Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Arb Notes

    <d Count!

    When I begin to describe my involvement in the Sixth Annual Arboretum Bird Count Saturday morning, uninitiated friends almost invariably focus on one detail:

    “Six in the morning?!!”

    Well, yes. I did go birding at that hour, on Spring Concert Saturday. Admittedly I have strange priorities for a college student, but I’m not alone. About twenty people, mainly current or past Carleton students, joined me Saturday. You see, slothful birds and birders tend to cede the advantage to that majority of birds who rise early; most bird activity occurs around dawn. The sixteenth began windy and not so terribly well above freezing as we counters would have liked.

    So this year, for once, we might actually have set out before the height of bird activity. Rather than attempting to count every bird in the Arb, we followed a route we keep from year to year for data comparison purposes, one that includes many of the Arb’s habitat types. Thus we hopefully gain a representative sampling of roughly how many birds of which species are present each May, a great month for Arb bird diversity, which varies considerably with migrations. With Biology Professor Mark McKone and Arb Manager Matt Elbert in the lead, we stopped at seventeen set locations, and spent one minute in silence at each, counting how many birds of each species we saw or, more commonly, heard.

    To add to our knowledge of diversity, we also helped accomplished birders Owen McMurtrey ’12 and Bob Williams ’73 to record all species observed at any time during the count. This year, we counted 61 species, down from 66 last year, but a good showing nonetheless, given the weather. Many more species than these, nearly 200 in all, appear at least occasionally in the Arb, but were simply not spotted this weekend. For instance, we observed 17 species of warblers alone Saturday, notably including a Bay-Breasted Warbler and a Golden-Winged Warbler, but birders have observed a total of 32 species of warblers in the Arb at one time or another. Excitingly, Amy Alstadt ’09 spotted a Black Tern, Chlidonias niger, a species never before recorded in the Arb.

    For those of you still questioning the sanity of birders, I will in turn ask, have you really looked at a bird recently? If you occasionally long for the vibrant shades of the coral reefs and rainforests of the tropics, as I do, you might consider the beautiful bird species we have right here in the Arb: Indigo Buntings in bright cerulean, bold orange and black Baltimore Orioles, shockingly red Scarlet Tanagers, strikingly black-and-white-patterned Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and many more. Many bird species in Minnesota and around the world are in decline, and shifting their ranges, in the face of environmental change. Counts like ours play an important role in understanding what is happening to our birds and our planet.

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *