Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Birding

Sunday morning was very warm and muggy. When I went to Lake Wichita Park, the mosquitos were waiting. Fortunately, the breeze came up about 7:30, which helped keep the little bloodsuckers at bay for a little while. Then the wind died out and they were back with a vengence. Since I try not to wear bug spray too much (somehow spraying poison all over your body seems like a bad plan to me), I got a few bites. But most of my skin was covered. I do need to get a new supply of the non-DEET spray soon though.

The vegetation has really filled out, giving the birds lots of places to hide. If it weren't for the males singing to establish territories and attract mates, it would be very difficult to find the birds. Fortunately, they do.

In the summer, it is much more important to know the bird calls. The birds are easier to see in the winter and birds don't vocalize as much, so I tend to forget many of the calls and have to brush up every spring. But once you know the calls of at least some of the birds, a walk, even through areas of dense vegetation, can be a great birding morning. It is also fun to pick out the calls of baby birds--their calls are often quite different than the adults and very distinctive. Volunteering at Wild Bird Rescue in the summer provides a great opportunity to learn those calls.

Another good way to get better visibility on birds is by pishing. That is where birders stand and make silly noises to draw out the birds. I know there is at least one renowned birder who says this only works because birders actually stand still long enough for the birds to make an appearance, which they would have done without the pishing. I think that is Pete Dunne, but I wouldn't swear to it. While I agree pishing doesn't work for a lot of birds, I have found there are a few birds species that seem to find pishing irresistable--cardinals, spotted towhees, many sparrows, wrens, and a few others seem to pop out to see the goofy birders almost immediately. Sunday I managed to pull out a white-eyed vireo along the chat trail in Lake Wichita Park.

I heard a lot of yellow-billed cuckoos in the park yesterday. I saw one in flight--the rest were calling from the vegetation.

So to get the most out of your summer birding experience, learn the songs of the most common birds. You'll gradually expand your knowledge and enjoy birding even more.

Good birding!

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