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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Arb Notes: “Birder’s Reunion” huge hit for nature enthusiasts

<st Saturday, Carleton played host to Rotblatt 145, Ultimate Frisbee Alumni Weekend, and Rugby Alumni Weekend. The less-publicized event, without a doubt, was “Birder’s Reunion,” the annual Carleton Arboretum Bird Count that brings birding alums back to campus. At 6 a.m., as people were staggering back from Rotblatt for a nap, a group of birdwatchers, alums and local enthusiasts gathered at the Arb Office to hear the details of their mission.

The annual bird count collects data about the species and numbers of birds in the Arb on May 14th, which is compared with past years to look for trends in the bird population. Increases or decreases of species can indicate to the Arb managers the effects of their management practices and the progress of habitat restoration.  For the survey to work, expert birders are needed to identify every single bird they hear: there are over 30 species in the Arb, and many sing at the same time. How many bird calls can you identify?

Before the survey, I could identify five common brids: blue jay, cardinal, robin, and crow. Indeed, most of the bird noise I hear in the woods is background noise to me. On the other hand, even though the bird is hidden in the branches, an experienced birder can connect its call with the image of its small blue-gray wings with black tips and white breast.

On Saturday, we divided into “teams” and were assigned lists of birds to listen for. We walked around the Arb for the next two hours and stopped periodically to listen for one minute and record the species and the number of different birds of each species we heard. I usually marked down “crow”, or “pheasant”, while the other birders in the group rattled off specifics– “blue-grey gnatcatcher, vireo, oriole, grosbeak, redstart…”
As a bird watcher, your sense of the area around you becomes three-dimensional– you’re not just walking and looking straight ahead, but listening to the sounds behind and above you. A task as simple as walking to class is a perfect time to experience this feeling. As a result, I’ve found that there is a cardinal outside a house on Nevada that I hear every morning at 8:15 on the way to French class.

This is the best time of year for birding–it’s finally warm, the birds have come back for the summer, and the trees haven’t completely leafed out yet. Next time you’re outside and hear a bird calling nearby, stop and try to locate it. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you don’t need to know the name of the bird to become familiar with its call.

-Emma Rapperport, on behalf of the Cole Naturalists

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