Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Birding Unusual Places

Larry of the Brownstone Birding Blog recently challenged birders to birders to check out a location in their area that they have never birded before and to file a report on what they see. An interesting challenge indeed, and one that I intend to follow-up on soon, but not here. Instead, Larry’s post got me to thinking about some of the more unusual places that birders pick to do their birding.

Birders seem to make a habit of seeking out unusual and often unsavory places in which to pursue their hobby. Landfills (for gulls) and sewage treatment plants (for shorebirds) certainly top the list. And while turf farms aren’t unsavory, they certainly might be considered unusual places to bird, except for the fact that they attract certain species—such as Baird’s (Calidris bairdii) and Upland (Bartramia longicauda) sandpipers—that are often hard to find elsewhere.

Charles T. Flugum, a Minnesota farmer, did all or most of his birding from the seat of a tractor. He even wrote a book about the birds he saw while tending his fields.

And David Patick, a birder from Huntington, West Virginia, recently drove in excess of 350 miles (about 5 ½ hours) to add Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) to his West Virginia life list. And where did he find the elusive Fish Crow? In the parking lot of the Martinsburg Mall.

My unusual birding place was a 1 to 3-mile segment along the right-of-way of the New York Central System where it traversed the rural countryside of southwestern Michigan between Detroit to Chicago. This didn’t seem unusual to me at the time. In fact, it was my normal stomping grounds (my “patch,” to use today’s British vernacular) in my early teens. The tracks offered many advantages: (1) they provided an elevated vantage point from which to scan the habitats lining both sides of the right-of-way; (2) the rails and ties provided a stable and level surface for easy hiking; (3) they provided me easy access to a variety of habitats that would otherwise have been inaccessible. The major disadvantage, of course, was having to keep my eyes and ears open for approaching trains


Blogger cyberthrush said...

not precisely "birding" but 'swift-watching' on migration can sometimes be in an unusual locale (in a rural setting or middle of bustling downtown or a an old closed factory, wherever an appropriate chimney sits) -- I've watched 1000's of swifts do their incredible tornadic dance down a post office chimney where I live and it never fails to amaze -- many of your readers no doubt have seen it and know exactly what I'm talking about, and for those who haven't I can't do it justice with any description; just go look for yourself some spring or fall evening.

July 04, 2007 6:29 AM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

And in a similar vein, some large urban shopping centers have become well-known as places to seek out Common Nighthawks in the fall, where they are attracted to the myriad insects that are in turn attracted to the bright lights of the mall parking lots.

July 04, 2007 8:16 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Thanks for the mention, and I enjoyed the idea that you derived from the post.

July 06, 2007 9:30 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

Hi there,
I know your birding places are close to home, but if you ever have the oportunity to travel abroad for some far away from home adventure I recomend visiting Peru, it has the longest list of endemic birds and it is the second country in the world in bird number (different species obviously)
I do recomend the north, jungle side and the wetlands around the capital
I am a begginer on this birding thing and I love it, I have just a few months in this and sadly as I live in a city not close to nature and in a building, I have not many chances to watch, but I still want to learn, will be great if you could give me some advice sometime!
Cool blog, I am linking it to mine if you don't mind!
Regards from Argentina, and hopefully soon from Peru!

August 29, 2007 7:24 PM  

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