbital feathers around its eye, and those tiny little whiskers on its chin! And notice how the black cap feathers are a bit longer. And who knew their eyes were a deep maroon-BROWN? What amazing detail these birds have.

This guy brought "oohs" and "aaahs" as he was pulled from the net. A male Blackburnian! A "poster bird" if I've ever seen one.

The Vireos were fiesty! This is a blurry photo, I know, but it was too neat not to share.

Male Wilson's Warbler. Look at the pattern on his "plain" as he may seem, the feather groups are still apparent. It's amazing! Remember, even the drabbest of birds have flown further on their own two wings than you've probably walked on your two feet your entire life. Think about THAT the next time you dismiss an American Robin as "just" a robin! Take time to appreciate birds and what they are capable of!

Checking a Tree Swallow's wing...they're perfectly designed for their lifestyle. Evolution is astounding.

Female Blackpoll warbler! This one stumped the crowed until Ken showed us the orange legs! She didn't want to be held...

Common Grackle...he looks uncomfortable.

Male Chestnut-sided Warbly. TONS of these guys too!

A male Canada warbler...unfortunately I've got a sad story to tell about a Canada Warbler. After banding, the warbler wasn't ready to fly away, and it had been released it over the crowd, so the bird fluttered down and onto the ground. A guy stepped RIGHT ONTO IT and kept his foot there (he didn't realize, of course); but he couldn't have been more accurate if he'd tried. It was quite sickening and scary. I gasped; we all did. I was one of the few who saw it; those who didn't were happy they didn't. Ken hurried to pick it up and rush it away to try and save was dead, though. Poor, poor thing. An accident, but still horrible. We all were silent for a bit after that. R.I.P. little guy, and may your relatives continue to inspire and teach us all.

Two Wilson's Warblers getting ready to be weighed.

Kim bands a Grey Catbird...

And now for the "wild" bird shots. Here we have a stunning male Black-throated Green Warbly...he was super cooperative! I was standing just feet from this branch as I took these shots.

In the field, I didn't even realize I was looking at a Blue-headed Vireo...when I check the ID at home, I got a little shock. What an awesome bird! (By the way, this same bird is in the banner for my blog! Look up!)

Female American Robin on her nest!

FINALLY got a decent shot of a BTBW!

A particularly vibrant male Baltimore Oriole. I've seen them in my neighborhood start to build nests...flying around with streamers of hay, hair, and grass. To think just weeks ago they were in SOUTH AMERICA and by the time autumn comes, they've got to raise a family and fly BACK across the Gulf until NEXT spring, when (if they survive) they get to do it all over again. Being a bird is hard, but I am sure they have so much joy with it. To be able to fly, to sing such beautiful songs, and to inspire so many people...what an incredible life.

and a Yellow Warbler...did you know one Yellow Warbly, "Wally", returned nine years in a row to a certain banding station in Canada every spring? Wow!! How birds find their way back over thousands and thousands of miles is simply unfathomable...

In conclusion, I'd like to relate to you how important it is to conserve and protect birds and their habitats. We must realize that the actions we take here in America will affect countries like Venezuela and Ecuador; and what they do will affect us. Why? Birds!

Birds, quite literally, connect us all-- they spend winters in South American countries and breed in North America in the spring. If American habitat isn't saved, then the birds in South America will have no home to come home to! And if South American habitat is destroyed, our spring migrants will have no winter vacation home! If habitat worldwide isn't protected, birds will cease to exist. Rachel Carson warned us of a "silent spring", and it is a very real possibility. Without everyone's help, passion, and dedication, our feathered friends will have no homes. With no homes, they have no where to raise their young. Without a new generation, once the current generation passes, there will be no more birds. It's a very scary and sobering thought, but it's necessary to keep it in mind as we go about our daily lives. Birds are an important part of our world and without them, life would never be the same.

So, help the birds. Help the world. Support efforts to conserve birds and their habitat! Get outside and appreciate the birds! Take photos and paint pictures of these wonderful creatures, and share their beauty with others. WE have harmed their habitats, but WE are the solution!


If birding has taught me one thing, it is to appreciate and learn from our avian neighbors, and to share that passion with others. They are DESERVING of our efforts, time, and love, and we must do ALL WE CAN to preserve these AMAZING, ASTOUNDING,BEAUTIFUL, INSPIRING, INCREDIBLE, STUNNING, and POWERFUL beings.

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."
~John Muir

**Peace Always,
Kristina Polk**


Dave said...

YOU are a wondrous and exceptionally inspirational young woman.
Thank you for being here.

Dave said...

By th way, thanks for saying "Warbly!"

Kristina said...

You just made me smile. Thank you so very much, for appreciating me and the messages I put in my blog.

You really made my day with these comments; really, thank you! I only want what's best for this world and its inhabitants and I'll do whatever I can to help...