Monday, June 10, 2013

Timing in Birding

Picture by A. Coquerel
Did you miss some of the migrant birds this year? They came through this spring.  No need to look for them now.  They're gone.

As I browse through the Audubon Birds Ap for "nearby birds", I find the following:
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler, 4 weeks ago
  • Blackpoll Warbler, 3 weeks ago
  • Canada Warbler, 3 weeks ago
  • Northern Harrier, 3 weeks ago
  • Magnolia Warbler, 3 weeks ago
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 4 weeks ago.
You get the idea.  This is how timing really comes in, and the whole reason I'm writing this post...
You're trying to find the perfect timing for certain birds.  This is what happens sometimes.

Some birders go camping at the Okefenoke in the last week of March, wanting to catch the first batch of Migrant Warblers.  These birders want to go early enough before it gets too hot and humid at the Swamp. And yes, they want to avoid the yellow flies too.  Wrong timing.

They end up seeing a lot of Yellow-rumped Warblers, the same warblers that are in the area where they live.  Not a single spring migrant warbler.  They all came a week or two after these birders left.  (The Swallow-tailed Kites were there as a consolation price).

How do I know this? We did exactly that this year, my wife and I.

That was not our first lesson on timing in birding.  A short few years back, we didn't understand why everybody was going to the coast and lakes for birding in the winter.  Before we knew any better, we thought it would be smarter to get away from the crowd and see all the birds that no one else is bothering with.  So, we went to the mountains.  

Nice condo in Helen with a fireplace...but very little birding activity!!! Plenty of Dark-eyed Juncos... 66 bird species after one week of birding.  Yes, you'll be miserable too.  What just happened there? In the winter, in the South, you try to catch the migrating ducks and waterfowls where there is water.  You don't go up in the mountains looking for warblers.  Timing for the season.
Snowy Owl
As you've already noticed, timing is critical in birding.  Not just important, critical.  Let's suppose a Short-tailed Hawk comes to Georgia. When are we supposed to go see it? Now, while he is there, and not in three weeks.  Same with the Snowy Owl, the McCown's Longspur, the Northern Lapwing.  The bird shows up, your timing is great when you go see it now.  Marie taught me that.  Timing for rare birds.
Picture by Debbie Coquerel
Of course, you can enjoy the birds at your feeders anytime.  And we have resident birds in our State, as well as birds that come in and breed in our area in the summer.  However, to see more birds, we simply need to use timing on our side by looking for the visiting birds at the time and location where they show up.

This tip may seem obvious to veteran birders, but I have to learn it by being at the wrong location and/or at the wrong time to really get it... and I'm passing it on.

Beside timing, what is critical for birding? I would suggest "habitat".  You already know what that means so I let you use it in your favor in order to see different birds.

Good birding!


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