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My Life’s Birds: #429

October 6, 2010

September 8, 2007 – Ann Arbor, MI One of the true joys of birding is that you can do it just about anywhere.  So even for what may seem on the surface to be a singularly innocuous trip to Middle-of-the-country, USA, the opportunity to bird at a local preserve or wildlife refuge or city park offers an opportunity for discovery largely lost on so many other travelers.  Because nearly every single place you could possibly go is someone’s backyard, home to resident birds and local specialties and birders willing to share what makes their little corner of the world so special.  And birders, being fairly friendly people across the board, are generally keen on providing you with the information that they’ve carefully accumulated over years of nature-study.  After all, what good is being a self-taught expert without the opportunity to share that expertise?

The means by which birders are able to communicate with each other have changed a lot in the past 20 years.  Time was that the ABA directory was the gold standard from bringing birds together.  The listservs like Birdchat ushered in the computer age, and the inevitable state listserv was born.  Now there’s Birdingpal and Bird Forum and the old standby Facebook, but I’ve found an excellent way to contact birders who are likely to be open to visitors from afar is through the network of bird bloggers that has sprung up across the continent and beyond.  So when I found out I’d be in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a weekend attending the wedding of one of my wife’s best friends it struck me as the time to make contact with Jochen Roeder, erstwhile bird blogger at Bell Tower Birding and, then, resident of Ann Arbor, to get some info on where I could spend an enjoyable couple morning hours.

Jochen sent me to the Nichols Arboretum, a nice little patch of riverfront near the University of Michigan campus where I soon fell into a nice group of migrating warblers.  My notes from that day include such midwestern fancies as Nashville and Wilson’s, both birds for whose sightings in North Carolina combined I can count on one hand and even then if that hand was of Baseball Hall of Famer Mordecai “3 Finger” Brown (1 Nashville, 2 Wilson’s).  While Jochen himself was involved in an upcoming move back to die faderland and unable to join me for the morning (a decision he no doubt regrets to the marrow of his bones), I did come across another local birder, Matt Yawney, and we headed into the Arb where a flock of warblers that included Blackburnian and Palm contained a lovely fall Bay-breasted Warbler, the lifer I’d been hoping for, instantly making this trip to Michigan worthwhile despite the presence or absence of a cash bar at the wedding that night.  For the record, the booze was included so the whole weekend was aces front to back.

So now, even though we’ve never met, I owe Jochen a life bird if he ever makes it back to the US.  And in true Carolina fashion, I’ve got a Red-cockaded Woodpecker teed up and waiting for him.  Getting it through customs is his problem though.

BABRWA by fveronesi1 via flickr (CC BY-NC-SA-2.0)

  1. October 6, 2010 9:59 am

    Lovely post, Nate. You capture the spirit nicely!

  2. October 6, 2010 2:47 pm

    I did not know you actually came in Ann Arbor that week end!!!!! If it is the week end I am thinking about, I confirm that Jochen was very busy trying to fit 200 pounds of clothes, books, binoculars and scopes in 3 suitcases of 50 pounds max.
    Amazingly enough, he almost managed to make it.

    The Arboretum is always a good bet, at any season. This is the most popular ebird hotspot of the county!

    I did not know that bay breasted warblers were so uncommon in north carolina.

  3. Nate permalink*
    October 6, 2010 3:07 pm

    @Jann- Thanks!

    @Laurent- That’s probably the very weekend! Bay-breasteds are common fall migrants in the mountains I discovered to my delight on a September trip to Boone during my big year. So I’ve seen them on a few occasions since. But in my part of the state, farther east, they’re uncommon at best in fall.

  4. October 8, 2010 3:31 am

    @Laurent: I am not sure that was precisely the weekend but even if it wasn’t, it was close enough to the departure date to make even the suggestion of me going birding a capital offence my wife would have punished with … you know … all the horrible things wives are capable of. Arriving at the end of October and leaving around the middle of September was crappy timing indeed as I almost completely missed fall migration. And regarding the suitcases and the departure date: thanks again a million times for “saving our a**es”, as we say in German. I am not entirely sure we would have gotten onto that plane without you!!

    @Nate: Meeting birders is something I am horrible at, it seems that this is my “birding nemesis situation” as the timing never seems to work out. Yes, I regret not meeting you to this very day and so far down to the marrow of my bones that they hurt. This coming weekend, October 9th and 10th, Rick Wright will be in the surroundings of Heidelberg, and he suggested that we meet, bird a bit and drink a coffee or two. And guess what: this coming weekend is the weekend my family (including me) moves to another appartment – no birding! Instead I’ll be carrying half a metric ton of books, an even larger amount of furniture and a toddler who got ill yesterday (I told you: bad timing is baaaaad) into a truck and out into a new appartment.


    And that woodpecker: I’ll be seeing you about that. One day, my friend, one day.
    Did you know I have breeding Eurasian Eagle Owls nearby and that Frankfurt international airport is just a cat’s jump away (as the saying goes in German)?
    Just mentioning it, you know, in case…

  5. Nate permalink*
    October 8, 2010 10:12 am

    @Jochen- Too bad! Bloggers almost never come to my neck of the woods, so any opportunity to add to my bird blogger life list would be happily taken! Too bad you’ll miss it, Rick seems like an interesting dude.

    Eagle Owls, huh? Aren’t they just big Great Horned Owls? If I ever make it to Germany again, I’ll need a Wryneck. Sorry, but there’s no discussion on this request.

  6. October 11, 2010 5:48 am

    Yeah, Eagle Owls are just big Great Horned Owls in much the same way that an Ivory-billed Woodpecker was just a big PIWO.
    And Wryneck? No problem, that’s definitely doable. Would you like your Bee-eaters as starters or dessert to your Wryneck main course?

  7. Nate permalink*
    October 11, 2010 8:34 am

    @Jochen- Bee-eaters to start of, course. I’m saving room for Hoopoe for dessert.

  8. October 12, 2010 3:52 am

    Hoopoe for dessert? Again, no problem. When is your arrival time in Frankfurt (not before the middle of May though – you see, we’re exclusively talking about migrants here)?

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