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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Arb Notes: Naturalists take the Arb by storm

<larm went off too early on Saturday morning; I groped for my clothes and shoes in the dark before embarking on the chilly ride over Lyman Lakes. As shouts and blasts of music from Rottblatt floated through the morning air a smaller, more sober and considerably older-on-average group of Carleton students, alums, faculty and Northfield residents gathered in Saturday’s dawn to complete Carleton’s annual bird survey.

Since 2000, the Arboretum staff, along with its student naturalists, local volunteers and dedicated resident and alumni bird experts, has gathered annually to document migratory and resident birds in the arb. The survey takes place in May to coincide with peak migration. The surveys aim to record long-term changes in migratory and resident bird populations and to assess the impact habitat restoration in the arb has on both populations. We’re hoping that over the years, the arboretum will become an ever-more welcoming habitat for our feathered friends who breed here during the summer as well as those who are just passing through on their way to more Northerly breeding grounds.

Our group of twenty bird enthusiasts split into two sections led by bird-ID-whizzes Mark McKone (biology), Bob Williams ’73, Matt Dufort ’01 and Owen McMurtrey ’12. The two groups stopped at seventeen locations throughout the lower arb and documented the number of species and individual birds that called in one minute (though discerning the chirps and songs over the distant roar of Rotblatt’s 23rd inning was certainly a challenge). In between stops, our experts added to the master list of species as they identified additional birds by sound or sight.

Highlights from the 2010 Bird Survey include:

-64 species seen, compared with 61 from last year and 66 from 2008. Wrens, sparrows, swallows, cowbirds, catbirds and the colorful scarlet tanager, oriole and indigo bunting greeted us with their calls!

-the call of a Sora at Kettle Hole Marsh, a notoriously shy wading bird that is hardly ever seen and only sometimes heard.

-a rare sighting of a Peregrine falcon. This species is making a successful recovery from near-extinction and we’re thrilled to see one at Carleton (though ducks and baby geese had best watch out).

The arb is a fabulous place to look for birds, especially now that the weather is beautiful. Go out there and look around—maybe you’ll happen upon the Peregrine, catch the flash of an oriole’s orange breast, or steal a glimpse of the secretive Sora…

–Callie Millington for the Cole Student Naturalists

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