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My Life’s Birds: #371

February 3, 2010
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December 5, 1995 – Christian Co, Mo – By the end of 1995, I don’t know if I could still call myself a birder.  I mean, I still had some interest in birds, but when the new species are few and far between, and the weather turns cold making venturing out to look for anything a real ordeal, I admit I slacked.  I did a couple CBCs, mostly because my dad was doing them, but I can’t remember whether the passion that permeated the first few gos was still there.  It’s cold getting out of the van and tallying up chickadees and titmice just didn’t have the glamor it once had.  In short, I was getting lazy.

But not so lazy that I didn’t take advantage of a great bird just outside the window.  We had several feeders set up at the old Linden House, both in the front and back yards.  The back feeding station was pretty unimpressive compared to the bird buffet laid out up front, but it was apparently just the ticket for the juvenile Evening Grosbeak that had somehow, bizarrely, made it to southwest Missouri.  This scarcely minute long sighting remains the one and only Evening Grosbeak I’ve ever come across, and is likely to stay that way unless I make a trip to the far northern or high western reaches where the bird can still be found, but even then I’d have to be lucky.  Evening Grosbeaks are famously a species of bird whose decline has been noted with increasing worry by birders.

Even as recently as the 70’s, great flocks of Grosbeaks would clean bird feeders out from coast to coast as far south as Pennsylvania.  The cause of their decline is unknown but scientists suggest declines in food source or regular population fluctuations.  It could also be a slow return to their historical range in the west, as the species on relatively recently irrupted into the eastern half of the country.  As with most species of birds who dwell primarily in distant, hard to reach places, it’s hard to know the real reason.  In any case, I think it’s extremely unlikely that that Evening Grosbeak would repeat in Missouri.  Or, even if it did, I’d be conscious of birds enough to care.

I was about to enter my birding dark age.

photo from wikipedia

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3 Comments
  1. February 3, 2010 8:35 am

    Oh dear, your birding dark age… at species #372. Now you’ve awoken my curiosity, let’s see how and what you did in those dark times as well, ey?

  2. Nate permalink*
    February 3, 2010 9:11 am

    @Jochen- They were dark as you imagine. There will be a significant leap forward in time for the next bird.

  3. February 4, 2010 8:33 am

    I know many others who’ve had the same kind of experience as you, Nate. I think it’s interesting because it’s like a kind of burnout when everything becomes familiar and known, and it seems to kill the sense of discovery and its associated thrill. I’m grateful yours was a temporary “dark age.”

    Thankfully almost four decades of observing and enjoying nature never diminished my joy when seeing the ubiquitous and common. I saw my first titmouse some 35 years ago yet never lost the thrill of seeing them and observing them, like each encounter is the first time. My mother is the source of that constantly renewed sense of awe and intrigue; to this day she still shines with childlike glee when she sees a common grackle or a cricket frog.

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