Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Birders go to extremes to feed their obsession"

White Winged Tern Manitowic Impoundment Manitowic WI 5 22 2016 - Credit: Drewzepmeister

From JSOnline:

By Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel

"When word got out that a white-winged tern showed up along Lake Michigan on May 21, hundreds of people descended on Manitowoc in the hope of spotting a bird that most people won't see again in a lifetime.

"For two days, the tern normally found in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa drew an ardent tribe of onlookers, outfitted with necklaces of binoculars and cameras.

"And then it was gone. The last time it had been observed in Wisconsin was 1873.

"For some, it was the find of a lifetime. For those less fortunate, it was what birders call a 'whiff.'

"With major flyways like Lake Michigan, Wisconsin has long been a hub for birding. While some enthusiasts enjoy the pastime from their backyard, there is also a subculture of birders whose persistence to find new species is known to border on obsession.

"Chuck Hagner, editor of Massachusetts-based BirdWatching magazine, said, 'There is this special motivation for birders that if you are in the right place at the right time, you can see something magnificent.'

"In the most recent analysis by the federal government, Wisconsin was second nationally in birding participation, as measured by men and women 16 years and older who engage in some kind of birding activity during a year.

"Vermont ranked first, with a birding participation rate of 39%, according to a 2011 recreation survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wisconsin and West Virginia followed with 33%. The national average is 20%.

"'Naturally, we are a very birdy state,' said Carl Schwartz of Fox Point, a longtime activist in birding organizations in Wisconsin, including the founding of Bird City Wisconsin.

"The Mississippi River and the Great Lakes are highways for migration, Schwartz said.

"Another advantage: Wisconsin's "tension zone" of two geographic areas — northern mixed forests and southern broadleaf forests — attracts different and intermingling species.

"The month of May can be a frenetic period as an influx of birds moves through the state and birders — especially those with a goal of adding more birds to their personal lists — head outside with help from websites like Wisconsin eBird, where participants post bird activity.

"'Not all birders chase. I know that from the magazine,' said Hagner, who lives in Shorewood. 'But for some birders, the numbers are powerful and a sense of competition is what motivates them.'

"A week ago in Manitowoc, a woman from Arizona, who had flown to Wisconsin for the spring bird migration, rushed to the lakefront on the news of the white-winged tern, according to Charles Sontag, who lives a few blocks away.

"She saw it."

Read more:


How is it that some of us know all about this?


Why Not? said...

My husband's family owns a really charming little summer house on a nature reserve. The house is from the 1800s and right outside horses and cows roam free on the seaside. It's also a popular place for bird watchers. It become very apparent when something rare comes along, the whole area fills with hundreds of people all rushing there to get there before the bird moves on. It's pretty amazing to see.

OrbsCorbs said...

My brother-in-law became something of a birder just watching around their house and in their woods. My sister and he lived in Raymond. He was nothing like Drew is as a birder. Very casual, whereas Drew is a professional.

drewzepmeister said...

A professional? Eh.... I know of many birders out there more dedicated to the cause than me. Some of these guys can rack up to 300+ species in the state each year. I struggle to maintain about 225 to 250 a year.(Last year I got 254). These guys have been doing this for YEARS. Many of them are retired and have the time to travel the four corners of Wisconsin in search of rarities. It is addicting and thrill of finding something new is exhilarating.

The hobby of birding has been on the rise with technology. Digital cameras and the internet have made it easier to find and take pictures. (We'd spend a bundle on film) ANYONE can do this! I've seen old people and kids in the field. Aside from buying a pair of binoculars, camera, a scope, and a field guide, it's free! No admission charge to look around in a wildlife refuge. (State parks have a minimal fee of $25 a year)

I personally don't chase after birds too much, unless it is a super rarity like the White Winged Tern. Going after an Ivory Gull in Duluth would be a long ass drive for a single bird. I know many birders have done this, but I try to maintain it on the SE Wisconsin level.