Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blown Away by Birdcounting and Birdwalking

Lately, I have been pondering all sorts of neat activities to motivate a codger to stay active, with or without a bionic knee.

There is the annual Senior Olympics at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. I have got my eye on the softball throw, because the Wonder Dawg (pictured below), "Dasher," has prepared me to challenge for world-record distance. When Dasher visits here, he makes sure I throw a ball to him at least hourly. Here's Dasher, the amazing yellow lab, a handsome fellow:


Another event I have rediscovered, after a lapse of more than 30 years, is the Volksmarch of German origin. I am discovering all sorts of special opportunities to join in "people's walks" and earn awards and recognition. They involve such challenges as walking around 18 baseball stadiums (or museums, statues, or other baseball-related venues), Civil War battlefields, classic movie theaters, even (yum!) bakeries. I will write more about these tantalizing walking opportunities here in the future.

For today, I would like to note the wrap-up of the Great Backyard Bird Count, which ended Monday evening.  It was a privilege to participate in this event sponsored by the Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Bird Studies Canada. The statistics are amazing:

4 Days
103 Countries
120,000 Checklists
3,144 Species
25.6 Million birds

With its global reach, "Backyard" became the largest bird count ever. The reports did more than motivate seasoned walkers like me. They provided scientists much useful information for determining how bird populations are evolving.

Out of many observations, here is one that was truly eye-opening:

"Hurricane Sandy: The weather system that caused Sandy's landfall also blew some European birds to North America and evidence of this is still showing up in GBBC results. The colorful, crested Northern Lapwing was reported in Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts during the GBBC."

Can you imagine what it must have been like for birds to be caught up in an enormous system like that and relocated across the ocean to a new continent? I also marvel at the bird-counters who were able to identify this unfamiliar bird. I can't find it even in my 546-page "Sibley" guide from Audubon. Those must have been some really expert birders who made those IDs (or else some Europeans who also were blown across the pond by Sandy).

The count has been a tremendously motivator for my walking. I look forward to becoming a more proficient bird counter with each step I take.

© Robert G. Holland  2013


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