Bodega Bay – A New Year’s to Honor a New Type of Year

Bodega Bay BeachesNew Year’s is always a time for celebration, time with family and friends, as we recollect the memories made the previous year and plan for the joys of the coming season.  This year for New Year’s eve, we decided to branch out and steer clear of the festive crowds, live music, and bubbly champagne that always seem to accompany the old growth of one year, and the ringing in of another.  We found the most peaceful place we could, Bodega Bay, CA, and fell asleep long before midnight.  We didn’t even pop a cork, and surprisingly it was my favorite New Year’s in memory.

This year, we spent our holiday camped on Wright’s Beach, a few short miles north of Bodega Bay on California’s glorious Coastal Highway 1.  While this was a popular destination New Year’s Day, we had several beaches to ourselves, or shared with a select few who were as quiet and serene as ourselves.  Bodega Bay is famous for the Pacific Ocean’s crashing waves, rock outcroppings, winding roads, and sandy beaches.  It’s about 25 miles north of the more popular Point Reyes National Seashore.  You’re further from the crowds of San Francisco, and there are ample beaches allowing you to find a shore or cove all to yourself.  If you’re ever in California, schedule a day in Bodega Bay.  You’ll be glad you did.  Below are a few of our favorite experiences while we were there.

Camping at Wright’s Beach

Wright's Beach Cooking Bodega BayWright’s Beach is a fairly large campground with a few dozen, private campsites.  You can reserve online, but the trick is to reserve early and choose any of the campsites WB01 through WB09.  These are the only sites with a direct view of the coast.  You can see the ocean through your tent window or while sitting at the picturesque tables.  Bring a few beach chairs, and prepare to enjoy a day with spectacular views, and a night lulled to sleep by the crashing surf.

Explore Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay Black TurnstonesThe Bay is a great site for birders.  While here we watched Brown Pelicans, Coots, Black Turnstones, Buffleheads, and Brandt’s geese.  There are ample restaurants and coffee shops, not to mention salt water taffy and kites!  Each day, we stopped so Joe could enjoy a cup of coffee, while I treated myself to ice cream.

Surfers and Birding at Salmon Creek

Bodega Bay Surfer Many areas of Bodega Bay are not safe for swimming or surfing.  Salmon Creek, however is,  and it’s one of the most popular places for watching surfers, beach combing, and admiring the wildlife.  Here we visited the nesting grounds of the endangered Snowy Plovers and admired Marbled Godwits.  The parking can be tough at Salmon Creek, so it’s best to arrive early.  Don’t worry, the surfers and birds arrive at dawn as well.

Harbor Seals at Goat Rock

Bodega Bay Goat Rock Harbor SealsGoat Rock is a beautiful beach with astonishing views, and a picturesque drive.  It is about nine miles north of Bodega Bay, and well worth the time.  We popped on some Celtic music and pretended we were on the coast of Ireland.  The cliffs did bear some resemblance to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, though each hold their unique beauty.  When you arrive, you’ll notice many signs warning you to stay clear of seals who are very shy and come here to raise their young.

We walked along the beach, to the largest waves we had yet seen, getting very excited when we saw the cresting backs of dolphins and occasional harbor seals and sea lions.  It wasn’t until we came to the end of the beach and rounded the corner, that we saw the reason for all the signs.  Bodega Bay Harbor SealsOn the beach across the river, there were over 50 harbor seals sunning themselves, clear of the rising tide and human interaction.  People watched as massive sea lions played in the swirling surf and the harbor seals humorously scootched out of the water onto shore.  When they look back at you with soulful eyes, you can see why they’ve been coined the dogs of the sea.  Definitely one of my favorite hours spent at Bodega Bay was visiting the seals.

Bodega Bay, CA

Bodega Bay Snowy PloversThis year we went a different route for a new years, choosing a New Year that celebrated nature and the preservation of valuable outdoor sanctuaries.  Our time in Bodega Bay showed the value of these parks and preserves that maintain nature for people, animals, and the natural processes of our planet.  It was a memorable way to start the new year by honoring our planet, and those with whom we share it.

 

The American Robin – Crowned King of Spring

by Heather Kallevig

American Robin

American Robin

Growing up in Alaska, I quickly became aware of the seasonal migratory patterns of birds. I knew which birds to expect in the winter and the summer. There were those who were only passing through briefly in the fall and those who stayed all year. After a long, six-month winter, there was one bird whose arrival I always hailed as the crowned king of spring. If you instantly jumped to the happy, melodic trills of Robins, you read my mind. Every year I waited to hear these happy birds’ cheerily cheery cheerily cheery, signaling that winter was over, spring was on its way and we would soon welcome the green of summer. With its brown suit coat, fiery red breast, and expressive black eyebrows, the pert little Robin was always a welcome sight.

Robins are one of the more common birds in North America, so it can be very easy to take these birds for granted. Global estimates for the Robin population hit approximately 310 million. 79 percent of those birds migrate through the U.S. making them recognizable to most.   Common species include the Rufous-backed Robin, the Clay-Colored Robin, the European Robin (Robin Red Breast), and the American Robin.  Their familiar color, beautiful song, and trusting nature makes Robins a favorite among bird lovers.

European Robin (Robin Red Breast)

European Robin (Robin Red Breast)

Despite their common appearance, Robins are a truly remarkable species, and there is more to Robin Red Breast than meets the eye. Did you know the oldest Robin lived to be over 13 years old, or that they can become intoxicated when eating berries, or that there are Robin species unique to every continent? Below are more interesting facts about our favorite springtime friend.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

This adage may have been written to describe Robins, whose song is often the first you will hear as the sun rises in the sky. Robins revel in earthworms, and can be found tripping through lawns and scattering leaves in search of their favorite treat. Interestingly enough, they are not only one of the first birds awake, they are also among the last singing at night –giving you the impression of a jovial honeybee, working all day long. If you want to attract robins to your yard, the best way to call them in is with a shovel. That’s right, dig! Robins will be attracted to the tilled earth, which makes it easier for them to hunt up their favorite invertebrates – earthworms.

Robins’ “work ethic” is visible in other areas too. One of the first birds to arrive in spring, Robins and their mate quickly begin building a nest and get started on their first brood. If successful, they can hatch three broods each summer! This may seem like a lot, but its necessary for Robins to reproduce. Of these three broods, only 40 percent generally produce young, 25 percent of those survive to November, and 50 percent of those survive to the following year. Robins are capable of living 14 years, but the average life span is 6 years. Considering these numbers, its awe-inspiring we see so many robins tripping about our backyard.

Robin - nestingRobin nests are a treat for anyone who stumbles upon them; a well-formed cup of mud and twigs filled with 3-5 bright blue, speckled eggs, so stunning they earned a color in the Crayola box. The female robin is responsible for nest building.   Working from the inside out, she uses the wrist of one wing to press mud and twigs into a bowl-shape. They prefer nesting in wooded or shrubby habitats, but can occasionally be found in surprising places. A friend of mine found a robin nesting on her back porch in the basket of her bike!American Robin - Bike Next

Winter Birds Too!

In many states Robins can be seen all year. When I lived in the Midwest, I enjoyed hearing Robins’ song winter, fall, summer, and spring. In these areas, they have developed valuable skills for surviving the cold, foraging for food, eating snow, and building warm nests.

American Robin - puffing up in winter

@Heather Kallevig

Though Robins in general are considered a portly bird, with a straight back and a potbelly, it’s likely you have seen the amusing photos of an altogether chubby robin, especially in winter. Believe it or not, these photos are not of a bird that over-indulged in their Thanksgiving dinner. It’s actually how Robins keep warm. They puff up their plumage to insulate their bodies and protect themselves from cold in the winter months. So next time you see a puffy robin, think of it as their heavy winter down coat – helping them stay warm in the same way your coats protect you.

Varied Eating Habits

Robin eating juniper berriesRobins’ diets can be dependent on their location. Robins who live in the city will eat differently than Robins who reside in the woods. In general, their favorite foods seem to be invertebrates and fruit. We’ve already mentioned earthworms, but they also eat a large variety of insects, slugs, and snails. They will sometimes eat seed from a bird feeder, though not as often as other birds. Robins do, however, love fruits especially in the fall and winter when they are plentiful. They frequently recorded eating chokecherries, sumac fruits, mountain ash, honeysuckle, and juniper berries. Similar to other berry eaters like bohemian waxwings, robins who over-indulge in their favorite treat have been known to become slightly intoxicated from fermented berry fruit.

In the wintertime when food is sparser, urban robins are more likely to eat food left out for them by humans. Breads and fatty foods are especially appealing including bacon and pancakes!

Robin Red Breast

As an avid bird lover, it can be very challenging when asked which bird is my favorite. Usually the questioner will receive a list rather than a single bird. The Robin is always at the top of that list. I admire them for their enduring cheerfulness, their heartening song, and their pert mannerisms. Whether they are piercing the quietude of winter, or hailing the coming of spring, little Robin Red Breast, with his brown coat, and red shirt waist, will always be a favorite.

American Robin

@HeatherKallevig

Resources

All About Birds

OneKind.org

National Geographic

Three Easy Ways to Make a Difference for Birds

by Heather Kallevig

@HeatherKallevig

@HeatherKallevig

Birds are everywhere right? It may seem that way, but the truth is, though you may see and hear plenty of birds in your local neighborhood – the avian species are facing troubled times. Due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and human encroachment – many birds are in danger of serious population decline. To combat these challenges, we can all offer our support and lend a hand for birds.

Depending on your current situation, there are many different things you can do to help our feathered friends. Below are a few options to choose from, some require time, some space, and others are financial support. Choosing even just one of these contributions can make a difference and create a brighter future for birds.

Part 1: Rethink your Backyard

Cities can be a dangerous place for birds. Glass windows, vehicles, prowling predators, are only a few of the threats to contend with. With a few small changes, we can make the city landscape a more inviting and safe place.

When you step into your backyard, what do you see? What would be most helpful for birds? Do you have plants and trees with lots of foliage? Is there a bird feeder? Maybe some bird houses? How about a water source? These are all valuable and easy things you can provide to create an ideal birding habitat.

Choose a tree, shrub, or section of grass you don’t mind becoming a tad overgrown, and let it bush out. This is a great habitat for birds to hide, rest, or even build a nest. If you have grass clippings or branches from your gardening, leave them in areas of the yard for nest building in the spring. Bird feeders offer valuable food sources. Bird boxes and houses provide a home or shelter. One thing we often forget is the dire need for a water source, especially in dry climates. If you don’t have a birdbath, a pie pan full of water works just as well. Just make sure you clean it regularly so you’re not harboring parasites or other illnesses that can negatively impact the birds you’re trying to help.

Finally, consider the potential threats in your yard. Do you have a cat? Using a belled collar gives birds fair warning when a hungry feline is on the prowl. If your house has many large windows, consider using bird stickers and other signals to help birds realize they cannot fly through. Addressing these two major threats can make a big difference for birds in your area.

Part 2: Donate to a Birding Organization

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@HeatherKallevig

There is a plethora of organizations committed to the protection of birds, habitat, and conservation. Many of these programs, by addressing the needs of birds, target many other issues threatening our planet. Conservation and habitat protection are key for birds, but the protection of these swaths of land also create new areas, safe from pollution, development, and industry. These conservation efforts help stem the tide of climate change and protect natural regions for our children and their children.

There are many options for donating. You can become a one-time donor, contributing only when it’s financially feasible, or you can choose to become a regular donor, with a scheduled gift. You may choose to contribute to only one organization, or you may prefer to share the love. Another choice to consider is whether you prefer to support local, national, or international organizations. Research local organizations in your area.

Below are a few popular national and international organizations to consider.

Bird Specific Organizations:

The American Birding Association
The Audubon Society
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Conservation and Wildlife Organizations:

National Wildlife Federation
The Nature Conservancy
World Wildlife Fund

Part 3: Participate in Citizen Science

Several prominent birding groups depend on the contribution of people just like you to help them track the health and populations of birds. They use nest observation cameras, birding festivals, and organized counting events where supporters are encouraged to record and share their findings.

You may have heard of a Big Year or seen the 2012 movie. This is a major, yearlong event for dedicated birding enthusiasts. Spending an entire year crossing the continent counting birds is not a realistic option for most people. Fortunately, you do have ways to participate. This weekend, May 9th, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society, and the American Birding Association are teaming up to sponsor a Global Big Day. Participants take to the woods, streets, fields, and waters to count as many different birds as possible in a single day. These numbers are then reported to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for compilation and study. Many participants also contribute valued donations to the cause. You don’t need to be a birding expert to participate – even the recording of two birds in a day is helpful. By recruiting friends or family, you improve your odds of seeing more birds and make a fun, social event of the day. You will learn something new, get some exercise, and spend your Saturday outside.

Help the Birds

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@HeatherKallevig

Imagine a city where every yard is a bird sanctuary, members contribute to birding protection and conservation efforts through donations, and family and friends participate in citizen research, tracking current bird populations and habits. This is an example of a brighter future for the people, the birds, and the land. Each member who takes a step toward avian protection is giving our winged friends one more chance to flourish for future generations.

Eastern Bluebird of Happiness

by Heather Kallevig

 

“May the Bluebird of happiness always reside within you.”

“The Bluebird carries the sky on his back.”

“The Bluebird for happiness, this merry little feathered friend so cheery, bright, and blue. Because he brings true happiness, I’m sending him to you.”

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@HeatherKallevig

The Eastern Bluebird is one of the most iconic avian species. Often a symbol of happiness, we refer to bluebird skies and a bluebird mood. This fair-feathered friend is mentioned in stories, songs, and quotes that will inevitably make you smile, but the real pleasure comes when you actually see one. I came across a wild bluebird this past weekend, on a sunny, bluebird day at West Lafayette, Indiana’s Celery Bog.

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@HeatherKallevig

Known for their bright blue back and fiery red breast, these birds are a sight to see. Though you are more likely to hear them first. Their tuneful spritely melody is hard to miss. I first saw my bluebird on one of the rural bluebird nesting houses, which have lately become essential to their survival. These good-natured, gentle birds, though once as common as robins have seen a steady decline as the populations of invasive house sparrows and starlings have risen. The competition for nesting spaces is fierce and bluebirds often lose to the more aggressive starlings and sparrows. In response, conservationists have been carefully monitoring lines of bluebird boxes as a nesting space for these happy birds.

Members of the thrush family, a flock of bluebirds are referred to as a hermitage, and are a sight to see! We found a flock in Brown County State Park in Indiana. Eastern bluebirds have the largest range of the three bluebird species. Found east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, they prefer open woodlands, clearings, parks, orchards, gardens, and fields. It is not unusual to see one flitting near roadsides or perching on fences.

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@HeatherKallevig

Bluebirds primarily subsist on insects and berries. Their feeding habits are interesting, preferring to hover slightly over the ground in search of food rather than fully landing. Parents work as a team, the male serving as protector with his loud, shrill call. Eggs are a light, unspeckled blue. When the hatchlings arrive, both parents take turns feeding the brood. Young leave the nest within three weeks, giving the parents time to hatch another brood or two before the season is over.

Conservation efforts to protect bluebird populations are on the rise, and the future holds great potential for the return of these beautiful animals. With the sky on their back and the sun on their breast, maybe the real origin of the “bluebird happiness” is the euphoric feelings you develop when you witness a singing bluebird in the wild.

Book of North American birds. (1990). Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader’s Digest Association.

Eastern Bluebird. (2014, November 13). Retrieved April 3, 2015, from http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/eastern-bluebird

iBird West Birding App.

Maier, W. (1956). The wonderful Sibleys. New York: Scribner.

The Audubon Society: Shaping Conservation History and Hope for the Future

by Heather Kallevig

The Audubon Society is recognized as one of the most influential environmental nonprofits in the United States. The first chapter was created in Massachusetts by a group of female advocates angered by the slaughter of millions of waterbirds for the millinery of women’s hats. Their founding date was 1896 (Obmascik, 2004). The group took the Egret for their symbol to honor these beginnings. By 1898, 16 states across the country followed suit including Maine, California, and Indiana. In 1901, these state-level organizations combined forces to help establish the first National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S., the Pelican Islands of Florida.

For over a century, the Audubon Society has been a leader in securing wild lands for future generations, educating the public, protecting biodiversity, and shaping public policy. Audubon laid its stamp on many important landmark laws in American history, including the Audubon Model Law passed in 1901 to protect water birds from plume hunting, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 which protected all migratory birds in the US and Canada and established valuable sanctuaries, aggressive campaigns which led to the 1972 EPA bans on DDT, and the Everglades Protection and Restoration Act signed by President Clinton in 2000.

Partnering with other environmental organizations, the Audubon makes education a priority, encouraging several yearly bird counts and other forms of citizen science. In 2014, the Audubon society drew heavy notice with their release of the watershed climate report an extensive study supported by decades of research.   This report predicted that climate change, through loss of habitat, would cause the demise or endangerment of 314 bird species by 2080 (The History of Audubon, 2015).

In the 117 years, since the Audubon society was first founded, the organization has grown to nearly 500 chapters. While education and conservation are a top priority, establishing laws to protect them is essential. “Audubon environmental policy, education and science experts guide lawmakers, agencies, and our grassroots in shaping effective conservation plans, actions and the policies to support them” (Audubon: About us, 2015).

As the millennial generation comes of age, they begin to assess possible membership of organizations and societies. The Audubon Society’s dedication to education, environmental protection, and biodiversity preservation makes it a valuable organization, one that present and future generations should support and maintain.

Audubon: About Us. (2015). Retrieved April 2, 2015, from  https://www.audubon.org/about

The History of Audubon. (2015, January 9). Retrieved April 2, 2015, from  http://www.audubon.org/content/history-audubon-and-waterbird-conservation

Obmascik, M. (2004). The Early Birds. In The big year: A tale of man, nature, and fowl obsession. New York: Free Press.

The Search for the Pileated Woodpecker

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@HeatherKallevig

by Heather Kallevig

The silence of nature – if I travel far enough into a trail, I reach the spot where I can no longer hear cars, trains, or people. I am surrounded by a silent noise suspended by the breeze in dry leaves, our crunching footsteps, and staggered breathing. This is the silence of nature, and music to the ears. Suddenly a loud drumming reverberates through the forest. A resonance barely audible in the city sounds like a cacophony in the depths of Ludington State Park, Michigan. We pause, hold our breath and wait. Suddenly I see it – the rapid, undulating flight of a dark figure with a flaming red crown. It spreads its wings, lifting and dropping with each stroke. With a body resembling a pterodactyl, and the grace of an Eagle, we have found the elusive Pileated Woodpecker.

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@HeatherKallevig

This animal, recognizable by its bright red topknot, is traceable by the massive boring holes it drills in the surrounding trees. Excavating what appears to be a birdie apartment building, pileated woodpeckers have been known to bore as many as 16 holes in a single tree. These birds make large rectangular holes, some so large and deep, they’ve been known to break small trees in half. Wary of hazards, these birds are protective species. Their holes are in different regions in the tree, offering the opportunity to flee danger. By spreading sap around their tree holes, they deter potential predators. The loud drumming we heard as we tiptoed through the forest is more than just hole digging. It is also a method for claiming territory.

Pileated woodpeckers, though relatively common in the Midwest, can be a treat for active birders and informal onlookers. One of the largest forest birds in North America, the pileated woodpecker’s are recognized by their bright white streaks, red crown, long neck, and large black bill. They’re also audibly recognizable through their loud drumming and raucous call. They depend on large dead trees for habitation, but are also known to visit backyard feeders for suet.

CSC_1485Pileated woodpeckers are distinct from most birds, though they were once very similar to another species, the ivory-billed woodpecker. This bird, once prized and sought for its “luck-giving” ivory bill and red crown, has been hunted to presumed extinction for decoration and for sport. Though the pileated woodpecker maintains a strong population, it could be at risk as old growth forests are destroyed. They are an important part of the ecosystem creating holes later inhabited by smaller birds, rodents, and bats. Their feeding holes also attract other species including House Wrens and smaller woodpeckers.

To see a pileated woodpecker, head to one of its year round locations, keep an eye out for its distinctly large holes, and wait. If you then hear the loud drumming and boisterous call, you may be in for a treat. It’s likely this fascinating bird is not far behind.

iBird West Birding App.

Kaufman, K. (2014, November 13). Pileated Woodpecker. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/pileated-woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2015, from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/pileated_woodpecker/lifehistory

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Who will blink first? @Heather Kallevig

The New World of Birding – With Technology

DSC_0422by Heather Kallevig

*All photos in this post are taken by Heather Kallevig

When many people think of birders they devise a mental image of three men, a tall, slick blonde in bright colors, an intelligent, goofy white-haired businessman, and an unkempt computer geek, all locked in a great battle, vying for the prize. This picture portrays birding as an expensive, obsessive, competitive sport dragging its players across the country to see who can view the greatest number of birds in one year. This is the picture drawn by the 2011 motion picture, The Big Year.

While these compulsory birders do exist, chasing species and migrations across the country, most birders would be more likely to identify with the other characters in The Big Year. These individuals enjoy birding as a life-enriching hobby, based on the beauty, surprise, and excitement of discovering new species. Birding is an activity built on comradery and conservation.

Though many do not realize it, The Big Year is based on a book, by Mark Obmascik, “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession.” In the introduction, Obmascik defines the important difference between a birdwatcher and a birder. “No longer is it accurate to call me a birdwatcher, a term the pros use to dismiss the spinsters and retired British Army colonels who wait passively for birds to come to them. I have become an enthusiast, a chaser – a birder” (Obmascik, M. 2004).

The sport of birding has changed dramatically from its inception. Jean-Jacque (John James) Audubon, a French sailor in 1820, is credited as one of the first great birders with the initial goal of drawing a portrait of every bird in North America (National Audubon Society). Because of this feat, his name is revered by all birders. Today, instead of drawings, we take pictures, and with the new innovations in cameras and binoculars, we generally take very good ones. Nicholas Lund, writer for the Birdist exclaims, “Digital photography has changed everything” (Lund, N. 2013). If you were to attend a bird watching festival, you would be astounded to see the many thousands of dollars in lenses wielded expertly by the patient, dedicated birders.

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Innovations have changed birding in many ways including our methods for tracking migrations, viewing birds, and even the way birders communicate with one another through an online social network. Similar to the computer programmer in A Big Year, most birders are part techy. We carry iPhones with expensive apps to help identify birds and maintain our life list, our cameras and advanced optic lenses allow us to take fantastic photos without every taking a photography class, and our findings are posted online contributing to knowledge and science.

Thanks to innovative apps, birders no longer lug a field guide on their birding quests. Today all we need is a smart phone. Even luddites are dropping their three-pound field guide in exchange for a device. (Lund, N. 2013). There are many different apps available for beginning and advanced birders. One of the most popular, iBird is a $20 app, and well worth it. With this app, you can identify birds by location, color, and size. Perhaps the best feature of this app is the option to listen to a bird’s song, sometimes even using it call a bird in. You can see an array of photos, read interesting facts, and collect a favorites list of birds. To learn more about iBird, add the app or visit their website at www.ibird.com. While this is one of the most popular, there are many other options. For example, a new app reviewed by Chelsea Harvey in Audubon Magazine was released this summer by researchers from Columbia University. The new app, called “Birdsnap,” uses photos and facial recognition to help birders identify a new species (Harvey, C. 2014). In the American Birding Association blog, Drew Weber discusses future tech and other popular birding apps to check out. A few of the apps he discussed are Birdseye, Birdlog, Oddfeathers, BirdTrax, eBird, and Kiwifoto (Weber, D. 2013). These apps include checklist tools and rare bird alerts allowing birders to connect and share information.

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These new innovations, including the birding apps, contribute to a growing social network of birders that did not exist in the past. Historically birding could be a very solitary sport. Today, if a rare bird sighting occurs, within an hour there can be a hundred birders or more all focused with their opticals in the air. “Birding has become hypersocial” quotes Richard Degener in his review of the New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Autumn Birding Festival (Degener, R. 2014). There is no end of birding blogs, apps, social media pages connecting birders to one another to compare lists, discuss sightings, and evaluate new technologies. People are building friendships on the foundation of birding.

On any social media site, you will find birding networks large and small. I myself am a member of several Facebook groups including Birds of Alaska, American Birding Association, and the Audubon Society. On Twitter I follow posts by the Indiana Audubon Birding Society, the Alaska Audubon Birding Society, and fellow individual birders recognized for their online blogs. These connections facilitate communication and breed enthusiasm for the sport, engendered by a sense of community and network.

One of the most important wide-reaching results of birding innovation is growth in citizen science. According to birding expert and conservation advocate James Currie, this term refers to the collection and analysis of data and the spread of data through voluntary researchers. The main contributions are observations and findings shared by birders rather than trained field scientists. The annual Big Year is an excellent example of this. Though this activity has been popular since the 1900s, it has gained ground as birders connect and communicate via the Internet (Currie, J. 2011). Today scientists can follow migrations, impacts of climate change, and dwindling species all by the contribution of wee, ordinary birders posting online. Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology uses citizen scientist through observation tools like Nestcams, Feederwatches, and eBirds. All of these programs allow citizens old and young to watch, identify, and make an important contribution to wildlife conservation.

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Citizen science has three important contributions. First, it encourages birders by giving them an opportunity to make a meaningful difference. Second, citizen science is often the means of introducing new people to birding. Third, it’s a means of data collection to support public policy on conservation (Currie, J. 2011). Thanks to this research scientists can observe the effects of climate change and habitat loss. The Audubon Climate report estimates 314 species, nearly half of the US’s birds are at risk of extinction within this century (The Audubon Birds & Climate Change Report. 2014).

In 2011, A Big Year brought birding to a larger public eye. It increased many viewers enthusiasm and helped them make the leap from birdwatchers to birders. As more people join this often oddball group of nature enthusiasts the sport will gain recognition and innovation will increase. This will mean advances in gadgets, lens, and communication among members. While these gains are important, there is an overarching awareness that increases with the citizen science supported through innovation in birding.   As this sport grows, it becomes more than a simple weekend activity. It cultivates a conservation movement, one with the potential to protect and preserve threatened species for many generations of obsessive Big Year enthusiasts to come.

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The Audubon Birds & Climate Change Report. (2014). Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://climate.audubon.org/

Currier, J. (2011, December 6). Birding Technology – The New Citizen Science. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://10000birds.com/birding-technology-the-new-citizen-science.htm

Degener, R. (2014, October 24). Event Highlights How Technology Changes Birdwatching. Press of Atlantic City.

Harvey, C. (2014, June 13). Innovative Technology Gives Birdwatching a Boost. The Audubon Magazine.

Lund, N. (2013, December 3). High-tech future of staring at birds in the woods. The Slate Book Review.

National Audubon Society. (n.d.) John James Audubon. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.audubon.org/john-james-audubon

Obmascik, M. (2004). The big year: A tale of man, nature, and fowl obsession. New York: Free Press.

Weber, D. (2013, May 1). Future tech. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://blog.aba.org/2013/05/future-tech.html