Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

Archive for Cornell

Birding with Binoculars

Just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count, here’s a Quick Tip to help you find those birds using binoculars.   The GBBC is a great way to practice your birding skills while helping ornithologists track birding populations, migration patterns, etc.  The Bird Count starts Friday the 13th and goes thru Monday the 16th.  You can do it everyday or just one day.  All day, or just 15 minutes…whatever your schedule will allow.    You can count alone in your backyard or at a park with friends.  No matter what you decide, come on out and join us as we count birds across the country and practice using those binoculars!

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Keep counting those birds!

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The Great Backyard Bird Count is over for this year, but that’s no reason to stop recording the birds you see in your backyard! There are a number of good sites for keeping track of the birds that visit your yard or birds you see when you are out birding away from home. Ebird is a site launched by Cornell and The Audubon Society. Once you sign up, it lets you enter birds you see in your backyard, or if you are a big birder and take lots of birding trips, you can document the birds you see anywhere in the western hemisphere. Its a great way to keep track of all the birds you’ve seen. But better than that, it allows Cornell and Audubon track bird populations, detect changes in migration and breeding habits and also monitor threatened species.

A second site is called Yardbirder and lets you keep a list of all the birds in your backyard and share that list with others. Have some birders in your extended family or friends across the country? Compare lists and see what’s going on in their yards during different times of the year.

So if you enjoyed the Great Backyard Bird Count, there’s no reason you can’t do it year round. Its fun and you’ll be helping scientists better understand what’s happening in the world of ornithology!

The Search for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker

Big news!  I’ve been accepted as a volunteer on the team searching the the Ivory Billed Woodpecker in the Congaree National Park outside Columbia, SC.  As you may or may not know, The Nature Conservancy, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the US Fish and Wildlife Service continue to search for the Ivory Billed Woodpecker in Arkansas, Florida and South Carolina and this year Smell Like Dirt will be part of the team!  If you haven’t followed the story, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, which hadn’t been seen since the 1940’s, was spotted in the swamps of Arkansas in 2004.  Tim Gallagher, Editor in Chief of Living Bird, Cornell’s flagship publication, chronicles his experiences in his book, The Grail Bird (see listing under “My Favorites”), which I read when it was first published in 2005.  I was immediately intrigued with the whole story and with the thought that this bird might still exist.   In researching more about the bird, I discovered that the Congaree National Park in South Carolina is the perfect habitat for the bird and that there had been “unconfirmed sightings”, so we went out and bought two kayaks and have made many trips to the Congaree to see if we could find it.  We haven’t (so far), but the Congaree is a beautiful place and a day spent kayaking there is a good way to spend some time, regardless of Ivory Billed sightings. ibwopick.jpg So, when I heard they were looking for volunteers to search again this year, I couldn’t apply fast enough.  Although you don’t have to have a Ph.D in birdwatching, they were looking for experienced birders crazy enough, um, I mean willing to agree to get dumped into the middle of the swamp for five days at a time with everything you’re going to eat and drink and wear for those five days strapped to your back and enough electronic equipment (and the resulting batteries) to sink a battleship.   I’ll be one of four on a team camping in tents, sleeping on the ground and fanning out during the day to search for the bird and signs of the bird.  It will require a lot of sitting motionless for a few hours before and after sunrise and again at sunset each day.   At the end of my first five days, I will come home for a week to recuperate and then head back down for another week.  Although I won’t be able to disclose what I experience as it relates to the IB Woodpecker, I will be able to document and share my experiences on everything else.  Since I’ll be there in January, I’m hoping that the snake encounters will be kept to a minimum, but I am hoping to see lots of other wildlife that I will be able to tell you about.  The search will continue through April when the leaves on the trees will start to complicate bird watching.  So stay tuned for more news on my adventure!  After 5 days in the woods with no running water, I’ll definitely Smell Like Dirt!