Where The Birds Are
One of the most endlessly fascinating aspects of birds is their seemingly never-ending variety. Painting with a big brush, there are birds that fly and birds that don’t. There are birds of the land, and birds of the waters. There are birds that live upon the water, and birds that spend almost their whole lives over it at sea.
Refining that thought further, there are birds of the tropics and birds of the frigid clime of Antarctica. There are birds of the rain forest and birds of the desert. There are shore birds and birds of the prairie. There are woodland birds and birds of the mountains. The list goes on.
Finally we get to the highly specialized qualities of the individual species themselves. Some are fruit eaters, others eat only seed and still others only are insectivores. And that just scratches the surface. Look closely at the avian world, and you’ll see that they are opportunists filling almost every ecological niche.
So, what’s the point of this enumeration? Simply put, because birds can be so specialized, if you want to see specific ones, you’ll have to go to where they are. Want to see the Colima Warbler? Head to Big Bend National Park in Texas, because that’s the only place it is reliably seen in the U.S. Want to see the Gunnison Sage-Grouse before it becomes extinct, a distinct possibility as its already small population continues to decline? Pack your bags for Gunnison, Colorado the locus of its very limited range. How about adding New England’s own Bicknell’s Thrush to your life list? Grab a backpack, put on your hiking boots, and head for one of the White or Green Mountains with an elevation of more than 3,000 feet. That’s where this threatened species breeds and summers in northern New England.
Finding your way to where specific birds are is greatly aided by researching with a good field guide or going online. These sources will tell you where specific birds are most likely to be found. Locally, a good resource is Eric Masterson’s recently published Birdwatching in New Hampshire. He divides the state into six regions. Then he devotes a chapter to each one giving an overview of it and highlighting particular types of birds, like waterfowl or shorebirds in the Upper Valley, that will be found there. He also gives the time of year that a group likely will be found in the region and specific places to go see them.
What a boon for the local birder that is! Sitting in the kitchen watching the snow finally beginning to recede, I already am making plans for the season ahead.
Photo: Singing Bicknell's Thrush ( Photo from VT Center for Ecostudies); Copyright Jeff Nadler