Experienced birders tend to do things that make them look like wizards to beginners. One of the things that often both impresses and confounds the neophyte is an expert’s ability to catch a glance of a back-lit bird flying out of a tree or a shorebird standing by a pond a half-mile away and nail the identification seemingly without thought. For better or worse, there’s no magic involved. What the experienced birder is doing is birding by impression.
Birding in the National Parks
No national park is more associated with birds than Everglades, and the most prominent birds in the park are undoubtedly the waders. Herons, egrets, storks, and ibises are the rock stars of the Everglades. The park was even created partly with the protection of egrets in mind after plume hunting for the millinery industry nearly wiped them out in the 19th century.
It’s not difficult to see why many of our national parks offer spectacular birding. Vast expanses of protected natural areas are bound to be good spots for watching birds and other wildlife. The national seashores and lakeshores are even more inviting as birding destinations than some of the “parks.” But what about the historic sites and national battlefields?
I’ve managed to get around North America quite a bit during my five years as a serious birder. At least it seems like I have. When I plot a map of every checklist I’ve ever entered at eBird, it looks like I’m neglected large swaths of the continent. What’s with the interior plains? The west coast south of Olympic National Park? Alaska isn’t even on the map because there were no pins there, so I cropped it out.
It sure doesn’t seem like a whole year has passed, but it’s time again for the annual Christmas Bird Count. Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, this is the 115th consecutive year the count has been held, making it one of the world’s longest running and largest citizen science projects. The 2014-15 count dates fall between December 14th and January 5th. Participation is free.
I’m presuming no one needs me to tell them that Florida is a good travel and birding destination in the winter. Looking out my window at the first sticking snow of the winter is making me think about the Everglades. Winter is the dry season there, and the dwindling seasonal wetlands concentrate birds and wildlife for easier viewing.
I’ve spending an awful lot of time thinking about the birds no one sees. That’s not something birders, or anyone, ponders often. We like to think about our lists, talk about the birds we’ve seen and the ones others have seen that we just missed. We don’t talk about the birds that no one ever sees, mostly because we don’t know anything about them.
I generally don’t have a problem wondering whether or not it’s a good time to bird. If no other duty calls, I’ve got binoculars in hand. I’ve certainly had birding as a top priority on every visit to a national park. Yet, on a dreary day in Pennsylvania last week, I visited a national park and wasn’t sure if wanted to bird, or even if I should consider it.
Birding In The National Parks: Grand Canyon National Park Designated Important Bird Area Of Global Significance
When it comes to the preservation of threatened and endangered bird species, it’s safe to say that there’s no such thing as too many layers of protection. Just because the habitat of a declining bird falls within the borders of a national park doesn’t mean that bird’s best interests will always be served. In most cases it will, but it never hurts to have that extra recognition.