We had a tremendous turnout of 35 people for today’s Finger Lakes Land
Trust Spring Bird Quest (SBQ) walk at the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity
Preserve. One might think that a group of this size would defeat the
purpose at some level, making it prohibitively difficult to see birds or
enjoy the setting. But I think that we affirmed the opposite.
It helped quite a lot that I got a lot of help leading the walk from
veteran guides Suan Yong, Paul Anderson, Diane Morton, and Ken Kemphues. I
don’t know what is the more generous act – anticipating a need and taking
it upon oneself to show up and help, or cheerfully allowing oneself to be
pressed into duty on the spot. Whichever one it is, or both, I don’t take
any of it for granted. Thanks, Suan, Paul, Diane, and Ken – you really
made the walk.
And really, everyone helped – with good cheer (undampened by light rain
from above and shoe-soaking seepage from below), excellent questions, a lot
of patience, and the magnified detection power of 70 eyes and 70 ears. In
the end, we all found and even saw essentially the same variety of birds
that I found last weekend here alone. Highlights include long views of
PRAIRIE WARBLER, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, male and female
INDIGO BUNTING, CEDAR WAXWING, and RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, plus a brief
but stirring view of a flock of 15+ WOOD DUCKS streaming by. We heard but
did not manage to see a couple of BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS, several
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS, a HOODED WARBLER, several ALDER FLYCATCHERS, and
some flyover BOBOLINKS. Twice our big group heard the guttural “kewp”
calls of a cuckoo – I believe BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO, as indeed a subset of
the group confirmed by sight later.
The SBQ is also a per-species fundraiser for the Land Trust, so I felt
unusually grateful for encounters with common species that have proven
difficult to find on past SBQs – SPOTTED SANDPIPER (far away at Coleman
Lake), HOODED MERGANSER (likewise), NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS, CHIMNEY
SWIFTS (nice learning moments for our novice birders, as these swifts
alternated with Tree Swallows in passes through an overhead gap), a HOUSE
WREN, and a WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH.
Sodden but still spirited after three hours, about a third of our throng
took me up on a bonus run to the beaver pond on the other side of Routes 34
and 96, along Sylvan Drive near the West Danby Fire Station. Here we saw
at least eight active GREAT BLUE HERON nests, with parents strikingly
standing sentinel over adorable half-pint heron chicks. Here I also had my
day’s only sightings of RED-TAILED HAWK and AMERICAN REDSTART (thanks to
high-school senior Will for his sharp eyes), plus a molting TURKEY VULTURE,
a BROWN THRASHER, and a male CANADA WARBLER after almost everyone else had
left. My total count reached 64 species by the time I finally went home at
I think that the SBQ head count is a record for a single walk. I might
propose further that we consider an integrated statistical quantity.
S x B = Q
Where S = the number of bird species found on the walk
and B = the number of birders on the walk
and Q = the integrated quantity, in units of birder-species
As you see, Q is a measure of the volume of birding, in terms of both the
birds and the people. It’s imprecise, I know, but I think it aptly
characterizes the engagement aspect of the event.
And even if we take account of lower total tallies for most people, I feel
positive that we shot through any previous single-outing ceiling for Q.
I’d guess that we reached a minimum of Q = 1500 birder-species, or quite
possibly somewhere closer to 2000. That is what you get with a record
turnout in a vast, diverse preserve on a long morning in May!
Tomorrow I will lead two SBQ walks in Enfield – one at the Bock-Harvey
Forest Preserve starting at 8 AM, and one at the Stevenson Forest Preserve
starting at 10 AM. I hope to see many of you there. Let’s keep pushing Q
as high as we can!
PS. The forecast seems OK for tomorrow, but not so great for Monday’s
walks at the Goetchius Wetland Preserve and the Roy H. Park Preserve. I
will show up to lead the walks no matter what, but may decide to cut things
short if conditions warrant. Please be ready for anything if you do come.
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