Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Big Green Big Year Starts Tomorrow

January first is a few hours away and I am scrambling to get my gear together for a two day walking/bicycle birding trip that starts bright and early in the morning. I am sort of in shape for the trip, my equipment is borderline (the new panniers are "in the mail" and my bike needs some work), and my planning is a little vague, but off I go in the morning for a walk in my area and then a ride north up the coast till the light runs out and I have to camp. Then I turn around on the next day and come back down the coast, trying to hit some spots I didn't hit on the way up. I'd like to find 150 species on January 1, but the daylight is probably too short and the really high tides might hurt my number of shorebird species in the bay, but you never know. I'll post my results on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Green Birding Categories and Records

There has been talk in birding circles about listing green birding categories for big days, big years, etc., but it has generally not been too specific as to what categories could/should be counted. I list the following categories just as a starting point for discussion. The ABA does not seem receptive and so I will try to put many of these categories on this blog. Please let me know if you know of high numbers for the categories listed (I list some numbers I am aware of).

1) Big Green Big Year (Bigby) – The number of species found in one calendar year without using any gas (walk, bike, canoe, etc.) and starting each birding trip at your regular residence or regular place of work. (See for details). The most I have heard of is 295 in a year by Andy Kleinhesselink and Josiah Clarke of San Francisco.
2) Walking Bigby – Same as #1, but walking only. I do not know the highest total for this. (Should #1 and #2 be combined?)
3) Public Transit Assisted Bigby – the same as #1, but the counter can use public buses, subways and trains. Should other forms such as ferries be ok? (Planes are not allowed.)
4) Green Big Day – starting and finishing from home or your regular place of work, bird for a 24 hour day without using fuel. Should you be able to start or end somewhere else as long as you used no gas to get there and to return to home?
5) Semi-green Big Day – birding for a 24 hour day and using no fuel, but starting and finishing anywhere. Ted Parker and Scott Robinson had 331 species in Tambopata National Reserve, Peru, in 1982. I do not know the exact date.
6) Big Sit – counting all the birds you see and hear in one day from a 17’ diameter circle. (See ) I would propose not limiting this number to the official big sit count date in October. Cape May had 146 species in a day on 10/11/09, but I don’t know if one person saw all of the species. Anyone know? They may also have had more in the spring.
7) Big Foot Hour – How many species can you find in one hour without using any gas – should it be ok to get to the start point, or home from the finish, without using gas (e.g. by foot or bike)? Keith Hansen and Peter Pyle had 83 species in Bolinas, California, in one hour.
8) Wheelchair Big Green Big Year – I have no idea what numbers have been achieved and would like to hear from birders.
9) Wheelchair Green Big Day – again I have no idea but would like to hear what birders have achieved here.

Any of these categories could be listed by state, country or continent.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Being a Green Birder

As birders, we initially became interested in birds for a variety of reasons. Some of us started birding because we were already interested in the natural environment. Others began birding and then became interested in the natural environment. Either way, most of us have a strong appreciation of the environment as a whole. Many of us feel a responsibility to be environmentally aware and to act in an environmentally friendly manner. I have summarized several ways birders can act in an environmentally friendly manner:

1)Reduce fuel consumption when birding. Use fuel-free methods of transportation while birding when possible, like walking, biking, canoeing, etc. Public transportation is next best. Carpooling when chasing rarities or going to popular bird spots is not only better environmentally than driving alone, but it may increase your chances of finding birds. Air travel is environmentally the worst form of transportation. List locally – not nationally or internationally.

2) When you do travel, stay in locally owned lodges and hotels. Use local guides or tour groups that use local guides and locally owned lodging and restaurants. Ecotourism can be a great way to support local preservation of habitats and species when the local economy is involved.

3)Support conservation organizations, legislation, and education. Work toward preserving critical habitats, protecting threatened and endangered species, and wildlife rehabilitation. Join, contribute, volunteer, and organize. Buy duck stamps? This certainly helps to preserve habitat for game species, and collaterally for non-game species, but dollars so spent by birders seem to be lumped with those spent by hunters, whose interests are sometimes different than birders.

4)Promote birding and green birding in particular. Lead birding field trips, organize “big sits”, and organize and support bird festivals and other birding events. While we can try to promote green birding activities at these events, birding itself is often a first step for many people toward becoming more environmentally aware.

5)Mentor young birders by taking them individually into the field, organizing field trips for youth, and organizing classes for young birders.

6)Plant bird-friendly native landscaping at your home, and encourage such planting at local schools and parks where possible. (see

7)Keep dogs confined and cats indoors. This is best for birds and other wildlife, as well as for our pets. Cats, for example, reportedly have an average life expectancy of 12 years if they are indoor cats and only five years if they are outdoor cats due to predators, cat fights, cars, poison, cruelty, and diseases. (See Cats kill hundreds of millions of birds annually in the U.S. alone (see

8)Avoid using pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Use compost and other natural fertilizers. Along with organic soil amendments, try “companion planting” (see ) and encourage and introduce natural predators instead of using pesticides. Harmful chemicals concentrate up the food chain and birds are especially susceptible.

9)Practice good birding ethics which includes generally staying on roadways, trails or other established walkways, not disturbing nesting birds, minimizing other disturbances of birds, etc. (See the ABA Birding Ethics at

10)Contribute bird sighting data by consistently using "eBird" (see ) for your daily sightings, by participating in bird counts and surveys, keep bird lists for birds you have recorded at local spots which may be used to help preserve or enhance areas in the future.

11)Responsibly feed yard birds. Keep feeders and bird baths clean, don’t stop feeding in the middle of a harsh winter, and use recycled materials for feeders and nest boxes. Growing plants, which birds feed on, is preferable to buying seed trucked from where it is grown. If you buy seed, try buying organic seed. Protect birds at your feeders from cats or other predators as well as from windows. (See
for details on feeding birds in your yard.) Do not feed water birds such as gulls, ducks, geese and pelicans (see for an explanation).

12)Try to lead a green lifestyle in general: reduce, reuse, recycle, buy local products (e.g. at farmer’s markets and with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions), buy products from your own country rather than imports,compost and otherwise try to reduce garbage going to landfill, try to buy organic food and certainly avoid the “dirty dozen” produce items (see ), buy shade-grown organic coffee; carpool and use public transit to work; if you need a car then have a fuel efficient vehicle; buy energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, use rechargeable batteries, avoid over packaged products and bottled water, grow your own vegies and fruit, buy sustainable fish and other seafood (see ); use your own reusable or reused bags at the grocery store, reduce consumption of natural gas (use cold water only for washing clothes and set your winter thermostat down) and electricity (hang dry clothes whenever possible and set thermostat on cooler/air conditioner down), conserve water; live near work; reduce or eliminate consumption of beef and lamb or (better yet) be a vegetarian or vegan; buy clothes made from organic cotton or recycled material; pay bills and receive catalogs, newsletters and periodicals electronically; send ecards for birthday, etc., rather than mailing cards; when investing in mutual funds or other retirement funds look for those that are environmentally responsible (the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations endorse particular investment funds), use green building materials,try for solar or wind power installation, etc.